Sleepless in Seattle…Genealogical Society

I never appreciated the true value of historical telephone directories for genealogy searches until I visited the Seattle Genealogical Society to scan directories containing Atherton ancestors. The organization is run by volunteers in the area of Sandy Point, Seattle to promote genealogy research and education.

The volunteers were very helpful and one of them kindly conducted an initial search before my arrival to ensure that I’d be able to find information for the Atherton One-Name Study (ONS). I spent about an hour searching through the Seattle City Telephone Directories and managed to find Atherton’s who had lived in Seattle from 1898 to 1928.

The first Atherton discovery was in the 1898 directory and later the 1900 directory. Irving Ezra Atherton was born in Massachusetts in 1842 and worked an Assistant Superintendent and then Travel Agent for G N Export Company. He was already on the Atherton ONS website however, his time living in Seattle was a new revelation and led to a census record match for 1900. Irving was a descendant of James Atherton (through his son James) who was born in 1624 in Lancashire and was one of the first settlers of New England.

The 1924-1928 directories listed Lewin Baily Atherton working as a Mechanic and Serviceman and living with his wife Dorothy Lucille Tagatz. Lewin was born in Indiana in 1899 and moved to Washington with his wife between 1921-1924. He was also descended from James Atherton (as above), through his son Joshua; making him Irving Ezra Atherton’s 6th cousin 2 times removed.

An entry for Riley Mayfield Atherton in the 1900 telephone directory led to the discovery of his family spanning two generations; all of whom were new additions to the Atherton ONS. The paper trail that followed from the Seattle telephone directories to US census information then took an unexpected turn by matching up to records from Arizona Genealogy Births and Deaths where Marion Ward Atherton; Riley’s brother and Electa Mae Shaw; his niece were discovered.

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The first female Atherton to be found was in the 1905 directory; Lillian L Atherton (nee Jones); widow of Ernest L Atherton. Her son Stanley Ernest Atherton later appeared in the 1906-1912 directories. They were a family who were born in Canada and then moved to Seattle after Ernest passed away. Stanley lived in Seattle for many years working as a Clerk and then Bookkeeper but his life sadly came to an end during WW1 battles in France where he was killed in action. Stanley and Ernest have a long genealogy trail dating back to Benjamin Atherton born in the early 1700s and who married Mary Rogers in Massachusetts in 1733.

A surprising find in the Seattle directories was for Esther Mary Atherton from Queensland, Australia who was the niece of John Atherton of Atherton Tablelands fame. She was born in 1868 and lived in Australia until the early 1900s. By 1907 she had moved to Seattle where she worked until 1912 at three different hospitals; at one point receiving a promotion to Matron. Her name can be found in the 1910 US Census. It seems she later returned to Australia where her name appears in the 1935 Electoral Roll.

The following family were listed in the full span of telephone directories from 1900-1927. Father, Arthur Lee Atherton was born in Kentucky around 1860. He moved to Washington some time between 1880 and 1900. From 1900 onwards, his name was peppered through the Seattle telephone directories under seven different occupations demonstrating his industrious nature. His son George Wilson Atherton was listed frequently as a Driver and Fireman, Lee Marcellus Atherton was listed as a Sign Painter and Arthur Stuart Atherton was listed as a Messenger for the US Signal Corps. Between 1917-1918, all three sons completed World War 1 registrations. These gents were descended from Aaron Atherton who was born in the early 1700s and lived in Virginia and Maryland.

Between 1919-1928, Charles Edward Atherton appeared in the Seattle telephone directories. He was born in Indiana in 1877 but spent most of his adult life in Seattle working as a Clerk for the Railways. He was married to Edna Maude Calhoun and they had a son, Herschel Charles Atherton who appeared in the 1923 directory working as an Elevator Operator. Charles and Edward were also descended from Aaron Atherton (as above), making them 4th cousins of Arther Lee Atherton and his sons.

An Irish gentleman from Londonderry; Harry Foster Atherton was listed in the Seattle directories from 1910-1913 as a Miner. This was a new discovery for the Atherton ONS. The paper trail revealed that Harry’s parents were Gerald Atherton and Ada Ormsby who were born in Ireland. Harry migrated from Ireland to Canada in 1906 with the intention of traveling to South Africa as his final destination. It seems however, that he fell in love with Canada and a first generation New Yorker by the name of Louise Reichelt, who he married in 1909. They travelled to Washington fairly soon after their wedding where their son Harry F Atherton was born in March 1910. They appeared separately in the Seattle telephone directories as Louise had her own career as a Stenographer. Their time as a family came to an end in an official capacity in 1914 when Louise went on to marry another man. Harry (Junior) remained in Washington serving in the Military during World War 2 and marrying June Hobbs.

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Another new addition for the Atherton ONS was James Martin Atherton who was listed in the directories from 1901-1920. He who was born in New York in 1853 and married Isabella Ewart in Kansas in 1887. By 1900, he and Isabella were settled in Seattle where he worked on the Railroads for most of his career. His records led to the discovery of his father with the fantastic name of Ransom Atherton and his mother Mary Fogle.

Between 1919-1928, William Thomas Atherton was listed as a Conductor and Steward working on the Dining Cars in Seattle. His mother Jane lived at the same address as Widow of William. In the previous year (1918), William Thomas had registered for World War 1 where he noted his DOB and birthplace as England. William had a sister, Ella Atherton who married Gayharty Enocksen in Montana and then moved to Seattle with her daughter Marjory. This family were a particularly exciting find as they matched a family from Norfolk, England on the Atherton ONS website. In order to confirm the match, William Thomas’ birth certificate was ordered from the UK General Register Office and after a nail biting four day wait the DOB was confirmed as the same one in the WW1 record. William Thomas has well recorded genealogy dating back to John Atherton and Alice Mather who were born in the mid 1700s in Lancashire.

The final set of listings from 1917-1920 were for Clarence Curtis Atherton who was already on the Atherton ONS website as a Waiter in Seattle. Previously unknown residential information for Clarence and his wife May were revealed and his very brief stint as a Shipworker was also noted. He is descended from a well documented line of Atherton men dating back to Gawain Atherton who was born in England around 1510.

This treasure trove of Atherton genealogical finds kept me ‘sleepless’ not just in the Seattle Genealogical Society but on my return home too! If you have any Atherton ancestors who featured in this article please contact me for further information.

Peter: The Elusive Atherton

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Over the past 15 years, I have searched high and low for this man. I would appreciate any help to track more records down for Peter The Elusive Atherton!

Peter Atherton was born some time between 1829-1831 in Cheshire, Stockport. I am uncertain when he died. Any super sleuths out there who fancy a challenge – please help me find his birth and death dates!

In the 1841 census living at Bamford Street, Stockport (First District) was James Atherton, 45 years, Head, Married, Bobbin Turner, born Cheshire; Mary Atherton, 50 years, Wife, born Cheshire; Ellen Atherton, 15 years, Daughter, Weaver, born Cheshire; James Atherton, 13 years, born Cheshire; and Peter Atherton, 12 years, born Cheshire.

I could not find Peter Atherton in the 1851 Census although I found the marriage certificate to confirm that he married Mary Wright in Stockport on 29 November 1951.  

Peter joined the Army two months after the birth of his son Alfred Atherton on 17 September 1852. A brief resume of his service is as follows:

Peter Atherton (1438 Private) joined 80th Regiment in Manchester on 15 November 1852 aged 22 years.  Transferred to 28th Regiment 1854 and also served in the 51 Foot (LI?) from March 1863.

He was medically discharged to Bow Lunatic Asylum, Grove Hall in Fairfield Road on 13 October 1868 aged 37 years, 10 months having served a total of 12 years, 247 days (Malta 2 yrs, 183 days, Turkey and Crimea 2 years, 40 days and East Indies 8 years, 24 days).

He was in possession of three Good Conduct Badges and a Turkish and Crimea Medal and clasps for Inkerman and Sebastopol.

His name appeared nine times in the Regimental Defaulters Book and he had been tried by Court Martial.

He was to be entitled to a deferred pension on 13 November 1880.

The following link to the 28th Regiment (North Gloucestershire) gives details of the Crimean War:

http://glosters.tripod.com/crimean.html

I have found the record from UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Admissions and Discharges, 1715-1925:

Name    Peter Atherton

Pension Admission or Examination Age  37

Birth Year            about 1831

Birth Place          Stockport, Cheshire

Pension Admission or Examination Date 13 Oct 1868

Regiment            51st Foot

Rank      Private

Regimental Number       1438

He was therefore not in the country for the 1861 Census and I have a possible match for Peter Atherton in the 1871 Census (although it shows the place of birth as Oldham):

1871 Census – Peter Atherton living in Brook Street, Oldham as a Boarder Unmarried, 40 years, Wood Bobbin Turner, born Oldham.  He was living with Solomon Walker, 56 years; Sarah Walker, 52 years; and another boarder Robert Wheatley, Unmarried, 23 years.

I have not been able to find Peter Atherton in the 1881 Census.

In the 1891 Census I found Peter Atherton born 1831 in Stockport, Single, Lodger, Wood Turner, living at 18-22 Hillgate Stockport (St Thomas), as 1 of 47 lodgers. This entry is the final “sighting” I have of Peter Atherton.

Outstanding questions I have regarding Peter Atherton that I would appreciate comments on are:

  1. Where was he born?
  2. Where was he in 1851?
  3. Why did he join the Army 2 months after the birth of his son Alfred?
  4. He had a sister called Elizabeth Ellen Atherton who was born 10 May 1957 and died 20 Jun 1858; was Peter Atherton actually her Father (the birth certificate says he was)?
  5. Mary (Wright) Atherton married Thomas Proctor on 1 Sep 1859 in Stockport (was this 7 year rule of desertion/missing?).
  6. Where was he in 1881?
  7. Where did he die?

His son Alfred Atherton  followed in his military footsteps by serving with the 2nd Royal Cheshire Militia until his discharge in 1870 (to join the Regulars).

Private Alfred Atherton (Regiment number 1823) enlisted at 19 years on 4 July 1870 into the 109 Regiment of Foot (109th Bombay Infantry Regiment) at Manchester and saw Army service in India before being medically discharged on 30 April 1877 at Netley with heart problems.  His total Army Service was 6 years, 290 days.  His Army trade was a Bleacher. 

I’m quite happy to take questions!

This blog article was written by Derek Atherton.

Genealogy Research Tips: An Interview with Derek Atherton

Derek is the founder of the Atherton One-Name Study. He decided to start the study when he ‘hit a brick wall’ with his personal research. Over 10 years he collected nearly 47,000 family names and constructed over 16,000 family trees. In 2018, Derek retired from the study to focus on his other family lines so, his passion for genealogy is being applied to new areas of research.

Derek, thank you so much for creating the Atherton One-Name Study. As a genealogy researcher what does a typical day look like?

It’s a matter of fitting in your research of the deceased, into your everyday life i.e. the living! I am fortunate in that I am retired and am keen to do something else other than golf. My mantra is ‘the three Gs’; Grandchildren, Golf and Genealogy – not always in that order, but that is my priority.

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What online resources do you recommend to other genealogy researchers?

You need to register with at least one of the big sites; Ancestry or Findmypast and supplement those with a lot free sites like FreeBMD, Lancashire OPC or Family Search. I also joined a number of genealogy forums; British-Genealogy forum, Family Historian User Group, Family Tree Forum, the list goes on! Certainly looking at the USA, my biggest help has been Find A Grave, which in addition to being free, also lists a lot of family members that have helped me fill in the gaps between Census’.  I’m not a great fan of Billion Graves; although they have a lot of information on the site, it is VERY rare to see birth dates, even when the age can clearly be seen on the gravestone!

Is there a feature on the Atherton One-Name Study website that you find the most useful with your genealogy searches?  

Using the search facility to find an ancestor on the site can be rewarding and informative.  Your nearest and dearest are likely to have even more information and particularly photos!

What have you learnt about genealogy research that you think would help others?

Remember that a lot of our ancestors were illiterate and couldn’t even spell their own names. Census information was put down by people who wrote what they heard rather than how the names were spelt. I have found a good number of Atherton families with ridiculously silly “transcribed” names by searching their Christian Names.

What advice would you give to those who are just starting out with their research?  

Do not guess at a relationship. Remember that you MUST have a source for all your information.

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What about those who have ‘hit a brick wall’ with their research like you did?

Patience and perseverance! As before, do not guess at relationships.  Broaden your normal search pattern as wide as possible.

Have you met any living family members as part of your research journey?

I met 2 x distant cousins online. One of them I eventually met in person but sadly she has now passed – Gwenda – she was of the Welsh “Taffytons”.  Both cousins helped me with my research enormously in their different ways.

What are your hopes for the future of the Atherton One Name Study?

I just hope you enjoy your time ‘in the chair’.