I've just learned (or relearned) a valuable lesson; always check that the data all matches up, always double-check the actual record image if you can, and put your research in context!
I was looking for Charles Hatch, born 1816 in Shoreditch; he is the brother of the man I'm convinced was my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Hatch. I thought that tracing Charles could help me delve into the Hatch family in general.
I have Charles' baptism, which matches up with Thomas' in terms of their address and father's occupation. I also have Charles' wedding to Jemima Nash in 1840, which also matches. So far so good. Charles and Jemima had one son, Charles, born just before the census in 1841. So I then looked for them in 1851 census, with the birthdates and places of both Charleses and Charles snr's profession (butcher) as clues.
There are lots of Ancestry.com.au trees containing Charles snr. They all show Charles snr - the same Charles who married Jemima - marrying another woman, Caroline Amos, in 1847 in Kent and going on to have a family with her. So Jemima must have died before then - and sure enough I found a possible Jemima Hatch death in 1843. Those trees also show poor wee Charles Jnr dying in 1843, and I found that record as well. I looked for possible Charles and Caroline and there they were in Kent; Charles was a butcher, with the correct birth year. Again, so far so good!
Then I noticed that something was wrong; this Charles' birthplace was given as East Peckham, Kent. That's not right. I know sometimes enumerators make mistakes, or white lies are told; could this be one of them? I searched for Charles, Jemima, and Charles jnr in the 1851 census and had no luck. Maybe this was my Charles after all? But returning to the 1841 census, the Charles born in East Peckham appears in Kent - with his wife Amelia, not Jemima - while my Shoreditch Charles and Jemima appear in Bethnal Green.
Then I had the idea to look at the 1851 households living at Charles and Jemima's 1841 address - New Nichol Street in Bethnal Green. And sure enough, there was my answer.
Jemima Hatch, widow, aged 36 and her son Charles. That would mean the Charles who died in 1843 wasn't Charles Jnr - it was Charles Snr. This would have been such an easy mistake to make - without all this tedious searching and checking I could easily have given myself a whole bumch of totally unrelated family members!
Now there are a few reasons this didn't show up in my searches. Jemima's name is written here as "Jemmia", an understandable mistake; on Ancestry the surname is transcribed as 'Heatch', also understandable given the curly scroll of the capital letter H; and Charles' age is incorrect. I can only assume the census taker heard "seven" instead of "eleven". But I'm far more inclined to believe this is them than that Charles Snr misrepresented his birthplace for the rest of his life.
Transcription is often tricky, and looking at previous addresses or at the addresses of other family members has often paid off for me. I looked for my great-grandmother, Sarah Hewitson, and her family in the 1891 census for months before finding her this past weekend. Again, the transcription was wrong - in this case, way wrong, Hewitson being transcribed as Newcamp - but when you look at the handwriting it's quite understandable!
And how did I find them in the end? They were living next door to Sarah's married aunt, Alice. Another good reason to research sideways as well as straight up and down!