In the account below all direct ancestors are shown with yellow highlight.

Fitton line pre 1837/1841


1William (c1770) & Jane Fitton

In Family Search I have found a christening record in 1790 for Isaac Fitton who appears on the 1841 census aged 50 with his wife and family. The christening is recorded on 4th July 1790 at St Michael, Ashton-under-Lyne and parents’ names are given as William Fitton and Jane. I have found a number of William Fittons born 20-30 years earlier in Lancashire but none are actually in Ashton-under-Lyne and there is no way of telling which is the correct one so an unknown William Fitton (born c1770) and his wife Jane will be taken as the earliest ancestors.

There are many William Fittons in the lineage so each will be given a number and the date of birth will be appended to each to clarify. Although I have searched extensively, I can find no other christening records in Family Search for children of 1William and Jane.

1William and Jane were born and married before BMD records and there is no record of the pair of them in the 1841 census.

However I have found an elderly Jane Fitton in the 1841 census - aged 70 therefore born around 1771, which would fit with the birth 19 years later of her son Isaac. (The quality of the original of this is too poor to read so I have only saved the transcript.) This is the only possibility that I can find and I cannot find a death prior to 1841. However, she was living in Rochdale not Ashton in the household of John & Caster (?) Clegg. A 15-year-old James Fitton was also there - could he be a grandson to Jane - possibly a son of Isaac and Mary? There is no way of knowing, as I cannot find any record of his birth in Family Search.

If this is Jane (and I do not have much confidence that it is) she is presumably widowed (the 1841 census does not record marital status). I found 2 possible deaths for 1William (b. 1770) in Ashton in 1840. I sent for them: the first proved to be a 1-year-old baby and the second a 47-year-old ‘Surgeon and Registrar’!

There is no sign of Jane in the 1851 census and there are numerous possible deaths of a Jane Fitton in the years between 1841 and 1851. These include four recorded in Ashton.

I have little confidence in most of this. The bottom line is that Isaac Fitton had parents named William and Jane both born before 1774 (as the two were presumably at least 16 when Isaac was born) and one or both having died before 1841.


Isaac Fitton

The birth of Isaac Fitton is recorded in Family Search above with a christening on 4th July 1790.

Family Search has a likely marriage of Isaac Fitton to Mary Ann Dunkerley in the Cathedral Manchester on 17th June 1810, which fits with four births recorded on Family Search - William 1812, Charlotte 1814, Nancy 1816 and a second Charlotte (the first was an infant death) in 1820. Although the marriage took place at Manchester Cathedral, Mary Ann was an Ashton girl - as shown by a record of her christening on 9th April 1787 at St Michael, Ashton-under-Lyne.

At the date of their marriage Isaac was 20 and Mary Ann 23.

Isaac & Mary are recorded in Family Search as having christened 4 children at St Michael. Sadly two of these, William and Charlotte, died in infancy. However, Nancy and a second Charlotte did survive and married before 1841.

The curious thing is that Isaac’s wife, Mary, recorded in the 1841 census is not the right age to fit with her birth in 1787 - she should have been 54 not 40. Moreover a Mary Fitton aged 40 in 1841 would not have been old enough to bear William in 1812 or Charlotte in 1814.


Further research shows that Isaac’s first wife died in 1825 - and later that year he married a second Mary Ann - Mary Ann Peak. However unlikely it may seem that Isaac would have two wives with the same names this seems to be the only explanation of the data. I cannot find a reliable birth record in Family Search for Mary Ann Peak.

This new wife is the Mary Fitton listed on the 1841 census and Family Search also has a record of the birth of their son, Joseph Fitton, christened on 21 July 1828 and their daughter Margaret, christened on 5 March 1838 (both in Ashton-under-Lyne) but unfortunately no record of the birth of our direct ancestor 2William - born in 1833.

There is a possible birth record for Sarah in 1824, which would make her daughter to the first Mary. However the location is wrong so this is not a very good fit.

This gives us the following family tree for Isaac showing his two marriages

Isaac & Mary Fitton  - 1841 Census

In 1841 Isaac Fitton was living in Ashton-under-Lyne with his wife Mary and 4 children. The quality of the original document is too poor to read so this information relies on the transcript, which is only partial. I cannot determine a street address nor any entries in the Profession column.

I cannot find a birth record for 2William. However a birth year of 1833 fits with all census records. The 1841 census was on June 6, the 1851 census on 30 March, the 1861 census on 17 April and the 1871 census on 2 April. So if William’s birthday fell between 17 April and 6 June he would have been 8 in 1841 but just 17 in 1851, 27 in 1861 and 37 in 1871. This accords with the data.

Isaac’s eldest daughter Charlotte (aged 20) is now married to William Burgess with a 2 year-old daughter. Family Search has a marriage date of 27 May 1838, which fits.

In 1841 Charlotte with husband and baby are living with her husband’s brother in Gass Street Ashton. This family is of interest as Isaac can be found staying with them in 1851 - see below. 

Looking at a modern street view of Ashton-under-Lyne is no help in determining the sort of housing that the family may have inhabited in Gas Street or in Bentnick or Stamford Streets (see below in 1851) or in Old Street (see Mary in 1861) as the area has been completely rebuilt within the last 50 years and much of it is a down-market, ramshackle industrial estate. However all these addresses are quite close together.

Isaac & Mary Fitton and William (b.1833)   - 1851 Census

In 1851 Isaac Fitton and his wife Mary were staying in separate accommodation although quite close together. Isaac was with Charlotte and her family in Bentinck Street and Mary was with her children 2William- aged 17, Margaret - aged 13, and Elizabeth - aged 7 in Stamford Street. The original census forms appear to be water damaged but are completely legible.


Margaret Fitton’s birthplace is given as Huddersfield, which is odd in light of the record of the christening which was in Ashton-under-Lyne - see above.

Sarah and Joseph have left home. There are several possible marriages for both of them.

Isaac Fitton Death - Between 1851 & 1861  

I can find no sign of Isaac in the 1861 census and the death I found in the third quarter of 1853 proved to be of a 2-year-old child who died of diarrhoea in the Union Workhouse, Ashton. Unfortunately Free BMD does not give the age of the deceased in deaths before 1866 so I was not able to eliminate this before obtaining the certificate.

I can find no other possible deaths for Isaac but the widowed Mary (below) shows that it was before 1861. Perhaps Isaac was unwell when he was staying with his daughter Charlotte and her family in 1851 as his occupation at that time is given as ‘At Home’.


Mary Fitton  - 1861 Census

In 1861 the widowed Mary is living alone in Old Street, Ashton. The age fits and the place of birth - Newton Heath - coincides with that recorded in the 1851 census so this is very probably our Mary.

Mary Fitton Death - 12th November 1864  

Mary died at the age of 64 on 12th November 1864. Her son 2William (b.1833) was the informant and this address - 116 Cavendish Street - is the same as that for 2William on the 1861 census record.

Isaac’s occupation - Grocer - does not figure on any of the census records but in 1851 Mary’s own occupation was given as Grocer & Tea Dealer. Probably they initially kept a shop together and perhaps by 1851 Isaac had become too unwell to work in the shop and was thus staying with his daughter Charlotte and her family.

2William (b.1833) Fitton Marriage to Eliza Smith - August 19th 1855

2William Fitton married Eliza Smith in 1855. I have the full marriage certificate which is important as it confirms 2William’s father as Isaac and thus validates all the information above.

We cannot know what 2William and Eliza were doing in Dukinfield in 1855, but by the time of the 1861 census and the birth of their son 3William they were back in Ashton. Indeed they were there at the time of the birth of their first child, Jane, as her place of birth is given as Ashton on the 1861 census. However there had been some mobility as the second daughter Ellen was born in 1860 in Newton Heath.

2William (b 1833) & Eliza Fitton - 1861 Census

By 1861 William was married to Eliza and living in Cavendish Street in Ashton with two daughters Jane and Ellen. The census was taken on 17 April - earlier in the year than 3William’s (1861) birth so he does not yet figure.

A whitesmith is a person who works with "white" or light-coloured metals such as tin and pewter. Unlike blacksmiths (who work mostly with hot metal), whitesmiths do the majority of their work on cold metal (although they might use a hearth to heat and help shape their raw materials). The term is also applied to metalworkers who do only finishing work – such as filing or polishing – on iron and other "black" metals. Whitesmiths fabricate items such as tin or pewter cups, water pitchers, forks, spoons, and candle holders and it was a common occupation in pre-industrial times.

3William (b.1861) Fitton Birth - 7th November 1861

Bertha’s father, 3William Fitton was born in 1861. The BC confirms his mother’s maiden name as Eliza Smith.

2William (b.1833) & Eliza Fitton - 1871 Census

By 1871 the family has moved to 97 Cavendish Street. (This record breaks over 2 pages.) Ellen appears to have died before 1871 (a likely record is from June 1863 when Ellen would have been 3 years old) but compared to 1861 there are 3 more children 3William, Edwin and Agnes.

3William (b.1861) Confirmation - 24th May 1879

This card commemorating 3William Fitton’s Confirmation is on of the oldest original documents in the 20 Century Diary. It came from Bertha and Edwin’s collection of photographs etc, kept in an old tin and passed down to me. This confirmation is very late by modern standards as William would have been 18 at the time.

2William (b.1833)- Death 12th October 1872

2William Fitton died of encephalitis in 1872 at the tender age of 39. (His son, 3William, would also die very young - 44 - see Bertha’s Story 1905. However the causes of death were very different.)

That this is the death of our William is confirmed by the address which matches that of the 1871 census and by the second marriage of his widow (see below). The name of the informant is unknown to me and was probably the nurse who attended him at his death.

The rest of the family was initially impossible to find in the 1881 census - but the mystery was eventually solved - see below.

Daughter Jane seems to have married in 1880 - when she would have been 23. She appears in the 1881 census as Jane Johnson (24), wife of John W Johnson (28) living in Droylsden, Lancs. They are still there in 1891, now with a single son Herbert, aged 9. John Johnson’s occupation is given as Foreman Vulcaniser.

A Vulcanizer is a person who vulcanizes or the equipment used in treating rubber with sulphur or sulphur compounds under heat and pressure to improve elasticity and strength or to produce a hard substance such as vulcanite

3William Fitton (b. 1861) has left home by the time of the 1881 census - at the age of 19. Several alternatives can be found in the 1881 census - all young men living in lodgings. It is impossible to disambiguate these. 

Eliza Fitton/Housley - 1891 and 1881 Census  

After 2William’s death in 1872, his widow Eliza Fitton married Francis H. Housley (in 1875) and can be found in 1891 living with him with her children Edwin and Agnes Fitton (who appear on the 1871 census) and another child of 2William Fitton, James Harry born in the year his father died. There is also Annie Eliza - true daughter to Francis presumably with Eliza.

The reason that the family initially proved impossible to find in the 1881 census is that the census enumerator did not appreciate that Edwin, Agnes and James were stepchildren and gave them all the Housley name. To be fair the family was rather complicated with all the children shaded blue below being children from Frank Housleys’ previous marriage.

3William Fitton (b.1861) & Sarah Howarth Marriage 1884

3William Fitton (b. 1861) had left home by the time of the 1881 census - at the age of 19. Several alternatives can be found in the 1881 census - all young men living in lodgings and it is impossible to disambiguate these.

However, by 1891 3William was married to his first wife, Sarah, and had two children, Ellen and William. I have anecdotal evidence for 3William’s two marriages and knowledge of his children, Nell and Bill, from Bertha - see the volume Bertha Fitton 1900-1922. 

Free BMD shows 3William’s first wife to be Sarah Ellen Howarth and their marriage was in 1884 when they would both have been 22 years old. Sarah was a local girl born in Ashton.

As Sarah is not in our direct line I have not sent for this MC.

3William (b.1861)  & Sarah Fitton - 1891 Census

In 1891 3William and Sarah are living at Grosvenor Street in Radcliffe with their two children, Ellen and 4William.
Radcliffe is some distance from Ashton to the north of Manchester. However, with his skill as a shuttle tongue maker William would be in demand throughout the cotton industry so his moving around is not too surprising.

Sarah Fitton Death 1894

Tragically, 3William's wife Sarah died of bronchitis and asthma only 3 years later at the age of 32, leaving two young children.

3William Fitton & Grace Crowther Marriage - 18th July 1895

3William married his second wife, Grace, in Todmorden in 1895. Bertha told me that 3William had a key job in the cotton trade as a shuttle peg forger and travelled around Lancashire meeting Grace when he came to the Cornholme mill. Note his address on the marriage certificate - Hirst Street, Cornholme. This is the next street along the Burnley Road after Oakleigh Terrace/Sun Terrace where Edwin, Bertha and family were to live from 1940. Grace's address is Dundee House where her family had lived from 1871 and her father continued to live until 1901.

Details of this and Ancestry research into the Crowther line is given in a separate page accessed from this link - Crowther Line.

A Shuttle Tip Maker/Forger made the pointed steel shuttle tips, which came in many different designs. It was a very skilled job as the tips had to withstand being hammered to make the shuttles fly through the yarns from one side of the loom to the other and had to have aerodynamic properties.

Bertha Fitton Birth - 27th April 1899

Bertha was born on 27th April 1899. Her birth certificate is in the volume - Bertha’s Story.

3William (b.1862) & Grace Fitton - 1901 Census

The census record for 1901 shows William with his new wife and family living at ‘New Delight’ (no number given) in Cornholme. The family is living in 4 rooms and the key details are as follows:

The son from the first marriage, 4William (Bill), is absent from this record. He is staying with his uncle Albert Smith in Oldham. His Aunt Rebecca was sister to his mother, Sarah, as this listing from the 1871 census shows. The surname given for the mother-in-law in this 1901 record is probably an error by the census enumerator (it should be Howarth), although a second marriage is possible.

The history of the Fitton line forward into the 20th Century is given in the separate Bertha’s story.