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J Moore (a shunter)

In this post, Chris Jolliffe, one of the project volunteers based at the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick and transcribing trade union records, picks up on one case that emerged from the ‘Transcription Tuesday’ event. In it, she delves deeper into the sources to pull together a much more complete picture of the impact of one worker’s death on his family.

This is exactly the sort of research we were hoping our project might enable, as it shows how we can all work together to assemble a much better understanding of life for railway workers and their families and communities. We hope to feature more such accounts as the project goes on – and welcome guest contributions where you have done this sort of research with the project data!


#OnThisDay 14 February 1903 shunter J Moore died at #Chester. He left 1 child, but no wife is mentioned (they usually are), so perhaps she had already died? That would have meant the orphanage for the child; as well as £202.9.0 in compensation.

I don’t know what it was about Mike’s tweet, above, that sparked my curiosity. Why wasn’t his wife named? What happened to the child? Whatever it was, it was enough to make me start digging.

I found a 1903 death record[1] for John Moore, age 33, in Chester and I also found a John Moore in the 1901 census,[2] age 31. John was a widower, living at 53 William Street with his two sisters, Margaret and Annie Hignett. John’s occupation was a railway points shunter. He was born in about 1870 in Leicester. Margaret was 16 and Annie was 12. They were both born in Tarvin, Cheshire. Annie would only have been 14 when John died, so its possible she could be the ‘orphan’. I tweeted this information to Mike. If anything, it made me even more curious. Where were the girls’ parents? Why did they have a different surname to John if they were siblings? I needed to find out what happened.

John’s parents were Abraham Moore and Rachel Hobley.[3] They married in 1868 in Leicester.[4] Abraham died in 1873.[5] Rachel married Andrew Hignett in 1878.[6] John Moore was living with Rachel and Andrew in Tarvin, Cheshire in 1881.[7] He was age 11 and recorded as Andrew’s step son. In 1891, the family were still living in Tarvin.[8] Annie and Margaret both appear on this census, along with their 3 brothers and 1 sister. John was no longer living with the family, though he was still living nearby. He was working as a servant for William Lea, a farmer.[9] I haven’t been able to find a marriage for John Moore, but I did find a burial record for his mother, Rachel, in 31 January 1897.[10] Margaret and Annie would have been ages 12 and 8 respectively.  Most sane people would stop here. I’d found a link between John Moore and Annie and Margaret. I just had more questions. Where was Andrew Hignett? Why wasn’t he looking after his daughters in 1901? Most importantly, for me, what happened to Margaret and Annie after John’s death on 1903? Did Annie go to an orphanage?

In 1901, Andrew Hignett was still alive.[11] He was living in Birkenhead with his daughter Mary, son in law George Dodd and sons Paul and Henry. George Dodd and Henry Hignett were both working on the railways. George was a plate layer and Henry was a messenger. I think there probably wasn’t the room or the money for the girls to live there, but this is purely speculation.

There are a couple more twists to this story. On the 8th March 1913, Annie Hignett married James Finnemore Babb at Smiths Falls, Lanark, Ontario.[12] In Canada! Perhaps, Annie used the orphan fund money to emmigrate. Annie was 24 and her parents were Andrew Hignett and Rachel Hobley, so this is definitely the same person. Her religion was recorded as Salvation Army.  James Babb was 29, born in Sydenham, Kent. His occupation was a labourer. In 1921, Annie, James and their three children were living in Montague, Ontario.[13] The census states that Annie arrived in Canada in 1912.

I found Andrew Hignett in the 1911 census living with his married daughter, Margaret Rimmer and his granddaughter, Constance Rachel.[14] Andrew died on 28 February 1928 … in Smiths Falls, Lanark, Ontario.[15] The informant was son in law, George Dodd! I have also found evidence that Margaret Rimmer nee Hignett and her brother, Henry, both emigrated to Smiths Falls. In fact, Henry fought with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, but that’s a story for another day!



Chris Jolliffe retired from teaching last year to focus on her passion for genealogy. She is currently working towards a PG Cert in Genealogy, Palaeography and Heraldic Studies with the University of Strathclyde. She is a volunteer transcriber for the Railway Work, Life & Death project. Chris will be giving a talk on convict records at the Family Tree Live Show in April. 


[1] Deaths index (CR) England. Chester. 1st Q., 1903. MOORE, John. Vol 8a. p. 276.

[2] Census records. England. Hoole, Cheshire. 31 March 1901. MOORE, John (head). PN 3374. FL 158. SN 279. p. 43. Collection: 1901 England census. : accessed 14 February 1901.

[3] Census records. England. Leicester St Mary, Leicestershire. 2 April 1871. MOORE, Abraham (head). PN 3286. FL 28. p. 17. Collection: 1871 England census. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[4] Marriages index (CR) England. Leicester. 3rd Q., 1868. MOORE, Abraham and HOBLEY, Rachel. Vol 7a. p. 436.

[5] Deaths index (CR) England. Leicester. 2nd Q., 1873. MOORE, Abraham. Vol 7a. p. 154.

[6] Marriages index (CR) England. Birkenhead, Cheshire. 4th Q., 1878. HIGNETT, Andrew and MOORE, Rachel. Vol 8a. p. 716.

[7] Census records. England. Tarvin, Cheshire. 3 April 1881. HIGNETT, Andrew (head). PN 3553. FL 113. ED 14. p. 10. Collection: 1881 England census. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[8] Census records. England. Tarvin, Cheshire. 5 April 1891. HIGNETT, Andrew (head). PN 2860. FL 100. p. 23. Collection: 1891 England census. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[9] Census records. England. Tarvin, Cheshire. 5 April 1891. MOORE. John. PN 2860. FL 109. p. 41. Collection: 1891 England census. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[10] Burials (PR) England. Tarvin, Cheshire. 31 January 1897. HIGNETT, Rachel. Collection: Cheshire, England, Select Bishop’s Transcripts, 1576-1933. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[11] Census records. England. Birkenhead, Cheshire. 31 March 1901. HIGNETT. Andrew. PN 3398. FL 67. SN 132. ED 23. p. 24. Collection: 1901 England census. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[12] Marriages (CR) Canada. Smiths Falls, Lanark. 8 March 1913. BABB, James Finnemore and HIGNETT, Annie. Collection: Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1937. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[13] Census records. Canada. Montague, Lanark, Ontario. 1 June 1921. BABB, John (head). RG 31. Folder 68. p. 1. Collection: 1921 Census of Canada. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[14] Census records. England. Birkenhead, Cheshire. 2 April 1911. HIGNETT, Andrew (head). PN 21984. ED 27. SN 245. Collection: 1911 England census. : accessed 14 February 2019.

[15] Deaths. Canada. Lanark, Ontario. 28 February 1928. HIGNETT, Andrew. Collection: Ontario, Canada, Deaths 1869-1947. : accessed 14 February 2019.


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