John Freeman Dewey

John Freeman Dewey was the oldest and illegitimate child of Sarah Dewey of Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.

John Freeman Dewey outside his son's house in Chatteris, circa 1930. Photo: Andrew Martin
Above: John Freeman Dewey outside his son's house in Chatteris, circa 1930. Photo: Andrew Martin.

Six months after his birth, his mother Sarah Dewey emigrated to Victoria, Australia on board the clipper ship 'Hornet', presumably for a fresh start away from the social stigma of being a mother of an illegitimate child. John was cared for by his ageing grandparents, who even took him to be baptised whilst his mother was living in Australia.

His mother was followed to Australia by her sister Rebecca Dewey, but whilst Rebecca stayed, Sarah returned to England in 1861 on board the ‘Donald McKay’, and was reunited with her family at Witchford.

John married Elizabeth Boulter, a Seamstress of nearby Wentworth, who already had an illegitimate son named John Boulter. Her son who would go on to appear on censuses as "John C. Dewey" after their marriage, joining the couple's eventual nine Dewey children. It is unclear as to whether Elizabeth's illegitimate son was actually John's son.

In 1900, their second eldest daughter, Lizzie Dewey gave birth to her illegitimate son, Herbert Percival Dewey and he was brought up by his Grandparents - John and Elizabeth, believing that he was their youngest son. Lizzie's younger brothers and sisters believed Herbert to be their brother until it was eventually revealed that he was actually their nephew.

John and Elizabeth lost their son Walter Dewey, whilst he fought in Flanders during the First World War, and I am yet to locate information for their son William George Dewey beyond the 1891 census.

In 1927, John and his wife Elizabeth were living at St Barnabas Road, Cambridge, when Elizabeth died after surgery on her appendix. He remained at the address with his daughter Albina until his own death from pneumonia in December 1943.

Life Events


  • 17th November 1856 at Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.


  • 13th June 1858 at St. Andrew's Church, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.



Census and Residence

  • 1861: 4yrs, Main Street, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.
  • 1871: 14yrs, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.
  • 1881: 23yrs, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.
  • 1891: 34yrs, Main Street, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.
  • 1901: 45yrs, Main Street, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.
  • 1911: 54yrs, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.
  • 1927-1943: 76 St. Barnabas Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England.


  • 1871-1901: Agricultural Labourer
  • 1927: Smallholder


  • 20th November 1943 at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, aged 87 years. Died from '1a. Senility, Broncho Pneumonia, 2. Suprapubic Cystostomy for retention of urine from enlarged prostate' - Certified.


  • 20th December 1943 with his wife Elizabeth at St. Andrew's Church, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.


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