January 15, 2012

Occupations Matter: Liverpool Marriage Banns

Many of the families I have been researching in Liverpool, England had commonly used names, particularly those of Welsh heritage such as Williams and Jones. Often ten individuals of similar age could be found in Liverpool with a name like Edward Jones. Soon I realized that knowing the person's occupation could be a key in identifying them.  Knowing their father's name and occupation is equally important.

Owen Williams, a life-long stonemason in Much Woolton, Lancashire was born in 1837.  We were unsure of his death year, but guessed it could be 1917 having found a West Derby registration for an appropriate age. Owen and his wife Margaret had 11 children. I began searching for marriage records for each of them.

Christening and marriage records in Liverpool list the father's name and occupation which helps in linking a family's history.  Many of these records are available in condensed form on familysearch.org and are actually digitized on ancestry.com as Liverpool Baptisms and Liverpool Marriage Banns. Christening and marriage records were found for most of the children, with Owen always listed as a stonemason.

Marriage banns were found for the 1885 marriage of daughter Martha listing her father Owen as a stonemason.  Detailed marriage banns were not found for all of his children especially if they married outside of Liverpool or at a registry office. In trying to determine if son Thomas might be the one who married in Garston's St Michael's Church in 1901, checking the occupations listed was key.  Thomas was listed as age 32 which was a match, father named Owen.  But in verifying their occupations, both were listed as ferryman.  Thomas had been recorded in the both the 1891 and the 1901 census records as a gardener and we know his father was a stonemason -- so, not a match.

When I found the marriage records for Owen's youngest son Daniel, unexpected additional information was discovered.  Daniel married in St Michael's Church, Garston in 1905.  His occupation was listed as stonemason. His father, Owen, was also listed as a stonemason BUT with the notation "deceased". Searching the UK bmd (birth-marriage-death index) for the death of Owen Williams prior to 1905, a match was found in the registration district of Prescot, which includes Woolton, for 4th Quarter 1904.

Deaths Dec 1904  


Following up on that death index record we did confirm that Owen died that winter and his wife the following fall, both at age 67, and both buried at Woolton Church cemetery. So what began as a search for marriages for their children also led us to this information on the parents.  A bonus outcome !

Lessons learned: Check every source you can find for each member of the family.  Know which county your family lived in, the name of local parish churches and determine which registration districts cover the areas where they were living (in this case West Derby and Prescot both in the county of Lancashire).  Many clues can be found in records that you might not expect such as the 'deceased' notation in a marriage record.  Take advantage of the release of newly digitized records, they might just contain the information that has eluded you. 


  1. I used occupations to track a family of a common name through several years of city directories. Without the occupation it would have been impossible.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  2. Great article! When you find a relevant entry in FreeBMD, do you add a Postem with your long-term email address? I have now had 2 'new relatives' contact me that way, as described in UK/Australia Genealogy.