Not a Single Man

I wrote about John OAKDEN over two years ago (Leader of the Band) and remarked that my “diligent searching” had failed to come up with a helpmeet in his short Filey retirement. I thought that the Mary Oakden residing on The Crescent may have been his wife – and a couple of days ago discovered that she was, and not his first.

I had taken another look at John because of his connection to Thomas SWIFT, the lawman on the side of injustice in the Maybrick Case. I had long wondered what circumstances turned a bachelor (on the face of it) into the great uncle of little Mary Alice Swift? Of course, I suspected Mary’s niece Emma SAMPSON held the key but without the elusive marriage source…

Marriages Dec 1853  

OAKDEN John & SAMPSON Mary, Manchester 8d 398.    

Free BMD

How had I missed this?

Mary was 45 years-old and single when she married but may have known John for many years if, as seems likely, he had been a “brother in arms” to Thomas Swift. Mary was an aunt of Dinah Swift nee Sampson, and great aunt to Mary Alice.

I then found another report of John’s retirement from the 1st Royal Dragoons that contained information cut from the Staffordshire Advertiser’s account shown in my earlier post.

John Oakden and Hannah TRAVIS were minors when they married. John’s guardian, Robert Wagstaff, and Hannah’s father, Samuel, gave their permissions and William was born the following year (1825), when Hannah was just nineteen. If they had more children I have yet to find them, though it appears Hannah may not have died until 1851. If that had been the case she would surely have attended William’s wedding in 1848 and perhaps her daughter in law Emma’s funeral in the spring of ’51.

William’s second wife, Anna WAGSTAFF, hailed from Derbyshire and his father’s guardian had farmed at Snelston in that county until his death in February 1851 at the age of 81. Robert’s relationship to Anna has yet to be determined. William prevailed upon Anna to give two of their children, John and Louisa, the middle name ‘Travis’ and they christened their fourth child William Robert. John Oakden may have dandled three of his grandchildren upon his knee.

William buried his firstborn child, Elizabeth Gray, in the summer of 1875 and Anna buried him at the end of the following year.

Anna carried on William’s “music dealer” business for a while, assisted by daughter Louisa Travis, and then sailed to the other side of the world with two of her sons. Anna died in Auckland in 1917, Frank in Dunedin (1931), and Harry Percy in the Waikato (1941).  Harry married into the VALPY family in New Zealand, bringing distinction to the Oakden/Wagstaff pedigree. I wonder if there are any among them who had a hand in condemning an innocent woman to death.

Bird 95 · Tufted Duck♀

Glen Gardens Boating Lake

A Sherburn Man


William is remembered on the memorials in St Oswald’s (above) and Murray Street, though he was not a Filonian. His father Richard, a wheelwright and joiner, was from Langtoft; he married Esther VASEY in Allerston in 1873. After the arrival of two sons in Heslerton, the couple moved to Sherburn and were enumerated at an address in St Helen Street from 1881 to 1911.

William worked as a joiner and in 1901, age 20, he was a Visitor at Thomas Breckon’s butcher shop, 9 Union Street, Filey, with a motley crew of boarders that included a builder and bricklayer in addition to an apprentice butcher. Ten years later he was living in the town with his wife and their first child, Richard –  but he’d traveled a distance to find Daisy Ella, a Shropshire lass he married in Wolverhampton.

He was 33 years old when the First War began and, married with two children, I can’t imagine he rushed to volunteer. It seems more likely he would have been conscripted in, or after, 1916.

I haven’t been able to determine his whereabouts when he was killed. He joined one of the 24 Tank battalions that fought on the Western Front and in October 1918 he was with the 5th, probably taking part in the Battles of the Hindenburg Line. He may have died in the Battle of Courtrai (14-19 October) or on the first day of the Battle of the Selle (17-26 October).  He is buried at Tincourt New British Cemetery and remembered on Daisy Ella’s granite headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard.


In loving memory of DAISY ELLA HARLAND, died October 3rd 1953 and of her husband WILLIAM HARLAND, killed in action October 17th 1918.

William is on the FamilySearch Tree.

A Burmese Day

William…who was drowned at Rangoon in Burmah

An exotic placename carved on a headstone in an English churchyard always raises questions and inspires conjecture. If there is a newspaper report “out there” explaining how 27-year old William WARE came to meet his maker I’d like to read it. In the meanwhile, I have to wonder if he fell out of a small boat on the turbid Irrawaddy of my childhood memory. Or was that the Limpopo? Thoughts then go further back in time to consider his journey out to the distant land. What forces pushed or pulled him there? Was he an agent of Empire or an adventurer? Was he traveling alone?

Filey Genealogy & Connections has one of William’s sisters but not the drowned man.

The full inscription on the headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard runs: –

In Affectionate Remembrance of RACHEL widow of the late THOMAS WARE

who died November 3rd 1885 aged 85 years

Also WILLIAM son of the above who was drowned at Rangoon in Burmah

October 15th 1858 aged 27 years


and granddaughter of the above who died Feb 20th 1892 aged 27 years

Annie Elizabeth was one of 13 children born to Rachel and Thomas WARE’s younger daughter Ann and Thomas PETCH. She married Richard Ferguson SCOTTER in the December quarter of 1891 and died less than five months later.

Rachel DAVEY’s husband Thomas died at the age of about 39 in 1837. In 1861 widow Rachel, as old as the century and working as an “upholsteress”, had a house full in North Street, Scarborough. With her were daughter Ann, her husband Thomas Petch and four children, plus 18-year-old lodger Mary PETCH who may have been Thomas’s sister.

In 1871 Rachel’s company in North Street comprised her elder daughter Ellen, 41, and her husband John JONES. The Joneses appear to have been childless but in 1881 John was head of a household in Queen Street Filey, with Ellen, his mother in law Rachel – and Annie Elizabeth PETCH.  Annie was with the Jones couple, still in Queen Street, ten years later (masquerading as “Amelia” in the Find My Past transcription). In 1901 the Joneses were back in Scarborough, now in their early seventies and with another PETCH for company – Mary Ellen, single, aged 43.

From Find My Past I moved to FamilySearch and found something surprising that brought my attention back to William Ware. In the same quarter of 1858 in which he would have learned of his older brother’s death, John WARE married Rachel NEWTON in Scarborough. They named their first child William, born around September 1860 – in Adelaide. Their second child, Annie, was also born in the Australian Colonies, in 1864, but the next two, Thomas John and George Henry, entered the world back in “the home country”.

This information raises another bunch of questions – and speculation regarding the brothers as young boys. Did they ever talk about wandering the globe together? Did John go to Australia to complete a journey that William had dreamed of making?

The WARE Pedigree on FamilySearch.