Category Archives: Story

Sarah Sargison 1806-1871

I have previously written about Sarah and her family in my blog: Hallgate Zion Independent Chapel in Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire. Sarah and family are included in the Sargison tree which includes people in the parishes of Eastrington, South Cave and Cottingham.

I knew that Sarah had lived in Cottingham with her mother until at least the 1851 census. However, her mother Mary had died in 1857 and a pauper lunatic return for 1861 (QAL/2/19/9), which I consulted at the East Riding Archives in Beverley, indicated that she had been committed to the joint North and East Ridings asylum in York on 10 November 1860. It indicated that she was aged 57 and chargeable to the parish. The cost of her maintenance in the asylum was seven shillings a week. Sarah was recorded as a lunatic and dangerous to herself. She did not have dirty habits which contrasts with what was noted about her brother Thomas in 1846.

In 1861 Sarah was recorded as have been of unsound mind for five months. She was in the 7 April 1861 census return for the asylum which was located to the north of York, in the suburb of Clifton, as shown in the following OS map: Yorkshire Sheet 174 dated 1853:

OS Yorkshire Sheet 174 date 1853

Further Sculcoates Union  pauper lunatic returns for Sarah can be consulted up to the year 1871 (QAL/2/286/8) when she died on 5 May 1871 There seems to be only one entry for her in Ancestry’s collection of UK Lunacy Admission Registers, so perhaps once admitted to the asylum, she did not leave. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  : accessed May 2023.

Cottingham. : accessed May 2023.

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. : accessed May 2023.

OS (1853) Yorkshire Sheet 174 Map. : accessed May 2023.

UK, Lunacy Admission Registers, 1846-1912.  : accessed May 2023.

Thomas Sargison 1811-1846

I have previously written about Thomas and his family in my blogpost: Hallgate Zion Independent Chapel in Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire.

Thomas and his family are included in the Sargison tree which includes people in the parishes of Eastrington, South Cave and Cottingham.

While I was on a recent visit to the East Riding Archives in Beverley, I came across a document which provided further information about Thomas. While he had been living with his mother and sisters in the 1841 census, there was no occupation recorded against his name; this had piqued my interest. The reference number for the document I consulted was QAL/2/4/1 and it’s a pauper lunatic return dated 1846 relating to Thomas. In it provides some personal details; he is aged 33, male and chargeable to the parish of Rowley. At the time of the document, he was living with his mother in Cottingham and the weekly cost of his maintenance was three shillings. He was said to be an idiot not dangerous to himself or others but that he had dirty habits. Thomas was said to have been of unsound mind since his birth. There are further returns for Thomas in 1842 (QAL/2/1/1), 1843 (QAL/2/2/1) and 1844 (QAL/2/3/1). What I’ve not been able to determine is why he was chargeable to the parish of Rowley not Cottingham. The entry for Rowley in Lewis’ 1848 topographical dictionary o England says the following:

Parish of Rowley from Lewis' 1848 topographical directory

Not long after the return of 1846 Thomas died. His death on 23 November 1846 was probably at his mother’s house described as Crescent Street George Street, Cottingham. He was 36 and described as the son of Thomas Sargeson labourer. It looks like someone perhaps associated with the Hallgate chapel reported his death as it wasn’t reported by either his mother or sisters. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.


Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  : accessed May 2023.

Cottingham. : accessed May 2023.

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. : accessed May 2023.

William Sarginson 1922-1941 – merchant seaman killed in WWII

From time to time, I am contacted from people who have ancestors in one of the trees I’ve created for my one name study into the surname Sarginson. A recent contact provided me with information about William who was born in Norton, Stockton-on-Tees and served in the merchant navy during World War Two. He was the fourth engineer aboard the SS Ashby cargo ship, travelling from Middlesborough to the Azores, when it was sunk by the German submarine U-43 in the North Atlantic on 30 November 1941. William did not survive and was presumed drowned. The SS Ashby had been built in 1927, 4,871 tons, by Cowpen Dry Docks & Shipbuilding Co., Blyth. This information and the following story was provided by William’s ancestor.

In 1938 Bill Linskey, a 17-year-old Geordie lad, stowed away on his first ship SS Albion Star. Once out to sea Bill gave himself up to the captain and after some deliberation he was signed on as a Trimmer, trimming coal in the ship’s bunkers. In April 1941 Bill joined the Ropner ship SS Ashby in Middlesbrough and sailed to Liverpool where the ship joined up with the 55-ship Freetown bound Convoy OS-12, which left Liverpool on the 18th November 1941. On the 29th November during the crossing, the ship became detached from the main Convoy after developing engine trouble and was forced to stop for repairs. One of the Convoy escorts stayed with the Ashby for several hours, but eventually had to depart to catch the rest of the Convoy up. With the repairs finished by the 30th November the Ashby was underway once again, when she was suddenly torpedoed by U-43 off the Azores and sank in two minutes taking 16 men with her. Bill and the other survivors spent seven days in an open boat before reaching Fayal in the Azores. In 1999 Bill was persuaded to write about his experiences during the war in a book titled “No Longer Required”. It is a book that pulls no punches. It made me laugh, and I’m not ashamed to admit it made me cry. I would like to read the following piece, which is the prologue from Bill’s book describing part of the Ashby incident as he stood talking to his friend Joe Beck on the deck of the Ashby.

“I’ve had one ambition from the time this war began: to find a German soldier, surrender to him, and spend the rest of the time in a PoW camp. “I said this to Joe Beck on the deck on the SS Ashby, outward bound for West Africa to pick up iron ore. The sun was shining; the sea was blue and apparently quiet. “That’s a worthy want, ” he agreed, ” I might join you. They’re out there under the water looking for us. When they find us, they’ll blow us up and if we’re lucky we’ll be able to swim like the clappers and surrender. “He was absolutely right. They were out there in their little sub and within the next hour they torpedoed our ship. They didn’t wait for me to surrender; they buggered off. Joe couldn’t have joined me; he was dead. The twenty-eight of us who survived in the lifeboat saw torsos, limbs and heads floating in red water. The sharks came soon but the Germans had long gone. The bodies disappeared quickly too.(One of those men was 4th Engineer William Sarginson from Norton).

The U-boat which sunk the SS Ashby was on active patrol. The U-43 had left Lorient under the command of Wolfgang Lüth on 10th November 1941 and after just over five weeks returned on 16th Dec 1941. It was commanded by Wolfgang Lüth who hit three ships on this patrol, two of these ships were in convoy, both were from convoy OS-12.

•On 29th November 1941 he sank the British 5,569-ton Thornliebank, part of convoy OS-12.

•On 30th November 1941 he sank the British 4,868-ton Ashby, from convoy OS-12.

•On 2nd December 1941 he sank the American 7,542 ton Astral.

SS Ashby was a 4,868 tons Steam Freighter voyaging heading for Freetown and Pepel with cargo in its ballast and a crew of 50. 17 crew members were lost in the attack, which was reported in square CE8234, position 36.54N/29.51W.

After sinking two British merchantmen from convoy OS-12 the U-boat U43, type IX, was driven under and depth charged for several hours but managed to escape unharmed. Its commander Wolfgang Lüth (15th October 1913 – 14th May 1945) was the second most successful German U-boat ace of World War II. His career record of 46 merchant ships plus the French submarine Doris sunk during 15 war patrols, with a total displacement of 225,204 gross register tons (GRT), was second only to that of Korvettenkapitän (Lieutenant Commander) Otto Kretschmer, whose 47 sinkings totaled 273.043 GRT.

Lüth joined the Reichsmarine in 1933. After a period of training on surface vessels, he transferred to the U-boat service in 1936. In December 1939 he received command of U-9, which he took on six war-patrols. In June 1940 he took command of U-138 for two patrols. In October 1940 he transferred again, this time to the ocean-going submarine U-43 for five war-patrols. After two patrols on U-181, the second being his longest of the war, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. He was the first of two U-boat commanders to be so honoured during World War II, the other recipient being Albrecht Brandi.

Lüth’s last service position was commander of the Naval Academy Mürwik near Flensburg. He was accidentally shot and killed by a German sentry on the night of 13/14 May 1945. On 16th May 1945, Lüth was given the last state funeral in the Third Reich.

Addendum – its a small world. I’ve just shown this post to my other half. His uncle Dougal Hamish Reid (1922-1943) was a Lancaster bomber pilot. One of his early missions was to bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient.

From Workhouse to Senior Civil Servant

I viewed the release of the 1921 census with some excitement and was even more pleased when I was able to add it to my FindMyPast subscription. I have slowly started using it to enhance the information I have on members of my one name study who were born in the latter half of 19th century and into the 20th century. One tree I’ve been working on contains Sargison/Sergisons (and other variants) who lived in Lancashire, although in many cases their ancestors were from Ireland.

While searching the 1921 census I came across a family of Sargisons living at 25 Osborne St, Salford, Lancashire and a new person to add to my tree Philip Harold Sargison (1920-1989). Philip’s father Ernest (1888-1970) was described as a grey cotton goods salesman and his mother Ethel Maude Higham (1889-1968) as having home duties. The family were living with Ernest’s brother Albert (1892-1966), a cotton goods salesman and his wife Edith Jones (1894-1984).  Osborne St is circled in black on the following map (OS Lancashire CIV.NW d1923) and two nearby dye works are in blue. This area of Salford was known for its textile industry in the 1921 census.

Ernest and Albert’s father was Archibald Sargison (1865-1947). He was the son of a soldier, Holmes Sargison, who had been in the 7th Dragoons. Holmes was born on 22 April 1834 in Belfast, Antrim, Ireland and unfortunately a death for him has not so far been found. However, his wife Margaret McManus (1840-1874) died in nearby Cheetham. By the 1881 census Archibald was an inmate in the Salford Union Workhouse, New Eccles Rd, Salford and his sister Mary Anne (born 1871) was an inmate in the Boys Refuge and Industrial School in 14 Francis St, Cheetham.

Archibald went onto marry Sarah Ellen Chapman (1868-1961) in 1886 and they had a family as shown in the following descendant chart:

By the 1921 census Archibald, Sarah and daughters Lilian and Nora were living at 8 Milford St, Weaste, Salford. Archibald was a tobacconists assistant working for Messrs O Mahoney Ltd and daughter Nora an assistant chemist working for J J Rigbys Ltd, soap manufacturers.

So where does the civil servant come into this story? Archibald’s grandson Philip Harold Sargison (1920-1989) joined the Civil Service/executive class in 1938, after an open competition. Two sets of records on FindMyPast, the London Gazette and the Britain, Royal and Imperial Calendars, (1767-1973), were particularly helpful in following Philip’s career in the Civil Service.

By 1939 Philp was an assistant accountant grade II in the War Office. He served in the South Lancashire regiment in WWII and by 1946 had been awarded an MBE. After the war he returned to the War Office and in 1962 was the Deputy Command Secretary in the War Office. The last record I could find for him was in 1973, when he was recorded as Director (Assistant Secretary) of the Directorate of Accounts (civil pay) in the Ministry of Defence. At some point Philip had moved to Bickley, Kent where he died on 4 June 1989.

I am interested in knowing more about the family who I’ve written about in this blog post. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


1921 Census of England and Wales. accessed November 2022.

1939 Register. accessed November 2022.

Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  : accessed November 2022.

Britain, Royal and Imperial Calendars, (1767-1973). accessed November 2022.

Census records.  : accessed November 2022.

England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995.  : accessed November 2022.

GB Historical GIS/University of Portsmouth, History of Salford in Lancashire, Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time accessed: November 2022.

London Gazette 1665-2018. accessed November 2022.

Manchester, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930.  : accessed November 2022.

Military Records.  and : accessed November 2022.

OS (1923) Lancashire CIV.NE Map. : accessed November 2022.

UK, British Army Lists, 1882-1962.  : accessed November 2022.

UK, City and County Directories, 1766-1946.  : accessed November 2022.

Robert Sergeneson and Maria Gardiner – connected to the father of witchcraft?

I am known for my keen reading habit and I often order books which I mean to get around to reading at some stage. This usually leaves me with a pile which from time to time I decide I need to sort out. This week I noticed the pile was getting rather large, and after some ruthless sorting, I decided that there were only four which I needed to do anything with; the rest could be filed on my bookshelf as reference material.

One of the books I decided it was time to browse and determine what to do with it was Philip Heselton’s on “Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner”. It turns out that I’d bought the book because it had a pedigree chart for some members of the Sergeneson family, who are in my Serjeantson West Riding of Yorkshire tree. That motivated me to browse the book to see how its subject, Gerald Gardner, was related to the people on the chart.

Gerald Brousseau Gardner was born in 1884 in Lancashire. He married Dorothea Frances Rosedale in 1927 and spent time working in Ceylon, Borneo and Malaysia. Just prior to WWII, while living at Southridge, Highcliffe-on-Sea, Dorset, it is thought that Gerald was initiated into the New Forest Witches coven. He became devoted to promoting this new found religion and became involved in initiating people into the Wiccan culture. There is now a blue plaque on his former home Southridge, which names him as the “Father of Modern Witchcraft”.

Gerald’s parents were William Robert Gardner (1843-1935) and Louise Burguelew Ennis (born about 1843). William was the youngest son of Joseph Gardner (1791-1865), a well-known timber merchant from Liverpool and Maria Jackson (1801-1876). The connection between Gerald and the Sergeneson family is through his aunt Maria Gardner (1833-1914). The following chart shows the key relationships in the Gardner family.

Abbreviated chart for the Gardner family

Maria Gardner married Robert Sergeneson (1828-1896), in 1856; they had five children: two boys and three girls. By the 1891 census the family were living in Litherland, Lancashire with Robert’s occupation recorded as a master cooper and Edmund’s as a commercial traveller for timber. The following chart shows Robert, Maria and their immediate family.

Family chart for Robert Sergeneson and Maria Gardner

The Sergeneson family had moved to Formby, Lancashire by the time Robert died in 1896. In 1901 both Maria and her son Edmund and his family are living at separate addresses in Formby. Maria was living on her own means and Edmund was a commercial traveller in hard woods.

It’s in 1907 that Gerald Gardner received an invitation to visit the Sergeneson family whose address was Redholme, Freshfield Rd, Formby. The following OS map from 1927 shows the location of Redholme marked in blue:

OS Lancashire XC.3 date 1927

Heselton’s records that Edmund’s wife Nellie explained to Gerald that she was his godmother and that Edmund’s mother Maria was his aunt; someone he had never met. They were also connected through Nellie’s family. When Gerald returned home to Blundellsands after the visit, he apparently asked his mother why he hadn’t previously met his godmother, Nellie. It seems that the Sergeneson’s were Methodists; a faith no longer practised by the Gardner family. This did not put off Gerald continuing to visit the family.

Edmund and Nellie continued to live at Redholme. In the 1921 census Edmund was recorded as a manager at J Gardner and Sons, hardwood merchants, Peel Rd, Bootle. The company had been established in the late 18th century; it specialised in tropical and sub-tropical hard and fancy woods. Edmund and Nellie continued to live at Redholme until their deaths in 1925 and 1930 respectively.

So now just three more books to browse and decide what to do with!

Lastly – I would like to know more about the Sergeneson family mentioned in this blog post. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


1921 Census. : accessed June 2022.

Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI). : accessed June 2022.

Births, marriages and deaths. : accessed June 2022.

Census records. : accessed June 2022.

England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. : accessed June 2022.

Formby. : accessed June 2022.

Gerald Brousseau Gardner. : accessed June 2022.

Global, Find a Grave Index for Burials at Sea and Other Select Burial Locations, 1300s to Current. : accessed June 2022.

Heselton, Philip. (2012) Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, Volume 1 Into the Witch cult. Loughborough: Thoth Publications.

J Gardner and Sons. : accessed June 2022.

Liverpool, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1919. : accessed June 2022.

OS Maps. : accessed June 2022.

The Wicca Man. : accessed June 2022.

UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. : accessed June 2022.

A new family tree?

When is a family part of a one name study and when is it not? I have collected quite a lot of data from the 1939 Register relating to Sarginson’s, and their many variant surnames. I came across a family of four living in Gateshead, County Durham who I couldn’t immediately place into another family group. Tracing their line back in time led me to a couple, David Sargent (1905-1850) and Catherine Allan (1808-1868), living in Cummersdale, Cumberland, over 50 miles away from Gateshead. The following chart outlines what is known about them and three generations of their descendants:

Descendant chart for Thomas and Catherine

In the 1841 census Thomas Sargent, a flax spinner, was living with his wife Catherine and five sons in Dalston Lane, Buckabank West, in the parish of Dalston. There were several mills in Dalston and it was known for cotton manufacturing as the following extract from Lewis’ topographical directory of 1848 explains:

Dalston from Lewis’ Topographical Directory of 1848

Thomas died in 1850. By 30 March 1851 Catherine, with her children James (born about 1831), Moses (born about 1834), Margaret (born about 1842) and David (1846-1890), had moved to Cummersdale. Their surname was recorded as Sargenson, living at High Cummersdale (marked on the following map in blue); Buckabank Mill is circled in green. Moses and James were working as agricultural labourers.

OS Cumberland XIII dated 1868

Catherine married her second husband Edward Roberts (1824-1871) in 1855, and in the 1861 census they were living at 24 Trinity Buildings, Caldewgate, Carlisle. Edward was an overlooker in a cotton mill, son David a power loom weaver and daughter Margaret a cotton winder. Catherine died in Carlisle in 1868, followed by Edward in 1871.

Other members of the family have so far been difficult to trace; this could be partly attributed to whichever surname they were using, either variants of Sargent/Sarjeant or variants of Sargenson.

Thomas and Catherine’s youngest son David, married Elizabeth Rea (1853-1930) on 17 September 1871 in the Carlisle Registry Office. David was a core maker and Elizabeth a cotton winder. They both gave their address as Bread St, Carlisle. Neither of the witnesses were members of David’s family.

By the time David and Elizabeth’s son James (1873-1951) was born, the family had moved to Gateshead in County Durham. In the 1881 census David was a hammerman (iron) and the family were at 103 Abbotts St. David died in 1890 and Elizabeth married John Fitzpatrick (born about 1869) not long afterwards.

It was David and Elizabeth’s great grandson David (1898-1951), who I originally found in the 1939 Register. He was a builder’s labourer living with his second wife Mary (1913-1978) and sons Sidney (1922-1976) and David (1939-1942) at 26 Hubert Terrace, Gateshead. David had followed his father James (1873-1951) into the building trade, although in the 1921 census he was recorded as being out of work. At that point he was living his parents James and Margaret and sister Margaret in two rooms at 65 Clasper St, Gateshead.

I am interested in knowing more about this family and specifically those I’ve so far been unable to trace. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


1921 Census. : accessed January 2022.

1939 Register.  : accessed January 2022.

Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  : accessed January 2022.

Census records.  : accessed January 2022.

Cummersdale/Carlisle St Mary. : accessed January 2022.

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. : accessed January 2022.

William Sargeson (1806-1886) – head gardener at Trafford Park

A while ago I was involved in a project researching gardeners. I came across William in a tree I’d developed for those descended from a group of Serjeantson families I’ve traced back to Kirkby Malhamdale in the West Riding of Yorkshire. I was intrigued to see that he had been a gardener at Trafford Park, Greater Manchester.

William was baptised on 13 April 1806 in Hawkshead, Lancashire to father James. In later records he provided his birthplace as either Hawkshead or nearby Coniston. A definitive 1841 census record has not yet been found for him. However, in 1851, he was recorded as a gardener working at Trafford Park. Trafford Park Hall had been built in 1762 and, with the adjoining area, was owned by the de Trafford family who can trace their origins back to the 13th century. The following OS map shows the hall (marked in blue) and the extent of the estate in 1848. Barton is circled in purple.

OS Lancashire CIII dated 1848

William continued to work at Trafford Park, although in both the 1861 and 1871, he had moved into the nearby village of Barton upon Irwell. In 1861 his address was Canal Side and his sisters Margaret (1815-1874) and Jane (1808-1879) and two nieces lived with him. In 1871 just Margaret and Jane were with him at 11 Canal Bank. The following outline descendant chart shows William in blue, his sisters in red, nieces in pink and nephews in green.

Outline Descendant Chart for James and Family

When the 1881 census was taken William was 75, and back living at Trafford Park, where he was head gardener. While I was unable to find a newspaper report of William’s death, I did come across a report of the death of the owner of Trafford Park in the Manchester Evening News (4 May 1886). Sir Humphrey de Trafford, a prominent Catholic, died “after a lingering and painful disease”. His funeral was held at All Saints Catholic church which he had had built in Barton about 20 years before his death.

William died on 24 June 1886 and was described as being “late of Trafford Park”, suggesting that he was still there when he died at the age of 80. He was buried in St Catherine’s churchyard on 29 June 1886 and his headstone has the following engraving:

“In loving remembrance of


During 42 years

Head Gardener at Trafford Park

Died June 24th 1886, aged 80 years”

Inscription from Headstone for William Sargeson

The inscription helpfully includes a reference to his work at Trafford Park and that he worked there for 42 years; probably from about 1844. Sadly, his headstone is broken with the cross having come away from the plinth. Probate was granted to two of his nephews, Thomas and William, who are marked on the above outline descendant chart.

Trafford Park Hall – about ten years after William’s death, the Hall and its surrounding land had been sold to E. T. Hookey, who registered Trafford Park Estates Limited in 1896. The area around the hall was gradually developed for industrial purposes, facilitated by the building of the Manchester Ship canal in the late 19th century. The hall (circled in blue) can still be seen in the following 1927 OS map of the area; however, it had been demolished by 1939.

OS Lancashire CIII.12 dated 1927

Finally – I am interested in knowing more about William and his family. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.

Note: the maps used in this blog have been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


Barton on Irwell. : accessed January 2022.

Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  : accessed January 2022.

Coniston. : accessed January 2022.

Farrer, William and Brownbill, J. eds. (1911) A History of the County of Lancaster. London: Victoria County History. Vol 4, pp. 329-335. : accessed January 2022.

Kirkby Malhamdale. : accessed January 2022.

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. : accessed January 2022.

Manchester Evening News. : accessed January 2022.

Probate records.  : accessed January 2022.

Trafford Hall, Trafford Park. : accessed January 2022.

UK and Ireland, Find a Grave Index, 1300s to Current.  : accessed January 2022.

James Sargisson (1844? -1864) – was he wrongly convicted of murder?

While I was researching Sargison’s for my one name study I came across a record in FindmyPast’s Crime, Prisons and Punishment collection for a James Sargisson who was committed for trial in 1864 at the Leeds summer assizes. He was sentenced to death on 17 August 1864 for the wilful murder of John Cooper in Abbey Lane in the parish of Laughton-en-le-Morthen in the West Riding of Yorkshire.  The case became known as the Roche Abbey murder. Cooper, a gardener, had been bludgeoned to death on the evening of 9 April, after having visited a tavern in Brookhouse. His stolen watch and keys were later found in James’s lodgings and James admitted to seeing the “deed being done by another man”.  This man was later identified as George Denton. He too was sent for trial with James but was not convicted. Denton’s case was defended by legal counsel Mr Vernon Blackburn. The grand jury decided that the evidence provided by James could not be corroborated and Denton was released. James does not seem to have had any access to legal counsel.

A combination of local newspaper entries and census records for Laughton-en-le-Morthen helped me to establish James’ parents, John Sergison (1813-1893) and Elizabeth Row (1818-1890). The surnames in records for both John and James varied significantly. A feature which I’ve already written about in a previous blog post.

James was baptised on 21 April 1844 in All Saints Church, Laughton-en-le-Morthen. He was recorded with his family in the 1851 census living at Brookhouse in the parish of Laughton-en-le-Morthen. His father John was an agricultural labourer. By 1861 James was a farm servant at Pond Farm, Dodworth in the parish of Silkstone, where the head of the family was John Coldwell, a farmer of 60 acres.

All Saints Church, Laughton-en-le-Morthen by Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0

A newspaper report of the murder at Laughton-en-le-Morthen in the Leeds Intelligencer (27 August 1864), provided some background into James’s family. His parents were living in Brookhouse at the time of his trial and this was where James was born. The report goes onto say that James received very little education and that “at a proper time he was sent for farmer’s service”. He was described as being about 11 stones in weight and about 5ft 7 ½in high. It seems that the murdered man John Cooper was about three stones heavier and much taller than him and the report goes onto suggest that James could not have murdered him on his own. The report describes Cooper as “stout, tall, muscular and active” and that “we most sincerely hope that if another person was concerned in the foul and cowardly murder a few more days may disclose the secret as to who he is”.    

James was sentenced to death by hanging at Armley Gaol in Leeds. He was hanged outside the prison at 9am on 10 September 1864 with another prisoner Joseph Myers. It was the only public execution which ever took place outside the prison and according to newspaper reports attracted a crowd of 80,000-100,000 (Morning Advertiser, 12 September 1864). After his death James was buried in the prison graveyard.

Modern photo of Armley Gaol by Kenneth Yarham, CC BY-SA 2.0

Not everyone at the time believed that James was guilty of murder. A reporter visited James’s residence at Lockwood near Huddersfield after his death and interviewed Mrs Schofield (Leeds Mercury, 20 September 1864). James began lodging with the family in May 1862 and secured work in a nearby brickyard. He stayed with the family for about a year and then returned to Laughton-en-le-Morthen where he secured work. After his conviction he asked that none of his old companions or fellow workers go to Leeds to see him being hung. The reporter also interviewed Mr Haigh, the manager of one of his previous employers, who described James as “willing and obliging; he could set himself to any kind of work and nothing came wrong in his hand”. He then went onto say that he was of good character and “could not say a word against him”. A colleague of James’s, Sanderson, was also interviewed; he said that:

“Jim was foolish for not letting us know when he got into trouble; for we would have tried to get him a reprieve; they’ve hung him, but they’ve hung the wrong one – he never did the murder”.

Perhaps there was a miscarriage of justice here as it seems unlikely that James could have assaulted Cooper on his own. His lack of education could have been a contributing factor as well as an apparent lack of legal representation. Maybe James was guilty of receiving stolen goods but not murder. He was survived by his parents John and Elizabeth who continued to live in the parish of Laughton-en-le-Morthen until their deaths.

I am interested in knowing more about James and his family. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.


Armley Gaol, Leeds. : accessed December 2021.

Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  : accessed December 2021.

British Newspapers. : accessed December 2021.

Croft, Richard. All Saints Church, Laughton-en-le-Morthen. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0. : accessed December 2021.

England and Wales, Crime, Prisons and Punishment, 1770-1935. : accessed December 2021.

Laughton-en-le-Morthen. : accessed December 2021.

Silkstone. : accessed December 2021.

Yarham, Kenneth. Armley Gaol. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0. : accessed December 2021.

Thomas Francis Sergison (1853? -1902) – soldier

My one name study into the surname Sarginson has revealed a number of soldiers with the surname variant Sergison/Sergesson, many of whom were born either in Ireland or Scotland. During my research I have disentangled two individuals: Francis Sergison a Roman Catholic baptised in Barony, Glasgow in 1851 aged 3 and Thomas Francis Sergison, probably Church of England, born apparently in Witton Park, Durham. A summary of what I’ve been able to find out about him so far is included in the following descendant chart:

Descendant chart for Thomas Francis Sergison

Clues to his birth have so far not led to finding out about who his parents were. No attestation record has been found for when he enlisted in the Royal Artillery (RA)  in 1875 and the RA establishment books which are available on FindmyPast only start in 1883. One military record for him dated 1882 suggested he was then aged 24, indicating his birth was about 1858 not 1853 as indicated on his census records. When he married Kate in 1883, he gave his father’s name as Francis, a house steward. Despite extensive research I’ve so far been unable to find either a birth certificate or baptism record for him. In both the 1891 and 1901 censuses he gave his birth place as Witton Park, Durham, a village which at one time had extensive ironworks. It gets a brief mention in Lewis’s 1848 topographical directory of England as follows:

Extract from Lewis’s Topographical Directory of England

I am interested in knowing more about Thomas Francis, also known as Frank, do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.


Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  : accessed December 2021.

GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Witton Park, in Wear Valley and County Durham| Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time. URL: accessed: December 2021.

Lewis, Samuel. (1848) A Topographical Directory of England. : accessed December 2021.

London Electoral Registers.  : accessed December 2021.

Military Records.  and : accessed December 2021.

Thomas Sarginson (1835-1869) and his wife Mary Beaty (1840-1892)

Whilst I was researching Thomas and his family, I found a record for Mary and their two sons that showed they were living with her father in the 1871 census in Longtown, Cumberland. Both Mary and her father Robert (born about 1814) described themselves as widowed.  My next step was to find out more about Thomas. I found a death record for him and a number of newspaper articles which described how he had committed suicide in Longtown in 1869. 

Thomas had been baptised on 9 October 1835 in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Appleby, Westmorland. His parents were Thomas Sarginson (born about 1808) and his first wife Mary Richardson (1805-1838). The register records his father’s occupation as a veterinary surgeon. After his mother died Thomas’ father married Ann Rockliff (1808-1871) with whom he had another son William (born 1843). The following descendant chart shows the family relationships:

Descendant Chart for Thomas Sarginson

By 1851 the family had moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in Northumberland when Thomas senior gave his occupation as a chemist. They had moved back to Westmorland by the 1861 census and by that time Thomas junior had met and married Mary Beaty. The household census entry reads as follows:

AddressNameRelation to Head of FamilyConditionAge MAge FRank, Profession or OccupationWhere born
ColbyThomas SarginsonHeadMarried52 Veterinary practitionerNewbiggin Cumberland
 Ann SarginsonWifeMarried 53 Penrith Cumberland
 William SarginsonSonUnmarried 18ScholarAppleby Westmorland
 Thomas SarginsonLodgerMarried25 Student Royal Veterinary College EdinburghAppleby Westmorland
 Mary SarginsonWifeMarried 24 Scotland
1861 Census for Thomas and family

Interestingly, Thomas the younger’s entry listed him as a lodger, not a son, and it was annotated with the words “practising as a veterinary surgeon”. Thomas and Mary went on to have two sons:

  • William Robert Sarginson (1861-1931) – his birth was registered in Longtown but he did not consistently use this information on later census records.
  • Frederick Arthur Sarginson (1864-1877) – his birth was registered in Longtown and his death on 26 September 1877 in Barrow in Furness, Lancashire.  His mother Mary registered his death and their address was given as 29 Napier Street, Barrow.

Thomas committed suicide, at the age of 34, on 11 October 1869 in Longtown, Cumberland. He had obtained prussic acid from a local surgeon, Dr Francis Graham, citing his need for it professionally as a veterinary surgeon (Carlisle Patriot, 15 October 1869, page 4). An inquest was held into his death presided over by the coroner, Mr Carrick, and a jury was appointed (Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser and Literary Chronicle, 19 October 1869, page 4).

Although he was said to have a good business, initially practicing in Westmorland and then Penrith, he was reported to have taken to drinking and been unkind to his wife Mary. In her evidence to the inquest Mary said that they had been married for nine years and had two children. She had left him four years ago and retuned to Longtown to live with her father. Three months ago, Thomas had persuaded Mary to return to him but a week before his death had left saying that he was going to collect money but he didn’t return. She had been left without money for food and all the furniture in the house, except the children’s bed, had been removed by her husband’s aunt and uncle. The only food they had had been provided by the neighbours. Mary had written to Thomas advising him of their plight but he hadn’t come home so she retuned to her father Robert Beaty’s house in Longtown (Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser and Literary Chronicle, 19 October 1869, page 4). Robert was the gateman at Longtown railway station. Mary described her husband as:

Deceased looked very wild when he got drink, and was very passionate. He was much reduced in circumstances. She had always done her duty as a wife to him, the quarrels taking place through his drinking.” (Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser and Literary Chronicle, 19 October 1869, page 4).

When Thomas returned to the home he shared with Mary and his children on 11 October he found that it was deserted; he then made his way to Longtown where he bought the prussic acid, half an ounce in a small phial. Dr Graham described Thomas as being sober and cleanly dressed (Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser and Literary Chronicle, 19 October 1869, page 4).

After buying the acid Thomas went to his father-in-law’s house to see his wife. He was refused access, took the acid and fell down. What happened next was described as follows:

He was carried at once to the waiting room of the station and medical assistance brought, but it was of no avail, he died about an hour later, apparently without pain.”  (Carlisle Patriot, 15 October 1869, page 4)

The jury found that the “deceased had committed suicide by poison while insane”.

OS Cumberland X 1868 – extract showing Longtown and the railway station

 There is a postscript to this story as regards Dr Francis Graham. He was fined 5s at the Longtown Petty Sessions for “unlawfully selling a quantity of prussic acid without labelling the bottle with the word poison” (Christchurch Times, 30 October 1869, page 7).

After the death of Thomas, Mary continued to live in Longtown with her father and sons until at least the 1871 census:

AddressNameRelation to Head of FamilyConditionAge MAge FRank, Profession or OccupationWhere born
Longtown CottageRobert BattieHeadWidower56 GatekeeperLongtown, Cumberland
 Mary SargensonDaughterWidow 30DomesticLongtown, Cumberland
 William SargensonSon 9 ScholarLongtown, Cumberland
 Frederick SargensonSon 6 ScholarLongtown, Cumberland
1871 Census for Robert, Mary and her sons

The family left Longtown sometime before Robert Beaty’s death on 9 September 1892. His death certificate records that he died at 43 Napier Street, Hindpool, Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire. Robert was described as a general labourer and his daughter Mary was the informant for his death. Mary was also the informant for her son Frederick’s death on 28 September 1877 when they were living at 29 Napier Street.

Thomas and Mary’s oldest son, William (1861-1931) was boarding with the Abbott family at 29 Napier Street, in the 1881 census. He was described as a fitter born in Appleby, Westmorland. The head of the household was Victor Abbott, a railway guard.

Mary continued to live in Barrow-in-Furness and in 1891 she was living in James Street with her occupation given as a monthly nurse. Mary died on 12 March 1892 at 18 James Street. Her son William was the informant when her death was registered. By then he was living at 16 Oxford Street, Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham.   William met and married Eliza Dunning (1865-1932) and together they had six children. In the 1911 census he was described as an engine fitter.

I am interested in knowing more about all the people mentioned in this blog post. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


Appleby, Westmorland. : accessed March 2021.

Baptisms, marriages and burials. : accessed March 2021.

Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire. : accessed March 2021.

Census records. : accessed March 2021.

Longtown, Cumberland. : accessed March 2021.

Newspapers. Collection: British Newspaper Collection. : accessed March 2021.

OS Maps. : March 2021.