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Hi everyone,

I am trying to work backwards and knock down a brick wall.

My Great Grandmother married a man named Joseph Hewitt in Melbourne, Australia in 1914. So far I have been able to find out this much about him:

  • He went by the name Joseph John Hewitt or Joseph Henry Hewitt
  • He was born in St Helens, Lancashire on 4 January 1890
  • He was baptised at 89 Lyon Street, St Helens on 14 January 1890. This seems to be his grandparent's place.
  • His parents were William Hewitt and Bridget Clarke
  • William and Bridget lived at 101 Lyon Street in the 1891 Census
  • He had an older sister Eliza and a younger brother William

To break down my brick wall I'm trying to retrace the steps of William, Bridget, Eliza and William Jr in the hopes of finding some answers about Joseph.

Joseph may have changed his name to David Steele once in Australia and essentially I'm trying to determine whether they are the same person, or two different people.

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Hi mrgsteele, :welcome: to Connect, I'm not the best genealogical expert on here, but I'll give it a go. I'm sure someone else will come on to help you.

Not sure of the address as I don't have full access to all records, but in the 1901 Census it looks like William Sr and William Jr, plus Joseph and Eliza are together, but Bridget is missing, I think she had died around 1900 and William Sr died in 1903?

I'm sure someone else will come on to help you.


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This may help.

1911 census Joseph Hewitt 21 single stoker first class b Sacred Heart, St Helens, Lancashire, Roman Catholic. Either on board ship or living Naval establishment - unable to tell which

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British Royal Navy Seamen.

Joseph Hewitt dob 17 Feb 1890 born St Helens, labourer at Glass works. Enlisted 27  May 1908 for 5+ years.

Vivid 2  stoker 2nd class 27 May 1908 to 4 Oct 1908. Other ships and dates available if you want them.

Most interesting is HMS Fantome  joined 3 May 1911 remained until 5  Apr 1912 and then embarked on  a run to Sydney.

HMS Fantome from May 1913 to June 1914 was used as a survey  ship circumnavigating Australia.and was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy 27 Nov 1914. 

This may well be your man as he is in the right place at the right time.



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Hi Phyll and jvy20, thanks for replying!

I do have a copy of that Navy record, and the 1911 Census, but there's a couple of things that give me pause with it.

The birth date is 17 Feb 1890. I find it a bit strange that it's out and that he'd have made himself younger, not older. Maybe they just never celebrated it so it was never brought up?

This Joseph Hewitt appears in the Police Gazettes in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and it gives a detailed description of his physical features. He was 5'3" tall with a low, straight forehead, small turned-up nose, dark complexion and short, thick fingers. This is relevant because David Steele was quite tall, had a high forehead, a fair complexion and long fingers. The tattoos on the Navy record also don't match the tattoos I have record of for David Steele.

Given that a number of descendants look exactly like David Steele it presents me with my brick wall - Either this Joseph Hewitt with the Naval record isn't my Joseph Hewitt, or David Steele and Joseph Hewitt were two completely different people.

Add to this Mabel Hewitt's children were all raised as Steeles but their birth certificates all list Joseph Hewitt as the father. To me this adds speculation that Joseph and Mabel could have split after their marriage, and Mabel had a family with David. Back in that time you'd continue to write the legal husband's name as the father on official documents or so a social historian on Who Do You Think You Are said. Or David and Joseph are the same person.

If David and Joseph are not the same person, why can I find a birth certificate but not a death certificate for Joseph, and a death certificate but not a birth certificate for David?

I feel as though my only avenue to pursue is to find out if there are any living descendants of Eliza of William. I have done an Ancestry DNA test to no avail. I also applied the Leeds Method to my DNA data and that didn't help either.

I wonder if the death records for Bridget and William might have any useful information.

It's a bit of a pickle I'm in, and I'm toying with the idea of taking a Y-DNA test to try and get some answers.

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Bridget was buried in St. Helens Cemetery in a paupers grave. Reg. No STHELCEM/21/324 - Ref. No. 34695. on 5th May 1900.

In 1901 the family was living at 58 Albert Street, St. Helens

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On the physical description alone I would doubt they are one and the same person.

I have found a gravestone for a David Stanley Steele died 11 Aug 1948 buried Stanthorpe Cemetery, Queensland. Others on gravestone are Fay Susan Steele died 10 Nov 1959 aged 8 and Ted Steele died 15  Jan 1974 aged 48. Gravestone gives year of birth for David Stanley Steele as 1894.

Can you advise as to where you got DOB of Joseph Hewitt as 4 Jan 1890 



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@halj thank you for that! It makes me wonder, if his mum died in 1900, and his dad around 1903, and they were a poor family - what becomes of a 13 year old orphan in those days? Maybe there's a clue in there somewhere.

@jvy20 On the baptism record Pr 3394/1/23 from Eccleston they wrote birth dates in the left margin, beside the baptism date. I've put the file in the link below.

David Stanley Steele is my great grandfather, and Stanthorpe is my home town. And yep, 1893/4 is what I've learnt of David too - another discrepancy between him and this Joseph.

To add further confusion to the story, I also have David's military record, which can be downloaded from the National Archives of Australia. I've put it in the link below. David also went AWOL but more interestingly, at one point in there he lists his wife as Olive Steele and not Mabel Steele. I haven't had any success tying David Steele to Olive Steele at all. I've also recently discovered that the NAA download doesn't include all the paperwork that my Dad retrieved in person in the 1980s and I have no idea why it's missing now. I'm looking more into this.

In Joseph's marriage certificate to Mabel Alsford he says he's a Seaman on the HMAS Melbourne at the time of his wedding on 5 Mar 1914. This is false - both the military and a researcher who looked into the ships logs verified this for us.

If Joseph and David are the same person, one things for sure - he's a serial liar!

I've uploaded some files on David Steele and Joseph Hewitt to Dropbox in the hopes it'll help: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/10f9kp7k4pl0vwh/AABshRglxY0rLLtYy1XitNxwa?dl=0

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Very interesting - thanks for link.

I noted that the baptism record is for St Thomas, Eccleston which is Church of England  and Joseph Hewitt  stoker 1st class who is on 1911 census is Roman Catholic. The newspaper cutting you have is clearly Joseph Hewitt stoker first class. The clincher for me is the description of David Steel on his enlistment papers in particular his tattoos. My opinion, for what it is worth, is they are different people

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Wow --- There are a number of family trees on Ancestry listing Joseph Hewitt aka David Stanley Steele. Not one of them gives an explanation for the name change. There is even a grave listing and death date. Some of the tree owners originate in Australia. All the best in your search.


Joseph was baptized at St. Pauls Mission, Eccleston.

William died 1956 in St. Helens.

Eliza died 1962 in St. Helens.

Mabel Eldreada Alsford married Joseph JOHN Hewitt - 5 March 1914 in Victoria, Australia.

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10 hours ago, jvy20 said:

My opinion, for what it is worth, is they are different people

Thank you for saying that. I believe so too. Or, at least, I'm skeptical enough that I won't build out my tree based on it being true.

9 hours ago, halj said:

There are a number of family trees on Ancestry listing Joseph Hewitt aka David Stanley Steele. Not one of them gives an explanation for the name change.

Yes, these are all relatives of mine. Some of the theories I have gathered from family members which they have taken as evidence enough that they are one and the same person include:

The One Father Theory

There is an account of one of David Steele's sons getting angry, stamping the table and stating he only ever had the one Father. However, the name changes I've found first occurred 3 years before this person was born. So whatever happened could have actually happened and been settled before this person was even born.

Turn of the Century Relationships

Australian social historian, Tanya Evans, has stated that during that time (i.e. early 20th century) divorce is something only the rich can afford to undertake, so many people undertake informal relationships. And if you're legally married to somebody else then all children that you have have to be understood as being fathered by the legal husband. I do find it plausible that Mabel separated from her husband, Joseph, and took up with David afterwards. This also aligns with why all the children have Joseph on their birth certificates. But again - why can't I find David's birth certificate? Why can't I find Joseph's death certificate?

I should note here too that Mabel was listed as De Facto to David Steele on documents when David died. This little tidbit gets overlooked and reasoned away, but maybe it shouldn't be.

The Socialite and the Private Investigator

There is a theory that Mabel's father didn't approve of the marriage between her and Joseph, so the two fled Melbourne changing their name along the way. The theory goes that the Alsfords were socialites and the Hewitts were labourers and back in those days the two classes did not mix and certainly did not marry. This is why they got married in secret with their mother's approval and once he found out later, he hired a private investigator to track them down. The documents I have found suggests Mabel's father was a labourer, hardly an occupation of the socialite classes. And if he was a labourer, how could he afford to hire an investigator? Not a lot of us could even these days. I also found out Mabel's father was charged with unlawful assault on his wife, and later charged with abandonment of a child. Not a great man, but maybe that's why the mother blessed the marriage, i.e. to get the daughter out of the house. But having said that, Mabel was pregnant when she got married so there was little choice in the matter anyway.

The Baptist and the Catholic

There is a theory that the relationship between Mabel Alsford and Joseph Hewitt was disapproved of by Mabel's parents (or at least her father) on the grounds of religious denomination, i.e. Mabel was a baptist and Joseph was a catholic. Because of this disapproval they got married in secret with the blessing of Mabel's mother then ran off together.

The Mormons know their stuff

There was a theory floated to me proving that Joseph and David are the same person was along the lines that Joseph and Mabel's baby died on 2 November 1915 as a 14 month year old, and the next child was born on 26 October 1916, and that you don't lose a child and get pregnant by another man 3 months later. This person told me she went to a family history centre and a Mormon told her this just doesn't happen, and the Mormons know their stuff. The fact is, Mabel did get pregnant 3 months after her daughter died, there is no disputing that. Possibilities that could explain that Joseph Hewitt and David Steele are different people in this scenario are:
Mabel could have been been pregnant with the second child through Joseph and they broke up during her 9 month pregnancy, with David showing up on the scene during that time (David mentions Mabel in December 1916 service record). The strain of losing a child could have broken Mabel and Joseph up, and she got pregnant to David 3 months later. It isn't an inconceivable notion to seek comfort and affection during periods of grief. Joseph Hewitt could have died after she got pregnant and David Steele showed up on the scene.


The fact that even the family can't agree on a theory as to why Joseph and David are one and the same person just goes to prove there is insufficient evidence to say they are just yet.

It's making life quite difficult for me at Ancestry too because hints and ThruLines are being diluted (ruined) by these trees stating they are one and the same person.


9 hours ago, halj said:

William died 1956 in St. Helens.

Eliza died 1962 in St. Helens.

Thank you for this! I'll see if I can find those records. Perhaps their death records will list children on them. I know The Australian equivalent do.

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I have found a death notification for Pte 634  J Hewitt 2nd Bn Australia Imperial Expeditionary Force kia 9 Aug 1915. I have no means of viewing his service record so just speculation that he is your man.


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  • 9 months later...

Hi everybody! I thought I would update you all to tell you that I figured out that David Steele was in fact Stanley Victor Barlow and NOT Joseph Hewitt. Joseph Hewitt was another man entirely. I am currently investigating the movements and hopefully final resting place of Joseph Hewitt so I can put his story to bed once and for all. I can't find any trace of him following his marriage to Mabel Alsford.

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