The Nickson/Cain Family of Southport, Lancashire, 1829-1994

When considering the Nickson/Cain Families of Southport, Lancashire, one inevitably will come into contact with other families discussed elsewhere – the Woolard and Rusin Families in America, and the Dorber Family in the United Kingdom  What follows therefore, is part of the continuing story of how these families are intertwined

My Maternal Great-grandmother was named Ada Nickson – she was born in Southport in 1877 and was the sixth oldest of the eight children born to Richard and Jane Nickson (sometimes spelt as Nixon on earlier documentation).

Richard (according to the 1871 Census) was born in Southport in the late Summer of 1848.  He was one of three children of William Nickson (born 1829 in Southport) and Catherine (born 1827 in Birkdale) – their children were: John (born c1846 in Southport), Richard, and Elizabeth (born 1850 in Southport).

On the 1871 Census, Richard Nickson’s employment is described as being a Joiner. Richard’s wife, Jane, is shown as having been born in Bootle in about 1849. There is a miss-match regarding the date of their marriage and the birth of their first child JOHN.

Records show that the marriage was registered in Ormskirk, Lancashire in the Spring of 1868, but John was apparently born in St Helens in 1867.  The rest of their children were as follows – all born in Southport: Elizabeth (b. c1869), William (b. c1870), Catherine (b. c1872), Henry, known as “Harry” (b. c1876), Ada (b. c1877), Emma (b. 1879) Florence (born 1886) and Gertrude.

Ada Nickson (my maternal Great-grandmother) met and married John Aloysius Cain late in 1897 in Southport.  John was of Irish descent and the fourth child of six children of Patrick and Mary Cain. Patrick was born about 1842 in Mekowen, Ireland and his wife Mary, was born in 1841 in Newport, Ireland.

Patrick and Mary Cain came across to England (date unknown) and their six children were born in Southport – their names were: Ann (b. 2nd December 1865), Andrew (b. c1870), Mary Ellen (b. c1872) John Aloysius Cain (b. 1873), Joseph Patrick (b. 1877) and William Thomas Cain (b. 1880). The oldest child, Ann is on the 1871 Census but does not show on the 1881 Census – it is likely that she died, though I can find no record of a death.

On the 1891 Census, John Aloysius Cain (aged 16 years), his brother, Andrew, and their father, Patrick, are described as Plasterers.  One wonders whether, whilst plastering, they met up with Richard Nickson, a joiner. This contact may have led to John Aloysius Cain meeting with Ada Nickson and marrying her in late 1897.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 at 10.55.35.png Part of the 1891 Census showing the Cain Family

John and Ada Cain had six children.  The oldest was Mary Elizabeth Cain – she was known affectionately as “Cissie,” and was born on 4th November 1898 in Blackpool – she is my Maternal Grandmother.  Then came Doris Maria (born 5th November 1900 in St Anne’s-on-Sea where the family were boarding), then Winifred (b. 14th Dec 1902), Kathleen  (born 1st January 1904), Andrew (born in 1905 and died early in 1906) and finally, Margaret Elsie Cain (born between October and December 1906).

Andrew Cain – John’s older brother and a Plasterer by Trade, married in 1898 to Emily Gwynne (born about 1876 in Sirhowy, Monmouthshire).  Andrew and Emily had two children: John Alban Cain (born 30th June 1899) and Norah (born in 1901).

Andrew left his wife (Emily) and his two children and emigrated to the United States in July 1906 to make his fortune – he was 36 years old.  He travelled from Liverpool to New York on the SS “Cedric” – paid for by his father (Patrick).

Screenshot 2018-03-23 at 12.01.56  SS “Cedric”

He arrived in New York on the 22nd July 1906 and went to stay with a friend by the name of William Douthwaite at 432, East 42nd Street, New York.  Undoubtedly, he wrote to the family back in Southport, telling them how well he was doing and what opportunities there were to be had in America.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 at 11.05.33.png Passenger Manifest showing Andrew Cain

John Aloysius Cain, aged 24, decided to join Andrew, his brother – so leaving his wife Ada, and their five daughters behind in Southport.  John set off for America to “make his fortune” too.

Screenshot 2018-03-23 at 12.06.42                       SS “Lucania”

He arrived in New York on the SS “Lucania” on the 17th November 1906, with $20 in his pocket.  On the ship’s passenger manifest, he is incorrectly described as “Irish” – as he was born in Southport in Lancashire !  He gave his brother Andrew’s address in New York – 324 East 42nd Street – as his destination.

What happened after John arrived at his brother’s address is not known.  I can find no further trace of Andrew Cain, but I did find John on the United States Federal Census of 16th April 1910.  Here he is stated to be 36 years old, and is described as an “unemployed Plasterer.”  He’s shown as living as a “Lodger” in the home of a Gorge Billington  at 128th Street, New York.

Screenshot 2018-03-26 at 12.10.06.png

My Great Grandfather John did not “make his fortune.”  He is said to have died in a “doss-house” in New York without a cent to his name.  Information given to me – by my Mother – was that Ada (back in Southport), was told of her husband’s death by her Catholic Priest.  This priest had apparently received a letter from a Catholic Priest in New York who stated in his letter, that just a week or two previously, he had given John Aloysius Cain, the last rites and was present at his passing.

With a family of five girls to bring up, and little or no income from her dressmaking activities, Ada was unable to cope financially with the position she now found herself in.

The UK 1911 Census, shows that family have been split up:  Mary Elizabeth [my Grandmother], aged 12, Winifred, aged 8, and Kathleen, aged 7, are all described as “Inmates” at “The Poor Sisters of Nazareth Home for Children and Aged Poor,” Nazareth House, Great Crosby, West Derby, Lancashire.  There is no mention of the youngest sister, Doris Maria – who was born in 1900.  In fact,  she was also an “inmate” at Nazareth House, Great Crosby – and somehow got missed off the Census.

My own contact with the Manager of Nazareth House, Great Crosby, in September 2013, resulted in them providing me with the original baptismal documents regarding the four girls.

My Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Cain, was baptised in St Cuthbert’s Church, Blackpool, on 20th November 1898 by the Rev E Lupton – apparently the Baptismal Register at St Cuthbert’s confirms that Mary was born on 4th November 1898.

Mary Elizabeth Cissie” Cain’s Baptismal Record

The Baptismal Certificate of Doris Maria, confirms that she was born in St Annes-on-the-Sea on 5th November 1900, and baptized by Joseph Roche in the Church of Our Lady there on 25th November 1900 – incidently, this certificate incorrectly gives the name of her mother as Edith.

img498.jpgBaptismal Record of Doris Maria Cain

Winifred was baptized at Saint Theresa’s, Birkdale, by the Rev. John Walmsley on 28th of December 1902 – the certificate confirms her birth-date as the 14th December 1902.

img499Baptismal Record of Winnie Cain

Kathleen was also baptised at St Theresa’s, Birkdale, by John Walmsley on 17th January 1904 – the certificate confirms her birth-date as 1st January 1904.

img500Kathleen’s Baptismal Record

Mary Elizabeth and Winifred were referred to the Sisters of Nazareth House by Rev. John Turner, Rector of St Theresa’s – they were both admitted to Nazareth House on 4th November 1908.

Mary Elizabeth (my Grandmother), was discharged from Nazareth House on 20th September 1914, whilst Winifred stayed there until 19th February 1918.

Doris Maria and Kathleen were referred to the Sisters by the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Birkdale.  They were admitted to Nazareth House on the 2nd January 1909.  The archivist at Nazareth House was unable to find a discharge date for Doris, but Kathleen left Nazareth House on the same date as her sister, Winifred – 19th February 1918.

The 1911 Census shows that my Great Grandmother, Ada Cain, aged 34, is living with her widowed mother: Jane Nickson and seven of her own family.  Ada is described as having been married for 14 years and having had 6 children – one of whom had died (Andrew).  According to the 1911 Census, also living with Jane Nickson and her Family, is Ada’s youngest daughter, 4 year old Margaret Elsie Cain.

Screenshot 2018-03-23 at 12.24.08.pngI have no information as to how long Ada and her daughter (Margaret Elsie) actually lived with Jane Nickson.

When Kathleen, Winnie and Doris were discharged from Nazareth House in 1918, their mother, Ada was living at a house at 167 Hampton Road, Southport.

EPSON MFP image                      My Great Grandmother – Ada Nickson/Cain

At some time after learning of her husband’s death, ADA met a kindly bachelor by the name of George Wright – they married on the 6th August 1918 at the West End Congregational Chapel, in Lord Street, Southport.

George had been born in 1874 in Crossens, Lancashire and was employed as a “Railway Goods Checker.”  He was the son of a farmer – John Wright (born about 1844 in Crossens) and his wife, Mary – who’d been born about 1852 in Banks, Lancashire.

World War I began on the 28th July 1914, and by early 1917, because so many had been injured or killed on the front line, the Army was running short of men. The War Office identified a number of jobs that did not involve fighting, which were being done by men who could have been in battle.  It was  decided  that women could do many of these jobs instead, and that they could replace male soldiers already working in these roles.  The jobs identified included office work, cooking in camps and hospitals, driving, being mechanics and looking after military stores.  On 7th July 1917, the War Office introduced the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC’s) to fulfil these roles.

By the end of the War in 1918, more than 50,000 women had volunteered for the WAAC’s, and  Mary Elizabeth “Cissie” Cain – my Grandmother – was one of these.

EPSON MFP image“Cissie” taken on 8th Jan 1919, Berkhamsted

I understand she worked in the Canteen at one of the military hospitals – feeding injured and sick soldiers.  One can reasonably assume that she came into contact with British, Canadian and American wounded and, no doubt, heard stories about the opportunities to be had on the other side of the Atlantic, compared with war-torn Europe. Whatever the reason, she decided to emigrate to America.

“Cissie” left home for Liverpool the day before her 21st Birthday.  She paid for a steerage passage on the SS Minnedosa – arriving in Montreal on the 10th of November 1919.  On the ship’s passenger manifest, she was described as being Catholic and employed as a “Domestic.”  She gave a forwarding address as 2135 Park Avenue, Montreal – though quite how this receiving address was arranged beforehand, is not known.

Screenshot 2018-03-31 at 11.37.51.png

Part of the SS Minnedosa Passenger Manifest

At the time of her “Cissie’s” arrival, no. 2135 Park Avenue, Montreal was owned by a George F. Hansen – and during 1920 and 1921, it was owned by a Mrs McNeill.  Quite how “Cissie” was employed and by whom – from her arrival in November 1919 – is unknown. But we do know that by the time of the 1921 Canadian Census (taken from the 1st June), “Cissie” was in the employ of the Family of  Mr I. Cohen.

Screenshot 2018-08-05 at 08.58.14

The Census calls her Mary Caines and describes her as a Maid/Servant employed at 4262 Western Ave, Westmount-St Henri, Montreal [this street name has subsequently changed and is now 4262 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest].

By March 1922, “Cissie” doesn’t seem to be with the Cohen’s anymore and she appears to be considering a move the the United States, for on the 29th  March 1922  she began the process for completing a US Records of Aliens Pre-Examined in Canada document.

Screenshot 2018-08-05 at 16.45.39

This document gives “Cissie’s” address as 4231 Dorchester St. West in Montreal and gives a forwarding address of a Mr W S Gilbert at West 7th Street, Plainfield, New Jersey.  The document goes on to state that “Cissie” has already paid for the ticket, that she has the sum of $80, and is going to meet up with her Southport friend named Evelyn Lomas.

Between the 22nd of March signing of the Medical Examination Certificate, and the final acceptance date stamped on the Alien Pre-Examination form (dated 2nd November 1922), “Cissie” went sight-seeing.

“Cissie” at Lake Bark, Canada – 14th July  1922

In late November, she crossed the Canadian Border from St Albans, Montreal to the United States – the document below shows that she was headed for Plainfield, New Jersey, but whether she actually arrived there, is speculative.  We do know that once “Cissie”

Screenshot 2018-08-06 at 07.56.37

arrived in the United States, she met up with a certain James Albert Woolard, from Payne, Paulding, Ohio.  The circumstances of their meeting is unknown – as is the date.

“Cissie” – Christmas 1922

She married James on 19th February 1923 at the Probate Court, Franklin County, Ohio – already five months pregnant with my Mother.

Screenshot 2018-03-25 at 17.19.58.png

Mary Theodora Woolard was born on the 2nd July 1923 in Philadelphia.


“Cissie” with Mary Theodora Woolard

On the 29th September 1923, Cissie’s sister, Elsie Margaret Cain (aged 17) left Liverpool on the SS “Baltic” bound for North America.  Records show that she landed at Halifax, Nova Scotia on 6th October, with a forwarding address in Philadelphia.

EPSON MFP imageElsie aged about 16

She was going to visit her oldest sister (Mary), and her three month old niece – Mary Theodora Woolard.  Apparently her fare had been paid for by her new brother-in-law – James Albert Woolard. On the ship’s passenger manifest, Elsie was described as a “Domestic” with a UK address of 101 Boundary St., Southport.

Apart from meeting her sister, brother-in-law and the new baby, I know very little about the rest of Elsie’s time in the States.  Presumably she worked and travelled about North America during the next two or three years – though the only record I have found of her in that period, was her marriage to a certain Harry T. Herman on 31st October 1927 in Manhattan, New York.  The marriage, however, only appears to have lasted just over two weeks – for another record shows that Elsie returned to the U.K. on her own, aboard the SS “Baltic” on the 21st November 1927.  She travelled under the name of Margaret Herman, aged 21, with a U.K. address of 101 Boundary Street, Southport – her Mother’s address.

Screenshot 2018-03-26 at 12.43.01.png

It’s interesting to note that she is described on the passenger manifest as a US Citizen – presumably that citizenship terminated when she later divorced her husband, Harry.

Back in America, the marriage between “Cissie” and James Woolard was in trouble, and following the Christening of her daughter, Mary Theodora in Philadelphia on the 8th February 1924, “Cissie” brought her baby back (without her husband) to England to live

Screenshot 2018-03-26 at 14.20.28.png “Cissie” and daughter arrive in Liverpool – 18th February 1924

with her mother Ada, her step-father George, and her three remaining sisters in England: Winnie, Doris and Kathleen – all at 101 Boundary St., Southport.

EPSON MFP imageStepfather George Wright, Doris and Winnie with “Cissie” and ADA in 1924

“Cissie” stayed with the Family for about six months before finally sailing back to America on the SS “Cedric” on 24th November 1924.  She had actually stayed in the U.K. for longer than the U.S. Authorities allowed, and she had to enter the U.S. as an immigrant through Ellis Island, New York.  She travelled under the name of Mary Woolard, and is described as being 25 years old and a “Housewife.”

Screenshot 2018-03-26 at 14.06.10.png

She left her baby behind to be brought up by Ada, George and her sisters.   “Cissie” never saw Theo, her daughter, again – any further communication with her daughter from that


Theo, Ada and Bunty the dog

time onwards, was either through letters to her Mother and sisters or through the four or five letters sent personally to Theo over the next ten years.

Once back in the States, as far as I know, “Cissie” had no further contact with her former husband, James Albert Woolard.  She did however meet up with a certain John Rusin.


EPSON MFP image“Cissie” back in America in 1925

John Rusin had been born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the 19th July 1900 – he was one of the ten children of John Rusin (Snr) and Anna Rusin (nee Polewski).  They were immigrants from Russia.  John (aged 9) appears first on the 1910 US Federal Census with his family still living in Cincinnati.

Screenshot 2018-03-26 at 15.08.05.png

Before John Rusin met up with “Cissie,” it would seem that he had previously been married to a Lillian Russell – he had married her on the 30th November 1920 in Hamilton, Cincinnati.  This marriage does not appear to have lasted long, and fortunately there were no children.

Whether they were divorced or were just separated, is not clear, but at some time after leaving Lillian, John met up with –  and moved in with – “Cissie.”  I have found no record of a marriage between them, and it’s just possible (and probable) that there wasn’t actually a marriage – but they did have three children together and “Cissie” certainly adopted the “Rusin” surname.

Their first child was John Elmer Rusin, born 30th July 1926.  He met with a fatal accident on the 24th September 1932 when only 6 years of age.

Epson_25032018134505.jpg “Cissie” and John Elmer outside their house – the car was not theirs

He had apparently climbed onto the back of an ice truck outside his home at 1821 Linn St., Cincinnati , and as the truck moved away from the sidewalk, John Elmer jumped off and was struck by a bus.  He sustained a broken neck and fractured skull. He was admitted to St Mary’s Hospital – where he died. He was buried at St Mary’s Cemetery on 27th September 1932.  His death was registered by his mother (my Grandmother).

“Cissie’s” second child, by John Rusin, was Corinne Anne Rusin.  She was born on the 18th September 1927 in Cincinnati.  I remember as a small boy, from about 1948 to about 1951, we regularly received food parcels from Aunt Connie.  These parcels were to supplement the limited range of food that was available in England due to Food Rationing during and after the  War.

On 31st October 1950, Corrine married William J. Brinkman (aged 24) in Hamilton, Cincinnati.  Corinne was 23 years old and employed as a Bookeeper and “Bill” Brinkman (born on 5th August 1926) was employed as a Salesman.   Corinne’s parents were listed on the marriage documents as Mary Elizabeth Cain and John Rusin.  Corinne and “Bill” went on to have six daughters.

When my mother went back to the States for the first time in the August 1963, she stayed with her half-sister Corinne (aka Connie) – it was the first time they had ever met.  Aunt Connie and “Bill” visited England in 1974 to stay with my Mum and Dad in Clevedon.














Connie & Bill with Theo – July 1974

John and “Cissie” Rusin’s third child was Helen – born in about 1930, but there is little official information available about her after mention in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census.

My Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth “Cissie” Rusin, died of Lobar Pneumonia in Cincinnati General Hospital on 28th December 1935.  She was buried in St Martin’s Ave., St Mary’s Cemetery, St Bernards District, Cincinnati.

Screenshot 2018-03-26 at 16.40.10.png Her birth year was not 1897 – she was born 4th November 1898


Following her death, the two surviving children (CORINNE and HELEN) were put into St Aloysius Orphanage in Cincinnati, by their father. They were certainly there according to the 1940 U.S. Federal  Census – but I have no idea whether or when their father might have reclaimed them.

Screenshot 2018-03-26 at 17.13.16.png1940 Federal Census showing Corinne & Helen

John Rusin is also on the 1940 Census in Cincinnati.  He’s shown as a 39 year old unemployed widower, and described as a “Lodger.”  He lives in the household of Charles Foley at 1029 Central Avenue.

Screenshot 2018-03-26 at 17.22.55.png1940 Federal Census showing John Rusin

John Rusin died on 23rd November 1953 in Monro Township, Knox, Ohio – he was aged 53.  His death certificate gives his occupation as a “Metal Polisher.”  It further states that he was in the military during 1917-18 – apparently based at Erie County no.3, New York, though it is not clear what kind of military establishment that was.

I haven’t found a discharge date for the two girls from the St Aloysius Orphanage, and I do wonder whether the circumstances that befell my Grandmother’s two daughters was actually known at the time, by Ada, George and the Cain girls living in Southport.

As well as “Cissie’s” problems in the United States, life also had its “ups and downs” for the family back in Southport. Elsie returned from America in November 1927, having separated from her American husband – Harry T. Herman – after a little over two weeks of marriage.

The family moved from 101 Boundary Street to the leased property at 143 Duke St, Southport.  Doris Maria Cain got engaged to be married – but sadly, her fiancé died in the flu epidemic of 1928.

In 1932, Kathleen married James Edgar Poulton Meredith and moved to Manchester, but he died on the 7th Dec 1939.  After his death, Kathleen continued to live on in Manchester, though she was a regular visitor to her sisters at 143 Duke Street.

Elsie Margaret Cain/Herman got married again – this time to Anderson Wray on 11th March 1940 – he lived in their small attic flat in Duke Street for a few years.  I first met Uncle Andy, when I was about four years old and staying with the Aunts.  He seemed a very strange man to me – sitting on his own for hours in the attic, with a scruffy canary in a cage, for company.  I don’t remember ever seeing him again – I never enquired after what happened to him – though I know he and Elsie parted and he eventually died on 25th March 1961.

George Wright, Ada’s second husband died in mid-March 1940 following a bout of pneumonia, caught after a morning spent clearing snow.  Ada died of acute bronchitis and pulmonary oedema on the 2nd February 1941 at 143 Duke Street – her funeral took place at St Paul’s Church.

img517           The four Cain sisters in happier times: Winnie, Elsie, Doris and Kathleen

It was against this background that Mary Theodora Woolard grew up, went to school and eventually went out to work at the outbreak of War in September 1939.  She worked with her best friend, Ruby Smith – dealing with placing Evacuees in Southport.

Theo met Bernard Frederick Dorber (my Dad) at a Tea Dance in Southport on 21st March 1942, and they got engaged on her nineteenth birthday on the 2nd July of that year.  They were married at St Paul’s Church, Southport, on 31st October 1942 – my Dad’s birthday ! Her best friend, Ruby Smith, was my Mother’s Matron of Honour, and, after my birth in October 1943 – was my Godmother.

“The Aunts” as we called them, used to come down to Clevedon to stay with my Parents for fortnight holidays throughout the late 1940’s, 1950’s 1960’s and 1970’s.  As the years went by, ill health and other factors made this increasingly difficult for all of them to enjoy this break away from Southport.

In July 1957, Kathleen had met and married her second husband George Tyson Glaister (a retired Shop Manager) and they moved back to Southport.  For their few years together, they seemed happy – but increasing ill health led to George’s death in 1970. Kathleen lived on in their flat with her pet dog – she died in January 1983 at the age of 79.

With a small legacy of £1161 from Elsie’s estranged husband (Anderson Wray), who had died in March 1961, and the fact that the lease for 143 Duke Street was up for renewal, Elsie, Winnie and Doris moved to a bungalow at 3 Fulwood Avenue, in Southport.

img520.jpg3 Fulwood Avenue, Southport

Elsie, always a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer on the 15th February 1965.  The annual holidays to Clevedon continued – until Doris became too frail to travel.  Doris finally passed away on 30th June 1977.  Winnie, was now on her own in Fulwood Avenue.

My Mum and Dad went to visit her in Southport now and again, and for several years afterwards, they continued to pay the coach fare for Winnie to come down to Clevedon for a fortnight’s stay during each Summer.  By the early 1990’s, she was finding it more difficult to cope with the bungalow in Fulwood Avenue and the property was eventually put up for sale.  Winnie moved into a retirement home in Southport –  where she passed away on 2nd January 1994 aged 92.



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