Trying to trace the origins of my great great grandmother Mary Ann(e) Mason, previously Wakerley and formerly Davis has been a real nightmare.
At her first marriage (to John Blenchall Wakerley) she gave no father’s name – a line is drawn through the box.
On her 2 marriages to John Thomas Mason in 1883 she gave the following details of her father’s name:
John Buckner, a cattle dealer
William John Denman, a cattle dealer
Where did the truth lie? I suspected that she was probably illegitimate, but it took me some time to find evidence that this was the case. In 1881 her two “Wakerley” daughters weren’t living with her. Mary Anne appears to have been with another partner, William Job Davis. Dorothy Elizabeth Hodgson Wakeley, aged 9, was living with her paternal grandmother, Dorothy Wakerly, whereas Florence Wakerly, aged 7, was with Jemima Denman, a laundry worker who surely must have been Mary Anne’s mother. Tracking back to 1871, I found Mary Ann Wakeley living with George and Jemima Denman in Bridge Street, Kilburn. I remembered that Jemima Denman had died in 1894 and John Thomas Mason “her son-in law” was the informant to the death. I felt that at last I was getting closer in my hunt for my mysterious great great grandmother.
I haven’t been able definitely to find Mary Anne or Jemima in 1861, although I may have found a record which possibly relates to Mary Anne. Living at 12 Paradise Cottages, Hammersmith, I discovered a 5 year old female child with the surname Mason living with her grandmother Mary Ann Mason, a widow aged 69, born in Sunbury, Middlesex. I think there’s a high probability that the widow is my 4 x great grandmother, Mary Anne, nee Dorsett, who was born in Sunbury and married William Millington Mason in 1818. William and Mary Ann had at least 5 children, two of whom (John and Jemima) appear to be my 3 x great grandparents, If that’s the case, then my great great grandmother “Mrs Wakerley” was the daughter of Jemima Mason and she married her cousin, John Thomas Mason, in 1883.
The final piece of this jigsaw fell into place when Ancestry released the London Births and Baptisms records. After several years of searching I had found Mary Ann’s birth details! On August 26th 1855, she was baptised at St Peter’s, Hammersmith. Her mother was Jemima Mason and they were living at 12 Paradise Place. No father’s name is given, so my hunch that she was illegitimate seems to have been correct. Mary Ann’s birth date was 10th February 1852.
St Peter’s Church, Hammersmith
Interestingly, 4 other children from other families at 12 Paradise Place were baptised on that day.
A further twist to the story is that Jemima Mason married a William Buckner on 11th November 1855. Was he Mary Ann’s father and what happened to him after the marriage?
There’s so much more that I’d like to know about my “Mrs Wakerley”. Was her illegitimacy the reason for the elaborate family stories about a connection to royalty, or did these tales develop because she was John Thomas Mason’s first cousin and, although it was legal for cousins to marry it may have been frowned upon by some people?
Finding “Mrs Wakerley” was a wonderful moment for me but it has opened up many new lines of research – especially into Jemima Mason, William Buckner and William Job Davis.
If after reading this rather entangled tale you have any further information about any of the cast, please get in touch!
(Throughout this post I have given the variant spellings of the surnames, as they appear in the records)