Hit the wall in your search for an ancestor? Family historian Sue Bennett helps out in the case of a Woodbridge great grandfather.
Please can you help? I am looking for the date of death of my great grandfather John Randal Kerridge. He was born in 1853 in Woodbridge and married Harriet Driver at Woodbridge Baptist Church. The couple had three sons and at some point moved to Ipswich. The last known fact I have for him is that he was living at 74 Sirdar Road, Ipswich between 1916 and 1918. There is no trace of him after that date.
I have looked at the burial records at Ipswich Cemetery, checked the Records Office, and have been on the websites GenesReunited and BDM. I really don’t know where else to look. I have gone back to 1760 with this line and have just got stuck with this one.
Anyone who has researched their family’s history will sympathise with your situation – there always seems to be one ancestor who just doesn’t want to be found. If you do come up against a brick wall in your research then I would recommend you adopt two very distinct strategies; firstly, recheck everything in case you have overlooked that all-important clue and secondly, think creatively!
The 1911 Census Schedule completed by John and his wife Harriet, reveals that they had been married for 30 years in 1911, with four children being born to the marriage, one of whom, Daniel, had died. They were living alone, in one room at 74 Sirdar Road. John’s full name is written on the Schedule as John Randale Kerridge and he was employed as a General Carman, aged 59.
I am not sure of the source of your evidence for John being alive and living in Sirdar Road between 1916 and 1918? It cannot be electoral rolls, as these were not taken during the First World War. I did check to see if any of John’s adult sons had given their father’s details on their army service records, but the only one I have found after a cursory search was already married, and so listed his wife as his next of kin. Possibly you have Harriet’s death certificate, which may list John’s details as the informant?
Like you, I have checked the death indexes online for any sign of John. I searched between early 1911, when I am sure he was alive, and 1945. I looked for different derivations of his first names and did a ‘wild card’ search for the surname, which might help us to locate a weird and wonderful spelling. To perform a wild card search, replace a letter, or small combination of letters, in a name with an asterix, for example ‘Ker*ge’. This will allow the database that you are searching to give you any results that have the letters you have entered and any combination of ‘missing’ letters.
I have not found a matching entry within the Ipswich Registration District – I have however found several from elsewhere in Suffolk. These include two deaths of a John Kerridge in the Woodbridge Registration District, where he was born and raised, and another one in the nearby Plomesgate District. This is where you need to start to think more ‘out of the box’. Do you know for a fact that John died in Ipswich? Is it possible that he moved in with one of his sons following Harriet’s death or back to the area he grew up in?
My problem with the Woodbridge entries is that they are from 1914 and 1915 respectively. You will need to decide how certain you are that he was alive in 1916-1918 before ordering either of those death certificates. The Plomesgate entry is from 1920, so might be worth trying first.
Following the possibility that John returned to Woodbridge, the Woodbridge Baptist Church, where he married, has done a lot of work on making their burial records available. It is a long shot but it is just feasible that John was buried where he married.
You might want to widen your search of burial records to include parish records, as opposed to just the municipal cemeteries. The Suffolk Family History Society has transcribed the records of many parishes, which you can purchase from them or access online at findmypast.co.uk.
Other places you could look are cremation records, local newspapers (for an obituary or an inquest report if the death was sudden), gravestones of family members and records from local hospitals or institutions.
Finally, I would say never give up – new records are being made available all the time, so it is worth doing the same basic searches of online sources every few months just in case that crucial record that was missing last time you looked is now available.
Woodbridge Library: Tel: 01394 446510 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Free online birth marriage and death record indexes: freebmd.org.uk
Suffolk Record Offices have a subscription with several online sites, including findmypast.co.uk and ancestry.co.uk allowing you to access them from your nearest Record Office and some libraries. Email: Ipswich.email@example.com Tel: 01473 584541
Woodbridge nonconformist records www.wodbridgechurch.org.uk
Suffolk Family History Society. Website: www.suffolkfhs.co.uk