On Thursday 16th October 2003 I escorted my dad Ron to The London Independent Hospital in Stepney for an Angiogram to try and discover why he has been having problems of late. As he wouldn’t be discharged until early evening I decided to make the most of the day and went to The London Metropolitan Archives and The Family Record Centre.


I had two main objectives: -


Firstly, having recently obtained Sarah Mills’ death certificate, I wanted to discover who else was living at 110, Ancona Road, Plumstead when she died there on the 26th April 1920. The informant was her daughter; Louisa Carter and I assumed that “Carters” would have been in residence.


Secondly, I wanted to search the 1851 and 1861 Census records to try and discover more about James Mills’ early life in Barton upon Irwell.


Up until 1918 women were not entitled to vote and hence don’t appear in electoral registers. Post 1918, until full equality was established in 1928, only women over the age of thirty could vote.


The register for the spring of 1919 recorded a Frances Ann Mullins at 110, Ancona Road and Alfred Mullins at 109. In the autumn of 1919 both Frances and Alfred were at 110. In the Spring of 1920 the Mullins’ had disappeared, to be replaced by Thomas Brown, and in the autumn of 1920 the Browns appeared to be taking over the neighbourhood; at 107 was Mary Jane Brown, at 108 was Harry Brown, at 109 was Harold Brown, at 110 was Thomas Brown and at 111 was William Brown!!!


I have no clue as yet to why our Sarah died in a house occupied by a “Brown”, especially as Louisa Carter gave 110 as her address as well.



1851 Census

I moved on to the Census records at the Family Record Centre; armed with a surname index for the Barton, Eccles, Stretford and Worsley areas of Manchester in 1851.


The records are on microfilm and involve squinting at fairly faint white writing on a sepia background. The handwriting varies from legible to a cursive scrawl and needs a great deal of concentration to avoid missing important detail.


After an hour or so I found James where I had expected him to be, at home as he was only thirteen but he had already been put to work as a “Power Loom Silk Weaver”

He was living on the Worsley Road in the Hamlet of Winton, maybe 600yds from the Bridgewater Foundry completed in 1836 by James Nasmyth, one of the Greats of The Industrial Revolution.


James the First’s father was also James Mills, a 44-year-old Sawyer, born in Worsley.

His wife was Ann, 49 years old, born in Wellington, Shropshire. Also living in the house were an elder daughter, Sarah, also a silk weaver and Elizabeth and Emma who were both still at school.

Next door lived another Mills family headed by Joseph Mills, 46 years old, also a Sawyer, together with his wife Mary and 11-year-old son Thomas.


1861 Census

Next came the 1861 Census, with no help from a surname index. This means scrolling through every household on every street looking for occurrences of the word “Mills”


I found that both the households from the 1851 Census had moved even closer to the Bridgewater Foundry but were still living three doors away from each other. James the First had fled the nest, James Senior was a widower at 53, but the three daughters were still at home, all silk weavers. Joseph was also a widower at 56 and his son Thomas had become a Joiner’s and Builder’s Clerk


Not half a mile away in Barton Lane I found yet another Mills family.

The head was Joseph Mills a retired cotton weaver and widower at 77 years old, (born 1784) living with daughters Ann 40 and Elizabeth 37, silk weavers and a son Thomas 19, an iron planer. All were born in Barton.


The birth dates indicate that James Senior and Joseph Junior could be sons of this Joseph.


I had by now run out of time – Joseph Senior in the 1851 Census will have to wait for the next trip. I picked up my dad who had been given the all clear and a new regimen of drugs and we returned to his house in Green Street Green. Apart from being bleary eyed I was very happy with the day’s work.


That evening Lynne called to say that a document had arrived from the Tyne & Wear Archive Services. They had tracked down for me the burial place of Thomas William Mills, my Great Grandfather, who had died in Newcastle in 1901. The photocopy of the Burial Register showed that he had been interred on the 29th May 1901 in Preston Cemetery and that, intriguingly, a Presbyterian Minister had conducted the service. Although this gives some credence to the tale that James the First was Scottish (he wasn’t) there is the possibility that the family had connections to Scotland in the past.


Back home I started to put all the information gathered onto the computer and also looked back over the mountain of scribbled notes and documents put aside just in case.  Back in November 2002 I had ordered a marriage certificate of a James Mills to a Sarah Kate Ireland and had put this to one side as the father, James Ireland didn’t match with current thinking. I also thought that as the occupation of the James Mills’ father James, a Lawyer, didn’t sound right and that the marriage had taken place in St. Pancras, London was odd, I’d discounted this liaison.


Looking at it again with new insight from the recent research, I stared in disbelief. The father wasn’t a Lawyer but a Sawyer. I’d misread an S for an L; this was our James Mills’ marriage!

He’d actually jumped the gun as his son Edward was born exactly 7 months and 2 weeks after the marriage!

It also appears that I have the wrong birth certificate for Sarah but never realised it, as I had never made any connections from it.


There is another twist to the tale – whilst James was living in New Town, Ashford, there was another James Mills of the same age living a few doors away who had also been born in Manchester and who had also moved to Plumstead to work in the Royal Arsenal. He had a son called James Edward who had been born in St Pancras a year after our James’ marriage there. I have ordered his birth certificate as there is a chance that there is yet another family connection.


I’ve followed as many of the families as I can through the 1891 and 1901 Censuses – if the connections can be proved I think that the Mills family is becoming a global phenomenon.



Corin Mills


21st October 2003