It’s a Matter of Geography

Is anyone else amazed sometimes of the actual geography of somewhere? I don't mean by a map, I mean where you have actually visited somewhere & suddenly realise that two or perhaps three places were closer than you originally thought.

Of course, when that happens, it means perhaps you need to consider where in the locality you are going to research, whether that be by visiting or by using the Internet.

Where I grew up in Surrey was quite close to my ancestral stomping ground. Surrey borders Berkshire, Hampshire, Sussex, Kent and of course Middlesex.

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I had always known that and of course living in the area took it for granted. A few years ago my husband and I ventured back to my native Surrey and had elected to stay in one of the budget hotels. We only needed somewhere to sleep as during the day I would be researching and hubby would be fishing.

Guildford is notoriously expensive in the hotel market, so we ventured down to Liphook which was the exact area where my Grandmother’s maternal line had lived.

I can not read a map with any degree of success, so we took a wrong turn, and headed under a railway bridge. Then suddenly I saw the County sign reading Sussex.

Quickly we stopped the car and I asked hubby how far we were out of Liphook. The answer was less than a mile. It was one of those moments when your heart races a little faster as you comprehend just what you have discovered. Please tell me that you have all had those moments, otherwise I had best see a Doctor!

We retraced our steps and made it to the hotel. Sorted ourselves out, we had to, we had only just arrived and then went off to walk around the area. I steered the walk back under that railway bridge and was into Sussex.

The next day at the Records Office I sought a map and looked again at the stopping ground of my Grandmother’s family. The excitement was caused by her Grandmother, who on every census since 1841 right up to 1901 (she died a few months after the Census was taken) she choose to name a different area within the confines of the Liphook and neighbouring Bramshot area as her place of birth.

It is worth mentioning that in 1841 the Census did not provide a specific location, merely within the County or not, so effectively a yes or no answer. Of course, a Y for yes had been placed in the box, when it should have been N!

I searched the local parishes that were across the border into Sussex, starting with Midhurst. I eventually chose Lurgershall and there she was:

“29th December 1838, Mary Denyer, daughter of

Edward and Emaline Denyer, Lurgershall”

Source – Baptism Parish Records

It was a truly wonderful moment.

So, if your ancestor is not where they tell you they were look a bit further afield, with the thought process of 200 years ago, the world before cars, to a world when people walked several miles a day often across fields. Think what you would do in their shoes. If only I had taken my own advice, I could have saved myself several years of research headaches!

Until next time,


About Julie Goucher

Genealogist Julie Goucher sets to explore all aspects of researching ancestry and the lives of our ancestors in the United Kingdom in her monthly column for IDG, “Across the Pond.” Each month we will explore the lives of our forebears and seek to understand the Society they lived in through the obvious and not so obvious research opportunities. You can find Julie blogging at Anglers Rest:

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