Our club was named after that incurable optimist, Wilkins Micawber

During the autumn of 1996 I hired a researcher in Berkshire to search the electoral register for my sister’s house in Reading to see if Andrew had been on the register at that address, but there was no trace. I hired another researcher to search the electoral register for Godshill and some valerian root side effects on the Isle of Wight and I extracted all the Andrews and cross-checked this data against the current Isle of Wight phone book to see which of them was still there. The ones who were no longer listed I looked up in the Bristol phone book. This left two possibles: Andrew E Fleming on the electoral roll in Godshill (A E Fleming in the Bristol phone book) and Andrew J Field on the electoral roll in Godshill (A Field in the Bristol phone book).

valerian root Isle of Wight

The names were too common, and the chances were that he was still on the electoral register for Bristol. I employed a researcher in Bristol to go through 15 Bristol church registers to look for any Andrew marrying any Paula during the period 1972-1978. I was guessing that Andrew was about the same age as my sister, born in 1950. My researcher did not find any. I rang the Bristol Evening Post to place an advertisement reading:

Andy, Maureen from Reading has died and her daughter and yours, Simone, would love to know her father’s surname. All we want is a name, no contact guaranteed.

The Bristol Evening Post

The Bristol Evening Post refused to run the advertisement. I had an old friend in Reading who worked for British Telecom and I sent him a copy of the photo to see if it rang any bells, but it didn’t. This was the end of the line, I thought, and I gave up.

social worker

Someone in the Micawber Club had the idea of holding a family history research problem session. If anyone had a problem with their research – and who hasn’t! – they could present it to the Club to see if all our brains together could suggest a solution. One day in early 2000 I thought about this problem session and I typed out all the details I had of Simone’s father, the history of his relationship with my sister and the tale of my stalled research. At the problem session I jotted down everyone’s suggestions. Someone suggested writing to the hospital where Maureen had given birth to Simone to see if the father’s name was in the hospital records. Someone else remarked that this would not work as medical records were closed for 100 years. Someone else then suggested that I try running another advertisement in the Bristol Evening Post, worded rather differently. Another suggested that I should ask Simone’s social worker to write to British Telecom. The social worker did write to British Telecom, but they replied saying that such information was covered by the Data Protection Act.


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