William Albert Burge
William Albert Burge circa 1910-20

William Albert Burge was born on the 18th February 1861 at Westminster in London. His birth certificate said that his parents were William Burge, carpenter, and Mary Burge nee Greenway, both born Westminster. Seemingly straightforward... except that this just doesn't make sense! 

You see, my great great grandparents were William Burge and Mary nee Greenway... and they weren't born in Westminster, and it was unlikely they'd be having another child at the age they were. William would have been 56 and Mary 48 - rather old, especially in the 19th century, to be having a baby. Not totally impossible, but improbable ... and if they had, why would he have been born in London, when they lived 90 miles away in Batheaston? My GG grandparents already had a son named William who was still alive in 1861, so why would they have named another son William? These questions were to puzzle me for a number of years - because it was obvious to me that this William Albert was one of my family....

As well as his parent's names, his children's names had given me my first major clue that he was 'one of mine'... they were as follows:

Mary Polly Burge, born April 1884 in Cheddar, Somerset, England; died 3 July 1964 in Mesopotamia, Ohio*

William Burge, born 8 June 1886 Cheddar, Somerset, England; died March 
1967 in Trumbull County, Ohio*

Ellen Nell Burge, born December 1889 Collumpton, England; died June 9 1956*

George Reginald Burge, born 23 April 1892 Cheddar, County of Somerset, 
England; died 23 July 1980 Mineral Ridge, Mahoning County, Ohio. 

Rhoda Sarah Burge, born 1896 Cheddar, Somerset, England; died September 
1957 Braceville, Trumbull County, Ohio* 

John Gulley Burge, born 3 December 1897 in Cheddar, Somerset, England, died 1984 Mesopotamia, Trumbull County, Ohio*

Thomas Greenway Burge, born 03 December 1897 in Cheddar, England; died 20 May 1981 Chardon, Ohio*

* NOTE: All information from Lynette Burge's now non-existent web page, except that she had John 'Gulliver' - later found to be incorrect (and I thought it likely was at the time). There are a few other details incorrect - Mary was baptised in Batheaston on 17 Aug 1884, so it is likely she was also born there.  I believe that it was also 'Reginald George' - not the other way round. 'Polly' and'Nell'  were probably nicknames.

Lynette Burge's web page had William Albert marrying Emily Ann Pritchard 01 December 1883 in Widcombe, County of Somerset, District of Bath. The couple had their seven children in England, then emigrated to the US and settled in Ohio. 

If you see this Lynette, please get in touch!

The similarities between William Albert's family and mine were as follows: 

My GG grandparents were William Burge, carpenter, and Mary Nee Greenway. William Albert's parents were William Burge, carpenter and Mary Nee Greenway

My GG grandparents and William Albert both had sons named Thomas Greenway Burge and John Gulley Burge. My GG grandparents gave these family names as middle names to their two sons from William's mother and Mary's maiden names. I have found them nowhere else in this combination - other than in my direct family line. My very first search on Google for my great grandfather Thomas Greenway Burge came up with William Albert's son instead! 

My gg grandparents were Mary and William, William Albert's first two children's names were Mary and William.

Both my GG grandparents and William Albert had other children named William, Ellen, Sarah, Mary and Rhoda. 

The research by Lynette Burge had William Albert, born 1861, as raised by his grandparents and apprenticed as a shoemaker. In the 1881 census, my GG grandmother Mary was where she was supposed to be in Batheaston. With her was William Burge, born 1861, living with his grandmother, occupation listed as shoemaker. At that time, the 1881 was the only census I had access to. 

Lynette Burge's research also had William Albert's father-in-law as keeping the White Lion Inn at Batheaston. My family came from Batheaston.

How could William Albert Burge of Mesopotamia NOT be one of my family? But it still didn't fit. 

I didn't believe he was one of my GG grandparents' sons as was indicated by his birth certificate - he had to have been a grandson.  I played with a few theories of whose child he may have been, but none of them panned out. 

I put all this 'coincidence' on my web page, and attempted to contact the US Burge's unsuccessfully for a number of years. I was then fortunate enough to have a descendant of William Albert's, a lovely lady  named Tami, read my web page... asking the same questions I'd been asking for so long! She emailed me, and we slowly pieced together the story... a family secret that had been kept for almost 150 years. 

The 1881 census had William Albert as: 

Mary BURGE  Head  M  Female  63  Batheaston, Somerset, England, Dressmaker 
Rhoda BURGE  Daur  U  Female  27  Batheaston, Somerset, England 
William BURGE  Grandson  U  Male  20  Batheaston, Somerset, England, Shoe Maker 
Note, he was listed as 'born in Batheaston', this was always part of my confusion with him. There was no record of his birth in Batheaston.

In 1871, he was listed as living alone with Mary:

Mary Burge, Head, 57, Dressmaker.
William, Son, 10, Scholar,
Note that in this earlier time he was listed as Mary's 'son', in 1881 he was listed as her 'grandson'.

Then though, came the truly definitive and secret-busting piece of information! In the 1861 census he was listed as living at the same address given on his birth certificate in London as follows:

BARGE, Mary, Head, Widow, F, 46, Dressmaker, Somerset
TAYLOR, Ellen Elizabeth, Daughter, Married, F, 20, Dressmaker, Somerset 
TAYLOR, William Albert, Grandson, M, 0, Westminster St John 

This was the point where my 'cousin' Tami (who'd found this gem) said she could hardly type for the excitement! He WAS born in Westminster... and even though his name and that of his mother were given as 'Taylor' (a play on words for them both being dressmakers perhaps?) the name Taylor was never mentioned in any records again... and there's no record of Ellen ever marrying the elusive MISTER Taylor! We had, however, worked out at long last what the exact tie between William Albert and the Burge family was. The ancestor of this branch of the US Burge family was Ellen Elizabeth Burge.

The address was 5 Stafford Place, St John, Westminster... and this led to yet another twist in the secret tale of William Albert!


There had been an old family rumour that William Albert was a 'royal bastard'. This was only found out by Tami when she asked older family members for his history. She and I dismissed this as pretty unlikely at the time :-) 

THEN I looked up Stafford Place, Westminster, where Ellen, Mary and baby William Albert were living after his birth. It is just outside the walls of Buckingham Palace! It would be no more than a five minute walk. 

The early 1860's were also the time when the young Prince of Wales, Albert Edward (nicknamed Bertie, later King Edward VII of England), was beginning an unofficial career of wenching. His mother, Queen Victoria, was furious with him for this. She blamed him for the death of his father - who had travelled to see a young woman in 1861 who was reputedly pregnant with Bertie's bastard - and caught a chill he never recovered from. Bertie became famous for his many mistresses in later years. 

Just as an absolute aside... Camilla Parker-Bowles' great grandmother was one of his mistresses! 

It is no great stretch of the imagination for young Bertie to have had another bastard the same year - to a servant. All the Burge girls were very pretty; young William's birth name included 'Albert' but this name wasn't used on any of the later censuses; there was quite a cover-up of his birth; and yes - there IS a physical resemblance between William Albert and King Edward! Pictures of the two for comparison may be seen here,  as well as a map showing the short distance from Stafford Place to Buckingham Palace. 

The simple fact there's a family rumour that said so is another reason to give this theory some credence. How many families include a rumour like that in their history? All the same, this is certainly not being taken as a totally serious piece of factual information by the family - although there's been talk of DNA testing... I have since been contacted by another descendant of William Albert, quite unconnected to Tami, who also 'knew' from family oral history that she was descended from a 'royal bastard'. This serves to make it even more likely.

I LOVE this story!!! Even if he WASN'T a royal bastard, the detective work required to track down who his MOTHER was was a huge effort, and I took great pleasure in watching it unfold - and I congratulate Tami soundly for finding out! It is the biggest genealogical 'scoop' in my family so far. If DNA testing should ever prove the famous ancestor, I'll let you all know right here :-)


Ellen was again confirmed as being William Albert's mother when he was baptised, the record from the Batheaston Parish Register states: 

29 April 1875, William Albert son of Ellen Burge. He's listed as age 14 when he was baptised. Ellen is listed as living in London employed as a Servant. 

Ellen Elizabeth Burge married William Edmund Harris in 1864, had eight more children, and died in 1889. Note that she had married before the above baptism, but was still named as 'Burge'. Full details of her later family may be found here.

If you're a descendant of William Albert or Ellen Elizabeth and would like to email me with questions I can refer you on to others in the US line of his family. If you have any new information to offer, please email me!!! 

If anyone has knowledge of houses in Stafford Place and nearby areas being owned by the Royal Family, please email me as well! I've had a very similar family history relayed to me, with another young woman having an illegitimate child at about the same time. The boy was later raised to a rather high position, considering his birth - and they also lived in Stafford Place :-)


William Albert and Albert Edward

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(Background image is from an early postcard of Buckingham Palace)