For several years I have hit a dead end with one branch of my family tree. My Great Grandfather Edward Buten married by Great Grandmother Elizabeth Mary Ann Dunnington in 1893 at the Islington Registry Office.

The Buten name is so rare, that nearly all records in the UK since 1893 are of members of my family.

Edward Buten's occupation is given as warehouseman/dockworker and his address is 38 Clayton Street, Islington. and was born c. 1861 Paddington, London.

I could not find any mention of Edward in any records prior to 1893, so I did it the old fashion way and looked up the address. Living there in 1891 was Edward Bulen, b. c. 1861 Paddington, Wharf Labourer:

Extract from 1891 Census for 38 Clayton Street, Islington

On balance it appears that this is the same person, although married to Louisa.

Did Edward change his name from Bulen to Buten or does this look like a transcription error? How would a professional genealogist proceed and break through this brick wall?

1 Answer 1


Simply (although not easily), you need to track Edward Bulen of 1891 forward and backwards. Look for the marriage of Edward Bulen and a Louisa, and for the possible death of Louisa Bulen or Buten before 1893. Look for Edward Bulen and Louisa in subsequent censuses (separately and together). Look for birth and baptism records and death records for both of them.

If there's no overlap between Edward Bulen and Edward Buten, and you can find out what happened to Louisa, the names are similar enough that, taking account of the shared address and occupation, it looks possible they're the same person. If, on the other hand, Edward Bulen appears in parallel with Edward Buten, that suggests they're different people.

Don't forget to explore alternate spellings like Bullen. And to consider reasons why he might have changed his name (such as having a wife still living when he acquired another).

  • 3
    I agree with all of ColeValleyGirl's advice. Just to add: remember census enumerators worked at pace and weren't always accurate with their handwriting. If Bulen was pronounced with a London accent, there might have been a glottal stop - "Bu'en" - which would make Bulen and Buten sound very similar. Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 23:36

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