Sunday, February 19, 2017

Location, Location, Location

As in real estate, the specific details are important.

Many of my English relatives hail from "Manchester." I put it in parentheses for the reasons I explained last time - city size. If one is from London or Chicago or Beijing or Mexico City, having the city name, alone, might be good enough for most purposes.

But it definitely is not enough when trying to determine the location of an ancestor's past to validate that "this" Burke, for example, is the right one and "that" Burke is not.

As I have been working on that validation, I have come to realize that most of the 'hits' I have for my Manchester ancestors are in the east-to-northeast part of the greater Manchester area. Places with names like Huddersfield and Saddleworth and Ashton-under-Lyne and Mossley and Oldham. Some of them are a pretty good distance, considering the time of my investigation, the late 19th Century.

One of the characteristics of beginning a genealogical trip, I am learning, is that I will become much more aware of old geographical boundaries, old versus current place names, and, hopefully in this case, any possible reasons for population movement. So, as a retired investigator, I ask myself questions. Some will have answers, some might not.

  • Why would my ancestors only come from one general direction of a greater metropolitan area in the late 1870's to the early 1900's? 
  • Was there a disease or agricultural or manufacturing or other reason to move? 
  • What information am I missing that I need to find?
  • What do I not know that I need to know?

Perhaps all this seems like going overboard, like digging up too much information. And just to put a name on a list. I do not think so. As I have said, I have relatives with common names - like the 'Burke' example above - and I really want to make my tree as accurate as I can. My previous life as an investigator makes just picking any ol' name willy-nilly an unacceptable tactic.

Besides, so many online family trees are interconnected by the Big Four genealogy sites; having accurate information in those trees helps us all. Beginners like me should always be cautious and a bit suspicious, especially because, in my case, my hope is to give a product to my children and grandchildren that I never had -- information about their families.

So now, off to the history books to learn about population movements in northern England near the Scottish border beginning about 1870.


  1. James,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. It is nice to know someone reads my words, Jana. Thank you!

  2. James - I just stumbled on your blog. First - My brother is James Robert Wilkinson. My Wilkinson's came to Lawrence, MA in 1901. My grandfather, William Norman Wilkinson was born in Bowling, Bradford, Yorkshire, England in 1893. {Both of his grandfathers were also William Wilkinson}. One other connection I have with you is that my mother (who married to become a Wilkinson) lived in Wilton, NH when she was born. Do your Wilkinsons come from Yorkshire or just Manchester England?

  3. I just now found this, almost FIVE YEARS later! I am so sorry I did not answer; hopefully, you will get this. My Wilkinson ancestors hailed from Manchester (my paternal grandmother, Minnie) and from Bradford, Yorkshire. My paternal grandfather a LOT of his relatives are from that area, so my tree is filled with Bradford-related humans, though Bowling is not familiar. My grandfather had a brother named William. The clan moved first to Lawrence, where I have another large group of ancestors, then to Wilton to work in the mills of Sam Abbott.