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WFA Pension Cards/Ledgers: Is it now possible for some people to work out who unknown ancestors were?


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Since I saw that awards for illegitimate children appeared on the Pension Cards/Ledgers I have been trying to identify a method for genealogists to identify potential ancestors working from the the descendants of the illegitimate child.

I have had some success working the other way - from the soldier to the illegitimate child.

Of course it is easy if the name of the child or the mother appears on the cards. However in a number of cases the names of illegitmate children do not appear on the card and/or the "guardian" shown was not the mother.

Also it might be potentially easier if suspected fathers were known.

I have worked out a method to identify the child from the information on the father's card. Could a method be worked out to find the father starting from the illegitimate child if there were no obvious links? (Ie. No "suspected fathers" in family records or traditions.)

(Incidentally has this possibility occurred to any non-military genealogist? I haven't seen anything in the magazines.)


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   The 1921 Census might help. My coments apply to the Scottish Census, but most will also apply to the English and Welsh Censuses. The census was taken to show those resident in a house on the evening of Sunday 19th June 1921. The census was normally taken in April but indusrial unrest, including strikes by miners and railwaymen delayed it.

  For each address there is a Head and all others in the household should show their relationship to him/her. Sometimes there are other households within the same building; they could be in seperate rooms adjoining the first Head's household or they could be seperate flats. {They all share the same front door number}. Each of these households will have a Head and additional members of the household should show their relationship to that Head. A household could comprise the original Head's daughter and illegitimate son, but the son will only be recorded as such, and the daughter will be recorded as 'Head'. Equally, a household could comprise a single person who had a single room, who was the Head, or a family unrelated to the original Head.

  If a person was a 'visitor', i.e. someone not normally resident at that address, they were to be recorded as 'visitor' {including their children}, even although they may have been related to the 'Head'. Because the census was taken later in the year some 'visitors' were family members who had come to stay for their family holidays.

  Each person's age is recorded in years and months. This means that for a child 6 years and 1 month old you would look in the 1915 birth records, and for a child 6 years and 10 months old you wood look in the 1915 records.

    After giving a person's sex there is a column giving marriage status and orphanhood. These include M - married; S - single; W - widowed; BA - both parents alive; BD - Both parents dead; FD - Father dead; MD - Mother dead. The terms W and FD within the same household could imply a husband/father who had died in the war.

  With regards to employment; HD - Home duties {housework}; E - Employer; W - Worker {employee}; OA -Own Account {i.e. self employed}; Ret. - Retired; OW - Oot of work {many people were out of work because of the strikes}.

  The next column gives employer's names. This could be useful for small family businesses as most employees might be related. The last column give the age and numbers of children dependant on a particular person. If the total number of children exceeds the number in the househod then the others may be 'visitors'.

  In the County/city section of Scotlandspeople census search screen you can select 'Shipping'. This is for coastal shipping. Names are recorded and also the number of dependant children.

  Perhaps some of these items will help when used along with the pension record cards.


Alf McM


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Thank you, Alf.

I think you are right.

I have used the 1921 (Scotland) Census to confirm that I had found the right child when working from the soldier to the child with some success.

Working the other way presumably the steps would be these.

1. Find the known ancestor in the 1921 Census.

2. Look among the adults with whom the child was living for the "guardian".

3. Search the WFA Pension Records index for the guardian.

4. Check the child's birth records to see if they were appropriate.

There are a number of difficulties which I have experienced working the other way. For example at the time of the 1921 Census in one case the child was not living with the guardian (who was the actual mother), but with the grandparents. Howver with a bit of research it should be possible to track down the "guardian".

I don't expect there will be a large number of cases where people are find out who their grandfather or great grandfather was. (Working the other way I have found one case which I must keep confidential).


Edited by rolt968
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This is so interesting I recently had a DNA match to a family now living in New Zealand. There father was born from an affair believed to be with my great grand uncle who fought with the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The woman was turned away and raised her child alone, he was also as an adult in the military , went on to have his own family and it is several of his children I have a DNA match with. We are pretty sure we know who the father was but sadly direct line descendents do not wish to do DNA, but we have ruled out all the other siblings. Alongside the DNA we can match him to the place and possible time. it's been interesting and we couldn't have done it without your help from this forum, They just wanted to know their roots.

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