For a couple of years, we had a base in Middlewich. It was a remarkable coincidence because my wife and I are sixth cousins via the Yoxall family, which must have begun in the village of Yoxall in Staffordshire, but, in the 18th and 19th centuries, lived in the Cheshire village of Sprowston near Middlewich. We are descended from Moses Yoxall (born in about 1700), our six greats grandfather. During my frequent strolls around Middlewich I noticed the town war memorial and saw the two Yoxalls – G. and G.W.; there is also a George Yoxall on nearby Winsford War Memorial; his inscription appears at the top of this post. I wanted to know firstly whether they were related to each other and secondly whether they were related to my wife and I.
To simplify things, we will refer to the two George Yoxalls as George 1 (1888-1916) and George 2 (1890-1915). It transpires that George 1 (as far as we know) was not related to me, but he was connected – he was the nephew of the wife of my second cousin four times removed. My second cousin four times removed was William Yoxall (1841-1908) and his wife was Emily Yoxall (1843-1915) – Yoxall was her maiden name as well as her married name. Emily Yoxall was George 1’s aunt – sister to his father, Thomas Yoxall (1848-1909). This means that George 1 and George 2 were related via Emily Yoxall: she was George 1’s aunt and George 2’s grandmother. The two George Yoxalls were, therefore, first cousins once removed but not through the Male Yoxall line. George 1 was descended, via the male line, from Benjamin Yoxall (1630-1709) of Minshull Vernon, while George 2 was descended from Moses Yoxall (born c.1700) of Sprowston. We are not yet aware of any blood relationship between Benjamin and Moses, although it is highly likely that one exists.
Such relationships between people whose names are recorded on war memorials are very common, especially in villages and rural market towns. Unsurprisingly, many local people were related to each other, often in complicated and multiple ways. It is a fascinating phenomenon to observe and to unravel, but it is usually unclear whether contemporary people were aware of their connections and if they were so, whether their vastly extended families meant anything to them on a daily basis. This has particular relevance for British communities during the Great War, as the genealogical networks, on the one hand, might have increased individual family members’ susceptibility to worry and grief, but, on the other, provided greater possibilities for comfort and support. It is something to watch out for during subsequent local and family research.
Here are some notes about the two Georges:
George 1 (1888-1916)
This George was the son of Thomas Yoxall (1848-1909) and Mary Ann Davies (1848-1904). He was the eighth of nine children; he had four brothers and four sisters. In 1891 the family was living in Wharton, Winsford and Thomas, unsurprisingly for the area, was employed as a salt boiler. By 1901, young George, at the age of 13, was employed as a ‘cattleboy’ by the 56 year-old widowed farmer, Ann Stubbs, at Croxton Hall. By 1911, he was living in a three-roomed cottage at Woods Row, St. Anne’s Row, Middlewich with his 21 year-old wife Lucy (nee Warbuton). He was a boiler stoker at a chemical works.
On 2nd June 1916, ‘The Northwich Guardian’ printed the following obituary for George:
Amongst the biographical details the article contains, we see that he was employed by Brunner Mond at Winnington and that his wife was the daughter of Mr Warburton of Station Road Winsford.
We also have some of George’s military records, including his medal card:
It tells us that his number was 14242, he was in the Cheshire Regiment, he died on 19th May 1916 and he went to France on 27th September 1915. We also have his service papers:
Which tell us that he joined up in Northwich on 2nd September 1914 and served with the 10th Battalion:
Another page gives a few more interesting family details:
George is buried in Ecoivres Military Cemetery at Mont St. Eloi in France.
George 2 (1890-1915)
The second George’s parents were Thomas Yoxall (1865-1931) and Elizabeth Wilkinson (1864-1926). He was the joint first of seven children; he had five sisters and one brother – Jonas (1893-1960), who also served in the Great War with the Cheshire Regiment, Labour Corps and West Riding Regiment. In 1891 the family was living at 21 Wheelock Street and Thomas was employed as a Labourer at a chemical works. By 1901 they were at 21 Lower Street and Thomas was a Carter.
George’s medal card provides some initial facts:
We see that he served with the Cheshire Regiment with the number 9485. He achieved the rank of corporal and entered France on 16th January 1915. He was eligible for the 1915 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
More details are obtainable from George’s obituary in the ‘Northwich Guardian’ of 26th February 1915:
We notice that George was a regular soldier with five years’ experience with the 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment and that he had served in India. The article also mentions his grandfather William Yoxall (1841-1908, married to Emily Yoxall, George 1’s aunt), a coal dealer and property owner who committed suicide in 1908. The same newspaper reported on the latter tragic event on 27th April 1908:
George Yoxall is buried in an unknown grave somewhere in Belgium and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.
It is probable that, due to his Winsford connections, the George Yoxall on the Winsford Memorial is George 1. There is one anomaly in the story – the initials ‘G.W.’ with the Yoxall surname on the Middlewich Memorial. I am assuming that this is one of our Georges despite there being no evidence of either of them having a middle name beginning with W. I have not been able to find a G.W. Yoxall in the area and am proposing that the ‘W’ is an error, unless anyone can inform me otherwise. Do please get in touch if you have more information.
Thank you for reading this post.