Captain Thomas Bowrey – How to Prove a Negative.

Today, I am taking advantage of a coach trip offered to visit the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). Why do I not feel the usual excitement before a trip to an archive? Because I will be trying to prove a negative. Always a thankless task on a research visit.

One, dubious, source claims that Thomas Bowrey was born in Barking, Essex in 1661. In the interest of thoroughness, I need to check any possibility and, so, really need to check All Hallows Barking by the Tower, even if not in Essex. There is the faintest possibility that there is a grain of truth in the birth information, however much I doubt it.

The parish registers of All Hallow Barking by the Tower were, until relatively recently, still held by the church. They have now been deposited at the LMA but, despite what it says on their website, I do not believe they are available on Ancestry. Hence the need for a visit.

If I find nothing, will I really be satisfied? No, you never can be when trying to prove a negative. There are just so many reasons why an event may be missing from the records. It may just never have been recorded, the record may have been lost or it may have been recorded elsewhere.

All I can do is check if there is any Bowrey event recorded for a long period either side of 1661. Thankfully, Bowrey is not a common surname. If I find none – no baptism, no marriage, no burial – perhaps the family were not in this parish.

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