The history of the Besfords

John David Besford (1883-?)

John David Besford was born in 1883, the son of Armstrong Besford and his wife Margery Ann Besford. Armstrong Besford was born at Cramlington, Northumberland, and was the son of John Besford (1820-1875) who was killed on the viaduct at Stannington, and his wife Martha Besford (née Armstrong).

The 1891 Census records John David Besford aged 7 and living at 61 George Street, Willington Quay with his parents Armstrong and Margery. Armstrong Besford was 39 years old and was working as an engine fitter. Margery Besford was said to be 30 years old and had been born in Newcastle upon Tyne. John David had a brother Robert (4) and a sister Annie (9). Annie sadly died in 1897.

The family moved to Scotland at some point between 1897 and 1901, as the 1901 Census records them at 23 Hutton Drive, Govan, Glasgow. John David Besford was now 17 and was working as an apprentice cabinetmaker. His father Armstrong Besford was now 49 and was a foreman mechanic. John David’s brother Robert (now 14) was employed as an errand boy in a drawing office. He now had a sister, Margery Sewell Besford aged 7.

Six years later, on 9th May 1907, John David Besford emigrated to the United States. He sailed on the SS Corean from Glasgow to Boston, Massachusetts. He was 24 years old and was recorded on the passenger list as a joiner. It seems that he then travelled over the US border to Canada as there is a record of his returning from Stratford, Ontario, and arriving in Detroit, Michigan on 16th April 1909. The record states that John David had been working as a carpenter in Stratford. It also gives us a physical description. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a fair complexion and light brown hair. The same immigration record also notes that John David’s father, Armstrong Besford, was living at 23 Windsor Terrace, Govan, Glasgow, in 1909.

SS Corean
SS Corean

There is further information about John David Besford’s life in the USA. The United States Census for 1910 records that he was living in a lodging house with 15 other people at 403 3rd Street, Detroit. He was working as a house carpenter.

Ten years later, the 1920 US Census shows that he was now married to a Margaret Besford who had been born in Scotland. He was aged 36 and Margaret was 31. They were living at 1265 Belvidere Avenue, Detroit. They had a son, Andrew Besford, aged 5, and a daughter Margery Besford, aged 3, both of whom had been born in Michigan. The 1920 Census tells us that John and Margaret could both read and write.  John David Besford was now working as a carpenter for a motor car company. 

The 1930 US Census tells us that John David Besford and his wife Margaret were still living on Belvidere Avenue, Detroit, but had moved to number 5369. Their ages were now recorded as 46 and 40 respectively. This census indicates that Margaret had also first entered the USA from Scotland in 1907, raising the question of whether she and John David emigrated to the United States together. Their children were recorded as Andrew Besford (now 16), Margery Besford (14) and Jean Besford (3 and a half). John D. Besford was working as a carpenter for an automobile company in Detroit.

Ten years later, the US Census for 1940 records John David Besford (56) and Margaret Besford (52) still at 5369 Belvidere Avenue, Detroit. He was still working as a carpenter. Their children were shown as Andrew Besford (26) working as a steel worker for Crucible Steel, Margery Ann Besford (24) working as a Comptometer [the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator] operator at an automobile plant, and Jean Doris Besford (13). This census also notes that John David Besford was in the process of becoming a naturalised US citizen.

John David Besford’s grandfather was John Besford, who was born in 1820 at Stannington, Northumberland. John’s parents (John David Besford’s great- grandparents) were John Besford and Isabella Besford (née Wright). The John Besford who married Isabella Wright was the brother of Robert Besford (1792-1844). John David Besford’s great-great Grandparents were therefore Robert Besford (1752-1837) and his wife Ann Goodfellow.  John David Besford’s ancestry thus goes back to his 5x great-grandparents James Besford and Margaret Robson, who married in 1679.

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