Friday, February 16, 2018

William Doyle: Nothing to Go On & Next Steps

I say "nothing to go on" because there are no hints from any source I've found so far for William Doyle's birth location or his parents' names.

What I Know
  • William married Martha Reay on May 3, 1825, at St. Peter's Church in Walls End (currently Wallsend), Northumberland, England.  The marriage record indicates that they were from that parish but gives no family information.
  • Based on baptismal records, William and Martha had six children.  Four were baptized in Walls End, in 1826, 1830, 1833, and 1836.  One was baptized in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1828.  The last was born in 1939 in Bedlington after her father's death.
  • William died on September 1, 1838, in Plessey Creek, Parish of Stannington, Northumberland. 
  • A FreeReg transcription tells me that William's burial occurred on September 3, 1838, as recorded in St. Cuthbert's Church Parish records, Bedlington, Northumberland. 
As I said, there's not much to go on for further research.

What I Don't Know
  • William's birth date.  Based on his death certificate, which gives his age as 36 in 1838, I can estimate a birth year of 1802 (plus or minus up to 3 or 4 years).
  • The location of his birth.  It could have been anywhere in England, Ireland, or any part of what we now call the United Kingdom.  
  • His parents' names.  Online records have provided me with a number of infants named William Doyle, born in various parts of England with different parents.  But how would I know if any are the William Doyle I'm trying to find? 

Next Possibilities for Searching (without getting my hopes up)
  • Newspapers for an article about his death.  Being run over by a cart wheel was probably an accident but he could have been pushed; and it may or may not have happened at work in a mine.  It's possible the event would have received a line or two in a local newspaper.  The challenge is finding whether there were local newspapers at that time, whether they have survived, and, if so, where they are available.  If there were an article or an obituary, it might give names of family members.
  • Probate records.  If William had a will and it had been probated, I might find some information in a court record.  If British courts were similar to contemporary U.S. courts of the time, it's also possible William's children may have been appointed a guardian.
  • The 1841 U.K. Census may reveal other Doyle families who lived near Martha and her children after William's death.
  • U.K. Coal mining history sites may have lists of coal mining-related deaths.  
  • Dig deeper into parish records, beginning with Northumberland.  William and Martha moved several times during their 13-year marriage but seemed to stay within the boundaries of Northumberland.  It's possible William was born somewhere in Northumberland.
  • Devour Tracing Your Coalmining Ancestors:  A Guide for Family Historians (review here) and follow every lead.

I'm trying to remain hopeful of find more about William Doyle's ancestry.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. There is very little more disappointing than feeling you’ve come to the end of what can be learned about an ancestor. Stay hopeful!

    1. Thanks, Wendy. You are so right. And it's especially disappointing when I'm so few generations back!


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