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Journey # 15: The Mysterious Henry Lowe

I had waited anxiously for two weeks until the document came. I was so excited when I opened the mailbox that day in week 13. This would be my breakthrough. It would show me his exact date of birth, location and his mother's maiden name. So I tore the envelope open and almost cried. Instead of Henry Lowe as the father, William Lowe was listed. What does this mean? I wondered. And what now?

I went out again to get help. This time I went to the Mormons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a small Family History Centre in my town, so I dragged all my material up there one Saturday morning. I lucked out and found a very competent researcher at the helm. She plunked me down beside her and began scouring all the databases she had access to.

And she found something: A Henry Lowe (who would be the right age to be JH's father and was also born in the same town as JH — Bury, Lancashire), who had enlisted in the army in the 1840s and spent most of his military career overseas in New Zealand. Could this be JH's father? And if so, had he taken his wife and child (or children) overseas with him? Was this the reason I couldn't find the family in the censuses? Were they living overseas during the 1851, 1861 and 1871 censuses? It was a possibility, certainly. But was it a certainty? How could I know? I continued researching and eventually came up with the following possibilities.

Possibility a) The military Henry Lowe was mine, and he took his family overseas, which is why they didn't appear in the census. Maybe JH's mother came home to give birth and returned overseas immediately and JH's birth didn't get properly registered.

Possibility b) The birth certificate for the only Joseph Lowe that fit my criteria was correct, and William was JH's father's name but his middle named was Henry and he used that, which is why JH listed him as Henry on his marriage certificate.

Possibility c) My Henry Lowe was still out there somewhere living a normal life in England, and I just couldn't find them. Of course a mistransciption could explain why I couldn't find the family in the census reports. But a mistranscription for three census reports in a row? That seemed a bit too much. But if that were the case, why couldn't I find a birth certificate for Joseph with a father named Henry.

This was a mystery that had to be solved. But it wasn't solved that week.


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