It is inevitable that at some point in our family history research we will come across something we wish we hadn’t. Whether it is a criminal, something else unsavoury or something tragic which fills our hearts with sadness. Although we wish we hadn’t uncovered it, it helps with understanding our family and who they were.
My grandmother, Lily Dulson, was one of 12 children. Lily was born in Manchester in 1898 to William and Annie Dulson who had married in 1895. Their first child was called Martha, after William’s mother. Martha was born and died in 1895 and was buried in a public grave, position number 18. William was born next and then Lily. The family lived in at least 5 different places in as many years. John came next and more followed and I suspect where there are gaps there are either births I haven’t found yet or miscarriages. The family continued to move almost every year, from one slum to another all around Manchester; it was inevitable that at some point they would end up in the workhouse.
Annie was admitted to Withington Workhouse on 17 August 1910 with three of her children; John, Annie and Arthur. As was the usual practise at that time, the family was split up. Annie was allowed to keep Arthur with her as he was only two weeks old but little Annie was sent off on her own even though she was only aged 2; John was older, aged 10 and was sent to the boys section. The family left on 16 November, apart from Annie. There is a note in the column ‘allowed to leave child’. Perhaps Annie was already ill because on 2 December she died in the workhouse. The register has her father listed and an address and ‘no means to bury’. Annie was buried in the workhouse grounds.
In the 1911 census the family are living at Prymme Street with only two children – Lily and John. It states they have been married for 17 years and have had 9 children, 7 of whom have died and two who are living. This isn’t true. Their eldest son William is still alive as he marries in 1914 and his sister Lily and her future husband James Collins are the witnesses. The address he gives is 26 Melbourne Street, the same address as the family give in 1914. There is also a child in Crumpsall Workhouse, Mary Ellen, aged 5, who I believe to be their child.
More children followed and in 1913 we find the family in Salford Workhouse where Cyrus Dulson was born. He was christened on 6 April 1913 at Stowell Memorial, Salford, Lancashire. He was the child of William & Annie Dulson; William’s occupation was a Carter. Their abode was the Salford Union Workhouse. Things did not improve for the family. Cyrus Dulson died on 23 June 1914 at Manchester Withington Workhouse. He was aged 1. He was buried on 28 June. The place of burial is ‘Southern Friends’. Annie Dulson died on 29 July 1914 in Manchester Withington Workhouse. She was aged 2 months. The register shows Annie was buried on 4 August 1914 and the place of burial is ‘union’. Her mother is shown as Annie Dulson of 26 Melbourne Street, Hulme and a note in the column states ‘no means to bury’.
The sporadic school records for some of the children also confirm an itinerant life; constantly moving from house to house and the workhouse. Perhaps they were evicted or avoiding landlords with night time flits? It must have been heart breaking for them all, losing one child after another and having ‘no means to bury’ them. Lily married James Jesse Collins in 1914, she was aged 17; their first child did not survive but all of the ones which followed did.
If you have ancestors who were in the workhouse, one of the best websites is www.workhouses.org.uk