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Those of you that already carry out your own family history research will understand when I talk about the times that you leave a tree alone for a while thinking you have found everything you can until one day you take another peek and instantly resolve outstanding “niggles” that you have had for a while. Mary Jane Phillips, my great grand aunt, was one of those niggles.

Mary Jane Phillips b. 1869 or not as I later discovered.

Mary Jane Phillips b. 1869 or not as I later discovered.

I had been sent a batch of lovely family photographs from newly discovered family that live in Colorado, USA. Amongst them there was this photo that was titled “Mary Jane Bendle-Phillips”. I committed the Cardinal sin of genealogy and assumed! I added the photo to Mary Jane Phillips in my tree and for years I couldn’t find out anything more on her save her birth and baptism in Hubberston, Pembrokeshire and her residing with her family in the 1871 census, living at 237 Alltygurig Road, Ystalyfera, Glamorgan.

Mary Jane Phillips birth certificate 21.12.1869

Mary Jane Phillips birth certificate 21.12.1869

The copied page from the parish register showing Mary's baptism (last entry on the page).

The copied page from the parish register showing Mary’s baptism (last entry on the page).

Mary Jane at home, 237 Alltygrug Road, Ystalyfera with her father William, mother Ruth and brothers Thomas and William. What is quite sad is that by the next census in 1881 both Mary's mother Ruth and her brother Thomas will also have died.

Mary Jane at home, 237 Alltygurig Road, Ystalyfera with her father William, mother Ruth and brothers Thomas and William. What is quite sad is that by the next census in 1881 both Mary’s mother Ruth and her brother Thomas will also have died.

That was it. I could find no mention of her in later census returns, no marriage, nothing. But she had to be somewhere didn’t she as I had that photograph? The photo is why I never even considered that she may have died at an early age.

Years later and being a lot wiser I started to reconsider Mary. Prompted by the release on Find My Past of parish records for Glamorgan I took another look. I looked for burials between 1871 and 1881 as I knew she was on the 1871 census but I was not able to find her on the 1881. One entry shone out at me like a lighthouse in fog! There was a Mary Jane Phillips that had been buried at Holy Trinity, Ystalyfera on 6th April 1874. I knew Mary’s mother Ruth had been buried at Holly Trinity in 1879 and as it turns out, the burial records for Holy Trinity later shut the door on a few other niggles that I had with the tree.

Mary Jane Phillips burial record for Holy Trinity, Ystalyfera, Glamorgan

Mary Jane Phillips burial record for Holy Trinity, Ystalyfera, Glamorgan

Only 4 years old, could this be my Mary?

I sent off for the death certificate and when it arrived, there it was. The answer I had been looking for. Yes it was my Mary.

Mary Jane Phillips death certificate 04.04.1874

Mary Jane Phillips death certificate 04.04.1874

At four years old she had died from measles that she seems to have suffered with for three weeks. A further contributory factor in her death was bronchitis.  Her father William at the time of her death was shown as a haulier in  the iron works which I know from visiting the area was located further down the road (and a steep hill) from where they lived. He has signed with his mark showing he was unable to write.

I have visited Holy Trinity church yard, in the search of Ruth, and only the upper layer where the church once stood was accessible. The lower levels and the likely resting place for Ruth, and it seems Mary, was completely overgrown by brambles. Quite sad really.

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