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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4 Responses to William Cork’s Early Years Part II

  1. lynnietoo says:

    I have mentioned a couple times before how much I enjoy your writing style. Your knowledge and dedication are incredible. How nice to find the “dash” between the two dates!

    • Rachelle says:

      You are very kind! I do love the hunt and finding the human strengths and weaknesses of my ancestors. It makes me feel rooted and connected. Thanks for reading and keeping in touch!

  2. Laura says:

    You do put together a very nice post! I always enjoy them too. Just miss talking them over with you!

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