Death, Divorce or Desertion?

I know that this marriage was short-lived because the bride went on to raise a family with another man, James Victor Wilson, within a few years.  The circumstances of the breakdown of the relationship and whether it was officially dissolved is something a mystery.

Marriage Certificate - Frederick Walter Mills & Alice Louise Lucas

Marriage Certificate – Frederick Walter Mills & Alice Louise Lucas

Bride: Alice Louisa Lucas
Groom: Frederick Walter Mills
Date: 5 August 1900
Location: St Margaret’s church, Birmingham
Bride’s father: Harry Lucas
Groom’s father: Thomas Oliver Mills

The son

Alice and Frederick appear on the 1901 census at 14 Grant Buildings, Grant Street, Birmingham, the only record I have found of them living together.  According to family accounts, the couple had a son, Walter Frederick Mills, who was raised by Alice’s second husband and went by the surname Wilson.  According to the registration of his death in California, USA, Walter was born on 23 May 1901 in another country.  So his birth should be indexed in the April-June or July-September quarters of that year.  The best match on name, Walter Frederick Mills, is April-June quarter birth in the Southwark district.  This is not Alice’s son.  Of the eleven registrations for babies named Walter Mills recorded in the two quarters, only one was in Birmingham, a Walter Harry F Mills (vol. 6d, p. 63).

The marriage was certainly over by 1905, when Alice gave birth to James Victor Wilson’s son, James Bertram.  A daughter, Alice Irene, followed in 1908.  In 1910, James emigrated to America, followed by Alice who sailed on the ‘Carmania’ with his children James and Alice, but not Walter.

Taking Walter to another country potentially presented legal issues.  Frederick could object and may have had custody.  The receiving country may have refused to admit a child without the support of his father.

The English 1911 census records a 12 year old Walter Mills, as an inmate of St Josiah Mason’s Orphanage in Erdington, Birmingham.  The 1920 United States federal census records Walter F Wilson, aged 18 and born in England, at an army post in Bexar, Texas.  The date of his immigration is given as 1912.  The 1930 USA census confirms the date of immigration and Walter’s identity as he is recorded with his wife, Clara, at Glendale, Los Angeles, California.

By the time of his immigration, Walter was old enough to travel independently, and his best chance of admission into the USA was claiming a relationship with Alice and James.  That would be easier to do if he used the Wilson surname.  Family accounts make it clear that, as an adult, Walter had contact with his mother and half-siblings, but so far, the evidence suggests that he did not live with Alice and James as a child.

What happened to Frederick Walter Mills?

I have not been able to identify Frederick in post 1901 records.  Between 1901 and 1960, deaths of eight men named Frederick W Mills and marriages of two men named Frederick Walter Mills were registered in England.  Similarly 1911 census searches produce many Frederick Mills of around the right age, including four born in Birmingham.

Alice’s marriage to her second husband, James Victor Wilson, should provide information on her status, whether she was widowed or divorced.  However, I have not found this marriage in the General Register Office index for England and Wales or the Statutory Register index for Scotland.  In the 1901 July-September quarter in Camberley, an Alice Mills married William Sibley and a James Wilson married a Mabel Goodman.  As these two marriages are on the same page, a search of the GRO index for Alice Mills and James Wilson produces a false positive result.  I also drew a blank with divorce records available on Ancestry and FindMyPast.

The lack of a record for Alice’s second marriage raises the possibility that no marriage occurred.  Could Alice have simply adopted the Wilson surname, but never formalised the relationship? Alice’s immigration and naturalisation status were derived from her husband.  According to Alice’s daughter-in-law, she would provide no family history information.  Perhaps she was guarding information that could have serious consequences.

So, I can’t prove or disprove death or divorce.  I suspect desertion, but can’t say who left.

© Sue Adams 2013

Linking the Jeweller’s chain through Trade Directories

Edward John Adams or Edward James Adams, featured in ‘Common Surname Trouble – Adams in Birmingham’, presented an identification challenge. This marriage appears to be his second.

Marriage Certiticate - Edward John Adams & Sarah Lucas nee Brain

Marriage Certiticate – Edward John Adams & Sarah Lucas nee Brain

Bride: Sarah Lucas, widow
Groom: Edward J Adams, widower, jeweller
Date: 2 June 1863
Location: Edgbaston, Birmingham
Groom’s father: James Adams, jeweller

A recap of evidence found so far

Evidence from census, birth and marriage records suggest that Edward John Adams, started out working as a butcher in the 1840s, then became a jeweller and retired around 1870.  He was widowed before 1861, so was free to remarry.  He had a son, also named Edward, born ca 1837.

Another younger Edward J Adams or Edward James Adams worked as a jeweller from the 1870s and had diversified into watch and clock making by the 1890s.  The ages of this Edward indicate a birth date ca 1837, which is consistent with him being Edward John’s son.

Event Year Name Age Occupation Address Household members
Marriage 1834 Edward Adams
Census 1841 30 Butcher 13 Sand Pits Mary (30), Edward (4), Sarah (6), Joseph (2), Maria (1)
Thomas’ Birth 1844 Edward John Adams Jeweller & Butcher
Emma’s Birth 1846 Butcher
Census 1851 Edward Adams 40 Jeweller 9 Branston St wife Mary (44), children Edward (14), Joseph (12), Jane (8), Thomas(6) and Emma (4), and brother George (27)
Census 1861 50 30 Kenion St widowed, children Edward (24), Joseph (22), Maria (21), Jane (19), Thomas (17), Emma (15), niece Sarah (27)
Thomas’ Marriage 1866 Edward James Adams
Census 1871 Edward J Adams 60 Retired Goldsmith Henwood Hall, Solihull wife Sarah (51)
Census 1881 70 Jeweller Spring Villa, Kingsbury Rd, Erdington wife Sarah (61)
Census 1871 Edward J Adams 34 Jeweller 76 Spencer St wife Emma (34), child Edward J (7), 1 servant
Census 1881 44 Avenue Rd, Acock’s Green wife Emma (44), child Edward (17), 1 servant
Census 1891 Edward James Adams 53 Clock & Watchmaker Sunny Side, Augusta Rd, Acock’s Green wife Emma (53), 1 lodger

The records that associate Edward senior with his second wife, Sarah, only give a middle initial J, leaving room for doubt about whether he is the same person the man who married Mary Foster in 1834.

Same person?

Using Ancestry’s ‘UK, Midlands and Various UK Trade Directories, 1770-1941’ collection and bearing in mind the caveats discussed in ‘Picking up the Tailor’s Thread through Trade Directories’,  careers and residences of the two men are summarised as follows:

Name Years Street Address Occupation
Edward Adams 1839, 1841 13 Lower terrace, Sand Pits Jeweller
1849 21 Unett St Butcher
1858 20 Anderton St Jeweller
1862 30 Kenion St
1866 Henwood Cottage, Solihull
Edward John Adams 1872, 1876, 1880, 1882 Tyburn, Erdington private resident
1884 Tamworth Rd, Erdington
Edward James Adams 1872 76 Spencer St Jeweller
1873 76 Spencer St & 70 New St
1876 76 Spencer St, 70 New St, 81A Bull St Gold spectacle maker, jeweller & electro-plater
1880, 1882 76 Spencer St & 81a Bull St
1884 34 St Paul’s Square & 81a Bull St Spectacles maker, jeweller & optician
1888 34 St Paul’s Square & 82 Bull St
1876, 1880, 1882 The Avenue, Acock’s Green private resident
1884 Hazelwood Rd, Acock’s Green
1892 Auckland house, Sherbourne Rd, Acock’s Green

Entries for private residents, usually the more affluent and respectable people, do not give the exact street address.   Tyburn, Erdington is very close to Kingsbury Road, so I am reasonably sure that the resident Edward John Adams is the same person as the jeweller at Spring Villa on the 1881 census.  This census indicates that wife Sarah was born ca 1820 and the birthplace for both is recorded as Warwick, probably meaning the county, which is a bit vague.  Sarah appears on the 1851 census with her first husband James Lucas and son William, and as a widow on the 1861 census with William.  Sarah Lucas, nee Brain’s birth date, reported as ca 1820, matches the jeweller’s wife at Spring Villa.

Moving out of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter

The trade directory entries chart Edward John Adams’ jewellery business at Sand Pits and Kenion Street in the Jewellery Quarter and his retirement to the suburbs.  Edward James Adams expanded his business, occupying Jewellery Quarter premises in Spencer Street and St Paul’s Square as well as nearby city centre premises, whilst residing in Acock’s Green.


This all started with my confusion over the inconsistent naming of Thomas Adams’ father on his marriage certificate.  I am now convinced that the middle name James was an error.  I am also ready to conclude that Edward John Adams married twice.  The second marriage names his father as James Adams, a jeweller, an elusive piece of information.

© Sue Adams 2013