Hiding in Plain Sight

William Bence (1828-1900) was born in Stockport, Lancashire, England. He and his family lived in Heaton-Norris in the 1840s and early 1850s. William, two brothers, his wife, and a sister all worked in the cotton mills. They emigrated en masse to Fall River, Massachusetts in 1854.To understand their lives and why they emigrated, I’ve been looking for contemporary accounts of life working in the mills and in the Manchester / Stockport area.

How did I not known that this was written about Manchester and the working poor in 1844?

    The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844: With a Preface written in 1892 by Frederick Engels

A short and difficult life

The 1851 English Census lists my great-great-grandmother, Ann Bence, living with her husband William and their son, my great-grandfather, Peter. Both William and Ann worked in the cotton mills in Stockport.

Today I received a copy of Ann’s death certificate from the General Records Office.

“14 March, 1853 / 81 Love Lane / Heaton Norris, Ann Bence, Female, 27 years, Wife of William Bence Weaver, Phthisis  12 months / Tubercles in Mesentery Certified,  Wm. Bence Present at the Death / 81 Love Lane / Heaton Norris, registered 15 March 1853, A. Edmonds, Registrar.1

She died of tuberculosis that was most likely diagnosed in early 1852 and spread to her lower abdomen over the course of a year. Her second child, Ellen, was born 29 March 1852 and died 4 months later on 04 August 1852.2

William married his second wife Sarah Jane Hudson on 26 December 1853. The following year they emigrated to Fall River, Massachusetts with Peter and other members of William’s family.

1. England, death certificate for Ann Bence, died 14 March 1853; registered 15 March 1853; Stockport District 08a/27, Heaton Norris Sub-district, Lancaster County. General Registry Office.
2.England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index: 1837-1915, Stockport District 08a/21, Heaton Norris Sub-district, Lancaster County. General Registry Office, Ellen Bence (accessed at ancestry.com).

William Bence and Family – 1851

William Bence (1828-1900) and his family in the 1851 Great Britain Census

9 Kings Street, Heaton Norris, Stockport

census_great_britain_1851_bence

Name  Position  Mar. Status  Age  Occupation  Place of birth  Relationship to me
Hannah Bence  Head  Married  62     Yorkshire Huddersfield  Great x3 grandmother
Frederic Bence  Son  Widower  26  Coach Guard   Cheshire Stockport  
William Bence  Son   Married  24   Power Loom Weaver  Cheshire Stockport  Great x2 grandfather
John Bence  Son   Unmarried  22   Self Acting Winder  Lancashire Heaton Norris  
Mary Bence  Daughter   Unmarried  20   Power Loom Weaver  Cheshire Cheadle Bulkeley  
Ann Bence  D.-in-law  Married  24  Throstle Piecer  Disley  Great x2 grandmother
Peter Bence  Grandson    1    Lancashire Heaton Norris  Great grandfather

At the time of this census Hannah’s husband John Bence was still alive though he is not listed here. According to the England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index he died in Stockport in 1855.

1863 Civil War Draft Registration for William and Thomas Bence

bence william civil war draft reg

Civil War Draft Registration for William and Thomas Bence

June 1863 Civil War Draft Registration record for William Bence, age 37,  and his brother Thomas, age 42. Both are listed as residents of Fall River, MA with their place of birth as England. In the “Remarks” column next to each of their entries is the note “Says he is an alien”.

Source Citation

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); ARC Identifier: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 3 of 4