Howdenshire History

The tale of Louisa Lambert and the Cook family of Cowick

Joseph & Sally Cook of Cowick - Louisa Cook - Desertion of James Lambert
Joseph Ross Cook - Susannah France - Emigration to USA/Canada - Sophia Cook - James Cook


This is the story of an ordinary family who were born in the Cowick area but who eventually emigrated to make new lives in Canada and the USA, where their descendants still live today. The tale is also an example of the dangers of relying solely on family memories - an research aid which can point you in the right direction, but can be equally misleading.


The story begins with what had been passed down through the generations in Canada:

"Joseph Ross Cook was the son of Joseph Cook and Louisa Lambert, both from Cowick. He was born on August 5th, 1853. It was rumoured that Joseph Ross Cook was not the biological son of Joseph Cook, due to an affair that occurred while Joseph had been sent to India with the British Army. He, however, on his return gave the child the Cook name. The biological father in question was named John Ross, who apparently was from a well-to-do family."


Joseph and Sally Cook[e] of Cowick

After researching, I have untangled some of the tale - but not, unfortunately, the identity of the mysterious Mr Ross. Louisa was born Louisa Cook[e] and was baptised at Snaith on August 3rd 1834. Her father was Joseph Cooke (born c.1800), a farmer of Cowick, and her mother was Sarah [Sally] Arnold (born c.1802). Joseph Cook and Sarah Arnold had married on the 19th May 1824 at Snaith.

Joseph and Sally had two sons, James and Aquila. Aquila, with such an unusual name, was easy to trace! He married Sarah Ann Axup from Rawcliffe in 1858 and died in Halifax in 1916. Joseph and Sally also had two daughters, Louisa and Ann.

In 1841 Joseph Cook was an innkeeper at Cowick (possibly at the Bay Horse?), but was an agricultural labourer by 1851. By 1871 he had become a line merchant (a dealer in flax, or line, as it was known). Both Joseph and Sarah died in the 1870s.




Louisa Cook and the Ross connection

Joseph and Sally's daughter Louisa Cook did not marry until 1863 (to James Lambert), but by this time she had already given birth to three illegitimate children: Joseph, Sophia and James.

The birth certificate for her first child shows him registered as Joseph Cook Ross, born 1854 at Cowick; the father was Robert Ross, public singer, and the mother Louisa Ross, nee Cook.

The birth of Louisa's daughter as Sophia Ross was registered in 1856. But there is no record of a Cook/Ross marriage and, as we can see from later records, it appears the the children were in fact illegitimate.

Her third child was registered as James Cook, born to mother Louisa but with no father named, in 1861. The family must have moved from Cowick for a time but cannot be traced in 1861, nor is any more known about the myserious public singer who seems to be the father of Louisa's first two children. There is no trace of this Robert Ross in the local area - it seems unlikely that a public singer during this period would have made much of a living around Cowick!

Both of Louisa's first two children appear in later records with the surname Cook. Her son Joseph was subsequently known as Joseph Ross Cook, and Sophia as Sophia Cook.




James Lambert's desertion

In 1863 Louisa did get married, to James Lambert, but a few weeks afterwards her 21-year-old husband deserted her. The following documents, from the East Riding Archives, show how the local authorities tried to find out where her legal 'settlement' (place of residence) was and therefore who should maintain the family.


1. Louisa Lambert and her children become chargeable to Snaith & Cowick township

"The board of guardians of the poor of the Goole Union do hereby certify that on the 17th day of June 1863, Louisa Lambert, aged 28, and three children, namely Joseph aged 8 years, Sophia aged 6 years and James aged 2 years, became and now are actually chargeable to the township of Snaith and Cowick in the said union.

Signed John Wells[?], chairman of the board and Thomas Wilson[?], clerk to the board.

Produced and given in evidence."



2. Complaint from Snaith & Cowick overseers of the poor - that Louisa and her husband are not legally settled there and should in fact be receiving their poor relief from Wyston (Nottinghamshire), which is the actual legal place of settlement of James Lambert.

NB. We also learn that James Lambert has been imprisoned in Wakefield House of Correction for his crime.

"Complaint by John Richardson, one of the overseers of the poor of Snaith and Cowick, who saith that Louisa Lambert, the wife of James Lambert who deserted her and is now a prisoner confined in the House of Correction, Wakefield, and her children, namely Joseph aged 8, Sophia aged 6 and James aged 2, have lately come to inhabit and who are now inhabiting in the said township of Snaith and Cowick and endeavouring to settle there contrary to law, not having resided there for 5 years next before this application, and not having gained a settlement therein nor having produced any certificate acknowledging them to be settled elsewhere; and that on the 6th day of July 1863 Louisa Lambert and her 3 children became chargeable and from hitherto have been relieved by and are now receiving relief from the said parish; and that the parish of Wyston in the County of Nottinghamshire is the place of their last legal settlement.

The said John Richardson therefore prays that Joseph Lambert, the father of the said James Lambert, may be duly summoned to be examined as to the place of legal settlement of the said James Lambert."



3. Summons of Joseph Lambert, father of James Lambert, to give evidence as to his son's legal place of settlement.

"Summons of a witness: To Joseph Lambert of Hesley in the parish of Tickhill, near Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Whereas complaint has been made before the undersigned, one of her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, by the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the Township of Snaith and Cowick in the said Riding, in that Louisa Lambert, the wife of James Lambert and Joseph, Sophia and James, her children, have come to inhabit in the said parish, not having gained any settlement therein and that they are actually chargeable to the said parish and that the said churchwardens and overseers requested that I would summon him to appear and give evidence in the proceedings to be had on the said complaint.

I therefore require you to appear on Thursday 9th July next at 11 o clock in the forenoon at the Downe Arms Inn in Snaith.

Given under my hand 29th June 1863 Wm Moorhouse JP."



4. Command to apprehend James Lambert and bring him before a Justice of the Peace

"To the constable of Snaith and Cowick and all other peace officers in the West Riding of Yorkshire:

Whereas information has been laid [6th July 1863 at Knottingley] that one James Lambert, lately of the township of Snaith, unlawfully did run away from the said township and then did unlawfully leave Louisa Lambert, his wife, and Joseph, Sophia and James, his children, then under the age of 16, chargeable to the said township of Snaith and Cowick, and that they are still chargeable. Therefore you are commanded to apprehend the said James Lambert and bring him before a Justice of the Peace to be further dealt with according to law."



5. Examination of Joseph Lambert, father of James Lambert, and details of his life history

"Examination of Joseph Lambert of the parish of Hesley, acting on the complaint of the churchwardens of the parish of Snaith and Cowick that the said Louisa Lambert and her children, Joseph Cooke aged 8, Sophia Cooke aged 6 and James Cooke aged 2, the 3 illegitimate children of Louisa Lambert, on complaint that they came to inhabit the parish of Snaith and Cowick not having gained any settlement therein and that they are actually chargeable to the said parish.

Joseph Lambert, on oath says:

'I was 49 years of age last November and have been informed and believe that I was born at Ranskill near Bawtry;

That I resided with my father and mother at Ranskill until I was 14 years of age;

That at Martinmas in the year 1827, then unmarried and without any children, I was hired to William Camm of Stone Hill, Everton, Nottinghamshire to serve him as a servant in husbandry until Martinmas next. Then at Martinmas 1828 I again entered the service of William Camm then at Martinmas 1829 I hired to Thomas Turner of Ranby wharf near Retford until 1830. Then on Shrove Tuesday 1830 I engaged to Earl Spencer at Wyston as under gamekeeper at 12s per week and board and lodgings until June. I was married which happened about 1833 to Ann Foster;

That James Lambert, the husband of Louisa Lambert is the legitimate son of myself and my said wife and was born 30th January 1842."



6. Testament of Louisa Lambert as to her marriage and husband's origins

"The said Louisa Lambert on her oath says:

I am the wife of James Lambert who has recently left me;

That I was married to my said husband on 4th day of February 1863 at the church at East Cowick;

That my said husband left me about 15th day April last;

That I have 3 illegitimate children namely John [sic] Cooke aged 8, Sophia Cooke aged 6 and James Cooke aged 2;

That I have been informed and believe that my said husband was born at Wyston in County of Nottingham in January 1842, and that in 1859 he hired himself and went to live with Mr. E Norton of Nether Hoyland near Barnsley and stopped with him 2 years as a servant in husbandry;

That I and my said 3 children are now actually chargeable to the township of Snaith and Cowick."


Unfortunately the records do not show what happened next, but it seems that James was released from prison, returned to Cowick and his abandoned wife Louisa, and obtained a job.

Their daughter, Emma, was born the following year, followed by John Thomas in 1867, Edith in 1869 and Sally in 1876.

By 1871 the family was at Rothwell, including Louisa's daughter Sophia [Cook], who was a servant nearby. Of Louisa's other illegitimate children, Joseph [Cook] was an apprentice blacksmith at Brotherton and his 10-year-old brother James [Cook] was back at Cowick with his grandparents Joseph and Sally Cook.




What happened to Louisa?

By 1881 Louisa was living in Snaith with her children John Thomas, Edith and Sally. Also living with her was her sister, Mrs Ann Riddington. Both women were charwomen. Although Louisa decribed herself as married there was no sign of her husband, and by 1891 she described herself as a widow.

By 1901 both Louisa and her sister were living with daughter Sally’s family. Sally had married George Henry Abbott, who, interestingly, had been born in Valletta, Malta.

By 1911 the Abbott family, still with Louisa, were living at 71 Pasture Road, Goole. George was working as a barman. The Abbott family consisted of children Nina, John Hawkshaw, Ethel, George, Phyllis, Kenneth and Donald.

Louisa Lambert, nee Cook, died in 1921.




What happened to Joseph Ross Cook?

Louisa's illegitimate son, Joseph Ross Cook, married Susannah France in 1882. She already had a young son, Henry [Harry] Snowdon France, who had been born in Castleford in 1879 and who was living with her parents in 1881. Susannah herself was working as a servant in Snaith in 1881.

There is a possibility that Joseph had briefly emigrated around 1880-1 to the USA and then returned to England.

Susannah France was born in 1860. Her father was John France, baptised on 26th September 1821 at Snaith. His father was William France and his mother the former Nancy Hanby. There was, and still is, a large France family in the Snaith area, many with the same names. They can be very difficult to trace.

Susannah's father John France was an an agricultural labourer, and her mother was the former Elizabeth Hardy. John France and Elizabeth Hardy had married on 24th October 1846.

Susannah had one sister, Jane, and six brothers: William, James, John, Joseph Alonzo (he died in 1909 in Goole workhouse), George and Peter (he died in 1904 at the County Lunatic Asylum, Wakefield).




Joseph Ross Cook and Susannah France

The couple were living in Cowick in 1891, next door to Susannah’s parents. Joseph was working as a general labourer.

Susannah’s mother, Elizabeth France, died in 1895.

By 1901 Joseph was a coal miner in Featherstone; he and Susannah had had six children.

Susannah's son from before marriage, Harry, had married Elizabeth Welham in 1900 and was living at Back Yard, Bridge Street, Goole. He had taken the surname Cook, having been brought up by Susannah and his step-father, Joseph Ross Cook. Harry was working as a railway porter and he and his wife had a baby daughter, Pamela.

Susannah's other children were in Featherstone in 1901 - they were: Robert [Bob] (16), John [Jack] (13), Annie (11), Jessie Evaline (8), George (4) and Beatrice (1).

Also living with them were John France, Susannah’s widowed father, and another John France, aged 43, who was her brother. John France senior died later that year. He and his wife Elizabeth were both buried at Cowick.

Joseph and Susannah's final child was born post-1901, and named Josephine.




Emigration from East Yorkshire to the USA & Canada

In 1908 the family emigrated. They initially joined Joseph Ross Cook's sister, Sophia, in Du Bois, Pennsylvania. In later years Jessie, born in 1893, wrote an account of her early memories.

Below are some extracts from her account. Again, memory can play tricks - Jessie’s maternal grandmother actually died when Jessie was just two. However, she must have heard many stories of her from her mother.


"I was born in a small village in the North of England, a town named East Cowick. I was baptized and confirmed in the Anglican Church, as were my mother, father, sister Annie, my sister Josephine, brothers Harry, Bob (Robert), Jack and George. My sister Beatrice was baptized in a Methodist church in Goole but raised Anglican.

My mother’s maiden name was Susannah France. My father’s name was Joseph Ross Cook. We saw my mother’s family more than my father’s. My father served in the British Army for a short while and also as a Sergeant in Canada. We lived with my mother’s parents in Cowick village for a time when I was young. They were a God fearing family. All household duties was cancelled on the Sabbath, being taught that the Sabbath belonged to God. My chores were to polish all the shoes on Saturday. Sunday morning was a ritual. Up early, Sunday clothing put out. No confusion as my grandmother was very strict and we had to do what we were told.

Mother and Father were married in the same Anglican Church in Goole. So was my Grandmas and Grandfathers. Father was a bass singer and his voice was heard distinctively as he sang in church. Up to his death his voice didn’t seem to change.

Mother did not go to school so did not learn to read or write but her mother could read and write. When she was 23 she said she prayed one night to God to let her be able to read and in the morning she began to be able to read the Bible, so it was our family miracle. When you talked to Mother you would have thought she had been to college as she was very 'life smart' and very well spoken.

When I was 14 years old I was invited to attend a Salvation Army meeting in Goole. I accepted God on the mercy seat that night. Shortly after this we moved back to the village so I attended the Anglican Church and me and my sister Annie sang in the choir. I sang alto and Annie sang soprano, so we did a lot of harmonizing. Sunday nights at Nana France’s house we would all get together and have a sing song.

When I was 15 and a half we immigrated to the States [to] Pennsylvania. We lived there for two years and then there was a terrible house fire in which my baby sister Josephine was killed. Mother was so distraught we went back to England to her parents for a year. We then returned to Washington, Pennsylvania. Then Mother and Father moved to Waterdown, Ontario, Canada and then to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. They eventually settled in Simcoe, Norfolk County after the war.

My mother kept boarders and saved money. My brother Harry had stayed in Cowick and lived close to my grandmother France. He had married and had a ten year old son. He wanted to come to Canada so Mother sent him the money and he brought his son. They lived with Mother for six months and then he sent for his wife and other two children.

My grandparents never came to visit us in the States or Canada. I think they are buried in the Goole cemetery and someday hope that I can go back, God willing."


Susannah Cook died in 1933 in Simcoe, Ontario.

Joseph Ross Cook died in 1934.




Sophia Cook and Charles Colley

Joseph Ross Cook's sister, Sophia, was registered as Sophia Ross in 1856 but was known as Sophia Cook from an early age.

She married Charles Colley (he was born in Burringham, Lincolnshire) in 1876 and by 1881 they were living at Cowick. Charles Colley was an ag. lab. and they had a son George, born c.1878. In 1891 Sophia and Charles were still at Cowick, now with children George, Charles, Annie, Ada and Walter.

We know that Sophia and her husband Charles emigrated to America sometime before Sophia's brother Joseph Ross Cook and his wife Susannah.

Passenger lists show that:

13th January 1908 - "Haverford" arrived Philadelphia from Liverpool, England

On it was:

Joseph R. Cook, age 53, born Cowick, England; relative - Mrs. Cook, Cowick, Snaith, Yorks; going to sister Mrs Colley, RFD 2, Box 155, DuBois, Penna.; 5'6", fair complexion, hair - brown (grey written underneath), blue eyes, scar under right jaw; in US before - Boston - 'here 17 years'.



James Cook and Harriet Moore

In the 1881 census, Joseph Ross Cook's brother James Cook was described as a farm servant.

In 1883 he married Harriet Moore and by 1891 James and Harriet, and five children, were living in a 4-room farm cottage at Beever’s Bridge near Cowick.

The children were Hannah, Louisa, Joseph, Edith and [Walter] James.

In 1901 the family were still living at Beever's Bridge. However, it seems that some of the children may have been elsewhere, as Louisa, Joseph and Edith are not listed. There are, however, Hannah, James and Harriet (aged 4) and Martha (aged 2).

N.B. Beevers Bridge farm was farmed by Thomas Beal, who in 1901 had a large family, including a daughter Annie Beal, aged 16.

This information is useful, as it looks as if James and Harriet's son, Joseph Cook, emigrated. A descendant was searching for 'Joseph Cook b. 1884 who married in Du-Bois, PA, USA on 23 Nov 1910. His wife was Annie Beal and his father was James Cook and his mother was called Harriet. He died in the USA 21 Dec 1924.'




So in conclusion, at least two of the three eldest children of Louisa Lambert emigrated (Joseph Ross Cook and Sophia Colley, nee Cook), and possibly also their nephew (Joseph Cook).

There seems too a very clear connection with the town of Du Bois in Pennsylvania. Did the old lady sitting at home in Pasture Road Goole keep in touch with them all?


If you would like to contribute anything more to this article I would be delighted to hear from you.

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