A lifetime's quest

THESE two little girls never knew their real mother, not even her name. Who was she, and why did she abandon them as babies?Today beings the culmination of a lifetime's search for answers for a 97-year-old woman, whose quest now points to Ipswich.

By Tracey Sparling

THESE two little girls never knew their real mother, not even her name. Who was she, and why did she abandon them as babies?

Today beings the culmination of a lifetime's search for answers for a 97-year-old woman, whose quest now points to Ipswich. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports.

AT the grand old age of 97, delighted Ethel Oxford has finally discovered who her mother was, and seen her birth certificate for the first time.

The certificate bears a name which she has tried to find ever since the day when, as a shocked 13-year-old, she was told by accident that her 'mum' was in fact not her birth mother.

For a lifetime Ethel has struggled to discover the truth. Today as the cloak of secrecy is finally lifted, she is a woman who at last knows her roots - and they harbour a tragic tale.

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Ethel, who lives near Bristol, said: “I tried for many years to find out who my mother was. Some years ago, it absolutely wore me out because it involved travelling across the country to research in libraries.

“Every now and then I would feel like I must do something about it, but I used to come up against brick walls every time. There was always a slight feeling of rejection, because my mother left us, for an unknown reason.”

That was in the days before the Internet, which today enables many families to trace their history with ease. It was through an Internet search engine that Ethel - with help from her daughter Mary - discovered a record that her mother Marguerite Oxford was born in Ipswich on July 19, 1883.

Marguerite's parents were listed as Charles and Mary Ann Oxford (formerly Spearman) of 24 St Matthew's Street, Ipswich.

The search revealed that Marguerite married former soldier William Albert Carpenter, and they had two daughters. Marguerite Florence Louise was born in 1907, in Ipswich, and Ethel Alice was born in 1908 in London.

Sadly in 1910, Marguerite fell ill and died in Fulham, from an infection at the age of 25, leaving the two girls at the ages of three and one-and-a-half.

Later on their father remarried and the girls grew up in a larger family, but they were never told about their mother.

Ethel said: “After all these years, wondering who I belong to and where I come from, it is a great relief to know who my mother was, and what happened to her.”

That journey has today led Ethel and her daughter Mary Aaron to do some detective work in Ipswich.

Ethel lost touch with her sister Marguerite Florence during the war, but the family feels sure there must be some relatives still alive and possibly living in the Ipswich area.

Mary, who lives in Minety, Wiltshire, said: “With hindsight we think the story was kept from the girls for fear of upsetting them. Their (step)mother was such a caring person she would have wanted to get everything back to normal after the news that they were not her own daughters.

“All we had to start with was that my mum thought her mother may have been called Marguerite Oxford.

“After the death last year of Ethel's (half) brother, we came by some papers with information about her father and that led us to her birth certificate. At last her mother's name was confirmed. We then found Marguerite Carpenter had died in Fulham at the age of 25, when my mother was one-and-a-half years old.

“The more we talked about this, the more memories came to my mother and she felt sure someone had mentioned Ipswich. Looking at the Surname Profile website, we discovered that at the end of the 19th century, the largest numbers of Oxfords were in the Dorset/Hants region and in Suffolk. We thought there was a good chance Ipswich would be the key. Eventually we traced her mother's birth certificate to there.

“Now we wonder did Marguerite Oxford have any brothers or sisters? If they had children, they would be my mother's cousins. There is also a very strong family resemblance, which you may recognise in someone called Oxford who you know?

“My mother would be so delighted to be able to trace a relative at this late stage in her life.”

If you can help, call 01666 860479 or email tedaaron@aol.com.






To appeal for information about family or friends you have lost touch with, send in this form.

www.spatial-literacy.org maps more than 25,000 surnames across Britain, highlighting areas of concentration. Anyone can tap in their name and with the click of a mouse see a profile of how others who share their name are distributed around the country.

The site is the result of a year-long study aimed at understanding patterns of regional economic development, population movement and cultural identity.

Many people are tapping into the site, which has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, to pursue the current trend for examining family histories.

It maps the distribution of surnames from the 1998 electoral register and does the same against the 1881 census, making it possible to see how surnames moved around the country during the last century.