I'm brand new on here but I'm hoping by posting this genealogical mystery on a large website like this I might get some theories that might help solve the problem! It's a bit long winded but please stick with it, I need to explain it fully so you can see I have tried to work this out :)
One of my branches is unfortunately Smith and somehow I managed to get back as far as my great-great grandfather James Smith. James Smith was born in 1868 in Worsbrough (nr Barnsley), West Riding of Yorkshire, UK. His parents on the birth certificate are Jeremiah Smith and Mary Jenkinson. I also have Jeremiah Smith and Mary Jenkinson's marriage certificate from 1865, also in Worsbrough, and Jeremiah's father is listed as Joseph Smith.
Armed with all this I tried to find this family in the census records, first of all the 1881 as thats freely available. Could I find any Jeremiah Smith's in that area? Could I even find a James Smith of the right age in that village? Nope.... and given that I knew my great-grandfather and my grandmother had been born in the same village it was unlikely they had moved anywhere.
Then my Mum remembered a strange family story that my great-grandfather had been nicknamed 'Stiffy Baxter' and suggested we substitute Smith for Baxter. No Jeremiah Baxter, but there was a James Baxter in the village with parents Joseph and Mary Baxter. Mary Baxter was the right age, as was James. I did notice there was a gap between the last few children and the older children and therefore summerised that Jeremiah had died and Mary had remarried a Joseph Baxter.
Looking at the parish baptisms for the village however, we hit a problem. Try as we might we could not find any Baxter baptisms for the period we wanted. What we *did* find were a number of Smith baptisms to a Jeremiah and Mary, for children of the same names and ages as the Baxter brood in 1881, and even more surprisingly some were after 1881!
Somewhat perplexed we went on to do some census searches. We could never find any Smith families that ever fit the bill. However in 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 we consistently found this Baxter family with the suspicious same named & aged children. As if that wasn't enough in 1871 the Baxter children had two elder children, Jemima and Frank who were both born before Jeremiah and Mary's marriage, but research in 1861 census and parish records show that Mary had two illegitimate children, named Jemima and Frank......
In 1881, 1891 and 1901 the head of the family is Joseph Baxter who is from Lancashire although it's never clear where in Lancashire and on one census the emumerator gives up and puts NK. In 1871 the head of the household is James Baxter, also from Lancashire.
As if that wasn't enough, Mary's father on her marriage certificate is given as Francis Fitton. In 1861 in Worsbrough there is only one Francis Fitton living with his wife Sarah. Their lodger, is a Joseph Baxter from Lancashire who is the same age as the Joseph/James Baxter who seems to appear with their daughter Mary in following census returns.
So my questions are, given all the evidence, are Joseph/James Baxter and Jeremiah Smith one and the same? If so, why does he appear to use one name for registering births & marriages and in the parish records but another name in census returns? Is he hiding something? Why change both his first name and his surname? I've heard of people using a different first name before but not an entirely different name!
Apologies if I have put this on the wrong forum but I'd appreciate comments from all over the world about this curious situation. I've never met anyone else with this problem before but I can't be the only one!