The Fate of a Guesswork Wife

Elizabeth, the fourth child of Pearson FOSTER and Elizabeth HEWSON born in Muston in 1848, doesn’t appear to be related to the Gristhorpe, Muston Grange and Newbiggin Fosters of recent posts. In Filey Genealogy & Connections she marries Frederic JOHNSON, has four children with him and dies in 1886. But a Reference Note states “wife=guesswork”.

On FamilySearch Tree, the first wife of Frederick Johnson is Elizabeth STAVELEY. Census returns show the same four children but only one has a Mother Staveley in the GRO Index of Births. I can’t find Emma’s entry at all; George and Jane may have mistranscribed mothers – STABLER and STATHERS. There is, though, a fifth Johnson child who surely belongs to the family. Sadly, little Annie didn’t stay long.

It is no surprise that Elizabeth Staveley has the same date of death as Elizabeth Foster. On both FST & FG&C the first wife made a space for Eliza BURR to fill. Eliza had two children with Frederick but brought a son, Frank, to the marriage. His bio father isn’t known but FST attaches him to Frederick.

Frederick was an illegitimate son of Emma JOHNSON and, aged three, he was with his mother under the roof of grandparents, George and Jane. Ten years later, in 1861, he was working for Elisha ELDERS at Church Cliff Farm. For twenty years or so he worked as a “carrier” and then settled for simply labouring on a farm again. He seems to have gone by “Fred” – the diminutive that adorns his gravestone.


But what of Elizabeth Foster? I can’t even guess. I haven’t yet found a death that fits a young Elizabeth, nor a spouse after she reaches marriageable age. Her fate is unknown, to me at least.

Small Transgressions

The funeral of David BURR senior took place 127 years ago. Weathering has smudged some of the letters on the headstone that remembers him, his first wife Isabella and two of their daughters, but it still looks imposing. He worked first as a chimney sweep before entering the ranks of carriage proprietors. (Pun intended – couldn’t resist.)


In loving memory of DAVID BURR, who died 26th April 1891, aged 65 years.

Also ISABELLA his wife, who died 6th Jan 1874, aged 43 years.

Also MARY, daughter of the above, who died 9th Dec 1865, aged 15 years.

And REBECCA who died in infancy.

‘With Christ which is far better.”

Isabella gave birth to 10 children. The youngest, James, was three when she died. David wasted little time providing his offspring with a stepmother, the twice-widowed Elizabeth BURNHAM. She would see the arrival of all but a couple of David and Isabella’s thirty or so grandchildren before her death in 1903.

David was born in Huntingdonshire but married Isabella in Lincolnshire when he was 21. Two years earlier, at the Louth Sessions, he had been found guilty of stealing a chimney sweeper’s brush and soot cloth and sentenced to “one calendar month, and once privately whipped”.

After marrying, David and Isabella crossed the Humber and their first child was born in Snainton. By 1854 they appear to have settled in Filey and, as a carriage proprietor, David found himself transgressing the Local Board’s bye-laws. On two occasions, in 1882 and 1886, he was brought before the Bridlington Petty Sessions with John COLLEY and fined a few shillings – for causing an obstruction outside their premises in King Street, and for “canvassing for fares by drawing their carriages off the authorized stands”.

David clearly has a lot of descendants and some may be scattered across FamilySearch Tree but he doesn’t have a presence yet. I found his father today and provided him with a wife but to see a more extensive pedigree you will have to check in at Filey Genealogy & Connections.

John BURR  on FST, and on FG&C.

Gone For Soldiers, Almost Every One

The 1871 Census found George TAYLOR in Main Street, Seamer, a short distance away from his parents and siblings. He was 16 years old, serving an apprenticeship with Master Boot and Shoemaker John RHODES. About 250 miles away, 14-year-old Ellen TUCKER was enumerated in Philadelphia Terrace, Lambeth, with her mother Elizabeth née HARRIOTT, three sisters and a brother.

Ten years later George and Ellen were in Filey; a shoemaker and a domestic servant. Had they already met? Were they courting? They married in the spring of 1883 and brought six boys into the world. It wasn’t a good time to be a parent in a war-mongering nation.

One boy died before his first birthday, four joined Kitchener’s Army and three were killed.


Photographer unknown, c. 1914, courtesy Keith Taylor


Silas, the youngest of the brothers, was the first to be killed – near Auchonvillers in the Somme region of France, on the 3rd February 1917. He was serving with the 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

In the photograph, Silas is standing behind Fred. To his left are William, Herbert, and Ernest.

Herbert, the eldest, didn’t enlist. Perhaps he wanted to but was already married, with a three-year-old son at the start of the ‘Great War’. Perhaps the authorities thought four Taylor boys were enough and gave him a pass. He would live to celebrate his 90th birthday.

Ernest may also have had a stroke of luck – he was captured by the Germans. I don’t know how long he was a prisoner of war but he eventually came back home. At the beginning of the next war, aged 50, he was a salesman down in London, not far from where his mother, Ellen, had been raised. He was married to Lilian, her maiden surname not yet discovered.

The TAYLORs were not on FamilySearchTree. I had to go back to the grandfather of Herbert’s wife, Lily, to pick up an ancestral thread to which they could all be attached.

Ellen, George and their slaughtered lambs are remembered on a headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard.


In Loving Memory of GEORGE, beloved husband of ELLEN TAYLOR, died Jan 9th 1928, aged 73.

‘He fought a good fight

He kept the faith’

Also of his wife ELLEN TAYLOR, died Jan 16th 1942, aged 85 years.


Also FRED, WILLIAM and SILAS, sons of the above who fell in action in France, 1917-1918.