Ernest William Thompson So it’s that time of the year again when you make your resolutions that last the first week of the new year and then never get spoken of again…

Now I’m not suggesting that my wife’s resolution is going to be short lived but it has had a profound effect on me. Helen has this year decided to research her family history, which is great as this is something I have been doing for sometime (www.thompsonhistory.co.uk) and it will be good to do together.

So Helen has spent the last two nights searching on the various on-line resources for details of her family with some success. Most of the work has been done via www.ancestry.com and concentrating on the census returns. This gives you so much information: a single line can reveal age, birth place and occupation, while the surrounding lines will detail other family members.

When Helen was done I took the opportunity to look for some of my ancestors and, in particular, Ernest William Thompson, my great-grand father. He has always held some fascination for me as he was a Barnardos boy yet clearly had parents who were alive well into his thirties.

Given that Thompson is such a common name it is always difficult to get information without having to wade through thousands of records. Fortunately Ernest’s mother was called Alexina Maria Clarke, not a common name. So searching for Alexina I was able to find details for her in the 1871, 1881 and the 1901 census returns.

In 1871 Alexina and her husband Charles Thompson were living in Paddington, London and it was here, a few months after the census took place, that Ernest was born.

Once again I was able to find Alexina in the 1881 census but this time she and her family were living in North Luffenham, Rutland but missing from her list of children was Ernest who would have been ten at the time.

Both Alexina and Ernest appear on the 1901 census returns. Ernest now 30 and married and living in London. Alexina has moved back to Middlesex but has lost her husband on the way.

There are several questions that arise from this information:

  • What made Alexina and her family move around the country? Was this due to Charles’ job or were there other reason?
  • Why was Ernest William not living with his family when he was ten?

There is a 16 year gap in Ernest William’s life between his birth and when he turned up at Barnardos. It is possible that he was living with other relatives at the time of the census, he could have been living rough Artful Dodger style. It is also possible that we will never know – but I am going to continue to look.

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