Category Archives: carpenter

Thomas Walker – Wheelwright, Carpenter and father to a dynasty

I have been mistaken for some time about this ancestor. For several years I have thought that he died in 1846 before any place of birth could be found in a census. His census from Emneth Norfolk in 1841 shows him to be born out of county, I presumed this meant just over the border in Cambridgeshire. I also had a death for him in Kings Lynn district, wrongly copied from other trees as it seemed feasible there was no sign of him as far as I was concerned in the 1851 census so I presumed he was dead.


Then I found a couple of DNA matches that also matched with someone I had proved to be on the Walker branch. I found that the match’s ancestor’s sibling was born in Emneth where the Walker family lived. However this person descended from an Edward Hoy and Elizabeth Fish who married in Lincolnshire, both surnames were unfamiliar and I had no connection with Lincolnshire that I was aware of. The only missing surname on this branch was Thomas’s first wife Rebecca (my 4 x Great Grandmother who died pre census, I had never been able to find a marriage of a Thomas Walker to a Rebecca around Emneth.

So I fell on the genealogy community to seek the marriage and soon got an answer, the marriage of a Thomas Walker to Rebecca Fish in Crowland Lincolnshire, this was interesting after all there aren’t many Fish in the surname sea!

There was a census return that proved the Lincolnshire connection, it turned out that Thomas Walker hadn’t died in 1846, in fact he had fathered two children after that and was not only on the 1851 census but the 1861 census as well, it seems he died in 1869 aged 79 and nine years after the death of his son, my direct ancestor George James Archer Walker.

I did know however that Thomas had married in 1840 a widow called Elizabeth Harrison, she and her children and some of Thomas’s were all living together in 1841. On looking at this again I wondered if Sarah and John born 1830 and 1835 were from another wife in between Rebecca and Elizabeth.


The newly discovered 1851 census finds Thomas with Elizabeth, son Thomas, daughter Sarah, son John, Mary Harrison Elizabeth’s daughter and the two new offspring William Walker and Elizabeth. So Thomas is father to a two year old at the age of 60!

Thomas Walker 1851

Looking through the baptism records of possible children it shows that Sarah was a child of Thomas and Rebecca (Fish), but that John was a John Thornton Walker son of Thomas Walker + Ann. Father a Carpenter.

John Thornton Walker and Mary Ann Walker 1835

Interestingly there is also an entry for Mary Ann, baptised aged around 11 years.

The notes seems to say, See Nov 3 (which is the baptism of John to Thomas + Ann)
and that Mary Ann is aged about eleven years, then under Rebecca’s name “a former wife now deceased”. It looks like they may have overlooked baptising Mary Ann as a baby.

So did Thomas marry an Ann? Well I haven’t found a marriage but their is a burial in Emneth, 19 Dec 1837, of a William Thornton Walker, infant, possibly another son to Thomas and Ann. Maybe the couple never married and they marked this fact by giving the children Ann’s real surname as a middle name. It was more usual for unmarried couples to give the child the father’s surname as a middle name as a clue to paternity. Here though I suspect Thomas and Ann were married in all but record, or it may be just that they married in another parish and I haven’t found the record yet.

So how many children did Thomas have and over what time period?

Well, there may be some missing but the first was in Crowland shortly after the marriage to Rebecca Fish, one baptism to Thomas and Rebecca,

Skeziah Walker 20 August 1812,

Followed by:

George Walker born 1814–1885

James Walker (my direct ancestor) 1817–1860, died nine years before his father

Rebecca Walker Ward 1820–1881

Thomas Walker 1823–
Mary Ann Walker 1824–

Sarah Walker 1831–

Then his marriage (or not) to Ann

John Thornton Walker 1835–1894

William Thornton Walker died –1837


From his marriage to Elizabeth Harrison

William born 1842

Elizabeth born 1849

So 37 years between oldest and youngest and eleven children in all, which I suppose isn’t too bad for those days.

But what else do I now know of Thomas? Well according to the 1851 census and 1861 census he was born in Pinchbeck Lincolnshire, but his baptism is in fact 14th November 1790 to Thomas and Elizabeth Walker.

1790s baptism

At his marriage in 1811 to Rebecca Fish at Crowland Abbey he is described as a sojourner. There are a lot of sojourners marrying at Crowland, it seems to mean “from another parish” meaning they couldn’t claim poor relief from the parish and could be sent back to where they came from!

The 1841 census shows Thomas with third wife Elizabeth living in Emneth, his occupation is given as wheelwright. In 1851 Thomas describes himself as a carpenter, not sure if he had diversified or acquired new skills but by 1861 now aged 71 he is a master carpenter. This could be either self promotion or career progression, but it doesn’t say former master carpenter, so I expect he just kept on working, after all his twelve year old daughter was still at school. It rather reminds me of his Great Grandson and my Great Grandfather James Walker.

Was his career progression all successful? Was a movement from wheelwright/ to carpenter a move forward or a move back, perhaps someone can enlighten me? Whatever the answer it was not all plain sailing for Thomas. The London Gazette 1933 shows among the

insolvent debtors

this record

Thomas Walker insolvent

So in 1833 Thomas was an insolvent debtor, this is the year that his first wife Rebecca died, could he have been unable to work because he was caring for her and her children? It makes it very understandable that he quickly remarried after the deaths of his wives with a large family to care for.

I like to think that Thomas looked after his wives and their families but it is sad that some of his grandchildren ended up in the workhouse in London or grandson William Disson who was a Barnado’s child who was shipped to Canada as a British Home Child.

Now to look at his ancestors…