Mary Ann Louisa Lee Churchill

My Paternal Great-Grandmother ("adopted")

Mary Ann Louisa Lee (1859-1950)

My Paternal Grandfather, William Bird Churchill, was raised by Mary Ann Louisa Lee Churchill from the age of 15 months.  He was born in a London, England workhouse infirmary; the first year of his life was likely spent there with his birth mother.  In September of 1909 he was discharged to Mrs. Churchill, who brought him to Canada with her a year later and raised him as her own.  It is not likely that he was ever formerly adopted as this would not have been legally required at the time.

As it is the time of Mother's Day, I thought I would write about Mary Ann, whom my grandfather considered his mother and my father considered his grandmother.

The birth certificate of Mary Ann Louisa Lee indicates she was born in the registration district of Weymouth, in the district of Portland, in the County of Dorset, England on Sept 19, 1859 at Fortune's Well. Her father was William Lee, a carpenter, and her mother was Sara Gard. Mary Ann was the sixth of eight children born to William and Sara Lee.  She grew up in Dorset where she met Elias Churchill who was also born and raised in that area.  They were married in 1880 and moved to Southwark, London where they had six children over the next 16 years.

Mary Ann was widowed in 1904 when Elias died at the age of 45. It is not known how or why Mary Ann, at age 49, came to take my grandfather, William, into her care in 1909.  Her own children ranged in age from 13-39 by this point.  At the time, there was a large number of orphaned or "desitute" children  in London and "foster parents" were being recruited and paid to care for them.  Some of Mary Ann's oldest children, then adults, had already emigrated to Canada and she left with William and her youngest daughter to join them.  On Sept 2, 1910 - the ship's passenger list reports: Mary Churchill, widow, age 50, going to live with daughter in Hamilton Ontario, occupation: domestic. Ethel (11) and William (2) travelling with her. Ship "Victorian", Allan Line Steamship Co. Ltd. leaving Liverpool, England bound for Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Mary Ann, with the help of her older children in Canada, raised William in Hamilton, Ontario.  Her other children who had initially stayed in England also came to Canada in the early 1900's.  Mary Ann lived until the age of 90; she died in February 1950 and is buried with her son Albert in Hamilton Cemetery. 

Mary Ann's grave in Hamilton Cemetery.

"Family not only need to consist of merely those whom we share blood, but also for those whom we'd give blood"

- Charles Dickens

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09.10 | 13:33

Hello Peter - please email me at

23.08 | 15:28

Hi Karen, If you are still maintaining this page, please drop me a line. William and Mary were my great, great, grandparents. Best Regards,

29.08 | 18:46

John. Can you email me at - then we can connect directly. ..

16.08 | 11:58

Hi Karen, if you are interested, please visit my facebook page
regards john crome.

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