St. James Church, Didsbury, image credit Wikipedia

Updated July 2020 to include new information from the Hamilton Directories and a solved mystery related to the 1901 Census.

William Richard Webb was born on June 5, 1859, in Chester, Cheshire, England, the (base born) son of Sarah Webb (1842-1915).

He married Elizabeth Dutton on February 5, 1881, in Didsbury, Lancashire, England.

When Elizabeth Dutton was born in May 1859 in Cheshire, England, her father, Edward, was 35, and her mother, Mary (née Jones), was 32.

Elizabeth Dutton (top), William Richard and an
unknown person (bottom)

Prior to marrying William Richard, Elizabeth had a daughter, Lily Drusilla Dutton. The father of the child listed on the baptismal certificate is “Samuel Dutton”.

It is unusual that A) I was unable to find no marriage record for Elizabeth and Samuel and B) Elizabeth and Samuel appear to have the same last name.

Records indicate that this is correct as Elizabeth’s father was Edward Dutton. As well, Elizabeth is a “spinster” on her marriage certificate with William.  An article on FamilySearch.org suggests it was not uncommon for the parents of a child born out of wedlock to have two parents with the same last name listed on the birth or baptismal information:

A birth registered late by a woman may indicate that the child is illegitimate, particularly if a marriage cannot be found or if her husband’s surname is the same as her own. In such cases the baptism of the child may reveal the true position and this should always be searched for.

All this evidence suggests that Lily was born out of wedlock.

I have not been able to trace the Dutton family much further than Elizabeth’s parents, as Dutton and Jones were fairly common names in Cheshire.

When daughter Lily married Samuel Schofield she lists her maiden name as Webb and has her step-father listed both as her father and a witness on her marriage registration. But the civil registration lists her name as “Lily Drusilla D. Webb” presumably the “D” is for “Dutton.”

Elizabeth and William Richard married on February 5, 1881, at St. James Church in Didsbury, Lancashire, England. William’s occupation is listed as “seaman.” Witnesses to the marriage are listed as Samuel Jones and Emma Dutton (Elizabeth’s brother and his wife).

Marriage Certificate (image via Ancestry.com)

William and Elizabeth had eight children in the 12 years after they were married:

  1. Mary Elizabeth (Polly) Webb (1881-1962) married William Beswick (1877-1953)
  2. William Alfred Webb (1883-1951) married Louie Shepherd (1882-1962)
  3. John Henry Webb (April 2, 1885-February 8, 1888)
  4. Joseph Webb (April 26, 1886-February 8, 1888)
  5. James Edward Webb (1887-1982) married Sarah Kathleen Payne (1888-1947)
  6. Joseph Henry Webb (December 25, 1888-August 9, 1889)
  7. Alice Webb (1890-1972) married Charles Edmund Truscott (1887-1962)
  8. Eleanor Webb (1893-?) married Joseph Anderson Hackett (1883-?)

The 1881 census records indicate that Elizabeth, William and Lily are living at 7 Bark Street in Hulme, Manchester, in the home of a Samuel Dutton (Elizabeth’s brother) and his wife Emma.  Samuel’s occupation is a labourer, Emma a Charwoman (or house cleaner), William a Porter and Elizabeth a laundress.

1881 England Census (image via Ancestry.com)
7 Bark Street, Hulme. (image via Google Maps)

When Mary Elizabeth (Polly) is baptized on February 4, 1882, in the New St. George Church in Stalybridge, the register suggests that the family is living on Ridge Hill Lane. She was born on November 28, 1881. I wasn’t certain whether the baptismal registration was the correct one because her father’s name is “Richard” – but her younger brother John Henry was baptized at the same church (and his information is certain because “Dutton” is listed as Elizabeth’s maiden name), I think we can safely assume this is correct. (The address is slightly odd…other homes that they’ve lived in were not quite so…affluent as the Ridge Hill area appears to be). William Richard’s occupation is “assistant in warehouse.”

Baptismal Register, New St. George Church, Stalybridge (image via Ancestry.com)

On February 1, 1883, William Alfred was born. William Jr. is baptized a few months later at St. Anne in Newton Heath. At this time, the family is living at 12 Munday Street near Pollard Street in Manchester. There isn’t a home at that address anymore, Google Maps show several large apartment buildings being constructed there as far back as 2011.

Baptismal Register, St. Anne Newton Heath (image via Ancestry.com)

In May 1885, we find John Henry baptized at the same church as sister Mary Elizabeth (Polly), but the family is now living at 56 Doner? Street. (I can’t find a listing for Doner Street, but it may be Dover Street.) William Richard is again a Porter.

Baptismal Register, St. Anne Newton Heath (image via Ancestry.com)
56 Dover Street, Manchester (image via Google Maps)

On February 3, 1888, two more sons were baptized – Joseph, born April 26, 1886 and James Edward, born November 4, 1887, both at St. John the Divine. William’s occupation is “brakesman.”

Why the sudden rush on baptism? Six days later, Joseph and John Henry died.

Baptismal Register, St. John the Divine, Pemberton (image via Ancestry.com)

I first discovered that John Henry died without knowing about his other brothers. When reviewing the information for this article, I became aware that John Henry and Joseph died on the same day. Not only that, but five children under the age of two were all buried on February 9, 1888, in Pemberton (still Goose Green as listed in James‘ baptismal information).

Burial Register, St. John the Divine, Pemberton (image via Ancestry.com)

I ordered the death certificate for John Henry and discovered the cause of death was listed as “measles”. Given the closeness of their deaths, and the fact that three other children in the same physical vicinity all died within a few days span, I suspect that the cause of all of their deaths was measles. A disease that is completely preventable today through the use of vaccination. But back then, it could be a death sentence, especially as a child without a fully developed immune system.

Death Certificate, John Henry Webb

The address on the death certificate, 1 School Terrace, Goose Green, Pemberton. is not found on modern GoogleMaps (Goose Green is still there, but there’s no trace of School Terrace). William Richard was present for the death of his son. His job is listed as “Colliery Brakesman”. A brakesman attends to the winding engine, which moves the cage up and down the pit shaft, to allow workmen to go down the pit and allows both coal and workmen to come to the surface. So…basically an elevator operator.

In a February 4, 1888 report from the Medical Officer in the neighbouring town of Aspull, Dr. Smith, in the Wigan Observer and Digital Advertiser suggests, “The epidemic of measles is gradually subsiding in the localities previously reported,” suggesting that there was indeed an outbreak of measles around the time of the children’s deaths.

The report further suggests that the council was concerned as the overall death rate for the city was “enormous” and efforts were continuing to stem outbreaks. Circulars were provided to all homes in the district “giving certain cautions and directions to mothers who had children suffering from measles and more particularly as to the treatment the patients should receive.” It was the opinion of the medical officer that mothers in the district were treating the disease to lightly.

The Wigan Observer and District Advertiser dated February 11, 1888 reported that an outbreak of small-pox had been reported in Goose Green. The medical officer, Dr. Hartley, denied that there was an outbreak. I have to wonder if the report was wrong and it was actually multiple cases of measles.

Wigan Observer and District Advertiser, February 11, 1888 (image credit: findmypast.com)

On Christmas Day ten months after Joseph and John Henry died, another son, Joseph Henry was born (named, it appears, for his two lost brothers). He was also baptized at Pemberton’s St. John the Divine, and the family appears to be living at 25 Sarginson Street in Newtown, Pemberton, Cheshire (I can’t find this street on Google Maps). William Richard’s occupation is “Park Lane Colly Laborer” – suggesting he worked at the Park Lane Colliery.

Baptismal Register, St. John the Divine, Wigan (image via Ancestry.com)

Unfortunately, little Joseph Henry died too, at age 7 months on August 9, 1889.

Burial Register, St. John the Divine, Pemberton (image via Ancestry.com)

On October 19, 1890, Alice is baptized at St. John the Divine. The family is living on Sarginson Street. Her date of birth isn’t recorded. William Richard is a colliery brakesman.

Baptismal Register, St. John the Divine, Wigan (image via Ancestry.com)

We find the family on the 1891 census living still living on Sarginson Street, Newton, Lancashire with Lily, Mary Elizabeth, William, James and Alice. William is an Ironworker Brakesman.

1891 England Census (image via Ancestry.com)

In 1893, Eleanor is born. There is no record of her baptism at any of the churches previously visited—I discovered her existence only after finding her Canadian marriage record with her parents listed.

(from left) William Alfred, James, Eleanor and William Richard

In 1901, we find Elizabeth, Alice, and Eleanor, visitors at 11 Princes’ Drive in Sale, Cheshire, England. Elizabeth is a housekeeper. Where the rest of the family is at this point is unknown. Lily and Mary Elizabeth have married by this point, but there was a mystery to be solved related to the whereabouts of William Richard, William Alfred, and James (discussed here).

1901 England Census (image via Ancestry.com)
11 Princes’ Drive, Sale, Cheshire, England (image via Google Maps)

After Eleanor’s birth, the family start moving abroad. Elizabeth’s daughter Lily appears to be the only member of the family who remained in England.

According to her son Herbert Grant’s birth registration, Mary Elizabeth (Polly) married in England in 1896. I haven’t found a marriage record, but I’m reasonably certain this isn’t correct, as she would have only been 14 at the time. According to the same record, her first son is born in December, 1898 in Kingston, Ontario. Polly is a witness to her sister Lily’s wedding in England in May of 1899. The family appears back in Canada again, on the 1920 census, in London, Ontario. Herbert Grant’s birth registration is completed in 1926 from Florida and the family was in Virginia, USA by 1935, and she appears to have stayed there. Several of the dates and locations don’t make a lot of sense for Polly.

All of the younger children emigrated to Canada in the early part of the twentieth century. William Richard and Elizabeth came with James, Alice and Eleanor (Nellie) between 1903-1904 to Hamilton, Ontario. No emigration records have been located, but later Canadian censuses indicate that this was the period they arrived. William Alfred came later in 1910 with his wife Louie and son William.

A 1909 Hamilton Directory lists “Webb, Wm R, Noble’s Detective Agency, h 370 Wilson.” (This may have been a rooming house and does not appear to exist in present day).

The 1910 directory lists “Webb, Wm, detectv, 85 Wellington” and has a separate listing for Alice, a “mach op” at the same address. Presumably Elizabeth is living with them as well. William Richard, Elizabeth and Alice are living with a lodger, William Taylor on the 1911 Census (mis-transcribed as Richard “Wedd”). William Richard’s occupation is a detective. William Taylor is an apprentice. The house at 85 Wellington Street North has since been replaced by a large apartment building.

1911 Canadian Census (image via Ancestry.com)

We also find William Alfred and his family and James and his family living adjacent on Wellington Street North across the street from William Richard. William Alfred, Louie and son William are living with Louie’s sister Amelia and her future husband Joseph Gregory at number 84. (And, Louie and Amelia’s sister May is living at number 80.) James and Sarah are with son James at 86.

1911 Canada Census (image via Ancestry.com)

Eleanor’s location in 1911 is unknown.

Between 1911 and 1921, William’s. occupation changes several times, but he continues to live at 85 Wellington. His jobs are listed as “collector,” “Mgr Hamilton District Collection Agency,” “local mngr Toronto detective agency,” “mgr Duncan’s Detective Agency,” “wks National Steel Car Co,” “private detective” in 1918 and finally detective from 1919-1932.

On the 1921 Canadian census Elizabeth and Richard are still at number 85 with several people: William E. Taylor (b. 1897), now listed as the couple’s adopted son (a relative has confirmed that William (Bill) Taylor was the godfather of one of James Webb’s daughters), Effie “Dake” (b. 1886) listed as William’s widowed Scottish cousin (turns out she’s William Richard’s cousin Alfred Dyke’s widow), and a border named Frederick Rotta. Now Nellie is at number 84 with her partner James Stephen and daughter Eleanor and William’s family has moved to number 89 with wife Louie and their two sons.

1921 Canadian Census (image via Ancestry.com)

Between 1923-1925, the Hamilton Directory lists William (presumably with Elizabeth) at 330 Emerald Street North.

330 Emerald Street North, Hamilton (image via GoogleMaps)

Between 19271931, the Hamilton Directory lists the couple at 28 St. Matthew’s Avenue. It’s a semi-detached home.

38 St. Matthew’s Avenue, Hamilton (image via GoogleMaps)

In 1932, The couple appears living at 471 Burlington Street East. This is in an industrial area of Hamilton that may have once had homes, but does not in present time. This may explain the couple’s move the following year to 409 Barton Street East, Apartment 2, where they lived between 19331940.

The couple are not listed in the 1941 directory, potentially because they were living with one of their children. In 1942, they’re listed as having rooms at 51 Douglas Street, which is the home of their son, James Edward and Sarah.

William died on July 19, 1942, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, at the age of 83. At the time of his death, he was living with his wife at 51 Douglas Street, Hamilton.

Hamilton Spectator July 21, 1942
51 Douglas Avenue, Hamilton (image via Google Maps)

Elizabeth died a year and a half later on December 22, 1943, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, at the age of 84.

Hamilton Spectator, December 27, 1943

Elizabeth’s death certificate suggests she was still living at 51 Douglas Street. Elizabeth’s father is “Edwin” here and not “Edward” as listed on her marriage certificate. I assume this was an error made by a family member.

Death Certificate, Elizabeth (Dutton) Webb (image via Ancestry.com)

The couple are buried in Woodland Cemetery in Hamilton, Section 20S Part 1. The information suggests “The record suggests “Section 20, Lot 17 (west-centre grave) Elizabeth Dutton WEBB of 51 Douglas Street, Hamilton purchased this 30-square-foot, single grave in July 1942. There are two burials at this grave.” Unusually, there is an issue with the headstone which reads “WEBB, mother, Elizabeth DUTTON, 1859-1943, father, William R., 1859-1941.” I would suggest that the stone was likely not made until after Elizabeth’s death, which resulted in the error of the year of William Richard’s death.

Headstone, William R and Elizabeth Webb (via FindaGrave)

If you were counting, you’ll note that the couple listed 16 different addresses during their lifetime, and William Richard had nine different occupations listed at multiple employers including:

  • 1881 – Seaman
  • 1882 – Assistant in Warehouse
  • 1883 – Fireman
  • 1884 – Porter
  • 1888-1891 – brakesman at a Park Lane Colliery
  • 1901 – private enquiry agent
  • 1910 – detective
  • 1912-1916 – manager at: (1912-1913) Hamilton District Collection Agency, (1914) Toronto Detective Agency, (1915-1916) Duncan’s Detective Agency
  • 1917 – National Steel Car
  • 1918 forward – detective (unknown employer)

This is the only one of my direct ancestors who had such a nomadic lifestyle and colourful employment history.

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