Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Samuel Burrows the Final Chapter?

The second part of Derek Wilcox’s search for his past

This story first appeared at The Black List and Police website.

Since the first episode of this story appeared back in January 2000, events have moved on in my search for my great-grandfather Samuel Burroughs and the search is now within sight of its end. At least, I think it is.

To briefly recap. Samuel Burroughs was a Police Inspector in Manchester, but left the force in 1895. and then joined something called the National Vigilance Association, an anti-vice movement created to suppress the White Slave Trade. However, after just a year in that role, he left owing to ill-health and then he and his family completely disappeared from Manchester around 1898.

After much research I discovered that Sam had died in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1919, where he and his eldest son Frederick lived. But where was he between 1898 and 1919? That was the mystery.

For some time I abandoned the search myself owing to other commitments, but I did manage to contact a very helpful man in America, Derien Andres who very kindly supplied me with photographs of Sam’s grave in Atlantic City and the house he occupied. The grave had no headstone unfortunately, just a simple marker, which seemed rather sad after the life he lived.

My main intention was to trace the family after 1898, at least one of whom I believed had emigrated to Canada. I tried to do this by finding the dates of their marriages through the GRO indexes. This had led me to another of Sam’s sons – John Charles in London, but I could find no trace of his other son Lewis George or his daughter Margaret. Nor could I find where Sam had moved to himself. All I had discovered was a brief reference to a Samuel Burroughs an NSPCC inspector in Folkestone in 1903, but an approach to the NSPCC and the RSPCA produced nothing.

But I had unknowingly planted two seeds which were to bear spectacular fruit.

The first one to blossom stemmed from a request I had made in Family History magazine for any old photos of Manchester Police. One morning quite out of the blue I received a letter from a lady in Ruislip. The writer had no photos, but she asked me to let her know if I ever came across a Samuel Burroughs, an Inspector in Manchester D Division! I looked at the letter for a minute suspecting some mistake, but once I had persuaded myself I immediately wrote back and explained he was my Gt-Grandfather and enclosed a copy of his biography and other details, including a copy of my article. The lady in question was overjoyed as it turned out she was married to a direct descendant of John Charles Burroughs – Sam’s second son.

Naturally correspondence flowed thick and fast as details and information was exchanged. Barbara, my second cousin twice removed as she proved to be, had been working from the other end so to speak and she provided me with the vital information that the family had moved to Dover around 1898. A rapid letter to Dover library produced copies of the Dover Street Directory and there was Sam Burroughs NSPCC Inspector at 43 High Street Dover.

But one thing I had learned during this quest was that Sam had a habit of slipping through my fingers, and yet again there were still a few twists in the tale.

The first was the discovery that around 1904 Sam appears to have rejoined the National Vigilance Association, as from that date he appears n the Dover street directories with the title of Vigilance Officer. I knew from other sources that the NVA had set up Vigilance Committees at the major ports to prevent young English girls being smuggled abroad. They were also to prevent foreign prostitutes coming over here and stealing the jobs of English girls!

Barbara also produced a letter from mid-1908 which Sam wrote to the Manchester Watch Committee requesting that his police pension be paid directly to his wife, as he was about to travel abroad. And then, in January 1911 he wrote yet again to the watch committee requesting that his pension now be paid directly to himself.

So having solved one problem, I was now faced with two more. How and why had Sam rejoined the NVA, and where had he been between June 1908 and January 1911? And where and when did his wife Annie Jane die? I hadn’t found her death in the GRO indexes so presumably it was not in this country, but Sam’s death certificate stated he was widowed and gave the names of his two wives.

I knew that he must have made a quick turnaround between 1911 and 1912 as I guessed that he and his son Frederick travelled to the USA in 1913. That was the date Frederick had given on the Census as the year he entered the USA. It was also noted that his wife had moved from the Dover High Street to what appeared to be a small house in Templar Street De Burgh Hill Dover in 1912.

My first step was to have another look at the records of the National Vigilance Association. These are housed in a rather gloomy cellar in the Fawcett Library in Whitechapel. so gloomy that I lost a couple of researchers in there! Eventually I found a rather wonderful lady Pam Woolcombe who braved the dark and the cold for one day to scan the records.

Unfortunately nothing came to light but she did spot two intriguing clues. One was that the NVA had recorded the need for an officer in Dover in late 1903, and the other was that in February 1908 New York had provisionally appointed an Inspector: ‘to supervise all suspicious persons entering the USA’.

I was especially interested in the New York entry as Sam had wandered off in June of the same year. Could it be?

But then my second seed bloomed. As a result of my article back in January I woke up one morning to find a large envelope from Tasmania of all places. This had been kindly forwarded by Practical Family History magazine from a lady named Thelma Grunnell who was the President of the Launceston Tasmania FHS and she had been researching the Burroughs family too.

It seemed that Thelma was connected to the ‘other’ Burroughs family. This was the family produced by the second marriage of Sam’s mother Martha, to her brother-in-law Nathaniel. I had done little research on them other than to note that they lived in Peabody’s buildings London in 1881.

However, one of Martha’s daughters Kate Amelia (Sam’s half-sister) had married a John Luther Haworth of Accrington who was the founder of a successful chain of musical shops, despite going totally blind at an early age. What was interesting was that my cousin Ronald could remember visiting a music shop with our Grandmother Frances Alice many years ago, but couldn’t remember where. This connection appeared to solve the problem.

Furthermore Thelma also sent me a copy of a letter written by Sam from America in 1918 to the Accrington Observer.

This was very interesting for several reasons. First of all it placed Sam in Boston in 1918, and it showed that someone in Accrington was in touch with him. Secondly it mentioned yet another poem Sam had written in praise of his nephew Freddy, who had recently been mentioned in the local paper. Add to which the letter itself contained some interesting points about his own family history, mentioning that one of his forebears – William Neads – had served with Nelson on HMS Swiftsure and fought at the Battle of the Nile, receiving the Nile Medal.

And Thelma did more than this. Thanks to her own extensive research she was able to put me in touch with other Burroughs relations here in the UK, some of whom have other letters and poems of Sam’s.

So yet again Sam’s story has provided more twists and turns. At the moment I still don’t know where he went between 1908 and 1911, or why he upped sticks and went to America in 1913. But you will see I’ve put a question mark on the title of this story, as I’ve realised that with Sam Burroughs I never know what will turn up next.

So if there’s anyone out there who can throw even more light on the life of ‘Our Sam’ please get in touch with me, either via the magazine, or email to

I live in hope.

This is a follow up to an article you kindly published back in January 2000, but I’m not sure if you haven’t already used it!!

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