Frances May Speakman (known as Fanny, May, or Fanny May) had an interesting life easily deduced from public documents which record where she lived both in the United Kingdom and Canada.

As a researcher, Frances May Speakman proved easy to track because of a friend named Ida Lidbetter.

Based on her 1952 death record in Canada, her birthplace was established as Manchester, England, the daughter of Thomas Speakman and Frances Geraldine Coates and born 13 May 1874.

1881 census

The family is first found on the 1881 census on the Isle of Man.

Frances May Speakman on the 1881 census as a six-year-old with her mother and sister.

Frances May Speakman on the 1881 census as a six-year-old with her mother and sister.

She is known as May, aged 6, and is with her mother Fanny, aged 36, and sister, Laura, aged 8. Her father is not on the census with the family.

By 1891, the family is living at Part St, North Meols, Lancashire, a few kilometres/miles south of Blackpool. Her mother is recorded as a widow living on her own means and both May and Laura are still with her.

Living around the corner in Portland St, was Ida Lidbetter, aged 25, born India, who was a “lady help (domestic)”.

1891 census


Frances May Speakman on the 1891 census

Frances May Speakman on the 1891 census as a 16-year-old with her mother and sister who are visitors in a house headed by Sarah Unsworth.

Then, in 1901, the same Ida Lidbetter is a lodging house keeper at Chesterfield, Llandrillo, Caernarvonshire, Wales, UK. Boarding with Ida was Fanny M. Speakman, aged 26, who is living on own means and was born in Manchester, Lancashire. Undoubtedly the same people.

1901 census

Frances May Speakman on the 1901 census

Frances May Speakman on the 1901 census as a 26-year-old in house headed by Ida Lidbetter.

In August the previous year, a Miss May Speakman was a returning passenger from Canada listed on the incoming manifest at Liverpool on the vessel Lake Ontario from Quebec, Canada. Her age is recorded as 28 but the 8 could be a 6. It could be the same person but there’s no other information to confirm it.

Then, in 1906, she is in Assiniboia West, Saskatchewan, Canada, aged 29 (should be 32), and married to Richard Thomas Hutchinson, aged 23 (should be 20), born Scotland.

The ages given by the couple may have something to do with the “stigma” of the older woman being married to one so much younger to her. It should also be noted that, she is known as May. As well, Ida Lidbetter is in the same household as a servant.

1906 census

Frances May Speakman on the 1906 Canada census

Frances May Speakman on the 1906 Canada census and now married to Richard Hutchinson with Ida Lidbetter as a household servant. Note that Richard’s brothers Robert and James are in next household. Also eldest brother John is also on the same page in the census at No 54.

And, living in next property, are Richard’s brothers Robert and James.

Within four years, Richard died without leaving a will and the documents pertaining to that confirm his identity – along with brothers Robert and James.

It’s likely that Richard Hutchinson and Frances (Fanny) May Speakman married in Canada but there is no record so far discovered to confirm that.

Todd family connection

The Hutchinson brothers were the children of Richard Thomas Hutchinson senior and Margaret Todd who had met while in service at Methven Castle, Scotland and married in 1881.

The couple had five children including another son, John, who moved to South Africa and was followed there by his mother. Richard Hutchinson senior divorced Margaret and moved to America where he remarried.

It’s difficult to confirm which year the Hutchinson brothers and Fanny May Speakman arrived in Canada. The 1906 census says both Richard and Fanny May arrived in 1903 and the other Hutchinson boys in 1904.

On the 1911 census, Fanny May gives 1904 as immigration year while brother-in-law James Hutchinson still gives 1904. They are living at the same address in 1911 as well; she gives her age as 33 (should be 37) and he as 22 (should be 20).

Saskatchewan move

By 1916, Fanny May is still in Saskatchewan, gives her age as 38 (should be 42) and again has Ida Lidbetter staying with her.

In 1921, when Ida returned to Canada from visiting relations in New Zealand, she stated she was returning to Rosetown South, Canada, to join friend Mrs R.T.Hutchinson (R.T. for Richard Thomas, Fanny May’s late husband).

So the connection between the two women was still in place four decades after they first met in England. It appears that Fanny May did not remarry and Ida also remained single and died in Canada in 1947.

Written by Warren Nunn, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 2 December 2012. This is how I relate to Frances May Speakman’s husband Richard Thomas Hutchinson who was my maternal grandmother’s first cousin.