William Edward Wilton was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 23 August 1858. He was the son of George Wilton (1834-1899), a mariner, and Elizabeth Biddlecomb(e) (1834-1876). His father was native to Southampton and his mother the Isle of Wight and they had married in Southampton in 1855.
William had six known siblings: George (b. 1856), Elizabeth Anne (b. 1861), John James (b. 1863), Charles Henry Alfred (b. 1865), Harriet Emma (b. 1867) and Sarah Ann (b. 1870).
William first appears on the 1861 census living at 14 Queen Street, Southampton, his seafaring father being absent. He was still a schoolboy by the time of the 1871 census when the family were living at 4 Queen Street, Southampton.
William lost his mother in 1876 and his father was remarried two years later to Charlotte Channell, née Franklin (b. 1841). Charlotte, a native of Weymouth, Dorset, had previously been married to Thomas Channell and had at least five children from that relationship before she was widowed in 1874. Her remarriage to George Wilton resulted in a further three children being born: Henry (b. 1878), Walter John (b. 1880) and Jane Ann (b. 1882). His father would pass away in 1899 and his stepmother in 1916.
Around the time of his mother's death in 1876 William was married in Southampton to Eliza Jeffreys (b. 1858 in Southampton). The couple would have a total of nine children, one of whom died in infancy, but only six are identifiable from census records (1): Grace (1879-1956), Frank William Charles (1881-1928), Harriett Annie (1884-1960), Ellen (1887-1944), Lily (1890-1957) and Arthur (1893-1978).
The 1881 census shows Eliza Wilton and her daughter Grace lodging at 52 Lower Back of Walls, All Saints, Southampton and William himself was absent. Both William and Eliza show up on the 1891 census living at 17 Lower Canal Walk, Southampton and William was described as a marine seaman.
By the time of the 1901 census William is absent. However, his wife is now listed at 10 Northcote Road, Portswood, Southampton with children Harriett Annie and Arthur. Her other children are scattered at different addresses around Southampton. Curiously, Annie is now listed as Annie Musgrove and has had two sons, Robert Musgrove (1897-1969) and Sidney Musgrove (1899-1980). The identity of her new husband is unknown and there is no record that a marriage ever took place. Current-day family speculate William and Eliza were separated with Eliza living in a common-law arrangement. William himself is speculated to have fathered a child in Australia whilst on his travels during the separation, although this has not been verified.
Whatever the circumstances of these arrangements, by the time of the 1911 census William and Eliza were again living together and stated that they had been married for 35 years. Their address at the time was 30 Lime Street, Southampton. Living with them were their two children Lily and Arthur and Eliza's sons Robert and Sidney. William was still listed as a marine fireman.
When William signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as 5 Queen's Street (Southampton). His previous ship had been the St Paul. As a trimmer he would receive monthly wages of £5, 10s.
William Wilton was lost in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified. His widow remained in Southampton and passed away in 1923.
- The total of nine children, as per the 1911 census, may take into account Eliza Wilton's two sons from her second marriage, bringing the total from their six known children to eight, leaving room for the child that died in infancy.