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John’s family

The Effemey name has been quite a challenge to research due to its change of spellings when transcribed. Effamy, Effemy, Efeny, Evamy, Eppamy, and Affamy being examples. There are several branches of the family in locations across Hampshire, Romsey, Christchurch, Poole and the Isle of Wight. There are also many individuals sharing the same Christian name.

John was born in the rural village of Michelmersh 3.5 miles from Romsey, Hampshire. His birth was registered in Q4 1851 as John Effemy.

He was the 11th of 13 children born to Stephen Effamy (1810-1891), an Agricultural Labourer, and Martha Wren (1813- 1876). 

Stephen was the son of Martin Effamy and Elizabeth Harding. 

Martha was the daughter of 16-year-old Elizabeth Vere. She was baptised as Martha Wren on 30th October 1814, the same day that her mother, aged 17, married John Wren, aged 18. It is very likely that John was Martha’s natural father.

On Nov 23rd 1851 John Effemey was baptised in Michelmersh. His surname was transcribed as Evamy. Stephen and Martha are recorded as his parents.

Stephen and Martha’s children

William 1832-1846

Jane 1833-1885 

Elenor (Ellen) 1834-1907

Elizabeth 1836-1881 

Charles 1838-1929

George 1841-1899

Edwin (Edward) 1843-1909

Alfred 1845-1927

Fanny 1847-1915.

Frederick 1849-1931

John 1851-1909

Henry 1854 -1932

Sarah 1856-1866

Sadly, their first child, William, born when Martha was 18 and only recently married, died aged 15 in 1846 before John was born.


In the 1861 Census, where the family name is transcribed as Effeney, John is recorded living in the village of Timsbury, bordering Michelmersh. The household includes his father Stephen 51, an agricultural labourer, his mother Martha 48, his brothers Alfred 16 and Frederick 11, both Agricultural Labourers, and John 9, Henry 7, and Sarah 5 who are all Scholars. The other living siblings had left home. 

Sadly, Stephen and Martha’s youngest child, Sarah, died in Q4 1866 aged 10.


In the 1871 census a John Effemy is found at the Winchester Barracks, St Thomas, Hampshire. He is a nineteen-year-old unmarried Private recorded as born in Romsey. I believe this to be our subject, although I am unable to find any Military records to verify this.

In 1858 Winchester barracks became a training depot for the Kings Royal Rifle Corps KRRC and the Rifle Brigade KB. In 1872 the barracks is officially titled the Rifle Depot.  The source of this information comes from the Peninsula Barracks Museum, Winchester.

Assuming this is John, he leaves the military and by 1874 has moved to London where on 23rd March he marries Sarah Jane Whatley in All Saints, Poplar. His occupation is recorded as ‘Labourer’. 

In 1879 the first child of John and Sarah was born on 6th June and named Ernest Albert. 


The 1881 Census tells us that John and Sarah are living at 21 Maria Street in Poplar with their son Ernest. John is a General Labourer. 

Maria Street is close to Millwall Docks on the Isle of Dogs. According to Booth’s maps this area has a mixture of inhabitants, some comfortable, some poor. 

On 28th October 1881, John’s sister Elizabeth, now Elizabeth Percy, died in Hampshire Lunatic Asylum, Fareham at the young age of 45 having been admitted in September 1878. She left three children – Edward 16, Charles 15, Arthur 13 – and husband Philip Percy a 63-year-old Coal Merchant. Later censuses show that Philip became a Bedesman in Winchester Cathedral. A Bedesman is a man belonging to the church to pray for souls.

September 1882 sees the birth of John and Sarah’s second son, Percy John. Tragedy befalls the family as sadly Percy dies in Q2 1883 at a few months old. His name Percy may be in honour of John’s late sister Elizabeth Percy.

In Q1 1885 John’s eldest sister Jane died in Romsey.


In the 1891 census John is recorded as the head of the household at 13 Mellish Street, Poplar, two blocks away from Maria Street with the same mix of people. He is 40 and a Dock Labourer. Sarah, his wife, is 39 and his son Ernest is 11, a scholar. The family name is recorded as Effemy. Also living with them is Sarah’s nephew John Whatley aged 7, a scholar. He is the son of her unmarried sister Julia.

In Q3 1891 John’s father Stephen died in Romsey.

In 1899 John’s brother George died in Queensland, Australia. 

Health Problems

On 24th February 1898 John was admitted to Cane Hill Asylum from Poplar Union.

There is a record from the Union dated 14th February 1898 that includes a statement from Sarah that John has become very violent and has twice attacked her. He also threatened to attack Mrs Crocker who lived in the same house. Sarah had had to call two police constables to restrain him. The order to commit him to the asylum was signed by Wynn E. Baxter Esq JP with the medical certificate signed by Dr Thos. E. Bowkett of the Poplar Union. 

This is confirmed in case notes found for John’s admission to The Manor Asylum on 19th February 1900 on transfer from Cane Hill. 

The notes include a Statement of Particulars that is copied from John’s original admission to Cane Hill.

John Effemey, Male 46, married, Occupation Dock Labourer (Pension) [Popular Union records say that he was in receipt of a pension from the London Dock Company] Religion: C of E. 

This is not his first attack. The other attack was at the age of 32. He was not sent away for treatment. The duration for this attack is one week, cause unknown. He is Epileptic. He is not suicidal, but dangerous to others. He attempted to kill his wife and threatened the lodger with violence. 

Under ‘near relative afflicted with insanity’ it is noted that his sister Elizabeth died in Farnham Asylum. 

There is a statement of ‘Facts indicating insanity observed by myself at the time of examination’ made by Dr Bowkett at the time of his original admission.

“He does not seem to recognise the seriousness of his position. After talking some time he seemed to lose himself. Said he was 47 years old but he did not know how long it was since he was born. He supposed it was much longer than that”

And also a statement of ‘Facts communicated by others’

Sarah Effemey patient’s wife of 13 Mellish Street. Millwall, states, patient has been subject to fits for 19 years. About 6 weeks ago the fits stopped and he became strange in his mind. He frequently stands talking to himself for an hour or two at a time and imagines there are people under the bed. Sarah Crocker of 13 Mellish Street, states patient tried to strangle his wife and would have killed her but was prevented. 

I have checked John’s timeline and the year of his first attack coincides with the death of his son – 1883. 

His seizures started 19 years previous to 1898. I cannot find anything linking to this. The only event I found was the birth of his first son in 1879.

The Manor Asylum case notes also contain information about John’s ‘Condition on Admission’.

Physically he seems to be in fair health. ‘His hair is dark and coarse, a fair amount on his cranium and he is unshaven. Eyes are blue and not bulging. He has a fair complexion, no grimacing, furrows or lines of expression, his facial features are pleasant.’

Mentally however ‘He is rambling and confused in conversation and makes irrational statements, accuses Dr Lord [the medical superintendent of the asylum] of not behaving as a gentleman for stopping his letters to his son. His memory is poor. He says he is 63 years of age, not very sure of dates.’ He is actually 49.

Diagnosis: Mania and Epilepsy.   The signature on this report is illegible as it is faded.

On 3rd March 1902 John was transferred to the newly opened Horton Asylum. He stayed there until 11 Sept 1903 when he was transferred to the Ewell Epileptic Colony. 

In July 1903 the clerk to the LCC Asylums Committee writes to the Poplar Guardians to certify that John is confined in the asylum. It seems that Sarah needs this in order to claim sick pay from the Forester’s Friendly Society. 

John is transferred back to Horton Asylum on 28th November 1906 where he stays until his death aged 57 on 16th October 1909.

His death certificate shows that he died of Epilepsy, Aortic and Fibroid disease of the Heart. The death is registered by John Elgee the medical superintendent and not his wife Sarah

John’s brother Edwin also dies in the Q3 1909 in Romsey.

What happens to John’s wife, Sarah?

1901 census: John is in the Manor Asylum. Sarah is still residing in 13 Mellish Street Poplar, and sharing the house with John and Sarah Crocker and a lodger, William Gibbins. It was Sarah Crocker who John had threatened to attack in 1898.

1910 Q2: Sarah marries John Barry, a widower.

1911 census: Sarah and John are living in Sarah’s home at 13 Mellish Street. John is a boilermaker.

1924 Q3:  Sarah’s death at the age of 72 is registered in Whitechapel. 

And Ernest, John’s son?

In 1899 Ernest joins the Royal Navy as a Writer, that is a clerk. He is recorded as having dark hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion like his father. He marries Alice Ethel Ward at St Stephen’s Poplar on 12th June 1904 and their son Albert Edward is born in 1905. 

During WW1, on 17 June 1915 Ernest transfers to the Royal Flying Corps (later to become the Royal Air Force in 1918.) After the war Ernest becomes a Police Constable. By the time of the 1939 register he has risen to become a Police Sergeant, City Corporation. He lives to a good age, dying aged 90 in 1970.

*Many thanks to Roger Miller for his research at the LMA to complete John’s story.

*Many thanks to Kevin McDonnell and Steve Johnson, for their research at Surrey History Centre, finding John’s Case notes from the Manor Asylum which helped solve the mystery of when John came into care of the Asylums. And the photograph which brings John to life.

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