Job Hooley

Stockport in the early 19th century. A view from Heaton Norris, looking south over the town. The "new"  Wellington road is on the far right of the picture.


Victorian Vanishing Trick
Until recently, Job HOOLEY was assumed to have disappeared into the quagmire of time merely guilty of having deserted his wife and young son, and according to family tradition, *inadvertently* removing the funds of the funeral benefits club of which he was the erstwhile treasurer.

Family Tradition isn't the kindest, or the most accurate form of history to pass on to posterity; so I suppose we should have started out by giving Job the benefit of the doubt. However, having a squeaky clean whiter-than-white ancestor isn't the most exciting either, so as time and research took us further, we were more than a little pleased that great great grandfather was turning out to be the stuff that family legends are made of.


A Lancashire Lad...
Well, no...he started out in Cheshire. Job was born in Toll Bar Street, Stockport, near Manchester, on the 27th May 1851. The town straddled the Lancashire Cheshire border and was close to the heart of the immense cotton spinning industry that had dominated the North West of England for decades. Lancashire was the most advanced industrial  area in the world at this time1, and many thousands of poor families were employed to service the needs of the ever-busy power looms in the cotton mills. Job's father, Thomas Hooley, had started married life as a spinner, and inevitably his son followed him into the factories. We lose track of him for some time after that, though in 1866 the Easter Quarter Sessions at Salford there is an intriguing Petition for the Bill of costs for the prosecution of John Axon and Job Hooley for larceny2. We don’t know his sentence, but have to assume that the offence was a relatively minor one, since the penalty for this crime could include Transportation for seven years on a first offence.


The Course of True Love Never Runs Straight…

By 1875 Job’s family might have been thinking that it was about time their errant son settled down. Maybe the errant son thought the same, because on May 16th of that year Job married Hannah Lee, the 20 year old daughter of Charles Lee, a wood turner, and his wife Anne, at St Matthews church, Edgeley. The general consensus seems to be that Hannah’s family enjoyed a better than average standard of living for working class families on Hillgate, so something about Job, a mere machine minder, must have attracted the Lee’s eldest daughter. Maybe Job thought it necessary to make himself even more attractive to Hannah, since he trimmed a couple of years off his real age; the marriage certificate states that he was 22. Presumably the couple enjoyed some measure of happiness, since the next time we have any news of the family is the birth of their only son George in 1877.

 Then things started to go ever so slightly wrong…..

 Job was illiterate, and whoever had the grand idea for making him the treasurer of the penny-a-week Burial Club Fund must have been delusional. This story needs some investigation, and may yet prove to be a wild exaggeration. However, whatever the reason, there is no doubt that circa 1879 Job heard the call of the wild and left his family, -and very probably the club members-hoping, like as not, never to darken their doors again. His poor wife Hannah obviously thought he was gone for good, and she and her young son (my great grandfather George) moved back home to her parents. She eventually took up with a man called Culvert and had another 10 children. Bigamously it appears.......


Why Stop at One?

  It emerged that Job hadn't travelled far; he moved to the other side of Manchester, and in 1881 was living in a lodging house in Chadderton near Oldham, Lancashire, calling himself a single man. In 1883, he married for the second time, again stating his marital status as Bachelor. Sarah Calvert was the daughter of Samuel Calvert and his wife Mary. Sarah, a cotton operative, was some 13 years younger than Job, and the couple would have required parental consent to marry, because Sarah was under 21 years of age. We don’t know whether Job ever admitted his true age and origins to her family, or even if they suspected that her prospective husband might have been married before. Unfortunately, Samuel Calvert might not have been in the best position to complain, since in the 1881 census he is described as “deaf and dumb”; but be that as it may, Job obviously charmed Sarah, since Job Hooley, bachelor, married Sarah Ann Calvert, spinster in the spring of 1883.

We know that divorce wasn't an option for working class people like Job and Hannah, and an extensive search (with the invaluable assistance of David Hooley) has proved pretty conclusively that only one Job Hooley has ever been registered with the General Register Office. He might not be the most colourful villain in history, and we can never know what the background to his story is: maybe Hannah made Job's life a misery, maybe he was just keeping the burial fund money "safe" and suffered lifelong amnesia...or maybe it was the lure of the bright lights of Oldham that drew him away from his first family.


Go West, Young Man

  It has always been an enduring family myth that Job managed to vanish totally and completely, so it didn’t seem fair somehow that he just settled down in Oldham and lived happily ever after. We couldn’t find any mention of his death in the civil registration registers3 , and although he had been quite happy to change his age with astounding regularity, he had never been known to change his name; so maybe the old fox had outwitted history after all? There everything rested for some time.

In 2001 the Ellis Island Foundation’s huge database of immigrants to the USA was made available on the Internet 4   Searching through the records one day while following up some loose ends had the most unexpected results:- Job Hooley meets Uncle Sam.

On April 6th 1898, Job and Sarah Hooley sailed from Liverpool on the White Star Line’s Majestic, bound for New York. They were accompanied by their 10 year old daughter Beatrice, and would have been among almost 1500 passengers if the ship was travelling with it’s full capacity of passengers. The voyage from Liverpool took 8 days, which was a slow journey for the Majestic, which had won the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing in July 1891 with a time of five days and 18 hours5. The declaration in the ship’s manifest states that the Hooley family were bound for a temporary visit to Sarah’s widowed mother, Mary Calvert at 45 Union Street, Kearley [sic: Kearny] New Jersey. Unfortunately, we don’t know when or why Mary Calvert emigrated from England- her details don’t appear in the Ellis Island database. Job took 40 dollars in cash with him, and had paid for the family’s passage himself. He gave his place of residence as Oldham, and his occupation as a Miner.William Loughlin, the surgeon of the Majestic, notes that all the Hooley family are in good mental and physical health, with no deformities. Job, it has to be said, was in sparkling health, the long sea journey seems to have knocked nine years off his age-, which he stated as being 40. Sarah, meanwhile, stuck to her real age of 34.

Ironically, one of the last questions asked of the passengers was “Whether a Polygamist”; to which Job answered, “No”.


Keep on Running.
  This is the last trace we have of Job for a while. What became of him after he left Ellis Island was a mystery. We knew that he didn’t have an onward ticket for the journey to New Jersey, so did Mary Calvert ever get to see her granddaughter? There was no trace of the Hooley’s return to England, and we couldn’t find them in the 1901 census; so maybe the family remained in the United States, and Job made yet another new life for himself much further away from his Cheshire roots. Then, in November 2003, purely by chance when I was looking for some information on another family member, Job's name appeared in an index to the 1910 Federal Census of New Jersey which has just become available on the Internet via a commercial web site.


Legal at Last
  So the old rogue never did come home! The original census entry shows Job, ever youthful for a man in his sixtieth year (he gives his age as 50) living with his daughter Beatrice and her husband of two years Thomas Patteson. Unfortunately her mother Sarah, Job's wife appeared to have died  around the time of her marriage since Job is described as a widower married for 26 years.  We have to assume that Beatrice had no idea that she was also lucky enough to have a step-mother several thousand miles away; but at least Job was no longer committing bigamy. 

The family were living in rented accommodation  on North 4th street, Harrison, Hudson County, New Jersey6. Job worked as a machinist, and apparently seems to have gained some education, because he now states that he can both read and write.  He doesn't seem to have wanted to take up American citizenship, since his status is still described as *Alien*. It's tempting to think he might have considered doing this, but was worried that all the bones would come tumbling out of the cupboard when his application was considered! This of course, is pure speculation, but what is certain is that having arrived in The Land of the Free, Job didn't move far. His new home at North 4th street overlooks the Hudson River, and is only a mile or two from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

It was a long way to go from Stockport to Harrison, but maybe Job did find what he wanted on the way. Once he reached America, he certainly settled down in one place. We don't know the end of the story yet, and I am sure there will be more discoveries to come before he is done, and there is still no more information concerning those rumours of the missing burial club funds...

Ah well,  Third time lucky, Job.


bullet1 A Map History of the British People p37: Catchpole, 2nd ed 1975 pub. Heinemann
bullet2 Lancashire Records Office Quarter Sessions: ref.  QSP/3747/78  - date: c1866
bullet3 Confirmed October 2002 per David Hooley, there is no trace of Job’s death in the GRO indexes through to 1950.
bullet4 At the database is based on original ship’s manifests and covers the period 1892-1924
bullet5 A full history of the Majestic is at
bullet6 A map is available here: Map of Harrison, NJ


Although this picture postcard was produced about 15 years after Job left England, I can imagine it expresses sentiments he would have agreed with!
Although this picture postcard was produced some fifteen years after Job left England,  it probably expresses sentiments he would have agreed with!


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