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The Woman Who Fell From The Skies – Part 4

So you’ve found a strong candidate for your missing ancestor, but have you gone the extra distance to prove that they are the person you’ve been looking for? Have you considered tracing forward all the possible candidates to eliminate all bar one? Have you examined contradictory evidence and tried to resolve it?

In the final part of this case study, I will dot those I’s and cross those T’s. These are essential steps to turn a good case into a solid genealogical proof.

Previously – I found a strong candidate for Mary Jane Hyland, born in Liverpool in 1864 rather than in Ireland in 1870. With the exception of her year of birth, it matched everything that I’d established about her origins and her father. I was very confident that this was my Mary Jane Hyland. But was it proof?

In part 3 we completed the elimination of all other candidates for Mary Jane Hyland born in Liverpool by tracing them all and eliminating them one by one:

Backward-looking elimination of candidates

Many family historians would think this was sufficient evidence to definitively link the last remaining candidate with the ancestor under investigation. I urge caution. There is an additional level of evidence gathering and analysis that we must undertake first: forward-looking elimination of candidates.

Forward-Looking Elimination of Candidates

Forward-looking elimination of candidates requires that we search for all older candidates for Mary Jane:

  • Are there any other census entries involving women called Mary Jane Hyland after 1881?
  • Are there any other marriages involving a Mary Jane Hyland after 1881?
  • Are there any other deaths involving a Mary Jane Hyland after 1881?

Once we create a list of potential candidates we then try to eliminate them one at a time. With time and a little effort we hope to leave ourselves with only one credible future Mary Jane, the one who married John Bowers in 1894.

Forward-looking elimination of candidates

1891 Census

Candidate One:

  • Address: Leigh Street, Warrington, Lancashire;
  • Mary Jane Hyland, aged 21, approx year of birth 1869-1870, single, place of birth Liverpool;
  • Living as a domestic servant in the household of James West, a draper;
  • No other family members or staff present.

Candidate Two:

  • Address: Deysbrook Lane, West Derby, Bootle, Lancashire
  • Mary Hyland, aged 29, approx year of birth 1861-1862, single, place of birth West Derby, Lancashire;
  • Living as a domestic servant in the household of William Howard, a grocer & cow keeper;
  • No other family member or staff present.

1901 Census

No clear matches for Mary Jane Hyland.

GRO Marriages

I searched for all marriages of Mary Jane Hyland in England and Wales between 1881 and 1901, yielding four potential candidates.

Candidate Three:

  • Name: Mary Jane Hyland
  • Date: Q4 1889
  • Place: Ticehurst district, Kent, Volume 2b, Page 217
  • Spouse Name: John Henry Bray or James Herbert Foster

Candidate Four:

  • Name: Mary Jane Hyland
  • Date: Q4 1891
  • Place: Salford district, Lancashire, Volume 8d, Page 12
  • Spouse Name: William Barton or Herbert Dickinson

Candidate Five:

  • Name: Mary Jane Hyland
  • Date: Q4 1891
  • Place: Bury district, Lancashire, Volume 8c, Page 767
  • Spouse Name: Patrick Maloney or John Sherry

Candidate Six:

  • Name: Mary Jane Hyland
  • Date: Q2 1894
  • Place: Warrington district, Lancashire, Volume 8c, Page 280
  • Spouse Name: John Bowers or John Ostle

GRO Deaths

I searched for all deaths of Mary Jane Hyland in England and Wales between 1881 and 1901, yielding a single candidate.

Candidate Seven:

  • Name: Mary Jane Hyland
  • Date: Q4 1890
  • Place: Liverpool district, Lancashire, Volume 8b, Page 89
  • Age: 28, approx year of birth 1871-1872

Candidate Elimination

I am confident that candidates 1 and 6 both refer to our Mary Jane (see parts 1 and 2). So our objective is to eliminate as many of the other candidates as possible.

Candidate Two: Goes by the name of just Mary Hyland, not Mary Jane. We established by detailed analysis of the timeline (see part 2) that my ancestor always uses her middle name Jane, sometimes using just Jane and dropping the Mary. I think, therefore, that while this candidate has a similar year and place of birth, the name evidence probably excludes her. Eliminated.

Candidate Three: I used the parish register data on Find My Past to see the register entry for this marriage. It showed that the bride’s father’s name was Thomas Hyland, not William Hyland. Eliminated.

Candidate Four: I was unable to find an online register entry for this marriage, though on Lancashire BMD ( I was able to discover that the marriage was to William Barton (not Herbert Dickinson) and that it took place at Church of the Ascension in Salford. My only option to find the bride’s father’s name was to send off for the marriage certificate. Eleven pounds and a few days later I received the certificate which showed the bride’s father was John Hyland (deceased), a tailor, not William Hyland. Eliminated.

Candidate Five: Once again I was unable to find an online register entry for this marriage. Lancashire BMD proved that the marriage was to Patrick Maloney (not John Sherry). Again, I had to send off for the certificate. The bride’s father’s name was John Hyland, a labourer in a rubber works, not William Hyland. Eliminated.

Candidate Seven: Again, I was unable to find an online parish register entry for this event. Being a death I was at least able to send off for a PDF of the death certificate via the GRO, costing only £7 and arriving in my inbox within a few days. This showed that Mary Jane Hyland, aged 28, a hawker of 20 Banaster Street [sic], Liverpool, died in the Liverpool workhouse on 20th October 1890. This was insufficient information to eliminate her, so I searched the 1891 census on Find My Past for anyone with the surname of Hyland living in Banaster street. A family of Hylands were indeed living on a Banstre street [correct spelling], headed by John Hyland, aged 45, and Bridget Hyland, aged 43 and with two other daughters. It seems very likely that this candidate was their eldest daughter. Eliminated.

Great! So, we’ve eliminated all the alternate forward-looking candidates. There is one more step we need to take to really nail the case – examine conflicting evidence.

Analyse Conflicting Evidence

Trawling through the timeline and my research log there are two issues which have niggled at me throughout this process:

  1. Mary Jane’s age varied significantly, making it difficult to be sure I had the same person across all the records.
  2. Mary Jane’s place of birth varied at different times of her life.

Inconsistent Age

EventPlaceReported byDateStated AgeDiff from real age
BirthGreat Richmond Street, LiverpoolMother18 Dec 186400
CensusPeach St, LiverpoolMother2 Apr 187160
CensusWalnut St, LiverpoolMother3 Apr 1881160
CensusLeigh St, WarringtonEmployer5 Apr 189121-5
Banns to John ArnoldSt Elphin, WarringtonSelf6 Dec 189123-3
Marriage to John BowersSt Paul, WarringtonSelf20 May 189423-6
CensusPlumpton St, WarringtonHusband31 Mar 190128-8
CensusPrince St, WarringtonHusband2 Apr 191138-8
DeathInfirmary, WarringtonDaughter Florence13 May 193059-6

Analysis of age data: While in Liverpool, Mary Jane’s age as reported by her mother is consistent and accurate. The Mary Jane living in Warrington gives constantly differing accounts of her age. In 1891 she states her age as both 21 and 23 in the same year, yet three years later at her marriage to John Bowers she is still apparently 23. At the 1901 census seven years later she has reportedly aged by only five more years. Her age apparently varies depending on who is reporting it and even varies when she self reports it, suggesting that being vague or contrary about her age was a pattern of behaviour throughout her adult life. I think, therefore, that the evidence of age differences in not sufficient to say that the Liverpool and Warrington Mary Janes are different people.

Inconsistent Place of Birth

EventStated Place of BirthReported byDate
BirthLiverpoolMother18 Dec 1864
CensusLiverpoolMother2 Apr 1871
CensusLiverpoolMother3 Apr 1881
CensusLiverpoolEmployer5 Apr 1891
CensusIrelandHusband31 Mar 1901
CensusLiverpoolHusband2 Apr 1911

Analysis of place of birth data: When put in this context the 1901 census stands out as the inconsistent statement. This can perhaps be explained by Mary Jane having told her husband that her family/parents were Irish. Whatever the reason, John accurately reflects her real place of birth as Liverpool in the 1911 census. It will be interesting to see what her place of birth is reported to be when the 1921 census is released in a few years.


  1. The Mary Jane Hyland who married John Bowers in 1894 in Warrington is the only person of that name to state her father as “William Hyland (deceased)” in any records I have been able to discover.
  2. The daughter of William & Margaret Hyland, born on 18 December 1865 in Liverpool is the only candidate for the wife of John Bowers of Warrington, and William Hyland was indeed deceased by 1894.
  3. Although there are inconsistencies in the stated ages of Mary Jane when she lived in Liverpool versus the records found for Warrington, there was also a pattern of inconsistent age reporting in Warrington, so I don’t find that this should exclude the two people from being one and the same.

I am satisfied that my ancestor Mary Jane Hyland was born on 18 Dec 1865 in Liverpool to William & Margaret Hyland. Until and unless new evidence emerges to contradict this analysis, this case can be considered proven!


Published by Phil Isherwood

Phil has studied genealogy with Pharos Tutors and the Society of Genealogists, completing their year-long intermediate programme with a distinction. He is a Family History Advisor for the Oxfordshire Family History Society and enjoys working on the knotty genealogy problems brought to him by the general public. He has a special interest in genealogical methodology, military ancestors and sources for north-west England. Twitter: @isherwood_phil

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