Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Andrew Doyle, Son of William Doyle

We family historians and genealogists search for death dates.  After all, they make final a person's existence on earth and help tell the story of an ancestor's life.  Born ~1800.  Married 1825.  Died ~1844.  The End.  We conscientiously record those dates.  But are you like me?  I am guilty of forgetting the impact a death had on survivors, especially if there were children:  the mother or father left to care for him- or herself and the children and to make the best of what was left.

Family records/legend tells me that Andrew Doyle was born on April 13, 1836, in Northumberland, England.  The same records tell me that his parents were William and Martha (Ray) Doyle who were married on May 3, 1825, and that William died in 1844.  Andrew would have been eight when his father died.  William was a coal miner in the northern county of Northumberland, England.

A search for the family in the 1841 U.K. Census found Martha Doyle, age 30, living with Jane, 15; William, 10; Larence [sic], 10; Andrew, 5; and Martha, 2.  The older William was not enumerated with them in that census.  Martha and children were living in Bedlington, Northumberland.  

It would be easy to assume that William, senior, died before 1841 but I don't want to be too quick to jump to that conclusion.  Perhaps William was working and living away from home on census day.  Perhaps he had been injured and was in the hospital.  Or perhaps he was travelling.  Or (I hope not) in prison.  After all, I have that family record that says he died in 1844.  I can't give up on that date without more research.  I was unable to find a likely William Doyle in the 1851 or subsequent U.K. census records.

More research produces an indexed U.K. BMD record transcript for William Doyle with a death date between  July and September of 1844.  Location of death was Manchester, Lancashire, England.  This may or may not be Martha's husband and Andrew's father.  If there were there coal mines in Manchester in the 1840s it's possible it is.  Another William Doyle died in 1847 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, a more likely location for William.

In the 1851 U.K. Census I find Andrew Doyle, 16, living in the home of Thomas and Martha Richardson.  He was recorded as Thomas's step-son.  Also living in the home as step-children were Andrew's siblings, Jane Doyle, 25; William Doyle, 23; and Martha Doyle, 12.  They were living in Bedlington Cotts, West Sleekburn, Morpeth, Northumberland.  I cannot doubt this is Martha and her children of the 1841 census.

Of course there's more research to do on this family -- these families.  But seeing Andrew as a five-year-old in 1841 with no father in the home, a father who was possibly dead or would have died within the next few years, brought home the sorrow of a child losing a father and the difficulties of a mother-become-widow in 1840s England with five children ages 2 to 15.  How were their needs met?  Who provided food, clothing, shelter?  Did anyone share memories of the lost father with the the children who were too young to remember him?  In 1851 Andrew, at age 16, was already a coal miner, and so was his 11-year-old step-brother.  Perhaps Andrew and his older brothers, William and Lawrence, became the breadwinners after their father died.

I suppose families of coal miners were acutely aware of the possibility of a mining accident taking the lives of their men.  Knowing the possibility would not have made the actual event any easier.

I use the term half-orphans for these children who lost one parent to death.  Andrew is not the only half-orphan among my ancestors, and not the only one whose father was a coal miner.

Do you have any half-orphans among your ancestors?  Were any of them coal miners?


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