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Some Ryan Family Information Needed

Started by: david dunlop (133)

I hope all of you enjoy mysteries and can perhaps help me with any information regarding a family mystery we have been trying to sort out since the Summer of 1929.

My Mum was born and raised in Wigan, the eldest of four Ryan siblings, named Patricia, Belle, Terry and Kevin. Their father was William Charles Ryan, but he was known as Charlie Ryan. He was a Master Plumber who worked for Walkdens. Their mother, my maternal Grandmother, was Clara Ryan. Her Maiden Name was Clara Betton. They were married in 1922 and my Mum was born in 1923. The youngest child, Kevin, was born in 1927. They lived on Pagefield Street.

By all accounts, Charlie was a very good plumber, but he also drank to excess, on a near daily basis as he got older, and beat Clara almost as frequently. Sometime in mid-1929, Clara disappeared. We have always assumed Clara could no longer take the abuse and fled.

When Clara’s eldest sister, Nellie, passed in 1972, a photograph turned up in Nellie’s things. It was Clara with three boys we do not know. Interestingly enough, however, the eldest boy in the photo looks strikingly like Charlie when he was a young man. All the family could assume was that Clara had perhaps been pregnant in 1929 with a fifth child by Charlie, could not take her home life any longer and gone off. Subsequently, she had remarried and led a happy life.

Shortly after Clara left in 1929, Charlie went to Liverpool and had the four children committed to orphanages, claiming Clara was an adulteress and had run off with an unknown man. Mum and my Aunt ended up in an orphanage in Preston. My two uncles went to Billinge, which by all accounts was not a nice place. Charlie then came home and told Clara’s sisters, Nellie and Louise, they would never see their nephews and nieces again, unless they told him where Clara was hiding. Interestingly enough, in copies of the applications for orphanage we found, the interviewer/case worker had noted Charlie appeared to be of dubious character. Spot on!

After almost five years, Charlie reclaimed his children, took a new wife and started a second family in the same home on Pagefield, but did not change one bit.

Just recently, some new pieces of information have come to light that cast doubt on our assumptions all these years. It now looks like Clara was indeed planning to leave Charlie in 1929. With or without her children we do not know. She did, however, visit her sister, Nellie, in mid-summer 1929 to pick up a Diddlum her sister had been holding for Clara in the sum of 10 Pounds Sterling. Two months later she had vanished as per the story above, but we have now found several bits of information that provide a new twist. These pieces of information come from several independent sources that suggest, Charlie may have found out Clara planned to leave and he beat her senseless. He then took her to Haydock Lodge Asylum and had her put away. The other possibility is she was taken to the asylum in Preston. Both these options are being actively investigated at the moment. He then put the kids away to tidy up loose ends and wait for the dust to settle.

If this story were true, it would appear Clara made a full recovery and was able to be discharged. It is also possible she may have given birth to her third son while either at Haydock or Preston, or shortly after her release. Also under investigation.

I wanted to post this story in the event anyone recognizes Clara, or perhaps, somebody’s family history might remember this Ryan family and have any more information to add, however small, that would be of help to us. Please feel free to share with anyone you can think of who might be of assistance.


Started: 15th Jul 2018 at 20:39

Posted by: kathpressey (5601) 

What a fascinating tale! Family history is gripping isn't it? Good luck with solving Clara's story

Replied: 16th Jul 2018 at 08:38

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

Yes, we would love to sort it all out soon. Been a work in progress far too long.


Replied: 16th Jul 2018 at 15:19

Posted by: annefair (1182)

David someone called JA Johnson asking about a Clara Ryan on Wigan

Replied: 16th Jul 2018 at 19:10

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

You have an Eagle Eye, Anne! I will look into that.



Replied: 17th Jul 2018 at 00:18

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

possible marriges ? Lancashire Marriage indexes for the years: 1931
Surname Forename(s) Surname Forename(s) Church / Register Office Registers At Reference
RYAN Clara FITTON Robert Oldham, Lower Moor, St. Stephen & All Martyrs Oldham CE237/5/138
Lancashire Marriage indexes for the years: 1933
Surname Forename(s) Surname Forename(s) Church / Register Office Registers At Reference
RYAN Clara VERRAN Francis Burnley Register Office or Registrar Attended Preston RM/239/30

Replied: 17th Jul 2018 at 15:23

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

this is charlie 1n 1939 un married but living with hilda frances Name: Hilda Larkin
[Hilda Ryan]
Gender: Female
Marital Status: Single
Birth Date: 15 Jul 1909
Residence Year: 1939
Address: 7 Pagefield St
Residence Place: Wigan, Lancashire, England
Occupation: Paid Housekeeper
Schedule Number: 57
Sub Schedule Number: 2
Enumeration District: NSIR
Registration district: 458/2
Household Members:
William C Ryan
Hilda Larkin
also 5 children but they are closed

Replied: 17th Jul 2018 at 17:11
Last edited by winnie: 17th Jul 2018 at 17:14:41

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

ive found your tree on ansestry is that claras official date of birth or baptism

Replied: 17th Jul 2018 at 17:15

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

possible children for charlie and hilda Name Kenneth A Larkin
Registration Date 1935
Registration district Wigan
Inferred County Greater Manchester
Re-registration Year 1935
Mother's Maiden Name Larkin
Volume Number 8c
Page number 113
Household Members
Name Age
Kenneth A Larkin Name Jacqueline Larkin
Registration Date 1936
Registration district Wigan
Inferred County Greater Manchester
Re-registration Year 1936
Mother's Maiden Name Larkin
Volume Number 8c
Page number 150
Household Members
Name Age
Jacqueline Larkin

Replied: 17th Jul 2018 at 17:47

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

your not going to belive this while looking for info Enoch Betton is lodging with my 4th great uncle ,Eli Brown Maria and Enoch are brother and sister i think Name: Enoch Betton
Age: 19
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1862
Relationship to Head: Boarder
Gender: Male
Where born: Spring Wood, Staffordshire, England
Civil Parish: Ince in Makerfield
County/Island: Lancashire
Country: England
Street address: 8a Back Bird St

Employment status:

View image
Occupation: Coal Miner
Registration district: Wigan
ED, institution, or vessel: 28
Neighbors: View others on page
Piece: 3776
Folio: 78
Page Number: 49
Household Members:
Name Age
Eli Brown 29
Maria Brown 25
Moses Brown 7
Mary Brown 6
Israel Brown 3
Alice Jane Brown
Sarah Ann Betton 5
Enoch Betton 19
Andrew Betton 15

Replied: 17th Jul 2018 at 19:16
Last edited by winnie: 17th Jul 2018 at 19:19:21

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

yep Clara is in my family tree !!

Replied: 17th Jul 2018 at 19:20

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

Its a small world, Winnie! The birth date I have for Clara is based on a copy of her Birth Cert which I have here at home.

I have not been on Ancestry for a couple of years now. It was getting far too expensive here for what I was able to get out of it.


Replied: 18th Jul 2018 at 00:20

Posted by: surfer_tom (875)

try parish clerks online st andrews wigan charles terance
ryan married 1955 age 28. father william charles. plumber

Replied: 21st Jul 2018 at 15:53
Last edited by surfer_tom: 21st Jul 2018 at 15:58:45

Posted by: surfer_tom (875)

clara Ryan married 1947, wigan to arthur mitchinson age 33
if that is her true age

Replied: 21st Jul 2018 at 19:04
Last edited by surfer_tom: 22nd Jul 2018 at 10:28:14

Posted by: LEP1950 (746)

If it were so simple! Charles Terence was Clara's son, born 1926. Clara would have been far older than 33 in 1947. I don't think she remarried at all. She would have been wary of committing bigamy, I think. But her vanishing act seems to be perfect. At first I thought she would be using another man's surname, living "over the brush" as my mother would have said. So I thought that if I looked up Clara with her birth date in the 1939 register, I would find her. Well, there is a Clara born on May 13th, 1901 in this register, but after some crosschecking, it would seem that she was married to the man she was living with and had been since before 1926 when they had a son. This Clara's maiden name was not Betton.
My next step was just to put the exact birth date into the register. There were apparently over 700 females born on this day in 1901, none of them using the name Clara. That would take some checking!! Who were these women living with? Can a marriage be found? Were there three boys?
I then looked up all the male births between 1928 and 1940 where the maiden name of the mother was given as "Betton". I looked to see if there were possibly three boys with the same surname. There were actually about three separate cases. I looked them up, checked for marriages and could rule all of these out.
I then looked for the photograph of Clara and the boys.
There does not seem to be much of an age gap, if any, between the two older boys. If you think that she may have been pregnant with her husband's child when she left, I think it possible that she later met a widower with a son. The third child is much younger and could be their only common child. Comparing with my own grandchildren, I would say the youngest is no older than three years old. If you are sure that Clara sent the photo in 1939, The boy was probably born in 1936 (+1 or -1). This would reduce the possibilities if he were born in Britain. I have been looking at the birth of a JOHN C PULEY in 1936 in Runcorn. I can find no marriage of a Puley (or other spellings like Pooley) to a Betton, and so I presume the parents weren't married. The maiden name on the birth registration is Betton. This is only one I have looked at so far, and, of course, I can't say that this family is the one you are looking for. I will do some more work.

Actually, David, I think you should get in touch with one of the tabloids like "The Daily Mail". They often have articles about ancestry, and this is such an interesting case. Even if no one recognises the boys, they may recognise the studio on the photograph, which would be a big help. By the way, I noticed Clara's wedding ring, but I don't think it significant. It could be the one from her first husband or a cheap one bought for the sake of appearances. After all, women with children didn't walk about advertising that they weren't married in those days.

Good luck in your search! If anything else occurs to me, I will post again. I don't like giving in!!


Replied: 21st Jul 2018 at 21:41
Last edited by LEP1950: 21st Jul 2018 at 21:44:36

Posted by: LEP1950 (746)

By the way, you did not need any paperwork to change your name in England. As long as you were not changing your name for criminal purposes, you could call yourself anything you like. And who had a passport before the late 60s/early 70s?
My parents got their first passports in 1972, and they had to get a copy of their birth certificates to apply for them. Until then, they had neither birth certificates, passports or anything else confirming their identity, but they still managed to get married, register the births of their own children, get jobs and open bank accounts. Probably all with a rates bill!!!


Replied: 21st Jul 2018 at 21:51

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

Hello Linda.

Thank you for your detective work, it is very much appreciated.

Rumours of Clara using a Deed Poll to change her name have popped up in the family from time to time. It was a common, affordable legal means of making such changes, but sadly, virtually impossible to trace records for, by nature. If Clara did change her name, our assumption has been she kept her given name and only switched Surnames. We also are assuming she kept her true birthdate and location. If not, that may have created problems for her post 1939 Registry when various social services were introduced.

At the moment, my cousin in Wigan is looking into asylum records at the Lancashire Records Office under Clara Ryan for Summer, early Fall of 1929. It would be a huge break in the case for us if something turns up. We would think a medical/mental exam would have been done on admission wherever she was placed. Those may confirm her pregnancy and how advanced it might have been. From that a possible birthdate and perhaps even if a birth took place once Clara was discharged. We have been able to determine that if Clara recovered from a beating while in an asylum, they would likely keep her a month or two at best to confirm her lucid behaviour and cognitive skills were stable, before releasing her, and they would not have needed her husbands approval to do so.

When released, she likely headed to her Mum’s place in Aston-in-Makersfield. She was very likely broke and it would have been much too risky to go to either sister in Wigan. Possible she met someone while at her Mum’s, but for now that is pure speculation, until we find more factual evidence to chase. Its a fun frustration, trust me. And the clock is ticking for answers for my surviving aunt and uncle.

Cheers for now,


Replied: 22nd Jul 2018 at 01:38

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

Well, a bit of good news.

The Lancashire Records Office have agreed to do a sweep of their 1928 and 1929 asylum records to see if Clara’s name pops up. They will let my cousin in Wigan know what they find and we can figure out where to go from there.


Replied: 25th Jul 2018 at 07:12

Posted by: trixie (5050) 

My Mother in law was a Ryan lived in Haydock but I don’t now anything about her ancestors.Joanah.

Replied: 25th Jul 2018 at 09:54

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

A little bit of an update to end the week.

LRO checked the Haydock Patient Registers for 1928 to 1930 and found nothing for either a Clara Betton, or Clara Ryan. However, they did caution my cousin that not all patient activity was logged in the registers and a closer search of all documentation would be needed to confirm one way or the other, Clara’s presence.

A second asylum, Whittingham at Preston is another possibility. My cousin can access some of those records on line, but will be heading to the LRO in person soon to have a more detailed look to see what she can find.

In the meantime we are reviewing what other asylums might have been in the Wigan Area that can be looked into.

Another possibility has come to mind regarding Clara’s whereabouts in the late 1930’s. She may have born her 5th and last child from her husband, Charlie Ryan, unbeknownst to him and left to work as a Nanny for a family. That could mean she would be hiding in the 1939 Registry as a ‘domestic’ with her son. Possibly living with the family she was working for, which means she would show up listed in a residence of 6 people: a Husband and Wife with two sons and Clara and her son.

Snippets of family information suggest a Minister from her church, the Primitive Methodist on Ashton Street, Ince, may have helped Clara leave. It is possible this help, rather than financial, or physical, may simply have been writing a Letter of Recommendation for Clara, with which she could have gained employment somewhere.

Time for yet another pot of tea!


Replied: 30th Jul 2018 at 02:17

Posted by: LEP1950 (746)


Thanks for bringing us up to date. I had thought about the nanny position myself. In fact, none of the boys may have been Clara's biological children but her charges. It does make searching very difficult.


Replied: 30th Jul 2018 at 11:53

Posted by: mygriffiths (1216)

Winwick and Rainhill hospitals are other places you may want to try for records.

Replied: 31st Jul 2018 at 00:49

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

did you watch who d you think you are last night it was a very similar story

Replied: 31st Jul 2018 at 09:36

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

We shall add Winwick and Rainhill to our investigation. Thanks for that tip. I missed that episode, Winnie. Do you recall the Title/Topic? I will keep an eye out for the rerun.


Replied: 1st Aug 2018 at 14:08

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

it was shirley Ballas

Replied: 2nd Aug 2018 at 12:35

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

Time. For an interesting update if everyone is ready.

Shortly after the last entry here in 2018, my cousin in Wigan arranged for a DNA submission for her Dad, my surviving uncle in Wigan, via Ancestry. She added herself last summer, as did another cousin from my other uncle in Australia. At the end of 2019, I followed suit.

The three of us showed up on the Ancestry DNA site closely linked together as we expected, along with a hundred or so very distant connections. On the 3rd weekend in May this year, a long weekend here in Canada, I popped onto Ancestry DNA again for another quick look. A very strong possible 1st cousin had turned up. Not the male we were thinking about, a female. I checked with my cousin in Wigan and she confirmed the same match showing on her account and her Dad’s, so I sent a message to the individual to say hello. Her Mum was born in 1930 in Leeds, Yorkshire!

Her Mum’s name was Cynthia and her Birth Certificate showed a Clara Bretton as her Mum and a Charles Goulding as her deceased Father . The father’s occupation was given as ‘Household Plumber’. We are all Gob Smacked!!!

Clara has proved herself to be one smart young woman! She kept her first name as we expected, her husbands first name and occupation, but listed him deceased.

When Clara’s father moved the family to Barnsley some time prior to WW1 to take a position as a Mine Inspector, they met a Goulding family in the area. Clara did Land Army work in the area until her father’s death in a colliery accident in 1917 that an inquest deemed very suspicious in nature. Her Mum they took the family back to settle in Wigan. So we now know where the fake husband’s last name came from. We think Clara may actually have been staying with this family in 1930, but need to explore that further now. In the meantime, however, we are admiring the reality tightrope walk Clara was on. Using information so close to her real identity, if she was ever caught out, she could easily say she was misinterpreted in what she said.

Still more to learn in this mystery, but when the lockdown lifts, there is going to be one amazing family party in Wigan! My uncle in Australia would have been thrilled to learn he is no longer the ‘baby’ in the group of siblings. Sadly, my uncle Terry in Wigan passed just weeks before this news broke, but we are sure he is delighted to watch it all start to unfold now.

That is all for the moment.


Replied: 16th Jun 2020 at 02:53

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

Amazing story

Replied: 16th Jun 2020 at 10:56

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

what is your Ancestry name ? as i daid above Clara is in my family tree and i have done my DNA

Replied: 16th Jun 2020 at 11:00

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

Hi Winnie.

My Family Tree is a public one on Ancestry titled, “Dunlop:Ryan Family Tree”. I use my own name there as the information there is name dependant if one wants the system to function in one’s favour.


Replied: 16th Jun 2020 at 15:22

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

Hi Winnie.

My Family Tree is a public one on Ancestry titled, “Dunlop:Ryan Family Tree”. I use my own name there as the information there is name dependant if one wants the system to function in one’s favour.


Replied: 16th Jun 2020 at 15:22
Last edited by david dunlop: 16th Jun 2020 at 20:22:14

Posted by: winnie (1546) 

ive checked we dont share dna but i do have this lady in my tree Maria Betton
BIRTH MAR 1856 • Spring Wood, Staffordshire, England
DEATH SEP 1916 • Leigh, Lancashire, England
wife of 4th great-uncle

Replied: 16th Jun 2020 at 18:37

Posted by: cath476 (881)

I loved reading this! I came across this because I have a great grandmother by the name of Clara Ryan. I don't think the two Ryan families are related though. I'm so glad you managed to solve your mystery!

Replied: 7th Apr 2021 at 20:37

Posted by: david dunlop (133)

Just another bit of an update on this mystery.

We have just discovered another lead that might push Clara's whereabouts into the late 1930's. Hopefully I might know if I am on the right track or not in the next few weeks.

Fingers crossed.


Replied: 18th Sep 2023 at 01:21


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