The lost and unloved Nokes family Bible


‘A present from his father and mother on his 24th birthday’ reads the inscription inside the cover. It’s dated July 30th 1891. A loving gift of a huge family bible, but one that now sits unloved in the corner of an antique store.

Tucked at the back, in the corner, on an old sideboard, I stumbled across this 3-4 inch thick, weighty, black covered (leather?) ‘Holy Bible’. It sits in a display at Waterside Antiques in Ely, Cambridgeshire. I’ve been here countless times before – scouring the items for books, marvelling at the collection of 40s/50s clothing, and checking out any photographs I might find.

This bible has been sat here a long time. I usually come back to it to see whether it’s still there, or to see if it has dropped down from its price tag (currently £80, i think). I can’t justify spending that on something that I wouldn’t use, nor is it related to me, but the curiosity of it is tantalising, so I felt that I should help it on its way home…

I’ve taken some photos. The bible was given to Frederick Nokes in 1891. A few pages further in are the delightful collection of names and dates that any genealogist would love to stumble across:

Matching with the dates inside the bible (born 30th July 1867), FreeBMD gives one result - Frederick Nokes born in the Braintree (Essex) district, in the September quarter of 1867.

The book also notes the birth of Anna (which Ancestry.co.uk reveals as having the surname Willsher) in 1867, and then notes that they were married in 1892. Unfortunately the bible is devoid of locations, but some more FreeBMD and Ancestry.co.uk rummaging reveals the details here.

On the 1901 census, Frederick and Anna appear at Burrows Lane, Earls Colne, Essex. They are both 34yrs old, and alongside them are two of their children (again, matching the bible), Bertie and Harry. Frederick is noted as being a ‘Painter – Agricultural Machinery’. It is also noted that Frederick was born in Bocking, Essex, whilst Anna was born in Great Tey, Essex.

By the 1911 census, the couple still live in Earls Colne, and appear with 4 of their 5 children (one is noted to have died). As a nice touch, the handwriting on the census form matches that seen for the entry of ‘Winifred Ada Nokes’ in the family bible.

Children of Frederick and Anna:

  • Gladys Nokes (1893-1894)
  • Bertie John Nokes (1895-1979)
  • Harry Nokes (1896-1917)
  • Winifred Ada Nokes (1902-?)
  • Robert Frederick Nokes (1905-1965)

The bible goes on to reveal that Anna dies in the Halstead district of Essex in 1963, aged 95, which is all corroborated with the FreeBMD records.

The most recent notation in this book is March 1965, regarding the death of Robert Frederick Noakes – noting that the ‘a’ in Noakes was added by the registrar.

By entering the Nokes data into Ancestry.co.uk (as a new tree) I was then able to explore a bit further – even uncovering photos which are identified as Bertie John Nokes, his wife Sarah, and son Roy.

This amount of personal detail makes me hopeful. Two Ancestry members seemed to know enough information about the Nokes family for me to feel like they would care about this unloved bible. I’ve messaged them both. At the very least, they can see the photos for themselves, but you never know – they might decide to buy it and bring it back into the family.

Do you have a family bible heirloom? Have you ever found a family bible with notes and researched the names?

About Andrew Martin

+Andrew Martin is owner and lead writer for History Repeating and Family Tree UK. Genealogist, historian, writer, photographer and would-be archaeologist. He'd love a time machine, but worries that it might take all the fun out of it.
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3 Responses to The lost and unloved Nokes family Bible

  1. Shirley ODonnell says:

    Bravo Martin. I have Noakes collaterally but they married un Upminster and I can’t see a connection to my St Pierre /pier Family

  2. Nicholas Bristow ( formerly Nokes) says:

    My Great Great Grandfather Francis Nokes was born Leicester 1796 and was apprentice printer on Leicester Mercury He set up in business in Bilston as Printer

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