Her death certificate informs us that she died in 1925 aged 56 = born 1869
The 1881 census tells us that she was aged 8 = born 1873
The 1891 census tells us that she was aged 18 = born 1873
The 1911 census tells us that she was aged 23 = born 1888 (really Lily? So you were born 7 years after the 1881 census)
Her marriage certificate states that she was 32 in 1916 = born 1884
Ahh you’re saying, 1873 looks promising except that Emma, her mother was appearing in stage productions pretty consistently throughout that year. A heavily pregnant woman acting in a Victorian play? So maybe her parents played fast and loose with her age to the census enumerator to fit in with the ‘Little Lily Blanche’ tag? I begin to wonder sometimes if they might have plucked the child from an orphanage as she seems to have appeared from nowhere. After 1891, when she’s still in West Bromwich with her parents on the census, I lost her. She disappeared completely until by chance, I came across an article in The Era about an actress called Lillian Herries. It said that Miss Herries came from an acting family, her mother and father being Joseph and Emma Rainbow! I sat staring at the page..omg omg..I’ve found Lily!! Without that link I would never have discovered what happened to her later in her life, when she toured in the USA and South Africa and married another actor, Vincent W. Carlyle. I still have plenty of questions about Ms Rainbow/Herries/Carlyle that need answering. Why did her cousin, giving information for her death certificate, say she was a spinster when she’d married only 9 years earlier? Was she really born in Middlesbro (sic) and exactly when would that have been?
In all seriousness I’ve had a lot of fun tracing my acting family and there are many positives amongst the difficulties. Once you actually find them its often possible to track them around the country as they go from town to town and each production is advertised in the local newspaper, many of which have their archives online. Then there are the reviews where you may pick up those gems that tell you about the personality of your ancestor, and finally how brilliant is it to find a theatre poster with your ancestors’ name ‘in lights’ – even if they are little ones. Good luck with tracking down yours…sorry…break a leg!