Remember William on his wedding day, well this is his mother – Ada – and she is a woman with eight years of mystery in her life. Actually it could be more than eight years, as her year of birth got earlier and earlier the older she got.
Ada died on 19th November 1954 at no 1 Ranelagh Cottages on Ebury Bridge Road in London. Her death was registered by her eldest son, as her husband, Benjamin, had died 26 years previously, and her other seven children were either dead or not in close contact. The loss of so many close family members might go some way to explain why her two surviving grandchildren do not have very happy memories of her.
Ranelagh Cottages, which still exist today, had been Ada’s home since at least 1913, it was where her youngest child was born. Prior to moving to Ranelagh Cottages, Benjamin and Ada had lived in at least four different homes in Pimlico. The 1911 census has them in Commercial Place, the 1904 birth of their eldest daughter in Passmore Street and the 1901 census on Luna Street. Not at all unusual experience for families renting in London.
Ada and Benjamin married in 1893, and it was their marriage certificate which helped us find out a little bit more about Ada’s eight year mystery. We already knew from the birth certificates of her children, that Ada’s maiden name – Wheeler – was exactly the same as her married name.
It just seems to be a coincidence though, as Ada and Benjamin were not related prior to their marriage. It was from the marriage certificate we first learnt the name of Ada’s father – Alfred. Unfortunately however knowing his name took us no where. A few years later the 1939 register gave us her date of birth, so we finally thought we track down her birth records and even more importantly her parents on earlier census records. Or so we thought!
The problems are multiple. Two years before her marriage, on the 1891 census, she is working as a live in housemaid, and so no information can be gathered from that. Whilst we know her father was no longer alive at the time of her marriage, we don’t know when or where he died and his common name means it has proved impossible to track down his death records. And lastly just to complicate things still further after the death of her husband in 1928 Ada began recording she was older than we had previously thought.
All the pre-1928 records indicated she was born between 1871 and 1873 but on the 1939 register she gives her date of birth as 20th March 1869, and in 1954 her son says she was born in 1868! We have bought numerous birth certificates of girls born in London with the name Ada Wheeler, the place Ada always said she was born. However not one has matched up with the information we do have, and there does become a point when you feel like you are pouring money down the drain! Consequently we began to give up hope on ever discovering Ada’s childhood records, but then a few years ago I decided to look again at her marriage certificate. Namely her address – 11 Whittaker Street – and her witnesses – Charles Newman and Annie Wren. Could there be anything on the 1891 census return. There was!
In 1891 both Charles and Annie were living in Whittaker Street. The Newmans at no11 and the Wrens at no7. Clearly Ada knew them well. We also spotted that Charles was a porter, the same profession as Ada’s deceased father. Could this mean anything?
We decided to go back another ten years, to the 1881 census but this time focus on Charles Newman. We found him, still in Pimlico and still a porter. Guess what, he has an eight year daughter named Ada. We had found Ada, but whom were her parents?
We went back another ten years to the 1871 census and found Charles again, but no sign of Ada. We did spot he had a different wife in 1871 and so thought perhaps Ada was his step daughter following his second marriage. However despite numerous searches over the past twenty odd years by us and professional genealogists we have yet to find any documentary evidence to support this theory. We’ve not even been able to find evidence of his second marriage, apart from the census returns.
Consequently the first eight, possibly thirteen years of Ada’s life, remain a mystery. Maybe even she didn’t know the truth about her full name, place of birth and parents.