How information on a birth, death or marriage certifcate can make your search just that little bit harder.

As in my previous post Birth Death & Marriage certificates contain a wealth of information. Some good, some correct and some information that just causes confusion.

Below is a summary of information that I have taken from the BDM certificates for the family of John Shoulders & Mary Ryan (now known to be Hanratty).

Mary Ryan married John Shoulders in 1851 in Armidale. They had four children. John died in 1858 at Hernani, near Armidale.

Children of John & Mary were:

Emily (1851-1949) – married William Harris

Mary (1852-1880) – married Charles Jackson

James (1853-1871) not married

Ellen (1856-1922) married George Mathews (1) and Horatio Baker (2)

Information from the certificates is as follows:

  • According to her marriage certificate in 1851 Mary’s maiden name was Ryan and she was given consent to marry by her guardian R G Massie.
  • John’s death certificate in 1858 shows that he had been in the colony for 26 years (making his arrival around 1832. More details on John can be found here). He was listed as being 42 years old, making his birth year to be around 1816.
  • Being given consent to marry would indicate Mary was under the age of 21 years.  Having a guardian would also indicate that her parents were not around or they were deceased.
  • Mary’s name is listed as ‘Marianne Ryan’ on John Shoulder’s death Certificate.
  • The death certificate of Mary and John’s son – James Shoulders in 1871 (aged 22) shows Mary’s name as “Mary Ann Ryan”.
  • Mary married again in October 1858 to Edward Beasley (variant spellings are: Beasley, Beazley, Beezley, Beesley).  The Marriage Certificate for Mary and Edward does not have much information. It shows that Mary was a widow and living at Wellington Vale. (note to self: For the first time I have noticed that one of the witnesses on this certificate is an A Clarke! – I wonder if this is Mary’s father refer point 2 below). But if it was her father, why his name would not be listed under ‘father’ is not known.

Details from the BDM Certificates of John & Mary’s children are:

  • On the birth certificate of Mary & John’s daughter Ellen Shoulders (born 1856), it shows Mary’s age as being 23. The informant was ‘Marianne Shoulders’ mother and that she was born at Clarence Town, Williams River.
  • Marriage certificate of Emily Shoulders to William Harris in 1868 does not indicate her parent’s names.
  • Death certificate of Emily Harris (nee Shoulders) in 1949 has her parents has John Shoulders & Mary Beasley.
  • On the marriage certificate of Charles Jackson and Mary Shoulders in 1868, it shows that Mary’s maiden name was ‘Beezley’ and that her father was Edward Beezley.  This is incorrect as Mary’s surname was Shoulders.  Edward was her ‘stepfather’. Considering that her father had died at a young age, I’d say that ‘Edward’ would have been considered as her father.  The name of her mother is not listed. Edward also gave Mary consent to marry.
  • On the death certificate of Mary Jackson nee Shoulders in 1880, it shows that her parents were John Shoulders and Mary Nauratty.  When I saw this, I thought it might have been a typo or incorrect information but it turns out that it’s closer to the truth than anything else.
  • On the marriage certificate of George Mathews and Ellen Shoulders, it does not show neither parents’ names but Ellen was given consent to marry by Mary Ann Beezley, the mother of the bride.
  • On the marriage certificate of Ellen Mathews (nee Shoulders) to Horatio Baker in 1921, shows her mother as being Mary Ann Brown and her father as John Shoulders.
  • The death certificate of Ellen Baker (died 1922) shows her mother’s name as Mary Ann Brown.  Where this surname of Brown comes from is beyond me and I tend to ignore as it’s quite obvious that it’s not correct.
  • After many years of research found the death certificate of Mary Beasley (formerly Shoulders – nee Ryan).  It was in 1909 and was listed as ‘Brezley’ It showed that her Father was ‘Arthur Hanratty‘ Pig Merchant.  Mary was 73, making her birth year to be 1836 and her place of birth was Clarence Town and that she was ’15’ when she married John Shoulders in 1851.  It also shows that she was ’20’ when she married Edward Beasley in 1858, which would make her birth year to be 1838.

What other research I did to confirm the correct details about Mary.

  1. As Mary’s name was listed as Ryan on her marriage, my initial search consisted of checking every birth record in the NSW BDM index’s for a birth of a Mary Ryan around the mid 1830’s and then double checking death records for deaths of the ‘parents’.  This was a rather fruitless search seeing that I had no idea of the names of her parents.
  2. I have done a great deal of research in looking for ‘Arthur Hanratty’ (as you can see here)
  3. I have checked the indexes again to find the birth of Mary Hanratty (or variant spelling) with her father being Arthur, but no record of her birth has been found.

So what can I take from this.  Not everything is as it seems.  Don’t take it for granted that what is on a certificate is correct.  Verify all details, it might be correct, it might not be. You never know, doing a little bit more digging, might eventuate in finding the truth, though rather disjointed at times.  It will fit together eventually.

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