Curious George

To be totally honest, this post is less about the curiosity of someone called George and more my curiosity about someone called George and the sheer madness and frustration researching him has brought me! It is absolutely typical that he is to be found hanging on my father’s English side of the family tree – and is an elder brother of my grandmother, Norah. This group of children – the family of Emily Alice Palmer – always somehow infuriate me!

I first came across George in the 1911 census, living with this parents and mixed bag of half and full siblings in Batts Alley, Marnhull, Sturminster Newton, Dorset. We met them when I talked about their father Joshua. In that census is a George Murray, born in 1905/1906. Family lore has it that he married someone called Lilian and had a son, Arthur, who was mistreated and was for a time raised by my grandmother, Norah (famed for her affection and affinity for babies) and eventually married and made his way to Scotland. Several years ago I made contact with his widow and one of his daughters who verified George left the family home and left Lilian alone.

I have never found a birth of George Murray (or Bowley as Emily was at the time, nor Palmer if she had used her maiden name), but I had found a record of a Walter George Murray who went on to marry a Laura Lilian Baker. I could never find a suitable birth for Arthur, but things happen and babies don’t always get registered, and I knew his parents were George and Lilian. Fairly simple, right? Ehhhh … Assumptions, dear reader …

In my recent spate of ordering certificates (thank you, disposable income!) I thought I’d order their marriage certificate from 1927 and his death certificate. They duly arrived a few days ago. Cut to my surprised face at reading the groom’s father’s name: William Alfred Murray (deceased). Not only was his father supposed to be Joshua, he was also very much alive. The informant for his death was his brother in law, Alfred Baker. After a lifetime being a tile sorter, his cause of death (asphyxiation caused by lung cancer) isn’t a huge surprise. But it seems this wasn’t my George at all! Which begs an obvious question …

I restarted my search for George’s birth entry. No joy. However, I did find a likely baptism:

I know Joshua occasionally used the name Jesse, and that he is a “steam plough man” fits exactly.

But then I found something else … a burial:

Little George being buried at 4 months old. Definitely the right family as the addresses match. But then how could he have been in 1911? I vented my frustration on Twitter:

And what about little Arthur? How could he be George’s son if he died aged 4 months?! What the heck was going on?

I double-checked my emails regarding Arthur, and decided to check ScotlandsPeople for his death entry. The index gives his mother’s maiden name as Ball. Maybe I’d missed a marriage? So to the wonder that is FreeBMD I went. A Murray/Ball marriage? Indeed. Final quarter of 1929, in Poole, George A Murray to Lilian Winifred Ivy Ball. Arthur’s birth was registered in the same quarter, but mother’s maiden name also Murray. I suspect he was registered ahead of the marriage – but I will know more when the certificate arrives!

But from where had this George sprung? How had Emily Alice managed to have another child There is no possible permutation of George having his birth registered. Their marriage certificate is also on order (of course!) to confirm his father and – I hope – his age.

And indeed, on 22 October 1929, we have 24 year old George Albert Murray marrying 25 year old Lilian in Poole Register Office. George’s father is Joshua, General Labourer, and George (and Lilian) lived at 182 Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, Poole. George was also a General Labourer.

Now, in 1931 there is an electoral register for 418 Ashley Road, Parkstone, Poole:

So it seems that something was matching up!

A search of BNA for George gave up one possible lead from 1935:

There is no death entry for George, but four years later, Lilian is living with the Budge family in Parkstone, but there is no George and – crucially – no sign of little Arthur. As he only died in 2002 he should show up as a closed record. Interestingly, originally Lilian had stated she was a Widow, but this has been subsequently crossed out and replaced with a solid M (indicating she was most definitely married). Lilian didn’t remarry and died in 1961 still a Murray. So where is George in 1939? If I could track him down I could maybe match a death entry to it.

I’ve only gone and bloody found his baptism!

Not born in Dorset as per the 1911 census. Not even born in Hampshire, but in Wiltshire. Trowbridge, to be precise! And how did I find him? A basic Ancestry search and clicking on a death that took place in 1997 in Watford. Suggested record of a baptism in Wiltshire. Sure, why not?! And there is Jesse & Emily Alice in Shails Lane, Trowbridge. Which is nicely confirmed on his birth certificate:

George’s Birth Certificate, confirming his parentage

His death certificate shows that he had married again (the informant was a step-daughter), but I can’t match him to a distinct possible second wife, or if it took place before or after his first wife actually died.

So I have a date of birth and a date of death – but no corresponding 1939 entry!

There is, however, an extra record I found on FMP: 18 year old George Albert Murray, born in Trowbridge in 1906, son of Joshua who was living in Parkstone, Doreset, joined the Royal Tank Corps on 13 March 1924. He served until October 1928 according to the record, across several different regiments (all various Hussars) so would’ve been heavily involved in India throughout the 1920s. He was discharged due to Kings Regulations paragraph 370 (xvi)(a) which means “No longer physically fit for service in a period of war or demobilisation”. (Thanks to the wonderful Military Researcher site – and my friend Carole!)

Although it begs the question of why wasn’t this mentioned on his marriage certificate in 1929? But does it answer the question of him not being around in the 1939 register? Did he re-enlist? Of course, he could be on there but is currently a closed record as he died after the base cut off year of 1991 and they haven’t matched him up to his death. I don’t know his likely address to request him being opened, either.

So Curious George hasn’t given up all of his mysteries quite yet, but I am so very glad that I can – at last – answer some of the most basic questions about him!


  1. I hate when I stumble across same named people and then have to sort out which records belong to whom. Great detective work! You make it look so easy. Have you looked for an obituary online?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a stupid misake on my part to blindly believe those pesky Ancestry hints without checking them first! Oh – the follies of youth!! I have looked and can’t find an obit for George, sadly, but I have messaged the county library to ask if they can search their archives for one!


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