Tuesday, 9 August 2016

On the trail of Martha Roebuck nee Burgess and a series of mysteries

Spam Court in 1965
Now usually you start a story with a clear idea of where it will go and pretty much have all the facts sorted.

But not so this one.  To date what I have is very sketchy and amounts to a few certainties, a series of unanswered questions and a line of mysteries.

This is what I do know.  William Roebuck was born on January 13th 1924, at 5 Spam Court which was off Artillery Street close to Deansgate.

His mother registered the birth and she was Martha Roebuck nee Burgess aged 35 who gave her occupation as cotton doubler and came from Ireland.

Now there is nothing out of the ordinary about a mother registering the birth, in fact given the likelihood that her husband was working it made sense.

Except that Thomas Roebuck had died in the Great War and so far there is no record of Martha re marrying.

They had married in Salford in 1911.  He was a carter and we can track the family across Salford in the decades back to when he was born.  Most of the streets were those very small ones which look to be infill and seldom get into the street directories.

His father worked for the Corporation as a night watchman and carter and one of his brothers was a labourer while the youngest was a window cleaner.

Martha has proved more elusive, she was born in Ireland but apart from her marriage certificate and parish record of that marriage, all we have is the entry on her son’s birth certificate.

Detail from the parish marriage record
Tantalizingly there are more names, including Alexander Burgess who was Martha’s father and two people who witnessed the marriage. One of these was Samuel Burgess and the other a Margret Kelly.

But again the evidence trail for all three goes nowhere although there is a reference  to a Charles Burgess appears on the street directory for 1911, and at first glance this is promising because he was living in the same street as Martha but at a different house.

As for Margret Kelly, sadly the 1911 census for Salford is full of Margret Kelly’s.

Detail from the birth certificate of William Roebuck
The story has yet one more twist in that William Roebuck grew up Selly Oak in Birmingham with another family but when he was old enough he left and returned north to be reunited with his mother.

What has further puzzled his daughter is that Martha by then owned property in Failsworth which for someone living in Spam Court seems exceptional.

Of course there is a long way to go and at present some at least of the most obvious routes to finding him are blocked.

The census returns are not yet available for the decades after 1911; she does not appear on any electoral roll for either Salford or Manchester, which just leaves that slow trawl through the street directories.  The answers are out there but it will involve much more slog.

Pictures; Spam Court, 1965, J. Ryder, m00212, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, & detail from the marriage record and birth certificate by courtesy of Suzanne

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