William Bird Churchill with Robert Henry Bird Churchill (my grandfather and my dad, abt 1932).
William Bird was born on June 16, 1908 in Camberwell, London, England. He was the "illegitimate" son of Annie Bird (week #3), aged 30 years. William's birth certificate states that he was born at 72a East Dulwich Grove; his
father is not listed. It turns out that this address was actually the St. Saviour's/Southwark Union Workhouse infirmary where Annie, occupation rag sorter, spent much of her adult life. In 1904, the Registrar General had advised
local registration officers that where a child was born in the workhouse, there should be no longer any indication of this on the child's birth certificate. Instead, the place of birth was to be recorded as a euphemistic street address (www.workhouses.org.uk).
It is not clear, but likely, that William lived at the workhouse with his mother for the first 14 months of his life. Workhouse records indicate he was discharged to Mrs. Mary Churchill (week # 19) on September 17, 1909, however no further information
is available. For instance, it is unknown if Annie relenquished her son voluntarily or not. While foster care existed at the time, formal adoption, as we now know it, did not exist in England and Wales until 1927. Before then, adoptions were
usually informal. In a few cases there was some legal documentation, but no central register (UK National Archives on Adoption).
According to the U.K. Ship's Passenger List, on September 2, 1910, William (2) sailed from Liverpool, England to Montreal,
Quebec, Canada with Mrs. Mary Ann Louise Churchill (widow) and her young daughter, Ethel, on the Victorian (Allan Line Steamship Company). William was then raised by Mary Churchill in Hamilton, Ontario Canada, where some of her adult children already
lived. Churchill became his last name, however Bird remained his middle name.
William (Bill) met and later married Alice Clarke (week #2) on Christmas Day of 1929. They raised six children together in Hamilton, Ontario, including my father,
Robert Henry Bird Churchill, their first-born. From their six children, they had 21 grandchildren; to some of them he became known as "Bud".
William drove a cement mixing truck for much of his adult life, a job he retired from at
age 65. In his late 70's, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, however he lived past his 83rd birthday. On August 8, 1991, "Gramp" succumbed to the cancer and died; he is buried at Mount Hamilton Cemetery. William was not much interested in
his life before he came to Canada with Mrs. Churchill; he considered her his mother. He never knew much about Annie Bird and much of what I now know, I learned after his death.