Agnes Dell Williams and daughters from Dorset, England

This much loved photo is in a bit of a poor state but the motherly love it emanates has not faded one bit. The large image on cardboard was originally found in the US before it came to me from Spain. And it’s identified!

It has writing on it in two different handwritings. My Instagram community helped me read the older handwriting:

? Kerrige

5 Turton St


The modern handwriting reads:

Younger girl – Constance A. Bowker as a girl

older girl Katherine, Cab’s sister

Woman – their mother Agnes Williams nee Dell

(had a sister Mary Jane & brother Richard)

Lots of clues to start my search with!

I found a public Ancestry tree and a FamilySearch tree for the mother, Agnes Johnston Dell, who according to the Ancestry tree was born on August 20, 1854, in Fleet, Dorset in England, to parents Richard and Mary Ann. Agnes had indeed a sister Mary Jane Dell (1857-?) and a brother Richard Dell (1846-1915), and 5 other siblings, all listed on that public tree. According to the 1861 Census, Agnes’ father Richard Dell was a coast guard (later constable guard). There were many mouths to feed, so Agnes could not idle around in blissful inactivity but had to learn a trade in her teens, that of a dressmaker.

Agnes married James Harrington Williams on March 7, 1875, in the Weymouth Holy Trinity Church, built in 1836. James was a hairdresser by profession. I suppose a hairdresser for women, since otherwise he would have been referred to as a barber in the Census lists, right? So perhaps it was Agnes’ profession that brought her in contact with her future husband, since both of them dedicated their professional lives to making women feel and look pretty, and word of mouth recommendations of each might have increased both of their customer bases. I am being silly and unfair now, but I can almost imagine them giggling together in the evenings within the four walls of their home about all the bits of gossip they could exchange about the customers they styled during their long working days (I’ve obviously been streaming too much Bridgerton and Gilded Age 🙂 ).

In 1881, Agnes, James and their two daughters Katherine Agnes and Alice Harrington, as well as their servant Alice, were residing at 13 and 12 Bond Street in Weymouth.

I can’t find when Agnes was widowed, but in 1911 she was 58 and widowed and living at 5 Turton Street in Weymouth with her daughter Katherine Agnes Kerridge and two lodgers. We have solved two mysteries of the first handwriting – the address, and the name Kerridge!

This is a photo of the said address in Weymouth:

Source: GoogleMaps

According to the public tree on Ancestry, Agnes passed away in March 1932.

Agnes and James’ first daughter Katherine Agnes Williams was born a couple of months after their marriage and was baptised on July 28, 1875, in the Melcombe Regis St. John’s Church in Weymouth, Dorset.

Katharine married Charles Leslie Moreton, a salesman of furnishings, on September 24, 1898 in Bristol.

In 1901, the couple was living in Bristol and the Census does not show any children. And since we could already establish that in 1911, Katharine had a new surname, Kerridge, and had been married to Mr. Kerridge for 3 years, her first marriage must have been short-lived. And I found the reason: in 1906, Katharine petitioned for divorce on grounds of adultery coupled with cruelty. Katharine petitioned that her husband had had several affairs with different women, starting already in 1899 up until she submitted her petition, and as a result of those affairs he contracted venereal diseases on several occasions (at the time, those were typically syphilis and gonorrhoea. The divorce was granted a year later.

The petition also bears Katharine’s signature, and I think we have a match with the handwritten address on the photo. It must have been Katharine herself who signed our photo:

As I already mentioned above, in 1911 Katharine was 35, married for 3 years without children, and living together with her mother Agnes in Weymouth. Unfortunaterly I can’t say who her second husband Mr. Kerridge was, whom Katharine married in about 1908. I can’t find their marriage record.

By 1939, Mr. Kerridge had passed away and Katharine was widowed, living in Weymouth as an apartment house keeper. Katharine passed away on September 29, 1959 in Dorset.

Now to how this photo ended up in the US, far away from Dorset. The reason might have to do with Alice, the younger daughter in the photo. Alice (Constance) Harrington Williams had been born a year after her sister Katharine, on October 20, 1876, in Weymouth in Dorset. I’ve found a public tree for her on Ancestry.

She married Joseph Llewellyn Bowker on May 19, 1902, in Melcombe Regis in Dorset. Joseph was a fitter & turner by profession and 10 years older than Alice. I had to look up what a fitter & turner does: Fitters and turners are highly skilled craftspeople who manufacture, construct, assemble and fit components for machinery, vehicles, installations and other apparatus or articles. (quote)

Alice and Joseph had 3 children in Dorset: Kathleen (later Blyth, 1903-1997), Maurice (1904-1970) and Enid (1906-1991). The couple then made a bold decision that might explain why the photo ended up in the US – the Bowkers emigrated to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania! Joseph left for New York in 1909, Alice stayed with the children in Wyke Regis in England. Half a year later Joseph applied for the US citizenship, and made all the necessary arrangements as well as earned enough funds to sponsor the passage of the rest of his family in 1912. The joy of the reunion must have been great cause in 1913, Joseph and Alice’s fourth child, Sydney Bowker (1913-1973), was born in Bethlehem :-).

Joseph found work as a machinist at a steel mill in Bethlehem where he worked until his retirement and death in 1941.

The three persons in my photo were reunited in 1920 when Alice (who occasionally went by the name Constance in the US) visited her mum and sister in England. She took her youngest, Sydney, with her. I bet mum Agnes and auntie Katharine were thrilled to meet little Sydney for the first.

Alice Constance Bowker passed away in the leap year of 1968, on February 29th. She was 91 years old. I’ve added her photo to Her obituary was published in The Morning Call, Allentown, of March 2, 1968:

Also, one Instagram follower solved the mystery of “CAB’s sister”, written behind the name of Katharine on the photo: most probably CAB were the initials of “Constance” Alice Bowker. Why Alice adopted an additional first name in the US remains a mystery to me.

Perhaps her (great-)grandchildren are out there, missing this treasure?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s