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

Cool Wellington

I was surprised to see reports this morning on Seemorerocks that New Zealand had experienced its warmest winter since records began, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

NIWA offers a figure of 1.14°C above average for the winter just ended.

The Institute’s chart indicates record taking began in 1909 at seven stations. Wellington is one of the seven but I don’t know how close it is geographically to Wellington International Airport (“my station”).

Last year, my Wellington failed to report almost four weeks of winter data to Weather Underground, so I had to use proxies for the missing days. My “normal” is calculated for ten years (2008-2017); the Institute’s from 1981 to 2010.

Wellington isn’t quite half the way down the two main islands but can be considered roughly average for temperature at the seven stations.

My 10 Year winter average: 10.1°, 2019: 11.5°, 2020: 11.0°C.

Putting my Wellington’s winters in their yearly context gives the following chart.

The weekly means are running averages from the beginning of the meteorological year. They confirm that Wellington has been much cooler this year than last. I’m not disputing NIWA’s figures. The other six NIWA stations have perhaps more than compensated to make this year’s NZ winter the warmest since 1909.

Even though Wellington International is much cooler this year than last, its IPCC Unit score shows it is well ahead of schedule to “reach Paris” by 2040. Adding 12 units of 0.0217°C (the per annum rise) to the IPCC’s projected 1.065°C at the end of this meteorological year gives the 1.33 degrees above Pre-Industrial in Week 39 shown above.

Read more about the Seven Station Temperature Series here.

Flower 20 · Ursinia (maybe)

Jewel of the Veldt at Scarborough Spa?

The Postmaster’s Clock

Early in 1905, Filey Postmistress Mary Eliza YOXON had to retire because of ill-health (see A Shropshire Lass two days ago). The vacancy was filled towards the end of the year by George Newcombe TOOKER. I wrote about George on 17 May (The Postmaster’s Son) and some weeks later was pleased to hear from two of his descendants. Grandson Mike Tooker has kindly sent me a photo of the clock George received from his Plymouth colleagues before heading north, and has given me permission to share it here.

Encased as it is in Connemara marble, the clock must be quite a weight, but it has made the journey to the antipodes, and back and forth within New Zealand perhaps. Right now it is telling South Island time.

I was told a few days ago that the house I identified as “Chez Tooker” in Mitford Street wasn’t built until 1916. I subsequently found it clearly shown on the 1911 Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map. So, for now, I stand by the photograph posted in May.

Wave 38 · Filey Bay

Filey Bay

Water Drops

The Martin’s Ravine cascades this morning  – as they should look in a dry spell. I can only think that I happened to walk by yesterday just after the Muston Road *tank” had been emptied as part of the Flood Alleviation Scheme works.

The Postmaster’s Son

He was generously named but sadly neglected on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. He has even been deprived of his capital letters.


Tooker, W G N 1907I became interested in his story because I found, in a dusty folder on an external drive, a photograph of his father. George Newcombe TOOKER was 39 years old when the picture was taken and he had been living in Filey for just a couple of years. Born in Princetown, Devon in 1868, he waited until he was almost thirty before marrying Mary Anthony ROWE – and shortly afterwards volunteered to fight in the Boer War. “Fight” is somewhat misleading. He delivered mail. A local newspaper gave an insight into his career trajectory.


He arrived in Filey with Mary and two children. One source gives their address as 39 Mitford Street but the 1911 census insists it was No.38. The latter address is more fit for a postmaster but is nonetheless modest. (I am assuming that the street has not been re-numbered in the last century or so.) Chez Tooker has the pale blue door.


Hedley was born here on 2 December 1911. In September the following year, George is attending a presentation in Plymouth, honouring an “old and respected comrade” at the Post Office. It was “a most pleasant evening”.

Mr Fred Ham’s song, “River of Dart”, was very much appreciated by the company. Mr Jack Marshall favoured his brother telegraphists with “Baby Face” in excellent style. Mr P. Soper was also in good voice. Songs were also rendered by Messrs. Avery, Jeffery, Tooker, Dart and Curle.

…Mr Dart, representing the junior staff, said they thanked Mr Hart for the interest he had taken in them: he was always ready and willing to impart the little intricacies of the “test box” to any of the younger officers.

Mr Tooker referred to Mr Hart as a “jolly good fellow,” and a man who had always done his duty with sincerity and good grace.

George may have returned to Filey with ideas of returning permanently to his home patch. The electoral registers show the Tooker family back in Plymouth at the beginning of the Twenties.

All three of the children married. Edna Mary became Mrs MADDICK in 1927, Leslie married Thirza SMITH the following year, and Irene Patricia Merci DESPARD matched Hedley for given names in 1934.

KingsAshRdPaignton_154_GSVWhen the 1939 Register was taken in September 1939, Hedley was working as an Assurance Agent in Paignton, Devon, living at 154 Kings Ash Road (left) with Irene and their son Michael, 4. A daughter, Mary, was born in 1940. It seems that Hedley joined the RAF at the beginning of the war and, when the conflict was over, the family emigrated to New Zealand. Hedley and Patricia are buried in Whangerei, Northland. Find a photograph of their headstone at Billion Graves.

There is still work to do, but Hedley and his forebears are on a bigger Shared Tree stage now.

Path 91 · Church Walk





A Passage to India?

Alan, great-grandson of George Toyn COLLEY and generous supplier of family information and photographs to LaFREDUX, has a second great-grandaunt on his mother’s side called Mary Ann HEMINGTON. She is a mixed-up lady, through no fault of her own. She married Frederick George O’BRIEN in Lambeth on 23 March 1863, almost three years after she supposedly gave birth to a daughter in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. That child, Mary Ann Conway McCarthy, married John Henry SUBRITZKY, bore him eleven children and died in New Zealand in 1932.


Mary on the Shared Tree doesn’t have a family name, though you would reasonably expect her to be a Hemington. Perhaps she was born a CONWAY? She has seven duplicate IDs. One HENNESSEY, one WELTON, three RYANs, one RAGAN and one QUESTIONMARK.

In the first quarter of 1859, Mary Ryan married a Daniel McCarthy in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Just Mary has three sources attached to her record on FamilySearch. One is the 1861 England & Wales Census, placing her in London, aged 22 and single, with her parents and six siblings. It doesn’t make sense to have shipped her out to India.

Sources neatly fit marriage to Frederick George in Lambeth, the birth of a daughter, Sophia Mary Ann in 1865, and death aged 45 towards the end of 1883.

A very different life to the one currently portrayed on the Shared Tree.


This morning YouTube recommended a film about New Zealand genealogy, Skeletons in the Cupboard.   I watched a bit of it at morning break and was “drawn in”. Focusing upon the peoples who occupied New Zealand before the Maori arrived – yes, I understood the land to have been previously unpopulated too – a Pakeha grabbed my attention.

bestelsdonElsdon BEST (1856 – 1931) had earned the trust of a number of Maori elders and of dominion officials and, though seemingly untrained for the task, found himself employed as the colony’s first ethnologist. His story is compelling – at least I found it so. Find a brief biography at Te Ara. Elsdon was born in Tawa Flat, about 15 km north of central Wellington but he later owned a house in Tinakori Road, a short walk from where I lived for a while in the 1970s. Ah, if only I’d known then what I know now.

Naturally, I headed over to FamilySearch to see if he had a deserved place on the World Tree. Elsdon didn’t find a wife until he was 47 years old and although Mary Adelaide WYLIE was only thirty the couple didn’t have any children. His pedigree isn’t extensive but after an hour or so of research this afternoon I think I can add a few bits of information – somewhat in the manner of putting small stones on a Jewish grave.

Skeletons in the Cupboard Episode 1

Best of Both Worlds: The Story of Elsdon Best and Tutakangahau by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

Today’s Image

Serendipity strikes again. Elsdon fell off his horse, broke his leg and was “rescued” by Mary Adelaide Wylie. A year ago I photographed the hoofprints on Muston Sands and as I reached the end of Royal Parade on my walk this morning…


Mrs. Nicholson Does Good

District Intelligence: Filey

School Treat

[Last] Saturday afternoon the children of the Church day and Sunday schools had their annual treat. A substantial tea was provided, and in the evening prizes were distributed to about three hundred. They were given by Mrs. Nicholson, of the Crescent, who last week gave a tea to twenty-nine little girls, whom she teaches sewing. She also has provided a soup kitchen in Hope-street, and distributes soup to the poor twice a week.

Scarborough Mercury, 14 January 1882

Annie NICHOLSON was 34 years old in 1882, a mother of three girls and engaged in the kind of good works you might expect from an older woman whose children have flown the nest. But she’d met her husband at the age of thirteen (perhaps earlier) and buried him at 29 so perhaps she was old beyond her years. (She would die in 1902, aged 54.)

For the second half of her life, she lived at 11, The Crescent, Filey – the photograph below was taken this morning, her front door just visible in the twin portico.


Her husband, Walter NICHOLSON, was the fifth of thirteen children born to the wealthy and ennobled Leeds Magistrate and Landed Proprietor, William Nicholson NICHOLSON, and Martha née RHODES. (William had changed his birth name, from William Nicholson PHILIPS, so that he could inherit the Nicholson estate at Roundhay Park.)

Walter led a busy and financially rewarding life as a manufacturer and farmer yet still found time to be a Guardian for the Wharfedale Union. He left Annie well provided for when he died aged 37, in 1877. No. 11 The Crescent had five servants in 1881, 3 in 1891, and 4 in 1901.

Annie WHITAKER was born in Liverpool in 1848 but the Census snapshot of 1861 captures her visiting the home of William FISON in Burley in Wharfedale. He was a manufacturer who employed over 400 workers. Another visitor that Census night was 21-year-old Walter NICHOLSON. The couple must have made a great impression on each other, and married seven years later at St George’s church in Everton.

The Nicholsons of Roundhay Park are well represented on the FamilySearch Tree – and two of Walter’s brothers threaten to draw attention from the dutiful Annie. The colourful story of Rhodes Tudor and Albert Henry can be found in this PDF. It complements the NICHOLSON and Nga (Wha Wha) RITAKA pedigrees on FST.

When I first looked at his pedigree, this morning, Walter was lacking a wife. Annie was on the Tree with her parents so I united her with her six siblings, joined her unto Walter and gave them their three girls. The youngest, Maude, married the 40-year-old vicar of Filey when she was just 21. Arthur Nevile COOPER is still talked about today as “The Walking Parson”. (He would leave his Filey flock untended for months on end to ramble across Europe, once to Rome, another time to Florence.)  For all his elevated position in the community and long life, I couldn’t find him on FST. He has a presence now but there’s work to be done to give him some forebears.