The Ancestors of William Alexander Thomas of Formby, Lancashire
William Alexander Thomas , who married Annie Amelia Higgins, and later emigrated to Canada, was the youngest son of Alexander Thomas, an orphan born in Worcestershire and of Mary Lovelady of Formby, Lancashire. Mary was thought to be of noble ancestry with a vague connection to Spekehall, a grand old house in Liverpool. Supposedly, a daughter was disinherited for marrying someone of lower status. It is now believed that this story refers to Isabella Norris of Ince Blundell estate who eloped in August 1813 to Liverpool to marry Richard Shaw, a foreman of part of the Blundell estate. Disinherited or not, Isabella and Richard returned to live in a house on the Ince Blundell estate for years after. It is also said that Mary Lovelady who died in 1934 was attended by a noblewoman in a fancy car paying her respects to the family’s noble connection.
Alexander Thomas (1840-1888/89) and Mary Lovelady (1845-1934) were married in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Formby, on July 31, 1864. Mary was nineteen and Alexander was twenty-one (source: marriage certificate). William and Catherine Lovelady (possibly Mary's brother and cousin) were witnesses. Alexander Thomas , from Stoke Prior, Worcestershire was the son of William Thomas and Ann Woody/Moody (see page 3).
Lovelady was a well-known Anglo-Saxon Lancashire family who were owners of extensive property in Cromwellian times. The family reputedly held to the Catholic religion in spite of persecution and kept priest-holes in their homes. There were Loveladys in Formby in the 1600s. Formby (a Norse word for settlement) was a Viking village in the seventh century. In the 1700s Formby was a town of recusants, or unrelenting Roman Catholics, mainly “fishermen and illiterate rusticks” (List of Recusants in 1700s). Lovelady and Shaw were common surnames in the area. Mary’s father was Robert Lovelady (1819-1886) of Formby and her mother was Ann Shaw of Ince Blundell.
Robert’s parents were William Lovelady and Mary Wharton of Formby, whose six children were christened in St. Peter’s Chapelry, Formby (built 1747) from 1799 to 1810 (see the Lovelady History). Undoubtedly, they were also secretly baptized by a Roman Catholic priest. William was a wheelwright as were his sons Thomas, John, and William. Only their two youngest sons were educated, as the law against Catholics attending school had been somewhat relaxed. Henry Lovelady was a schoolteacher and in 1881 a bailiff. Robert, the youngest, operated Whitehorse Farm, a 60-acre farm near Formby.
Ann Shaw who married Robert Lovelady, was born on October 19, 1818 at Ince Blundell south of Formby. She was baptized the next day at Holy Family Church at Ince Blundell Manor, as the daughter of Richard Shaw and Isabella Norris (Norres ). Richard Shaw, the probable son of William and Elizabeth Shaw, was born at Ince Blundell c1782, and Isabella from Scarsbrick, near Southport. They eloped and married August 16, 1813 at St. James, in the Toxteth Park area of south Liverpool not far from Speke Hall. The sponsors were Robert Lovelady of Ince Blundell (not to be confused with Robert Lovelady of Formby) and Ellen Norris, probably Isabella’s sister. Shaw is a Scottish name while Norris is French. The Norris family originally of Speke hall were the ones thought to have noble connections. There was an Isabella Norris baptized at Formby on November 29, 1789. She was the daughter of James Norris and Margaret Massey, and is probably the Isabella who married Richard Shaw of Ince Blundell. In the middle ages there was an Isabella Norris of Spekehall, daughter of William Norris and Ann Myddeleton.
James Norris married Margaret Massey in Formby October 2, 1787. All eleven of their children, including an Isabella, were baptized in Formby at St. Peter’s Chapel of Formby in 1739. Margaret Massey was the daughter of Thomas Massey of Formby who wed Ellen Harrison from Walton-on-the-Hill, born circa 1741, in Formby on November 29, 1762 (See the Norris/Massey chart) .
The vast Blundell estate, southeast of Formby, where Richard Shaw was steward of over 100 acres, encompassed several towns, including Ince Blundell, Great Crosby, and Little Crosby and employed hundreds. The Blundells had been a prominent French Catholic family there since the Norman Conquest. William Blundell, Esquire, was the Lord of the Crosby Manor during the 1800s. The name Crosby is Norse meaning “village of crosses”. Crosby Hall was the Blundell’s Manor in Little Crosby, the only village in England where all refused to denounce the Catholic Faith. It is still home to Blundell descendants. The Blundell Hall at Ince Blundell (Ince is Norse for island) was built in 1720 and is a nursing home today.
Robert Lovelady and Ann Shaw were married January 7, 1844 in St. Mary’s Church, Little Crosby (source: marriage certificate). The witnesses were James and Mary Shaw also living on the Blundell estate, and probably Ann’s siblings. Robert and Ann Lovelady had at least five children; Mary Lovelady, born October 24, 1844, William born 1846, Isabella born 1853 who married John Bond of Formby, Ann, born 1851, whose spouse was Richard Wright of Formby, and the youngest Jane nicknamed Nin. (See the Lovelady and Shaw trees).
In the 1891 British census Ann (Shaw) Lovelady, age 73 was head of Whitehorse Farm, Formby---Robert had been deceased for over 20 years. She ran the farm helped by her son, William Lovelady, who never married and died in 1899, and grandsons, Robert Thomas (son of William Thomas and Mary Lovelady) and Richard Wright (son of Ann Lovelady and Richard Wright). By 1901 Ann was alone at the farm, but Robert Thomas, by then married, was a gardener living nearby. Two of Ann Shaw’s brothers also moved to Formby. In 1851 Richard Shaw, an agricultural labourer and his wife Ann lived close to Ann Lovelady in Bull Copse, Formby. And in 1871 James Shaw from Ince Blundell, a retired farmer, with wife Catherine and daughter Jane were also nearby.
Mary Lovelady’s husband, Alexander Thomas, born in Bromsgrove, Worcester, (1881 census) was the son of William Thomas and Ann Moodie ( from Alexander’s birth certificate). However, research suggests that Moody may have been “Woody”. On November 28, 1828, William Thomas married Ann (M)Woody in the Church of England in Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire. Alex was born January 28, 1840 in Stoke Prior, Worcestershire, near Bromsgrove and was baptized at St. Michael’s Anglican Church in Stoke Prior on July 26, 1840. Ann (Moody/Woody) Thomas died November 1840 five months after his birth (no cause on the certificate) and is buried at St. Michael’s, Stoke Prior. Orphaned while very young Alexander was raised by his father’s family especially his grandmother Elizabeth (Beard) Thomas in Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire. He may have attended the Blue Coat School (a charity school) but this is not proven. By 1861 he was working as a stonemason in Birmingham living as a lodger. It is not known how he made his way to Formby in the 1860s where he worked as a stonemason. Presumably he converted to to Roman Catholicism before marrying Mary Lovelady.It is believed that Alexander, who was called a Land Surveyor (1881 census) as well as a stonemason, spend some time in Canada, probably working on the building of the CPR.
Thomases had lived throughout Gloucestershire since the 1600s or earlier. In Wales, there were many Alexander and William Thomas’s in the 1700s and early 1800s, even a family listed as masons in St. Nicholas, Glamorgan, west of Cardiff. Several Alexander Thomas’s lived in nearby Cowbridge, Wales in the 1600s and 1700s. However, it now appears from tracing the Alexander Thomas who married Elizabeth Beard in January 29, 1862 in Gloucestershire that our Thomases had a prolonged stay of about two hundred years in Gloucestershire intermarrying with English lasses. This means that the percentage of Welsh blood in Thomas descendants is less than formerly thought in spite of their surname.
This elder Alexander was born 1768 in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire in 1768. He was baptized on January 8, 1768 at the local Church of England, the son of John Thomas and Jane Pritchard. John Thomas was born in Kings Stanley, Gloucestershire circa 1739-40 and was baptized at St. Georges Church of England. It is not known where Jane was born, but she was baptized as a daughter of William Pritchard in the city of Gloucester on June 2, 1745. John Thomas possibly married Jane Pritchard in Westerleigh, Gloucestershire near Chipping Sodbury.
Elizabeth Beard was the daughter of John Beard. In 1765 an Elizabeth Millson married a John Beard from King Stanley in Leonard Stanley (King Stanley and Leonard Stanley are only a few miles apart). After their marriage in Kingswood and their son William’s birth there in July 22, 1792, Alexander and Elizabeth Thomas moved to Leonard Stanley to work as cloth workers in a textile mill, then very common in the Cotswold area of Gloucestershire The couple had five more children, George, Elizabeth, Mary, Hester and Samuel baptized at St. Swithin’s in Leonard Stanley.
Returning to Alexander Thomas who became a mason in Formby, Lancashire in the late nineteenth century, ten children (eight that survived) were born to Alexander and Mary (Lovelady) Thomas of Formby, Lancashire, England. The eldest son, William Thomas, did not survive more than 5 years. Also the youngest son, Alexander lived from 1884 to 1886. The infant Alexander died in March 1886 followed by his father Alexander who had a run in with a cart in April 1886. Mary Thomas’ father, Robert Lovelady had passed away in late January of this same year so this must have been a devastating year for the Thomas household. William Alexander Thomas, the second youngest, was born July 13, 1878 when the family lived in Paradise Lane, Formby. He had an older brother, Robert, and six sisters.
Anne (Nan) Thomas, the eldest of the family born 1866, and Margaret (Wag) born 1868 who both married Tickle boys, John (Jack) and Tom Tickle respectively. The Tickle brothers owned and operated a grocery store in Formby where William Thomas worked for several years. (The 1881 census describes Joseph Tickle, the father of John and Tom, as a “Licensed Victualler”, or tavernkeeper). Jack put most of his money into “very safe” stocks of North Sea oil, but unfortunately, due to the post WWI slump he lost everything. He was never the same after and died fairly young in the 1920’s.
The third Thomas girl, Mary (Molly), born 1872, married Jack Boylan who was a friend of her brother, William. Elizabeth (Bess) born 1875, married William Sheridan. Catherine (Kit), the fifth daughter born 1876, married Alex Archer, while Robert Thomas born circa 1870, married Kate Howlett. Both Robert Thomas and Bess Thomas Sheridan had no children. Little is known of Robert, except that he was working as a gardener in 1901 and was perhaps rather fond of a drink. Most of the family remained in Formby. However, Elizabeth and her husband resided in West Derby, Lancashire, and Kit and Joe Archer lived in Widnes, Lancashire. The youngest daughter, Jean Thomas, remained unmarried and died in her early forties. The youngest was baby Alex, born June 1884, who lived to March 1886.
Anne Thomas (the eldest Thomas daughter) and Jack Tickles had six children: Alex (c1896), William, (1898) Ann Dorothy (1900), Marjorie, or Minty (1901) and Stan (c1908). The children of Margaret (Wag) and Tom Tickle were William, (born circa 1894), Mary or Monny (1896), Fred (c.1898), Herbert, Alice (1899) and Josie (born c1907). The Boylans had only one daughter, Doreen (c1906), and the Archers had two children, Alex (born c.1902) and Peggy (c1905).
Several of this generation were of the age to serve in World War I. Madge Tickle was a nurse, while her brother Fred served in the British Infantry. Alex Archer was probably an officer in the British Army. Jack Boylan, the husband of Molly Thomas served in the British Merchant Marine during the same war. He is, reportedly, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the only man who ever walked home from a shipwreck because once, after his ship was torpedoed by a German submarine just after leaving Liverpool, he swam ashore near Formby and walked home alone in the middle of the night “to knock up his wife”.
Fortunately, all survived the war in one piece, though Madge like her closest sister Monny Thomas never married, but worked in the Tickle family shop and later in a shop they purchased themselves, and both Fred and Alex didn’t marry until their middle thirties. Like many young men of this post-war generation, Fred, to the chagrin of his father, spent the 1920’s escaping life’s responsibilities, enjoying himself at the Blackpool seaside resort and riding a motorbike around the English countryside and the Isle of Mann. Fred Tickle eventually married Ethel Mertz of Birkdale, Lancashire in 1935, and Alex Archer married Nancy in 1938, just as England was preparing for the next war. Fred had two sons, Michael and Geoffrey.
The younger Tickle girls, Alice and Josie, who were children during the first war both married. Alice Tickle married Alfred O’Donough, and Josie married Lester Jones about 1940, after several years of living with him, a fact which caused tremendous distress to her mother. Josie spend some years in Carley Sanatorium at Ulverston with Tuberculosis during the 1940’s. She had both lungs deflated and died around 1950. Stan Tickle married Adelaide (Addie) Pearson and had three children, Brian, Alexander, and Ann. Stan tickle was a lorry driver who spent some time in Africa. Dorothy Tickle married John Cuthbert Aindow. They had nine children. Peggy Archer also married, but had no children. William Tickle, the son of John and Ann, was a bootmaker and owned a shop in the Formby area. The later generations are listed in the Thomas family tree.
As a young man, William Thomas trained with some of his cronies at Salisbury Plains in Wiltshire during the Boer War, although he was never sent to South Africa because that war had ended. However, William still served as a private in the 3rd VB The Kings (Liverpool Regiment) from March 1900 until February 1903. Will and his friends, including the Tickle brothers, played rugby and were active in promoting the right of Catholic education in England. In fact, these Formby lads were photographed at a mock funeral of the Education Bill of 1908, when the old bill was repealed giving Catholics all rights to education. In one photograph each man has been given the name of a member of Lloyd George’s Cabinet. Of course, these escapades were before Will married and settled down.
William , married Annie Amelia Colgan/Higgins, the daughter of an Irish mariner from Liverpool, employed as a servant in the household of his sister, Margaret Tickle. They married August 5, 1903 in Our Lady of Compassion RC in Formby. Some of William’s older sisters considered this a match beneath his station and did not treat Annie well. However, in later years, some of the family especially, Mollie Thomas Boylan, who was married to a merchant seaman was a friend of Annie’s sister, Florence Higgins.
In 1911 Will emigrated to Canada and Annie followed in September 1912 with their first four children, Flo, Jean, Alex, and Ruth Thomas who had been born in Formby. They settled in Ottawa, Canada where three more children were born, Margaret (Peg) in 1913, Robert (Roy) in 1915 and Herval in 1917 (see the Higgins/White history for the story of the Canadian Thomases). Will remained in close touch with his sisters back in England over the years. In 1922 his sister Bess wrote “I have just been to see Alex’s [Alex Tickle] aerial. He is mad on wireless. He holds receptions in his bedroom.” Bess was active in the Catholic Women’s Guild in England, and wrote on the back of the same letter, “A propos the Guild: Let me inform all whom it may concern that all the Catholics do not belong to Ireland -- we still have a few in Lancashire ”. On another occasion, Bess writes in colourful language from “Beplauds”, her home in West Derby, “I am busy boiling plum puddings and cursing them like old Harry.” What a “balmy lot” they were.
Letters from William’s sisters, written to him in Ottawa just prior to his trip home to England in 1938, expressed unimaginable joy and excitement. His sister Kitty wrote from home in Widnes on February 21, 1938, “I was delighted to hear that your trip is true which I could hardly believe. We are just up the pole here and don’t know what we are doing half our time ... I wonder if you will know us for we are looking tattered and torn but 26 years is a long time.” Some of the family were worried that Ann Thomas Tickle, his oldest sister, who was ill at the time might not survive the excitement. However, she lived to see her baby brother one more time, although she died not too long after from breast cancer. Annie Amelia Thomas did not accompany Will on this trip home, but took a holiday alone in Canada.
During the second World War, which began shortly after Will’s visit, two sons of Will and Annie Thomas, had an opportunity to meet the Formby clan. Herval Thomas was an RCAF bomber navigator stationed in England for several years, and Roy, who served the entire war as a sonar operator on a corvette, sometimes docked in Liverpool. The post-war period was extremely difficult for the family in England. Madge Tickle wrote to both Roy and her uncle Will of these times. In February 1947 she wrote, “Things are very bad in the “Old Country. We are getting less than we did during the war. Food, coal and electricity are in an awful mess ... from tomorrow all unnecessary industries are closing down. Electricity is cut in the homes 5 hours a day ... Its about time they chucked out this government [the Labour Party]” and later, she wrote “Monny is at home and is busy brushing the snow away and getting coal in case we get snowed up ... Luckily she has a placid disposition or she’d be in a madhouse by now with all the rations, points and B.U.S [British Utility Standards].”
Alex Tickle , born circa 1896 in Formby, was the next Thomas after William to leave England permanently. Going first to Canada around 1929, he met the Thomas family in Ottawa and became a particular friend of Jean Thomas McEvoy. Later, having assumed the false identity of John (Jack) Taylor, Alex moved to Los Angeles, to work in Hollywood as a technician/writer. Alex, who had been engaged to Nellie Edgar in England before his identity change, married Ilda Williams, an American girl, in Los Angeles in 1933 under the name Jack Taylor. They had two children, a son, John, who died quite young, and Eileen born in 1934. Eileen Taylor knew nothing of her father’s real identity until she was grown up. Alex Tickle, AKA Jack Taylor, died in Los Angeles in 1972. Eileen Taylor married Henry Dhuyvetter and has four children and several grandchildren in Orange County, California.
A niece of Alex Tickle (John Taylor), Patricia Aindow , the daughter of Ann Dorothy (Tickle) Aindow, followed shortly after the second world war. Pat came to Montreal were she worked for the Cunard Line, for whom she had worked in Liverpool. While in Montreal she became acquainted with Peg Thomas and her husband Lionel Guimond, and re-acquainted with Herval, whom she had met during the war. She also became good friends with Alex and Dot Thomas in Ottawa. In the later 1940’s Pat moved to Los Angeles, where she lived until her recent death in January 2003. John Aindow, one of Pat’s brothers, emigrated later to Maryland and a member of the next generation went to New Zealand.
As one of the eldest in her family, Pat Aindow remembers Grandma Thomas (Mary Lovelady) being pushed down York Road in Formby in her wicker bath chair, which had a handle in front to steer the front wheel and later, became a favorite toy of the children. Grandma Thomas also had a great love for her little chapeaux which were made for her by one of her daughters. When Grandpa Thomas (Alexander) died in 1886 the girls of the family had to work to help keep up their big Victorian house, “the Poplars”. Nan became a tailoress eventually owning her own Costumier Shop in Formby, while Margaret became a milliner---it was she who made her mother’s chapeaux. Mary Thomas was a dressmaker and Kit a school teacher.
The demeanours of both Mary Lovelady and most of her daughters were described by Pat as “very ladylike”, and they dreaded any of their children doing anything “common”. In family photographs they held their chins high as befit ladies of good breeding, and at the time of the royal coronation, it was considered beneath their dignity to participate in the public celebrations. Pat’s mother, Ann Dorothy Tickle, “had the most beautiful table manner, and on the few occasions when she was not otherwise occupied, had her hands neatly folded in her lap.” Pat herself was called “Princess” by her boss in England because of her resemblance to Princess Margaret, and she says that “a visit to the wax museum aboard the Queen Mary .... was like a visit home to my family when I was younger”---perhaps the Lovelady’s claim to nobility is more than a story. Some have seen a likeness between Ruth Thomas Kenalty and the Queen Mother in looks and manners, and Florence Thomas possessed a ladylike demeanour, in spite of “colonial influences”.
Thanks to Patricia Aindow, Alex Thomas’ memoirs, Margaret Guimond, Ruth Kenalty, and the many kind people on the Lancashire, Worcester and Gloucester rootsweb genealogy lists.
Prepared by Joan Rooney, a granddaughter of William Thomas. Ottawa. 2005. Rev. 2009