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Journey # 20: Where in the World is Georgina Dawson?

Georgiana (also called Georgina) Dawson is my great grandmother on my father’s side. I learned this by finding my grandfather in the 1901 and 1911 census, which showed his mother’s first name as Georgina. I then searched marriage records for my great grandfather’s name, Joseph Henry Lowe, marrying a woman whose first name was Georgina. There turned out to be at least two couples with this combination of names. However, since one of their maiden name’s was Dawson, and my grandfather’s name was James Alfred Dawson Lowe, I was able to narrow that down quickly.

I ordered the marriage certificate that went with the online record, which showed where Joseph Henry and Georgina lived at the time of the marriage and the names of their fathers. Both very helpful in tracking the families.

The census reports told me where Georgina was born (Ramsey, Huntingdonshire), and I was able to find her birth record and track her with her family in the 1861 census. She was born in 1854 so that was the first census she’d appear in. I already had her in the censuses after she was married, but when I looked for her in the 1871 census, I came up blank. There was no sign of her or her parents in 1871 anywhere in England.

But, no big deal, right? I’ll just move on. I found her parents before Georgina was born in 1851 and 1841 (the earliest UK census available) with her older siblings. 

Volunteers at my local genealogy society suggested that tracking her siblings might shed light on her whereabouts in 1871 or at least what was happening in the family.

Of course, these volunteers are wise in the ways of genealogy, and this was the right route to take. I researched for each of her siblings and discovered Georgina’s mother living with her son and his family in the 1871 census. She was shown to be a widow. This explained the disappearance of the family unit between the 1861 census and the 1871 census — father George had died in the interim. But it still didn’t explain where Georgina was.

I continued searching, assuming that she would turn up in the home of a sibling. But she didn’t. So I searched for her on her own, thinking she must be living with another family, possibly working as a domestic servant. But nothing.

With more help, I got creative with spelling, under the assumption that she had been mistranscribed. I tried dozens of alternatives, both of her first name and of her last and using asterisks and questions marks in the search strings. Nothing.

I then resorted to searching the 1871 census for every single person who had been born in her town within two years of her birth. I looked at every name of the list (and there were hundreds). The closest I found was a Hannah Dawson working as a domestic servant in Huntingdonshire. I thought this must be her. Possibly the children of the household couldn’t pronounce Georgiana so they called her Hannah (there is a sound relation).

I was sure I’d found her. After all, this Hannah Dawson was born within a year of my Georgiana Dawson, and they’d both been born in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. I breathed a sign of relief.

Then a few days later it began to prey on my mind. I’d wanted this to be her so badly that I hadn’t done my due diligence. I hadn’t looked to see if I could eliminate this Hannah. I needed to see if Hannah appeared in another census living a parallel life to my Georgiana. 
When I found the parallel life of Hannah I breathed another sigh, but one of frustration rather than relief.

I still don’t know where Georgina Dawson is. I suspect she is hiding in a census record somewhere. Possibly mistranscribed but possibly spelled wrong on the document itself since it was unlikely she'd have been the person providing the information. Maybe they weren't sure of how her name was spelled. Maybe her birthplace is also wrong and is shown as the same as everyone else in the household, because they simply didn't know. And the combination makes her unrecognizable.

My most recent theory is that after her father died in 1861 she went to live with her older brother who was serving in the army and went overseas with him and his family to help look after the children. This would explain her being absent from the 1871 census since he and his family were also absent and based on the birth records of their children, were out of the country. But again, this is just a guess.

Whatever the reason, I can't find her.

Wherever she is, searching for her reinforced the things I had learned to date, including:
* following a systematic process that looks at all possibilities is the best course of action
* look for alternate spellings
* track siblings to get an accurate picture of the family
* never assume that someone you found is the person you are looking for just because you want that to be the case
* eliminate all possibilities before moving on
* sometimes you can't find people who are supposed to be there no matter what you do


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