I posted a previous question about my great-grandmother before but I ordered her birth certificate from the New GRO index https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp

However, the name of her father is missing. What are some reasons why he would be missing from here? How can I trace my family tree without this information?

Winifred 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. https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1926/Pages/item.aspx?itemid=890822 Line 6 in the image.

She was also found in the death index: Winifred Lydia Fowler, "British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986; 1992-1993" https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FL1S-HQZ

As well as in the 1901 England census: https://www.ancestry.ca/sharing/16091326?h=e6067d&o_xid=61785&o_lid=61785&o_sch=Email+Programs https://www.ancestry.ca/sharing/16091335?h=4da97d&o_xid=61785&o_lid=61785&o_sch=Email+Programs

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  • I presume that you have checked, but does her marriage say anything about her father? (Always possible I've missed it) In England and Wales, the father's name on a marriage certificate seems to have no real rules. If the bride or groom is illegitimate, then usually their father's name is missing but you never know...
    – AdrianB38
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


Very simply, an illegitimate child whose father did not consent to being included on the certificate (from 1875, if the child was illegitimate the father had to be present at the birth registration to be named; before that the mother could name a father but it wasn't verified), or an illegitimate child whose father was 'unknown' would not have a father's name on the certificate.

Researching the father of an illegitimate child is a challenge. You should try to apply the FAN principle by researching the family friends neighbours and associates of the mother before the birth -- for example, where was she in 1891 and who was she living with? -- and afterwards -- sometimes the mother went on to marry the father of her child, or otherwise associate with him.

Sometime Parish Registers provide information that Civil Registration doesn't, especially if the parish incumbent is feeling judgemental.

The Gloucestershire Chronicle and the Cheltenham Chronicle for 24 June 1899 both have reports of Norah O'Brien being charged with stabbing Edward Goode with whom she lived... and "there was ... three children of hers in the house" (so not apparently his, or he wasn't admitting they were his). She was also in trouble with the law in 1893 (drunkenness). I note from the 1901 census that stabbing Edward does not seem to have broken their relationship.

You should also investigate via newspaper reports and court records whether she applied for maintenance of the child from the father...

As she had 3 children by 1899, you will want to investigate who the father of the other two were.

Also, DNA testing of her known descendants should provide some information. There are children in the 1901 census who will almost certainly be children of Norah and Edward, so DNA testing of their descendants as well as yourself should let you confirm or rule him out as the father.

  • Where could I find court records? I found that Edward Goode went to jail for not paying child maintenance: ancestry.ca/sharing/… Commented May 15, 2019 at 15:17
  • There are a lot more records in that record set about one or more Edward Goodes... how do you know they're the same person and the same person as the one you're looking for? In any case, this should be a separate question.
    – user6485
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 15:51

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