Thursday, 30 May 2013

Arthur Edwards

Arthur Edwards was born in Birmingham in 1896. His mother Emma (Pem) Clayton was great grandfather Wiliam Clayton's older sister.

In the early 1900s Pem fell on hard times and many of her children including Arthur ended up living on the streets of Birmingham and getting into trouble with the authorities. Arthur was round up and put in a Middlemore children's home from where he was emigrated to Canada as a home child and ended up being treated very harshly by his adoptive parents who used him as child labour on their farm. However, with the outbreak of WW1 in Europe, Arthur returned to England and signed up to fight with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.

On his Attestation papers signed in October 1915 Arthur gives his next of kin as his mother Emily Ewards of Well Street, Hockley. The outbreak of WW1 was therefore a double sided coin for Arthur as it gave him reason to come to England and be re-united with his parents and siblings.

The witness to Arthur's Attestation papers was William Jeenes who was Emily's second husband, so Arthur's step father.

After his service in WW1 Arthur returned to Canada where he married a lady who was also a British home child, Daisy Bates, and raised his own children. Arthur died in Nova Scottia in 1976.

A photo probably taken in 1915 when Arthur Edwards returned to Birmingham for the first time since being emigrated to Canada as a home child. Arthur is in uniform standing behind his mother Emily Edwards, nee. Clayton. Next to them is another of Pem's sons and his wife and child.

Whilst Arthur was serving in the army and using Birmingham as his home address, his father William Edwards died of tuberculosis in August 1917 at a building in Benson Road, Winson Green which was acting as a TB hospital.

Peter McDonnell - the search moves to America

The passenger list of the Campania at departure from Liverpool on 27th July 1907 with 18 year old Peter McDonnell, the young Dublin man who arrived at Ellis Island in New York eight days later (see below).

It is interesting how a family anecdote creates a line of enquiries and theories. Why did he set fire to the family home? Why was he sent away? If Peter was the son sent to America then who was Christopher? Its all about finding that crucial piece of information that convinces you that this is the right person and the right scenario and because the record database in the States is more detailed, I will keep pursuing the line of enquiry in that direction until I either find clarity or the trail just fades.

Is there a Dublin newspaper report of the house fire? Or perhaps an American death record or social security record for Peter naming his parents and exact place of origin?

This record shows the same individual named Peter McDonnell who arrived at Ellis Island on 4th August 1907 aged 18. He travelled from Liverpool on the Campania giving his last place of residence as Dublin. The Ellis Island record provides potentially useful information for this individual. 18 year old Peter McDonnell is arriving on the Campania on a ticket funded by his father and has $50 in his pocket and is on his way to stay with his uncle, also named Peter McDonnell at 2015 3rd Avenue, New York.

Under disability, Peter has a condition which initially I thought looks as if it is spelt 'phobia'.

Could this be our man? Was his condition connected to the arson attack on the family home? 

Most ships left Liverpool and stopped at Queenstown in Ireland on the way so this individual may have embarked there.

I posted this information on Facebook and my mom's cousin Gaye replied:

"Pete I think this might be your guy. I think the word you think is "phobia" is in fact "strabismus" which means crossed eye. Look at the word again. The first letter could be a lower case "s" with a long tail into it and the second letter looks like it has a faded cross at the top like the cross of a lower case "t". I gave a photo to Colette Gallagher of a man who looked like he had a crossed eye. He had sent it to her grandmother Kitty. The Peter you are looking for would have been her uncle. It had "To my Kitty Kat" on it. Ask Colette about it. Maybe it was signed Peter."

My reply to Gaye:

"Fantastic update thanks Gaye! Yes I have strong feeling about this person. I have searched the New York Census 1910 by the way and there are hundreds of Peter McDonnells and close spellings including MacDonald etc. (one has to take account of people misspelling surnames). So at the moment there's a bit of a dead end even with the address provided here which, if it's our man, would indicate old John had a brother also named Peter McDonnell. There are also some records of Peter McDonnells returning on ships from America too, so that's another possibility - that he went and then came back."

It is intriguing. Even the story of the fire. Its a very dramatic thing to do. Imagine the emotional reactions that would have followed! Was it all insured, etc. ?

When I looked again, Gaye was right about the spelling of Peter's condition and I also noticed under the address of 3rd Avenue, there is an address Westmoreland PA, crossed through. I wonder if that's a further clue to a location of the Uncle? I actually viewed the 3d Avenue address on Google map images and it's now a motor car garage. Which is unlikely to have been there in 1907.

Something I should add in the Peter McDonnell story, when trying to account for the sons Peter and Christopher, the 1911 Census includes the question 'how many children have been born and how many survived?' To which the mother Catherine replied she'd had 16 children and only 5 had survived. We know of Anne (g-granny Whelan), her brother John (possibly became blind himself), the sister Catherine Barrett (Aunty Lally), then the 12 year old brother Peter named in the 1901 census, which leaves space for Christopher to be child 5, he is named as a son in old John's Will but doesn't appear with the family in either the 1901 or 1911 census. So really we are searching for Peter and Christopher.

Searching for Peter McDonnell

I've been doing a bit of hunting for an ancestor named Peter McDonnell who was g-grandmother's youngest brother born in Dublin, a son of John McDonnell the blind basket maker of Bolton Street. My mom's cousin Gaye related a family story that in the early 1900s John McDonnell bought a farm in the country near Dublin but one of his sons didn't like living there so set fire to the house when the rest of the family were at Mass.

Its a dramatic tale and G-G-grandfather John McDonnell was not happy, probably to say the least and rejected his son who it is thought went to live in America and was never heard of or from again.

In the 1901 Census the McDonnells were living at Chancery Street in Dublin, the site of the basket factory and their youngest son Peter was 12 years old. In 1911 the McDonnells were at Bolton Street with no Peter present or to be found locally. Can we therefore speculate that the move to the farm and the incident with the house fire took place during the first decade of the 1900s? We know that the old man, John, died at Bolton Street in 1916.

In his Will of 1916, John McDonnell makes no mention of his son Peter, though he did state "My son Christopher McDonnell has already got his share and has no more claim". This being the only mention of a son named Christopher who did not appear in the 1901 census. Were Peter and Christopher one and the same person and if so this could complicate the search.

There are a number of records showing individuals by the name of Peter McDonnell travelling on ships from Ireland to the US. This one shows a 19 year old Peter McDonnell sailing from Queenstown to Boston on The Saxonia in April 1907. He is sharing a ticket with 19 year old John Byrne and 22 year old Jas Glynn.

Another individual named Peter McDonnell (24 years old) is found sailing on the Cunard Line's Caronia between Queenstown and New York in June 1909. This one is slightly older than the person we are looking for.

This record shows an index of the passengers who arrived in Boston on The Saxonia on 12 April 1907. The list includes 19 year old Peter McDonnell. If this was our Peter McDonnell, it will be interesting to see if I can find him in the US Census.

Birmingham children from Middlemore Homes emigrated to Canada in June 1906

In the past I have posted re: Arthur Edwards, a nephew of g-grandfather Clayton who was emigrated to Canada as a 'home child' in 1906.

Arthur appears at the top of one of these passenger lists sailing on The Siberian to Halifax, Nova Scotia, arriving on 23rd June 1906.

With about up to 40 children aged between 3 and 15 on some of these pages there are over 100 Birmingham children from Middlemore Home on this sailing with just one staff member, a Matron, and a handful of older teenagers described as farmers and a dress maker.

One of the lists also includes two sisters named Edith and Maria Millington aged 9 and 4.

Heir Hunters? One we missed!

This one reminded me of that programme Heir Hunters.

One that escaped us here I'm afraid, there's a lady listed towards the bottom of the first page named Rosannah Aston, nee. Adderley who died aged 90 at Summerfield Hospital in 1965 leaving £160 with apparently no heirs so it went to the Treasury.

According to my research Rosannah was my great grandmother Phoebe Adderley's older sister. Ironically Phoebe died at the same place in 1914 when it was known as the Workhouse Infirmary and I trained as a nurse there in 1979.