Emigration of the Holmes



Between the years of 1866 to 1913, a number of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of William Holmes and Caroline emigrated to Australia, USA and Canada. Why did they emigrate? This is not clear- perhaps opportunities were thought to be better, though the oldest (George Whateley Holmes) initially worked in the same field of Saddlery in Australia as he had in England. Perhaps living conditions in the centre of the city of Birmingham were not so good. Sanitation probably left much to be desired.

One of the factors was that their mother Caroline Holmes died in Jan quarter 1867.  In 1861, all children at the time apart from George, who was living with his grandmother Elizabeth Whatley, were still living with the family (Richard was born later). At Caroline’s death the children probably at home are aged 22, 18, 17, 15, 12, 10, 7, 6 and 3. The story told by my grandmother was that Susannah looked after the younger children, but she was only 12 at this time, so maybe had some help at least at first. However it seemed that as soon as they could, some more of the children were called for or sent to their siblings who had emigrated earlier.

The first to leave was George Whateley Holmes, who had left England about August 1866, aged 23, so had left already when his mother died. He headed initially for Adelaide in South Australia, before moving on the following year to New South Wales and settling eventually in Armidale. Second to leave was Frederick Walter Holmes who arrived in New York in September 1868 aged 20.

Following emigrations were the younger members of the family joining an older sibling.  Frederick had married a Scot, Elizabeth Kerr, in 1869, and was joined by his sister Alice Elizabeth Holmes, aged 18 arriving in August 1870. Samuel followed soon after, arriving July 1872 aged only 14. Alice married Cornelius (John) Dagwell in 1877 and by the next US census in 1880 Samuel is living with the Dagwells. Next the youngest child, Richard Whateley Holmes emigrated to Australia, arrive in Sydney in 1879, aged probably only 15 at the time he left to undergo the long journey to Australia. My grandmother related that George sent for Richard, who would have been only three when George had left England. This was all the emigration for quite some time.

The family moved from Birmingham to Worcester  by 1876, when Caroline Holmes married George William Edwards in 1876, and by 1887, they had 5 children, Emma, George William, Frederick Walter, Richard Whateley and Edwin Albert (Ted). Exactly what happened to George William Holmes senior is not known, he is not seen after 1891, where he is possibly found away from the family in Wolverhampton. William Holmes, father of the family died in Worcester in 1880.

First of this group to emigrate was George William Edwards junior, aged 29, who emigrated to Canada, in April 1907, with his wife Rose, and children Samuel Henry aged 10 and Alyce aged 7. They stated their destination initially as Killarney in Manitoba, though settled into the nearby town of Ninette. This seemed the trigger for more emigration. Ted (Edwin) left in April 1909. Shipping records show that his wife, Alice Elizabeth, and their son Albert, aged only 2 were booked on this crossing but must have had a change of heart, as they did not travel, and followed Ted later, arriving in Canada on Christmas Day 1909. They were heading initially for Ninette, and also lived in Belmont, though had settled in Winnipeg by 1911. Next to leave was Caroline Emma Edwards, who left on her own in June 1912, heading for Ninette. On the shipping records she described herself as a widow (though there is a contradictory report that George didn’t die until 1930). Caroline, often known by her second name Emma, would have been 54 at this time and grandmother to 10. It was obviously quite a step for her. Last to emigrate were Caroline’s daughter Emma, who married Dennis William Smith in 1900. Dennis and Emma, and their children Ernest 11 and Frederick aged 9. They were heading for Winnipeg as their intended destination. Caroline’s other sons Frederick Walter Edwards and Richard Whateley Edwards, both married and with families, stayed in England.

Among the Holmes the remainder remained in England and Wales. This included William Holmes who became a fruiterer in Penarth in Wales, Edwin Holmes, who remained a brushmaker in Worcester (virtually the family occupation), Susannah Davis also remained in Worcester, Joseph who went to Blackburn, but still in the family occupation of brushmaking, and finally my great grandmother Lucy Ann Holmes, who lived with Susannah until her (Lucy’s) marriage to William Henry Pullen, moved to Wick in the Worcestershire countryside until her early death in 1906.


Holmes Page        Home Page        See the Ships and details