Category Archives: genealogy, family history

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…






John Calow – Primitive Methodist, local preacher, Oddfellow

I hardly need to write this entry as the obituary for this ancestor is a dream in detail. John Calow is my GGG Grandfather and seems truly to be an ancestor to be proud of. Census returns show scant detail of his life in comparison to his obituary. This brings home the fact that census returns tell us so little, if my history was just documented by my census returns, what would it tell, very little apart from a few house moves and additions of children. Things have not changed much in that respect.

So what information do the censuses give?

In 1841 John Calow appears to be working as a manservant at Beauchief Hall  although I do not have absolute proof that it is him it seems very likely. At the same time his wife to be, Mary/Jane Hopkinson, was working as a servant also, for the Arkwright family, maybe that is how the couple met.

By 1851 John is living in Clowne (his birthplace) with Jane his wife, two year old George and baby Sarah Ann, his occupation is given as Agricultural Labourer.

Chesterfield_1857_8_Oct_Jan__898x1280_ (1)

The Preacher’s Plan showing John Calow at number 17


In 1861 the family have moved to the town of Calow and are living in the interestingly named Nether Cockally, Elizabeth, Eliza, Hannah and Mary have been added to the family. John’s occupation is now local Methodist preacher and miner.

1871 finds the family moved again, this time to Sheffield, with son George working as a stoker, Elizabeth is joined by her husband and cousin William Calow and Sarah Ann by her husband William Reddish, both Williams are miners. Also living with the family as a boarder is a Richard Reddish an assistant clerk. John is still a miner and preacher.

In 1881 John and Jane are back at 8 North Road, Clowne this time living with Granddaughter Emma Reddish and visiting preacher Amos Theobald.

In 1891 living at 152 North Road, Clowne, John is described as a general labourer, Granddaughter Emma is still with them, plus three lodgers, Charles Brown, George Calow (can’t work out if he is related) and James Ellis.

The final census we find him in is in 1901, living at 85 North Road still with wife and Granddaughter Emma plus three male lodgers. I guess that Emma must have cared for her grandparents and presumably cooked for the lodgers, by this stage according to the obituaries Mary/Jane had dementia and John had lost an eye, he also suffered from dementia at the end of his life.

So what extra information does the obituary tell us about John?

John Calow title


  • Died from Bronchitis and senile decay.
  • Clowne’s oldest resident, in his 88th year.
  • Contractor for getting ironstone on the Wingerworth estates.
  • Enjoyed robust health which helped him work as a local preacher and Primitive Methodist worker.
  • Worked as a miner at Grassmoor Collieries.
  • He was an Oddfellow!
  • He was a member of Barlborough Brass Band.
  • He was in a serious railway accident from which his wife never really recovered, he couldn’t work for two years. He only took £75 in compensation.
  • He was a Methodist Local Preacher for 50 years and walked many miles during this time.
  • “When in business he was the means of aiding many by way of provisions”. – think this means he was generous.
  • His father was sexton at Clowne Church.


He packed a lot into his 88 years, I wonder what would he have made of himself given modern day education and opportunities.

I would also like to know who wrote the obituary, it certainly gives the impression that the writer knew John Calow personally and liked him, or maybe they simply spoke to someone who did. Whoever it was, I am grateful to them for giving me such a detailed insight into the life and character of this fascinating ancestor.



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Which Elizabeth Halden?

I have drifted from writing about my direct ancestors for this blog post. It serves merely to alert any Halden researchers worldwide (and they are worldwide) that two Elizabeth Haldens have become, understandably, confused with each other.

I have always known via my Grandmother that her Grandmother Rachel Halden had two sisters and one brother. She also told me that Rachel, her siblings and parents had emigrated to the USA. The brother had run away, never to be seen again but the oldest sister had married and had children and the second may have done.

Through census research I found the family in 1841, minus the brother and with the addition of another sister. So there are Elizabeth, Mary (guess Elizabeth is the elder as ages rounded for census) Jemima (who sadly died in 1845) and Rachel.


The next census finds the family in the USA, Edward has died, brother Edward has joined them but eldest sister Elizabeth is not with the family.

Screenshot 2016-05-14 18.37.07

I thought it was likely that Elizabeth had married by 1850 and that was the reason she was no longer living with the family. I looked for marriages in the USA and even for English Elizabeths living nearby, but to no avail.

It did occur to me that Elizabeth may have married in England before leaving for the USA or maybe my Grandmother was wrong and she never left England at all.

There were two possible marriages Elizabeth Halden to Joseph Briscoe  on 18 Apr 1844 at Saint Chad, Stafford and Elizabeth Holden/Halden to Thomas Hiden 21 Jul 1844  Rugeley, Staffordshire.

I looked at the original marriage record for the Halden/Briscoe marriage and found this to be the daughter of Joseph Halden, Tailor. Interestingly both Elizabeth’s and Joseph’s names were originally recorded as Hawthorn and then changed to Halden.

Joseph is in fact cousin to Edward Halden, the father of the family who went to America and my GGG Grandfather. Joseph’s father William and Edward’s father Roger were brothers, their Grandparents in common were Thomas Halden and Dorothy.

Screenshot 2016-05-19 09.35.32

So eventually I looked at the record for Elizabeth Holden and Thomas Briscoe which I had dismissed earlier for some reason. It shows this Elizabeth to be daughter to Edward and his occupation is given as schoolmaster and hers as governess, a seemingly unlikely profession for someone marrying a coal miner.

Halden Hiden marriage.png

If further proof were needed that this is my GG Grandmother’s sister, she named her daughters Elizabeth, Jemima and Rachel like herself and two of her sisters.

So how did people get confused? Well currently there seem to be no baptism records for either Elizabeth. Elizabeth daughter of Joseph is not living at home in 1841 and there are a couple of possible female servants that may be her but the only definite Elizabeth Halden is daughter of Edward. Then when it comes to marriages there is only one Elizabeth Halden marriage, the Joseph Briscoe one, the other is mistranscribed (quite reasonably) as Holden.

By 1851 both Elizabeths are married, Elizabeth Briscoe is well reported appearing in censuses up until 1901 and not dying until 1907, she spent her latter years living with her daughter Mary Elizabeth who married a Samuel Walker. However Elizabeth Hiden and family disappear from the censuses, so what became of them?

Something for another blog.








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52 ancestors – James Walker “owd Jim”

James Walker my mother’s Grandad Jim was born in 1877 in Barnsley, West Yorkshire, his parents were Elizabeth Gillett a Yorkshire lass and the rather grandly named George James Archer Walker who was born in Welney, Cambridgeshire. Grandad Jim had said that his ancestors were farmers in Huntingdonshire and research has proved him right, it seems that his father came to Yorkshire to work on the railway.

Although Jim was born in Barnsley his sister Elizabeth, born a year later, was born back in Welney, maybe on a holiday or perhaps a failed attempt to return to Cambridgeshire, whate13090616_10153893652199279_352476208_over the reason, Jim’s other siblings brothers Alfred and Herbert and sisters, Emily, Harriet and Edith were all born in Yorkshire.

The first job that he had that we have a record of is listed on the 1891 census as a Down Quilt Weaver, I don’t think he ever mentioned this in later years, he lived and breathed (not too much we hope) gas.

By the 1901 census Jim is newly married, living in Featherstone, Yorkshire and working as a gas stoker. I think he was moved to Featherstone by the gas board.

JamesHannahJaneHowever, he was promoted and moved again with Jane and baby daughter Hannah to Clowne, Derbyshire where he spent the rest of his days.

The 1911 census finds them at 7 Station Road, Clowne with the addition of James born 1904 to the family. Jim’s occupation is Colliery Gas Manager.

I am now going to hand over the blog to my mother who has written down her memories of her Grandfather, her words in blue, I have added notes in red.

My memories and some history of my grandfather. He was a father to me from my being five years old which makes him rather special in my eyes.

Most of his life was spent in Clowne (Derbyshire) but still maintained that ‘aura’ of a Yorkshire lad – which indeed he was!

Working in the gas trade, he took a promotion to work and move to Clowne. Gas was being fitted nationally and expanding. Jim worked placing pipes all over the village. He also was a “jack of all gas trades” in this small outfit – stoker, fitter, collector etc. He had been given a house with the job. It was very near the mine and the gas works. His wife Jane hated it at first and longed for Yorkshire. They had a daughter Hannah and later two sons.

This house was 7 Station Road as mentioned above. The sons were James and Lesley, James died of flu in 1912, Lesley was born the day after James’ death.

Photo 05-11-2014 18 35 51His wife Jane discovered that a detached four bedroom house belonging to the gas company was vacant and badgered Jim to ask for it. He was succesful. “71” became a very happy home until the end of the 1940s.

Jim became known locally as “owd Jim” as the years progressed and was very popular.

I remember him working on Sundays for extra money – this was stoking – in other words making gas. My sister and I often took him a pint of beer to refresh him.

I would be six or seven years old and was fascinated to see the red hot coals being dragged from the very long retorts on to the ground with a special long pole, they were immediately drenched in cold water and the result was ‘coke’ which was used in industry and some heating processes. My Grandad was the one using the long rakes or poles in this furnace.

The other work I remember him doing and I watched some times was when the coal for the furnaces came in wagons, from the station nearby. There was a small private link railway line from there to the works. There had to be people to move the lines on to the private track, Jim was one of them. (This was in the years after the mine was closed; originally the mine itself would be providing coal to make the gas.)

Mum also told me that she on several occasions would be walking along the street and would see her Grandad’s head pop out from a hole in the road where he was fixing a pipe.

He was a member of the Constitution Club to which he dressed in his suit and tie to look smart, perhaps once or twice a week. He did not go to the local pubs at all. His friends there were his manager from work – Arthur Seston (Jeanne Smith’s Dad) and Dr Knowles. This was where he took his brothers-in-law when they visited – they were Caleb Butterfield (Geoff Green’s Grandad) and Fred Spivey (Joyce’s Grandad) from Pontefract and Heckmondwike, Yorkshire. They came back slightly tipsy and very amusing. Caleb was a wit and a comic, Fred a little slow getting the jokes (more hilarity!)

Grandad gave my mother the complete run of the house both financially and housekeeper, after my Grandma died.

He actually used to give her his wages and just keep a bit of spending money for himself.

He suggested one day that she sent me for Elocution lessons, what his idea was – we did not know – but I went and it – drama – became a big slice of my life, (Molly Francis, teacher of Speech and Drama).

Mum had had Speech and Drama lessons in Clowne but when war started her teacher joined the forces and the classes finished. “owd Jim” kept reading out the advert in the local paper, “Molly Francis, teacher of Speech and Drama” until eventually Hannah said “do you want our Mollie to go for lessons? He said “yes” and that was that.

I had a few boyfriends who were allowed to visit. If however they touched my hand at all a cough was heard from “owd Jim”.

As a very young girl he’d give me some pennies and always told me to get “acid drops” a tease because he knew I hated them!

It was actually “get me a ha’porth of acid drops”. He also used to ask Mum how July Palmer was, he knew perfectly well that her name was June.

When Spring showed its head he often told my mother that “Stella has got her anniversary dress” – a hint that she should get hers and mine. (Stella was a glamorous, smart lady at our church!) He always hinted, never was dogmatic.

This was for the church and Sunday School anniversary when everyone had new outfits specially for the occasion.

He worked until 68 or 69 and had a few years retirement. He did see me in a play in rep in Wellington – so glad he did. 

After he had retired, occasionally gasworks employees would knock on the door to ask about the location of gas pipes in Clowne. Jim had a map of them in his head.

A true and gentle – man.

And a final added note…

He only put his teeth in when he wore his jacket and tie!

And a couple of other things, Jim could tinker out a tune on the piano by ear, (his sister Harriet could play well).

He would not be drawn into discussions on politics, he said “all I will say is we all have to Labour”. When Mum asked him what Conservative meant he said “leave it alone”. Is that what Laissez Faire means? He was pretty shrewd I think.

Photo 05-11-2014 18 39 26

He always carried things behind himself rather than in front.















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52 Ancestors – William Swan

William Swan is my Great x 4 Grandfather, he was born in Kirkmahoe, Dumfriesshire in 1793 and died in 1858 from heart disease and general dropsy, he was a Gamekeeper.

The Swans of Kirkmahoe appear to have been Covenanters, strict Presbyterians who believed that God, not the monarch, was head of the church, they were opposed to the “Divine Right of Kings”. It seems they were persecuted for some centuries, many fleeing to Ireland and then later to the USA. All connected up with the border conflicts, opposition to Catholicism and the English Civil War. I had always thought the Irish came to Scotland, but it seems it works the other way too, perhaps many came back.

There was a William Swan who was a hero among the Covenanters, I can’t trace how we are descended from him, but presume there is some connection, he seems something of an actor, contriving an argument with his wife to throw the army off the scent of a covenanter hidden in his barn.

William Swan and the Covenanters.

William Swan and the Covenanters.

Our William Swan was married to Mary Beck and was father to my Gt Gt Gt Grandmother Flora Swan, John Swan, James Swan and Jane Ann McAlpin Swan. James followed his mother’s brother out to the USA and formed a very successful tool making company there.

I understand the Covenanters who went out to the USA were opposed to slavery and in 1800 the Reformed Church voted to outlaw slave-holding among its members.





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52 Ancestors – Dina/Dinah Townend

Dinah Townend is my GGGG Grandmother daughter of Titus Townend and Mary Ambler. I have found out a couple of new things about her recently, she seems to be calling for me to add her to the blog, so here is her story.

Dinah was born in 1785 in Skelmanthorp, she is described as a bobbin winder on the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses. She remained unmarried throughout her life but in 1841 is living with daughter Jane (another unmarried mother) and Grandsons Henry and Sam (my GG Grandfather), in 1851 Dinah is still living with Henry and also with a son William, aged 42. In 1861 she is still working as a bobbin winder and is living with her 22 year old Grandson Henry, who is a coal miner.

Dinah had three children William born 1807 a fancy weaver who remains unmarried then Jane born 1818 who eventually married George Senior and had several more children. I only discovered her third child recently, son William is lodging with a Mary Shaw in 1871, records show that Mary was illegitimate and a Townend prior to marriage, I have found records of Dinah having a daughter Mary baptised in 1826 although according to all the censuses Mary was born in 1822  (which seems more likely given Dinah’s age) and makes it likely she shares the same father as Jane and simply got baptised when she was four. I think William must be from an earlier relationship.

Just recently I discovered a record of a Dina Townend in the West Riding House of Correction for “not performing her contract”, she was sentenced for one month and her conduct in prison was good; we also get her description, 5ft 5 (tall for then), grey eyes, brown hair and fresh complexion. I am sure it is her as there are no other Dina or Dinah Townends or Townsends (seem interchangeable) in the area.

Prison record Dinah Townend

Dinah Townend in West Riding House of Correction

Perhaps the fresh complexion was a sign of good health because she lived until the ripe old age of 82 (approximately) and died in 1867.

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Posted by on May 30, 2014 in genealogy, family history


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52 Ancestors – Mary Hyslop Stevenson/Jackson

Mary Hyslop Stevenson is my Great Grandmother and the gateway to the Scottish side of the family tree. She was born on 3 July 1870 in Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire to William Gibson Stevenson and Mary Hyslop, tragically her mother died in childbirth. On the 1871 census Mary is living with her mother’s parents Andrew Hyslop and Flora Swan.

We find her back with her father in 1881 living with him and his second wife Jane Kitchin and her half siblings James, Thomas and baby Jane. They are living at Gretna Green where William Stevenson (Red Rob) was policeman, apparently there was a police cell under the house and one day a prisoner escaped and was about to attack Red Rob, young Mary witnessed this and hit him over the head with something and so saved her father, despite the fact she wasn’t much over 5ft and Red Rob was 6ft 3.

In the 1891 census, after much searching, I found Mary in Carlisle, working as a cook for a retired Doctor, she must have met James Jackson around this time as they married in 1895 in Carlisle, by 1901 the family are settled in Darlington and living at 25 Edward Street, daughter Jane (Ginnie) is five, William (Billy) is three and John (Jack) is one.

By 1911 additions to Mary’s family are James (Jimmy) aged nine, Selina aged seven and Albert one, you can see from the census that one of Mary’s children died, this was Thomas born between 1907 and who died in 1908. Mary (Molly) wasn’t born until 1913. They also have a lodger staying with them called Matthew McGann. They are living at 32 Vulcan Street, Albert Hill, Darlington.


Mary Hyslop Stevenson was a keen card player and a fast talker, her false teeth didn’t fit particularly well so if she had a lot to say quickly she would take them out, usually to tell you off!

She died in 1940.

Stevensons and Jacksons

Stevensons and Jacksons

This picture shows Mary Hyslop Stevenson with her daughter Mary (Molly), her half brother Andrew Stevenson and his mother Jane Coultart Stevenson, Red Rob’s third wife. The other lady is Andrew’s first wife Mary and the baby is his daughter, known as “Scotch Molly” later to move to New Zealand.


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