Tom Thompson Partleton (b1865)


Tom Thompson Partleton was born in the January quarter of 1865 in Seaton, Workington, in the Cockermouth registration district of Cumberland.

Below we see Tom aged 6 in the census of 1871:

His dad, William Shepherd Partleton was employed in the massive Hematite Iron Works on the north side of Workington which we see below in a map of 1863:


Here's Workington Harbour, a familiar, industrial sight to young Tom as he grew up in the town.

Below we see an atmospheric photo of the fires of Workington's furnaces by night:

Here's the iron works next to the river Derwent where Tom's dad worked:

This iron works is Moss Bay on the south side of Workington. Very similar:

If you want to go to Workington, here's where it is:


Moving on, the 1881 census, 17-year-old Tom is listed as 'Tompson Partleton':

Tom is a 'general labourer'; it's not specified where, but it's very likely that this is at the same iron works where his dad and other members of his family are working. Below we see a picture of Wilson Street, Workington, just round the corner from John Street where the family are living. Step into Tom's teenage shoes for a stroll around the corner to the general store to buy some biscuits - Tom's not going to be in Workington much longer:

Below we see a Victorian picture of Workington Harbour. It's a busy place but it's probably not the port of embarkation for Tom on his adventure to the United States:

Tom left England in 1886. Why? The usual reason is that economic and living conditions for working class people in England in the 1800's are dire and he he is leaving to seek a better life.

His future wife Ada Waters had already emigrated from England in 1885; Tom met her when he arrived in 1886. One year later they were married in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

Allegheny City, highlighted in yellow in this 1898 map, was eventually merged with its larger neighbour, Pittsburgh (pink) in 1906.


Pittsburgh used to produce between 25% and 30% of the entire requirement for steel in the United States. So now we know why Tom has gone there. He'd recognise this bridge over the Monongahela River, and the heavy industrialisation already evident in this print of 1857, chimneys belching. It looks just like Workington:

It was this unprepossessing Pennsylvania skyline into which Tom's daughter, Ethel Kirk Partleton was born in 1892:

Unfortunately the 1890 US census was destroyed in a fire in the 1930's, so we miss the benefit of this information.

But we do know that Tom had already had a daughter Edith (1888) and a son William James Partleton (1889).

In 1896, ten years after his departure, Tom has been home to England. We know this because on 05 September 1896, we find him returning to the USA on the passenger list of the SS Campania.

Left: SS Campania

Tom departed from Liverpool and arrived at a very famous place of disembarkation, which can be seen below. No, it's not Venice, it's Ellis Island:

We can see from the above manifest that during his 10 years in America, Tom has become a naturalised US citizen - and therefore would have been spared the full experience of an immigrant's arrival at Ellis Island. Ellis Island was built in 1892 and did not exist in 1886 when Tom had first arrived in the USA. However, the experience in 1886 was probably a similar one, just at a different location, so step into Tom's shoes for a moment... and shuffle with the huddled masses through the reception hall:

Tom would have to pin one of these tags to his lapel as we see in the photo above:

From Ellis island, a ferry transported the immigrants into New York.

Below we see some very fuzzy copies of Tom's naturalization papers. Tom becomes a United States citizen, three times renouncing all allegiance to the "Queen of England":

Unfortunately, this is such a rotten copy, we can't even read the year. The certificate, below, doesn't help, as it is of equally poor quality:

But soon after, we see the family together in Pittsburgh for the 1900 census:

The enumerator has really mangled Tom's surname, but on the Partleton Tree website we are like the Mounties; we always get our man. Information on this census sheet is that William and Ada can both read and write; Tom is naturalised ('Na' in the 'naturalization' column); the family are in rented accommodation; and Tom is employed as a labourer in a steel mill, just as he had been in England.

What's it like in a Pittsburgh Steel Mill? Let's take a look:

One of these chaps could be our Tom:

In 1903, Tom and Ada have their final child, Sidney J Partleton, and we see the family in the 1910 census. Tom now owns his house:

Tom and his son William are both working in a rolling mill. Daughter Edith is a dressmaker in a department store.

The family are now living in Pittsburgh city, Ward 16; Tract P. 11 Enumeration district 495 Bounded by: Primrose, Beulah, Cologne, Arlington Ave., Sterling.

Here's the block on a modern map:


Shortly after the census was held, in October 1910, it is highly likely that Tom had a visitor to look after - his nephew Alfred R Partleton, the son of Tom's brother James. Alfred is just 19, two years younger than Tom's son William. He has emigrated to the USA just like his uncle and soon leaves Pittsburgh to make his own way in life. You'll find Alfred's page in the Partleton Tree 'In Their Shoes' feature for Cumberland.

In 1916, we find the document below, which is a bit of a puzzle:

Tom, a humble steel mill worker, is president of the 'Powderly Building and Loan Association' which has 123 shareholders and which has financed the building of two houses. Is this Tom's mortgage? In the 1910 census, which we see in close-up below, Tom declared that he owns his home and that it is mortgage-free, so it seems that Tom is raising funds for the building of other houses?

More research required on that loan document. Can anyone in the USA cast any light on it?

In 1917, Tom's son William, aged 27, is drafted into the US Army for WW1:

William's address is given as 254 Spring Street which can be seen at the bottom left of the above map. The card is difficult to read, but we can see that he is recorded as tall with grey eyes and brown hair, and that he is now married.

Getting back to Tom, what's life like for him now? Workington feels a long way away now, so let's have a look at  the centre of Pittsburgh - Sixth Avenue - circled in red on the above map:

So we move on to the 1920 census:

The enumerator has interpreted Tom's wife's name as 'Haida', presumably having heard her say 'Ada' in her northern English accent! Tom's still in the steel mill.

What's it like for Tom going to work in the 1920's? Here are some atmospheric contemporary pictures of Pittsburgh. It looks a bit smoggy:

Moving on to 1930; this is the last census available:

Tom now appears to be semi-retired and has taken a job as security guard at the public library. Son Sidney is still at home.

As time progresses, Pittsburgh looks ever-more different to Tom's Home town of Workington. Here's Pittsburgh in the 1930's:

Also in the 1930 census we find Tom's son William James Partleton (b1889) with his wife Maidie Hagerling. William is a clerk in a steel mill.

The 1930 census above is the last information available for most things, but we do know that Tom's son William, having been in 1917 called up for WW1, in 1942 is called up for WW2, presumably as a reservist, since he is now 52 years old.

This is really good stuff because we have an exact address for both William's home and his work. His home address is 232 Sterling Street and he works in the offices of Carnegie Illinois Steel at 535 Fifth Avenue Pittsburgh, both of which are circled in the map below:

We can see that William's journey to work takes him by tram across the Birmingham Bridge, formerly known as the Brady Street Bridge:

And here's the location of William's workplace, 535 5th Avenue, as it looks today, courtesy of the magic of Google Street View. The building on the left is the Allegheny County Courthouse (built 1888), exactly as it would have appeared to our William, opposite his office building. Step into his shoes...

The modern white building on the right must be on the site of William's former workplace at 535 5th Avenue, but the old building on the next block must surely be unchanged, so this view would be quite familiar to William Partleton.

What did William's home on Sterling Street look like? We know that Sterling Street is right next to the South Side Park and the Arlington Playground, and I was able to find a modern photograph of it. What's not obvious from the map is that this area is very hilly:

William's office in 1942 is on Fifth Avenue - here's the junction of Liberty and Fifth... step into William's shoes...

The trail is running cold now, so I'll just throw in a few more pictures of Pittsburgh in the 1940's before we close:

Market Square:



I believe Tom's son William left no descendants. He passed away in Pittsburgh in May 1964. His wife Maidie lived until 1982.

Returning finally to Tom Thompson Partleton, we don't know at what date he died, but having been born in 1865, it is reasonable to assume that his passing away must have been some time before the 1960's. His daughter Ethel Partleton married Arthur Whitworth before 1919; their daughter Ethel Whitworth was born on 19 March 1919. Ethel Whitworth married John Garbo and died in Oakmont Pennsylvania in 2004. Ethel has children and grandchildren alive today, descendants of Tom Thompson Partleton.

As for Workington and Pittsburgh, the story for these two cities runs parallel. Steel and coal are no longer king. Some lament the decline of the traditional heavy industries... I don't share this view. Both Workington and Pittsburgh in recent years have undergone urban regeneration which we see in the photos below of bright modern cities.

Below; Pittsburgh (obviously!):


Below; Workington:

At the top right of the picture below we see that the old Hematite Iron works next to the river Derwent has been replaced by.......... a windfarm!   How apt.


Though there are probably other descendants, that's where our data runs out... it appears that Tom's sons left no male descendants that we can find under the name of Partleton today, though I could be wrong.

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