Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seeking Margaret Ann McCracken Mills Bentley

New discovers in my own tree are fewer and farther between so to fill the gaps, I have also been periodically researching my husband's tree (as well as my sister-in-law's tree). This has been difficult because my husband has zero interest in genealogy - he doesn't mind me working on it but he doesn't know much about his family beyond his parents and doesn't see why he should. I've tried to tell him about my discoveries in his family tree but he just shrugs his shoulders. Sometimes, he pretends to be interested for my sake but I know he's just indulging me.

1901 Census of Bentley
Click to enlarge
Anyway, I hit a roadblock rather quickly when looking for my mother-in-law's paternal grandparents, Francis (Frank) William and Margaret Ann Bentley. I quickly traced Frank's lineage back several generations but I didn't even know Margaret's maiden name, just that she was born in Salford, England around 1868.

In the 1901 census (left), I found them living in Salford with several children, three of whom were listed as Frank's stepchildren, Thomas, Sarah and Albert Mills. I also found an 1897 marriage index for Francis William Bentley to Margaret Ann Mills.

So is Margaret's maiden name Mills or is it her name from her first marriage? I don't know why I didn't just order the marriage record to see if her father's name was on it. Trying to cut corners, I guess. But Margaret married Frank in Salford when she was 29 and I couldn't find any earlier census records of an unmarried Margaret Mills born in Salford about 1868, even though she should theoretically be on the 1871, 1881, and 1891 censuses. So I was thinking it was more likely Margaret was married previously to a man by the name of Mills, given the names of Frank's stepchildren. There's also no record of Frank being married before Margaret so it's unlikely the Mills children are his orphaned stepchildren from a previous marriage of his own. Unfortunately, the children are too young to be found on the 1891 census so trying to trace Margaret through them is not possible.

1891 Census of Mills family
In the 1891 census, there are two married Margaret Mills who were born in the right area around the right time, one of them was married to Richard Mills and the other to Albert Mills in Oldham (just outside Manchester/Salford). Already, I am leaning towards Albert because we know Frank's stepson's name was the same. Sure enough, later census records confirm Richard Mills and his wife still living together when Margaret had married Frank so that rules out Richard. To further support the idea that Albert Mills from Oldham is the guy I'm looking for, I can't find him in the censuses after 1891 and there is a death index of what looks like him in 1895, two years before Margaret married Frank Bentley (but not before Albert Jr. was born the same year).

Another tree suggested that Margaret's maiden name was Warburton so I then found an 1889 marriage in the England & Wales FreeBMD Index suggesting Albert Mills had married Margaret Ann Warburton in Manchester. But the way the index works is by listing everyone on the same page without telling you who married who. However, the fact that they were on the same page (below, right) must not be a coincidence, right? The date fits, the names fit, the location fits.

Incorrect marriage index of Margaret Ann Warburton
Wrong! I tried to order the record under Margaret's name only to be told the record didn't exist. What? So I ordered it under Albert's name and it turns out, Albert had married the other woman on the list: Sarah Ann Weedle. Who did Margaret Ann Warburton marry? You may notice on the index listing to the left, there are five names listed, which is unusual because it's uneven amount and marriages come in couples, polygamy being illegal. As it turns out, Margaret Ann Warburton was transcribed on the incorrect page. If you view the original document, it says Vol. 8d, Page 358 but it was transcribed as Page 858, thus incorrectly listing her along with Albert Mills! So this Margaret Ann Warburton has NO connection to Albert Mills and this is why it's so important to look at the original document, not just the index. Looking at the index for Page 358, it looks like Warburton married either Daniel Silk or Christopher Harland. This is also why it's so important to be careful about what is added to other trees! I should really know better on both counts but everything did seem to add up at first.

Hopefully correct marriage index of Margaret Ann.
It still seems likely to me that Mills was Margaret's name from a first marriage since Frank has stepchildren with that name. And maybe it was the Albert Mills in Oldham she was married to - after all, the census of them in 1891 does list his wife as Margaret A. Mills, not Sarah. So where is the record for the correct Albert Mills marrying Margaret Ann? I don't know why but finding the likely candidate took some digging. I had to search only within the England & Wales Free BMD Index and restrict all the fields to "exact", then entered Albert Mills, married between 1887 and 1891 in Oldham. Then I did another one for Salford and finally found the record to the right. This makes sense because even though Albert was born in Oldham and he and Margaret lived in Oldham, Margaret was born in Salford. Additionally, I knew I'd seen the name McCracken somewhere else. Take a look at who is listed with Albert and Margaret Mills in the 1891 census above: a "visitor" Sarah McCracken.

I have since ordered Margaret's marriage record to Frank, which is what I should have just done in the first place but I thought finding her first marriage record would be more likely to give me her maiden name. I'm hoping that the full record for her marriage to Frank names her father, thus finally confirming her maiden name. Hopefully, it is McCracken and I will have redeemed myself in the eyes of the genealogy gods who had apparently forsaken me and taken me down a wayward path called Warburton.

In the mean time, I did some more research on McCracken and found Margaret's father was from Scotland. Excited, I told my husband that his mother may have had a Scottish ancestor and what does he tell me? "I already knew that." I must have looked aghast because he laughed and said "Oh, sorry, I meant to say 'Oh my God, that's brand new information!'" (Kudos to anyone who gets the 'Friends' reference).

On one hand, I'm glad because it confirms that I am on the right path with McCracken. On the other hand, I feel like strangling my husband for not telling me sooner.


  1. Hi

    I have just come across your post whilst searching for Margaret Ann McCracken, Oldham and found all this information!

    My Great Grandmother was Margaret Ann McCracken who married Albert Mills and lived in Salford.

    I am trying to find out where my Great Great Great Grandfather William McCracken was born and what his parents were called but this is proving to be very difficult.

    1. I don't think I even have William's name - only that her father's name was Thomas, and Thomas' mother's maiden name was Carson. Are you on (or

  2. Hi

    Yes I am, but I have struggled to find anything. I think part of the problem is that a lot of the records for baptisms were not kept at that time.

    I think he was probably born in Ireland or possibly Scotland. But then again........

    I think sometimes there is only so far you can go with researching family trees.

    You did very well in your searches!