My 2x great grandmother, Mary Ann, has proved to be one of my elusive research challenges. In my previous post on this topic I described how I was able to find her marriage to my 2x great grandfather, John Thomas Mason, and I then found them on the 1891 census.
When I began my research, I had no idea where she had originated. Her birthplace in 1891 was listed as “Hammersmith”; a handwritten family tree which was given to me by my uncle called her “Mrs Wakerley”; a letter from a family member in the USA mentioned that she had also married a Mr Davi(e)s and had children with him. I needed to locate these marriages.
I knew from the 1891 census that Mary Ann had 2 daughters with the surname Wakerley: Dorothy Elizabeth Hodgson Wakerley who was born in 1871, and Florence Wakerley born in 1874. Both were born in Kilburn, and I quickly found Dorothy’s birth details which told me that her father was John Blenchall Wakerley, a chimney sweep. Mary Ann’s surname was “formerly Mason”. Florence was baptised on 1st April 1874 in Kilburn, about 6 months after John died.
When I checked for the marriage record, I was surprised to find that the GRO certificate stated that Mary Ann had married a Richard Blenchall Wakerley at St Paul's Hammersmith in January 1871. Her father's name was not given – a line is drawn through the relevant spaces. At this point (in 2003) I wondered whether Mary Ann had married another member of the Wakerley family, but I could find no trace anywhere else of a Richard Wakerley.
When Ancestry released the records of the London Marriages and Banns I had another surprise. In November and December 1870, Mary Ann Mason and John Blentshall Wakerley had had banns called twice at Christ Church, Brondesbury but the third reading was “withdrawn by request”. Presumably they had decided to marry somewhere else.
This prompted me to recheck my records, and I contacted the archivist at Hammersmith and Fulham who was very helpful, confirming that John Blenchall Wakerley definitely married Mary Ann Mason at St Paul's Hammersmith in January 1871, and had signed his name in the register. At last I had definite confirmation that my 2 x great grandmother was at one time “Mrs Wakerley”! This reminded me to always double check everything and not assume that because a document arrives from the GRO it must be correct.
Sadly, John died in October 1873 of typhoid fever and bronchitis.
Despite all this research I was still no nearer to establishing for certain who Mary Ann's parents were. Her 1871 marriage suggested that she was illegitimate, but on her two marriages to John Thomas Mason in 1883 she gave her father's name as (i) William John Denman, a cattle dealer, (ii) John Buckner, a cattle dealer. Where did the truth lie?
All of this seems to explain why the stories passed down in the family claimed that Mary Ann was the daughter of a member of the royal family! Her origins were still very unclear to me at this stage, just as they had probably been to her children and grandchildren, so they concocted some interesting stories to fill the gaps!
My research now focused on trying to establish who Mary’s Ann’s mother was.
More to follow………..