By June Parkin, volunteer
Fred Waters is listed in the 1918 Absent Voters List for Lynesack & Softley as Pte. 205127 of the Northumberland Fusiliers. He is an example of the many men who served and survived and this is all we know about them.
The search for more begins with the problem of his first name; neither Fred nor Frederick produces any useful results in a search using the ‘Ancestry’ website. But an Albert Waters was born in Barnard Castle and baptised at St.Mary’s on the 10th February 1888. In the 1891 Census he is aged 3 and he and his mother, Annie Waters, are inmates of the Teesdale Union Workhouse in Barnard Castle. Annie, aged 40, and born in Startforth, is described as a General Servant (Domestic) and is unmarried. The workhouse was on the site of the Richardson Hospital and the original infirmary building survives.
But then Alfred disappears from the census records. The reason is that his mother marries and he changes his name. Annie married William Elliott in 1892 and in the 1901 Census they are living at the Edge in Lynesack. William is 59 and a Coal Hewer and has two daughters from a previous marriage. Albert, now aged 13, is declared as his son with the surname Elliott. Incidentally, Annie is 54 – perhaps she has added an extra 4 years so that she is closer to her husband’s age, or it may be that she reduced her age in the 1891 Census because of her illegitimate child.
By the 1911 Census the family are at Lane Head, Copley. William has retired and Albert, now 23, is a Coke Drawer and still single. Annie declares that she has been married 24 years (5 years more than the truth) to hide Albert’s illegitimacy.
And there, for the moment, our story ends. ‘Ancestry’ has no military records for an Albert or Fred Waters or Elliott. It is likely that Fred used the name Waters in official records because that was the name on his birth certificate. There is an Auckland Registration District marriage record for an Alfred Waters to Alice Lowes in 1916. Did he marry while at home on leave? Do you have any of these people in your family tree or any information that can help us to know more about Fred?
Please contact the project at the Bowes Museum if you have any information about WW1 people in Teesdale (www.thebowesmuseumww1.org.uk or telephone 01833 690606).
So many names, so many lives of service, so many unknowns.