History of the Amersham Area

The Toovey family

DESCENDANTS OF SAMPSON TOOVEY AND KATHERINE SHRIMPTON OF AMERSHAM

This research was undertaken at the request of the Curator of Amersham Museum, Emily Toettcher, who wanted information about the Toovey family members who had lived in the building that now houses the museum.

Click here to see a pdf copy of the research

It was very soon apparent that much investigation had already been carried out.  The trigger-factor was probably the death of Ronald Frank Toovey on 14 August 1980 in Wycombe Hospital.  He was the last survivor of the four children of Frederick Samson Toovey and Sarah Ann Clare.  He was unmarried, childless and intestate and, although his solicitors twice attended to try to get a Will drawn, it was too late.

The solicitors commissioned a genealogist to act as heir hunter and eventually heirs were identified and the estate distributed.  This seems to have generated interest in their ancestry among the descendants of Ronald Frank’s grandfather Henry Toovey (1822-1910).  At that time there was considerable interest also in exploring the capabilities of computers for storing and analysing genealogical data.  The Toovey family featured in an article in Computers in Genealogy in March 1993[1]. In 1995 Richard Boyles wrote Toovey’s in Amersham, My Family History and kindly presented a copy to Amersham Museum.  While carrying out this research he became aware of Dr DW Jopling who two years later would publish The Descendants of Toovey of Watlington, born ca 1540.  A copy of this, accompanied by a roll pedigree, is in the Library of the Society of Genealogists in London.[2]

As will be apparent from the title, this followed the various Toovey lines back as far as was possible.

With all this information already available, what more could be done?  Since the 1990s considerably more information has been made accessible to family historians, much of it digitally searchable.  That makes it much easier and quicker to cross-check data and to follow the story of the various descendants into the first half of the twentieth century. Where previously the focus, naturally, had been mostly on the descendants of Sampson’s son Henry, and particularly his daughter Louisa, in a new study all branches would be given equal weight and individual lives could be followed further.  As well as a tree, which eventually included 320 individuals, being made publicly available by being placed on Ancestry,[3] the story of Sampson and Katherine’s descendants is told as a narrative.  This goes beyond what is possible with a data-base, allowing links and comparisons to be made and sometimes research strategies described, so that the reader can see how various conclusions or hypotheses were reached.

As Sampson was born in Watlington but made his home in Amersham from 1805 or earlier, it was possible to look at how the lives of one family changed over a period of more than 100 years and, moreover, a family very much involved in the important local industry of chairmaking.

Although extensive use has been made (where possible) of the 1939 Register, not all the information gleaned from combining it with other sources has been included, for reasons of privacy.  Similarly, the list of legatees of the estate of Ronald Frank Toovey has been used for cross-checking, but not included in the text as those people were all alive in 1980 and still may be.

The sources available for researching a Baptist family differ somewhat from those available through the Established Church.  Baptists did not believe in baptising infants, so baptism records, which sometimes record the date of birth as well as the date of baptism and parentage of the child, are not available.  Many Non-Conformists were aware that it was useful for their children to be equipped with proof of age and so opted to make their own arrangements, setting up Registries such as the one at Dr Williams’s Library, where a number of Toovey and Cooper births were recorded, and a separate Wesleyan one in London.  Fortunately the Amersham Baptists kept their registers efficiently and, after the introduction of civil registration in 1837, which removed the need for such records, they were passed to the Registrar General, and became part of Class RG 4 in the National Archives.

Perhaps as a result of of the antipathy between Non-Conformists and the Established Church, Toovey marriages often took place at some distance from Amersham, in London, Hillingdon or Uxbridge, for example.  Sampson himself and his son John, in 1806 and 1826 respectively, got married at St Mary’s Amersham.  At that time there was no choice.  After 1837 only one Toovey wedding was held there, that of Catherine, daughter of Henry Toovey, who married Walter William Arnold, in 1874.  Details have emerged of only one marriage which took place in the Lower Baptist Meeting House, that of Ann Toovey and Joseph Deeley.  The evidence for that comes from an announcement in the Baptist Magazine, not from any official register. 

Other members of the family seem to have been prepared to accept the extra hassle of getting married at some distance from home, quite often in some other Anglican church, rather than turn to their local church.  Perhaps the explanation is that Low Church practices may have been more acceptable to them than High Church ones, but with no evidence of where the Rectors of Amersham came on that spectrum, that can only remain a theory.

There was also a Baptist burial ground which lay between the Upper and Lower Meeting Houses.  Births were recorded in one end of the register, burials in the other, until they met somewhere in the middle and the book was full.  The last date I can find is the burial of William Line aged 25 on 9 Feb 1834.  The need for nonconformist registries may have disappeared from 1 July 1837, but burials would presumably have continued.  Details of burials of Amersham Baptists after this date do not seem to have been deposited anywhere.  A few tombstones remain, but many others may have been broken or removed.

Normally it would be possible to find burial records and perhaps gravestones, from which extra information can usually be gleaned, but where the Tooveys of Amersham went to be buried is still a mystery.  Only one Toovey burial appears to have taken place at St Mary’s Amersham, that of an infant whose parents are not named.  The Platt burial ground administered by Amersham Town Council seemed a possibility, but despite great efforts by Zoë Richardson, to whom warm thanks are due, to discover Sampson Toovey’s resting place in 1860, no such burial apparently took place there.

The burial of Non-Conformists in Anglican churchyards can sometimes present peculiar difficulties for the researcher, a distinction being drawn between those who were buried [i.e. had the burial service read as they were interred] and those who were simply ‘put in the ground’ with no service because they had never been baptised into the church.  The worry is that the interment of those who were not entitled to be buried might not therefore be recorded in the burial register.  The only way round that would be to cross-check with the sexton’s fee book or the register of graves showing who was put where, but the fee-books may have been discarded and the grave book is likely to be still at the church, if burials are continuing there, rather than having been deposited in a Record Office.

It still seems most likely that, if a Baptist burial ground was available, that is where Sampson and Katherine Toovey would have been taken, even though they died in Coleshill.  If their burials could be found, then details of other family interments should follow.

The study which follows has been divided into sections, one for Sampson Toovey and Katherine Shrimpton and one for each of their sons and daughters. Each grandchild’s descendants are then detailed as far as they can be traced before moving on to the next grandchild.  The exception is that the three unmarried daughters, plus another who did marry but was widowed early, have been grouped into one section because they lived together at various times. This avoided much repetition of census data.

The advent of digital searching makes fast genealogy possible, which makes barking up the wrong tree even more comprehensive and quicker than before. With a study of this size, involving over 300 people, it would be far too costly to order birth, marriage and death certificates for all of them.  Where that has been necessary to solve a problem, it has been done.  Wherever possible different sources have been combined to produce the likely answer and the account of the family written in such a way that the source of the information will be reasonably evident to anyone who understands the basics of family history.  Untested suppositions have been flagged as such by the use of ‘possible, probable, likely’ etc, and these have been included simply as starting-points to help anyone who may want to explore the family further.

While great care has been taken to proceed with due wariness, it would be naïve to believe that no errors or typos have sneaked through.  Should you spot such an error, please get in touch with Amersham Museum so that it can be put right.

Gwyneth Wilkie

January 2017

[1] ‘Creating descendant trees using Windows Write and PagePlus’ Vol 4, no 9, pp 377-382.

[2] Bound in Family History Tracts, Vol 138, in the Upper Library.  It was originally printed by the John Marcon Press of Nafferton near Driffield, Yorkshire.

[3] Most public libraries have a subscription to Ancestry, www.ancestry.co.uk, so the tree can easily be accessed.

Click here to see a pdf copy of the research