Harry Houdini – characters who hide

8 May 2016

… or worse, disappear…. we all have them. Every family. Why oh why do they hide!? Is it to challenge the genealogists of the future? Did they sit there all those years ago and rub their hands together with glee on census night when they hid in a bush and so were never enumerated? I can almost imagine Timothy Kitcher doing exactly that….! I don’t have a photograph of him but I have an image in my mind. Born in around 1834 in the New Forest, he married and had three children before his disappearing act. The 1861 census shows his wife and two children (with the third born later that same year) and no sign of Timothy. She’s married not widowed but where the heck is he? He never reappears and his children are orphaned two years later when their mother died. This seems to be a rather permanent disappearance on Timothy’s part.

Other people hide for a short while, like Ann Robson. She was Ann Codling originally and then married William Robson, before being widowed. For almost a decade (on and off), I dabbled at trying to fathom what had happened to her after her husband died and eventually, managed to find her second marriage and subsequent passing, in line with the details written in a letter to my great-grandmother by her mother. Not impossible but just needed a nugget of information to push my research in the right direction.

During last week’s trip to Newcastle, I found a letter in the house which certainly helped our research into the intestate estate we are working on (another reason why we always go through papers before the house is cleared). A letter from Auntie Florrie (addressed and dated) with information relating to other family members – yippee! Some of the characters who were hidden are now coming to light though others are still hiding in the shadows.

So what do you do if you have a birth date of a character in the 1890’s who you can locate in 1901 and 1911, but you cannot find anything for them after that? Nothing that tallies up in the 1939 Register, no death in the ‘right’ area between 1911 and 1939 or likely marriage…. What other sources do you use to cover that 28 year period and find out what happened to Harry Houdini?

What a minefield this job is! Surely trainspotting is easier?

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