52 in 52 – Week 3 Longevity: Mary Dorthea Knorr Mattson (1856-1958)

mattson_mary-dorthea-knorr-and-william edited

Mary Dorthea Knorr Mattson – Picture from Sally K. Green

Longevity is not just about living a long time, but it also implies perseverance and resilience. One doesn’t just have a body that survives through many years, but it must have a spirit that sustains through difficulties, deaths, betrayals and pain.  Mary Knorr Mattson was such a person. She is my 2nd great grandmother on my mother’s side.  Born in 1856 to German immigrants Bernard and Dorthea (Wetzel) Knorr, she lived until 1958 – she was 101 years old when she died! Imagine all the things she witnessed in those years? The inventions alone must have amazed her…the telephone, cars, airplanes and miraculous antibiotics.

Mary was most likely born in Buffalo, New York, though later census records have her birth in Canada. This is still a mystery yet to be solved. (There will be a theme here.) Her father, Bernard Knorr was a tanner and her mother Dorthea took care of their nine children.

Knorr_Bernard 1880 Census edited

Bernard Knorr Family – 1880 Census, Buffalo, New York

In 1876, when Mary was 19 she married Ellis Mattson who was a 23-year-old puddler (iron working). They got married at the East Presbyterian Church in Buffalo.

Mattson_Ellis 1876 Marriage Record to Mary Knorr East Presbyterian Church Buffalo NY Ancestry edited

Just a few years later in August 1879, Ellis drowned in Buffalo Creek, leaving Mary pregnant with her second child and their two-year-old daughter (my Great Grandmother Susan Dorthea Mattson).  When they have a topic for “Stupidest Ancestor” I will write about him and his ridiculous death.

After Ellis died, Mary did not move back in with her parents and instead stayed with her husband’s family the Mattson’s. She even moved with them when they returned to their home state of Pennsylvania. She can be seen living with their large family in the 1880 census. I find this curious that she chooses Ellis’s family over her own and perhaps it says something about her relationship with the Knorr’s.

Knorr_Mary Dorthea 1880 Census

John C. Mattson Family – 1880 Census, York, Pennsylvania

She stayed in York, Pennsylvania until 1886 when she moved back to Buffalo, New York. She supported her two girls as a “tailoress.”

Knorr_Mary D Mattson 1887 City Directory Buffalo Tailoress edited

Mrs. Mary Mattson, 1886 Buffalo City Directory

In 1889 things get murky. There is no Mary Mattson who appears in any records until the 1900 census and suddenly she had a son named William Mattson!

Knorr_Mary D Mattson 1900 Census pg.1 edited

Knorr_Mary D Mattson 1900 Census pg 2 edited

Mary Mattson Household – 1900 Census Buffalo, New York (pg 113 B and 114 A)

Knorr_Mary Marriage Not Found Record 1887I searched in the isolated Buffalo Archives ( It was an adventure to go out to this small dark office building in an isolated and destitute industrial area that hadn’t seen any industry in 50 years. They practically required a secret password. I felt sorry for the civil servant assigned out there all by themselves.) It was there that I found an entry of a Mary Mattson marriage in the index records in 1887, but when the archivist did a search for the actual marriage record none was found. Perhaps she did get married and the certificate is just lost or maybe they applied for a license and didn’t follow through with the ceremony? Either way, the mysterious father of William is gone by 1900 and they are living under the name of Mattson again. Because the 1890 census was destroyed, and no marriage record exists I haven’t found a way to determine who this man was. Did he die, or did he just leave? I suspect that he left because there would be no reason to take back the name of Mattson if he passed away. No, I believe that Mary felt some type of dishonor or shame and made the choice to resume the last name of her first husband.

What is interesting is that William went by the last name of Mattson for the rest of his life. William never told his wife’s family about his real parentage. When I exchanged e-mails with William’s great-niece, I had to tell her that it was impossible that Ellis Mattson was his father because he had died in 1879 and William was born in 1889!

By 1910, Mary and William lived with her oldest daughter Susan and her husband Wilber Shuart according to the census.

Knorr_Mary D Mattson 1910 Census edited

Wilber Shuart Household – 1910 Census, Buffalo, New York

After 1910, Mary’s children looked for opportunities in other parts of the country and started to leave Buffalo. When her oldest daughter Susan’s first marriage ended (divorce or death TBD), she became a mail order bride and moved to South Dakota in 1913 to marry Frank Cork (my Great-Grandfather). Her daughter Ellice married Claude Lewis Fassett and they moved to Oklahoma by 1913. Her son William may have left then too. There are no records of any Mattson’s in the Buffalo City Directories after 1913. Perhaps he was moving his way across the country? He finally settled in Los Angeles sometime before 1917. With no reason to stay in Buffalo, Mary moved to Oklahoma to live with Ellice according to the 1920 census.

Knorr_Mary D Mattson 1920 Census edited

Claude Fassett Household – 1920 Census Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Sadly, Ellice’s husband Claude died in 1923. She was able to make a living as the owner of a cigar store and supported her mother. Then in 1935 Ellice married for the 2nd time to J. Andrew Arnett. What conversation happened between the siblings about who will take Mom? The country was in the middle of the depression and her adult children were, fortunately, all employed but it would be a sacrifice for them to take in another person if money was limited. Poor Mary, did she feel like a burden and vulnerable being shuffled from one house to another?   It must have been difficult to pick up everything when you are 79 years old, but that is what Mary did. In 1935 she moved across the country to Los Angeles to live with her son William and his wife Anna. I hope Mary was happy in her final years in the sun of Los Angeles and she lived contently in retirement in a garden with a breeze.

Knorr_Mary D Mattson 1940 Census edited

William Mattson Household – 1940 Census, Inglewood, California

Knorr_Mary D Mattson Grave Marker Forest Lawn Glendale CAWhen Mary died in 1958, her son had her buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills. This is one of life’s hits and misses…I was born 5 years later, and I lived less than a half hour away from her grave never knowing anything about her or my great-uncle William because my mother didn’t know about that side of her family. My grandparent’s divorced when Mom was a baby and she never knew she had a different father until she was an adult. Mary must have known about my mother, her great grand-daughter, but she wouldn’t have made an overture to meet her. These were different times when divorce was a secret to be kept and still a scandal – she knew all about hiding family secrets.

But now I have found Mary Knorr Mattson and I will remember her strength and tenaciousness to endure through all that life may throw at you. I like to think that might be a family trait.

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52 in 52: Week 2 – Photo: Robert Downey Kemp (1918-1992)

Kemp_Robert Downey 1944 Guam

Robert Downey Kemp on Guam in 1944

Oh, it is so difficult to choose a single perfect photo! But, I decided that I should honor my step-Grandfather, Robert Downey Kemp. I love this photo of him taken during WWII when he was stationed in the South Pacific laying telephone wire for the military.

Bob, as he was known to friends and family, was an avid photographer and scrapbook enthusiast. The only reason my family has photo albums is that he put them together. He even diligently went through all my Grandmother’s family photos, put them in albums and tried to label them with whatever information he could get. I suspect he started to do this after his in-laws had passed away because many of the photos are not labeled if the photo was before his tenure in the family started. (Most pictures are labeled from 1935 on – the year he met my grandmother, but they didn’t get married until 1946 which of course is another story!)

Thank you, Grandpa, for teaching me the importance of taking photos and labeling them. Thank you for caring about the family heritage when it wasn’t technically yours. You are another example of how “step” is a bad term for family relationships.

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week One – “Start” – Richard Joy (1940-2007)

Ironically, the person who finally got me to start researching my family history was not related to me biologically. When my step-father (who adopted me when I was 10) died in 2007 at the age of 67, I realized how much I didn’t know about him. Richard (Dick) Joy had been in my life since I was 5 when he started to date my mother. When my dad (he was always my Dad) died, I realized that there was a limited amount of time with my relatives and I needed to start capturing family history from those who remained.

Dick Joy - Hot Rod Magazine

Dick Joy – Hot Rod Magazine

Richard Joy, Jr. was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1940 to parents Richard Joy Sr. and Mary Jane Hughes. After graduating from High School, he moved to Los Angeles with friends to work as a photographer on Hot Rod Magazine. When he was drafted in 1964, he served in Germany until 1966. When he returned to the states, he was hired as a graphic artist at The Ledger a newspaper in Glendale, California. It was here that he met my mom Diana (Dee) who was working as a secretary after her recent divorce from my biological father.

1969.10. Diana and Dick JoyAfter a short courtship, they married in 1969 and had my sister Raquelle in 1971. They were a beautiful couple and had much going for them, but both had difficult childhoods that didn’t serve them well under the crush of marriage and daily life in the 1970’s.

He was a kind, quiet, introverted man who had been a consistent presence in my life when other things were chaos. When my parents got a divorce when I was 13, I lived with my mother for a short time, but she was an alcoholic, so I moved in with Dad. My sister Raquelle joined us soon after. He later remarried to my stepmom Jill who had 2 daughters, Jennifer and Cayley. It was 5 women and my Dad. He took it in stride and was proud to be our father despite any mishaps we had along the way.

2007.12 Dick Joy message about wakeWhen my Dad finally lost his 20-year battle with lung cancer and was in the hospital on a ventilator, this is what he wrote to tell us what he wanted for his wake and what was most important to him – keeping us together as a family when he was gone.

I haven’t written about Dad during the ten years since he passed away. That part of my heart is still tender and researching his life somehow makes the fact that he is gone more real. I have a research folder for him where I put the eulogy I wrote for his wake. I think that it is still the best way to honor him now.

We are having this wake at Dad’s request with Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, margaritas, stories and alcohol flowing. This certainly honors his Irish roots and his spirit the way he wished. It is important that we have a ritual to honor the memory of a great man. No, he wasn’t a millionaire and he didn’t create an invention, but what he did was much more difficult – to live every day with moral integrity in his actions and his words.

He didn’t speak much…you may have noticed that? We once took an 8-hour driving trip with just the two of us from L.A. to Flagstaff and we didn’t speak the entire trip. Dick Joy believed that you lead by example and only speak if you really had something important to say or if it might make someone laugh.

He taught me many important lessons, but the most important were:

  • To love unconditionally and completely. Our father had 4 girls, but you may not know that only Raquelle is his birth daughter – the rest of us came to him by marriage. But he walked all of us down the aisle when we got married. When I was holding his hand this last week and telling him how lucky I was to have him as a father, he said: “No, I was the lucky one.”
  • He believed that you should treat everyone equally and respectfully. We often discussed politics and he always defended the weak and those who couldn’t protect themselves. He never judged anyone by color, religion or exterior characteristics – he cared how you lived your life.
  • He could be demanding and insisted that you should use the skills and benefits you were given. He believed you should work hard and pay your own way. When I was 15 and doing what most 15-year old teenagers do during the summer – watching tv, he told me “don’t you think you should get a job?” It only took one comment from him and I had 2 part-time jobs by the end of the week.
  • He taught me that one should not spend energy on negative thoughts or feelings towards people or conditions. When he was diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago, he never took it as a death sentence. He loved life and his family and cancer wasn’t going to interfere. When he couldn’t play tennis anymore, he got his motorcycle and played golf. When he couldn’t fly anymore because of his need to travel with oxygen, he would drive to the places he wanted to go. He was often sick and pushed himself to do things we know were hard, but he wasn’t going to miss a moment of life while he was here.
  • He taught me the appreciation of a good meal, that food tastes better fresh and when made with love. He was an excellent cook, watched cooking shows when he retired and was famous for the family runzes. Some of the most recent memories of him were in the kitchen where he taught my daughter Marissa to make runzes and when he and Raquelle made gumbo for the whole family in Puerto Penasco last October for our Mardi Gras theme day.
  • He taught me about commitment and devotion. He and Jill have loved each other for 30 years, through kids, new jobs, moves, grandchildren and health issues…they have had difficult times and they still continued to play, laugh and love.

I don’t want you to think Dad was perfect, though I am pressed to find a fatal flaw. There are faults that did make him bearable to live with.

  • Dad was not mechanically inclined. He once had my moped in our living from for almost a year in parts, waiting for the day when he was going to fix it.
  • He didn’t like yard work; not when you could be outside playing tennis, riding his motorcycle or some other sport. Moving to Arizona with a rock garden worked out perfectly for him.

1995.01 Dad as Baby New YearFinally, the last thing that made Dad particularly wonderful was his sense of humor. When looking through pictures the last few days, I was struck with how much fun he had and how silly he could be! He put spoons on his nose and chopsticks in his mouth to make walrus teeth. He dressed up in costumes every Halloween or for a family calendar. There is a lovely photo of him as “Baby New Year” in a diaper and just this last Halloween he was a Hell’s Angel.

So, this is Dick Joy’s real legacy to laugh and love and make each day count.

2006.10 Puerto Penasco

I think Dad would be happy that I was researching our family history. I wish he were here so I could tell him about everything I have found…..

P.S. Regarding Blogging –  I have been posting irregularly due to my work schedule which has resulted in a lack of time, focus and energy to write. I make no promises to write 52 times in 52 weeks! But hopefully more than 12 in 12 months. Thanks for your patience.

Posted in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Joy Family | Tagged | 5 Comments

Free State of Jones: The Turner Family Part II

Genealogy is a lot like assembling a puzzle, we get pieces in no particular order sometimes so slowly that it can take a long time to create any semblance of a picture. Census records are like the edge pieces, giving boundaries to our ancestor’s lives, but there is a lot of information in between that is required to build a whole life. And looking at a single record without the context of additional records can be misleading.  Patience and persistence are the guiding behaviors for a researcher. So, I am asking you to have patience as I start this journey in determining how the Turner Family fit in with the Free State of Jones.  This might take awhile and we might go down a few unproductive paths, but you will get to see my discovery process.

In the last blog, I told you the story about Newton Knight and his defiance towards the Confederate Army. His wife Serena Turner Knight might be a distant relation to my ancestors Stokley Turner and his son Allen Garrison. However, Victoria Bynum barely mentions the Turner families in her book,  so we are going to set that question aside and just see what type of parallels there were between the families of Newt, Serena and Allen G. Where did their paths cross? How were they similar and how were they different?

First, they were definitely neighbors.  According to the 1850 census, you find Newt and Allen living with their parents just a page a part in the census. Newt is with Albert Knight on page 122b and Allen is with Stokely Turner on 123a (Allen is at the top of the next page 123b).

1850 Census  – Jones County, MS, pg 122b

1850 Census –  Jones County, MS, pg 123a

1850 Census – Jones County, MS, pg. 123b

Given the proximity of the farms to each other, it seems likely that Newt and Allen must have known each other. Newt is 12 years old and Allen is 11 in 1850. Did they go to the same church? Did these boys all hang out together? Was there a school that they attended? Did they go down to the creek and fish and later court the same neighborhood girls? In a small community, they must have known each other. I have marked the pages with red stars next to the people who were known to have helped or been a part of the Knight Company. They were all neighbors and knew each other as children. The question is how well did Newt and Allen know each other when they grew up?

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Free State of Jones: Neighbors, Associates or Family? Part I

I was in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City 9 years ago browsing through the county sections of each state my ancestors had lived. I know this isn’t the best way to do research, but even with more years of experience I still do this even after I have prepared for a library trip and searched the catalog and finding aids.  I am tactile, I love to feel the books spines in my hands, look at their titles and yes, see if I get a vibe if there is something I might need to know in one of them.

I was going through Jones County, Mississippi where my Turner, Graves, and Simpson families lived in the 1800’s. It was here that I first saw the title, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War by Victoria E. Bynum.  I read through the introduction and index and found that the main character of the real events was Newton Knight who led a group of Confederate deserters and black slaves against the Confederate Army in the last half of the war. Newt was married to Selena Turner.  My Turner family is beyond prolific and I suspected there might be a familial connection between Stokely Turner (my 3rd Great-Grandfather), his son Allen Garrison Turner (my 2nd Great-Grandfather) and Selena.  But, that wasn’t the time to go off on a scavenger hunt and I knew I needed to find out more about my Turner family before I tried to determine linkages to these historical events. I noted the title and author in my research log for further investigation at a later time.

By now you are thinking you might have heard of the Free State of Jones? The movie is based on the scholarly book (that is not often done!) that came out last year with Mathew McConaughey playing the part of Newt Knight. Coincidently about this time, I was at a book event at our local library here in Knoxville. I talked to a woman who was related to the some of the other families who were part of Knight Company and she told me that they had filmed the movie where she grew up. These are the type of signs I listen to knowing that my ancestors are calling and they are ready to talk!  It was time to start researching more about the Turner family and the possible connections to the Knights. The first step was to buy the book by Victoria Bynum which had been reprinted for the movie debut.

Victoria Bynum is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history at the Texas State University. She is also a Bynum. She is directly related to one of the families who had members in the Knight Company and other family members who also fought against them. Her book took over ten years to research and has over 100 pages of resources, endnotes, and family trees. Best of all she spends a good portion of the book discussing the development of the Mississippi Territory, migration patterns, religious experiences, and social and political issues that influenced the region.

On the subject of slavery, Bynum argues that owning slaves wasn’t as pervasive in Jones County as it was in the rest of Mississippi. The topography of the Piney Woods is not conducive for cotton and therefore the need for slaves was not as high or as financially rewarding. In 1860, Jones County had the lowest slave population in the state. It was 12.2% of the total population compared to Smith County with the next lowest of 28.7%. The total number of slaves in Mississippi at the start of the Civil War was 55.2% of the population. The people of Jones County voted against secession, but when their representative went to Jackson he voted for it.  All these things contributed to the defiance of a significant number of people in Jones County who were quickly frustrated with the Confederate government’s policies and the Civil War in general.

Newton Knight – Unknown Photographer (public domain)

So the quick summary of the story:  Newton Knight (1837-1922) was born in Jones County, Mississippi. He married Selena Turner also of Jones County (1838-1923) in 1858.  When the Civil War started he enlisted with the Confederates on July 29, 1861.  He was discharged on January 2, 1862, most likely because of his father’s impending death. He was required to re-enlisted on May 13, 1862, due to the new conscription law for everyone to serve between the ages of 18 and 35. He served in Company F in the 7th Battalion of the Mississippi Infantry.

Newt deserted the army sometime after the 2nd Battle of Corinth in November of 1862.  He was joined by many of the men of his company who were also from Jones County. Based on interviews, the reasons they deserted were 1) anger because of the law that allowed deferment for men who owned 20 or more slaves to go home to take care of their crops (many of the Jones County men owned no slaves or very few and were not allowed to go home to take care of their crops) 2) dissatisfaction with the Confederate government in general (pro-Union sentiments) and 3) poor conditions in the army. Some of the men returned to the Army voluntarily and others remained, only to be dragged back to the Army by the Provost Marshal. Newt was captured in January or February of 1863 and sent back to his unit, but he escaped in May 1863 before Vicksburg.  Vicksburg (May 18 to July 4, 1863) was the final straw for many soldiers and more desertions took place after the long siege and surrender to General Grant.

The Confederate Army needed those soldiers back, so they sent Maj. Amos McLemore to retrieve all the deserters in Jones County.  Someone shot Maj. McLemore while he was staying with a local resident and though most people thought it was Newt Knight, no one was ever charged.  Newt later told a WPA interviewer, “We stayed out in the woods minding our own business until the Confederate Army began sending raiders after us with bloodhounds….Then we saw we had to fight.”  And fight they did. Newt recorded 14 battles with the Confederates from October 13, 1863, and January 10, 1865.  There were about 125 men in Knight Company with numerous other family members and community supporters, including slaves within the county supplying them food and supplies. Unfortunately, their numbers dwindled after Col. Robert Lowry (later Governor of Mississippi) found and executed many of the men in May 1864.  He led the Confederate troops as they burned down homes and fields of the people of Jones, taking their horses, hogs, and chickens for food, and terrorizing the countryside with their 40+ bloodhounds looking for deserters.  Many of Knight’s men that were not executed, escaped and rejoined the Confederates, though a few made it to Union lines and joined up with them.  However, Newt and a small contingent of the Company were never captured and continued to harass the Confederates whenever they could until the end of the war.

What a great story! So what was my ancestor, Allen Garrison Turner (1840-1919) doing when all this was happening? More about that next time!

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William Cork’s Early Years Part II

Charles and Martha Cork Family

When we left the Cork Family in the last installment, Charles and Martha had died within 6 months of each other in 1838. After the deaths of their parents, the Cork children were scattered to live in various places within Staffordshire. In the 1841 census records, I found three of the youngest Cork children (Sarah, Dinah and William) still living in Betley. Sarah was 12 years old and living with the Richard Brassington Family (a shoemaker). Dinah, ten years old, was living the Joseph Garner Family (a wheelwright) and William, just seven years old, was living with the John Lear Family (a carpenter).

William Cork 1841 Census

I haven’t been able to find any of the older Cork children in the 1841 census, which leads me to believe they were most likely apprenticed out or perhaps even sent to the workhouse if they were ill or unable to take care of themselves.

Finding records for this period and location is challenging. The Poor Laws changed in 1834, moving the responsibility of the poor, orphans etc. from the local parishes to “Unions”, a group of parishes with a Board of Guardians.  The Unions governed the local workhouses, managed apprenticeships of the orphans and gave money to the poor who still lived in their communities. I suspect that the families who were fostering Sarah, Dinah and William Cork were receiving reimbursement from the Union for taking care of the children until they were old enough to be apprenticed out.

Chell Workhouse in Staffordshire (circa 1839)

Betley was part of the Newcastle-under-Lyme Union which built a new workhouse in 1839 and could hold as many as 350 residents. The workhouse could be a sanctuary or a prison depending on how well they were run.  Unfortunately, the records of admissions and discharges do not survive for the Newcastle workhouse. For more information on Poor Laws and Workhouses see The Workhouse website. Apprentice records, if they exist for the Corks will require hiring a researcher or travel to Staffordshire myself to search to the microfilm that isn’t available through Family Search.

So what have I been able to find out about the other children? Emma, the oldest who would have been 17 when her parent died in 1838, reappeared in the records in 1842 when she married a blacksmith, John Woolrich, at St. Margaret’s in Betley.  This is the same church where she had been baptized in 1821.

The 2nd oldest daughter Harriet married Humphrey Hughes in 1845. He is a joiner, which I learned is an artisan that does finer woodworking on furniture and buildings.  And in the 1851 census, William was in the census visiting the Hughes family in Stoke Upon Trent just 12 miles from Betley. Sometime between 1841 and 1851, he apprenticed to become a tailor like his father.  It is comforting to know that the family maintained contact even though they had been separated by the death of their parents.

William Cork and Hughes Family
1851 Census

In December 1854, at just 21, William married Annis Eardley. He must have felt secure in his profession and ready to start a family. Given the rough beginnings of his early life, he was able to learn a craft and establish himself as a fully contributing member of his community.  There are more obstacles ahead for him, but the resiliency he learned from his childhood experiences carries him through them all.

Next Steps: I have enjoyed learning more about British research, but I am frustrated that I can’t get deeper into the story with the limited records available on-line. So, until I can get to Britain for a research trip (or more records become available), I am headed back to the United States. My plan is to work on my southern research again, where I can get into the courthouses and archives. Yeah!

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William Cork’s English Beginnings – He was an Orphan! (Part I)


St. Margaret, Betley, Staffordshire, England

William Cork (1832-1916) who died in his adoptive home in Mazamonie, Wisconsin, left an obituary filled with dozens of clues to research and I am finally getting around to checking some of the statements made about his early life. (See posting here from June 2014.)  As we all know you must evaluate an obituary with healthy skepticism, but that doesn’t mean that some of the statements aren’t correct.  So, I took the following clues and tried to see where they might lead: “William Cork was born September 2nd, 1833, at Betley, Staffordshire, England and passed from this life on January 13th, 1916, at his home in this village aged eighty-two years, four months, and eleven days.  He was the last of the twelve children of his father’s family.”

After ordering Williams marriage certificates to his first wife (Annis Eardley) and second wife (Jane Dame), both confirmed that William’s father was Charles Cork, a tailor.

Cork_William and Annis Eardley marriage 1854.12.5 with edits


Cork_William and Jane Dame marriage 1864.07.14 edited

I then looked for William’s baptism in Betley, Staffordshire at St. Margaret’s with Charles Cork as his father. Confirmed! The obituary was correct that William was born in Betley, Staffordshire and his baptism on 15 September 1833 fits with his reported birth of 2 September 1833. And now I had William’s mother identified as Martha.

Cork_William 1833.09.15 Baptism with edits

Note: there was another Charles Cork in Betley’s baptism records who had a son named William but he was born in 1832 and he was a shoemaker. Having the correct profession for Charles helps to ensure I have the right one!

I have not been able to find all eleven of William’s siblings he claimed to have. But I have been able to locate seven siblings baptized at St. Mary’s. He is not the youngest as the obituary claimed, but his youngest brother Joseph died soon after being born, so he probably thought of himself as their youngest child.

Charles and Martha Cork’s children:

  • Emma Cork b.1821
  • Harriet Cork b.1823
  • Hugh Cork b.1825
  • Peter Cork b.1827
  • Sarah Ann Cork b.1829
  • Dinah Cork b.1831
  • William Cork 1833-1916
  • Joseph Cork b.1835 -1836

If you are familiar with British research, you know that the most logical place for me to have tried to find this family was in the 1841 census, the first British census to identify each person living in a household by name. Unfortunately, the census records were of no help in getting additional information about Charles and Martha Cork because they were not in it. Why? Because they had both died before then.

Charles is buried in January 1838:

Cork_Charles burial 1838 edited blog

And sadly Martha was buried just a few months later on June 4th, 1838.

Cork_Martha burial 1838 edited for blog

I ordered the death certificates to see what they had died from and if there was any additional information that could help with locating their families.

Charles died of “consumption” or what is now called tuberculosis. He was attended by his wife Martha who signed with her mark.

Cork_Charles Death Cert 1838.01.09 edited

Martha’s death certificate lists her cause of death as “decline” which seems to cover a multitude of possibilities. But it also offers a clue to Martha’s maiden name – she was attended by Elizabeth Moor – her sister-in-law.

Cork_Martha Death Cert 1838.06.03 edited for blog



Pip meeting Miss Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Poor William became an orphan at age five. All my stereotypes of the orphans in Charles Dickens’ novels come to mind. Remember poor Pip from Great Expectations and Oliver Twist? What kind of life did orphans have in 1830’s England? What happened to all the Cork children when their parents died? Were they sent to an orphanage? Did someone from their families take them into to their homes to raise them?

More about that next time.

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