Wednesday, October 25, 2017

You Never Know Where a Search Will Lead

Every search has to start somewhere, based on some scrap of accurate or inaccurate information.  You don't know where the search will lead, or whether it's in the right (or wrong) direction until you've searched.  And it may only lead to a dead end.  This was a string of searches I performed for William Doyle. 

Family sources record that William Doyle, coal miner, died in 1844, presumably in England.  That's not much to go on.  Making a guess, I imagined the possibility of a mine disaster in 1844 and began a search.

Search Terms:  Collieries Northumberland England 1850s

Among the results of the search was a link to a book about mining disasters called Darkest Hours.

The link took me to page 710 in the book where I learned that on September 28, 1844, the Haswell Colliery in Northumberland, England, exploded and 95 people died.

Could William Doyle have worked at the Haswell Colliery and, if so, could he have died in that explosion?  The year corresponds to the family information and the general geographic location where William likely lived.   I decided to search further considering this as a possibility, however slight.

Search Terms:  Haswell Colliery Northumberland England
That search led to a website about the Haswell Colliery Coal Mine where I learned that there was a miner's strike in 1844, and confirmed that 95 men died in a subsequent explosion on September 28, 1844.  It looks like the colliery is in Durham, not Northumberland.  William may have lived in both counties at different times.

Search Terms:  Haswell, County Durham

I found the Wikipedia page for Haswell, which linked to the Durham Mining Museum's page for Haswell Colliery.  There I found a list of deaths due to mining disasters, including 94 of the 95 who died in the explosion at Haswell Colliery in 1844.  William Doyle was not one of the 94 who were listed.  Could he have been the 95th?

Chances are William did not die in this explosion and probably didn't work at Haswell Colliery.  I'll continue searching in another direction.

My local Family History Center was not open during its scheduled time tonight.  I want to look at some locked FamilySearch microfilms that have been scanned including a parish marriage record for William.  The next scheduled open hours are this coming Saturday.  I hope to go then. 


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. This is an interesting idea for a blog, much like a tutorial. I write about results of my search, not process, but reading your process shows me a new idea.

    1. I hesitated to write this post, Wendy, but thought it an easy way to document this string of searches. (I'm embarrassed to admit that I did not keep track of a previous search which named William Doyle as one of the leaders of a mine strike. I don't know if it was my ancestor or not but I haven't been able to replicate the search or find the source document. Which disappoints me no end.) So often we post our successful searches but not how we arrived there. I think reading about the process can be helpful (though not always interesting). I glad it sparked a new idea for you.


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