Three years ago I posted about the problems of tracing the Wildman family tree to my great-great grandfather Henry Wildman. The whole process is outlined in frustrating detail on the other post, but a snapshot is this: there are two Henry Wildmans, which makes the decision of picking the right one very problematic.

I signed up to Ancestry a couple of months ago, and as with other times that I signed up for premium membership, I generally have not had the time to actually use it. However, on one day of the Easter break I thought I would return to Henry once more to give it another go to see if I could plunge any further back in the family tree.

As mentioned in the previous post, the census return that I can hang my hat on is the 1881 one: this lists Sidney Levi Wildman (my great grandfather) with his parents Henry Wildman and Harriet Sinfeld. This census outlines Henry as having been born in Bedfordshire in the parish of St. Paul’s in 1841, thereby making him 40 years old in 1881. Henry and his wife Harriet live at 8 Thurlow Street, and Henry’s job is listed as a blacksmith. The family (including Sidney) is listed as:

This is the only record that links Sidney with his parents, which makes everything after this a bit of guess-work. For example, the 1891 census that I have listed for Henry and Harriet provides a different family structure:

Three years ago the confusion led to me to abandon further investigation, but I thought that I might as well as use some of my free Easter time – whilst aided with lots of coffee and tea – to return and figure out a way forward. And I think I might have just done that!

So, my first thought was to see if I could reconcile the differences with the 1881 and 1891 census data. I zoned in on the eldest child in 1891 – Kate – to see if I could link her to someone in 1881. The closest match was that of Rose in 1881, with both Rose (1881) and Kate (1891) having a birth-date in 1870. I did a little more digging into Rose/Kate, coming upon the 1901 census return in which a ‘Rose K’ is living in the home of Henry and Harriet, having married Alfred Clegg. Surely the ‘K’ means Kate, and that this 1901 census welds both Rose and Kate together into one. This, then, gave me hope that I could actually link the 1881 and 1891 census returns to Henry and Harriet.

But what about the others?

Well, Sidney (my great grandfather) who is listed in 1881 at the age of 9 would not appear on the 1891 census, because he was serving in the military by 1887 (eventually learning the piccolo and playing in military bands).

Neil (born in 1874) is listed on the 1881 census, with the closest match coming in the form of ‘Nellie’ in 1891 (listed as being born in 1875). I had a closer look at the handwriting in the 1881 census, and it actually spells ‘Nell’, not ‘Neil’ (and also lists her as a daughter of Henry’s). Her birth document lists her as ‘Nellie Ruth’, and it is her middle name that she seems to have used later in life, such as in the 1911 census in which she lived alone and worked as a ‘straw hat machinist’ (at the same time as the so-called ‘straw hat boom’ – something that I will hopefully return to in future research).

So, I moved onto Agnes next, who is listed in the 1881 census at the age of 5, having been born in 1876-ish. Ancestry did list a few interesting records for an ‘Agnes Louisa Wildman’ who was also born in Bedfordshire at around the same time, which contained photographs, but unfortunately this cannot be the same Agnes (Agnes Louise’s parents are listed as William Wildman and Rebecca Page). Another Agnes is listed as having married Frank Taylor, however, this Agnes’ parents were Samuel and Emma Wildman. I couldn’t find any other information for an Agnes Wildman born in the mid-to-late 1870s, and so I turned to death records. An ‘Agnes Kathleen Wildman’ is listed as having died in 1901, although her birthdate is placed at 1878 (two years later than the one listed on the 1881 census). Unfortunately, what became of Agnes remains a bit of a mystery, but all we know is that she is not in the household of Henry and Harriet in 1891 when she would have been the age of 15.

But on returning to the 1891 census, I remembered there was a Daisy listed, having been born in 1879 (making her 13 years old). Could it be that Agnes and Daisy were actually the same person, as was the case with Rose/Kate? Daisy was often given as a nickname for Margaret, however, I can’t find a way to link the name Daisy to the name Agnes! This Daisy Wildman should be listed on the 1881 census, but she isn’t – which makes it all the more confusing. Anyhow, I started researching using the name ‘Margaret Daisy Wildman’ to see if I could find any possible links moving beyond the 1890s and found the following uncertain links:

  • a Margaret Wildman got married in 1899 in Prescot, Lancashire
  • a Daisy Hannah Wildman died in 1976 and has a grave in Chingford Mount Cemetery (and is listed as having been born on 25th September 1878)

But like with Agnes, Daisy’s life and story remains undiscovered.

So, what of Henrietta? So, the first thing became pretty clear: the ‘Henrietta’ in 1881 (2 years old) and the ‘Hetty’ listed in 1891 (as being 10 years old) must be the same person. Yes, there is a difference in ages, but such an inconsistency isn’t entirely out of place on census returns of the period. In 1901, Henrietta is listed at the address along with parents Henry and Harriet (and older sister Daisy). A ‘Henrietta Ellabrum Wildman’ is listed in several records and trees, which led me to question what ‘ellabrum’ actually means; an internet search didn’t come up with anything concrete, but seemed to suggest it was Latin. I used a Latin to English translator which suggested that ‘ellabrum’ means ‘squire’, and that ‘ella’ means ‘she’ and ‘brum’ means ‘roar’. Anyhow, I was none the wiser as to why this was a middle-name!

Another Ancestry member’s tree seemed to confidently outline how Henrietta married Frederick Charles Fleet Bradshaw, with which she had a son (Frederick Edwin Harry Bradshaw), before dying in 1907 before reaching the age of 30. Her husband was killed in action during the First World War, leading to the son losing both parents by the time he was a teenager. All of this info was much more than I could dig up, so for now that’s where Henrietta’s story ends.

Then, there are other children of both Henry and Harriet: some were born in the 1860s and were not listed on the 1881 census (such as George, Harriet, and Henry) and one after the 1881 census (such two sons listed as John and Francis in different records). I moved onto John first, as I was confident that he was actually linked to Henry Wildman; in 1891, he is listed as being 8 years old and the youngest in the family.

However, on moving forward to the next census in 1901, John disappears, but yet a Frank comes in his place: both being the same age. Of course, we have another Rose/Kate situation, because the full name is Francis John Owen Wildman – which meant I was able to merge the two sons into one. However, after 1901, I cannot find Francis John on any further census returns, but some other family trees on Ancestry suggest that the reason for this is because he left England for North America at some point in the early 20th century.

One record for a ‘F Wildman’ lists a 28 year old male leaving England on 9th April 1909 on board the Empress of Britain to leave for Canada. By 1911, Francis left for Boston, USA; it seems that this record connects him to Henry Wildman, with Henry being listed as the next-of-kin at his address 12 Melbourne Street, Bedford. I’m really interested to know the reasons as to why Francis John made the move to the New World, particularly because not many other Wildmen have made the same leap. Perhaps the reason was similar to many others in Europe at that time: adventure, hope, and pursuit of the American dream.

Unfortunately, my Ancestry membership doesn’t extend to worldwide records, but the snippets that I can see seem to suggest that Francis John served in the US army during the First World War, and eventually settled down with his wife Hannah in Massachusetts. Hannah was another immigrant, having been born in Sweden in 1874. One fellow member’s tree on Ancestry lists the couple having a daughter called Daisy Kathleen Wildman, who only died in 2001 (in California); however, the birthdate for this daughter – 1907 in the USA – seems a little out of place, considering that Francis John didn’t leave England until 1909, so a little more research here will be needed.

So, having covered all the children post 1870, I then headed back to the start of Henry and Harriet’s family: the children born in the 1860s. This was a trickier task, as I noted in an earlier post in this series; there are a range of inconsistences that made me doubt that the people outlined in the 1871 census were our Henry and Harriet. My big concern remains the place of birth: in 1871, Henry’s place of birth is listed as Widford, Essex, whereas in subsequent census returns the place is listed as being within Bedfordshire. Yes, not a huge distance apart, but enough for question marks to be raised.

However, having found enough supporting evidence, I’m confident that the information below is correct in providing a clear overview of the family in the 1871 census:

So, we have children listed that are not outlined in later census returns: George, ‘Harrill’ (which is most likely Harriet, named after her mother) and Henry. ‘Kale’ is also listed, which I’m confident actually means Kate, as in Rose/Kate.

Harriet (middle name Mary) married William Plumb in 1883, and died at the young age of 37 in 1901; there do no appear to be any children from the marriage. Henry (full name Henry John James Wildman) does not appear on any other later census, because he died a month or two before the taking of the 1881 census, at the young age of around 13 or 14.

All of this leaves us with George, the eldest child born in 1862. I was previously sceptical about the appearance of a ‘George Orlando Wildman’ in Bedfordshire in the Victorian period, because I was unable previously to link him to Henry and Harriet. Perhaps it was the middle name that confused me, after all, why the heck would they call him ‘Orlando’? But there is a christening record for George Orlando, who was baptised on 2nd November 1862 to parents called Henry and Harriet. From this record, I was able to find a marriage record from 1886, when George married Emmeline Knight. The 1891 census provides an overview of George, his wife (listed as ‘Emily’) and young family: Virtue Edith Wildman, Ernest Whybroy Wildman, George Horan Wildman – clearly, George Orlando was continuing a tradition of interesting names!

However, although I am now confident that I can trace the Wildman line a step further, a few questions remain. In particular, I have no idea who Harry McKay is, who is listed on the 1891 census as Henry and Harriet’s grandson. But I can’t seem to find anyone who married a McKay. Harry McKay appears to have lived with his grandparents, as he is listed living with them in 1901 as well as 1911; perhaps he was born out of wedlock? Furthermore, the 1901 census also reveals another grandchildren: the 5 year old Violet M Pollock. These are some areas that need further research.

So, my next step is type up a more detailed and coherent history of Henry’s and Harriet’s family. Hopefully by that point I will be able to resolve some of the lingering questions.