Monthly Archives: January 2020

Wakefield Institutions listed in 1911 census

Wakefield Institutions listed in 1911 census

While searching through the 1911 census using a place search of ‘Wakefield’ I came across the entries for a few institutions that were in existence at the time (one or two are still in use today).  In order of entry, the places were: Wakefield Prison, West Yorkshire Pauper Lunatic Asylum, The Workhouse at Eastmoor and finally in the consecutive list is Clayton Hospital.

One of the entries for Wakefield Prison caught my attention while scrolling through the pages looking at the various occupations of the inmates.  The occupations were wide and varied and included fishermen, employees at the various mills around the area, theatrical people, labourers, navvies, miners to name a few but one occupation that caught my attention was that of Policeman – what had this policeman done to be placed in the prison on Love Lane?  But the policeman John Huddart (?) is not who interested me but a 53-year-old widow named Bertram Mortimer.

From the 1911 census, there are a few things that are instantly known about Bertram.  As I’ve said he was 53 years old and a widower, what I have omitted was that he was born in New Orleans, USA and his occupation was Quack Doctor.  From knowing this information more questions arise.  When did he come to England?  Who was his wife?  Was she English or American?  What was he in Wakefield Prison for?  All burning questions for a family historian – whether it’s your family or not, you NEED to KNOW!

I needed to find out when Bertram came into the country but the census for 1901 England didn’t help.  On to the 1900 census for the United States, again no help with too many non-specific entries.  With the known information that he was in prison, perhaps the West Yorkshire Prison Records may help.  These records did help somewhat, Bertram had been convicted on the 16th (?) of June 1908 in Exeter for Four years for False Pretences.  He had served time in Dartmoor before ending up in Wakefield Prison.  At the end of his sentence, he was discharged, with one year and 34 days remaining,  under licence to go to London on 18th June 1912.  So far so good.

On the 6th of April 1908, Bertram is before the Swansea Borough Court.  The following week he appears before the Borough Sessions and convicted later that year for False Pretences – so this is further information about him ending up in Wakefield via Exeter and Dartmoor.  The documents tell that Bertram was aged 50 and worked as a Medical Specialist born in N. Orleans, U.S.A. So far so good or not so good in Bertrams case!

Still keeping with records I knew or hoped he would appear in I continued with prison records and eureka!  The Swansea and surrounding area Goal Records throw a bit more light on Bertram but I think a bit more light is an understatement, a lot more light is shed and this information has saved some time-wasting research.  His entry extracted from this Ancestry source tells –
BERTRAM MORTIMER, 15 months, Assizes, Bristol, 26th November 1907 (conspiring to procure a girl to have a carnal connection) as Wm Joseph Powell.
12 months, Assizes, Wells, 7th June 1899, (bigamy), as Wm. Joseph Powell.
5 Summary Convictions for assault and drunkenness
Since Committal:-
15 months, North London Sessions, 12th May 1908 (larceny and receiving).
4 Years penal servitude (concurrent with above) Devon Assizes, Exeter, 19th June 1908 (fraud)

Unlawfully obtaining by false pretences, the sum of £2 from William John Griffiths with intent to defraud on the 17th February 1908 at Swansea
Also unlawfully obtaining by false pretences the sum of £8 from Thomas Date, with intent to defraud on the 22nd February 1908, Swansea.

Bertram pleaded guilty to both of these charges and was sentenced to 6 calendar months hard labour to run concurrently with a sentence of 4 years penal servitude.  A little bit more about the life of Bertram is now known and other avenues of research can be followed.

This new snippet of information led me back to the Incoming Passenger Lists looking for a William Joseph Powell, nothing the same as before when looking for Bertram Mortimer.  OK, alter the search parameters and there he is Dr B J Powell aged 40 arriving at Southampton from

St Louis. Launched in 1894, served as a troop ship in WW1. Via Ancestry

New York, New York – probably so good that in the future it would be named twice……..ooops, sorry! Arriving on the St Louis on the 3rd of February 1898.  He wasn’t in the country long before he started to gain a name for himself.

After spending some time looking for a William Joseph Powell the 1880 census using various formats I decided to search for just the initials, W J Powell and came up with something that could be interesting.  W J Powell born about 1859 in Louisiana, son of B and S E Powell.  When just looking at the transcript I learnt that home for the family was Milan Street, Houston, Texas.  The head of the house was aged 48 and born in Scotland.  The wife was Tennessee born and W J  aged 21 had been born in Louisiana.  Other members of the family ranged in ages from 16 down to 3.  Could this be them?  I needed to see the original image.

The U.S.A. census pages are very long and don’t allow for much space between the words or even lines.  With a great deal of information being crammed onto a form – a greater number of columns that the UK census – but do more columns mean more useful information?

The Powell family are the last family on the page, continuing to the next for a few of the younger children.  Is there anything there that could confirm if this is the person mentioned in the UK documents.  Well, W J is there aged 21, single and employed as a clerk.  This is where things get interesting!  The head of the household, B Powell was a DOCTOR! Could this be the family of Bertram Mortimer / William Joseph Powell?  One thing that I found on this census was that his 16-year-old sister, Mary, was suffering from Malarial Fever on the day the census was taken – yes there is a column to include any illnesses being suffered by the people included in the census – how interesting is that?

All set to go back a further ten years in the U.S.A. census.  Would I find the family names entered as initials?  Or would names be entered in full?  In 1860 there is a J B Powell aged three, so far so good.  Here is the spanner in the works.  The head of the household according to the 1880 census should be B Powell, however in the 1860 census Lucas Powell aged 60 is listed.  One option is that Lucas is not a parent but grandparent.  The occupation of Doctor is consistent though.

What happened to W J Powell or Bertram Mortimer?  There is an entry in the Outward Passenger List for the UK where a Mr J B Mortimer, Gent, born around 1856, leaving Dover onboard Kroonland of the Red Star Line, bound for New York, U.S.A. Obviously from this side of the Atlantic, New York can’t be that good as we only named it once!  Is this the subject of this tale?  Who knows?  Or do you know any better?

At least how he ended up in Wakefield is known and more to the point why he ended up here!