Being Led a Merry Chase

I’ve been researching the family of my gg-grandmother Rose Anne Maria Buxton (Mrs James Ebenezer Nicholls, not Mrs Alfred Nicholls).  Her family originally came from Norfolk which is a really easy area to research for free.  Scans of most of the parish registers are available on Family Search and they’re indexed pretty comprehensively on FreeReg.

Rose’s parents were Robert Buxton (1822-1884) and Frances Maw (1823-1905) who lived in Middleton, Norfolk until they moved to the big smoke of Greenwich around 1857.  Robert’s parents were Samuel Buxton (1793-1842) and Phillis Kemp.

And this is where the merry chase begins.  I should point out that this has gone on for a year or two or three!

Samuel and Phillis married in 1821 at St Margaret’s, Kings Lynn which is just up the road from Middleton.  They proceeded to have 4 sons in Middleton:

  1. Robert (1822-1884)
  2. Edward (1825-1830)
  3. George Kemp (1828-1828)
  4. Edward George (1831-1831)

Then in 1833, Samuel has a daughter Elizabeth Kemp Marianne Buxton (1833-1836).  Her mother was called Anne.

Okay.  Perhaps Phillis had died and Samuel had remarried?  The vicar hadn’t changed between 1831 and 1833 and you’d expect him to know who Samuel’s wife was.  There wasn’t another Samuel in Middleton to confuse children and wives with.

The 1851 Census further muddied the waters.  Ann Buxton was the Head of the household which contained her “son” my Robert, his wife and children and a niece Hannah Cozens.  Ann was a grocer and was born around 1799 being 52 years old.  She had been 40 years old in 1841 which was consistent with 1799 being her birth year.  This didn’t debunk the stepmother theory because census information isn’t always correct.

In 1870 there is a death entry for Ann Buxton on FreeBMD for the Middleton area.  Her age is given as 78.

So at this point all the documents before 1833 have Phillis and all the ones after have Ann.  So I’m thinking that Phillis died and Samuel had remarried, possibly to her sister.  I found a Kemp family in nearby Great Massingham.  George Kemp (1746-1828) and his wife Elizabeth Church (1752-1798) had a number of children including a Phillis Kemp born in 1792 and a Hannah born in 1795.  Could Hannah be Ann?

But I wasn’t finding a death for Phillis or a marriage for Samuel and Ann.  I trawled through the actual parish registers for Middleton and the neighbouring parishes.  Nothing.

Reaching out for help on the Trade Me Genealogy board it was suggested that I look into Hannah Cozens and see where that got me.  It got me Hannah Kemp marrying William Cozens in 1824 and having a daughter Hannah in 1837.  So it was quite obvious from the dates that Hannah Kemp was NOT Ann.

One theory down, but still didn’t answer the questions of what happened to Phillis and who is Ann?

I revisited Ann Buxton’s death entry on FreeBMD.  Her age is given as 78 which would make her born around 1792 which is when Phillis was born.  Maybe they were the same person?

I couldn’t find her 1861 Census entry to see how old she was that year (I did later and her age was 66 – born around 1795).  I was pretty sure she was still in Middleton as that’s where she died, but perhaps she was taking a trip somewhere in 1861 and not on the census?  It was time to think outside the box.  What other records could there be for the 1860s?

The answer is directories.  The University of Leicester has a great website called Historical Directories which has digitised and indexed many trade and post office directories .  I’d previously found shopkeeper Ann in the 1854 White’s History, Gazetteer & Directory of Norfolk.  Now I looked for ones in the 1860s.

Up popped the Post Office Directory of Cambs, Norfolk & Suffolk,1869. [Part 2: Norfolk] so I looked for Middleton.  On page 353 there is Middleton and listed under ‘Commercial’ is:

Buxton, Phillis (Mrs.) shopkeeper

Lots of swear words promptly followed!  They WERE the same person!  Chase over.  Yay!

So the lessons to be learnt:

  • Never assume a change in name means a change in person unless you have documentation to conclusively prove it.  People weren’t always called by the name that came first or, as this case proves, by any name that’s been previously recorded!
  • People have been lying about their age for a very long time!

Maw/Man/Shaw – Old Illegible Handwriting

Old handwriting has been the bane of my life for quite a while.  My Mum used to be summoned to read letters from my Great-Aunt – and she was quite legible!  If you ever look at old parish registers, sometimes you get lovely neat copperplate writing.  But often it’s a style all it’s own.  This is only an issue when you don’t know what you’re looking at.

Take for example the surname of my gg-grandmother Rose Anne Maria Buxton’s mother Frances.  On Rose’s birth certificate it looks like Shaw.  On Frances’ marriage certificate, it still looks like Shaw and is indexed so.  But is it?

On the original parish record (which I found on the IGI, see below for more), her surname clearly begins with an ‘M’.  There are lots to compare it to!  But what are the other letters???  Here it is (click on it to see full version):

Other family records suggest it’s Maw.  Which is a name.

So what does this mean for further research?  It means I need to search all three possibilities and I should check original documents.  The indexes on all computerised sources are only as good as the transcriber’s ability to make out the words!

Update 2 Jan 2012 – found another variation – Moy!!!

Norfolk records on the IGI

The IGI was recently revamped and now has the option of looking through their collections (somewhat like Ancestry).  Hidden in there are the unindexed images of various Norfolk (and some other county’s) records.  The ‘Browse Images’ against the number of records is the give away.

FreeReg have indexed many of the parishes (see here for where they’re currently at), but if they haven’t got to it you will need to know where and around when you’re looking for.  And they can be a bit slow to download.  But, you can save the images you find and it’s good to be able to browse the records of a particular town if you’re looking to see what’s there.  You never know what you might find!  Especially when the spelling changes with every generation!

GG-Grandparents – Paternal Side

Updated: 30 March 2016

My father’s side is where the majority of the scandals are.  I suspect this is not because they were any more scandalous, but because they were more affluent and things got written down!

General note: children with a ‘+’ are known to have descendents, those with a ‘-‘ are known not to.  If there is neither, then I don’t know.

Please post a comment if you have further information or if there are any errors.  Child(ren) in caps are my ancestors.  Further posts with more information on each will follow in due course.


b. 30 Apr 1831 in Clapham, Surrey, England to Frederick Hewitt (1793-1883), son of John Hewitt and Clapham Brewery Owner , and Elizabeth Turner (1800-1874)

d. 15 Feb 1888 in Surbiton-hill, Surrey, England

m. 28 Aug 1861 in St Matthew’s Church, Brixton, London, England


b. c. May 1831 to Jonathan Muckleston Key (1806-1888) and Susanna Birch (1807-1872)

Mary’s uncle was the Other John Key

d. 28 Dec 1891 in Surbiton-hill, Surrey, England


+ Charles Augustus Hewitt


+ Walter Ernest Hewitt

+ Reginald Key Hewitt

+ Elsie Maud Hewitt

– Sophie Beatrice Hewitt

? Constance Ada Hewitt

– Kathleen Emily Hewitt

A Hewitt cousin has provided some photos of the Hewitt family and their Key connections.


b. 10 Jul 1838 in London, England to William Webb Venn (snr) (1810-1894) and Jane Wilson (c1807-1884)

d. 12 Apr 1896 in Greenwich, London, England

m. 07 Jan 1858 in St Mark’s, Clerkenwell, London, England

divorced 16 Nov 1869


b. 16 Jun 1837 in Tottenham, Middlesex, England to John Keeling (1796-1884) and Maria Howard (1800-1880)

d. 16 Sep 1915 in Axbridge, Somerset, England

m. (2) 1869 William Frederick Ebbs (c1836-1880) in New Zealand and had two further children Charles Frederick Ebbs (1870-1908) and Alice Emily Ebbs (1872-?)

(3) 1886 William Henry Phillips in Lancashire, England



+ William Eustace Venn

– Ethel Mary Venn


b. 17 Feb 1850 in Bermondsey, London, England to John Nicholls (1802-1890) and Elizabeth Ludwell (1803-1873)

d. 28 Feb 1924 in Richmond, Victoria, Australia

m. 07 Jun 1869 at Parish Church, Parish of Woolwich, Kent, England

abandoned by wife in late 1876 in Melbourne, Australia


b. 05 Oct 1849 in Middleton, Norfolk, England to Robert Buxton (1822-1884) and Frances Maw (or Man or Shaw???) (1823-aft 1881)

d. 20 Apr 1925 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

immigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1875 on Samuel Plimsoll as assisted immigrants

Rose immigrated to NZ, via Tasmania, with her children and James’ brother Alfred – they never married (links to my half-cousin Ruth’s blog on this).  NZ records give the impression that all the children were Alfred’s.

Children of James and Rose:

+ John Robert Nicholls

+ Louisa Elizabeth Nicholls


Children of Alfred and Rose:

+ Ethel Nicholls

– Dora Nicholls

– Harold Nicholls

– Gareth Nicholls

+ Aldyth Nicholls

– Son Nicholls


b. 1839 in Fermoy, Ireland to Denis O’Callaghan (1787-1867) (see Burke’s Irish Landed Gentry for his lineage) and Sarah Pyne (1804-1881) daughter of Arthur Pyne

immigrated 1861 to Christchurch, NZ on the Chrysolite – Chief Cabin with brother Thomas Robert O’Callaghan

d. 20 Jun 1895 in Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand

m. 18 Apr 1872 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand


b. 03 Feb 1853 in Lyttleton, Canterbury, New Zealand to Charles Baker (1806-11 – 1868) and Emma King (1810-1889) who came to NZ on the Duke of Bronte in 1851 – the 8th ship into Canterbury

d. 21 Nov 1932 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand


– May O’Callaghan

– Dora Sarah O’Callaghan


+ Edith Emma O’Callaghan

+ Thomas Robert O’Callaghan

+ Jasper Warner O’Callaghan

– Gerald Charles O’Callaghan

– Gordon Harcourt O’Callaghan

+ William Bell O’Callaghan