Sunday, February 6, 2011

A brick wall: Elizabeth Jarrald, widow, Nurse to Bram Stoker's baby son in 1881

Starting with the 1881 census return for Bram Stoker and his family, I have been tracing all the members of the household, including the servants, through the public records that are easy to use, mainly relying on Ancestry.co.uk. The point is to see what can be gleaned from these primary sources, not to prepare comprehensive biographies. We'll leave that for others!

I've come to the eldest of the three servants listed with the family in 1881.

The transcription given by Ancestry indicates the the lady's name is Elizabeth Jarrald. She is a Servant in the household, a widow, age 30. Her occupation is Nurse (presumably meaning the baby's nurse, not a hospital nurse), and, rather infuriatingly, her birthplace is blank. Not helpful at all.

There is no easy way to find this lady.

A further problem is that her name may actually be Jerrald, or Jerrold, or Jarrold, or even a variant starting with a "G". When I look at the handwriting, it appears to be Jerrald, but it's a close call.

The assumptions and the dangers of making them


This is not the right way to do research! It worked for me and suits my purposes because I like the research for its own sake, I like to see what turns up even if it's "wrong", and I am only answerable to myself. Of course, as a matter of public responsibility, I try to point out to readers and other researchers where there are traps, such as here.


I was stuck with a name, an age, a location on one day in 1881, an occupation, and a marital status. Bearing in mind that any of these could be wrong (a danger with any census record), I went ahead and tried to find information.

A simple search for Elizabeth Jarrald

From the Bram Stoker family entry (linked to above), we have the spelling Jarrald, date of birth about 1851, place unknown.

Ancestry's search function, for Elizabeth Jarrald, b. abt 1851 gives two results with the same spelling. One is the 1881 return we already have, the other is also for 1881, in Haverhill, Suffolk, wife of John Jarrald. Noting the same name, we can exclude this second Elizabeth from consideration if she turns up again.

Now I will tell the truth about the way I did this research, but remember, I am not saying this is the "right" way to do it. This is a fast way to get results that may be for the person I want, but equally, may not be.

I wanted to find Elizabeth in 1871, but I didn't know if she was married then.

I could deduce that Elizabeth's husband, Mr. Jarrald, would appear in the GRO index of marriages with her, and in the GRO index of deaths, some time before the 1881 census.

I searched for marriages between a man with the surname Jarrald and a woman named Elizabeth, starting in 1881 and working backwards, one year at a time. This method takes some care and attention, and of course, some patience. I also searched for Jarrald men (and variations of the spelling) in the death index, working backwards.

In 1869, which is about as far back as I would go, if Elizabeth's age is correct (born 1851), I found a GRO marriage index with two men and two women:

Charles Jarrald and William James Randall
married
Emma Bloom and Elizabeth Trott.

Charles Jarrald is a likely candidate because he married in London and died in London in 1877.

The marriage index doesn't tell us which men married which women, but for Charles Jarrald, the choice of wives is narrowed to only two, Emma or Elizabeth. Of course, I would like it to be Elizabeth, but we need proof.

Next step: how I figured out the marriage puzzle.

This article is one in an ongoing series, starting with Bram Stoker, author of Dracula in public records: BMD (Birth, Marriage, Death).

Next: Figuring out which man married which woman: Elizabeth Jarrald, cared for Bram Stoker's baby, 1881


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