Every beginning researcher hopes to have many family records to start him rolling down the path of research. However, sometimes the obvious records like a family history or autobiography cause us to miss important clues about the family in other less obvious records or memorabilia. Sometimes what is not written down is as important as what is. As researchers we have to remember to check and recheck ALL our records for clues on the family.
Great-great-grandpa Charles Taylor told us a great deal about his family. Father (also Charles) was 20 years older than mother (Marian, but called Mary.) Father’s apothecary shop was located at 10 Cleveland Square, Liverpool, which used to be his own father’s shop. Uncle John and Uncle Sam were doctors. Half-sister Mary lived with Uncle John and Uncle Sam.
Grandpa was American, though, signed, sealed, and delivered according to his naturalization certificate. He told us he came to America on the ship City of Chester with his two sisters in 1883. He even gave us the exact birthdates of all his brothers and sisters. So we went looking.
My cousin found many records on the family in Liverpool—censuses on Charles Sr. and his brothers and even the will of Charles Sr.’s father, listing the 10 Cleveland Square facility. Mary Collis Taylor showed up with Charles Sr. and his first wife in 1851 and then with Uncle John and Uncle Sam on later censuses. Everything matched right up. In America, all of Charles’s information on his brothers and sisters matched up, too. The birthdates he had given were pretty close to what they had given on records, but for some reason, in spite of all the information, we couldn’t locate ANY of the American family in England, nor could we locate them on the ship’s lists for passengers coming into the United States. How confusing.
Ten years after my cousin started researching, I went hunting and found more information and even living relatives to our England family. Charles Sr.? He had a THIRD wife and family. He died in 1895, at age 80, with four minor children living with him, the youngest only six. What a surprise! But I still couldn’t locate our American family in England or on a ship’s passenger list. Oh, my! Grandpa even wrote down when he came and was naturalized, and we couldn’t find him.
Five years after I started looking for information, my sister went hunting. She found even more on the Taylors in England, the ancestral estate, burials, and even signatures for some of our ancestors—but still nothing on the American family in England or the passenger lists.
One day while she was mulling over the different records and information that we had been given from and about Grandpa, a little book caught her attention. It was a book of poetry titled The Beauty of a King and was inscribed “To Charles Taylor From A dear friend with a Mother’s Blessing. Mrs. Shaw, Liverpool, England, April 1885 Genesis 31:49.”
We knew from Grandpa’s information that Mrs. Adelaide Shaw was “mother’s dearest friend” but hadn’t thought of this book as anything other than a treasured keepsake and heirloom. The biblical reference, Genesis 31:49, says “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” Then it suddenly dawned on my sister that this book had been given to Grandpa as a parting gift from “mother’s dearest friend” as he was leaving for America in 1885, not in 1883 as he had stated.
She went to the next voyage for the City of Chester after the date on this inscription. The City of Chester arrived in New York City on 2 May 1885, and aboard that voyage was Charles and his two sisters Annie and Jane! Except they weren’t using the surname Taylor. They were using the surname Moore.
What? Moore? Well, let’s see. There they were in the 1881 census: Mary Ann, Charles, and Jane More. In the 1871 census they were listed as William and Mary Ann, with children William, George H, Annie, and Charles Moore. Censuses, christening records, birth certificates, everything showing up with the surname Moore. Even their mother’s death on 31 Dec 1882 and burial in 1883 (there’s that 1883 date!) lists the surname as Moore. All the christenings name the father as Charles as does their mother’s death certificate (widow of Charles, druggist). The only anomaly is the 1871 census that lists his name as William.
Now we know the American family used the surname Moore in all official records in England and the surname Taylor in all the records in America. Case closed.
But why DID they use the surname Moore? Well, that’s a mystery for another day.
If you have a Family History Mystery you have solved that you would like to submit send it to email@example.com with “History Mystery” as the subject.