Sunday, 20 May 2018

In search of the French Canadian……. A Story of Joseph and Emily Hudson nee Purcell

Joseph and Emily Hudson nee Purcell


Reflection ........
Ethel Ford was my husband's grandmother- daughter of Joseph and Emily.
In a letter written in 1970, Albert Higgins recalls the occasion when he came to farewell a young Ethel Ford as she began her journey on SS Hobsons Bay to Australia in 1913. The then 21 year old Ethel Hudson had married a 26 year old merchant sailor, Sidney Ford several months earlier in April 1913 and was beginning a new life in Australia.  Sid had gone on ahead and Ethel who was then several months pregnant was joining him in Sydney.
Brother-in-law Albert was writing to Sidney Ford after the death of dear wife Ethel in that year. 57 years had passed but Ethel and Sid’s families still maintained the some contact with their relatives they had left behind in the mother country.
By all accounts Ethel and Sid made a good life of themselves in Gladesville, Sydney. After travelling to Australia several times Sid made his last journey with the Merchant Marines on the Makarini where he left their employ in Melbourne in June 1913. He commenced work plying the Parramatta River with Sydney Ferries in August 1913. Ethel was to arrive in Australia in December 1913 on the Hobsons Bay but was forced to leave the ship in Melbourne due to the imminent birth of their first child, Alice Ethel Ford who was born on 11/1/1914.
For a man working the harbour these were interesting times. Sydney still a fairly infant city  was welcoming the newly formed Royal Australian Navy fleet in 1913 as it steamed its way through Sydney Heads for the first time. By 1914 the prospect of a war with Germany was looming. Within a year Australia would be at war and within 2 years their family of three children would be complete. Alice was named after Sid’s mother Alice, the second child Patrick Sidney George Ford was named after Sid's father and himself and their third child Joseph Hudson Ford was named after Ethel's father Joseph Hudson.  
They settled in Gladesville, a riverside town originally serviced by water transport through the bushland along the Parramatta River. Gladesville is located 9 kilometres north-west of the Sydney. As it expanded tramway and roads brought with it further growth and expansion.


Ethel and Sid in the early days



Ethel Hudson b: 08 Sep 1892 in Heald Green Northern Etchells England, d: 20 Mar 1970 in Sydney Australia

...... + Sidney Edward Ford b: 15 Jan 1887 in Donegal Arran Island , Ireland, m: 05 Apr 1913 in Croydon, London, d: 12 Aug 1970 in Sydney

......... Alice Ethel Ford b: 11 Jan 1914 in Melbourne?, d: 27 Jul 2010 in Western Australia

.........   + Arnold Francis (Mick) Fishburn b: 1898 in Inverell, NSW, m: 1938 in Sydney, d: 1972

........ Patrick SidneyGeorge (Paddy) Ford b: 16 Jun 1915, d: 30 Jun 1985 in Sydney

.........   + Rose May Laver m: 1939, d: 31 Aug 1981 in Ryde

......... Joseph Hudson Ford b: 07 Aug 1916, d: 23 Jul 2007 in Sydney

.........   + Winifred Cassidy m: 10 Jun 1944 in St Michaels, Meadowbank

When Ethel arrived in Australia she was making her home a long way from her own extended family.  In all Ethel Ford's Australian family was quite small compared to the big family she and Sid had come from back in England. Sid was one of nine and Ethel had 10 siblings: 4 sisters, a brother and 5 stepsiblings.

Ethel's family history 

Each of Ethel's parents had married twice. This is the story of Ethel Hudson, her siblings and her parents, Emily and Joseph Hudson. There is talk of a mysterious French Canadian who may or may not have fathered some of the children.

Joseph Hudson (1826 -- 1896) had married Elizabeth Leigh in 1846 and fathered five children. Joseph was a long-term Heald Green resident as was his father before him. He variously worked as an agricultural labourer or a Gardener. 

Joseph Hudson and family 1841 census

He came from Northen Etchells which in 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described as a township in Northen parish, Cheshire; adjacent to Stockport-Etchells and to the river Mersey. It’s 5 miles West by South of Stockport with a population of 721 and 153 houses.

Joseph Hudson b: 1826 in Cheshire Long Lane Cheadle, Manchester, d: 16 Jan 1896 in Heald Green, Northern Etchells

... + Elizabeth Leigh b: 1823 in Cheshire Wilmiston, Manchester, m: 25 Oct 1846 in    Manchester Cathedral, d: 1884 in Altrincham

..... Eliza Hudson b: Abt. 1849 in Cheshire Moss Nook, Manchester

..... Ann Hudson b: Abt. 1850 in Cheshire Northern Etchelles, Manchester

..... Henry Hudson b: Abt. 1853 in Northern Etchells , Gatley Cheshire

..... Hannah Hudson b: Abt. 1860

..... Emily Hudson b: Abt. 1864 in Nthn Etchells, d: 1944


Prior to his  wife's death in 1884 Joseph appears in the 1851, 1861,1871 and 1881 census living in Heald Green with Elizabeth. After Elizabeth died in 1884 Joseph lived alone for a few years. The 1891 census shows him living with his granddaughter Mary as housekeeper.  

On the whole Joseph and Elizabeth’s children remained in the area, marrying and having families. (Eliza is difficult to trace.) It seems a family trait that the male son, husbands or grandchildren seem to work as gardeners or gardener’s labourers. A green thumb seems to run in the family!  it is important to note that two of Joseph's daughters from this marriage have matching DNA to my husband.

Six months after Elizabeth’s death Joseph married a very much younger Emily Purcell in a Church of England ceremony at Northenden in August 1891.

Emily’s background is mysterious. Is she hiding something? She constantly changes her details and age and the fact that she doesn’t appear in previous census provides much difficulty with tracing her birth records.

Emily has been  working in an Industrial School for Girls at Sale as she is an assistant laundress at Northenden in the 1891 census just months before her marriage to Joseph. Here she claims her place of birth is Chester, Chester and her age at last birthday is 24. The school is located on Northenden Rd. Northenden is the location of the Church of England Church where they are married.



Soon after this 1891 census is taken at approximately 68 years of age Joseph is married to Emily who has increased her age up to a more respectable 30. Joseph on his wedding certificate claims he is 56. Our Joseph makes his mark (x) on the certificate. It is understandable that he may have confused his numbers and therefore his real age but it is more likely to cover for the fact that he has a range of children from 27 to 42 already and he’s marrying a woman younger than his children.    


Joseph with Emily proceeds to father Ethel in 1892, Joseph Jr in 1894, Amelia in 1895 and possibly Jessie in 1896 just prior to his death. There are some claims Jessie has a Spanish father. Joseph is attributed as the father when later Doris and Mabel are born and christened years after his death and they are given the Hudson name. My husband has a strong DNA match with a relative of Joseph Jr too. 

Joseph Hudson b: 1826 in Cheshire Long Lane Cheadle, Manchester, d: 16 Jan 1896 in Heald Green, Northern Etchells

... + Emily Purcell b: 1871??, m: 03 Aug 1891 in Parish Church Northenden, Chester, d: 13 Jun 1927 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......Ethel Hudson b: 08 Sep 1892 in Heald Green Northern Etchells  England, d: 20 Mar 1970 in Sydney Australia

...... Joseph Hudson b: 25 Feb 1894 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester; christening 28/4/1895, d: Mar 1968 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......Amelia Hudson b: 05 Apr 1895 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester; christening 28/4/1895 (probably died 1918)

......Jessie Annie Hudson b: 22 Jun 1896 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester, d: 17 Dec 1971 

......Doris Hudson b: 23 Dec 1900 in Ches Rock Ferry England, d: 03 Oct 1986 in Cheltenham Gloucester

...... Mabel Alexandra Hudson b: 1902 in RockFerry; 16/7/1902 christening Tranmere, Cheshire, d: 1959 in Paddington, London


A family story goes that Ethel had some French-Canadian blood and that her father was killed in a farming accident.  Younger sister, Jessie, claimed to have Spanish blood. So we go in search of the French-Canadian/Spanish man who supposedly dies in a farming accident. Certainly there can still be doubt about who fathered Amelia, Doris and Mabel and there is still a possibility that Jessie was fathered by the doctor attending Joseph. Another family rumour. The one who signed the death certificate was definitely English (but single).

Joseph’s 1896 death certificate names the cause of death as “apoplexy”. In modern-day terms this is a sudden and marked loss of bodily function due to a rupture of a blood vessel. Certainly a sudden death while Joseph was working as an agricultural labourer could be described as a farming accident. Perhaps he was pulling a plough or using some farming equipment when this event occurred but Joseph, a long-term Northern Etchells resident as verified by census was no French-Canadian. Where does the rumour come from?  Remember that there is now a DNA connection between Joseph and Ethel (and at least her brother).

Perhaps it stems from Emily whose background is so mysterious and records so fanciful. On her marriage certificate she names her father as John Purcell, a deceased blacksmith. Little is known of Emily’s past or her parentage.  Mystery surrounds whether she came from Liverpool, Lancashire, Manchester or Chester. Her father John is recorded as deceased in both wedding documents firstly as a blacksmith and secondly as a labourer.

Having a surname Purcell everything points to an Irish background. The explanation of the surname Purcell has it deriving from Puirseil (the French pourcel, meaning little pig) is an Anglo Norman name much used in Ireland (Tipperary). Their families distinguished themselves in the wars of the 17th century and as "Wild Geese" the term is used for Irish exiles in Europe.  Not really French Canadian but there could be a Spanish connection here.

Emily’s previous life with John her father has not been established. Even the witnesses at her marriage to Joseph are quite mysterious. John Pearson can be found in the Moss Nook area from census records and is probably well known to Joseph and his family. Marion Bracken however is only six months earlier living at Gorton  Lancashire having been born in 1860 in York.

It seems Joseph left his wife quite well off. Emily inherited Joseph’s effects of £288 after his death in 1896 as recorded in the probate notice. Surely Emily’s arrival in their father’s life, her subsequent brood and her inheritance would not have gone over too well with the Hudson children from the previous marriage to Elizabeth Leigh. This is a sizeable sum for those days. It is not surprising that Emily took the tribe off to live in Tranmere which is a suburb of Birkenhead.

Emily Hudson

Emily next appears aged 36 in the 1901 census in her widowed status with no occupation and living with her 5 children Ethel, Joseph, Amelia, Jessie and Doris. Someone has been warming her bed because Doris is just 3 month old baby. Enter Patrick Qualters, single and aged 40. Patrick is present as a "visitor" on 1901 census night.

Is he the mysterious French-Canadian? I think not. Patrick Qualters was born in Flint, Wales which is actually within a short distance across the water from where they are living. He appears to have had a rather sad life first appearing in the 1871 census as a small boy with his parents and brother living in Wales. In a subsequent census has he and his brother are living his step father and mother and working in a chemical factory. The subsequent census in1891 has him working again as a chemical labourer in Wales near Holywell. This time round he is a boarder. When he is recorded as a visitor to Emily on Census night 1901 he is noted as a labourer who is blind in one eye. Perhaps an accident at the chemical factory?


Anyway this lad from Flintshire, Wales with Irish parents is hardly our French-Canadian although I rather suspect that possibly he or another gentleman friend that Emily had as a “visitor” in 1900-01 may have been Doris or Mabel's father. Doris is just three months old on census night and Mabel was born just a little over a year after the census was taken! I considered another possibility regarding Patrick-- that he left the English shores and emigrated to Montréal/Quebec. However, records show his life seems to have ended not far from where he originated with him dying in St Asaph near Flintshire in 1913.

By July 1906 Emily had met and married Harry Hall, a rag and bone man born and bred in Cheshire. He was living on an army pension having served in the militia. Even if he had been around to father the children he was surely not the French Canadian. Having met a younger man Emily changes her date of birth again. Now her 25 July 1906 marriage certificate states her age as 38 when she marries Harry Hall, a Hawker in a church wedding at St Nicholas Church in Liverpool.


Emily marries Harry Hall

With the new marital arrangements Emily obviously has not been able to accommodate a growing clan and 1911 census shows the family was separated across different addresses. Ethel, the oldest daughter had left home sometime before to become a domestic servant to the Blackburn family in Ferndale St Waterloo, Liverpool. Arthur Blackburn the head of the household was a mining engineer and superintendent and his family was originally from Birkenhead.

Amelia appears as a 17-year-old in training for domestic service at St Edmunds Convent and House of Mercy Blandford Square Marylebone. Little 8 year old Mabel is recorded as being adopted by Annie Munt and living in Stroud. Doris had been dispatched to live with the Smith family in Stroud, Gloucester and is attending a school nearby. Both Mabel and Doris's situations appear curious with Gloucester being miles away and there appears to be no family connection.

So when the 1911 census was taken only Joseph and Jessie were living with Emily and Harry. All were boarders with the Astle Family in Wilson Street Birkenhead. Joseph had picked up a job as a general labourer at the local shipyard. Jessie was now 12 or 15 with no occupation given but is listed as a 2 year old. Harry gives his age as 38 and appears to be working as a milk dealer as well as collecting his army pension. Emily's age is curiously inconsistent yet again with her age stated as 40. Even more curiously her length of marriage to Harry is noted as 11 years!

Emily, Harry, Joseph and Jessie in the 1911 census

Emily's marriage to Harry was not all that successful. The children did not like the way Harry treated their mother and did not particularly likely a stepfather who drank. Things deteriorated for Emily after that 1911 census. Clearly the inheritance had run out.  Court records see Harry fined or jailed for six days in 1916 for being drunk and a few weeks later fined and/or jailed again for non-payment of £15 to the industrial school.  Presumably this was for the education of Mabel and/or Doris. Harry died in 20th July 1917 and was buried in a pauper's grave in Flaybrick Cemetery. 

In the next few years Emily had several bouts of illness and was hospitalized. She spent much time with her daughter Jessie and her own growing family of seven grandchildren. Emily lamented the fact that Ethel had left her and that Amelia had died also around that time. Her other daughters had no children.

Sadly Emily died a painful death on 13 June 1927. Having fallen down the cellar stairs at the house she lived in on June 7, the coroner determined she died of shock, heart failure, head, arm and leg injuries. She too was buried in a pauper's grave at Flaybrick Cemetery. It seems that her children were not able to provide for her. Today her great-grandchildren in Australia are surprised by this state of affairs as a block of land next door to their grandmother Ethel Ford at Gladesville had been purchased in order for Emily to come and  live in Sydney. No doubt a burial took place before arrangements or contact could be made with the extended family in Australia.

Emily’s death certificate

Jessie had claimed that Joseph Hudson was not her father and had hinted that there was a Spanish background. Tony Martin remembers “My Nan said that her father was not Joseph Hudson and that Amelia looked just like her. Both were fair haired just like Doris, and Mabel.”


Jessie Anne Martin with her mother and grandchildren
Jessie married John Henry Martin in 1917 and having fallen pregnant with 7 children there was some strain on the marriage with John leaving. In 1949 she married Thomas Stewart at Birkenhead but it too ended in divorce.

Jessie Annie Hudson b: 22 Jun 1896 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester, d: 17 Dec 1971 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......   + John Henry Martin b: 1895, m: 16 Jul 1917

……  + Thomas Stewart b: 1906, m: 29 Jul 1949 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......... Jessie Martin b: 28 Feb 1925, d: 06 Mar 1983 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

.........   + Albert S Rule

......... John (Jack) William Martin b: 30 Dec 1917, d: 2012

.........   + Marion Ebdon b: 1921, m: 1941, d: 1998

......... Albert Henry Martin b: 26 Jan 1919, d: 16 Jan 1970

......... Joseph Martin b: 26 Jan 1920, d: 1990 in Thameside Manchester

.........   + Mary Dalton m: 1941

......... George Martin b: 17 Feb 1922, d: 16 Jul 1990 in Charing Cross London

.........   + Violet Fryer b: 1925, m: 19 Jul 1947, d: 2005

......... Thomas Martin b: 30 May 1926, d: 31 Jul 2000 in Wallasey, Cheshire, England

.........   + Margaret E Nuttall b: 1936, m: 14 Jul 1954, d: 2009

......... James Martin b: 30 Jun 1923, d: 2006 in Dover , Kent

........   + Norah S Platten b: 1920



Emily with her Grandson Jack in 1918
Today two of Jessie’s great granddaughters have jobs in Manchester and they live just a few miles from where the Hudsons were born. The place is now the runway for Manchester.

To Jessie, Emily had expressed sadness that she had lost two of her daughters at the same time: Ethel to Australia and Amelia. Ethel left for Australia in 1913.

Amelia, it is reported, died after being killed by a bull. Reputedly she may have been 15 although this doesn’t tie in with other records and events. It doesn’t appear that her sisters and especially Jessie were present for funeral Details seem sketchy about Amelia’s whereabouts and events since 1901.  A record showing a girl of her age training for domestic service at St Edmonds Convent and House of Mercy at Blandford Sq shows up in the census of  1911.It is probable Amelia died in Billericay Registration  district in 1918 at age 22. An Amelia Hudson had been placed in the electoral roll for 23 Chapel house Mintern St Shoreditch in 1818.This narrows the “loss” of the two daughters to a relatively short space of 3-4 years.

Despite their separation the siblings remained in contact until their deaths. Mabel and Doris became nurses and kept in contact. Despite her separation by “adoption” Mabel left her personal effects of £324 to her sister Doris when she died in 1959. Both the girls had become nurses. Mabel eventually married Bertrand Alfred Annison. It appears he may have been married elsewhere and for this reason he and Mabel lived as man and wife in a de facto relationship in London from about 1929 to 1940 when they officially married. She died in St Luke's Hospital having lived in Islington. Her probate shows her as a widow aged 63 as Bertram died the year before.

   Mabel Alexandra Hudson b: 1902 in RockFerry; 16/7/1902 christening Tranmere, Cheshire, d: 1959 in Paddington , London

......   + Bertram Alfred Annison b: 06 May 1890, m: 1940 in Islington London


Doris married Leslie Saxton in 1939 at Wandsworth and sadly they remained childless. On the passing of her sister Ethel in 1970 she wrote …



Excerpt from a letter by Doris on the passing of Ethel


She and Leslie saw out their days in “a pleasant little maisonette with a nice little garden” in Cheltenham  after selling up their place in Lincoln.  She was the last of Emily’s children to die in 1986.

..... Doris Hudson b: 23 Dec 1900 in Rock Ferry England, d: 03 Oct 1986 in Cheltenham Gloucester

......   + Leslie James Saxton m: 1939 in Wandsworth


Joseph and Doris
Joseph Jr died in 1968 in Birkenhead.  Doris reported that Joseph had died at Birkenhead two years previously when she wrote to Wynne Ford  in 1970 after the death of Ethel.  He had lived to a good age of 73. Having married a lovely woman, Annie Dunn in 1931 they had had 3 children and a step daughter Lilly Dunn who is still alive and living in Manchester today.  Joseph kept in touch with his sisters Ethel, Jessie and Doris. Little Emily married the boxer, Gordon H Heayns dying only recently had a precious locket which had a picture of Doris. Jessie’s grandson Tony remembers visiting the family at their flat in Birkenhead and still visits Joseph’s step daughter Lilly. All of Joseph’s children have died in recent years.

Joseph Hudson b: 25 Feb 1894 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester; christening 28/4/1895, d: Mar 1968 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......   + Annie Dunn m: 1931 in Birkenhead, Cheshire

.........Joseph Hudson

........ James Hudson

........ Emily Hudson

For Ethel, her family grew up, married and moved on. At last count there were 8 grandchildren (including one nun), 17 great grandchildren plus copious great great children living all across Australia. She was proud of her son Joseph who went to serve in WWII. Alice mostly lived in southern NSW. After she was widowed she moved from Wollongong to the Gladesville family home where she lived for another 30 years until she moved to Western Australia to be with her daughter’s family.



I asked around for some memories of Ethel from those who grew up around her. Her Granddaughter remembers the “Double block, plenty of rocks on the land too. I used to love running around the gardens, rocks and up and down the steps. They did have a lovely garden and a huge passion fruit vine going across the block.” 

Steve Ford recalls “At the side of the house there were a number of very tall palm trees – a bit out of character with the old house. A Sunday routine was to visit, be served special biscuits & wander about the back yard.  We would all sit in the lounge room and eat the treats then after a respectable amount of time we could explore the veggie garden, Pop’s shed full of interesting tools, a sulky  and the tidal mangrove area at the bottom of their street where there was a wreck of an old rotten timber boat.”

Chris Ford remembers “Mum Ford as a fairly strong and dogmatic character. She had little time for authority, banks, doctors etc. She loved the Americans and didn’t appreciate my comments on the Vietnam (War).”

“Mum Ford taught herself to drive (Pop never held a Licence). During the war, she was in the auxiliary and drove Army vehicles.” “I remember there was a photograph of her at the start/finish of the first Melbourne-Sydney road race.” Fay lived with her for a time and being musical played the piano at the house .

Chris’ last memory of Ethel is seeing her off in an ambulance after finding her unwell. Pop Ford was in hospital at the time. She died of pneumonia on 20th March 1970. Her husband of 57 years died a few months later of complications after an operation for cancer. Alice went to live in the family home. After it was sold up in 2000 it was demolished to make way for something more salubrious in the popular Sydney suburb.  


Ethel and Sidney Ford- proud parents at the wedding of her youngest son Joe and Wynne Cassidy 1944


A rare get together of some of the Ford family 1996.

 “The Hudsons” result from the love and hard work of those who stuck around not the missing Spaniard or elusive French Canadian. Emily send us a sign if there really was a French Canadian or a Spaniard and give us a hint as to your past.  

To my way of thinking, I like the idea of the hard working old gardener, Joseph Hudson, a salt of the earth long term Brit from Heald Green, Chester and I think he’d be chuffed. 



Cheers to the Hudsons… to Emily and Joseph and all the rest of us!!









  









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