Tag Archives: william elbourne atkins

DNA family – Elizabeth Beatrice Atkins

In genealogy we have our family tree, the people we know or knew and consider family. Sometimes we also have a DNA family that is different from who we regard as family. The DNA family is our bloodline, people we match through DNA. On my mom’s side I have a grandfather and a biological grandfather. I always knew my biological existed and his name but that was it. There was no contact with him and he was seldom mentioned. After taking a DNA test, I was able to connect with some of my mom’s biological cousins and learn about that side of the family. I decided it was time to research that family. Although well-sourced research had been done, there were a couple of gaps. This post and the next few will tell the story of my biological great-grandmother and her 6 siblings. I’ll start with the eldest child of Fanny Green and William Atkins, Elizabeth Beatrice Atkins.

In 1902, Fanny Atkins died leaving a husband, William Elbourne Atkins, and 7 children. I was curious to know what happened to the children after Fanny died. There are instances in my Canadian lines where the mother died and the father quickly remarried, or other family members stepped in to help out and raised a child. I was curious to if this was the case in Britain, where the family lived. I wasn’t sure what records might exist to show what happened to these children. The first place to look for the family was in the 1911 census. I was able to find William with the youngest son, Jesse, in the workhouse but the other children were elusive because the name is fairly common.

My first breakthrough was discovering Rosa Atkins on a passenger list stating she was coming to Canada with the Bernardo Homes. I learned of a database at Library and Archives Canada and that lists children that were sent to Canada as British Home Children.

The definition of these children is “a child under the age of 18 who is emigrated by an agency to be ‘adopted’ or placed as indentured servants (e.g. Bardardo, Macpherson, Birt, Middlemore, Quarriers) legally bound to their agency/placements. Often wages were held back until they were adults.”

https://canadianbritishhomechildren.weebly.com/hazelbrae-barnardo-home.html

Sure enough, 2 of Rosa’s sisters,  Elizabeth B., Rosa, and Alice Atkins, are on the list. It was through clues from DNA family members that I learned what happened to Elizabeth Beatrice. She went by Beatrice so that’s how I’ll refer to her.

Beatrice was sent to Barkingside Girls Village in Barkingside, Essex, England along with her sisters Rosa and Alice. Barkingside was supposed to be a “progressive” home for orphaned and poor children. About a year after her mother died, Beatrice was on a ship bound for Canada. She left England on April 29, 1903 and was sent to Hazelbrae Home for girls in Peterborough, Ontario. From there she was sent to work as a domestic somewhere in Canada. Losing your mother is tramatic. Can you imagine being taken from your family at 14 years old then being sent to another country where you don’t know anyone. Then having to work as an indentured servant until you were old enough to leave. She must have been terrified and lonely.

Nephew, Frank with Beatrice and her daughter, Bea Letcher

I lost Beatrice after her arrival in Canada. But family members gave me clues to her married name. She had a daughter, Beatrice Letcher. Well, searching for Beatrice Letcher brought me to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. In 1911, Beatrice Atkins was a domestic for Alice Herman or Harman in Moose Jaw. Alice ran a boarding house with 16 people living as lodgers. I can’t find her anywhere between 1903 and 1911. As far as I can tell she wasn’t in Moose Jaw in 1906.

She married Frank Letcher before 1913 and had 3 children; Beatrice in 1913, Frank in 1921, and Norma in 1923. The 1975 obituary for Frank Letcher indicates that their daughter Beatrice married W.W. Burns and lived in Surrey, British Columbia. Frank moved to California with his wife and children. Norma was not mentioned in Frank’s obituary, she may have died before 1975. Frank owned Letcher Auto Electric which still exists today, but may not be owned by the family.

Elizabeth Beatrice Letcher died on December 14, 1951 in Moose Jaw. Although she was separated from her family, I know there was contact with at least one of her sisters. There are family pictures from when she visited Kate Harrison, in Cochrane, Ontario. There is also a story that my grandfather went out west and must have visited the family. I like to think that creating a family of her own and keeping in touch with her siblings would have made he happy after such a terrifying beginning to her life.

Sources
1911 England Census [database on-line]. Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England; Ancestry.com (database online); Provo, UT, USA: Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA), 1911.

Home Children Records; Library and Archives Canada; http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/home-children-1869-1930/immigration-records/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=105587

Immigration Program : Headquarters central registry files : C-4715; RG 76, Vol 51, File 2209, part 1, Bernardos Children Arrival in Quebec, image 1282; http://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_reel_c4715/1200?r=0&s=5; Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association; http://www.britishhomechildrenregistry.com/faq

British Home Children in Canada; https://canadianbritishhomechildren.weebly.com/hazelbrae-barnardo-home.html for information about Hazelbrae.

1911 Canada Census; Moosejaw, Saskatchewan; District 124; Page: 29; Family No: 223;
Ancestry.com. 1911 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Citing, Series RG31-C-1. Statistics Canada Fonds. Microfilm reels T-20326 to T-20460; Library and Archives Canada. lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1911/Pages/about-census.aspx.

1916 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta; Census Place: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw, 17C; Roll: T-21931; Page: 21; Family No: 252; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009; “Census returns for 1916 Census of Prairie Provinces.” Statistics of Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm T-21925 to T-21956. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa; in 1916 Beatrice is married to Frank Letcher and has a 3 year old daughter.

1926 Census of the Prairie Provinces; Moose Jaw Saskatchewan District 27 Subdistrict 72; library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; I was unable to find the family in the 1921 Canada Census.

Saskatchewan Genealogy Society, Moose Jaw Branch; Cemetery Transcriptions; http://moosejawgenealogy.com/Cemeteries/Moose%20Jaw%20Rosedale/Pl.htm; someone from Moose Jaw was kind enough to send me a photo of the tombstone.

Moose Jaw Obits 1970-1998; Saskatchewan Genealogical Society; Moose Jaw Branch; http://moosejawgenealogy.com/obits.htm; someone from the Moose Jaw genealogy society was kind enough to send me a copy of Frank’s obituary. She was unable to find one for Beatrice.

The Rhythm of Research

There is a meditative rhythm to genealogy research. First is a family story, hopefully with names and dates, a birth certificate found stuffed in an envelope, or a grandfather’s name in a census. Second is reading the record to discover the information it reveals, third is keeping track of what is found and fourth is locating records using the new information. And so the process goes; research, analysis, data entry,research, analysis, data entry. There are momentary distractions that lead away from the goal. Gently, focus returns; research and analysis begins again. It goes smoothly until the crash, a brick wall! The next generation is silent. Then research goes everywhere and nowhere. Look everywhere the experts advise. The cadence returns as family and neighbours are searched. Eventually, the end is reached. There is nowhere left to search, for now.

You found a record and gathered all the facts from it. That analysis leads to another record, more analysis and entering the information into your database…and so on. For example let’s look at the Atkins family. Kathleen Atkins is my biological great-grandmother. Her marriage record in Toronto, Ontario, Canada lists the names of her parents, her age and birth place. Kathleen was born in, approximately, 1894 to William Elbourne Atkins and Francis Alice Green in Buckingham, Buckinghamshire.

Pictures of Kathleen Atkins (married name is Harrison). Left to right – on her wedding day – on the wedding day of Henrietta Harrison – at her home near Cochrane, Ontario.

I search the General Register Office (GRO) for Kathleen Atkins with a mother last name Green but nothing comes up. What to do next? Well, if Kathleen was born in 1894 she must be on the 1901 census. Sure enough, there is one William E Atkins with a wife Fanny in Buckinghamshire in 1901 and they have a daughter Kate age 7 which puts her birth in 1894. She is born in Chesham Bois according to the census but this mus be the family!

Here is the basic information from the William Atkins household of 1901
William E Atkins 39
Fanny Atkins 31
Elizabeth B Atkins 12
Edith E Atkins 10
Rosa Atkins 8
Kate Atkins 7
Horace Atkins 5
Alice M Atkins 3
Edward J Atkins

1901 England Census; William Atkins Household; Class: RG13; Piece: 1334; Folio: 6; Page: 4; Ancestry.com. 1901 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives, 1901.

A search in the GRO index reveals one Kate Atkins with mother’s surname Green. A copy of the birth registration ordered from the GRO shows this is the correct Kate Atkins. Kate, not Kathleen, is born the 23 February 1894 in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire. Her parents are William Elbourne Atkins and Fanny, not Francis, Green

Birth Registration of Kate Atkins
Birth: 23 February 1894
Place: Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire, England
Name: Kate
Father: William Elbourne Atkins; occupation: worker in woodenware
Mother: Fanny Atkins, formerly Green
Informant was Fanny Atkins, her mother

England Birth Registration; Subdistrict Chesham; Registration District Amersham; Buckingham; Certified copy of Birth; Volume 3a, Page 665; General Registrars Office, Kew, England

The information, along with the source information, is then entered into a preferred database. It may be Ancestry, FamilySearch, a cloud based tree, or desktop software. Entering the information ensures the research is organized and accessible.

Continuing the rhythm of research would mean finding the marriage of William Elbourne Atkins and Fanny Green using FreeBMD and the GRO indexes. Using the information from the marriage records census records would be viewed, looking for William and Fanny as parents and as children living with their parents.

Thus goes the rhythm of genealogy research, usually looking at vital statistics and census records at first, sometimes veering off to other sources to find stories. Then comes the brick wall. There is nowhere left to search. Except for that new family that just turned up on your tree.

First

I’ve been researching William Elbourne Atkins who is the father of Kate Atkins. Kate is the mother of my biological grandfather, the one I never knew. William was born in Chesham, Buckingham. An Ancestry tree had his mother’s name, Hannah Atkins, but nothing on his father. So I ordered the birth registration in from General Records Office in England to find out who William’s father is. Well, the birth registration lists his mother but not a father. William was illegitimate! My first time researching a child born out of wedlock. That’s exciting, now I get to try to find his father.

Since William was born in June 1861, my first step is to find more information on Hannah by checking out the 1861 census. This census was taken about 2 months before William is born. In this census, Hannah is listed as the head of household; she has an 11 year old daughter, and get this, there is a 31 year old male lodger living with her and his name is Thomas Elbourne. Does his last name not suggest that William “Elbourne” Atkins is his son?

An expert in English genealogy confirmed my theory. She said it was common to give an illegitimate child the last name of the father as a middle name. However, since the couple wasn’t married when William was born, he would always have his mother’s maiden name as a surname. Hannah and Thomas Elbourne eventually married 6 months after William was born. But since Hannah wasn’t married when her son was born, he would always be William Atkins.

Hannah Atkins lived in Duck Alley, a row house in Chesham

William is not Hannah’s first child born out of wedlock. In 1851, she is unmarried and has a one year old daughter named Sarah. She is living with her elderly parents, William and Sarah, at 20 Duck Alley in Chesham, Buckingham, England. Her father had been a farm labourer but at the age of 81 he can’t do much work so is on parish relief. Hannah works as a straw plaiter. In this occupation women and children prepared straw to be made into hats and ornaments.

My first experience researching the father of an illegitimate child was exceptionally easy. It’s not always this straight forward. I think it’s going to be harder to discover who is the father of Hannah’s daughter, Sarah.

Sources

1851 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005[ Registration district: Amersham; ED 1b;Piece: 1717;Folio: 119; Page Number: 19; Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1851

1861 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005; Registration district: Amersham; Sub-registration district: Chesham; ED 2e; Piece: 845; Folio: 26; Page Number: 15; Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1861. Data imaged from The National Archives, London, England

For information on Straw Plaiting see; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_plaiting
http://www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk/data/occupations/straw-plait.htm

Photo from Chesham Heritage Facebook Page; https://www.facebook.com/pg/CheshamHeritage/photos/?tab=album&album_id=583692001780762