I didn't find Mary Hague in the census - and now I'm more excited than ever. (That just doesn't sound right though, does it?)
We often get excited when we find our ancestor in the census, or in other records. Often, NOT finding our ancestors can tell us just as much. I had such an experience this morning as I searched for Mary Elizabeth Hague in the now-complete 1911 England census at www.1911census.co.uk. (Just this morning I read the announcement that they've now added the final counties to complete the census.)
I have searched many times for Mary's father, Edwin HAGUE, in the 1911 England census. Until yesterday, I hadn't searched for him as Edwin HAGNE. In the image below, I can easily see how the indexer thought the U in the surname should be a N, but it stumped me for a little while.
Using various searching techniques, I finally located the family. In previous census years, Edwin and Annie's children were living with them. Their youngest daughter, Mary, was with them in 1901. She was 18 years old. In this 1911 census, Mary was no longer listed with her parents.
What happened? 1) She could have died. 2) She could have left home to live on her own. 3) She could have married.
According to the "Total Children Born Alive" and "Children Still Living" columns, the parents had 4 children, and all were still living. So theory #1 is not true. Performing searches of a Mary Elizabeth Hague, born 1883 in the area was negative, so theory #2 might not be true. What most likely happened, is she married sometime between 1901 (when she was living with her parents) and 1911 (when she was not living at home).
In her book, Evidence Explained, Elizabeth Shown Mills explains that negative evidence is an "inference we can draw from the absence of information that should exist under particular circumstances." In this situation, the negative evidence is the absence of Mary in the household of her parents, and we can now come up with new research possibilities.
I have now narrowed the time frame of Mary's possible marriage to between 1901 and 1911. Using Legacy Family Tree's built-in Research Guidance (shown below), I clicked on the Goal: Marriage tab. One of the suggested sources is to search the England/Wales Civil Registration Indexes. Clicking on its Online button, Legacy provided six different Internet links to these databases, including a link to a free database.
I performed various searches and found a terrific possibility of a marriage to Edmund Hoyland in 1901. Legacy's Research Guidance also gave me a direct link to order the marriage certificate, so this morning, that's just what I did. Legacy explains that the fathers' names and occupations should be listed on the certificate, so I am hoping that when the certificate arrives in my mailbox, it will list Edwin HAGUE as Mary's father. If so, I've then solved a research problem from the clues I learned from a record that did not even include Mary.
I know...I get excited about the littlest things....
Do you have an experience of using negative evidence to solve a research question? Let us know by using the comments form below.