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I have a number of ancestors in my family tree that are proving to be quite difficult to trace for a certain part of their life, some I can’t find a death for, some I can’t find a birth, and others I can’t find an immigration or travel record. But when one of my ancestors presents me with all three puzzles, and throws in a few spanners for good measure as well, I call him a brick wall. These people who seem to have somehow managed to escape bureaucracy and avoid government records, these are the ones I would very much like to be able to visit with the help of Dr Who and the T.A.R.D.I.S.

But, even if I did have a T.A.R.D.I.S., which event am I aware of in any one person’s life that would allow me to be reasonably certain of meeting them at a certain place and a certain time? And if I did meet them, what information do I already know about them that could allow me to talk to them, to not only to sound completely natural in the conversation, but to also gain as much information as possible? The questions asked would have to of course be framed in relation to the era as well as the event taking place. I have one such brick wall at the moment, that may forever remain that way, but I caught myself thinking tonight, “If I did have a T.A.R.D.I.S., I’d turn up at your wedding to my great-great-great grandmother and quiz you! Especially since that is the only date and place I have you definitely confirmed at!”

Here is my brick wall, my great-great-great-grandfather, Andrew Leiper. What you see here, is what I know about this man. Perhaps someone out there knows something more, like where & when he was actually born, how he arrived in Australia, what his occupation actually was, and when he died.

Name :  Andrew Leiper 1,2,3
Alternative Name :  John Andrew Leiper 4
Birth Year :  1813 2
Birth Year :  1823 3
Birth Place :  Brighton, England 2,3  
Marriage Date :  8 May 1854 1 
Marriage Place :  Parish of St James, Sydney, NSW, Australia 1   
Spouse Name :  Eliza Jane Smith, formerly Leach 1,3
Children :  John Andrew Leiper 2 and Walter Henry Leiper 3   
Occupation :  Mariner 2
Occupation :  Miner 3
Literacy :  Signed own name at wedding 1  (Eliza signed with her mark)

1. Marriage certificate of Andrew Leiper & Eliza Jane Smith
2. Birth certificate of son John Andrew Leiper born Dec 1856 Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia, registered by a friend, Andrew’s age listed as 43
3. Birth certificate of Walter Henry Leiper born Dec 1864 Grafton, New South Wales, Australia, registered by Eliza, surname recorded as Eliper, Andrew’s age listed as 41
4. Marriage certificate of Walter Henry Leiper

Just a few questions that these few facts raise:

  1. What is a Mariner doing 120km inland in 1856 in gold mining country?
  2. Since no occupation is given on Andrew’s marriage, is Mariner accurate for pre-1856 and Miner accurate afterwards?
  3. Given that a friend registered the 1856 birth, and the illiterate Eliza registered the 1864 birth, which age is correct, especially since the surname is mis-spelled on the 1864 birth?
  4. Was Andrew’s birth place given to the registrar in full as “Brighton, England” or simply as “Brighton” and the “England” has been assumed? There is a Brightons in Falkirk, Sterlingshire, Scotland, and the Leiper surname appears to be far more of Scottish origin than English.
  5. The 1856 birth certificate indicates an older sibling, the 1864 birth certificate indicates 3 older siblings, only two have been found. Who are the other two, and where and when were they born? Or are they the children of Eliza’s previous marriage?

Of course, there are plenty of others as well, such as when did Andrew Leiper die, who were his parents, and how and when did he get to Australia, but each new fact uncovered leads to new data and new avenues of research, and one day, just one day, I might be able to find all of the answers about Andrew Leiper.

Enquiries have been made by me on various discussion forums around the internet, including but not limited to RootsChat, RootsWeb, and Ancestry forums.

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