I am researching my 2x great-grandmother. Her life has been quite the mystery.

Ann Norah O'Brien
Birth ABT 1860 • England
Death 16 JAN 1923 • Exeter, Devonshire, England, United Kingdom

She married George Edward Goode in 1901.

28 Dec 1901 The register office, Stroud, Gloucestershire, England
George Edward Goode

I found another marriage certificate between Sarah Ann Nutt and George Edward Goode in 1894.

Note that it says Sarah Ann Nutt was deceased by 1901 as it says George was a widower on his marriage certificate to Norah O'Brien.

I tried to look for Sarah Ann Goode's death record in the GRO index.


There are no records that match the timeframe needed for George to be a widower by 1901. He was also co-habitating with Norah around 1899.

Is it possible that he lied about it so he could marry again or that Sarah ran off and left the country?

Extra info: She had 5 illegitimate children and co-habitated with Edward Goode before they married.

1901 census https://www.ancestry.ca/sharing/16562936?h=72ff1d&utm_campaign=bandido-webparts&utm_source=post-share-modal&utm_medium=copy-url

1911 census https://www.ancestry.ca/sharing/16562931?h=9b8cba&utm_campaign=bandido-webparts&utm_source=post-share-modal&utm_medium=copy-url

Francis Harold O'Brien
Birth 21 MAR 1894 • Barton Regis, Gloucestershire, England
Death Unknown

Winifred Lydia O'Brien
Birth 30 OCT 1896 • Stroud, Gloucestershire, England
Death 28 NOV 1979 • New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada

Dorothy Doris O'Brien
Birth JANUARY 1898 • Stroud, Gloucestershire, England
Death 19 APRIL 1986 • North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

John Edward Goode O'Brien
Birth 19 JAN 1900 • Stroud, Gloucestershire, England
Death 6 JUL 1965 • Gloucestershire, Gloucester, England

George Albert O'Brien
Birth 8 JUL 1901 • Stroud, Gloucestershire, England
Death 10 NOV 1946 • Gloucestershire, Gloucester, England

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  • Have you looked for Sarah Ann in the 1901 and 1911 censuses?
    – user6485
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 8:08
  • And were there any children of the marriage to sarah ann nutt? Have you looked for them?
    – user6485
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 12:33
  • 1
    Do you have any evidence that these documents referring to a George Edward Goode belong to the same person except for the coincidence of the name? The witnesses are different, the occupations on both certificates differ and the style of signing the name is not at all the same (one is written out in full, the other is signed with one initial). It's possible for more than one man with the same name to live on the same street. In my US research, I have city directories with three men of the same name at the same address (in that case, grandfather, father and son).
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 17:57
  • 1
    @JanMurphy The address, father and father's occupation are also similar. But you're right, of course, that commonality needs to be demonstrated clearly. Aside: the 1st marriage was in church after Banns, while the 2nd was more private at the registry office, which could be to avoid unwanted objections, or might just have been their preferred place. Incidentally, Goode is in several articles on the BNA for things like spouse desertion, drunkenness, fraud and obscenity, but i didn't see anything from around the first marriage, only during his time with Norah (who stabbed him at one point).
    – AndyW
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 12:31
  • 1
    And the lack of supporting evidence is what you must address first.
    – user6485
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 13:26

2 Answers 2


There are three possibilities here, all of which you need to assess.

  1. The two marriages (of Edward Goode to Sarah Ann Nutt in 1894, and of George Edward Goode to Norah O'Brien in 1901) are not marriages of the same man.

    There are points of similarity -- the father's name and occupation; the ages suggesting the same year of birth; the addresses are very similar; the marriage in 1901 suggesting that George Edward was previously married. However the individuals' names are different; the signatures are different (E. versus George Edward); and the occupations are very different (machinist to rag picker is quite a comedown).

    Without additional research to strengthen the case that George Edward Goode and Edward Goode are the same person, I would not be prepared to argue that they are the same person based solely on the marriage records. You should search for evidence of George Edward Goode prior to 1901 -- where was he in the 1891 census and what was his occupation? Ditto for Edward Goode. And you should search for Edward Goode and his wife Sara Ann backwards and forwards from their marriage. Were they still living but somewhere other than Stroud in 1901? Had they emigrated? Is there any evidence that Edward and George Edward were different people, or evidence to support the assertion that they're the same person?

    Essentially, you're putting together a timeline from birth onwards of each individual (Edward and George Edward) to either prove that they're different people or strengthen the case that they're the same person.

    You might also want to look at signatures -- the 1894 Parish Register for the marriage is available on Ancestry, and you may be able to find a signature for George Edward in later records.

    If it turns out they're different people, your challenge is to locate George Edward's first marriage, not to locate Sarah Ann's death.

  2. OK, if you've convinced yourself that you're dealing with a single (George) Edward Goode, then you need to 'kill off' Sarah Ann.

    How widely have you searched? Timespan should be 1894 onwards at least until 1901 and possibly later than that -- I would search until she was in her nineties -- and I would also look for a subsequent marriage in either her maiden or married name; name should be all variants of Sara, Sarah, Ann, Good, Goode, Nutt... and that's before we start on mis-transcriptions, or her living under a new name or indeed her maiden name.

    As for location -- you haven't a clue. Just because she married in Stroud doesn't mean they lived there continuously... they might have moved to another district together and Edward returned after she died. Or Sarah Ann may have left him and moved away/emigrated before she died.

    However, a thorough search of at least two independent death index sites (GRO and Freebmd) being explicit about the search terms -- i.e. don't allow the site to decide what names to use (because you won't know what they used) -- is a good place to start, together with a newspaper search in case the death was newsworthy.

  3. Was he a bigamist? If you can't find a death, then either you haven't found the death yet, or he may have been a bigamist... However, most bigamists (it being illegal) took steps to hide the fact -- they didn't marry twice from the same address within 7 years -- they married quietly somewhere out of sight of the people who knew about the first marriage, often somewhere else in the country So although it can't be ruled out, I suspect it more likely that the records are deficient.

    I do however wonder if the seven year period between the marriages is significant -- if Sarah Ann repented very quickly marrying quite such a wastrel as George appears to have been from newspaper reports, and legged it soon afterwards, the 'seven years absence' defence might have come into play (Absence for 7 years plus nothing to indicate she was alive).

If you want chapter and verse on

marital breakdown, separation, widowhood, and remarriage: from 1600 to the 1970s

in England and Wales, I recommend Rebecca Probert's book Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved?, Takeaway (Publishing) 2015.

This PDF on Ancestry may give you some clues about how to establish a correspondence or difference between two individuals, if you have an Ancestry account.

  • 2
    As they are both GRO issued certificates, the signatures shown are not accurate copies of the original, so closely comparing them isn't relevant. But they should reflect HOW the register was signed, so the difference between E Goode and George Edward Goode may indicate these were not the same man, although not conclusive evidence.
    – AntonyM
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 13:05

It is probably impossible to definitively answer this in any individual case but this practice did take place.

I have a similar situation in my tree. An ancestor described as an agricultural labourer in censuses suddenly moving 200 miles - from Norfolk to Kent, having a child with another woman and then marrying her. While he still had a wife and children in his old home.

I'm sure it is the same man, he gives the same birth date and birth town in all documents. All this happening in the second half of the 19th century.

As an anecdote, about the time I was discovering this, an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC showed another instance of this happening. Giving the explanation that, divorce was effectively impossible for all but the extremely rich, and marriage gave the children security and respectability.
Unfortunately, I can't remember which episode, otherwise you might be able to look it up.

So, to answer your specific question, I would say the answer is - very probably.

  • I really think it's the same person and he waited almost exactly 7 years to marry Norah. Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 13:37

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