Continued from Parts 1 and Part 2 of A Canadian Case Study
Looking for John & Bridget in 1851
After I said that there was always the chance that William came to Canada with his parents I decided to search Essex County
for John and Bridget Stephens in the 1861 and 1851 census. I believe I
may have found them in Malden Township in 1851. That makes good sense as
William probably met his first wife Elmira close to her home. She's two
pages away from the Stevens family that year.
listed as John Stevens [sic] born England, aged either 54 or 34, a
Pensioner and his wife Bridget, born England, age 52 or 32. She is Roman
Catholic, he is Episcopalian. This clue about their religion might help you to locate church
records for the family.
There is a John Stevens age 7
or 1, as well as a William Stevens age 12 on the same page. Just to
throw a twist, they are both listed as being born in "Canada". Both boys
are listed as Roman Catholic which does make sense if their mother is
Bridget. It is very difficult to know if they are living in the same
house as John and Bridget because the census page entries are a bit
Usually on the second sheet of 1851 you see how many are in
each family by checking for an entry for type of house - log, brick,
shanty..... whenever there is a new type of house listed, that's a new
family unit. On this particular sheet, there is no entry for type of
home until the 25th person. So I am not sure who the two boys are living
I did find a William Stevens in Malden in
1861. He is age 17, labourer born England living with a family that is
not his. He was probably a farm labourer living with a local farmer. He
is listed as Roman Catholic. The change in religion from 1861 to 1871
doesn't concern me greatly as that was not uncommon. Perhaps his mother raised
him as Catholic but once he married he switched. My own Irish McGinnis
ancestor did the same thing.
It may be quite
challenging to prove that the John and Bridget I found in 1851 are your
William's parents but I would use my find as a working theory. A working
genealogy theory simply means you must set about to find evidence that
will prove or disprove your theory.
I suggest you
continue researching this John and Bridget and see what you can discover
about them. There may be a piece of the puzzle hiding in the records
that will link your William to them or put them out of the picture
You might also consider hunting for the birth of William in English records. You can use FreeBMD to search the indexes for a birth for the period 1837-1983.
This has been a fun and challenging query to work on and I hope you can continue to research and find new information.