From bigamy to the Boer War, we answer your questions
QMy great great grandfather William Bird was born c1801. In the 1861 census, he is listed as born “on sea, British Subject”, but the 1851 census just reads “NH” (?) under the place of birth. William lived in Hadley, Shropshire, until his death in 1871, marrying Emma Bird (1793–1854?) in 1838 at Hadley Church and going on to have eight children.
I have searched in vain for a record to give me an idea as to who his parents were. Is there any way I can find out more about his parents and possible siblings?
He could possibly have been born on his way back from Ireland (father looking for work?). Due to the state of the roads then, did they take a ship from Liverpool to Chester to reduce the discomfort his mother would have felt, as she must have been near to giving birth?
A‘Marriage records for his children may name cousins as witnesses’
Since William and Emma had four children baptised between 1825 and 1831 in the parish of Wellington, which includes the township of Hadley, 1838 seems too late for marriage. He is more likely to have been the William Bird who married Emma Corbett in 1822 in All Saints Church, Wellington. This was before the introduction of civil registration in 1837, and the marriage record doesn’t give his father’s name.
The wording on the 1851 census return is “NK” – “not known” – although the 1841 census lists William as born in Shropshire. There are no passenger lists for travel from Britain to Ireland and vice versa, because these journeys were within the UK. The same applies to journeys from Liverpool to Chester. Also, your great great grandfather is not included in the collections of overseas births and baptisms on findmypast.co.uk.
The Shropshire Family History Society (SFHS; sfhs.org.uk) has published the 1821 Wellington census, with the names and ages of more than 8,000 inhabitants. William may have been living there then with his parents. You could also search the census for William’s children from 1851 onwards, which may show them visiting relatives; marriage records for his children, which may name cousins as witnesses; memorial inscriptions for Hadley (the SFHS has an online database); military or naval records for William or possible relatives; wills for Birds who lived in the Wellington area; or other Bird births, marriages and deaths in Shropshire that may help you to find William’s parents and possible siblings. Alan Stewart
William Bird’s grandson, Isaac (1876–1949), with his wife Martha and their daughter Ethel. Isaac might not have known where William was born