My Great, Great Uncle Ernest emigrated to America

In January 1923 it must have been with sadness that Grandad Beck said good bye to his brother Ernest who emigrated to America, with his wife, Flo and daughter, Olive.  Ernest sent lots of  photographs home and we have over 100 photographs and postcards of his life in America.  Ernest wrote on the back of the photographs so though we don’t have the accompanying letters, we can gain a glimpse of his life in Massachusetts.

Family of 3 sitting on grass in park
Postcard posted on Aug 22 1925 to Ernest’s father. Text reads: Taken on the slopes of Boston Common. Perhaps you know some of the folks. That is not a bottle of whiskey peeping out of my coat pocket. Ern

From the numerous photographs and postcards the family seemed to be enjoying life in America.   I feel that Ernest’s character must have been very different to Granddad Beck’s, the differences to his age on forms suggests a more slap dash nature.  I have a feeling he went to America for a better life, though family lore gives another reason, but whether he found one I don’t know.

Ernest was Grandad Beck’s younger brother, born in 1886 and baptised Ernest Edgar Beck on 12 September 1886.  At the baptism in the church of the Holy Rood, Buckland Newton, Dorset, England would have been Ernest’s Father Eli Beck, Mother Frances Jane,  sisters  12 year old Olive Elizabeth, 4 year old Beatrice, and brother 10 year old Arthur Percy (Grandad Beck).

From the 1901 census we see that Ernest was 14 years old, he was living with his sister Olive and brother-in-law Arthur John Westcott at 64 Westbourne Road, Bedford. Ernest must have left school  as he was working as Furniture Shop assistant. By 1911 Ernest had moved to London, a boarder at 22 Bedfordbury, Charing Cross, London, a boarding house.  He is now 24 years old  and a Metropolitan Police Constable.

On 3rd October 1911 he married  23 year old Florence Sarah Hooton at Boddington, Northamptonshire by licence.  Ernest was living at St. Martins in the Field, Middlesex.  Their only child, Nellie Olive Beck was born in the summer of 1914, just as WW1 started, in Holborn, London.  It is possible that Ernest was in the military in WW1 but there is no record of this, his  Metropolitan police record would be interesting to obtain.

A couple with child and another gentleman walking down a city street
Grandad Beck with Ernest, Flow and Nellie Location unknown C. 1918

Ernest emigrated to America in 1923. There is a story passed down through his sister Beatrice’s family  “My late mother used to tell me that when Ernest emigrated he was pushed rather than volunteered. According to our family legend he was in trouble with the London Police Force where he was a constable and was agitating for a Police Union. The powers that be were concerned about an uprising similar to the Revolution in Russia and some constables were supposedly imprisoned but Ernest was offered the way out with emigration.”

Whether or not there is any truth in this, Ernest sailed from Southampton on the Berengaria arriving in Ellis Island, New York on 18th February 1923.  On the ship passenger list he gives his age as 34 years, (from baptism he was 36 years old) occupation as Carpenter.  I think this is our Earnest Beck as he gives his next of kin as Wife, Mrs F Beck 25 Gordon Square, London WC1.  His destination is given as Massachusetts, were he would be visiting his cousin Mr James McCall of Sumer Street, Blackstone.  Ernest had $80 and he paid for his own passage.  The passenger list also tells us he was 5ft 9in high with fair hair and grey eyes.

On 20th September 1923 Ernest signed a Naturalization record giving his date of birth as 2nd August 1889 – 3 years younger than he really was.  He signed this document to say “I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygnist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to permanently reside therein: SO HELP ME GOD.”

Photograph of a ship at sea
Postcard posted on Jul 29 1928 to Ernest’s father. Text reads: The “Leviathan” (Flo’s boat) coming down the harbour at Boston. Note the tugs on the left which were needed to get her out of dry dock. Paddle boat at right. All well Ern

In November of the same year Florence and Nellie followed Ernest, they left Southampton on the Leviathan,  arriving in Ellis Island on 3rd November 1923.  Information from the passenger list: their destination was Boston, Massachusetts.  Florence gives her next of kin, in the UK, as her Mother, Mrs Hooton of Lower Boddington, Byfield, Northamptonshire.  Their passage was paid for by Ernest who was living at 48 Rutland Square, Boston.  Florence was listed as a housewife, 34 years 9 month with fair hair and grey eyes and 5ft 8in tall.  Nellie was at School aged 9 years 3 months with fair hair and brown eyes.

The US have more census available than the UK so I was able to find the family in 1930 at Tremont St, Boston City USA.  At this point they would have been in Boston for 6 or 7 years. Ernest now says he is 38 years old and he was 23 when married   (more likely 44 years old and married at 25 years).  Florence says she is 35 years old (a year older than when she arrived in the US), married when aged 20. Ernest’s occupation is superintendent  at lodge building.  Nellie is a scholar and the only one with a correct age of 16 years.

3 people standing on roof
Photograph text on the back reads: Taken on the roof here. Do you know any of these old fogies?

By the 1940 census they are all living Huntington Avenue, Boston.  Ernest is now a Watchman earning $1,500 the industry is given as Constres Clerk.  Both Ernest and Florence give their ages as 51 years (Florence looks correct but Ernest is really 54 years).  Nellie age is given as 22 years old (she must be 26) working as a Secretary in the City Hospital earning $1,400 per year, not a lot less than her father.

December 1942 in Grandad Beck’s will Ernest is residing at 22 High Street Brookline Mass. U.S.A.  This is the same address as Ernest used on his US World War II Draft Registration Card.  He gave his date of birth as 2 August 1889 making him 3 years younger than his birth date.  His employer was The Country Club 191 Clyde Street, Brookline, Mass. Ernest’s signature on this document matches the church records on his marriage and his 1923 Naturalization record.

Ern & Flo in winter coat and hats posed by rail
Photograph taken by Cedric G. Chase Photographic Laboratories, Inc. Mar 28 1939
Text reads: Outside Luruy entrance, Blue Ridge Mts. Can just [underlined] be seen in distance
I found a US Social Security Death Index record for Ernest Beck, Date of Birth 2 August 1886 who died in April 1974 Massachusetts – he would have been 88 years old. I wonder if this is my Great, Great Uncle.

On the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, I found Olive Beck with the correct parents, giving  her name in 1963 as Nellie Olive Bennett, I assume from this Nellie married between 1943 and 1963.  Her date of birth is 13 June 1914 and she died in March 1985 Brookline, Norfolk, Massachusetts.  She would have been 71 years old.

One day I will return to research Ernest and his family to see if I can find out more.  I would like to obtain his records from the Met Police and find out if James McCall, who he listed as a cousin on the passenger list in 1923, really is related to my family.

Did you enjoy this? Please show your support, leave a comment or/and subscribe to this blog and you will never miss any posts. I would love to hear from you, please email me: sylvia@grandadbeck.co.uk
All original content by Sylvia Collins is copyright protected.

8 thoughts on “My Great, Great Uncle Ernest emigrated to America”

  1. This is such fantastic news about Ernest. His daughter Nellie returned to England in 1972 for a visit. She visited Great Aunt Olive in Southampton during the tour. After her return to America she wrote up a booklet about her holiday in England, she called it The Adventures of the Duke and Duchess of Lancaster Gate. Her address at this time was 47 Waverly Street, Brookline, Mass. USA. Her husband was Edwin Bennett. I have never found any indication of children to Edwin and Nellie. It would be lovely one day to find out if the family legend is true.

    1. Heather it is lovely to hear from you. Do you have a copy of the booklet? I would love to see it. I wonder if she wrote anything else. It would be interesting to find if there are any living relatives to Edwin Bennett. One day I will try to find out if there are any records at the Met Police to tell us more about Ernest’s police career.

      1. Hi Sylvia – so sorry that I have been such a long time in replying. All of my computers have decided to go pear shaped and my main one is in the repair shop, hence my failure to reply to some of your emails. I have pleaded with my ancient lap top to bear with me a little bit longer but its a struggle! As soon as things are hopefully working again I will copy the little booklet of Nellies and email it to you.

        1. Heather, no problem, sorry to hear about your computer, they are great tools until they go wrong. It does show how much we enjoy using and communicating with modern technology. Future generation may miss the Photographs, letters and postcards we are so lucky to have! I will look forward to seeing the booklet when you are back up and running.

  2. I was really interested in this article. I live in the US and am now a US citizen, so would would love to know if I have any relatives over here!

    1. Jane, it would be great to find some relations in US. I think it unlikely that Nellie had any children but there may be some relatives of her husband that remember her. Alternatively there is this mysterious cousin that Ernest mentioned on the ships log. More research needed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *