I always thought there was something odd about the birth of my great-great-grandmother, Emma Caldwell and her twin sister, Jane, but it took her birth certificate to prove the point.

Emma's mother, Alice Sidebotham, married John Caldwell in May 1821 at Manchester Cathedral and they had five children, the two youngest having been born in Frodsham, Cheshire in the mid-1930s. However, by the time of the 1841 census, Alice was living at Fernaly Street, Hyde, where Emma and Jane were born eight months previously. Of John there is no sign and neither is he to be found anywhere else, but the limited information on the 1841 census means there is no indication as to Alice's marital status.

Alice was still in Hyde in 1851 and records that she was widowed. She has also had another child, Thomas, born about 1844. My first assumption then was that John must have died some time between then and the census, but again there was no sign of a record. My next thought was that perhaps he wasn't Thomas' father and that he had died earlier than I thought, perhaps around 1840 when the twins were born. I had no reason at that stage to think that he may not have been their father as Emma names him as such on her marriage certificate, but still the record remained elusive.

My suspicions grew and in the end I had to grit my teeth and part with £7 for Emma's birth certificate which proved to be something of an eye-opener. To begin with, it is very specific about the time of Emma's birth because she was a twin — five minutes before eight o'clock on 23 October 1840 — but instead of the expected blank space where the father's details should be, there was the name John Voce, occupation, tailor, and certainly the same John Voce who was living with the family in 1841.

Presumably, John Caldwell had died around the mid-1830s just prior to the start of the registration of births, marriages and deaths, probably in Frodsham. Why Alice should have then moved to Hyde isn't clear. I can only assume some family connection, although she had been born in Manchester, but this has yet to be proved.

Technically speaking then, I am not related to the Caldwells, at least not through John. I don't believe that John Voce was also the father of Thomas. Another birth certificate might reveal who that was. Go to the Voce home page to learn more about that family.

Whether Emma was ever aware of who her father was is uncertain. As can be seen from her marriage certificate, she names John Caldwell, and from previous experience, people tended to be truthful about their lineage, or at least what they believed to be the truth.

Map of Openshaw
By 1867, when Emma married Thomas Shorrocks, she was living at 3 Lees Street, Openshaw (see map left), while Thomas was nearby at Varna Street. He was the eldest son of John Shorrocks and had been born in Liverpool in 1842, although his father's family were originally from Wigan. John clearly moved around through his work as he had children born in Dukinfield, Newton Moor and Gorton. As a boiler maker, his skills would have been in demand in these areas of heavy industry, particularly at Daniel Adamson's. (Read more on the Shorrocks page)

Thomas also became a boiler maker and was living in Ashton in 1881. In 1871 Emma was living at 31 Forge Street, Crewe with their eldest son Jabez, while Thomas was working as a boiler maker in Bedford. At the time of Emma's death in 1893. they were living at 92 Victoria Road, Dukinfield and Thomas was a journeyman boiler maker, almost certainly at Adamson's factory mentioned above. Emma was only 51 when she died of TB, while Thomas himself died at the age 58 at the same address.

Thomas and Emma had four children, the eldest surviving being Emma Jane Shorrocks who was born at 14 Hilton Street, Ashton-under-Lyne in 1876. She married Henry Bell Binnie at St John's Church, Dukinfield in 1898 which is where the story continues through my Binnie family.

Thomas' brother John was yet another boiler maker and settled in Leeds in the 1870s, while James lived in Denton. His son, Philip, lived to be 100 when he died at the Lakes Nursing Home, Dukinfield, in 2001.

See the Shorrocks page for more information on this family.

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