Hunting the Hunters

My great-grandfather William Huntriss married Hannah Hunter on 17th March 1885 in Liverpool. At the time of their wedding, both the fathers were dead, and the event was witnessed by Robert and Isabella, Hannah’s elder brother and sister.

So far so good. However trying to trace Hannah’s ancestry proved to be a little more difficult. 

I seem to remember an uncle saying that he thought we had an Irish connection in the family, and this was borne out by the 1911 Census. The family was living at 51 August Street, Tuebrook, Liverpool; Hannah’s birthplace is shown as Belfast.

The census shows the two boys (Harry and William); there were  two other children, Elizabeth and Leah, both of whom had died by the time of the census.

Also living with them was Elizabeth, Hannah’s mother, whose birthplace is shown not as Ireland, but Gibraltar. 

This is where the trail went cold. Despite extensive searches of Irish records, there was no trace of my Irish ancestry.

This all changed in 2023, when my cousin Mike passed on to me a file of papers that had come from his father. In 2006, Stuart received this letter out of the blue from Beryl Barlow (nee Hunter), who had done extensive research into her own family tree.

The files that Beryl provided extended to over 100 pages, including photographs of people and places as well as copies of census records and birth and death certificates, and which covered individuals from both the Hunter and Huntriss families. You can see those files here.

Included in this file was a document which raised more questions than answers.

Beryl claimed that this document shows Hannah Hunter’s birth details. The place of birth – Belfast – matches what we expect, but the name Ann Hunter Wilson is hardly an exact match with that of Hannah Hunter.

The 1881 census may provide a clue.


The family were now living in Victoria Square in Liverpool, with Harry and with Elizabeth (who died later that year). Our Hannah is recorded as Annie.

But what about the surname of Wilson? For that, we need to go back a generation.


Robert White Hunter

Robert White Hunter was born in Edinburgh in 1883, the youngest child of Robert Hunter  (who owned a candle-making factory) and Mary Blair.  

The family story is that he changed his name to Thomas Robert Wilson to join the army, under age and against parental consent.


Robert/Thomas joined the 26th Cameronian Regiment; subsequent census records reflect the movements of that regiment. He met his wife in Gibraltar,  son Robert was born in 1854 in Newcastle, daughter Isabel was born in Chatham, whilst Hannah was born in Ireland.

Robert/Thomas was discharged as medically unfit in 1860, and he went to live in Ireland, moving back to England a few years later, becoming a bookkeeper.

All but one of the children had Hunter as a middle name, enabling them to use this as a surname in later life, which is exactly what they did.



1871 Census, Liverpool

Robert/Thomas died in 1876 at the age of 43, and is buried in Anfield cemetery. The name on the death certificate?


Robert/Thomas’s grandsons Harry and William both kept in touch with their uncle (Frederick William Hunter).

29 October 1917

Dear Uncle

Received your letter which was sent to Eastleigh quite safe and have read with great interest all you have said. I am glad to say I am having a ripping time and also glad to say  my arm is healing

nicely. I have a nice letter from Harry this morning and he hasn’t half clicked for a nice cushy job. However Uncle I trust that these few lines will find you and Auntie and kiddies in the best of health. I think I have given all at present.

Yours very sincerely



Dear Fred

You have undoubtedly heard of my discharge and being back at the office. You can imagine how unsettled I am after 2 1/2 years of outdoor life; I am just beginning to simmer down to things and am seeing my friends gradually. I will come up and see you in a day or two possibly Sunday. 

I am staying with a chum who is also discharged and I am very comfortable. I left Will looking very fit but

I hope they won’t think too good in health and send him back to France, poor kid he’s heartily fed up and I think the ?? cut him up a bit.

By jove the weather isn’t a bit sultry and from all accounts the worst frost for 20 years. Give my love to Bob when you see him.

With love to all,



Harry’s hope that his brother would not be sent back to France proved to be misplaced. He returned to the front, and suffered gunshot wounds to his left leg, which necessitated amputation. Septicemia set in, and he died on 15 February 1918.