The lost and unloved Nokes family Bible

A family bible for the Nokes family (seemingly of Essex) sits unloved in the corner of an antiques store in Ely, Cambridgeshire.

‘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 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 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 (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?

Author: Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin is a British author, family historian, tech nerd, AFOL, and host of The Family Histories Podcast.

10 thoughts on “The lost and unloved Nokes family Bible”

  1. 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. 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


  3. I was fascinated by finding these pages of the Nokes family bible on Pinterest! My husbands family is Nokes. His immediate family live in Oregon, California and Washington. We’ve traced some of the family, but I can’t find a connection to these Nokes as of yet! The farthest out I have is, John Nokes from the Netherlands, born 1750. Died 1819 in Swanton, Franklin Co. Vermont, USA. I will keep looking, as I love to connect our family trees. Thank you for posting this. Now it’s out there and maybe these family members won’t be lost to us forever.
    Sandra Nokes


    1. Sandra, just read your posting and noted your husband is connected to John Nokes and that you list him born in The Netherlands. I’m searching for a friend – her 5 gr grandfather is this John. I would love to know if you have any sources for his birth in the Netherlands. Thanks so much!


  4. Hello Andrew,
    I came across this website yesterday and rang the Antique shop to see if they still had the bible, but they did not. Anna and Frederick Nokes are my great great aunt and uncle. Anna”s brother Frederick James Willsher is my great grandfather, and within the three pages you photographed there is mention of Walter and Ann Willsher, Fred’s and Anna’s parents.
    Through the little bit of research you did you come across any photos of any of them (Anna and Frederick) or their children as they my grandma’s aunt, uncle and cousins, or even her grandparents (Walter and Ann). If so I would be interested in getting a copy. You mention that you saw a photo of Bertie John Nokes (my grandma’s cousin) and his family, are you still able to get a copy?
    Thanking you for your time,

    Kind Regards, Nathan Mead


  5. I’m so glad you ‘saved’ the Bible. What a shame you couldn’t return it to it’s rightful owner or that they haven’t found it through you. I’ve just found a will where a mother bequeaths the portrait of her and her husband c. 1860 to her dissolute son and where is it now? Also collecting dust in an antique shop somewhere probably, like the Bible, but with perhaps no name on it or it might find its way back home to a Marsdin relative like me!


  6. I am the archivist for the Friends of Upminster Windmill. I came across this blog whilst researching the Nokes family in connection with the windmill at Upminster, Essex. It may well prove that the family bible mentioned above is linked to the Upminster milling family, so below is a little of what we know that may help other reserachers.
    The Nokes family were succesful famers in the south of Essex and it is believed one or more members may have gained experience in milling at South Ockendon.
    In 1791 James Nokes (d 1838) took the tenancy of Hunts Farm at Corbets Tey, close to Upminster. In 1801 William Nokes, the brother of James took the teneancy of Bridge House Farm, Upminster, and in 1803 passed a portion of that farm to James upon which to build the Upminster Windmill.
    The Nokes bothers were religious people, Non Conformists, and in 1799 the house at Bridge Farm was registered as a place of ‘Independance’ In 1800 James was one of three patrons who guranteed the cost of building the Non Conformist chapel in St. Mary’s Lane, Upminster, now refered to as Old Chapel.
    James had two sons, Thomas and William. Thomas is shown in parish records as a miller, but not William, although we know William carried out the administration of the business from Hill House, an imposing house adjacent to the mill site. William first rented Hill House, then later bought it. He sold the properly in 1827 and moved to London.
    Thomas continued in the milling business, also taking on the tenancy of West Thurock Windmill beside the Thames. However, he did not have the business acuity of his father, and after James died William carried out too many improvemnts and went bankrupt, selling the mill estate in auction in 1849.
    The Nokes family at Upminster had branches of thier family who were well placed in business in London, which included involvement in properly development and the brick making indistry, plus many substancial finacial dealings. In the mid Victorian period one of the London Nokes was associated with a banker (finacially) who has generally been accusted of causing the failure of one of the Irish banks.


  7. My x2 great grandparents were James Ward 1817-1890 and Mary Ann Brookes 1817-1877. In an old letter dated 1965 from an elderly aunt to my mother, her first cousin about MAB being related to ‘the Nokes family of Essex’. Can you put any light on this?
    I also have Featherstone in my family but they were mariners from Hull, so probably no link. I am a member of the Featherstone Society run by Paul Featherstone but cannot find many ancestors at all even though there were many children. We have a lovely family Bible with many names in it, which was started in 1754.


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