If, like me, you use the GRO website a lot, to find the mother’s maiden name in the birth regsiters, you will know that although it is an excellent feature there can be difficulties. Today I was looking for the birth of a child, Minnie, born in Shoreditch in 1864 to parents who hailed from Walsall in Staffordshire. I knew the mother’s maiden name should be Simmonds but no entries were found. Eventually I found the child listed as Eleanor Minnie, and the mother’s maiden name as Semmence. The clerk had written the surname down as he had heard it, and as the mother was illiterate she could not correct him. 

Later babies were listed with the mother’s name as Simmonds  – had the Walsall accent toned down after a couple of years in London I wonder, or did she just have a bad cold when she registered the birth in 1864?