William Richard Webb and the 1901 Census

When I originally researched and wrote the article about my second great-grandparents, I noted an issue on the 1901 England Census. Simply—the family wasn’t together. I easily found Elizabeth (Dutton) Webb and her two of their daughters, but had difficulty locating William Richard Webb and their sons. I posited at the time that perhaps William Richard and the older children had gone ahead to Canada, but I couldn’t find them there. I found a record on the English census that almost matched, but I couldn’t explain the discrepencies.

There is a census entry in the 1901 England Census that lists a William Richard Webb, James Edward and William are his sons. The William Richard on the census matches mine in terms of name, age (42 at the time of the census) and location (Cheshire) BUT—this William’s wife is listed as Ada Webb (25) and the ages listed for James Edward (13 when he should be 18) and William (4 when he should be 14) were not explainable as just an error. WR’s job is listed as a private enquiry [sic] agent, which is another name for a detective. We know that my William Richard was a detective for several years after his move to Canada. This family’s address is 31 Andrew Street, Manchester.

1901 England Census (image via Ancestry.com)
31 Andrew Street, Manchester (image via Google Maps)

I got an email from a descendant of the Ada Jackson who was living at 31 Andrew Street in 1901—and the pieces started falling into place.

On July 16, 1900, at the Registry office in Chorlton, Ada Jackson married a man who called himself Richard Webb, a “Commission Agent” who lived at “29 Frances Street,” the son of “James Webb.” If you read my previous articles, you might recall that my William Richard’s mother Sarah Webb lived on “Francis” Street. Although we don’t know the name of William Richard’s father, we do know that he listed James Webb on his marriage certificate to Elizabeth Dutton (his mother’s husband was James Squires.) The occupation for James Webb is given as contractor (which doesn’t match known information), but he is “deceased” as was James Squires. Note the ages as well – “Richard” is 14 years Ada’s senior according to the certificate. William Richard was born in 1859, which is close to the given age of 39.

Marriage Registration (image via registry office)

My research suggests that when Ada Jackson was born in 1875 in Whalley, Lancashire, England, her father, Stephen Jackson (1851-1910), was 24, and her mother, Annis (née Grant) (1854-1924), was 21. Stephen and Annis are literally listed directly above Ada and William Richard Webb on the 1901 census.

Ada had two sons prior to the marriage, Joseph, born in 1895 and William, born April 26, 1897. While we still don’t know exactly where William Alfred Webb was in 1901, this solves the mystery of William “Webb’s” age on the census in 1901. It was not William Alfred Webb, it was William Jackson, Ada’s child. This also makes it easier to believe that the “James” Webb is my James Webb, but his age has been misreported.

So, I dug a little more. The years prior to the 1901 census were obviously hard for William Richard and Elizabeth. They lost three of their sons, in quick succession, very young. I’m sure they both took it very hard. It appears they may have taken a bit of a break on their marriage. I found this article lending credence to a marital breakdown in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser on October 11, 1899.

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser October 11, 1899

The article provides some clues: “A PAINFUL FAMILY DISPUTE. Mr. F.J. Hedlam heard a case in which Mary Elizabeth Webb, a respectable-looking girl of 19 years, and William Alfred Webb, her brother, were alleged by their father, Wm. Richard Webb, at 71 Higher Chatham street, with stealing a quantity of furniture belonging to him. The two prisoners had been arrested by Detectives…and these officers said that they had traced most of the goods to people to whom the prisoners had sold them. The prosecutor [read WR Webb] was a private enquiry agent [just like Ada Jackson’s husband] for a firm in the city. When he last had possession of the goods they were at a house in Yew street, but on returning home on August 9th he found the location stripped of its furniture, and that his son and daughter had taken a house in Hancock street, and had the furniture there…he said that his wife left him in July last, and all this trouble arose through a family quarrel. When his wife left him he brought his daughter out of service to keep house for him and look after the younger children. His daughter had the children with her at Hancock street. The prisoners admitted selling the goods, but the girl said that her father’s cruelty had driven her mother from the home. He regularly slept with an open knife under his pillow, and threatened to use it if his wife fell asleep. He refused to turn up enough money to keep the home on, and eventually she was compelled to leave him. He then compelled his daughter to leave service but only gave her ? a week to keep the house on, and eventually made improper proposals to her, saying that if she did not do as he wished, he would have another woman to live with him. The children were nearly starving and she decided to take them away from him and try to keep them herself. She sold the furniture to provide them with food. Prosecutor interrupted the hearing of the case, saying he wanted the court to know all the facts and not get a wrong impression, for he had been in trouble himself. His sole object was to get the property back. He could not say whether the Yew street house was in his name or not. Mr. Hedlam sent the prisoners to gaol for seven days each, the girl sobbing bitterly as she was being removed from the dock.”

That really took a bit of a turn, didn’t it? Not only does it confirm that my second great grandparents were on a break, but it appears to suggest that he was a bit of an asshole. Of course, clues that it’s the same family: Mary Elizabeth Webb, William Richard and Elizabeth Dutton’s daughter was born in 1881, so would have been around 19 at the time of this article. Her brother (William Richard and Elizabeth’s son) was William Alfred Webb. William Richard is a private enquiry agent (like Ada Jackson’s husband, and as William Richard was a detective when he came to Canada). There is clearly a strong possibility that this is the same family.

The article suggests that they each served a seven-day sentence, but I was unable to identify further records related to any incarceration.

After this incident comes the marriage and the 1901 Census.

My new contact suggested that when it was discovered that Ada had entered a bigamous marriage, her husband up and moved to Canada (which is of course exactly what William Richard did). By 1908, (as we know), William Richard and Elizabeth have gotten back together and are living in Canada.

Following Ada, the 1911 Engand Census offers another surprise. Ada has remarried (or has she…can you “re” marry if your first marriage wasn’t legal?) Regardless, she’s living with her new husband, George Ward. The census includes her son, William, (now William Jackson instead of William Webb), aged 15, and…a daughter. A daughter named Bertha Annie Webb. The couple lives at 10 Arthur Street in Manchester, and Bertha is listed as a stepdaughter to George Ward.

1911 England Census (image via Ancestry.com)

In 1902, Ada gave birth to William Richard’s daughter. I haven’t located a baptismal certificate for Bertha or her first two children—and given the circumstances, it’s quite possible that there aren’t any. It’s unknown what year William Richard reunited with his first wife, so he may have been long gone by the time Bertha was born.

My new contact had no knowledge of Bertha. Which was puzzling—because they had been able to explain the presence of Ada’s son William and point me to Joseph (who was living next door with his grandparents) on the 1901 census—and were aware of the bigamous marriage. So why didn’t they know about Bertha?

Bertha appears to have been named for her mother’s sister, and likely took her middle name from her grandmother Annis (although records seem to suggest her middle name was “Annie,” it could be a misspelling). I have not found a record of her birth, but know from other records that she was born on May 19, 1902.

Birth Record for Bertha Annie Webb

The birth record for Bertha confirms her date of birth, but unexpectedly, she’s born on “Chelmsford Street” in Attercliffe, Sheffield, which is a fair distance from Manchester. Her father is named as William Richard Webb, a “Collector for Furniture dealer.” His address is noted as 70 Chelmsford Street in Sheffield. More confusion – Ada isn’t just Ada Webb, she’s “Ada Webb, late Boam formerly Jackson.” A search of marriage records has not turned up any record to explain this.

When I wasn’t able to find a marriage for Bertha or locate her on the 1939 register, I started looking for a death.

I didn’t have to look too long. I came across a death record from the Withington Workhouse dated May 6, 1922. Bertha died just short of her 22nd birthday. The record lists her mother, Ada Ward as next of kin.

Worthington Workhouse Cemetery Records (image via FindMyPast

During WWI, Withington Workhouse was used as a hospital and in 1922 an Auxiliary Hospital for private or paying patients was set up at Withington and it continued to function until 1948, but it was still a workhouse for at least part of that period.

Death Record, Bertha Webb

The death record indicates that the primary cause of Bertha’s death was pneumonia, with a secondary cause of empyema and cardiac muscle failure. She was 19 at the time of her death, and apparently had been living at 96 Palatine Road in West Didsbury. The certificate suggests she was a housemaid waitress and asserts that her father was “William Richard Webb, Furniture Sales-man.”

As I wasn’t certain whether Bertha was a patient or an inmate as Withington was also a hospital/health care centre when I found the original workhouse record, I went searching for more records.

I wasn’t able to find anything further for Bertha Webb, so I did a search with just “Bertha” and her birthdate on FindMyPast. I came up with another (slightly shocking) discovery. I saw a Bertha Ward. Knowing that “Ward” was her mother’s second husband’s name, I clicked through to see the record and found “Bertha Ward” born 1902 with her mother – “Ada Ward” and her brother “William Webb Ward.” All three were inmates of the Withington Workhouse between 1909-1910. The record lists her prior address as 22 Royle Street, Chorlton on Medlock. For name and address of relative or friend, she’s listed her sister Bertha (Jackson) Taylor at 51 Rutland Street, Chorlton on Medlock and her husband George Ward, at 42 Grosvenor Street. The records suggest that William and Bertha were transferred “to Styal” – which was a children’s home.

Manchester Workhouse Registers (image via FindMyPast)

It is unknown what type of issue might have separated Ada from her new husband, but the children they had together were born after their time in the workhouse, so one must assume that they worked it out.

However, this new information suggests that William Richard’s relationship with Ada may have predated their “marriage,” and that WR may have also been William’s father. It would explain why William Jackson was William Webb on the 1901 census. And it also made me wonder who the father of the elder boy, Joseph’s father was. Especially given William Richard had two sons, both named Joseph, who died in infancy not long before Joseph Jackson’s birth.

A retrieval of William Jackson’s presumed birth record didn’t provide any insight, although it did give me a date of birth of November 6, 1896. He was born at the Crumpsall Workhouse in North Manchester. His father is left blank. His mother is “Ada Jackson, a Domestic Servant of Manchester.”

Birth Registration, William Jackson

I am going to attempt to get the records from the children’s home, but they will not be available for some time due to COVID in the UK.

In the meantime, to give some closure, Pte. William Jackson enlisted during WWI and served in Egypt. William didn’t list his middle name as Webb on his military records, and as most of the enlistment records were destroyed, there’s no further information on who he thought his father was. He died in service to his country on September 5, 1915 and is buried in Alexandria, Egypt.

UK Commonwealth War Graves (image via Ancestry.com)

His elder brother Joseph “Mackay” Jackson also enlisted during WWI. Joseph married Louise Atkinson shortly after enlisting in the register office in Chorlton. He was killed in action on April 30, 1918 in Belgium.

Bertha and Willliam were laid to rest with their grandparents, Stephen and Annis in Southern Cemetery in Manchester. Although the burial record indicates that Bertha, William, Annis and Stephen are all buried in the plot, only Stephen, William, and Joseph (buried in Alexandria) are named on the headstone. The cross which originally stood on top of the monument is currently laid beside it.

Ada had two children with George Ward, both daughters.

Ada (Jackson) Ward died on May 31, 1945. The residue of her estate was left to her daughter, Annis.

National Probate Calendar (image via Ancestry.com)

Main image: East Chapel Manchester Southern Cemetery Barlow Moor Road Chorlton-cum-Hardy (via Wikimedia Commons)


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AG Knapper

I’ve been researching my tree for over twenty years…and I’ve found some easy branches, and some gnarly ones…

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