William Kendall Partleton (1879-1957)


William Kendall Partleton was born on 15 November 1879 in Workington, Cumbria, circled in blue below:

In the 1881 census we find baby William at home with his mum Mary Ellen [nee Kendall] and dad John Partleton, 'lift engine driver at iron works':

They are living at 1 Grapes Yard, off Pow Street, which is convenient because we have some pictures of Pow Street:

Ok, our William would struggle to recognise anything in that picture, but of course we do have photos of exactly how Pow Street looked in William's day.

This picture is taken from the viewpoint of the blue arrow in the Victorian map of Workington town centre below:

Here's the exact same same view a few years later:

The fact that William's dad John is employed at the iron works is not a surprise. Workington was a highly industrialised town; iron and coal. Mining and smelting. And it was also a port, which is to be significant to our William in later life. Another relevant fact is that William's uncle Tom Thompson Partleton emigrated to America when William was 7.

In 1881 a baby sister appears in William's life; Jane Partleton:

In 1883, William gets a second sister - Helen, aka Ellen.

But, as we have learned many times on this website, in the land of Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria, at the heart of the world's biggest empire, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, the hub of scientific and medical advances, for those people who were members of ordinary poor families, early death was never far from the door.

In the January quarter of 1886, when William was just 6 years old, his mother, Mary Ellen Kendall, died. She was only 24.

And in October of the same year, William's little sister Jane, aged barely five - whom we saw being born just a short while ago - also died. At present we don't know the causes:

So William's dad John is now a widower, working at the iron works, with a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. What's he going to do? Let's have a look at the next census, that of 1891. Unsurprisingly, we find that John has put his baby daughter Ellen in the care of his sister Mary Jane Partleton (wrongly recorded as Margaret in the census), who had married Joseph Peacock in 1880:

And where is our William in 1891, aged 11? Good question... I can't find him, or his dad John, which suggests that they may be together... somewhere. Probably a mis-spelling of their name somewhere.

So all we can do is move on to the next census, 1901, when William is 21, and we find a big change in his life:

William has signed up for the Royal Navy and is stationed on board the Battleship Anson (built 1889) which we see below:

Here's the Anson ship's company in 1897 posing proudly beside the battleship's gigantic 78-ton guns... scan the faces, one of them just might be our William:

William is employed as a stoker for the ship's massive coal-fired engines. If he's in the picture above, he'll be in his best Navy uniform for the photo, but stoking was dirty work:

Of course I emphasise that these two ship's stokers are not our William, but I needed an illustration; likewise the stokers below are on an American warship, but I think it gives us a good idea that William Kendal Partleton had to work pretty hard. Feel the heat of those furnaces!:

On 31 March 1901, the day of the UK census, the Anson was on 'Home Sea Service', anchored at Portland, Dorset. If she'd been at sea, we wouldn't know where William was because he would not have been counted in the census. Portland is the teeny tiny 'island' connected to the UK mainland by a thread, circled in red in the map below:

But the Anson also sailed the Seven Seas on Her Majesty's Service. On the left below we see her at Malta, and on the right in Edinburgh with the Forth Bridge in view in the background:


Five years later, in 1906, William marries. He is 27. His bride, Amy Elizabeth Elder [known as Nellie] is aptly named because at 37, she's 10 years older than William. In 1901, she'd been living with her brother, a tea dealer, in Gateshead.

They are married at Gateshead, on the River Tyne on the opposite bank to Newcastle, circled in green in the map below. It's a port, which may explain their meeting:

William's experience of sailing the seas probably led to a major decision in their lives; to emigrate to Canada. William sets off on his own just six months after his marriage:

William sailed aboard the Empress of Ireland which we see below:

Below; the grand staircase, not of the Titanic, but of the Empress of Ireland:

Seven years after William sailed on her, on 21 May 1914, the Empress of Ireland was hit by a Norwegian coal ship on the St Lawrence River. She sank so rapidly that there was no time for the passengers [most of whom were sleeping and drowned in their cabins] to escape. 1012 people died - a bigger death toll of passengers than the Titanic which had sunk in 1912.

The Empress of Ireland is still there on the river bed in just 170 feet of water:

It looks like William and Nellie were separated for two whole years before Nellie could go out to meet him:

Above we see Nellie travelling alone, in 1909, on board the SS Grampian sailing from Liverpool to Canada.

Some passengers are marked as travelling 2nd class; Nellie is not one of these and we may presume she's in 3rd class. So she probably couldn't use the 2nd class music room which is pity because it looks rather comfy:

No doubt Nellie is going out to join her husband William. She disembarks at Halifax, Nova Scotia, but this is not to be her final destination, nowhere near it!

Nellie's sailing from Liverpool has carried her 2,462 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Arriving at Halifax, she's not even halfway to her final destination of Victoria, British Columbia on the other side of Canada. She still has over 3,700 miles to go!

Nellie's going on an epic journey on the Canadian Pacific Railway, as we see her route marked in blue on the map above. It's going to be like nothing she's ever seen, and also like nothing I've ever seen, so let's take a short diversion to have a look at it:

Here's the station at Halifax:

These people are waiting for the train at Halifax, just as Nellie did, so let's step into her shoes and wait also:

We won't have to wait very long, and - unlike Nellie's or WIlliam's - our mammoth journey across the world's second biggest country will take just a few seconds:

   Left, Three Sisters, Alberta

  Left: Leanchoil, 1913

   Left: Surprise Creek Bridge, British Columbia

And here's the train arriving at the Vancouver Depot. No doubt William is there to meet her:

 Left: Vancouver, British Columbia

We should probably assume that William Kendall Partleton by 1909 has left the Royal Navy. In 1910, a year after Nellie's arrival in British Columbia, they have a baby boy, Oliver Reed Partleton.

Tragically the next information we have is little Oliver's death on 27 November 1914 at age 4:

William and Nellie are living at 1110 Johnson Street, British Columbia, which we see in the modern photograph below. To me it looks very British, like a high street in London:

Here's Johnson Street on the map. Its near to the harbour - probably William is still a mariner? Canada entered WW1 but we don't know if William played any role:

We can put ourselves right into William's shoes and have look around 360 degrees of Johnson Street - clearly unchanged since William's day - in the panorama which you can access using the link below. Click and hold your cursor on the picture and move it to have a good look around:

Interactive Panorama of Johnson Street, BC

So we move along and it seems it is time for William to move again:

What we see above is a manifest of passengers departing from Victoria, Canada to Los Angeles, USA, via Seattle.

William has been "Verified Nat." three times during his journey. I'm not sure what this means, but it's probably that he has become a naturalised citizen of either Canada or the USA:

His occupation is obscured but I think it might say Boiler Maker. His final destination is given as Los Angeles but if you look carefully, Oakland also gets a mention, and we know from later facts that where William and Nellie are headed is in fact Oakland.

Information on our William becomes a bit thin for a while. He's over 60 during WW2, too old to be involved directly in the hostilities. The next we see of him, in 1950, he's had a trip to Britain, and we find him departing Southampton for the USA on board the Queen Elizabeth:

From the address he gives, we can see that he's been visiting his sister Ellen (remember her being looked after by her aunt in 1891!). Ellen had married Thomas Wright and moved to Sheffield.

Here's the other end of the voyage, the Queen Elizabeth arriving at New York:

Now we see William's address in the United States; 2023 27th Avenue, Oakland. William declares his citizenship as British.

I didn't know where Oakland was,

but when we see it's right next to the Golden Gate Bridge, we can all place it: San Francisco. Below we see a view of the bridge taken from Oakland:

If any of our gentle readers are familiar with Google Maps, you may know that they have photographed every square foot of certain U.S. cities in 3D ["Street View"]. It's a lot of fun to play with - you can take a virtual walk in the sunshine - and here's some still shots of 2023 27th Avenue, the location of William's house. The California sunshine is quite a contrast with Workington. I can feel the warm breeze coming through my computer screen:

First we look north:

Then we look south from the same spot:

One of the houses very near to the camera is William's. Step into his shoes.


Three years later we find that William has had another trip to Britain, this time with his wife:



We learn from this that William's first wife Amy Elizabeth "Nellie" Elder has passed away. We don't know when this was. William's second wife is Josephine Findley, originally from Scotland, a naturalised American citizen. Their address in Connecticut is a temporary one.


They are travelling on board the Queen Mary, no less:



If they wanted to spend a little cash, here's the shopping centre:



This is the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth together. The Queen Mary is still painted Battleship Grey, as she was for WW2:



Queen Mary was moved to a permanent mooring at Long Beach, California in 1967. 42 years later, she's still there as a floating hotel and tourist attraction:



Back to William. He's getting on a bit, and four years after his trip on the Queen Mary, on 20 November 1957, William passes away, as reported by the Oakland Tribune:



Eight years later, 1965, and Josephine dies:



Here's the official record of their passing:



William led a long life and from my point of view, was a man who had a clear idea of how to go about improving his lot in life. Aside from his son Oliver who died tragically young in 1914, William Kendall Partleton seems to have had no descendants.

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