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Q William MARTIN is my great-grandfather and was born in Charing Cross on 7th February 1863. His birth certificate gives his father as John, a pensioner from the 97th Regiment of Foot, and mother as Ellen MARTIN, formerly McCAVE. They did not marry. John arrived home from India just after the 1861 census and died in Kensington on 11th April 1870, before that of 1871. Ellen I am sure appears as a single woman in the 1841 to 1871 censuses, and dies in London in 1876. It took many years to establish that this William is my great-grandfather, and I have never been able to positively identify him in the 1871 census. William appears in Sheffield in the 1881 census living with the MENTA family. Looking at the 1871 census, the only William that makes sense with regard to age and place of birth is with a John MARTIN born in Warwickshire and living at Kenninghall Street, Brightside Bierlow, Sheffield. His wife Mary, aged 21, is his second wife (whose maiden name I have not found). The mystery is the children listed: John L, 12, born Wolverton; William, six, born Middlesex (should be eight); and Liley, two, born Yorkshire. I cannot find any birth certificate for John or Liley and am not sure whether the William is my line either! What is strange is the spread of children as well. William married Emily Norton (born 25th October 1867 in Sheffield) on 29th July 1884 in Sheffield. He died 15th August 1908, aged 45, at The Asylum Sheffield Union of Alcoholic Poisoning; his home address was given as 4ct S House, Eldon Street, Sheffield, and his occupation as brewer’s labourer. He was a champion short-distance runner and winner of the Sheffield Handicaps in 1883 and 1884 (the prize money was £100 for each event). William and Emily had three children: Emily Annie born 1885 (my grandmother who married William WRAGG); Laura born 1890, died 1891; and Violet born 1895 (who married Stanley PECKETT). I wonder if William was adopted, but kept his name: later in life he sometimes used William Henry. It may be because the runner of note at this time was a Harry Hutchins whose real name was Henry. He was also a Londoner and I often wonder if there was some link to William’s running. It has been my quest to try and find William in the 1871 census for many years, and so I ask if you can help to identify where he was. 

Brian Martin

A From what you have described, William was the illegitimate son of John MARTIN and Ellen McCAVE, although his birth certificate describes him as the son of John MARTIN and Ellen MARTIN formerly McCAVE. However, why are you certain that the Ellen McCAVE you have found in the 1841 to 1871 census returns is William’s mother? I see that she was born in Dumfries, was recorded as a lace maker, and lived in Whitefriars throughout the period, dying in the June Quarter 1875. Did John MARTIN leave a will and if so is Ellen mentioned in it? Who was the informant when John’s death was registered? If John was the illegitimate son of Ellen McCAVE then he may appear in the 1871 census as McCAVE and not MARTIN. You have mentioned a William MARTIN living in Brightside Bierlow in 1871. I think this is unlikely to be him, but of course it is possible, and he is shown as being aged six at the time. Have you searched for an alternative birth for this William or looked for him in other census returns in the attempt to rule him out? If there is the possibility that John MARTIN was married to Ellen McCAVE, then where might this marriage have taken place? Possibly in England or perhaps in India, if that was where he was serving before returning to England. I have described the Ecclesiastical Returns above in answer to Ms Harden’s question and how to access those records. You could also ask the General Register Office in Southport to see if there is a marriage between William MARTIN of the 97th Regiment and Ellen McCAVE in the records they hold. This information is not available online or in any other GRO Index and the request is best phoned through to Southport (tel: 0845 603 7788), and you will need your credit card ready.

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