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William Dickinson's family in Sheffield 1861

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

When my 3rd great-grandfather, John Dickinson, was a boy of 10 years old, his family was living at Woodstock Bower in Kimberworth, Rotherham, Yorkshire, and in 1851, they were living in Wadsley Bridge, a suburb of Sheffield. John was 19 and worked as a Tilter, like his father, who was a "Journeyman Tilter". John's brother, Joe was 24 but wasn't living in the home in 1851. In 1851 he was apprenticing under John Allcroft, as explained in my previous post, here.


At the time of John's marriage to Elizabeth Reynolds, in 1856, John lived on George Street in Sheffield and when the census was taken in 1861, their new family was living at Brightside Bierlow. So where were his parents in 1861?


In 1861, we find Ann Dickinson as the head of the Dickinson household on Portland Street in Nether Hallam, Sheffield, Yorkshire. William was not listed among the occupants of the home, but Ann was identified as married, so where was he?


Ann was 55 and was a Nurse, which is unexpected, and one would doubt it were her if the age and birthplace, Bradfield, didn't line up perfectly. Her daughter, Martha's age lines up as well, as explained in my previous blog, here. Their son, Joe, was 24 and was back in the home, working as a Steel Forger. He wasn't married yet, but he married Matilda Broadhead later that year, in December, 1861.

House numbers weren't provided on this census, but Portland Street is just one block's length, located between Infirmary Road and Cross Bedford Street. According to the 1861 census there were 50 homes, probably mostly apartments, with about 246 people living on Portland Street. Looking at the place on Google Maps, we can see a sign on the building on the corner of Portland and Infirmary Road that says "Portland Buildings Flats 1 to 6" and they look very old. This corner building is now the oldest building on the street, as the opposite side is now the home of the Philadelphia Conference Center and a brand new five story building. You can look around with this interactive map. [Alternate link]

So, where was William, the patriarch of the family in 1861? He would have been 70 or 71 years old.


When the 1861 U.K. Census was taken, there was a man called "W. Dickinson", a "Tilter", age 72, living in the Ecclesall Bierlow Union Workhouse. The name was later changed to Nether Edge Hospital, specializing in geriatric care and stroke rehabilitation. (Source: National Archives). In his case, William may have needed care that his family couldn't provide. This workhouse was a little over two miles from Portland Street, where Ann was living.

Was this William Dickinson who was born at Walkley about 1790?

I cannot confirm this "W. Dickinson" was my ancestor, William Dickinson, but it is the closest match I've found. William's occupation has been helpful in identifying him and his children in census and church records, and the fact that this man was a "Tilter" pretty solidly confirms he was our William, despite the fact that his age is off by a year or two and his marital status was "Widowed". I searched the 1851 census to confirm that there were no other Tilters named William Dickinson.


This W. Dickinson's name may or may not have even been William, and his birthplace does little to confirm his identity. His birthplace was reported as "Sheffield", as were most of the people on the page, with no distinction between its many neighborhoods and suburbs. William was reportedly born in Walkley, which is a suburb of Sheffield, so although it doesn't conflict with what we know about William, it would be more convincing if "Walkley" was given. Regarding the marital status, it may be that the informant was not careful to record the many inmates' details 100% accurately. This may have been for privacy.


What leaves me wondering if this inmate was my 4th great-grandfather, William Dickinson, is that his wife Ann and son Joseph reportedly went to America in 1863. Ann, was living with his family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when the U.S. Federal Census was taken in 1870 and she died in 1872.


Why did they leave William in England? Granted, some of their children remained, but it seems odd that his wife left while he was still living. Maybe she joined them later after he died?


There were three other men named William Dickinson in Yorkshire found on the 1861 census, and none of them were Tilters. They were:

  • William Dickinson in Selby, Yorkshire, age 69 (b. abt. 1792 in Carlson or Carlton, Yorkshire), Occupation: Gentleman, married to Harriet, age 56 (b. abt. 1805 in Stubbs).

  • William Dickinson in Harpham, Driffield, Yorkshire, age 68 (b. abt. 1793 in Leven, Yorkshire), Occupation: Retired Farmer, married to Mary, age 69 (b. abt. 1792 in Nafferton). He and his wife were "visitors" in the home of Edward and Mary Taylor.

  • William Dickinson in Doncaster, Yorkshire, age 68 (b. abt. 1793 in Fenwick, Yorkshire), Occupation: Inn Keeper, married to Mary, age 64 (b. abt. 1797 in Yorkshire). They had a daughter named Annie (age 22, b. abt. 1839), a nephew named John Park (age 24, b. abt. 1837), and a servant named Emma Rushby living in the home.

A search of America's 1860 census, for men named William Dickinson born bet. 1785-1795 in England produced no results, so although his wife and children went to America in the early 1860s, it doesn't appear that he went ahead of them, as was common.


If anyone has information to confirm or disprove where William was in 1861, please comment below or contact me.


There's more to come, so stay tuned for my next blog as we continue tracing the Dickinson's journey!


These Dickinson finds wouldn't be possible without the help of FindMyPast! Try a search for one of your brick walls, especially if they're in England! We may receive a small commission for purchases made and we thank you for your support, but the recommendation is made because FindMyPast is a great resource! Give it a try!



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