Some years ago I decided to research my family tree as I really didn't know much about them except the information given to me over the years by my parents. And that wasn't a lot. Also I didn't know what was true and what was family folklore.
I started with Dad as his family were more of a mystery and the 1901 census had just been released. On the census I found my grandparents, Thomas and Elizabeth Young living in Beddington, Surrey. Great I thought, I've got approximate ages I'll go back a little further. Found grandad's birth and entry on the 1891 census. Found grandmother's birth and entry on the 1891 census, plus her parents and siblings. So I build my tree backwards eventually reaching the 1600's.
It's all going well so I decide to start collecting certificates starting with my grandparents wedding certificate. Grandad: Thomas Young, aged 19, lives in Wallington, no father given - brilliant it's the right certificate.
At this point I realise I've committed the cardinal sin of family history research - the Elizabeth on the certificate was not the same one as on my dad's birth certificate. I had an Elizabeth Amy Manning married to Thomas, not Elizabeth Amy Vallance. And this meant that all the research I had done on my "grandmother" was wrong. So I started again but I cannot find any records to match this lady. All I know is her father was James Manning.
I should explain that there were 15 children who reached the age of 18 or more and my dad is the youngest. That's a lot of certificates to buy! First three children were all born to Elizabeth Manning. Then sometime between 1908 and 1911 she disappears. I can't find a death record so far, but she's certainly with Thomas. Then it get's interesting as the next 12 children are born to Elizabeth Amy Vallence or Caroline Elizabeth Vallence. And they are one and the same person! The reason I know this is my uncle Charles (born 1916) has Caroline as his mother but my dad (born 1932) has Elizabeth as his. And they agree that all photos are of the same woman. I know who Caroline was, she was Thomas' second cousin who lived in Dorking and I assume that after the death of Thomas' first wife, she "married" him and became mother to his three children. Then, for a reason unknown to us all, she swapped names between the children having 4 under Caroline and the rest under Elizabeth.
I did think at first that Elizabeth Manning was a pseudonym for Caroline, but Caroline can be found on the 1901 census still in Dorking. And on the 1911 census she's down as married to Thomas for 3 years. So having put some thought to this I've reached a couple of conclusions, which may or may not be correct.
First is that Elizabeth did die, possibly in childbirth as I have an aunt born in 1908; or second that she suffered from post-natal depression and was sent to a mental institution. Either way, Caroline moved in and took the place of Elizabeth and successfully brought up 15 children!
The last confusing piece is that when Caroline died her death certificate said she was born in 1880 - the year Elizabeth Amy Manning was born.