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How do I find twins in the England and Wales civil registrations?

In one of my workshops, I was given some information about a couple in the UK who had identical twin daughters. Although I knew their names, the surname was very common (Brown). Unfortunately, the relative did not know the registration district, or the year, or the quarter of the year that their births were registered. They knew the mother's maiden name but their births would have preceded the date at which maiden names were made visible in the birth index. They did not know the father's given name at all.

None of the search engines I regularly use (FreeBMD, findmypast, Ancestry, FamilySearch) seem to offer a way of finding two names that happen to fall in the same yearly quarter in the same registration district (other than a marriage of course).

Although not a solution, I looked in each census for the named pair since some census search engines (e.g. findmypast) allow you to find person-A where person-B is in the same household. However, this presumes that both twins had survived long enough for them to have appeared side-by-side in a census.

As it happens, I could not identify the twins I had been told about.

  • Perplexing. You have no other info? – American Luke Oct 24 '12 at 22:30
  • @Luke, This information was provided to me by a relative of that family attending one of my workshops. It's all she had unfortunately. However, I'm posting the question as a generalised problem rather than looking for a specific solution in this case (it's more helpful to others then) – ACProctor Oct 25 '12 at 10:18
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    The new GRO indices include the mother's maiden name for many earlier records now, so it would be worth searching there, if this topic is still of interest. – AndyW Dec 21 '16 at 9:24
  • Yes, but they range of the search is still severely limited – ACProctor Dec 22 '16 at 10:27
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I don't think there's any way to use the search engines directly. The only suggestion I can come up with, is to use FreeBMD to ask the query by firstname / surname for all England & Wales, over a suitably wide period. FreeBMD then allows you to download the answers (button near the top of the page). And glory be, the tabs are all in the right place on the one I tried to put the data into columns that can be worked on.

Load it into something like Notepad++, select just the records, paste them into Excel and I found the data went into columns straight off (otherwise you should be able to convert it into columns at the tabs).

Now repeat the exercise for the 2nd twin's name and you should have 2 spreadsheets.

As they say in all the best maths books, "I leave it as an exercise for the reader to write the code to find matching pairs on Quarter, volume and page". I'd load it up into MS Access and write some queries but I think I can hear several people on this site already frowning at the mention of that name.

Of course, Murphy's Law states that your first twin is at the bottom of one page and the second at the top of the next, so they have different page numbers.

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  • Thanks Adrian. Sounds like a lot of hassle, although I recall doing something similar to find out-of-wedlock births in a particular district where I had the forename of a child but not the surname. Another assumption that this all makes is that the twins' births were registered together. There have been cases where they were born in different years, or in different countries, or even to different fathers. See 'Multiple Births Spanning Midnight' example at familyhistorydata.parallaxview.co/data-model for relevant links if anyone is interested. – ACProctor Oct 25 '12 at 10:14
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One approach to reducing the amount of data to be crunched by the brute force search method described in https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/1752 would be to try to narrow the field on possible registration districts.

If these were first-born children, it is possible that the parents had not moved far from where they married. From the parish in which that occurred, a site like GenUKI will tell you the District in which it falls. That would be where to start working through the records page by page. If then you need to widen the search, the excellent free software Parish Locator will generate a list of all the other parishes within a given radius.

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  • Unfortunately, the relative didn't even know where and when they were married. The mother was Irish but the father was English. Basically, all I was told is the father's surname, the names of their twin daughters, and the fact they ended up in the UK. They could have been married in Ireland. I was hoping to work backwards from the twins clue to fill in some gaps. – ACProctor Oct 25 '12 at 12:03
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Something that I tried (which didn't work for me, but still a good idea) is to search for exact year,(start with one year at a time over a reasonable small period) and then ONLY surnames. You can compare places and dates, to see if there's a match.

If they are smith like me, it might not be so good though.

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