Mistaken Identities

Use all the clues in the records to assign the correct family members to your trees. Two couples with the same given names can often become entangled when arbitrarily assigned. John Guthrie / Jane Sixsmith and John Guthrie / Jane (Jean) Laidlaw are of the same generation, living in England, and producing children at about the same time. The online birth records for the children name parents as “John Guthrie and Jane” have frequently led to placement with the wrong parents.

A closer look at the transcripts or original images often reveals more data that can help you to differentiate families with similar names.

In this case, after their marriage, John Guthrie and Jane Sixsmith primarily lived in New Windsor / Windsor, Berkshire, England. John Guthrie and Jane (Jean) Laidlaw initially lived in Scotland, but moved to London, England before the birth of their 3rd known child, and from that time remained in Shoreditch. The birth and census records for the two couples are actually very distinct.

The census records reveal that John Guthrie, a police constable, was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. This suggests that he may be the John Guthrie born in Liverpool on 13 Jan 1794 to James Guttery (Carpenter) and Ellen Eccleston. He married Jane Sixsmith on 24 June 1822 in Saint Anne Parish, Soho, London, England, and afterward is found living in New Windsor / Windsor, Berkshire, England. Children born to this couple are documented with birth records and census records in Berkshire. James (1824), John (1826), Anna (1828), Alfred (1831), Joseph William (1833), Thomas (1826), Henry (1836), and Jane (1839). John Guthrie died bet. 1852 and 1859 in Windsor, Berkshire, England. His widow Jane (Sixsmith) Guthrie is believed to have died bet. 1861-1871.

The second couple tends to get overlooked and their children erroneously assigned to the above couple. John Guthrie, a tailor, was born in Scotland about 1790. There are 11 births in Scotland between 1789-1791 for infants named John Guthrie, so without further evidence there is no way to narrow that number down. He married in St Cuthbert’s Parish, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. “John Guthrie taylor No. 13 South Saint David’s Street, and Jean Liddle, daughter of the late David Liddle residing in Dumiehouse.” Note that Jane is the Anglicized version of Jean, which was used once this family moved to England. The wife’s surname Liddle is also a phonetic match for Laidlaw, and the latter is documented in the OPR birth records for the two eldest daughters born in Scotland. “John Guthrie merchant taylor St Andrew’s Street and Jean Laidlaw his spouse had a daughter born 7th March last Jane.” and “John Guthrie merchant tailor & Jean Laidlaw HS St Andrew’s Parish A D B 17 May last Nd Catherine.” This couple moved to London, England before their son John was born in 1824. Subsequent records for this family are documented in Shorditch, London, Middlesex, England. Census records prove the sibling relationship between the children born in Scotland and those in England. Children: Jane (1821), Catherine (1822), John (1824), Harriett (1830), George (1833), James (1835), and Emma (1837).

Check out our TIDBITS section for other cases of Mistaken Identity.

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