The Donkin Sisters

Ten days ago, in Every Two Years,I wrote –

There is much still to do. Matthew [HALLAM] must be given his first two wives and Jane junior’s bereft husband (not yet named above) finds a second wife close to home.

Visit Matthew and click Mary Cooper’s caret and his first two wives are revealed. You will see in the screenshot above that the husband of Jane and Florence Mary appears twice.

I surmised last week that Jane may have died in childbirth and later discovered that her death was registered in the same quarter as John Robert Carter, her first and only child. The boy’s father, James Robert, waited almost six years before marrying Jane’s younger sister, Florence Mary.

The enumerator in 1901 found James working as a Foreman on a Carnaby farm. He was 29 years-old, single, and married Jane towards the end of 1904. She was 17, making the age gap between them fifteen years. When widower James married Florence, he was 19 years her senior.

History repeated itself, sadly, when James’ first child with Florence died within a few months. The couple had set up home in Octon, and with them on census night was George Allen Donkin, Florence’s youngest brother (described as “a relative”).

Just before the Second World War began, the 1939 Register located James and Florence at Castle House in Hunmanby.

Castle House Farm, Hunmanby

Photo credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 © Martin Dawes –

This is the house in which John William Donkin, elder brother of Jane and Florence, was born two days before Christmas, 1880. Fifty-nine years later, Jane Donkin nee Hallam was head of the household – at the age of 83.

Jane Elizabeth Carter was also at Castle House in 1939. The third daughter of James and Florence, she would marry James SEAMAN two years later. I have not been able to determine if James was born in Selby in 1916 or Pocklington in 1923. A husband nine years younger has a certain appeal – but he had the middle name William and the civil marriage record settles for plain James.

It is John William, born in Castle House, who is buried in St Oswald’s churchyard, Filey.

The parish register gives 10 Mariner’s Terrace as the last address of John and Ada.

10 Mariner’s Terrace photographed this afternoon

Water 32 · Martin’s Ravine

The Separation

I have stayed away from the entangled CARTER families for a couple of days, leaving them in the adventurous hands of ‘homebuilt’. I visited them this morning and was pleased to see one family had become two. Several children were living on the wrong side of the tracks but all the heavy lifting had been done (thank you, James) and it was a simple matter to send Elizabeth, Hannah and Edward over to Malton and add poor Robert to the Bridlington folk. I despatched Ann to the cyber-orphanage. I am convinced her mother is someone other than Mary Thompson or Mary Stephenson. Someone may give her a home eventually.

There is work still to be done but both families look healthier after the surgical procedure. Look back to last Monday’s post to see the way things were. As I write, the two Carter families look like this –

The stage is now set for the story of James Robert Carter and the Two Donkin Sisters.

Beach 117 · Mile Haven

Primrose Valley stream and a clearing rain shower

Making Mistakes

It is all too easy to get things wrong in family history. Who was it who said that 90% of the pedigrees on FamilySearch are garbage? Everybody makes mistakes – and many fail to spot errors made by others.

About a year ago, I wrote this –

Henry…farmed at Newbiggin. He married Annie Elizabeth GRUBB at St Oswald’s in March 1899 and about fourteen months later their first child, Mary, was born at the farm. A year later the trio was living in Filey, at Number 1, The Crescent, where an uncle James WADDINGHAM was head of the household.

It has recently been pointed out to me that there was no such person as “Uncle James”. (See comments on Little Children.)

Here is the transcription that threw me.

Why did I accept James and not notice Widow and Female? For dereliction of duty I’m guilty as charged.

This is what the transcriber saw in the page image –

In 1861 George Waddingham was living with Jane in Sluice Lane, South Ferriby, Lincolnshire. The enumerator wrote their birthplaces in his book thus –

The transcriber saw this as –

By 1891 George and Jane had settled in The Crescent, Filey. Annie Grubb was with them. She was the daughter of Jane’s sister Mary who had died in 1867 and so not related to her uncle by blood.  

Glance back to the last scrap of page image, with the information ignored by the transcriber. What do you make of Jane’s birthplace? The transcriber of the 1891 census rightly saw “Beswick”…

… but I reckon the enumerator misheard. The Wheatley lands near Bainton, Driffield were here –

Find George, Jane, Mary and Annie on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.

Remembering Dixon Overfield

A few days ago I found a photograph, an escapee from the family shoe box. My paternal grandfather did not fight in the First World War. My mother’s father did go to war and I have a studio portrait of him in uniform, seated, with my Grandma LOCKETT standing by his side.

Not one of these twenty faces looks at all like William Lockett. The cap badges indicate that these boys who came to the cookhouse door were in the Royal Field Artillery. The print is on standard postcard stock but it does not bear a stamp, a message, or an address in Blighty. I have no idea when or where the picture was taken or how many of these ravaged fellows were dead men walking?

Dixon OVERFIELD was thirty-three years old when, at Filey (or maybe Beverley), he enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery. A few years earlier the Reverend STANWELL’s camera had caught him in a group outside a church or chapel.

Dixon was a Trustee of Muston Chapel, a local preacher, and a Sunday School superintendent. He is second from the left.

The exact date of Dixon’s transfer from the R.F.A. isn’t known but in June 1917 he is in Belgium with the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, preparing to fight the Third Battle of Ypres. This terrible encounter is also known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

On the 9th October, the 6th Yorkshires approached Poelcappelle, a village about five kilometres from Passchendaele. Dixon’s great grandson, Simon Wheeler, in an unpublished memoir, writes –

At 5.20 am Dixon and his fellow soldiers would have left the trenches and moved forward towards their objective of Poelcappelle village, where little opposition was met until the fork in the roads opposite the brewery…

Once the battalion reached the area opposite the brewery they not only met stiff opposition and heavy machine gun fire from the area of Meunier and String houses (no more than rubble at this stage of the war) but also captured 150-200 prisoners and several of the concrete block houses north west of the brewery itself. But owing to the heavy machine gun fire these could not be held.

With the heavy opposition met from the Germans the Battalion had no choice but to dig in at 8am, whilst attempting to dig the Battalion suffered many casualties from machine gun fire and heavy rifle fire at close range from both flanks. Sadly, due to heavy German bombardment, the light trench mortars that were attached to the Battalion were knocked out by this time and the supporting tanks were unable to come into action and take the brewery as originally planned due to the appalling condition of the ground due to the weather conditions.

At 11.05 am “W” company of 8th Duke of Wellington Regiment was moved forward to the left of the village to support the Battalion. Also at this time bombs (grenades) were sent forward by the 34th Brigade (most probably in the hope of breaking the stalemate in the centre of the village). By 11.30am aeroplanes had spotted the Germans moving troops forward by bus for a counter attack which was believed to be planned for evening time between 4 and 5pm, thankfully this attack never materialised.

There is no further mention of heavy shelling during the rest of the day, so it is most probable that Dixon was killed by the early shelling during the initial attack.

From the perspective of the 9th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment there is this account –

“Zero” hour on 9th October was 5.20 a.m. when the British Artillery barrage came down promptly on the enemy’s front line and his emplacements. But the ground was sodden, inches deep in mud and in an altogether appalling condition, so that many “H.E.” shells did not burst. The heavy rain of the previous day and night had turned No Mans Land into a veritable quagmire, and the Battalion Diary records that “the ground was churned up so as to be one endless mass of shell-holes; mud and water was everywhere, and almost impassable.”

The barrage was moving at a rate of 100 yards in four minutes as the West Yorkshiremen advanced, floundering through mud and filth, skirting the shell-holes where possible, though mostly having to “take” whatever came in the way in order to keep formation. Seven minutes after the British barrage opened, the German barrage fell, but generally it was not heavy. The British guns, however, literally plastered the enemy’s trenches and emplacements with shell of all calibre, and the ordeal through which the Germans were passing must have been terrible; indeed, the records speak of it as” terrific”. Yet, through all that hell of bursting shell and storm of shrapnel the hostile “pill boxes” (or emplacements) stood practically unharmed and, as the British troops went forward, murderous machine-gun fire met their advance, for the machine-guns, safely ensconced in these “pill boxes” could not be silenced. Hostile cross-fire and traversing machine-gun fire swept the whole of the Divisional front, and the ranks of the attacking troops thinned very quickly. The enemy had made good use of the ruins of Poelcappelle, concealing in them his riflemen and machine-gunners, who were able to fire in enfilade.”

Battalion War Diary:-

“On our left flank the attack was held up at the Brewery and after heavy casualties the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment found themselves with both flanks “in the air”. Very few officers were left in either the Yorkshire Regiment or our own battalion, and the lack of command began to have effect. On the left, the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment was completely hung up and the remnants of the battalion fell back in the hope of reorganising. When our men saw this, news quickly spread that the 6th Yorkshires were retiring, and as the enemy had by this time parties almost in line with us on this front, some took up a position further back so as to preserve the general line and remain in touch with our flanks. Meanwhile, the attack progressed with less resistance on the right and further headway would doubtless have been possible but for the stoppage in the centre and on the left. The only course open in view of heavy casualties, the serious resistance, and the prospect of a counter-attack in a few hours was to consolidate as far as possible and prepare to hold the line approximately to our assembly line. Every effort was made with this object in view, and to guard against any serious attempt to dislodge us from the position the 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was brought into position between Pheasant Farm and Retour Cross-roads”.

But for the moment the battalion was safe from counter-attack, for from statements made by prisoners taken it was evident that the enemies losses had been very heavy, for a new division had taken over his front line on the previous night and the stoutness of his resistance had resulted in a heavy role of casualties.

After the attack had come to a standstill and the assaulting battalions had consolidated their positions, numerous parties went out from both sides in order to collect the wounded and dead. For the time being both British and Germans refrained from firing on one another during this mournful task, and in one place the opposing troops were but 30 yards apart. As long as daylight lasted the work continued and when darkness fell the role was called. Heavy, indeed, had been the losses of the 9th West Yorkshires, 12 officers and 203 other ranks being killed, wounded and missing.

Great War Forum

The body of Private Dixon Overfield 41782 was not found. He is remembered at Tyne Cot Cemetery and on memorials in Filey and Muston. You can find him with his family on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. There are two memorial photographs of Dixon at Find a Grave.

Sea 32 · Galatea

Maintaining Bell Buoy

John, John

In 1821, they were christened 49 days and about the same number of miles apart – and their mothers were called Mary.

Their wives were also called Mary and the couples chose the same names for three of their children.

Perhaps we should not be surprised that the two families became tangled on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.

The first thing I did this morning was to extract all Yorkshire Carters from the 1881 Census as an Excel file and sort them by birth year, first for “John” and then for “Mary”. It was no surprise to see the men “twinned”. Three hale Marys, all widows, separated the wives.

Interesting that George should be living next door to his parents. (His wife and children are on the next page.)

Huntingdon John laboured on the railways for much of his life while Flamborough John worked the land. The agricultural labourer’s life would be shorter by sixteen years.

The railway man was a widower for seventeen years and lived for most of that time in Norton with his youngest son Thompson, daughter in law Sarah Ellen, and five grandchildren. The family’s move to Norton shortened the distance between the two Johns at death by almost twenty miles.

Efforts are being made on the Shared Tree to tease the two families apart. I am not acting alone, so a certain amount of chaos can be expected. I will let you know when I think it is safe to pay the Marys and Johns a visit.

Nature Morte 16 · Catshark

Small-spotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula, Filey Sands

Mary, Mary

I was preparing a story about the man who married sisters when I noticed the FamilySearch Shared Tree has given him a guesswork grandmother.

The nine children of Mary THOMPSON shown here can only rustle up one source between them – and that is a census. Had the contributors of this oddball brood sought evidence of their arrival in the vale of tears, they would have discovered that four began life in the body of another woman. And the genetic material to make the other five was donated by a different John CARTER.

John of the screenshot has two sources – both noting his baptism in Flamborough. Just before Christmas 1845 he married Mary STEPHENSON.

Marriages Dec 1845

CARTER John & STEPHENSON Mary, Bridlington 23 43.

Free BMD

Mary S. was born in Ulrome in 1824 to William and Hannah. She gave birth to five sons, the first four boys in the screenshot above and poor Robert, who lived for just a few weeks.

Mary T. first saw light in Kexby, almost forty miles inland from Ulrome. She married her John in York.

Marriages Mar 1846

CARTER John & THOMPSON Mary, York 23 677. 

This chap worked as a “railway labourer” and the couple started their family in York. The births of Hannah, Edward and Thompson were registered in Malton.

Given the lack of care in putting this misleading family unit together, I do not have any qualms about attempting to set the records straight.

Path 112 · St Oswald’s Churchyard