This blog is designed to record the findings of our family history, mainly for the benefit of the family, and to document the dead ends, the breakthroughs and the journey.
I’ll post the family stories as I’ve written them to now, and I’ll be grateful to anyone who can add further information or pictures, or point out errors.
Particular thanks to my sister Julia and my cousin Mandy who between them have done much more of the work than I have.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Timmins family story

Back to the paternal side of the family with my grandmothers family. Mandy did most of the research for this.

In 1881 Timmins was a name mainly confined to the Black Country, although by 1998 it had spread north and east across the country. It is still relatively uncommon in the south. In 1881 most of the Timminses were in Dudley, but the census shows 139 of them living in West Bromwich, of which we know that 7 are directly related to us. What makes our search more difficult is that there are, for example, three households with James Timmins born in 1848 or 9 as the head.

So let’s start with what we know and work backwards.

Lily Gertrude Timmins

Lily Gertrude Timmins (always known as Gert) was born on 17th August 1889 at 117 Overend Street in West Bromwich. Her father was James Timmins, (I’m going to call him James the 4th as there are a confusing number of people called James in this story) a whitesmith working at the Salter spring factory and her mother was Sarah Timmins (nee Cotterell). Gert was the youngest in a family of eight children and the only girl.

In 1911, when already pregnant with her eldest son Arthur she married Walter Hamilton. Before her marriage she appears not to have worked and it was not unusual then for girls in relatively prosperous families to stay at home and “help mother”. And with eight sons her mother could probably have done with the help. However in 1907 when she was 17 both of Gert’s parents died, and we do not know what happened to her between then and 1911, when she married. It can be presumed that she was living with her brother Alfred who continued to live with her and Walter after their marriage until his death in 1926. Dad tells me that he was badly gassed in the First World War, which would account for his early death.

Gert and Walter lived all their married lives at 17 Roebuck Street and she left there to live in a flat near Stan at 22 Caldwell House, Lyttleton Street, when the houses were pulled down in the 1960s. Roebuck Street was originally laid out as Park Village in the 1850s; and by the 1960s many of the Victorian houses, including the Hamilton homes, had been pulled down and replaced by light industry and the motorway.
The Timmins were not a tall family. Gert was under 5ft and Alfred was in a “bantam” regiment in the first world war, formed especially for short people. And I’m afraid that the Timmins genes have given us the hips.

Gert and Walter had 9 children who survived to adulthood and one who died as an infant

Arthur (1911-1991)
married Minnie Bates
Children Brian and Alan
Dorrie (Dorothy) (1914-2001)
married Arthur Hawthorn
one child Ann
Alfred, (1916-1980)
married Cathy Shelton
one child Graham
Frederick (1918-1979)
married Molly Thacker
no children
Syd (Joseph Sydney) (born 1920)
married Betty Billingham
children Diana and Julia
Stanley (1923-1997
married Irene White
children Nigel and Kerry
Norman (1926-1995)
married Olive Simmonds
children Paul and Geoffrey.
Betty (1929-2003)
married Don Wakelam
Children Deborah Beverley  and Donna
Donald(born 1931)
married Beryl Ashcroft
one child Lynne

This picture shows Gert (extreme left) with her daughters in law Minnie and Betty and her daughter Dorrie, and her grandchildren Brian, Ann, Diana, and Alan on the beach in Scarborough. Judging my the age of the baby (which is me) I'm guessing its 1949 or 1950. Dad tells me that the men were there as well but they were in the pub

Gert died on 29th November 1969, aged 80, of pneumonia following a fall. She was staying at the home of Betty and Don Wakelam at the time of her death, although she was still living at Lyttleton Street.

James Timmins (1848-1907) (James the 4th) and his wife Sarah Cotterill (1849-1907)

Lily Gertrude’s father, James Timmins (James the 4th) was born in 1848, the son of James Timmins, a whitesmith. The only birth certificate I can find for the time shows the father as George Timmins and the mother as Ann Timmins nee Worrall. This is the right name for the mother, but not for the father. James married Sarah Cotterill on 15th December 1872 at Christchurch West Bromwich when they were both 24. The witnesses were Rachel Cotterill and Isaiah Reece. Sarah and the witnesses were illiterate but James signed the register himself.

Like his father James was a whitesmith, and we know that he worked for George Salter the spring maker. A whitesmith is a person who works with "white" or light-coloured metals. While blacksmiths work mostly with hot metal, whitesmiths do the majority of their work on cold metal.

The couple had eight children

Thomas            1867-1948
Harry                1876-1940
Albert               1877-1882
Arthur               1876-?
George             1881-?
Albert J             1884-?
Alfred               1886-1924
Lily Gertrude     1890-1969

The eldest son Thomas Cotterill Timmins was born before their marriage on 28th October 1867. His birth certificate states his father as James Timmins, a whitesmith. At this stage both James and Sarah were only 16.The census of 1871 has Thomas living with his mother Sarah Cotrill and his maternal grandparents. By the census of 1881 Sarah and James have married and Thomas is living with them. Mandy has been in touch with one of Thomas’ descendants who assured her that James was Thomas’ father and his early years were spent with the Timmins family. Thomas died on 13th February 1948 and is buried in West Bromwich. Interestingly Dad has no recollection of him as one of his uncles.

In the 1871 census James is unmarried and living at home with his parents at George Street. Both James and his father are whitesmiths. In 1861 and 1851 they are in Thomas Street’

By the 1881 census James and Sarah are married and the family is living at 100 High Street. Their eldest son Thomas at 13 is already working as a whitesmith. In 1891 and 1901 they are living at 117 Overend Street where they remained till their deaths. Although by 1911 the family are no longer there we know from the extra information in that census that it was a five roomed house with a kitchen but no bathroom, so although the Timminses seem overcrowded by our standards, for that time they were relatively prosperous. 117 Overend street was last sold in 2007, when it fetched £88,000.

James died on 28th March 1907 at the age of 58 of heart disease, at 117 Overend Street and Sarah died shortly afterwards on 29th June 1907 of Brights Disease, which is a disease of the kidneys.

James Timmins (1821-1879) (James the 3rd) and his wife Ann Worrall (1823-1884)

James was born in 1821 before registration started in 1836 and we therefore do not have a birth certificate for him or for his wife Ann Worrall. However later censuses show that he was born in West Bromwich and his wife was born in Arley near Nuneaton in Warwickshire.

The IGI shows only one James Timmins christened on 8th July 1821 in West Bromwich. His parents are shown as James Timmins and Jane Timmins, and I have them living in west Bromwich in 1841.

I haven’t found James the 3rd  and Ann on the 1841 census, which isn’t unusual, and its possible they weren’t married by then as their first child was born in 1843,. There is a Timmins family living in Thomas Street in 1841 and as the household head is also called James and is a bayonet maker (a precursor of spring maker), we can guess that this is his parents and siblings. Where James was that night we shall never know. He could have been missed off by the enumerator or staying somewhere else where they didn’t bother to include him.

There is a bit of a mystery. On James 4th’s birth certificate his father’s name is given as George . Is it possible that James 3rd was also known as George? It’s unlikely as he had a brother called George.
We know that Ann’s maiden name was Worrall because it is given clearly on the birth certificates of her children Cornelius and Eliza Jane. And the father’s name is given correctly as James. Ann Worrall appears to be a common name but neither Find My Past nor IGI has a record of an Ann Worrall marrying anyone called Timmins.

Like several of his sons and grandsons James was a whitesmith. In the 1851 census he is described as a spring balance maker and in 1861 as a whitesmith,

James and Ann had 7 children

George             1843 a whitesmith
Cornelius          1844 a whitesmith
Elizabeth           1847
James              1849 a whitesmith (our ancestor James 4th )
Eliza Jane         1851
Mary                 1854
Jane                 1856

It shows a distinct lack of imagination to call one child Elizabeth, one Jane and a third Eliza Jane

The family lived at a number of addresses in west Bromwich. In 1851 and 1861 they were in Thomas Street and in 1871 they were in George Street. In 1851 they had a married couple Thomas and Rebecca Morgan as lodgers. He was a stone miner. Rebecca may have been James sister. Her birth dates fit. In 1861 Thomas Worrall aged 11 months was staying with them. He was born in Willenhall and was presumably related. In 1871 their baby granddaughter Patience Jane Timmins who was born in Yorkshire was with them. Thomas Worrall doesn’t show in the area in the 1871 census and a 5 year old called Patience Timmins died in West Bromwich in 1876.

James died on 11th March 1879 in Overend Street. He died from Phthisis Pulmonalis which is an archaic term for tuberculosis. Ann died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 8th August 1884. At the time she was living at 5 Herbert street which appears to have been almshouses.

James Timmins (1791-1846) (James the 2nd)and his wife Jane (1793-1862)

Registration of births marriages and deaths began in 1836 so we have no certificates for James and Jane’s early years. The 1841 census shows them at age 50 and 48 respectively living in Thomas Street West Bromwich with 8 children. Our ancestor James the 3rd born in 1821 is missing. As the eldest child at home was born in 1813 when James the 2nd would have been 22 we can surmise that they were married around that time.

Their children are

Ann                  1813
Fanny               1817
James              1821
George             1823
Rebecca           1827
Hannah             1829
Mary Ann          1835
Eliza                 1837
Thomas            1838

By the 1851 census James has died and his widow Jane, who we now find was born in Oldbury is still living in Thomas Street with Ann, Fanny, Mary Ann, Eliza, Thomas and a widowed son in law called Joseph Cox, who must have been married to either Rebecca or Hannah. The women are working as nailers, while Thomas and Joseph Cox are both pole dressers. I can’t find what a pole dresser was.

Ann, the eldest daughter is also shown as born in Oldbury so we must presume the family lived there before moving to West Bromwich.

James died in January 1846, and Jane on 19th October 1862.

Cornelius Timmins and his wife Mary

I’m guessing now but according to IGI a James Timmins (James the 2nd?) was christened on 9th May 1788 at St Thomas Dudley, which fits with Oldbury, whose parents are Cornelius Timmins and Mary Timmins. As James 3rd had a son called Cornelius it seems likely that these are James 2nd ‘s parents. If so, Cornelius Timmins was born in 1763 in Sedgley and his parents were James (James 1st?) and Sarah. We shall have to wait until we can check parish records to discover if we are on the right track.


  1. I have a photograph of a Janet Timmins with several other residents in Beale Street, West Bromwich during the Queen's Coronation celebrations in 1952; could this be a relation?

    Co-incidentally, generations of my family lived and worked in Overend Street, my late father being the last of the family to have been born there in 1926. How do I attach this photograph to the comment box?

    Mike Fenton

    1. Hi Mike

      Thanks for your comments. I believe that Janet Timmins may be a descendent of Thomas Cotterill Timmins, who was the eldest child of my great grandparents. He was born some years before their marriage and although he lived in West Bromwich, my father, who knew his other Timmins uncles doesn't think he ever met him. I will also ask my father (92 and still with all his marbles) if he knew your father - although he was born in 1920, doesn't remember ever meeting him, although he came from Overend Street and my Dad from Roebuck Street they were the same generation.

    2. Sorry for the late reply. Is there a way I can attach the photograph to the site? Have you spoken to your father yet? I would be really interested to see what you can unearth