"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

On the Newby conundrum

I interrupt this alphabet to bring you an update on the Newby conundrum (see: On the father of Walter Newby) I spent a bit of time this weekend attempting to track down Thomas Henry Newby and son Walter.
If you remember, my plan was as follows:
1. Identify probable deaths for Thomas Henry Newby ­– probably pre-1911, since there’s no sign on the census.
2. Find him on the 1901 census – with a bit of luck he’s already married!
3. From this, identify a likely birth for Walter based on location
4. Order birth certificate to find mother’s name.
5. Tie it all together by accounting for them on 1911 census.

So, I tried this and had absolutely no luck, falling at the first hurdle. It proved almost impossible to find a likely death – most seemed either far too old or far too young. So then I changed tack. Long story short, I tried a LOT of other searches: variations on Newby, variations on first names, other surnames where the rest of the info matched, possible children living in institutions/with single mothers/with other family...
I went down a few dead ends and was on the verge of giving up when I came up with a new plan: Search for other Newby children with the same father – Thomas Henry Newby, market gardener.
This threw up just one real possibility: Thomas Newby, born 1861. He lived with his wife Eliza Hawkesford in Tanshelf, Pontefract and worked as a gardener. The couple had two children Harriet Newby (b. 1889) and Stanley Newby (b. 1899). I was able to expand this family somewhat and establish that Thomas was the son of Thomas Prince Newby, born 1812 in Pontefract and his second wife Sarah A. (maiden name unknown). However, I found the family in 1911 and there was no sign of Walter, nor does it seem likely that Walter was born to Thomas and his wife, as the 1911 census tells us that they had five children, of whom only two are still living – Harriet and Stanley. I could only find the baptisms of these two living children to the couple, and nothing at all for Walter. Nor could I find a likely birth for Walter in the Pontefract area.
There is however a 1904 birth of Walter in Wakefield, which I had thought might possibly be the right one for my ancestor, though it is earlier than the birth given on the marriage certificate (late 1905–early 1906), and doesn’t tally with the death record I have identified (but not yet ordered, so unconfirmed). It is possible that Walter’s birth was recorded in Wakefield but not likely – Tanshelf births should have been registered at Pontefract, but perhaps he was not born in Tanshelf? I certainly can’t find another Walter Newby in the Wakefield area to whom it could be relevant, so I can’t discount it that way.
The other problem with the link between Thomas Newby of Tanshelf and Thomas Henry Newby father of Walter, is the absence of the second Christian name, Henry, in any of the records for the former so far. However, I haven’t managed to find a baptism record, which I think should show the full given name even if it was subsequently dropped by Thomas on other records. On the other hand, I have found a brother of Thomas Newby (another child of Thomas Prince, that is) who has the middle name Henry, so I’m not sure how likely it is that the same middle name has been reused within the family.
Also,  nowhere does Thomas of Tanshelf use the words market gardener to describe himself, always just gardener (and on one occasion simply ‘labourer’). This doesn’t so much imply someone growing and selling their own produce as someone employed to take care of gardens – a fundamental difference. However, I do need to check the occupation codes for the 1911 census to confirm this.
On the plus side, I know that Thomas of Tanshelf is dead before 1929, when Walter marries and declares his father Thomas Henry deceased. Thomas seems to be living on the marriage of his daughter in 1911 but dead by the marriage of his son in 1915. However, I haven’t yet found the death record (it’s on my to-do list).
I even surmised that perhaps Walter was the illegitimate son of Harriet Newby, later to be brought up by Thomas and wife as their own. However, I can’t find any evidence for this. If this was the case, where is Walter in 1911? With his father? If so, why doesn’t he remain there? Harriet marries a couple of months after the 1911 census, and I even went so far as to track down her husband to be and check his 1911 household for young Walter – no luck.
To be honest, my gut feeling is that Thomas Newby of Tanshelf isn’t Walter’s father. If he is, however, I strongly suspect that his wife Elizabeth is not Walter’s mother. Is Walter perhaps living elsewhere with his unmarried mother, under another name and unrecognised by his father? It’s one possibility, but it does feel a bit like I’m fitting my lack of info into a theory rather than a theory to the known facts, which is not ‘best practice’!
So what next?
I can of course continue to investigate Thomas of Tanshelf and family. If I can build up a fuller picture of the Tanshelf Newbys, this may turn up a possible candidate for Walter, perhaps living with extended family. On the other hand, I’m reluctant to spend too much time building up a picture of another set of irrelevant Newbys – I want to find the right one! Therefore I think I need to strongly focus on finding something to link Walter to this father before I start getting too involved in the tree.
As a first step, I may consider ordering the Wakefield birth record, just in case it does happen to shed some light on the matter. It might also be worth ordering the death certificate I’ve identified, to check that it is the correct one and thus confirm a more concrete age for Walter. Beyond that, I’m a bit stuck, unless I can track down a baptism for Walter, or indeed confirm that Thomas of Tanshelf was definitely Thomas Henry.
I mentioned the struggle on the phone to my mum, and she says she knows someone who may be able to help (apparently the Newbys are somehow distantly related to her hairdresser!) so when I’m back in Yorkshire this weekend I’m going to get this ladies details and give her a call. Hopefully she might be able to remember some more detail that my dad and his siblings don’t! I’m also going to take the opportunity to dig around in our photo albums and stuff, which I haven’t done in a long time.
I’m starting to think there’s something fishy going on here... who knows, maybe it will turn out that I’m not really a Newby after all!
L x

1 comment:

  1. You could be on to something with Walter being illegitimate. I have an ancestor who was illegitimate who listed his father's name on his marriage certificate as his stepfather's, but changed his surname to match his own!


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