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When is a Wilthew not a Wilthew? (1: Anthony Charlton Wilthew)

October 31, 2012

Having mined all the English, Welsh and Scottish BMD registers, and the census from the United Kingdom and the United States for Wilthews, there are a number of individual entries who don’t seem to match up with any other records. Some of these disappear for a variety of reasons… migration, marriage leading to a change of name, mis-transcription in the indexes. But others it isn’t so clear. Why did Neville Wilthew Wilthew have his own surname as a middle name, and why doesn’t this name appear in the birth indexes? Is the William H(or J) Wilthew found in Australian registers (and newspaper reports in New Zealand) from the United Kingdom, and if so, which of those who disappear after the 1851 census is he? And I have already mentioned my initial confusion with Spanish/Mexican naming conventions.

I was recently contacted about an Anthony Charlton Bell, which prompted me to catch up with recording some of my research on my public tree on Ancestry which I have failed to do since becoming a father a few months ago. Anthony Charlton Bell I had initially found in the 1841 census, listed as Anthony C Wilthew with his parents John Shaftoe Wilthew and mother Susanna Wilthew, and his brothers and sisters.

1841 census return: Anthony C Wilthew

Class: HO107; Piece: 302; Book: 13; Civil Parish: Whickham; County: Durham; Enumeration District: 5; Folio: 18; Page: 30; Line: 17; GSU roll: 241349.

Having identified this Anthony Charlton Wilthew in 1841, and knowing he was born prior to the start of civil registration in 1837, I also failed to identify him in any subsequent census, or any marriage or death index. Had his death not been registered? Had he emigrated, died at sea or overseas?

As it happened, no. Additionally, having approached his history from a starting point of recording him as a ‘Wilthew’ gave me the information needed to find and confirm future events in his life which had proved much more difficult trying to search for him as ‘Anthony Charlton Bell’, which obviously those chasing their ‘Bell’ ancestors would be doing.

Having investigated this family, I had identified the fact that both Anthony Charlton Wilthew and Barbara Wilthew were in fact not the children of John Shaftoe Wilthew and Susannah Charlton, but in fact the children of Susannah’s previous marriage to a William Bell, a sail-maker, as reported in the Newcastle Courant on the 17th December 1831.

“On the 11th inst. at Whickham, Mr. John Wilthew of Dunston, to Mrs. Susannah Bell, widow of Mr William Bell, of this town, sail-maker”

Knowing this, I was able to identify Anthony Charlton Bell‘s birth in the Bishop’s Transcripts – matching the information from the newspaper article I had identified.

August 3rd 1828 Anthony Charlton Bell baptism

August 3rd 1828 Anthony Charlton Bell baptism ( > Durham Bishop’s Transcripts > Northumberland > Newcastle All Saints > 1823-1830 > Image 501 of 713)

Obviously, if having found this record from the point of view of looking for an Anthony Charlton Bell and not knowing the Wilthew connection, he was thus invisible in the 1841 census, as were his parents and any brothers or sisters identified. Coming from the Wilthew direction, this was so much simpler. A useful lesson learned, and a reminder how much luck can play when searching handwritten copies of records originally taken down from oral data.

Knowing therefore he could appear under two possible names in subsequent records, and having been unable to identify him under the name ‘Wilthew’ I decided to track him down in any case (even though he wasn’t technically a ‘Wilthew’ and may simply have been recorded as such in 1841 in error, rather than actually having assumed his stepfather’s surname).

In the 1851 census he is easily locateable under the name Anthony Charlton Bell – which of course was how he had been found by the researcher who contacted me. Of course, if I had not discovered the newspaper report from 1831, this entry would likely have been invisible to me as I had no other connection to the surname ‘Bell’. In the 1851 census, I have an Anthony Charlton Bell (born c. 1829 in Newcastle, employed as an Anchor Smith) living with a wife Betsey (assume Elizabeth, born c.1829 in Winlaton) and two children, William (c.1849, Swalwell) and Anthony E (c.1850, Sunderland) at 9 Hill Field.

1851 census Anthony Charlton Wilthew

Class: HO107; Piece: 2395; Folio: 455; Page: 35; GSU roll: 87073.

So, from this I know he married sometime between 1841 and 1851… and going by his age and the age of his children, most likely between 1846 and 1849. I also know he had not taken on his step-father’s name – or perhaps had not gotten on with his step father and had since re-adopted his own father’s surname.

At this point, it is also worth noting that Anthony Charlton’s biological sister, Barbara Bell, had adopted her step-fathers surname… and kept using it. I am very confident that the Barbara Wilthew who married a George Forster in 1847 is the same person. I say this having failed to identify any other possible Barbara Wilthew in the parish records or bishops transcripts, in the 1841 census… and having then compared the ages, places of birth etc of Barbara in the census of 1851 and later. So, had there been a falling out between step-father and step-son?

Looking for the marriage, being able to explore the research of another researcher on ancestry proved decisive – as there was no ‘Anthony Charlton Bell’ listed, and several under the name ‘Anthony Bell’. ‘Makem948’ had already identified several of Anthony and Betsey’s children, and had posted the details from their birth certificates identifying the mother as ‘Elizabeth Parker’ (and confirming the father by occupation and name). Searching for an Elizabeth Parker identified a marriage on 28th October 1848 to an Anthony Charlton… who’s father was a deceased William Charlton, a sail-maker (I’d already identified Anthony Charlton Bell‘s father as a William Bell, a sail-maker). Obviously the name isn’t quite correct, but could be down to error, but there is other evidence making the link more likely:

  • In the certificate detail posted by Makem948, one of the witnesses is a Barbara Forster – Anthony’s sister?
  • Anthony and Elizabeth’s first daughter was named Susanna – named after his mother?
  • The age (a minor – in 1848 he would still have been below the age of 21), occupation (Black-smith) matching the 1851 census and children’s birth certificates, and location (Newcastle upon Tyne).

‘Makem948’ and others however had been unable to locate Anthony Charlton Bell in the 1861 census, nor identify when he died (there are various deaths listed for Anthony Bell – but which one? Several people seem to have linked him to an 1856 death… but this ignores the birth of children in which he is listed as the father in 1858 and 1864). His wife and children do appear in the 1861 census, in Thornaby, North Yorkshire… and Elizabeth is not listed as a widow (the census is clearly the same family when comparing the children’s names and ages, and Elizabeth’s age and place of birth with other records… and the fact that their last two children were born in Stockton and Thornaby respectively according to the birth certificates).

Where was Anthony in 1861, two years after his step-father been hanged after murdering his mother? And why did he not seem to appear in the civil registration index of deaths?

Well, as it happens I have also been unable to identify him in the 1861 census. Perhaps he simply was not recorded? Or perhaps he was recorded under another name. However, having been unable to identify him in the death indexes I tried other sources… starting with newspapers.

I’d love to say I used a complex combination of keywords, exploring possible names, proximity connectors and truncation tools to pick out alternative spellings or ways the name could be written… but actually, my first search for the phrase “Anthony Charlton Bell” was enough (I used Gale Cengage’s newspaper archive, but the same articles can be found via the British Library’s ‘The British Newspaper Archive” site – and in fact there are a few I have identified on there which I have not yet looked at which look like a possible arrest in 1863)

How much the murder of his mother impacted on Anthony Charlton Bell’s life and might explain his absence in 1861, and the events recorded in the newspaper articles of 1865 is unclear, but from two articles I found it is clear his relationship with his wife,Elizabeth Parker, had broken down following the birth of their son Mark in 1864, if not before.

  • Newcastle Courant, September 29th 1865, Issue 9952
  • Dundee Courier & Argus, Thurs September 28th 1865, Issue 3787

The two articles report the findings of a coroner’s inquest – into the suicide of Anthony Charlton Bell on Tuesday 26th September 1865 in the Emery buildings (or Emery Court), Silver Street, Newcastle upon Tyne (this isn’t the Silver Street in current existence, but a Silver Street which used to run next to All Saint’s Churchyard down to the Quayside).

Silver Street in the late nineteenth century

Silver Street in the late nineteenth century (from Newcastle City Libraries “Tyneside Life and Times” collection.

They describe him as a labourer (an iron cleaner in Elswick) aged 36, married with 6 children who had previously been living in Middlesborough – all of which matches the information found in the birth certificates discussed above. However, at the time of his death he was living with an Eliza Waters and had deserted his wife several months earlier…

“[having] disagreed with his wife on consequence of her drunkenness”

Eliza was also married, but her husband had abandoned her some 6 years earlier it seems, and left for India. It appears that, having deserted his wife, Anthony was twice picked up by the authorities and sent back to his family … but he had again returned to Newcastle.

Then, on the Monday night, some hours before he took his life, his wife turned up on his doorstep intoxicated (and we can infer looking for a confrontation) with two of their children. Having had to take the children, and then having to put Elizabeth Bell to sleep in their small upstairs flat, Anthony had commented that “if she annoyed him any more he would do away with himself”. Later that night, in what was recorded by the coroner as during a “fit of temporary insanity” Anthony followed through with his promise, and hanged himself in the building he was living with his new partner.

“The first intimation of the deceased having committed suicide had been made to her [Eliza Waters] on Tuesday morning, when she sent one of the deceased’s sons, a little boy, upstairs to the attic to see where his father was. The child screaming, ran down stairs, and brought a police officer, by whom he was cut down.”

A tragic death, of a man not much older than myself who had only a few years earlier had his mother murdered by the step-father he seems to have already disliked (and indeed, a step-father who was reported to be known for his drunkenness, the same reason Anthony had also allegedly left his wife for). It also further identifies the reach of the shadow John Shaftoe Wilthew left on his family and step-family.

With the precise date of his death confirmed, it proved much easier to identify a likely record for his death in the death indexes… registered under then name ‘Anthony Charles Bell’ (Jul-Sep 1865, Newcastle, North’d, 10b, 39), the certificate from which may shed some further details, such as who registered the death, for his descendants.

So, my original identification of an Anthony Charlton Wilthew turned out to not be a Wilthew at all, but did following my further investigations help rule him out from my one-name study (in terms of any continuing search for records under the name Wilthew which did not exist) and help identify him of ‘Bell’ researchers who did not have the information I had been able to uncover coming from the problem from a different direction.

A Wilthew family through the US Federal Census [part 1]

July 25, 2012

On the 2nd of April 2012, the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released the embargoed images from the 1940 US Federal Census. Volunteers have been indexing the returns since that date, to be available for free, to all, in perpetuity. Which is nice.

I’ve already scoured the earlier census tracing a tragic ancestor and have identified 42 Wilthew’s living in the United States between 1870 and 1940, grouped into 9 family groups and tracking several across consecutive decades (except for the 1890 census, which sadly is largely lost to us following a fire and a librarian who did not effectively ‘library’). Bad Librarian, sit on the naughty step.

My working file: Wilthew's in the United States Census

My working file: Wilthew’s in the United States Census

Of the 42 Wilthew’s identified so far, I’ve identified 10 of their returns in the 1940 census (with the census 87% indexed at the point of writing this). I expect to possibly identify at least one more individual following correspondence with a Wilthew family in Mexico.

It’s interesting to note some of the differences between the UK and US census:

  • In the UK census,questions on race or ethnicity were only added in 1991; In the US, ‘race’ was a key question back to at least 1840 (and obviously also asked questions at this time that wouldn’t be dreamed of even in 1840’s Britain, such as whether an individual was ‘free’ or a ‘slave’)
  • Nationality has always appeared in the UK census in some form, back to the first ‘individual’ census of 1841… but for the US, a land built by immigrants, the questions on this were much more thorough, exploring not only an individuals place of birth, but also each of their parents.
  • No British scruples about discussing your income in the US census – we still don’t declare that in the most recent 2011 census
  • The US census 1940 is also far more thorough in its collecting of data on education and employment.. yet frustratingly does not explore family sizes (such as number of children living or deceased), as the UK census had been since 1911 (and the US census did in 1910).
  • Comparing the 1940 US census to the 1941 UK census is tricky – there was no 1941 UK census, as most of the UK population was involved in a little war with Germany at the time.

Exploring one Wilthew, and tracing his appearance in the census backwards, I’ll use William Henry Wilthew (my second cousin, 4x removed).

1940 US Federal Census

In 1940, William Wilthew is listed as being 73 (so born circa 1867), living with his wide Mary (72) living at 126 East Main Street, Girard, Liberty Township, Trumbull County, Ohio. They have lived there since at least April 1st 1935, and own their house, which was then valued at $4000. For a bit of context, the median value of a house in Ohio in 1940 was $3,415 according to the US Federal Census data collected, at a time when home ownership was at 50% so – the Wilthew’s appear to have been doing reasonably well for themselves..

1940 US Census excerpt for William Henry Wilthew

1940 US Census excerpt for William Henry Wilthew

Both William and Mary had been educated to 8th grade (aged 14). Both had been born in Pennsylvania (the State line is only about 15 km away). Employment wise, neither William nor Mary had been in work at any point during that year (except for Mary indicating she was engaged in housework). Given their ages, this may seem unsurprising, but in 1940 over 40% of the male population over the age of 65 were recorded as being part of the labour force (or labor force if you really have to). William lists himself as being ‘unable’ to work, but having received at least $50 so far that year, so it will be interesting to see if it is possible to identify from where this came from (private or state pension, benefits, private savings or investments etc).

There is no indication of any children – but then any children are likely to have grown up and flown the coup by this point.

1930 US Federal Census

In 1930, William H Wilthew is listed as living at the same address (126 East Main Street, Trumbull, Ohio) along with his wife Mary E Wilthew. They own their property (this time valued at $60001) and they are listed as owning their own radio set, one of 12 million people out of a population of over 122 million.

1930 US Federal Census excerpt for William H Wilthew

1930 US Federal Census excerpt for William H Wilthew

In the 1930 census we also get some more personal details. In 1930, aged 63 and 62, William and Mary have been married for 41 years. As in the 1940 census, both list their birthplace as Pennsylvania, but whereas both of Mary’s parents were born in the United States, William indicates his father was born in England.

William also indicates he is employed and working (he answered the question “were you at work yesterday” with a ‘yes’) as a foreman in a steel mill. At the height of the Great Depression, William could perhaps consider himself lucky to be in work at the time of the 1930 census (taken on the 1st of April 1930). The Ohio Steel industry was not spared the dramatic economic downturn, and it would be interesting to explore through any available employment records (possibly at Youngstown historical center for history and labor or the Western Reserve Historical Society) how he fared in subsequent years.

[In Ohio,] there were 164,400 fewer workers carried on the payrolls in December 1930 than in December 1929 … By the close of 1931 there were 332,700 fewer employed than in December 1929.2

Twelve years after the end of the Great War (and eleven years after the United States entry into the war), and potentially still within the lifetime of veterans of the civil war, the 1930 census also asked the veteran status of individuals. William indicated he was not a military veteran.

1920 US Federal Census

Moving back to the 1920 census, we start to see more details about William’s offspring. William is living at the same address as he is recorded at in 1930 and 1940. The 1920 census did not ask with regards the value of homes, but did ask (if it was owned) if it was owned outright, or with a mortgage. It appears that William and his family lived in their home mortgage free, with William listed as employed as the foreman at a “Bar Mill” (probably a smaller mill producing steel bars, rather than producing steel as a raw product or a larger integrated mill).

Living with William and his wife are four children: Margaret E Wilthew (27), Cyril Wilthew (18), Gerald Wilthew (16) and Robert Wilthew (10). All were born in Ohio (interestingly, in contrast to the 1930 census, William lists his father as having been born in Pennsylvania), and the three son’s are indicated as having attended school at any time since 1st September 1919. For some context, in 1932 only 32% of 14 to 17-year-old youths were enrolled in a school in 1920 despite most States having enacted legislation regarding compulsory education by 1918. Ohio, for instance, was one fo five states which had set a minimum school-leaving age of 18.3 As well as attending school, Cyril is listed as an engineering surveyor, and Gerald as working as a labourer in the steel mill (part-time employment was allowed from the age of 12 or 14).

So, from the census of the three census following the Great War, this Wilthew family seem to have been part of the prosperous, if not rich, middle-class following the fortunes of the steel industry in eastern region of Ohio. William and Mary own their own house, are mortgage free and their children are educated and, where old enough, employed.

To be continued…

1 Shiller, R (2005) Irrational Exuberance (Princeton University Press 2000, Broadway Books 2001, 2nd edition). Data showing home prices since 1890 are available for download and shows that if accurate, the Wilthew’s fall in home value was in contrast to the average for the United States, which did see average falls in house prices of around 30% between 1925 and 1933 during the depression, but house prices beginning to rise again following this and certainly having exceeded their 1930 value by a decade later (although not reaching the average 1925 value until the end of the Second World War)

2 Levine (1934) ‘Workmen’s compensation experience in Ohio during the depression’ Journal of Political Economy Vol. 42, No. 2, p. 239

3 Katz, M. (1976) ‘A History of Compulsory Education Laws. FastbackSeries, No. 75. Bicentennial Series’, p20; Available at Accessed July 24th 2012.

Joseph Thomas Wilthew; piecing pieces together

December 10, 2011

Freedom admissions papers, 1681 – 1925

The London Metropolitan Archives, in partnership with Ancestry has, over the last few years, been opening up access (if behind a pay-wall) to its collections in partnership with Ancestry. At the end of November Ancestry added the Freedom admissions papers, 1681 – 1925 – containing various collections of papers relating to applications and grants for “Freemen” of the City of London status. These include indentures of apprenticeship (one route to becoming a freeman of the city was to serve an apprenticeship of 7 years) which appear to name indexed both for the apprentice and the master on Ancestry. They often also include the apprentice’s father’s name, occupation and residence, although I’m not sure these have been indexed.

Using the index on Ancestry, I was able to identify the Indenture of Apprenticeship for Joseph Thomas Wilthew, son of Joseph Wilthew, a Painter resident in the parish of St Matthew’s Bethnal Green, Middlesex. Joseph Thomas Wilthew apprenticed with a Robert Dumford, a painter-stainer on the 6th July 1803.

London Parish Registers

This fitted in with the information I’d been able to extract from (and with the help of) the London Parish records provided by the LMA via Ancestry.

Back at the end of October, I’d been matching up some of the identified Wilthew’s in various parish registers to identify those I wanted to focus on, who I maybe could, but hadn’t yet, identified in the census returns. The parish entry for the burial of Elizabeth Wilthew (buried on the 14th June 1845, aged 41 in Camberwell St Giles) listed her abode as being Carter Street, Walworth. A name search had failed (even using various wildcards.. see problems already mentioned with mistransciptions of Wilthew), but using the ever-useful National Archives Census Street Searches pages to help narrow down which folio/page of the 1841 census to start with, a quick browse through the pages to find Carter Street, and then Joseph Wilthew (52) and Elizabeth Wilthew (36) living together with one female servant.

Class:  HO107; Piece 1064; Book: 1; Civil Parish:  St Mary Newington; County: Surrey; Enumeration District: 2; Folio: 32; Page: 9; Line: 21; GSU roll: 474657.

I used a similar route, but this time starting with a burial announcement in the London Standard (not via the LMA or Ancestry) from 11th April 1854 for Joseph Thomas Wilthew, listing his residence as Ormond Cottages, Ormond Road, Old Kent Road. Using this information, I tracked down Joseph Thomas Wilthew (now living with a wife named Sophia) at No. 2 Ormond Cottages, with Joseph’s occupation noted as a Proprietor of Houses and having been born in Bloomsbury, probably about 1790.

Class:  HO107; Piece: 1582; Folio: ; Page: ; GSU roll: 174818.

Sophia is Sophia Stubbs Clements (identified both from the LMA’s parish registers and the GRO marriage certificate), daughter of Edward Clements and Mary Stubbs, born 22nd November 1800 in Yarmouth, Norfolk.

In both census’ Joseph is listed as having been born in Bloomsbury, London, and it is possible to trace him back here in the parish marriage registers… marrying Sophia on 21st February 1846 (listed as a Gentleman and widower) in Camberwell St Giles (his father is listed as a Joseph Wilthew, painter – matching with the information in the indenture of apprenticeship) following the death of his second wife, Elizabeth Budd (who appeared with him in the 1841 census) whom he married on 14th April 1835 in Lewisham St Mary. Here he was also listed as a widower. His first wife, Elizabeth Nolden, he married on the 17th May 1812 in Bloomsbury St George.

Again, a name search using various wildcards and truncations failed to locate his baptism in the baptism records, but starting a search in the records for Bloomsbury St George around the year 1790 identified both Joseph Thomas Wilthew (mistranscribed as Wilchew) and a Caroline Wilthew (mistranscibed as Willhew). Joseph is listed as the father of both, although the mother is either Esther or Elizabeth… although a marriage entry for a Joseph Wilthew and Esther Fever seems to confirm the prior.

UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811

Just a quick note that one useful accompanying source to the apprenticeship indemnities mentioned above is the collection of registers of duties paid by masters for their apprentices – also available via Ancestry, in partnership with the National Archives. These are…

…registers of the money received for the payment on taxes for an apprentice’s indenture between 1710-1811. The registers kept track of the money paid by masters of a trade to have an apprentice.

A quick search of these (to which ‘ll need to return) locates the fees paid in August 1803 by Robert Dumford for his apprentice Joseph Thomas Wilthew in August 1803… but also those paid by a Thomas Smith of Clerkenwell, a ‘Trimmer-maker’ for a Joseph Wilthew in 1779. Could this be Joseph Wilthew, father of Joseph Thomas Wilthew?

Last Will and Testament

I also got a copy of the will of Joseph Thomas Wilthew, which confirms his then current wife (Sophia Stubbs Clements) and her brother (George Stubbs Clements), several addresses of property he owned… and possibly a niece (Maria) and husband (James ‘Baudsley?’) – which gives an other avenue to pursue in identifying this family and its connection to other Wilthew’s in London.


So, with information from various different sources (parish records, census returns, newspaper articles, indenture of apprenticeship, tax lists, Last Will and Testament) I can put together a short family tree for Joseph Thomas Wilthew, and with different sources confirming different pieces of information in each other, be reasonably sure of his key dates (birth, 3x marriages and death), addresses at various times, and some other family relations.

Joseph Thomas Wilthew (rough family tree)

Joseph Thomas Wilthew (rough family tree)

Records of the Sun Fire Office

Just in closing, not all records from the LMA are available via Ancestry (there are over 77 million records covering 400 years of history after all) so a visit to see the sources in person is well worth the trip. I recently visited to pick through some of the Sun Fire Insurance policy indexes held in MS 11936. These aren’t fully name indexed, although some are and searchable via the LMA’s online catalogue. But these helped me find the entries in the register of policies for several properties owned by Joseph Thomas between 1826 and 1837 in Stoke Newington, Camberwell and Peckham. And possibly a property owned by his father: Joseph Wilthew, a silk winder, insured a property on 2 Wilks Street, Spitalfields in 1817.

William Wilthew: A career with the Royal Marines

December 8, 2011

[Images taken myself and included in this post with the permission of the National Archives Images Library Image-Library]

In the October issue of Who do you think you are? magazine, a question I had submitted was featured in the ‘In depth help’ section.

My question was about my great, great, great, great grandfather, William Wilthew, and his short lived military career in the 1820’s.

I had previously identified him on the parish register entries for the birth of two of his children, John in 1824 and Sabina in 1825, in which he was listed as first a ‘soldier’ and then a ‘marine’. However, I couldn’t at first find any additional evidence to support this, and had to suppose it may have been a lie.

Then I found an attestation paper for him, dated the 24th November 1823, into the 77th company (Chatham Division) of the Royal Marines. In it, the William Wilthew identified is listed as being a ‘Clerk, aged 22 and from ‘The Parish of Whickham, near Newcastle in the County of Northumberland. The age, residence and the fact I already had evidence identifying him as a marine at this time makes it very likely this is my William Wilthew (I have only so far identified one other William Wilthew from the north east of England who was definitely alive at this time)

Royal Marines Attestation for William Wilthew

Royal Marines Attestation for William Wilthew

The attestation paper provides lots of other useful information, including physical characteristics and the fact that he was able to sign his own name.

However, whilst I could see some text added to the document at a later date saying “R 8th Aug 1827”, I wasn’t sure if this was where the information included in the catalogue record on the National Archives Calender (indicating that he was “Discharges 1827 as Run”) had come from, or if this meant something else.

Royal Marines Attestation for William Wilthew

Royal Marines Attestation for William Wilthew

Phil Tomaselli’s answer to my question, confirming that the handwritten addition did indicate he had done a runner in 1827, went through some of the sources available to answer this and explore William Wilthew’s military career further. In this post, I have followed some of these sources through and then followed Phil’s suggestions on where else to look to complete the picture.

The Royal Marines

The Royal Marines (who earned the title ‘Royal’ in 1802 following service in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, as well as the American War of Independence and the Seven Years War) are soldiers trained to serve at sea. They can trace their ancestry back to 1664, and have been permanently established since 1755.

In the 1820’s, when my own ancestor served, they were organised into four ‘Grand Divisions’ – Chatham, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Woolwich. Each division was comprised of several companies, each of around 100 marines, although the men in each company did not necessarily serve together – these were purely for administrative purposes only. Men would be posted in ships for a limited period of service, before returning to their company barracks.

My ancestor, William Wilthew, was enlisted with the 77th Company, at Chatham (which had responsibility for enlistment in the eastern county’s of England, from Kent to Northumberland).

William’s enlistment

William had married Ann Gilles only a year earlier, on the 23rd September 1822, and is listed as having been employed as (or having identified himself with the profession of) a clerk. He is likely to have been one of few marine private’s who was literate, but perhaps times were hard and enlisting in the marines offered better living standards, a guaranteed wage and ready food on the table.

Given that his (apparently) first child was likely born in March/April the following year, it is probable that he attested a few months after finding out that his wife was pregnant – perhaps putting pressure on him to ensure he could maintain his family.

Tracing William Wilthew’s military career: November 1823 – April 1826

From his attestation paper, his company and division are clearly identified. The information for each individual marine (description, parish of origin etc) would also appear in each Division’s ‘Description Book’ for the time, held at the National Archives in ADM 158 .

Unfortunately, there are no description book’s available for Chatham in the 1820′, and the service record’s in ADM 159 only start from 1842.

However, Phil directed me to the pay lists for the marine divisions. These are also held at the National Archives, in ADM 96. For the period I am interested in, the Chatham paylists are held between ADM 96/401 to ADM 96/421. Each ‘piece’ in the series covers the paylists for a given year and a given division, with each company belonging to that division listed separately. These then list each marine, the number of days he was paid and received subsistence rations for, and any other notes (such as if he was returning or embarking on service with a ship, or spell’s in the gaol, hospital or otherwise).

  • The companies aren’t always listed in numerical order, as I found in at least one of the Chatham paylists.
  • Marines posted to another division (possibly waiting for a posting to a ship) also appear in lists for a company with their division’s name. So, for example, the Plymouth division paylists will include a list of marines posted from the Chatham Division, under the heading ‘Chatham company’.
  • The pay lists I looked at were divided into quarterly volumes for each year.

Using Phil’s guidance, I was able to trace a rough outline of William’s military career over several years.

In ADM 96/401, the lists for the Chatham Division in 1823, the Oct-Dec quarter list confrmed William’s enlistment in November 1823.

Royal Marines Paylist ADM 96/401 William Wilthew

Royal Marines Paylist (1823) ADM 96/401 William Wilthew

Following on to the next year, William can be found in each of the quarter lists for 1824, held in ADM 96/406. He is recorded in the third quarter as having spent 18th September to 30th September in the hospital. In the fourth quarter, he is recorded as returning from hospital (and his pay backdated to the 18th September), but then being ‘Furlo’ from the 6th October until the 31st December (Furlough – leave from the barracks. It is possible this was granted following the illness or injury which resulted in the period in hospital. Given that my great x3 Grandmother Sabina Wilthew was born in July/August the following year, it is likely she was conceived during this time.

Royal Marines Paylist (1824) ADM 96/401 William Wilthew

Royal Marines Paylist (1824) ADM 96/406 William Wilthew

ADM 96/411, which covers the pay lists for the Chatham Division for 1825, confirms this leave, and indicates it was extended until the 9th January – however, it looks like this spell away from the barracks has lessened William’s enthusiasm for serving. Given that it was likely he was due to be posted to a ship following his training, where rations and living standards were much worse than barracks life, and also given the fact he now had two children at home – perhaps he had second thoughts about a better way he could earn the money to support them?

He is listed in the first quarter pay lists as having been paid from the 1st January (but on leave until the 9th)… but then having ‘Run from Barracks’ on the 22nd January 1825.

Royal Marines Paylist (1825) ADM 96/411 William Wilthew

Royal Marines Paylist (1825) ADM 96/411 William Wilthew

Having deserted his duty (William fails to show up again until the final quarter pay lists of 1825, on 25th October) he risked punishment by death at court martial… but it seems he instead was captured and imprisoned… the pay list indicates he returned “From Run and Gaol.” I am unsure why he is listed twice, covering different periods of pay.

Royal Marines Paylist (1825 Oct) ADM 96/411 William Wilthew

Royal Marines Paylist (1825 Oct) ADM 96/411 William Wilthew

Phil noted in the article in Who do you think you are? magazine that for 1826, he was missing for the first few weeks before re-emerging on 22nd February “from Custody of Civil Power.”

However, I spotted that his in listing in the image above, he is only paid up to what seems to be the 31st October. On the right hand page, in the column for “to what ship or how disposed of” he is listed as having been:

Royal Marines Paylist (1825 October) ADM 96/411 William Wilthew

Royal Marines Paylist (1825 October) ADM 96/411 William Wilthew

What does “Comm cc at 2rs 28 Oct 1825 mean? [Still investigating this].

As mentioned, William reappears on the 22nd February in ADM 96/416, “from Custody of Civil Power” – meaning he must have been caught and charged with committing an offence and then spent some time in gaol. From the 22nd February he appears on the paylists until the 11th April where he is noted as being “Discharged E L Plymouth” – meaning he was posted from Chatham to the Plymouth barracks ready to be posted to a ship. Phil helpfully pointed out how I could then find him to try and identify which ship he was posted to (eg in the ‘Chatham Company’ paylist of the ‘Plymouth Division’ pay books).

Tracing William Wilthew’s military career: April 1826 – August 1826

And there he is in ADM 96/417, listed as being posted to HMS Aurora (some unconfirmed info at ) on the 19th May.

Royal Marines Paylist (1826) ADM 96/417 William Wilthew

Royal Marines Paylist (1826) ADM 96/417 William Wilthew

Once aboard a ship, a marine will no longer appear on the marine division’s pay lists in ADM 96 until he returns from sea. He instead would be included in the ship’s muster upon which he was posted.

The Admiralty Ships Musters (Series II) can be found at the National Archives in ADM 37 covering the period (with some breaks) 1757-1842. The muster books should record the presence of every person on board a ship. I was unable to check ADM 37/7312 myself (which covers the musters for HMS Aurora from January to July 1826) so that will be for next time, but I did check ADM 37/7316 which covers the period from August 1826 and could find no record of William Wilthew. Phil Tomaselli had indicated that he was listed as a 3rd class marine discharged to join ships on the West India and North American Stations on the 15th August.. but sadly with no ship noted and a seeming dead end…

Tracing William Wilthew’s military career: August 1827 to August 1826

Knowing that William Wilthew had done a runner in August 1827, this provided an end point for his military career, with a year’s gap unaccounted for. Knowing that he was with the Chatham Division, checking their pay lists for 1827 (ADM 96/421) starting with the third quarter I found confirmation that he had been declared as having ‘Run’…

Royal Marines Paylist (1827) ADM 96/421 William Wilthew

Royal Marines Paylist (1827) ADM 96/421 William Wilthew

… and that this had been from the Barracks in Chatham..

Royal Marines Paylist (1827) ADM 96/421 Deserted from barracks

Royal Marines Paylist (1827) ADM 96/421 Deserted from barracks

Looking at the second quarter, I could also see that he has returned from Portsmouth. The Chatham Company (Portsmouth) pay list notes that he arrived there on the 2nd of June 1827, disembarking from HMS Tweed.

Royal Marines Paylist (1827) ADM 96/423 William Wilthew

Royal Marines Paylist (1827) ADM 96/423 William Wilthew

Phil helpfully suggested I could then us this information to trace his path backwards from this date to August 1826 through the ships muster lists. And that I did. Using the information that he had disembarked from HMS Tweed, I checked ADM 37/7771 and found him listed in the musters listed as having arrived on the ship on the 18th May 1827… having arrived from HMS Tweed.

HMS Tweed Muster List (1827) ADM 37/7771 William Wilthew

HMS Tweed Muster List (1827) ADM 37/7771 William Wilthew

However, following the muster rolls back for the Tweed, ADM 37/7254 and 7255 covered the period prior to May 1827, and these indicated that he had joined the Tweed on the 4th September 1826 from HMS Magnificent

HMS Tweed Muster List (1826) ADM 37/7254 William Wilthew

HMS Tweed Muster List (1826) ADM 37/7254 William Wilthew

… late HMS Aurora.

[Checking the HMS Magnificent muster rolls, he does not appear at all in those listed for 1826/7 in ADM 35/4436.]

So, through the Division pay lists for the Royal Marines, and ship muster lists for the Royal Navy I was able to trace an outline of William Wilthew’s career with the marines, from enlisting in November 1823, through at least one desertion and a period of detention at his majesty’s pleasure, followed by his passage serving on three ships. I was able to see some of the other men he served with, and where they came from – including three marines who served several weeks with him on two different ships in the West Indies before returning to the same barracks in Chatham.

Next visit I’ll be looking to explore the captain’s logs for these ships to get some idea of where they were stationed and what William was involved in. I had a quick check with the Captain’s Journal for HMS Magnificent in ADM 51/3312, and before I ran out of time, and know that he was stationed around Port Royal, Jamaica:

Saturday 2nd September: Arrived HMS Tweed. People Variously deployed.

Sunday 20th August: AM light airs & fine. 5am, sails & HM ships Dartmouth & Aurora, schooner visible & Dutch Man of War…

Further Reading

I should note I found the following really useful:

Wilthew distribution

October 8, 2011

The third edition of the GOONS handbook recently dropped through the door, and I took it as a chance to take a step back from my study and (i) to have a look at some sources I hadn’t yet got round to or considered and (ii) to pull together some of the sprawling sets of info/data I’ve recently collected from archives / online / correspondence with people in the UK / Mexico / New Zealand and elsewhere.

A couple of sites I hadn’t looked at before can help provide some idea of the distribution of a surname, either across a single country (eg the United States) or across a range of countries worldwide. They are obviously limited to where data is available from, and some concentrate on a limited number of the ‘most popular’ surnames, but they can be useful in helping you to identify where you might start to focus any searches for primary genealogical sources.

World Family Names Profiler is a useful site which allows you to search on a surname across data from 26 different countries worldwide (mostly in Europe and North America, but also in Oceana and Asia). It will then display the results in a colour coded map format, split down to country level and then region/state level so you can see where your surname is mostly commonly found according to the available data.

World Family Names Profiler: Wilthew, Europe

World Family Names Profiler: Wilthew, Europe map: Screenshot permitted courtesy of World Names Mapper, Saturday, 8 October 2011,

The database has been put together by researchers at the UCL and University of Liverpool, and data has been included for over 300 million people from 26 countries (which together have a total population of 1 billion, so whilst not able to provide a complete picture of surname distribution, it does give you a broad overview which is very useful). The database has identified 8 million unique surnames, far in excess of other comparable sites. Data has been collected from publicly available telephone directories or national electoral registers, sourced for the period 2000-2005.  Its sister-site, GB Family Names Profiler (which unfortunately was unavailable for searching) lists its sources of UK data as including data from Experian (who amongst other services collect credit-rating data) and data collected by the ESRC from the 1881 UK census.

The Map returned for distribution of the family name ‘Wilthew’ in Europe [above] shows a distribution which largely matches what I have found in the GRO indexes, parish registers and other sources. The majority of Wilthew’s still reside in the north east of England (mostly around Newcastle, Sunderland and County Durham), with a few families in south eastern and the south west of England, Yorkshire and Scotland.

The map is also returned with a summary of data, highlighting countries, regions and cities where the most results have been returned from. You can also zoom in the map further to look at specific regions (counties in the UK and US). Hovering over a county will highlight its name, especially useful in densely populated areas such as London.

World Family Names Profiler: Wilthew, UK map: Screenshot permitted courtesy of World Names Mapper, Saturday, 8 October 2011,

World Family Names Profiler: Wilthew, UK map: Screenshot permitted courtesy of World Names Mapper, Saturday, 8 October 2011,

I already know from the data I have collected from written genealogical sources that Wilthew’s spread out to the US, Australia, New Zealand and Venezuela in the 19th century. I can link each of these emigrations back to the north-east England branches of the Wilthew’s, except the Venezuelan Wilthew’s which am sure (and even more so now, after some very helpful information provided by Hugo Wilthew in Mexico City) can be traced to the London branch of the Wilthew’s from the early 19th century.

There aren’t many Wilthew’s in Australia/New Zealand, and certainly this site hasn’t picked up any data from these countries on this family name. It also doesn’t include any data from Mexico or Venezuela, where Wilthew’s can also be found. But the United States is covered, highlighting the distribution across the country as a whole…

World Family Names Profiler: Wilthew, US map: Screenshot permitted courtesy of World Names Mapper, Saturday, 8 October 2011,

World Family Names Profiler: Wilthew, US map: Screenshot permitted courtesy of World Names Mapper, Saturday, 8 October 2011,

… and also at County level for each state…

World Family Names Profiler: Wilthew, US regional map: Screenshot permitted courtesy of World Names Mapper, Saturday, 8 October 2011,

World Family Names Profiler: Wilthew, US regional map: Screenshot permitted courtesy of World Names Mapper, Saturday, 8 October 2011,

This certainly seems to match the data I have already collected, but also (when I get to that stage) will help greatly in focussing where I might want to focus research overseas if I need to travel myself, or engage the services of a professional researcher on the ground.

One interesting point to note, and this could indicate issues for all such sites in how they define what is meant by a ‘family name’, is that there doesn’t appear to have been any data on any Wilthew’s in the states of Florida or California. However, I know from contact with Hugo Wilthew in Mexico, that there certainly are some Wilthew’s of Mexican/Venezuelan descent in Florida. It is  interesting to note that Hugo’s full name follows the Mexican (or Hispanic?) tradition of including two family names – your father’s family name, followed by your mother’s maiden name. So, for example, an Alfredo Enrique Wilthew Porras would consider himself a Wilthew following Mexican traditions (and of course, he is a Wilthew – and on US official documentation might lis his name as ‘Alfredo Enrique Wilthew’). However, data collected from sources in the United States (or the UK) might list his family name as being ‘Porras’, thus incorrectly omitting him from the collected results for that surname. This is conjecture for the reasons that Wilthew’s ain Florida etc have not shown up – it could equally be that for these States sources of data were less readily available in general, but is a point worth noting.

That said, this site provides a really useful overview, with links to related data on the cultural ethnic and linguistic origin of surnames at the UCL’s Onomap, and also provides information on commonly appearing forenames which might be associated with that family name.

The MapYourName site unfortunately did not return any results for ‘Wilthew’. It does collect data from a similar number of ‘individuals’, for the United States, Australia and most of Western Europe, from sources including electoral registers, tax files, telephone directories and commercial databases. However, it only ‘maps’ the most common 60,000 family names identified -which certainly doesn’t include that which i am interested in!

With slightly more success, the GENS-US site did identify and map the distribution of the Wilthew name in the United States.

Wilthew distribution in the United States according to

Wilthew distribution in the United States according to

It is interesting to see that this closely matches the information returned by World Family Names Profiler, but does include some additional pointers to the states of Florida and New York.

The Gens Project was initiated in Italy by:

“a team of graduates in Humanities at the University of Genoa – Italy, who have specialized in history, demography, statistics, archive-keeping and librarianship” 

… unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any information on the site about where they collected their data from, how it was organised or what limits might have been used in identifying surnames.

Overall, these sites can be really useful for providing you with a rough overview of the geographic distribution of any name (with varying results). this can help you identify where your research might take you, confirm patterns identified in other genealogical sources and also help to decide where you could/should focus your research in the future.