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Frederick Nursey

smashing that brick wall

Every Family Historian has one. Or several. Individuals that just refuse to be found.

Sometimes it's a family legend that you can't find evidence for (I've got one of those). Sometimes it's a person that seems to have sprung into existence fully formed and immediately disappeared again.

Frederick Nursey was one of the latter. I came across him when I was trawling the censuses for people born in Desborough who were 'prisoners' or 'inmates'. There he was, in 1881, at Forton Military Prison near Alverstoke in Hampshire.

1881 census, Alverstoke

Name Relation Cond. M. F. Occupation Birthplace
Frederick Nursey Prisoner Unm 23 Private, 58 Regiment Desborough

I could not find a matching birth record or other census records. I tried variants of his Christian name, including just the initial, and variants of his surname, like 'Nussey'. No luck.

It continued to bug me that I could not trace this man. After a while I came across his army service records. Often these include the soldier's next of kin. Our Fred's just said 'Prisoner'. Oh, very helpful!

There was a Frederick Nursey (transcribed 'Fredck Marsey' in Ancestry) in the 1901 census for Kettering of the right age and birthplace, but the household also included a John Nursey, 13 years older and born at Kettering, described as his brother. I couldn't find a family with two such brothers:

1901 census, Kettering

Name Relation Cond. M. F. Occupation Birthplace
Frederick Nursey Head Mar 43 Boot Maker Desboro 
Lucy Nursey Wife Mar 44 Kettering 
Edith Nursey Daur 9 Kettering 
William Nursey Son 7 Kettering 
John Nursey Brother S 56 Boot Finisher Kettering 

I tried the 1891 census again. Not finding a 'Frederick' or a 'Nursey' born 1858 at Desborough, I looked for 'Lucy Nursey' (the wife in the 1901 census) born 1857 at Kettering. Still nothing, so I looked for just 'Lucy' born 1857 Kettering, and there she was, transcribed as 'Lucy Kurry' with husband Frederick, born at Kettering:

1891 census, Kettering

Name Relation Cond. M. F. Occupation Birthplace
Fredrick Nursey Head Mar 33 Shoe Rivetter Kettering
Lucy Nursey Wife Mar 35 Kettering
Maud Ellen Nursey Daur 7m Kettering
John Nursey Boarder S 44 Shoe Finisher Desboro 
Rebecca Nursey Boarder Wid 70 Desboro 

The birthplaces are at variance with those in the later census, but that does happen. Looking at the names and ages of Frederick, Lucy and John, this does seem to be the same family as the one found in 1901.

I wondered if Rebecca Nursey was Frederick's mother - it's not unusual for parents to appear as a boarder or lodger in the census - but what I found in the 1881 census was that Rebecca was the mother of Lucy and John.

1881 census, Kettering

Name Relation Cond. M. F. Occupation Birthplace
Samuel Nursey Head Mar 66 Shoe Warehouseman Desboro 
Rebecca Nursey Wife Mar 60 Desboro 
John Nursey Son Un 34 Shoe Finisher Desboro 
Lucy Nursey Daur Un 26 Shoe Machinist Desboro 
Mary J Nursey Daur Un 23 Shoe Machinist Desboro 
Frederick Nursey Son 15 Solicitors Gen Clerk Desboro 

Going back further, it emerged that John was the son of Rebecca's first husband, and that his surname was originally Binley. He took his stepfather's surname after his widowed mother remarried.

1851 census, Desborough

Name Relation Cond. M. F. Occupation Birthplace
John Binley Head Marr 36 Cordwainer Desborough 
Rebecca Binley Wife Marr 30 Desborough 
Betty Binley daur 7 Scholar Desborough 
John Binley son 4 Desborough 
Eliza Binley daur 11m Desborough 

Thinking about this informal change of surname of John's set me wondering whether a similar thing had happened with my elusive Frederick.

I searched for all the Fredericks born about 1858 at Desborough, looking for those who had been present in the censuses for 1861 and 1871, but not after. This gave me about half a dozen families. Looking at each in turn brought me to Frederick Rowlett, the son of James Rowlett and Sarah Tomkins. I had already found in my Desborough research that Sarah Rowlett had been working as housekeeper for a widower, William Nursey, after she herself had been widowed and that she had subsequently married him. It was evident from the censuses that her younger children were born after she was widowed and before she married William Nursey. Some were initially surnamed Rowlett and subsequently took the surname Nursey:

1871 census, Desborough

Name Relation Cond. M. F. Occupation Birthplace
William Nursey Head Widr 54 Carpentry Desborough 
Sarah Rowlett 46 Housekeeper Desborough 
William Rowlett Son Un 15 Lab Desborough 
Frederick Rowlett Son 12 Lab Desborough 
Mary Rowlett Daur 9 Scholar Desborough 
Sarah A Rowlett Daur 6 Scholar Desborough 
James Rowlett Son 4 Scholar Desborough 

1881 census, Desborough

Name Relation Cond. M. F. Occupation Birthplace
William Nursey Head Mar 62 Barber Desborough 
Sarah Nursey Wife Mar 56 Shoe Fitter Desborough 
William Nursey Son Un 25 Shoe Rivetter Kettering  Northamptonshire
Sarah Ann Nursey Daur 16 Staymaker Desborough 
James Nursey Son 14 Farm Labourer Desborough 

Frederick, of course, was in prison in 1881, not with the rest of his family. I hunted for a death record for Sarah's first husband and found it to be five years prior to Frederick's birth. Bingo!

The final icing on the cake of satisfaction was the realisation that Frederick's mother: Sarah Nursey, formerly Rowlett, nee Tomkins was the sister of Lucy's mother: Rebecca Nursey, formerly Binley, nee Tomkins. Frederick had married his cousin.


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