The Moxons of Ferry Fryston

The following is an updated version of the final chapter of the book “Samuel and Lydia Moxon of Ferry Fryston and their descendants” by Don Moxon, John Edward Moxon and John and Anne Davies published by the Moxon Family Research Trust. To buy a copy see the Moxon Society Publications page for details.

The research team: our origins, enlargement and future

Although our family history – so far as we have managed to unearth it – has been presented in this book in broadly chronological order from 1728 down to the present day, the research work involved has of course taken place in reverse order, with each of us who have contributed to it beginning with ourselves and our own immediate forbears and then working back in time. As we have continued in the quest, so we have discovered or been put in touch with other distant relatives whose existence and interest we were previously unaware of.

Don Moxon started out on his research in the mid-1960s by asking his uncle, as the oldest surviving member of his immediate relatives, what he could tell him about his family history before it was lost or forgotten. Though limited in what he could then do because of living in Kenya and later in Suffolk, the information Don had gleaned enabled him from the mid-1970s onwards to embark on rather more regular and thorough research – searching through the IGIs, parish registers and other source materials and pushing back the line as far as the marriage of William Moxon and Hannah Townsley at Hemsworth in 1764.

But it was Jimmy Moxon’s 1986 circular outlining his intention to publish “The Moxons of Yorkshire” which gave a huge impetus to the quest, and led to all those of us who have contributed in any way to this book being drawn together. In the first place, a likely close connection was identified between Don’s forbears and those of the late Dick Moxon of Southampton, who was at that time acting as treasurer for Jimmy’s project: Dick traced his family back to the marriage of Michael Moxon and Ann Watson in 1800, and as it seemed likely that Michael was the one baptised at Badsworth in 1772 and that Michael was the nephew of the William who married Hannah Townsley in 1764, then – if confirmed – Dick and Don were clearly distant relatives.

A second much closer and definite link-up was also made between Don and Hilda Clarke of Doncaster. Both had sent Jimmy a copy of their family tree so far as they had then discovered it, and Jimmy then informed them both that they were second-cousins and were engaged in the same quest: until that time, neither knew of the other’s existence and of their interest in family history. Hilda, for her part, had taken up her research work following the death of her second husband in 1978, and had managed to push her Moxon line back to the marriage of Samuel Moxon and Mary Fawcet at Ledsham in 1802. Both were delighted to be put in touch and thrilled to discover lots of relatives previously not known about.

Hilda, Don and Wendy – Don’s wife – met together soon afterwards in May 1987, and within a few months were able to push back their common ancestry one more generation – to the marriage of Samuel and Lydia at Ferry Fryston in 1728. They continued to work closely together, with Hilda – residing in Yorkshire – doing the bulk of the spadework and carrying through research in an extremely dedicated and meticulous way, and Don and Wendy coming up from Suffolk to join her for visits to Record Offices and Archives whenever they could.

In July 1989, the first gathering of the embryonic Moxon Society took place in Leeds, enabling Jimmy, Dick, Hilda and Don to meet together, and the following February Dick and Don met again in London for a day’s research at the PRO. Very sadly, Dick died a few months later, but Dick’s son John continued with the research into the family history, and was subsequently responsible for the writing of the section of the book which covers his branch of our extended family. Sometime later Don was able to demonstrate fairly conclusively that the Michael born in Badsworth in 1772 was the one who married Ann Watson in 1800 and the nephew of William and Hannah; DNA testing has also now proved our ancestral link.

A further link was established in 1993 when Dennis Moxon and his son Robert of Upton (between Doncaster and Pontefract) made contact with Hilda: they are descended from Samuel, another grandson of Samuel and Lydia, and brother to Michael. Hilda, Don, Wendy, met together in York for a day’s research there, after which Dennis and Robert continued with the quest to try to find Samuel of Ferry Fryston’s parentage – sadly with no more success than the rest of us.

In February 1999, another distant relative appeared on the scene: Anne Davies of Crickheath, Oswestry, and her husband John contacted the Society, and were put in touch with us by John Moxon Hill. Anne is descended from William, the eldest son of William and Hannah, who married Rebecca Bramheld at Felkirk in 1794, and Anne and John have been able to supply details of Anne’s Moxon ancestry which were completely unknown to the rest of us. They have written the section of the book dealing with their branch of the family

In 2000 yet another extension of our research team came when Don replied to an apparently unrelated “Members’ Interests” query in the Pontefract and District Family History Society’s journal “The Bridge”, and learned that the respondent, Maureen Seal of Featherstone, was in fact the great-granddaughter of Charles, the brother of Hilda’s grandfather Alfred and Don’s grandfather William. Hilda, Don, Wendy and Maureen then met together to visit the old Ferry Fryston church and Maureen subsequently provided us with lots of information about her immediate forbears.

Two years later, and again through the Pontefract Family History Society, another distant relative made contact with us, and again through the Pontefract Family History Society: Jim Hardcastle, a grandson of John Atkinson Moxon, the eldest brother of Don’s grandfather. Jim provided us with details of his family history and joined us for a return visit to the old Ferry Fryston churchyard.

The most recent addition to our research family came about in 2014: an email from Melvin Moxon, who had noticed Don’s announcement in the Pontefract Family History Society that the Moxon Society had just published a facsimile of Elizabeth Moxon’s 1740 Cookery Book, and that he would be happy to hear of anyone who could provide information relative to our search for Samuel of Ferry Fryston’s origins. Melvin whose great-great-grandfather was the younger brother of Don’s grandfather has been able to supply us with a vast amount of details about his side of the family; unfortunately, what he had been told about Samuel’s ancestors has turned out to be spurious.

A number of other relatives – like Maureen Masterman, great-grandaughter of Don’s grandfather, and Melanie, Hilda’s daughter – have also helped in various ways, supplying us with snippets of information or making suggestions about other possible lines of research. We hope that as time goes on more of our distant relatives will come to our notice and will extend our knowledge still further.

John Davies concluded his writing up of the story of William and Rebecca and their descendants with words which really provide an appropriate postscript to this survey of all that we have been able to put together in this book:-
“The reader will have noted that there are many ‘open ends’ in this branch of the Moxon tree. The hope is that descendants of some of these lines will in due course seek out their ancestors and so give us a fuller picture of the Moxons descended from Samuel and Lydia of Ferry Fryston. The 1901 Census is now available and will help to detail the later generations. But perhaps more important is the new research tool of DNA testing. This offers exciting possibilities, and may well help in pinpointing which of the currently known family lines are descended from the same source. The search for the first Mr Moxon will continue!”
John Davies, himself a farmer, finally indulges in a picturesque flight of fancy, clearly prompted by the fact that Anne’s great-grandfather John William was a “scythe stone rubber”:
“As the mowing gangs of the 19th Century scythed their way across the fields of grass and grain in echelon formation, so each generation of the Moxon (and every other) family moves across the
fields of time, leaving behind a swath of history for others to gather into bundles and store in the barn of humanity”
Such an image may perhaps help us all to see our place in the great scheme of things in which family history has such a fascinating part to play.

A further postcript (written by Don on 26th January 2017)

Just before Christmas 2016, our dear friend Hilda Clarke – who contributed more than anyone else to our on-going research work, and was one of the founding members of the Moxon Society – sadly died; her funeral will take place tomorrow in Doncaster. She was 91.

At the time when this book was being written and compiled in 2003, her eyesight was badly deteriorating as a result of macular degeneration, and she was therefore no longer able to continue with her research in the same incredibly efficient, meticulous, patient and painstaking way that she had always done. But the first section of this book could not have been written without her and all that she did to try to discover our ancestral past. Although she is no longer with us, she leaves us an immense legacy, and we are all hugely indebted to her. With her daughter, Melanie, her two grandsons Adam and Luke, and with other members of her immediate family circle, we mourn her death. May she – together with all those who have gone before – rest in peace.