A Tale of Two Alberts

One of the most common challenges a researcher faces when trying to build a tree is how to decide which of several people with the same name is the person who is supposed to be in your tree.

I recently came across a DNA match among my late wife’s Steadman matches where the connection could be any of three brothers. That is going to be a tough to figure out, and fortunately this note is not about that as I have not solved it yet.

This note is about trying to sort out the story between two Albert Stedmans who were born about a year apart. Let me start from the beginning as when I got started, I did not know there were two!

One of the benefits of joining the Guild of One Name Studies is that a group of volunteers pour over newspaper obits – mostly they are in the UK, but some come from Australia/New Zealand and the US – and send out images of clippings for registered surnames. One of the habits I have is, when they arrive, I stop everything else and quickly try to add the deceased to my tree into one of the existing families that I have documented. So far, my success rate has been fairly high, and the mini-project is done in short order.

About a month ago, I received the death notice for “Ron Stedman” who died 26th January 2021, age 77 that was published in the Essex County Standard.

I quickly determined that he was Ronald Maurice Anthony Stedman born in 1943 in Essex. In a matter of a few more minutes, I had name of his wife and children and sibling and his family, And then I had his grandfather Albert and his wife and children. But that is where the fun began.

I learned from the 1939 UK Register that Albert was born on 25 May 1883. And then from his GRO Birth Registration that his birth was registered in Godstone RD in Surrey, and his mother’s maiden name was Saveal. As I had a Stedman family in Oxted (Godstone RD), I went to the 1891 census for that family. And found what I would have assumed to be Albert in Oxted, Surrey, the family of Albert Stedman, age 56, born in Hawkhurst, Kent, with 21 year old wife Sarah. However, Albert was age 7, born in Scotland!

I went looking for a marriage for a Stedman married to an Saveal and found an 1882 marriage registered in Billericay, Essex RD between an Albert Stedman and a Maria Savill.

OK, I thought. Albert married Maria and had Albert, Maria died young, and Albert married again. And I did find an 1890 marriage for Albert with a Sarah Firmager. Two problems, I could not find a death record that might fit for Maria and what about this birth in Scotland?

I broke down and went off to ScotlandsPeople to see if there really was an Albert Stedman born around 1883/4 in Scotland. To my great surprise, Yes, Albert and wife Elizabeth Scoular did have a son Albert born in Strathaven, Lanarkshire on 21 February 1884, and they also had been married there the previous year.

Now I had another problem. This birth record shows Albert born 21 Feb 1884, and the 1939 Register had Albert born 25 May 1883. Could I be looking at two Alberts born a year apart both with a father named Albert? Yes, that was exactly what I had!

Doing more extensive searching on census, I discovered that after Albert of Hawkhurst and Oxted’s first wife died, he seems to have removed to Scotland where he remarried and had son Albert. Then they returned to Oxted where Elizabeth died in 1889, Albert married Sarah in 1890, and he died in 1923 at age 89. His son Albert disappeared from the 1900 and 1911 census it seems because he joined the Royal Navy at age 16 and perished on the Queen Mary during the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Ron’s Albert happened to be born in Godstone RD (Caterham) in 1883 because his father Albert (1859-1914) was working there as a Railway Signalman. After he married Maria, they seem to have removed to Maidstone where he died, still working for the Railway. After his death, she seems to have been living near her son near Romford. We will learn more next year when the 1921 census becomes available.

Part of the work to resolve this puzzle was to basically build a basic tree for all of the Albert Stedmans (all spellings) and eliminating Alberts that could not be part of the story. In fact, there are actually fewer than 100 Albert Stedman/etc in a history that begins only in the early 1800s.

I found an Albert who went to America and others that must have gone elsewhere. I still have some clean up to do before I can put Albert Stedman/etc. to bed. But now I can at least publish a new tree without a known mistake.

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