Milton Bryan and Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

South London & New South Wales, Australia


Compiled January 2004 (revised April 2005)


These ancestral notes have been compiled from a limited number of entries extracted from parish registers, census returns, birth, marriage and death indexes and cemetery records etc., which I accumulated during the course of my fifty years of family history research. In addition, I am indebted to my Australian cousins, Thomas Eric Tooth and his sister Hilda Annie Tooth who, in 1982, provided me with genealogical notes relating to the family in Milton Bryan, Leighton Buzzard, South London and New South Wales, Australia.

I have of course researched the earlier ancestry of my Tooth and associated families amassing a great deal of material in the process much of which I regret to say has had to be omitted from these notes due to the fact that it does not fall within the scope of this particular project.

Considering that the amount of research undertaken on this line has been minimal and almost incidental the family history story that has emerged is surprisingly full. The fact that this branch of my ancestry is a ‘self-contained’ offshoot of my main Tooth line made the task somewhat easier. The research material provides us with facts and clues which assist in suggesting likely circumstances that may have led to the events which affected the lives of the ancestors who feature in these pages. All the research finds are sourced and none have been fabricated. There is always the prospect of further material waiting to be uncovered on all lines but due to the unpredictable nature of genealogical research and the fact that most of the potentially vast number of ancestors we all have would be untraceable, no pedigree can ever achieve ‘completion’.

In any written account of family history it is impossible to specify each reader’s relationship to the ancestral characters featured thus you will find that I give only that which applies to me. Using this information readers related to me should then be able to calculate their relationship to the ancestors to whom I refer.

Were it not for the advent of personal computers with added sophisticated word-processing facilities this project could not have been realised in this form.

'Kinchaser' (revised April 2005)


Click here for pdf of Tooth Family

Back Row:
Jessie Victoria Tooth = Albert John Tooth
(infant unknown)
Martha Tooth = Thomas Tooth
Annie Tooth
(nee Voss)
(son of Thomas)
(nee Willis)
(daughter of Thomas)
Front Row:
Edwin Tooth
(son of Thomas)
Henrietta Tooth
(daughter of Thomas)
Arthur Tooth
(son of Thomas)


of Milton Bryan & Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

South London & New South Wales, Australia


Any person bearing the unusual surname ‘Tooth’ whose ancestors were born and bred in North Buckinghamshire or South Bedfordshire is almost certainly descended from one John Tooth [?-1765], a yeoman farmer of Castlethorpe, Buckinghamshire. This family ancestry has been researched for over fifty years but frustratingly John’s origins have yet to be discovered. The earliest reference located for him thus far is a marriage entry in the Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire parish register which shows that in 1720 he married a widow, Mary Sherington, nee Panter. Mary’s Panter ancestry in Castlethorpe and Hanslope has been estab-lished with authentic documented evidence back to 1598. All descend-ants of John and Mary Tooth will therefore share her Panter lineage. These ancestral notes relate to some of the descendants of just one of John and Mary’s grandsons – John Tooth [ca.1772-1835], a yeoman and victualler.

1772 – 1809

Thomas Tooth - the ‘Patriach’ shown in the photo above - was the second of eight
Castlethorpe Church

children born to John and Sarah Tooth of Milton Bryan, Bedfordshire. John, a carpenter by trade was a son of yeoman/ victualler* John Tooth of Castlethorpe village in North Buckinghamshire. Yeoman John’s baptism took place at Castlethorpe church on 2nd May 1772 and it was there on 3rd October 1792 as a bachelor that he married Anne Elliott, spinster daughter of a blacksmith, William Elliott and his wife Priscilla of the nearby village of Haversham, Bucks. where Anne had been baptised on 5th January 1770. John and Anne Tooth had ten children in all - six sons and four daughters. Among them were a twin boy and girl but they and another sibling pair died as infants.

John and Anne’s third son John, who was to become Thomas the Patriach’s father, was baptised at Castlethorpe on 15th January 1798. After the baptism of another child there in 1806 the couple moved to the village of Water Eaton. It lies nine miles south-east of Castle-thorpe and near Bletchley in Buckinghamshire, and having no church of its own parishioners were obliged to travel the mile to the parish church of St. Mary at Bletchley. John and Mary died at Water Eaton and were buried in St. Mary’s churchyard; John on 2nd November 1835 aged about 67 years and Anne on 15th March 1843 aged about 76 years.

(*Yeoman: ‘person qualified by possessing free land of forty shillings annual value to serve on juries and vote for a Knight of the Shire’).

1820 - 1834

Thomas’ father John Tooth was married twice. His first wife was spinster Elizabeth
St. Mary’s Church, Bletchley, Bucks.
Faris, (daughter of John and Katherine Faris of Water Eaton, Buckinghamshire) and they married at St. Mary’s, Bletchley on 4th November 1820. Between 1821 and 1834 Elizabeth gave birth to five children - three sons and two daughters - all born at Water Eaton and baptised at St. Mary’s. The eldest child James, baptised in 1821, was to die by 1824 but this sad event was soon followed by the birth of another son who, at his baptism on 14th November of that year, was named James, obviously in memory of his deceased brother. The next to arrive was Jane baptised on 23rd September 1827. Seven years later a double baptismal ceremony took place on 6th July 1834 for two more children – John and Anne. In such cases a register will sometimes indicate if the two children were twins but no such note appears in the entry. As referred to previously, among John senior’s siblings were a twin boy and girl who had died as infants and with this history in the family it could be assumed that young John and Anne, the baptisees of 1834, were in fact a pair. In this case however they were not, as will later become apparent.

1834 - 1838

Sometime after 1834 John, Elizabeth and their four children moved to Little Brickhill, another North Buckinghamshire village only two miles south-east of Water Eaton. Here, the couple produced one more child, a son they chose to name Alfred at his baptism on 9th May 1836. But two years later and during a period of just over one month John was to suffer several appalling tragedies… the death of his wife and three of his children! Elizabeth was buried on 1st February 1838 aged thirty-seven years; their son John on 6th February aged eight years; Alfred on 25th February aged three years and Anne on 4th March aged four years. The fact that an adult was also one of the deceased suggests that these awful
St. Mary Magdalene,
Little Brickhill, Bucks.
events may have been due to an influenza epidemic in the village during the winter months of that year. Reference was made in the previous paragraph to the joint baptism of young John and Anne, two of the deceased. The age given in each of their burial entries reveals they were not twins as supposed. At death in 1838 John is stated to be aged 8 thus born in 1830 so when he joined his sister Anne for their joint baptismal ceremony on the 6th July 1834 he would have been about 4 years old. Anne must have been born just prior to her 1834 baptism as the record of her burial in 1838 refers to her as being an infant so at death she would have been about four years old.
Widower John still had a living to earn and two surviving children to support - James, aged nearly 14 and Jane aged about 11 - and so lost no time in remarrying. Only eight months after infant Anne’s burial he was at Little Brickhill parish church on 29th October 1838 for his marriage to a spinster, Sarah Hawkins. Their marriage certificate describes her as a servant of Potsgrove, Bedfordshire (a village not far from Little Brickhill) but in fact she had originated from Croughton in Northamptonshire. Her parents were William Hawkins and Mary (nee Mobbs) and they had their daughter baptised at the parish church there on 31st August 1817. During the year following their marriage John and Sarah for some reason - possibly John’s carpentry employment - moved to Milton Bryan, a village near Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire which as the crow flies is only four miles south-east of Little Brickhill. Over the years the village name has been spelt in several ways: Milton Bryant; Milton Brian; Milton Bryan, etc. the latter being its form today. In most documents relating to John and Sarah’s time there Milton Bryant seems to have been the favoured spelling.

1839 - 1848

In the family’s new home village John continued to make his living over the years as a carpenter, as confirmed by various detailed entries in the registers of St. Peter’s, the parish church. They include a baptismal record dated 20th October 1839 for John and Sarah’s first child, Ellen. John still had two children from his previous marriage to Elizabeth (Faris): James aged about 15 and Jane aged about 12, who were step-children in Sarah’s new family where parents and children now totalled five.

The national Census’ are enumerated every ten years and those taken between 1841 and 1901 provide the details from which we can picture the homes and working lives of our ancestors. The 1841 occurred within two or three years of John and Sarah’s arrival in Milton Bryan. This Census differs from those of subsequent years in that ages were rounded up or down to the nearest five years but those given for children were usually correct – or at least as far as parents’ memories could be relied upon. In all Census’, ages were sometimes given inaccurately due either to defective memory or by intention and do not always tally with other research findings discovered or to be discovered. When making age calculations we must always remember that baptism is not birth and that the ceremony can take place at birth (referred to as a ‘private baptism’) or days, weeks, months or even years after birth. Also in this Census only - and frustratingly - the relationship between family members is not stated so supposition and guesswork, aided by other known facts, is necessary. It is imperative not to take at face value but treat with caution the information given in any Census Return.

The Census of 1841 gives the family's village address as 'near the pound'. John is shown as a carpenter aged 40 (true age about 43) and Sarah aged 25 (about 24). Listed next are the two step-children; James, now a carpenter (obviously being trained by his father) with his age given as 20 (true age about 16) and Jane, 14 (possibly 13). Next comes John and Sarah's firstborn, one year old Ellen and then Thomas (the Patriach) aged four months. As Census night was on 6th June Sarah must have given birth to Thomas during the previous February. His baptism took place on 11th July. Living-in with them all was a Hannah Bunce but her connection with the family is not known. Their cottage home may have been somewhat cramped but with young James now working with his father perhaps, the wages they brought home may have meant that the family all enjoyed a reasonable standard of living.



Whether born in same County
Near the Pound
John Tooth

  Sarah do.
  James do.
  Jane do.
  Ellen do.
  Thomas do. 4 months    

Hannah Bunce
(transcript of the original document reference H0107/piece 5, book 27, enum. dist. 10, f. 6, p.6 held at TNA, Kew)

John & Sarah Tooth’s listing in the 1841 Census for Milton Bryan (‘do’ = ditto).

After Thomas’ birth in February 1841 John and Sarah produced two more children: Mary Ann, baptised 16th April 1843 and William, baptised 29th December 1844. Two years later, in 1846, the family were subjected to yet another untimely bereavement… the loss of John and Sarah’s firstborn, young Ellen who died aged only seven years old. The burial register records the date of her interment as 30th July. Within the next three months however another daughter appeared on the scene whose arrival no doubt helped ease the family’s grief to some degree. At her baptism on the 8th November 1846 she was named Elizabeth, possibly in memory of John’s deceased former wife. The next happy event occurred two years later with the birth of another son and at his baptism on 25th June 1848 John and Sarah bestowed on him the name Emmanuel. However, by the time the couple came to register his birth officially they must have had a change of mind as the London indexes to the GRO birth certificates show that he was registered as Emmanuel Edwin.

1851 -1853

The Milton Bryan Census of 1851 gives the family’s address as Church End but the property may still have been the same as the one listed in the earlier Census as ‘near the pound’. John’s age is given as 53 and his trade that of carpenter. His birthplace is stated as ‘NK, Bucks.’ (not known) but he knew full well that it was Castlethorpe. He cannot possibly have forgotten as he was probably in regular contact with his brother Samuel Tooth of nearby Great Brickhill who had also been born at Castlethorpe (my g.g.g. grandfather of whom more later). Sarah’s age is stated to be 34 and her birthplace as Northamptonshire which was correct though she too omitted to add the name of the village which was Croughton. As to Sarah’s step-children, James (ca.26) and Jane (ca.24)… James’ fate is unknown but Jane had married a labourer, James Bates at Eggington, Bedfordshire on ?? December 1848. (day-date not stated on m/c). All the remaining children are listed and are stated to have been born at Milton Bryan which was also correct. Patriach Thomas, now 10 years old, was a scholar (at school). Also described as scholars are Mary Ann 9, William 7, and Elizabeth 4 and even infant Edwin aged 2 though this improbable fact must have been an error on the part of the enumerator. Thomas probably took charge of his younger siblings on the walk to and from their seat of learning and it is to be hoped that they all attended with ‘shining morning faces’! Two year old Edwin and his infant brother John would have kept company with their mother Sarah back at the cottage.

In this 1851 Census taken on 30th March infant John is stated to be six months old and was therefore born about the end of September 1850. His baptism took place on 5th January 1851, eight weeks prior to the Census. Named after his father the choice was to be prophetic as, two and a half years later in 1853, John senior was to die at the age of ca.55. The register records 19th June as his burial date. At this point in time the eldest of the children living at home was son Thomas, only 12 years old but of an age when he was probably able to give his mother and siblings a little emotional if not financial support. The family had never had other relatives living in the village to whom they could turn for help. But fate dictated that there were even more distressing circumstances to follow…

© Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records
Service,image ref: x376/39

St. Peter's Church, Milton Bryan, Beds.
An engraving dated 21st May 1842.

1854 - 1855

Approximately six months after her husband’s death Sarah gave birth to another son and his baptismal entry appears in the register thus… ‘22nd January 1854: baptised Albert, post-humous son of John Tooth of Milton Bryan & Sarah his widow’. Albert’s arrival must have afforded Sarah some consolation after her husband’s death but she was not to know that her reserves of emotional strength would be called upon again just one year later. The first tragic event to follow was the death of her last child, infant Albert. The register entry informs us that the date of his burial was 19th January 1855 when he was only 13 months old. From that information we are are able to deduce that he would have been born circa December 1853 and consequently had been conceived earlier in that year, probably about April, just prior to his father’s death in June. Only three weeks after infant Albert’s death his brother John suffered the same fate at only four years of age as his burial entry on 9th February 1855 records. Sarah must have been distraught beyond belief but was surely comforted and supported by her surviving offspring: Thomas, Mary-Ann, William, Elizabeth and Emmanuel Edwin.
ref: Z50/81/2
© Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service
ref: Z50/81/5
St. Peter’s Church, Milton Bryan


There is no entry for the family in the 1861 Census for Milton Bryan which indicates that after the distress of the previous few years and perhaps in reduced circumstances widow Sarah was forced to make the decision to move away from the village. As related below, Thomas, Mary Ann and William had by now left home. This probably left Sarah caring for Elizabeth (ca.14) and Emmanuel Edwin (ca.12) but with no income she was probably claiming parish relief elsewhere the details of which need to be researched. In 1861, Thomas, then aged about 20, was residing at another place in Buckinghamshire - Great Brickhill - which lies four miles due west of Milton Bryan. The several families of Tooth in Great Brickhill at that time owed their existence there to my great great grandfather Samuel Tooth, a master carpenter, who was first to make his home in the village in 1815, the year in which the Battle of Waterloo was fought. Thomas’ deceased father John Tooth, the carpenter of Milton Bryan, and Samuel Tooth were brothers (both sons of Yeoman John) which accounts for our being related to Thomas’ descendants who are living in Australia today. They had both been baptised at Castlethorpe – Samuel on 24th March 1793 and John on 15th January 1798. On 13th February 1815 at St. Mary’s, Bletchley Samuel married a spinster, Anne Ashby, (daughter of Thomas and Catherine Ashby of Water Eaton) and ten months later, in December that year, the couple’s first child was
Cottages at Great Brickhill.
born and baptised at Great Brickhill. Their brood increased over the years to a total of seven - five girls and two boys – my great grand-aunts and great grand-uncles. Samuel was a master carpenter who spent the rest of his life in the village working in that capacity on the estate of Sir Philip Pauncefort Duncombe, the Lord of the Manor. Samuel and his sons, John and Samuel junior, also undertook work in the village and even built cottages. Their work and craftsmanship are referred to in Michael Warth’s book Great Brickhill in the Mid-1800’s (1988).

During the Civil War parliamentary troops were billeted at Great Brickhill.
This excellent view towards Buckingham would have given them an advantage.

In the 1861 Census for Great Brickhill Thomas (later the Patriarch) is shown as a lodger in the home of his uncle and aunt, Samuel and Anne Tooth, my great great grandparents. Living-in with them was the couple’s eldest son John Tooth and his wife Elizabeth and their four children: Matilda, Maria, Edwin and Charles. John - who had become yet another carpenter (obviously trained by his father Samuel) - had married an Elizabeth Holmes. The relationships given in the six ten-yearly Census’ 1851 – 1901 were supposed to be to the Head of the House but mis-descriptions abound throughout. Samuel Tooth is listed against Schedule Number 35 and although his son John and family are living in the same property they are treated as a separate household against their own Schedule Number, 36. Samuel and John are each listed as the Head of their respective household. Thomas is listed in the same property as a lodger which in one sense he was. However, he was more than that to all those in the house but the enumerator probably could not decide which of the two Heads – Samuel or John - he should relate Thomas to and settled for lodger instead. In the case of Samuel the relationship would have been nephew and in the case of John, first cousin (Thomas and John, being the sons of the two brothers, were of course first cousins). Thomas’ stated birthplace of Milton Bryan is correct and his age of 20 about right. More of the Tooth dynasty lived next door and are listed against Schedule Number 37… Samuel and Anne’s son, Samuel junior and his wife Sarah, (my great grandparents) and their one year old son Henry George (my maternal grandfather, who was Thomas’ first cousin once removed). The William King living with them and shown as Samuel junior’s brother-in-law was of course Sarah’s brother. Also in an adjoining property and listed against Schedule Number 34 were Caroline and William Sharp - Samuel senior’s daughter and son-in-law. After a period of lodging at Great Brickhill, Thomas moved on and his marriage certificate dated 28th April 1864 informs us that he was living in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, four miles due south of Great Brickhill.

The Milton Bryan 1861 Census does include an entry for the one member of Thomas’ family still residing back in the village. This was his younger brother William aged about 17, who seems to have gone on to greater things by taking advantage of the village’s close proximity to the Woburn Abbey estate. He had obtained employment at the mansion and is described in his Census entry as a Footman, obviously in the service of the Duke of Bedford. William is listed against his own Schedule No. (42), living entirely alone at the address given as ‘The Cottage’ so he may have been a living-out member of staff enjoying the benefit of what was possibly a ‘perk’ of the job. In the performance of his duties he would have seen at first-hand just how the other half lived! William was my first cousin three times removed and I am intrigued to know what happened to him in later life. Perhaps he even managed to achieve employment at Buckingham Palace as his employer was certainly at the top of the social scale.


Thomas Tooth married on 28th April 1864, seven years prior to the 1871 Census, the venue being the parish church of St. Mary at Great Brickhill, the home village of his Tooth relatives and also of his bride-to-be, Martha Willis. No doubt it was during his stay there or on one of his visits that he had the opportunity to meet the young lady who was later to become his wife. The entry of marriage in the register describes him as a bachelor of full age (over 21), a postman resident in Leighton Buzzard and the son of John Tooth, deceased. Martha is referred to as a spinster of Great Brickhill, of full age and daughter of William Willis (deceased). Subsequent research established that William Willis had married a Pamelia [sic] Sear daughter of James and Mary Sear, who was baptised at Great Brickhill on 31st May 1801. There is no entry in the registers recording William and Pamelia’s marriage event which must have taken place elsewhere and further research would probably establish the actual venue. Their daughter Martha Willis was baptised at Great Brickhill on 10th July 1842. Eight months later her father William died aged 47 and was buried at Great Brickhill on 12th March 1843. His widow Pamelia chose to marry again on 9th November 1846 to one Percival Peppiatt, a bachelor of the parish aged 46 and a labourer, the son of Thomas Peppiatt, a bricklayer. The register entry describes Pamelia as a widow of the parish, aged 45, daughter of James Sear, labourer. The Peppiatts are also featured in the book Great Brickhill in the Mid-1800’s (Warth, 1988) which informs us that almost one hundred years earlier a Percival Peppiatt was innkeeper of the ‘Red Lion’ from 1755 to 1756. An 1861 Census entry in the book shows mother Pamelia Peppiatt and her daughter Martha Willis living together at home
St Mary the Virgin, Great Brickhill, Bucks.
. Pamelia is listed as a widow aged 59 and a Lacemaker and Martha as a 19 year old Straw-plaiter (both pursuits were cottage industry crafts well-established in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamp-tonshire). The household listed in the earlier Census of 1851 consisted of Pamelia, Percival, his Willis step-children: Luke 19, James 16 and Martha 9 and Pamelia’s 81 year old widower father James Seer [sic]. Pamelia’s 1861 Census entry refers to her as a widow so Percival had died after the 1851 Census.

1871 – 1874

In the Census of 1871, which came seven years after Thomas and Martha’s marriage, we find them residing in Hockliffe Road, Leighton Buzzard. Thomas is listed as being aged 30, a Rural Messenger, born at Milton Bryan, Bedfordshire. No occupation is given for Martha, now aged 28, but her birthplace is stated correctly as having been Great Brickhill, Bucking-hamshire. Also living in Leighton Buzzard in 1871 was Thomas’ sister Mary Ann. Her Census entry reveals that she was in fact boarding with a family named Turney at an address in Vandyke Road just around the corner from Hockliffe Road. Her listed details record that she was a 29 year old unmarried Straw-Bonnet Sewer born in Milton Bryan. She was not to remain unmarried for long however as within three years she had moved to the town of St. Albans in Hertfordshire where, in 1874, her nuptial event - and more! - took place.

As to Thomas and Mary Ann’s mother, widow Sarah… among Poor Law Union documents of 1871 which record births and deaths at the Leighton Buzzard Workhouse in Grovebury Road, is an entry thus: ‘Death: Sarah Tooth aged 54 years, on Wednesday 1st February 1871’. These details provide an approximate year of birth - 1817 - the very year in which Sarah Tooth (nee Hawkins) was baptised at Croughton in Northamptonshire. Had Sarah’s workhouse death occurred only two months later we would have had the benefit of finding her listed in the Census entry for the institution which records the inmates resident there on the night of the 2nd April and which may have included mention of her birthplace. There being no other suitable person recorded among my extensive records to fit the facts I am convinced that the death entry refers to widow Sarah from Milton Bryan. It would be logical for her to be living in the same town close to her son and daughter but reduced financial circumstances to which all three may have been subject could have dictated that she was forced to become a resident at the local workhouse. Thomas’ wage as a rural messenger was perhaps barely sufficient to support two people let alone three. And Mary Ann herself was in lodgings so perhaps neither son or daughter had sufficient means that would have enabled them to offer their mother a home, much to their distress no doubt. Assuming that the workhouse death did indeed relate to Sarah of Milton Bryan, a death certificate - obtainable from the GRO in London - would not necessarily include reference to either of her children as being the informant of the death as this could well have been a member of the workhouse staff.

Mary Ann arrived in the Hertfordshire town of St. Albans sometime between the Census of 1871 and early 1874 and we have record of three life-changing events which awaited her there all of which occurred within the space of twenty days in the month
Saint Peter’s Church,
Saint Albans, Hertfordshire.
of February 1874 - a marriage, a birth and a death! Mary Ann Tooth married widower Martin Best at Saint Peter’s Church, Saint Albans on 7th February 1874. She had known the groom since her childhood days as he had been the schoolmaster at the Boys’ School in Milton Bryan when she and her family were resident in the village so he would have taught her brothers. His salary was paid to him annually and surviving Churchwardens’ Accounts from 1836 to 1877 record some of the payments made to him. They start on 26th April 1849 with one entry per year until the last on 26th May 1857. The average annual sum he received amounted to £5.5s.0d (five guineas i.e. £5.25p). A typical entry reads: ‘24th March 1855. Paid Mr Best’s salary… £5.7s.0d .’

The Milton Bryan Census of 1841 lists Martin at the Boys’ School premises with his first wife - also Mary Ann - and two young girls named Scott, possibly visitors or wards. Martin and Mary Ann’s only child John Best, baptised at the parish church on 31st January 1836, had been buried on 21st March 1837 aged one year old which accounts for his not being listed with his parents in this Census. The record of Martin’s marriage to Mary Ann his first wife, has not been researched and the fact that it is not included in the International Genealogical Index means that it must have taken place in a parish where the registers have not been transcribed for that source. The event may well have taken place in the bride’s home parish as was the usual custom which in Mary Ann’s case was Worlingham in Suffolk so research would be necessary at that county’s Record Office in order to establish the location of the event. Ten years later the 1851 Census lists Martin, again with his wife, but the two girls, who would by then be aged about 21 and 17, are not named in the entry. Martin’s age is given as 44, his occupation that of schoolmaster, born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. Mary Ann is stated to be 46 years old and an infants’ schoolmistress born at Worlingham in Suffolk. In her schoolmistress capacity it is almost certain that she would have taught Mary Ann Tooth the child, quite unaware that the latter would one day become the second wife of Martin her schoolmaster husband! What very strange patterns fate weaves into the fabric of our lives.

(reproduced with the kind permission of Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies, ref: DP/93/1/15)
The original record of the marriage of Martin Best & Mary Ann Tooth

The details relating to Martin and Mary Ann Tooth’s marriage do appear in the Hertfordshire section of the IGI. However, any entry of baptism or marriage included in this index gives only a few of the details actually recorded in the parish register entry from which facts have been extracted. As the church name is usually given it is possible to locate and view the original registers (most now on microfilm) at county record offices or libraries. The registers themselves are prime source material and marriage entries recorded in them from July 1837 onwards will of course contain the actual signatures (or marks) made on the day by the couple concerned and also name any witnesses. A photocopy of such an entry is therefore far more preferable (and less expensive!) than a certificate obtained via the London indexes to marriages. These cost £7 each and are simply copies of copies where the signatures are also penned by the copyist. The officiating minister would have sent a handwritten copy of the original register entry to the local Register Office from where a handwritten copy would have been sent in turn to the General Register Office in London.

Martin Best and Mary Ann Tooth’s marriage is recorded in the London indexes to marriage certificates in the first quarter of 1874 (Jan-Mar). A photocopy of their original marriage certificate (obtained from the microfilm of the St. Peter’s Church parish registers) shows their signatures to be neatly written and their witnesses to have been George Ivory and Maria Coe. The document tells us that Martin was of full age and a widower, that his rank or profession was that of Gentleman, that he was resident in St. Peter’s parish and that his father was Richard Best, gardener, deceased. Mary Ann was also of full age, resident in the same parish whose father was John Tooth, carpenter, deceased. At the time of the event Mary Ann was aged about 32 and Martin about 68 which made him approximately 36 years her senior! The marriage was obviously of convenience as on 26th February, only nineteen days after the ceremony, Mary Ann gave birth to a son, later baptised Arthur. Complications must have

Mary Ann’s death announcement in The Herts Advertiser, March 1874.

attended the birth as she died the following day. An edition of the local newspaper of the time - The Hertfordshire Advertiser - includes within its Deaths column a standard announcement of Mary Ann’s decease which gives the date and place of death – 27th February at Church Street, St. Albans – and states her age as being 32. (Incidentally, I also checked relevant editions of the newspaper for announcements regarding the couple’s marriage and Arthur’s birth but found none). Her burial on 5th March was recorded in St. Peters Church registers where her age is also stated to be 32. Just under two months later at the same church on 26th April 1874, Arthur’s baptism took place and this must surely have been a sad occasion. The register entry gives Martin’s address as St.Peter’s parish and again he is referred to as a Gentleman. Arthur’s birth is recorded in the London indexes to birth certificate registrations in that same first quarter of 1874 (Jan-Mar). Mary Ann’s decease added yet another name to the list of untimely deaths her family had suffered over the years.

1881 - 1886

In 1871, Thomas and Martha Tooth were of course living in Hockliffe Road, Leighton Buzzard. Sometime during the following ten years they made the brave decision to set up home in South London as by 1881 they were living at No.11 Alice Terrace, Bermondsey. The Census entry for that address reveals that the couple were resident there with their children, all born within the previous ten years: Annie aged 8; Albert, 7 and Edwin, 3. Thomas is said to be aged 40 and a Dairyman, born at Milton Bryan while Martha’s age is given as 39 with her birthplace as Brickhill, Bucks. Daughter Annie is stated to have been born in Leighton Buzzard. Prior to the family leaving for London she had received a non-conformist baptism. I found the following entry among the Leighton Buzzard Methodist records: ‘8th September 1872: baptised Annie Elizabeth Tooth daughter of Thomas and Martha of Leighton Buzzard. Born 13th July 1872’. The Census gives Bermondsey as the birthplace of their two sons Albert and Edwin but the births could have taken place within the same area at an address other than Alice Terrace –
The imposing façade of the
Weslyan Methodist Chapel
in Hockliffe Street, Leighton Buzzard

This is where Annie Elizabeth Tooth received her baptism
on 8th September 1872. Built in 1864 it was demolished
in 1976 to make way for a ring-road. A roundabout now
occupies the actual spot on which the chapel stood.

© Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service,
(image reference: Z50/72/105)
their birth certificates would clarify. Annie and Albert are shown as scholars (at school) so three year old Edwin must have stayed at home with Martha. Albert it was who, in 1899, married a Jessie Victoria Voss and in 1914 the couple emigrated to Australia.

I located Jessie Victoria Voss in the 1881 Census as a 7-year old girl living at 76 Drummond Street, Bermondsey. This street, which is near the Thames, happens to be a street or two away from Lynton Road which would later become significant in her life when in 1901 she would be living there at No. 153 with her new husband, Albert John Tooth. The Census entry lists her within the household of a John J. Hurley, aged 44, a Sail Maker and Luisa [sic] his wife. A Joseph H. Voss, aged 33, a Mast Maker born in Bermondsey, is also resident as is another young girl, Lydia M. Voss aged 5 - probably Jessie’s sister (as part-confirmation of this, after marriage Jessie named her first daughter Edith Lydia). Both girls are stated to have been born in Bermondsey. Their relationship to Joseph H. Voss is open to speculation but he was almost certainly their father (Jessie’s marriage certificate should confirm this ). His relationship to John Hurley is given as Brother but this should probably read Brother-in-Law. If this was the case,
L(o)uisa would have been Joseph’s sister which accounts for each girl’s relationship to her husband John Hurley being described as niece.

Name & Surname
Head of Family
 as to
Age Male
Age Female
Rank, Profession, or OCCUPATION
Thomas Tooth
Dairyman Bedfordsh; Milton Bryant
Martha do.
  Bucks; Brickhill
Annie do.
Scholar Bedfordsh; Leighton Buzzard
Albert do.
do. Surrey; Bermondsey
Edwin do.
  do. do.
(transcript of the original document reference RG11/piece 570, folio 38, page 28 held at The National Archives, Kew)

Thomas & Martha’s 1881 Census listing at 11 Alice Terrace, Bermondsey

The St. Albans Census of 1881 came seven years after the death of Mary Ann. Martin and his son Arthur were occupying No. 4 Church Street in the centre of the town. Regrettably the house no longer exists it having been demolished in about 1900 in order to make way for a Board School which survives and now serves as a day-centre for the community. Church Street is narrow and wends its way the short distance towards St. Peters Church which is obviously why the thoroughfare was so named. Even though Victorian cottages and houses are located along both sides, the street is of no special interest. The Census document states that Martin was a widower aged 74, born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire and living off income from dividends. Young Arthur is listed as a scholar aged 7, born in St. Albans. The difference between father and son’s ages is striking – Martin is old enough to be Arthur’s great grandfather! In 1886 only five years after this Census, fate stepped-in with yet another event that was just waiting to happen… Martin’s death! Arthur was now a twelve year old orphan.

It is necessary to reveal the little discovered thus far of Martin Best’s background…the IGI lists the details of his baptism showing that it occurred on 8th March 1807 and that he was the son of Richard and Mary Best of Cheshunt (Martin’s marriage certificate confirms his father’s name). The baptisms of two other children are listed; those of Martin’s elder brother William on 30th June 1805 and younger sister Ann on 21st May 1809. They were young Arthur’s paternal uncle and aunt and had they been alive at the time of their brother Martin’s decease in 1886 William would have been about 81 years old and Ann about 77. Due to their aged condition it is doubtful whether either of them could have offered a home to their orphaned nephew. As to Arthur’s maternal uncles and aunt - the siblings of his deceased mother Mary Ann… Footman William; Emmanuel Edwin and Elizabeth - further research may establish if they were alive or dead at the time of Martin’s decease. The elder brother of the three, Arthur’s Uncle Thomas, had of course married at Great Brickhill twenty-two years earlier and in 1886 was residing with his wife Martha and their children in South London.

Although Martin Best was aged and of declining years it’s just possible that he was indeed Arthur’s natural father. His death must have come as a terrible blow to the boy who at seven years of age was perhaps unable to fully comprehend both the tradegy and the loss of his security. Martin’s death registration is recorded in the London indexes in the first quarter of 1886 – the age given for him is 79. His burial took place at St. Peters on 20th January 1886 and the register entry states that he was 79 years old. As a Gentleman living off income from dividends he appears to have been a man of means and standing who I assumed would almost certainly have left a will. I checked the London indexes to grants of probate for the period 1886 – 1890 absolutely convinced that I would find a relevant entry. I was most surprised however to discover that a will does not exist and he appears therefore to have died intestate. I found no Letters of Administration either which, in a case such as this, is very puzzling. They would perhaps have set out details relating Martin’s known wishes, if any, as to his son’s welfare, guardianship and schooling. Obviously Martin had either been on very reduced circumstances and/or showed laxity in writing his will as one would have thought that a man of his age and education would have appreciated the urgent need to leave relevant instructions preparatory to his decease. A theory I favour though is that perhaps he had come to some verbal agreement with his brother-in-law Patriach Thomas Tooth as I felt certain that it was the latter who subsequently gave Arthur a home thus dispensing with the need to raise post-death Letters of Administration. In order to prove my theory I needed to locate the 1891 Census record listing Thomas and Martha which I felt sure would include Arthur living with the family. However, the search for this Census document would be a daunting prospect as without a national alpha-index for the 1891 and having no other indication as to an address, a blanket search of Bermondsey and/or Camberwell would be necessary.

Detailed notes and photographs supplied to me many years ago by my Australian relatives, brother and sister Thomas Eric and Hilda Annie Tooth, advise that sometime around 1894 when Arthur Best would have been aged about twenty-four he ‘disappeared’. Considering that he was an orphan it could well be that he grew up with a strong and independent character. Many others in a similar position at that time and with those traits saw fit perhaps after schooling to achieve a necessary home and career by joining a branch of the services which may well account for Arthur’s ‘disappearance’. He did not show up in a check of the 1901 Census alpha-index. He may have left England to settle abroad. Assuming that he might have succumbed to illness and died I checked the indexes to death certificate registrations for the period 1881 (that Census being the last known ‘sighting’ of him) to 1901. This 20 year period involved viewing 80 index volumes i.e. one index per quarter, four quarters per year, for twenty years. There were a few entries for the name but the age at death listed indicated that none of them referred to ‘our’ Arthur Best so obviously he did not die in England during that twenty-year period.


The starting point for my Bermondsey search for Thomas, Martha and family in this Census was their previous address No.11 Alice Terrace but I drew a blank. Having no indication as to any other place of residence for them and with no national alpha index to help, a blanket search of both the Bermondsey and Camberwell records was inevitable. Each place is covered by approximately 30 ‘pieces’, each ‘piece’ being made up of a number of the original Census books (now microfilmed). Two ‘pieces’ are contained on one film thus each place is covered by 15 films. Viewing every single household in each film takes approximately 3 - 4 hours which gives some idea of the task involved. However, the time spent searching can increase considerably if the readability of the pages is bad as it often is. Having viewed six films for the Camberwell area the seventh was to prove the lucky reel by providing Thomas and Martha’s entry. It is spread over two pages and reveals the family’s address to be No. 286 St. James’ Road, Camberwell (which does not appear on modern street maps of the area). On the first page Thomas is listed as a Milk Carrier aged 50 born in Milton Bryan. Martha’s age is given as 49 and her birthplace as Great Brickhill. On the next page we find Annie E. aged 18, a Brush Packer born in Leighton Buzzard; Albert J. aged 16, a Brushmaker’s Assistant, born in Bermondsey; Edwin J. aged 13, an Errand Boy, also born in Bermondsey. Next come the two children born since the previous Census of 1881; Arthur D. aged 8, born in Rotherhithe, (South London) and Henrietta M., aged 6, born in Camberwell (note: in the 1901 Census ten years later Arthur is stated to have been born in Bermondsey not Rotherhithe). My theory that Arthur Best would be found sharing the family’s home at this time was to prove incorrect. On the death of his father, when Arthur was seven years old, he apparently had no paternal family able to offer support so I assumed that his Uncle Thomas Tooth must have been his provider. In view of the fact that he appears not to have been I assumed that Arthur had remained in St. Albans and so blanket searched the 1891 Census document for the town (which included an entry for the local workhouse) but found no mention of him. The next step will be to check for the existence of records relating to local orphanages and institutions including of course Dr. Barnados, the records of which are deposited at Liverpool University.


Name & Forename
Condition of Marriage
Age Male
Age Female
Thomas Tooth
General Carman
Beds Milton
Martha "
Bucks Gt. Brickhill
Annie "
Beds Leighton Buzzard
Edwin "
Mantle Cutter Tailor
London Bermondsey
Arthur "
Brushmaker's Apprentice
London Bermondsey
Henrietta M.
Buttonhole Worker
London Camberwell
(transcript of the original document reference RG13/piece 511, folio 92, page 41 held at The National Archives, Kew)

Thomas & Martha’s 1901 Census listing at 659 Old Kent Rd., Camberwell

After the Census of 1891 Thomas and Martha moved home again. In the 1901 they came to light via the alpha-index which led me to 659 Old Kent Road, Camberwell, just a few streets away from Lynton and Drummond Roads referred to earlier. Thomas’ age is given as 60 and his occupation that of General Carman (goods delivery), born in Milton (Bryan), Beds. Martha’s stated age is 58, born at Great Brickhill, Bucks. Daughter Annie at 28 is listed as a barmaid born Leighton Buzzard, Beds.; Edwin, 23, a Mantle Cutter/Tailor and Arthur, 18, a Brushmaker’s Apprentice, are both stated to have been born in Bermondsey. Henrietta M. aged 16 is described as a Button Hole Worker born in Camberwell. Arthur’s age is given as 18 which indicates a birth year of 1883 and it’s possible that he was named after his young first-cousin Arthur Best of St. Albans who would have been aged about nine in that year.

Annie Elizabeth Tooth (Nancy)
Born 23rd November 1905. Daughter of
Edwin Tooth and Alice Maude (nee Evans).
Edwin Tooth, Alice Maude (nee Evans)
and daughter Annie Elizabeth (Nancy).

This is Edwin the Mantle Cutter/Tailor (see above).

Thomas and Martha’s remaining son Albert, born in 1874, is not listed in the household in 1901 due to the fact that fifteen months earlier, on 26th December 1899, he’d married spinster Jessie Victoria Voss. By the time of the 1901 Census the couple had set up home together at 153 Lynton Road, Bermondsey where they were sharing the accommodation with another family. Albert gave his age as 27, was a Foreman Brushmaker (and therefore practising the same trade as his brother Arthur) and confirms that he was born in Bermondsey. Jessie too claims to be 27, apparently has no occupation and also gives Bermondsey as her birthplace. In 1899, prior to the Census, Jessie had given birth to their first child, Albert John, but sadly he was to die six months later in 1900 which accounts for his not being listed in the 1901 Census entry.

1906 - 1913
Thomas Tooth’s wife Martha passed away on 9th April 1906 in South London where she is interred at Forest Hill Cemetery. Her funeral card states that she was 64 years of age but the registration of her death in the London indexes gives it as 63. This will be the age given on her death certificate which will also give the name of the informant – the person providing details of the circumstances of the death. This is most likely to have been her husband Thomas but may well have been one of their children. After Martha’s death Thomas returned to Leighton Buzzard to reside at 33 Plantation Road where he died on 21st April 1913 aged 72 years. He was buried on Saturday 26th April 1913 in Plot C443 in the town cemetery at Vandyke Road. His cemetery burial certificate records his trade as that of Carman and that the cemetery burial costs totalled seventeen shillings, paid by A.D.W. Tooth, presumably Arthur his son.
For some time perhaps prior to October 1914, Albert and Jessie Tooth must have been considering making what for them and their close relatives would be a momentous decision… to emigrate to New South Wales, Australia! By the time the couple came to leave England’s shores they’d had a total of six children: Albert John (who’d died in 1900); Harold John; Edith Lydia; Arthur George; Henrietta Jessie and Hilda Annie. Prior to embarkation the family would have needed a formal passport so hoping to locate a record of the application for the same I recently researched the relevant documents retained at The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) at Kew, Surrey, which resulted in my finding the following entry: 21 August 1914; Tooth A; Passport No: 100819; Recommended by the London and South Western Bank’. Another entry gives: March 1914; Tooth A; Passport No: 92984; Recommended by United London & Smith’s Bank’. I assumed that the former entry refers to Albert and Jessie due to the reference to the London & South Western Bank, this being the area of London in which they had been residing. As there were no separate applications recorded in respect of Jessie or the children it seems certain that the one passport issued applied to the whole family. I wonder if that original passport - which would now be an historic family document - is still in existence today and in the safe custody of one of our Australian relatives.

On 9th November 1917, three years after they arrived in their new homeland, Albert and Jessie’s last child - Thomas Eric Tooth - was born. Thomas Eric and his late wife Grace visited us all in Leighton Buzzard back in the early eighties after which I kept in contact with him and his sister Hilda Annie. Their grandparents Thomas and Martha Tooth have many descendants living in Australia today so the story continues…


Misc. original documents: Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service; Buckinghamshire Centre for Local Studies, Aylesbury;
Original Wills and Administrations;
Index to Grants of Probate for Wills and Administrations 1886 – 1890;
Parish & Non-Conformist Registers: Beds., Bucks., Herts., Northants.;
GRO Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes;
International Genealogical Index;
Census Returns: 1841 - 1901;
Newspaper: The Hertfordshire Advertiser (March/April 1874)
Bibliography: Great Brickhill in the Mid-1800’s, Michael Warth (1988)
Miscellaneous: notes received 1882 from Thomas Eric Tooth & Hilda Annie Tooth, Australia.