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The Dennison-Johnson saga revisited : an update

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Martin-46
The Dennison-Johnson saga revisited : an update

Some members may recall the lengthy series of posts beginning last Christmas Eve that focused on discovering the past of my grandfather John Fleming Denison Johnson who was born in Liverpool in 1891 but after marrying and producing four children mysteriously ‘disappeared’ in the mid-1920s.  He died in Liverpool in 1973.

I now have some intriguing updates to add – and a couple of requests for more help.

[For any members who find my comments below interesting - but confusing – the original thread was called ‘Was he Dennison or Johnson?’ and runs for 9 forum pages.  However, I have also written the whole story out in narrative form as a Word document which may make easier reading and I’m happy to email this to anyone who wishes.  Beware, it runs to 40+ pages including all appendices.]

My grandfather’s 1891 birth certificate recorded his mother as Sarah Dennison and his given names as John Fleming.  However, his father’s name was not recorded.

The questions needing answers a few months ago were: who was his father, how did he acquire the surname Johnson, and what happened to him in later life?

Several members, notably Bertieone, MaryA, AndyJ and SuffolkSandry97 contributed to uncovering some fascinating details about my grandfather’s origins and later life.

The search began with a Sarah Dennison, the daughter of Irish immigrants living in the squalid Courts of the Liverpool docklands in the late 19th century.  This proved a false trail but further research using Ancestry and other sources coupled with Bertieone’s intuition identified my grandfather’s likely mother as Sarah Ann Dennison born in Leeds in 1865, the daughter of a Jonathan Dennison.  At the time of her son’s birth Sarah Dennison was living in Prescot Road, seemingly unmarried, next door to a certain John Fleming.  This led to the suspicion that she had named my grandfather John Fleming because her neighbour was in fact his father.

The 1901 census recorded a John Johnson, aged 9, living with one of Sarah Dennison’s sisters, Elizabeth Mary and her husband Walter Taylor and described as their nephew.  Also living in the household was a mysterious Lillian Johnson, a widow, possibly John Johnson’s mother.  However, Elizabeth didn’t have a sister called Lillian.  So who was Lillian Johnson?  Bertione conjectured that Lillian Johnson was in fact Sarah Ann Dennison who for unknown reasons had changed her name.  This hypothesis was strengthened by the discovery that in 1906 a ‘Lilly Johnson’ had married a Thomas Thornely Houldsworth and had named her father as Jonathan Dennison.

The 1911 census showed John Johnson still living with his aunt and uncle but now at Bloomfields, South Villas, Liscard.  He was described as an analytical chemist the very profession pursued by my grandfather John Fleming Denison Johnson.  However, Lillian Johnson seemed to have disappeared.

Bertieone then made contact with a ‘SuffolkSandry97’ who it turned out was the great grand-daughter of another of Sarah Ann Denison’s sisters, Emily.  Evidence from SuffolkSandry97 and a cascade of other sources confirmed that ‘John Johnson' was indeed my great grandfather John Fleming Denison Johnson.  But this still left open the question who was Lillian Johnson?  Was she really Sarah Ann Dennison from Leeds, was she really my grandfather’s mother and if so why had she changed her name and what became of her?

My recent DNA test results confirm that SuffolkSandry97 and I are third cousins thus confirming that Sarah Ann Denison was definitely my grandfather’s mother.  Between us we set about trying to clarify the identity of Lillian Johnson who we suspected to be the Lilly Johnson who had married Thomas Houldsworth in 1906.  The death certificate for a Lily Holdsworth who had died in Chester in 1921 verified this to be the case giving her previous address as ‘South Villas’, Wallasey.  Sadly it also recorded that she died after suffering dysentery for 15 days in Chester Asylum.  Subsequently I obtained her medical records (including a desperately sad photograph) from Chester archives to find that she had spent 8 months in the asylum suffering from melancholia and depression after being transferred there from Birkenhead Union (the workhouse).  These records, 100 years old, make for sad reading and an insight into a very troubled mind; again, I am happy to email a copy to anyone interested.

I have been unable to find any records for Birkenhead Union so any help would be welcome. How long was she there, is there a record of next of kin, previous address, etc.?

Using FindaGrave we located Lily’s resting place in Overleigh New Cemetery, Chester and laid some flowers there exactly 100 years after her death.  She was buried in unconsecrated ground in a communal grave along with 6 others one of them a stillborn child.  We still do not have conclusive proof that Lily/Lillian Johnson actually was Sarah Ann Dennison from Leeds but there is no other credible conclusion to draw other than that this is the case.

Although we have almost closed the book on Sarah/Lily/Lillian, mysteries still surround my grandfather John Fleming Denison Johnson.  His death certificate recorded that he died in Newsham General Hospital in 1973.  Liverpool archives provided the following details from hospital records: 614 NGN 2/9 death register states that John Fleming Johnson was aged 90 and was admitted on 1/10/1969 was buried on 21/3/1973 by the state at Walton Park.  614 NGN 1/10 states that the Dr recommending admission was a Dr Pottinger and that he (JFJ) had come from Westminster House for which we do have the registers: Admitted 8/9/1967 discharged to NGH 1/10/1969 born 1883 agnostic admitted from the John Bagot Hospital, name of relations: none.  Unfortunately we don’t have any records for the John Bagot Hospital nor do we have any records for Walton Park cemetery for this time.” (Actually he was born in 1891 and was 81 when he died.)

Does anyone know what type of hospital John Bagot was and if there is any way of telling how long he might have spent there and where he was before that?

About 10 years ago I visited Walton cemetery and was guided by someone to what was believed to be his grave.  I think that grave records do exist somewhere, does anyone know where?

Between about 1925 and the late 1960s there is scarcely a trace of my grandfather.  Did he have another life, another family or was he just a mentally disturbed drifter?

In November 1939, on (re)enlistment to the army he provided three addresses in the London area (see my January posts), strangely one of these was dated 1930 when he would have had no contact with the army.  At some time between 30th August 1956 and 1957 (by which time his wife Ethel was dead – although he may not have known this) he was likely in Ward 6 Horton Hospital, Epsom (another mental institution) going by the will of Walter Taylor who left him £250.  Records of Horton hospital appear to be held as London Metropolitan Archives Reference H22/NT (NRA 41337 Horton) but I can’t work out how to access them.  Help!.  I am curious to know if he ever mentioned a next of kin other than his wife.

Finally, there is still the mystery of John Johnson, ship’s officer, who he twice mentioned as his father.  Did he ever exist; did Sarah/Lillian/Lily even perhaps marry him?  We will probably never know.

I am happy to post copies of any of the records SuffolkSandry97 and I have accessed.

 

MaryA
MaryA's picture

First of all for reference, here is the link to the post on the old forum https://www.lswlfhs.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=16635

I entered "london metropolitan archives h22" into the National Archives search and a number of results appeared, however I'm not so sure that they have any relevance, perhaps you could drop them an email and ask advice.

Again there are a lot of references to "John Bagot" in the Liverpool Library Archive Catalogue, http://archive.liverpool.gov.uk/calmview/  it would seem that Netherfield Road Hospital was a private hospital. It then became owned by Liverpool Council. Up until the opening of Fazakerly it was the only hospital that admitted patients with infectious diseases other than the workhouse infirmaries and Park Hill. The Liverpool Record Office may have some more details on patient admissions etc.

The grave is a Public one so no headstone will mark it, the number is 11D and to find the area likely to be where it is - walk to the chapel, take a right turn just behind the chapel, known as St John's Avenue, a path crosses over and beyond that path on the left should be the area where it is.  This can only be guessed at by date of burial so don't shoot me if I'm wrong.

I wonder if you might find any useful details about resources held by the Archives, from the Zoom talk which will be given by the Archivists to our members on 29th June https://www.lswlfhs.org.uk/?q=news_and_events

Image: 

MaryA

Member 6532

bertieone

Wirral Archives Service | Wirral Council, for Birkenhead Union Workhouse.

  • Workhouse Registers, recording details of those admitted to the Birkenhead Union Workhouse. These include the ‘Creed Registers’, which record details of individuals on admission (including religious denomination), and also birth, baptism and death registers for certain years.

Bert

Andy J

Martin,

If, following Mary's advice, you think there may be something of interest at the Metropolitan Archives in H22/NT (NRA 41337 Horton), I would be happy to make a visit on your behalf. They are due to reopen on Monday (10th May) but I would need to prebook any visit, so I can't promise an immediate response, once you have decided whether or not you would like me to take a look.

If you haven't already seen the LMA description of their holdings, it says this about H22:

Scope and Content:

  • Records of the Banstead Hospital, 1835 - 1985; the Horton Hospital, 1900 - 1990 and the Horton Hospital Malaria Treatment Unit, 1889 - 1979. Papers include minutes, patient registers, case notes, treatment books, staff records, reports, visitors books, research papers, glass plate negatives, financial records, diaries, correspondence with the Public Health Laboratory and subject files relating to malaria and mosquitos.

Extent:73.4 linear metres

Horton Hospital was founded in 1902 by the London County Council as Horton Asylum. It was one of five mental hospitals opened on the Horton Estate, Epsom. In 1915 Horton Asylum became Horton (County of London) War Hospital, which was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel J.R. Lord. This required the transfer of 2143 patients to sister hospitals. From 1918 until 1937 Horton Asylum became known as Horton Mental Hospital. The Second World War saw Horton once again become a war hospital as part of the Emergency Medical Service, returning to its function as a mental hospital in 1949. Upon the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948, Horton Hospital became part of the South West Metropolitan Region. Between 1974 and 1982 the Hospital was part of the North West Thames Region within the North East District (Teaching) Health Authority. From 1982 the Hospital was part of the North West Thames Region within the Victoria District Health Authority and in 1985 it became part of the Riverside Health Authority. The hospital was closed in 1998.

Copyright:Public records deposited under section 4(1) of the 1958 Public Records Act Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Source of Acquisition:

  • Material received in 15 accessions between 1986 and 2002.
  • ACC/3690
  • ACC/3691
  • ACC/3729
  • ACC/3742
  • ACC/3798

Access Restrictions:These records are open to public inspection, although under section 5(4) of the 1958 Public Records Act administrative records are closed for 30 years and patient records for 100 years.

That last bit probably means you won't find anything specific about JFDJ's medical details while in Horton, but possibly his dates of admission and discharge, and next of kin details will be within the administrative records for 1956-57 which can now be accessed.

Andy

MaryA
MaryA's picture

How good of you to make that offer Andy, thank you.

MaryA

Member 6532

Martin-46

Many thanks everyone for helpful replies.

Thankyou Mary for info on grave number; how on earth did you find it and where?  I have found a map of the cemetery on FindaGrave (I think it’s the same one as the engraving at the City Farm) – more like a tourist map than a proper plan however it shows the path behind the chapel as the one leading towards the Tressell grave, am I right?  I do recall when I visited about 10 years ago there were no headstones anywhere – apparently removed for H&S reasons and to stop vandalism.

I checked the Nat Archives as you suggested and Horton hospital is mentioned but probably doesn’t include any patient info.

Regarding John Bagot hospital, Liverpool Archives said they had no other info. so looks like a dead end.  I just wondered if patients would show up on electoral registers but I couldn’t find any using Ancestry.

Yes, I think the Zoom talk about Archives will be interesting – on which subject, do you think anyone made a recording of the DNA talk a couple of months ago?  I was a newcomer to Zoom and didn’t realise you could record.  I was also new to DNA but now realise it is important to my searches.

Bert, I emailed Wirral Archives about a week ago but have heard nothing but I will keep you posted if I hear anything.

Andy, that’s a very nice offer but I wouldn’t like to put you to too much trouble.  Following Mary’s suggestion above I found this

  • Horton, Hanwell and Bexley Asylums (addnl): reports, staff registers, register of funerals and register of seals 1897-1975 (B01/016)

It’s on the link :  https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/accessions/2001/01digests/london.htm

It does rather look like that no medical records are available as you say but to be honest they don’t interest me so much.  It’s the possibility of finding mention of next of kin or addresses that interests me.  I know so little about the last 50 years of my grandfather’s life.  Despite the fact that he had psychiatric problems he might well have met someone else, even had more children.  SuffolkSandry97 struck gold when she took a punt and ordered the death certificate for ‘Lily Holdsworth’, it told us everything we needed to know, so I’m hoping that somehow I might strike gold – even silver would please me!  So if you do get the chance to make visit Andy I would certainly be grateful – but there’s no rush.

On a final note, SuffolkSandry97 and I have put quite a bit of effort into trying to find something about ‘John Fleming’ the neighbour of Sarah Ann Denison in Prescot Road who might be my grandfather’s father. But so far no luck, even with the help of DNA results.  Liverpool must be awash with Flemings so it’s strange we’ve found nothing.  That’s why more understanding about how to use DNA results might help me.

MaryA
MaryA's picture

I will mention your last point first, DNA results.  Have you entered the name Fleming into “Search” on the right hand side online with Unviewed, Common Ancestors etc., which opens up three boxes – Match Name, Surname in matches trees and Birth location in matches trees.  The reason you may not have many matches for Fleming could be a break in the line, generally known as a NPE “non parental event” which might change the surname.

But try both surname and also birth location of Liverpool, separately and together.

Unfortunately we are unable for GDPR and other technical reasons to record and offer later any of our talks, not least of the reasons being the copyright of the speaker themselves.  Now you know how to record yourself, perhaps you could try it.

However, try joining a few Facebook Groups for DNA, I will send you a private message with a few links, there are often talks given by those who profess to know much more than I or anybody in our Society would be able to help with.

There are no proper maps in existence for Walton Parochial Cemetery, many of the records were lost when St Nicholas was partly demolished in the blitz.  Unless you make your own the best you may get would be the one you have probably already found online, which is near the entrance to the City Farm.  Yes the path to the right just behind the Chapel will lead you to Robert Tressell’s grave on the right hand side, however the area of interest to you would be the field on the left.  This area will be full of General Graves and as such probably would never had any headstones.  There are a huge number of headstones throughout the cemetery, but they have been left to disintegrate or be overgrown and are very difficult to identify, except the Commonwealth War Graves which a volunteer gardener attempts to keep tidy.

Apart from being noted as “Public Grave” the number itself identifies this grave as being a general one as it is listed on other burials, so there are a number of burials in the same plot.

MaryA

Member 6532

Andy J

Martin,

A quick update on the LMA. All their slots for research visits are booked until mid June so I've bid for 22 June onwards - only 12 places per day are available. Will let you know once I have a confirmed booking, in case there's anything else you need me to look at while I'm there.

Andy

 

Andy

 

rozza

Martin

I'm an interloper here! However, I was interested in your Denison/Dennison comments. My wifes family is  Denison (one "n"!) from Bradford/Wakefield areas and elsewhere and in my research I have not come across any records in her tribe where "nn" has been used. Denison has always appeared. However, your latest posting uses both  "Sarah Dennison" and  "Sarah Ann Denison" as though they are interchangeable. Am I missing something?

Incidently, there is a Denison Island in Sydney Harbour, Australia!

 

Martin-46

Hello Rozza, it depends what answer you want !  If you think about it, people often change their name, sometimes by choice, sometimes in error., sometimes in ignorance. E.g. Davies to Davis, Anne to Ann, William to Bill  Smyth to Smith.There is no reason why people need to to stick to the name on their birth certificate - they may not even know it for definite. Sometimes parents add or change names at christenings.   Going back to times when literacy was low, names would often be recorded by clerks, priests, etc. who simply chose the spelling that seemed to fit best - sounded right to the ear.  I am a realitive newcomer to family history research but this I have learnt: never take any record for granted. When doing your own searching spread the net as wide as possible. Names, and more especially dates are dodgy.  That's why Ancestry, for instance, gives you 'exact', 'sounds like', 'similar', etc. Hope that helps.

rozza

Martin. Thaks for the reply. I agree entirely about accuracy. I have a cousin in the States who was an enumerator at one time and she was told that "in earlier times" as they were paid by the entry, it was not unknown for an enumerator, on finding an empty house, to get the information from the neighbours or to invent it!! It's just that in my research being able to differentiate between Denison and Dennison has actually been very helpful so I was interested in your experience. And in my family's case, I have not found any overlap - as yet!

Martin-46

Hello Rozza, it depends what answer you want !  If you think about it, people often change their name, sometimes by choice, sometimes in error., sometimes in ignorance. E.g. Davies to Davis, Anne to Ann, William to Bill  Smyth to Smith.There is no reason why people need to to stick to the name on their birth certificate - they may not even know it for definite. Sometimes parents add or change names at christenings.   Going back to times when literacy was low, names would often be recorded by clerks, priests, etc. who simply chose the spelling that seemed to fit best - sounded right to the ear.  I am a realitive newcomer to family history research but this I have learnt: never take any record for granted. When doing your own searching spread the net as wide as possible. Names, and more especially dates are dodgy.  That's why Ancestry, for instance, gives you 'exact', 'sounds like', 'similar', etc. Hope that helps.

Martin-46

Andy, sorry not to reply earlier, have been incapacitated - it's an age thing. No worries about the delay. Patience is a virtue. I am still worried that it may be putting you to too much trouble. If you want to give it a miss I will understand. It's a long shot anyway. Martin.

MaryA
MaryA's picture

Welcome to the forum Rozza, hope between you some light might appear.

MaryA

Member 6532

Martin-46

More help if possible please from any clever person with searching tricks up their sleeve.  Since DNA seems the only hope of proving I have a Fleming ancestor I am trying to find descendants of John Fleming aged about 60 living at 375 Prescot Road in 1891.  The 1871 census for the Fleming family appears to show 7 children with the Fleming surname the youngest being Ellen aged 9 months.  However, also listed is Lucy Sullivan who also seems to be recorded as a daughter (although it’s unclear), her age being 11 (probably) months.  If she really was John Fleming’s daughter she must have had a different mother ( … Sullivan ?).  However, I can’t find any record of her birth or later life (of course she may have died). One other peculiarity is she appears to be described as a servant.  Can anyone turn up any info about her?

[img]https://i.imgur.com/gSOlS3Z.png[/img]

Also, despite a lot of searching none of John Fleming’s children show up in any marriage records and none appear to have had children . . . except Mary. I find the following record fairly convincing that Mary was the mother of the Maud Mackay listed as granddaughter aged 3 in 1881 census for Fleming family at 54 Prescot Road. Agreed?  However, I’ve not found a marriage record for the parents nor any record of Maud in later censuses. Can anyone help on this?

[img]https://i.imgur.com/3gwXOjn.png[/img]

 

[img]https://i.imgur.com/0xjcGLR.png[/img]

bertieone

Maud, GRO

Image: 

Bert

bertieone

Marriage

 

Image: 

Bert

bertieone

Name

Maud Mary Simcock

Relative

Mrs E. Simcock

Birth

abt 1883 England

Departure

London

Arrival

24 Sep 1919 New York, New York, USA

Mrs E Simcock is her mother in law, 3 Linden Grove, Wallasey, where Leonard is, 1911 census, without Maud Mary.

Bert

bertieone

Marriage 1877,

Image: 

Bert

bertieone

1881 census, 70 Cresswell St, RG11 P3666 F12 P18

 

John Mackey38Mary Mackey27Rachel M.E. Mackey15Frances G. Mackey12Emma McVickars41

The link here is the 1919 New york passenger record above, In those records, Maud is visiting sibling Mrs Wilbur, Need to go into more, Frances G Mackey becomes a Mrs Wilbur.

Bert

bertieone

Name:Charles WilbarGender:MaleMarriage Date:28 Oct 1905Marriage Place:Manhattan, New York, USASpouse:Frances G Mackey

Bert

Martin-46

What a wizard you are Bert. I wonder if Maud Mary Simcock had children - or have I missed that. Thank you so much.

bertieone

I found 2, Frances Gertrude and Zitta Evelyn, both died soon after birth if memory serves. Frances G 1899, Zitta needs checking again for date. 1901

Bert

Martin-46

Thanks Bert. Yes, I have found both of Maud Mary Mackey’s children Frances Gertrude and Zitta Evelyn; both died in infancy.  But I am puzzled by:

1881 census, 70 Cresswell St, RG11 P3666 F12 P18

John Mackey38Mary Mackey27Rachel M.E. Mackey15Frances G. Mackey12Emma McVickars41

The link here is the 1919 New york passenger record above, In those records, Maud is visiting sibling Mrs Wilbur, Need to go into more, Frances G Mackey becomes a Mrs Wilbur.”

Are we sure this is the correct John Mackey? Wife Mary is the correct age to be Mary Fleming, but if so, where is baby Maud Mary who would have been 3 years old?  Also, I have Mary Fleming down as having only one daughter.

If Rachel M. E. and Frances G are indeed siblings of Maud Mary I still have some hope of finding Fleming genes.

I haven’t found the record for the New York trip but I take your word for it.

Also can you explain the “RG11 P3666 F12 P18” – sorry it is lost on me.

Thanks, Martin.

bertieone

Martin,

RG11 is the reference number for the census.

Maud Mary is with her grandparents, 54 Prescot Rd, 1881.

Rachel and Frances are John Mackey's daughters from his first marriage, Maud Mary's step sisters.

Bert

bertieone

.

Image: 

Bert

bertieone

Martin,

I have World Ancestry and is likely to be the reason I can access the passenger record.

I've been trying to find what happened to Maud Mary, Leonard W Simcock remarried in 1943, have not yet found a death for Maud.

Bert

Martin-46

Aha, it makes sense now. Hence if Maud Mary had no further children (which seems unlikely) and if I am right that none of the other Prescot Road Fleming children had children of their own then no other Fleming genes have passed down (except my grandfather - if our hypothesis is correct). Thus without going back 3 or 4 generations to find Fleming genes coming down from Dublin in the early-mid 19th century, I probably have no hope of finding any connection with my DNA. This could be the end of the trail.  Don't worry about chasing any of the Mackey loose ends, they're not going to yield anything of value to me.

Many, many thanks again. Martin.

MaryA
MaryA's picture

I probably have no hope of finding any connection with my DNA

Don't give up on that, for all those matches who don't seem obviously related to you, create "quick and dirty" trees and see where they lead.  Quick and dirty meaning you don't need to be very particular about keeping the resources perfect etc. but if you have one you may get matches with other trees too. 

MaryA

Member 6532