Conflicting names of ancestor's parents from different records?



Winnifred Lydia O'Brien


BIRTH 30 OCT 1896 • Stroud, Gloucestershire, England

DEATH 28 NOV 1979 • New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada

I believe I have found my great-grandmother in the 1926 census of the prairie provinces. Line 6 in the image.

She was also found in the death index: Winifred Lydia Fowler, "British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986; 1992-1993"

As well as in the 1901 England census:

However, the names of her parents keeps changing in the records.

On her death cert it says Edward O’Brien of Ireland was her father with an unknown mother.

On the 1901 census it says her mother is Norah O’Brien and the head of the household is Edward Goode but it doesn’t say what relation he has to her.

I found a marriage cert that has a marriage between Norah O’Brien and George Edward Goode.

I guess it could be that she didn't take her husband's last name. enter image description here


Posted 2019-03-20T14:53:50.897

Reputation: 1 103

3The marriage is after the census, so not likely to see name changes before then for anyone. Names on death certificates are always suspicious because the most informed person isn't there. Surnames of children born before their parents marriage are always problematic in England - sometimes they changed, sometimes not. – AdrianB38 – 2019-03-20T15:18:16.350

Am I right in saying that the only real oddity is the death certificate, which isn't that odd....? – AdrianB38 – 2019-03-20T15:20:30.373



I suggest you obtain a copy of Winifred's birth certificate. It can be ordered from the GRO website.

In the New GRO index, here is her entry:

enter image description here

As you can see, the Mother's maiden surname is given as a dash, indicating she was very likely illegitimate.

The most likely explanation is that Winifred's mother was unmarried when Winifred was born. Whether Edward Goode was her biological father is impossible to say without further evidence.

As you say, Norah appears to have married George Edward Goode in December 1901 (remember the census was taken in March 1901, before they were married).

The 1911 census does not help much although it shows Winifred O'Brien with her mother Norah Goode and several O'Brien and Goode siblings. Her stepfather is not there at that time. (see reference RG 14/15370, schedule 99)

DNA testing can be useful to sort out paternity in some cases where there is a recent illegitimacy.

Harry Vervet

Posted 2019-03-20T14:53:50.897

Reputation: 17 763

Good point that EG might not be her biological father. It's not unknown for so-called fathers' names to be step-fathers'. Certainly in the UK there are a lot less rules about these things than you might imagine and even fewer requirements for proof! Who people trace in their tree is, of course, up to them. – AdrianB38 – 2019-03-20T17:56:16.343