Of course, I’m referring to the puzzle of Walter Newby’s parentage. If you remember, I did find his mother Sarah Jane Newby, and his father Thomas Wallinger, but I had still spectacularly failed to find Walter himself on the 1911 census.
Now, I know that the census record itself isn’t the goal so much as finding detail to piece together Walter’s life, but I did feel quite strongly in this case that the census was really the only reliable source that would tell me something about Walter’s childhood and what happened to both him and his mother following his father’s death when he was just a year old.
Given that I couldn’t find either of them under the names Newby or Wallinger anywhere on the census, or by tracing their families. I then began various searches to identify children of roughly the right age, called Walter, with mothers called Sarah also of roughly the right age. And yesterday (on my birthday no less), after lots of fruitless attempts, I finally struck what I hope is gold!
Walter Barker is aged six, giving him a birth year of 1905, which ties in nicely with a September 1904 birthdate – in April 1911 when the census he would indeed have been aged six. He was born in Wakefield, which is a strong match for his birthplace of Snapethorpe. His mother Sarah Barker is 34, meaning she was born roughly around 1877, which is a match, and her birthplace is given as Kellington, which is also a direct match.
Her husband Henry Barker, is aged 38 (b. around 1873). He works as a ‘cowman’ on a farm and the family live in Hemsworth, which is roughly halfway between Wakefield and Doncaster. Yet Henry was born in ‘Ardsley, Wakefield’, which is to the north of the city, on the way to Leeds.
Sarah Barker claims to have been married to her husband Henry for eleven years, and they have three other children – Tom, aged nine, Charles, aged eight, and Albert aged three. Of course, none of this makes much sense in the context of what I know about Sarah Jane and Walter – Sarah Jane certainly can’t have been married for eleven years, because she was still Newby on the birth certificate of Walter in 1904.
However, this is where it gets interesting: The census states that Tom and Charles Barker were born in Blackpool – where we know that Sarah Jane and Thomas Wallinger were living in 1901, and where it would seem Thomas died in 1905.
So, here’s the theory: Walter was not Sarah Jane and Thomas’s first child – I had assumed he was. But I know they were living together from 1901 and Sarah Jane could potentially have been having children from the mid to late 1890s, so there was no reason to think that she/they hadn’t had other children. Tom (named for his father?) and Charles were born while the couple were living in Blackpool in 1902/03. By late 1904 they had returned to Yorkshire, where Walter was born. Following Thomas’s death in late 1905, Sarah, effectively widowed, met Henry Barker, giving birth to their first child Albert in 1908. (The census indicates only four children, all accounted for).
Alternatively, Tom and/or Charles were the children of Henry Barker from a previous marriage. Henry was in Blackpool, with his children, and it was here that he and Sarah Jane met following the death of her husband
On his marriage certificate, perhaps Walter took his own surname and combined the names of his father and stepfather to ‘invent’ a fictional Thomas Henry Newby? (This still doesn’t explain where the ‘market gardener’ came from, as it doesn’t really describe either father figure, though both were in farming at one time or another.)
Now to test the theories.
An initial search for relevant marriages shows a Sarah Jane Newby marrying a Henry Barker in Dewsbury... in 1922.
Dewsbury would make sense. Walter Newby marries Margaret Thompson in Chickenley just 7 years later, and the parish record describes him as ‘of this parish’, so he was living in the Chickenley area, which is in Dewsbury registration district, by 1929.
Did Sarah Jane and Henry not marry until 1922? If not, why not? Money? Or was Henry married already? (It reminds me of Mabel Hall, who couldn’t marry George Jones until later life when her estranged husband William Hayward (AKA Hedgcock) died. ) If so, why did they lie on the census? Sarah Jane and Thomas never lied about their marital status, so why would she do so now with Henry?
The next step is to order this marriage certificate and see if I can confirm that this is indeed my Sarah Jane, based on her father’s name and occupation and any marriage witnesses. It should also shed some light on Henry’s circumstances, whether he was previously married, etc. I also intend to search for potential births for Tom and Charles in Blackpool, and also Albert’s birth in Badsworth (not far from Hemsworth) and see what names their births were registered under.
I have quite a strong instinct that I’m on the right lines here, so fingers crossed!