I have a John Straughan (straughan-71) born c1865, and all his children. His father was also called John,

+2 votes
but no info re his mother's name

How can I decide which of the Johns I find around his fathers age is the correct one? Location is not enough, there are several in the general area (northumberland, england) kids names are similar in many families.

much later

Turns out his father was William, Aunty Lena was wrong!
WikiTree profile: John Straughan
in Genealogy Help by Lindis Elliott G2G5 (5.1k points)
edited by Lindis Elliott

2 Answers

+5 votes
Lindis, What are you sources for his father's name being John and location being Felton? I had a quick look for him on the census. Location was difficult to read on both 1901 and 1891. Could be a farm name, but was not one I recognise. Have you found him in 1881 and and 1871?
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (630k points)
Source was his daughter (Lena) to my mother 1991. Lena was 95 at the time and still very sharp! My mother wrote everything down carefully. I have confirmed most of her info on Family Search or GRO, but not yet updated my wikitree.

I can find more than one John S( c 1835) with son John S(c1865) but I am not sure which is the right family. Most register in Alnwick area.

John S (straughan-71) is in Amble for 1891 and 1901.This is clearly "my John"   I can't find their marriage anywhere.

Looking at the GRO birth index for Alnwick from 1860 to 1870 gives this possible record. (I checked Straughan, Straughen and Straffen)

GRO Reference: 1860  S Quarter in OF ALNWICK  Volume 10B  Page 279  


There is a possible marriage in 1857 for John Straughan and Elizabeth Patterson which might be worth a closer look. 
However, I would not rule out the possibility that they may have moved south of Felton and registered at Morpeth.
Even if this is "my John" I am not sure how to "prove" that, even to myself!

I know that one is earlier than you expected, but I would not rule him out until you have a better candidate. Check your DNA matches to see if you are getting Pattersons. 

I still can't figure out the birth place name in the two censuses I did look at. I can see if anyone has any ideas about that the next time I go to the archives. Couple of questions:

  • Do you have the marriage certificate for your John 1865? That would help to give more evidence about his birth year and confirm that his Dad is John. 
  • Have you found him in 1871 and 1881? If we can get his siblings then we can run more GRO searches to cross reference potential maiden names for the mother. 
I can not even find a record of a marriage in Durham or Northumberland of a Mary marrying a John Straughan, or a John marrying a Mary Turner in the relevant years ( 1880 to 1890) Children were born starting 1888 and continuing until 1904 all born in Amble.

I can not find a record of birth for John (Straughan-71) that I am sure is him. The 1860 you mention is the most hopeful.

 The 1911 census gives his bp as Amble, 1901 census gives his bp as Gallahill, 1891 census says Northumberland,  They seem pretty variable as to what was recorded.

John Straughan married Mary Turner at Newcastle 2nd quarter 1886 Vol 10B page 66. If you order the certificate then hopefully we can find out more about both John and Mary. Might even lead us to figuring out our DNA connection. 


Playing about with what the enumerator might have written as Gallahill, I think we are probably looking for Gallow Hill. I know of at least two in Northumberland. One is at Bolam near Morpeth and the other at Elsdon.

Widening the geographical scope and with more focus on your date of 1865 here is something else for your consideration. 

GRO Reference: 1865  S Quarter in NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE  Volume 10B  Page 118

There is an irregular border marriage of a John Straughan of Netherton Colliery near Morpeth to Margaret Laud of Morpeth. They married at Lamberton Toll on 31 May 1856. 

It is about 13 miles from Netherton Colliery (near Bedlington) to Gallowhill (near Morpeth). I now think this one looks more likely than my original suggestion which was based on your Felton theory. I think we should try to follow this couple in the censuses to see where they went after marrying.
My John and several of his sons were colliery workers so this definitely sounds promising.  I have been searching mostly in Family search, you seem to have better sources! What is an irregular border marriage?

Irregular border marriages are quite common among Non-conformists in the 1800s in North Northumberland. They went out of their way to avoid being forced to marry in the Church of England and opted to have the ceremony performed by renegade priests at toll booths on the border. Typical locations include Coldstream Bridge, Lamberton Toll, Mordington, Gretna (the most famous) and several others. These priests were not particularly diligent about recording their work, so most of the records that have survived are from notices in the Berwick Advertiser. The NDFHS (Northumberland and Durham Family History Society) and the Northumberland Archives have published several booklets with records that they have managed to glean from the newspapers. These records are not online. My own Crackett line disappears into paper trail oblivion because of this form of marriage. I am fairly certain that my 2nd great grandfather chose this form of marriage since two of his brothers also did. Just my luck that records survive for the brothers but not for my own direct line. As to your probable John Straughan, I hit on lucky that he is in one of the booklets that I have a physical copy of, so I did not need to wait for a trip to the archives to see if he was there. 

Other sources you might find useful are: 

https://freebmd.org.uk (where I found John S and Mary T)



https://gro.gov.uk (where I found John 1860 and John 1865)

I also do most of my research in Northumberland and Scotland using:




That family was non-conformist. I have a prize book from the Amble Congregational Sunday School given to my grandmother ( John's daughter) in 1904.

And I had heard of Gretna Green, but not why people married there.  I did read that when non-conformists did marry in the C of E they usually did it by license rather than banns. It may also explain why I am having trouble finding birth registration too, since failure to  register was not penalized until the 1870', they may have skipped that too.

And thank you for all the new (to me) links to search!

DNA shows no one called Patterson ( answering an earlier question) but then it does not show any Elliotts, Nicholsons Wades or Straughans or Turners either. The new relatives I have found have all passed through at least one female ancestor and so have different names!
Good. Glad you think we are on the right track. A little local knowledge can often work wonders.

Most of the Non-conformists in the area did actually register their children after the introduction of Civil Registration in 1837, although a few did get left out. Before that you have the problem that some of the baptisms are stuck on the back of C of E parish records under the heading Dissenters and may be missed off the indexes. The majority around the border regions in that period are baptised in Presbyterian chapels or meeting houses. Some of these have been indexed online, others are still only available on microfilm or typed transcripts at the archives. Once they moved south as the pits opened around the Bedlington and Broomhill areas they usually started attending either Methodist or Congregational churches.
0 votes
It turns out I was asking not just the specific question given, but the general question "what do I do when I  am stuck? and that one was also answered in this series of answers from Lynda.

Search in as many places as possible.

Ask for help! (as they say ask and you shall receive!)
by Lindis Elliott G2G5 (5.1k points)

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