Census records are another incredibly useful and information packed source we can use. From the 1891 census we learn that when Michael was 5 years old, the family lived on Wapole Street in South Shields. He had a 7 year old brother, Daniel, and a 2 year old sister Jane Ann. His father worked and supported the family as a riveter.
Looking at the 1901 census and observing the changes provides a great deal more about the Fitzgerald family. Sarah is now listed as a widow and a Charwoman. Michael, 15, is now the oldest male living in the house. Michael is now working as a rivet heater in a shipyard, a similar profession to that of his father. Jane Ann is now twelve and another brother John W. has been born. Additionally, the family has taken on an Irish border called George Gibson. George also works at the shipyard as a ship plate riveter. The family is now living on George Street in Hartlepool – a street that still exists today in the form of warehouse buildings.
We can see from this census that Daniel, Michael’s brother, is not accounted for. This leads us to from the census records to the death records, which demonstrate that he passed away shortly after the 1891 census at only 8 years old. The family has experienced a great deal of loss in 10 short years
Military service records can also prove an excellent source. Michael’s Militia Attestation document demonstrates that he originally joined the Durham Light Infantry in 1904. At the time he was 18 years old and living at 21 York Street in West Hartlepool. He listed himself as a labourer. We can see from Michael’s service records that by 1914 he had served in the Northumberland Fusiliers during WWI in the 11th(service) Battalion. Throughout the war, Michael’s battalion served in France, Italy, India, Egypt, and Greece. After serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers, Navy Seamen Records suggest that Michael joined the navy after or at the end of WWI.
According to his marriage records, Michael was married to Mary E. Callahan on 26 September 1910. The 1911 census records show Michael living at 4 Slake Terrace, Hartlepool with his wife. Michael was working as a boiler shop labourer. Michael and Mary’s daughter Nora appears to have been born shortly before the census was taken.
In 1920, Michael’s wife Mary went to America as is demonstrated by the 1920 Passenger List of the Haverford which left from Liverpool to Philadelphia. Mary was listed as a 33 year old domestic who was travelling without her husband. Her trip to the United States was reported in the Northern Daily Mail on 14 November 1921 in an article titled “Wife Who Went To America” when Mary applied for a separation order:
“She went to America at the back end of last year, her husband intending to follow, but the climate did not agree with her. “I heard you could not get drink in America," she said, “Or I would not have gone; I wanted to get my husband away from the drink.” She returned to America in September, and her husband had not given her any money since. – Under cross-examination by Mr. H. Bailey, who appeared for respondent, applicant admitted that when her husband was in the Navy she had lived with another man at Barry Dock. The magistrates dismissed the case.”