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Researching family history – some problems and pitfalls

Posted by on January 28, 2013

It has been fascinating but at times frustrating to research William Slaughter and his family through internet access to archive material. Luckily the name, combined with Capel [his mother’s maiden name] is relatively unusual. However, his father and brother, both named Mihill begin to cause problems when people try to analyse writing on original documents. As a family name, Mihill comes from Mary Mihill, William’s great-grandmother, who married William Slaughter [1743 – 1818] a cheesemonger of St Martin’s Lane.

Mihill Loraine Slaughter when he was serving in the Berkshire Regiment during the Boer War

Mihill Loraine Slaughter when he was serving in the Berkshire Regiment during the Boer War

Their son, named Mihill, was born in 1781. On various documents the name has been transcribed as Michel or Mihell – presumably because it was so unusual. By the time my mother knew her uncle, Mihill Loraine Slaughter in the 1920s, he was known to her simply as Uncle Mac.  Sadly, the family name has now died out – after five generations-  and I have not been able to trace the origins of the name prior to the late 1700s.

In the 1871 census William has become William Copel , aged 13 at a boys’ school at 116 Clapham Common. Ten years later William, now a solicitor, was living at the family home at 42 Binfield Road in Lambeth. His father having died in 1880, the head of the family is his elder brother, Mihill. Also living there are his younger brother, Edward and two unmarried sisters, Elizabeth [aged 31] and Mary [aged21].

By the 1891 census, William was a widower – his wife, Ida, having died in 1890, aged only 33. The family were living at 10 Gloucester Street, Paddington. By this time, Mary Slaughter is described as the head of the family, looking after William’s three young children – Mihill [aged8], Arthur [aged5] and Olive [aged3]. The family also had a cook, a nurse and a housemaid to look after them. Arthur and Mihill are both given the surname, Gossting, wrongly transcribed from the original document from a ditto below Slaughter, though it is hard to imagine how such a mistake could be made. But where was William? I shall leave this problem and tackle it in the following blog entry.

I had been unable to find the family in the 1901 Census until, by examining many possible entries I discovered that the name had been wrongly transcribed from the original and he had become William C. Llangter [aged 43] and his wife had become Heather Llangter. William’s son Loraine [no mention of Mihill] is described as a visitor[ aged 18] , a Second  Lieutenant  in the militia/artillery.

So how did Mihill Slaughter become Loraine Llangter? I was able to ascertain that William’s first wife, Ida was the daughter of a surgeon called Loraine Weaver who had been born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire in ca. 1816. I can find no record of his birth or baptism, but he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1837. He had eight children, his eldest son being named Loraine . Ida was his third daughter She must have been fond of her father and his name in order to bestow it on her eldest son, Mihill Loraine when he was born in 1883.

Loraine has fallen out of use as a family name, for either a boy or a girl, since Peggy’s Uncle Mac died in 1928, leaving no children.


2 Responses to Researching family history – some problems and pitfalls

  1. Margaret McAlpine

    This is quite a detective story and it obviously took a great deal of perseverance to gather all these important details together. I have found the first census, in 1841, to be the most incomplete and have failed to find whole families. Thereafter transcription errors blight all of the records.

    Parish records and graveyard memorials are still an important supplement for gaps, though the former are increasingly available as originals through on-line websites. I have still found a role for local history society publications though, as they have helpfully listed hundreds of years records alphabetically, eg All Saints, Batley.

  2. Rose McCarthy

    William and Mary Slaughter ( 1743 ) are my 7x great grandparents. I have been researching and compiling my family tree and I have only just found a couple of great links including an ebook called SLAUGHTER AND MAY – A CENTURY IN THE CITY.

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