Family Stories

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:

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’.