Date:January 06, 2013

Emma Shellaker


Family Weddings and Funerals as our story ends

SEmma Shellaker & FamilyUPPORTER OF ‘ANIMAL RIGHTS’.
Emma, together with her older sister Sarah, were vocal supporters of, what would now be called ‘Animal Rights’.

They would both often have fierce arguments with their brothers, William and John, over the issue of fox hunting. Emma & Sarah were fervently against the hunting of foxes, while their brothers both allowed the local hunt to pursue the fox over their fields.

On one occasion, tree trunks were being delivered to the saw mill at the home of Sam & Emma in Front Street, Billesdon on a horse-drawn dray (a dray is a low cart with sides). The dray was being driven by a local man called ‘Badger Lee’ who was ill-treating the horse.

When Emma saw this man beating his horse she went out into the street to give him a ‘good telling off’. Although Emma was relatively small in stature this did not prevent her attacking what she thought was wrong.

In those times it was rare for women to be so vocal.

On the right is a photograph of Emma with husband Sam, and their children ‘Bert’ and Annie. This photograph was probably taken around 1911.

I cannot identify where this photograph was taken but it is possibly at the back of Emma & Sam’s house in Front Street/Church Street, Billesdon.

1911 CENSUS 
This Census taken on the night of Sunday 2nd April 1911 records Emma & Sam but for the first time their children William (Bert) and Annie are recorded for the first time on a national Census.

1911 England Census for Emma & Sam Geary -

1911 Census – Emma Geary (nee Shellaker) & Sam Abell Geary in Billesdon


Name Relationship Age Marriage Status Occupation Employer/Worker Working at Home? Where Born
Sam Abell Geary Head 32 Married Carpenter & Home Painter Own account At Home Leicester
Emma Geary Wife 44 Married Leicester, Tugby
William Albert Geary Son 8 School Leicester, Billesdon
Annie Elizabeth Geary Daugher 5 School Leicester, Billesdon

The Census also records Emma & Sam have been married for 10 years and in the section asking for ‘Total Children Born Alive’ the answer given is ‘3‘, with number of ‘Children still Living’ is  ‘2’ and ‘Children who have died’ states ‘1’. This information is not correct as it excludes her first child, Mary Doris, who was given away for adoption and was living with the Curtis family.

As in the 1901 Census, Emma’s illegitimate daughter, Doris Mary, is recorded with the household of Thomas & Emma Curtis, her adopted parents

1911 Mary Curtis in Tugby

1911 Census – Mary Curtis, Daughter of Emma Shellaker in Tugby 

Name Relationship Marriage Status Age Occupation Employer/Worker Working at Home? Where Born
Thomas Curtis Head Married 68 Wheelwright Own A/C At Home Leicester, Tugby
Emma Curtis Wife Married 68 Leicester, Hallaton
Louisa Curtis Daughter Single 40 Monthly Nurse Leicester, Hallaton
Doris Mary Neice 11 School Dorset, Blandford

The records also shows Emma Curtis has been married to husband Thomas for 45 years and had a total of 9 children of whom only 3 are still living, with 6 recorded as having died. The occupation of Louisa Curtis is recorded as a ‘Monthly Nurse’. This term is used to describe someone who ‘attends women during the first month after childbirth, also known as ‘Confinement Nurse’. Woman who could not afford a paid surgeon to be present at the birth would use the services of a Monthly Nurse. Most woman providing the service were experienced mothers themselves. Often they were older women, often widows, who would likely have been present at numerous births of relatives and neighbours, and very likely given birth themselves several times (but the latter is not the case with Louisa).

Doris Mary’s relationship with the head of the household is now recorded as ‘Niece’. In reality Doris Mary is the daughter of Thomas & Emma’s niece – this makes her a ‘great-niece’ but I do not believe recording ‘Niece’ is part of an attempt to mislead. People used, and still use, the term ‘Aunt’ for a ‘Great-Aunt’ and  the general term ‘cousin’ regardless of whether the person is a ‘First’, ‘Second’ or ‘Third’ cousin. The terms ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ is frequently used for older cousins. However by entering the word ‘Niece’ on the Census the Curtis family are not revealing to the neighbourhood the true parentage of ‘Doris Mary’. The Census information remains private for one hundred years. I only had access to the information in the 1911 Census on 1st January 2012.

Emma's mother, Mary ShellakerAlso in 1911 Emma’s two younger siblings were married; her brother JOHN married AGNES MILES, a local Billesdon girl, at the Baptist chapel in April 1911.

Emma’s sister HELENA (NELLIE) married JOHN BROWN in September of that same year. However, unlike Emma and her brother John, Nellie married John Brown at the Wesleyan chapel in Front Street, Billesdon.

Two years latter on the 7th July 1913 Emma’s mother MARY SHELLAKER née Grocock (pictured on the right) died and was buried in the cemetery at Billesdon in the same grave in which her husband had been buried nine years previously.

Emma’s mother was 75 years old when she died, at this time Emma herself was 46 years old.

Emma also become an Aunty several times around this period; her brother John has three girls; JOAN (born 1912), MOLLY (1913) and BERYL (1921). Her older brother William also has two girls; MARY (1929) and ANN (1934).

Her sister Nellie gives birth to OLIVE (1919) and her sister Polly has six children born after her own marriage to Frank Brown in 1892; MAY, DICK, BERTHA, EDITH, DAISY & JOE.

Annie Geary & Mary ' Curtis'MARY ‘CURTIS’
The true parentage of Mary, (“Doris Mary Geary Shellaker”) the first born child of Emma Shellaker (and Sam Geary) who was born on May 17th 1899 in Christchurch in Dorset, was not known within the family for many years.

As Mary was adopted shortly after birth by Emma’s mother’s sister, Emma Curtis and her husband Thomas, she would have remained ‘as part of the family‘. Arguably Mary, as the ‘daughter’ of Emma Curtis, she would have been known as a ‘First Cousin’ of her mother Emma Shellaker!

On the right is a picture of Annie Geary on the left, with Emma’s other daughter, Mary Curtis on the right.

As there was only just over six years between the two girls it would be very probable Emma’s two daughter spent a great deal of time togther while growing up.

Mary Curtis WeddingOn the 28th June 1922 Emma’s daughter MARY CURTIS, who was given up for adoption, marries CLIFFORD GARFOOT at the Methodist chapel at Houghton on the Hill.

The adults pictured in this wedding photograph are from left to right; Mr. & Mrs. Garfoot (Clifford’s parents), Clifford & Mary (The Bridegroom & Bride). The adults on the right are Louise Curtis (Mary was living with Louise when she married Clifford. Louise was the daughter of Thomas & Emma Curtis who helped raise her) and Mr. Ernest Garfoot. (the Bridegroom’s eldest brother).

The two bridesmaids were Joan Shellaker (on the right) and her sister Molly Shellaker, the two eldest daughter of John Shellaker, Emma Geary’s brother. The small boy in the centre is Eddie Garfoot, (another brother of the Bridegroom.)

Mary was 23 years old when she married.

The photograph was taken at a bungalow in Gaulby Road, Houghton on the Hill, which was built for Mary & Clifford and where they continued to live for a least two years, their first son Ken, was born there.

Around thirty years after her own marriage, Emma’s daughter, ANNIE ELIZABETH GEARY, was married. The Wedding took place on Wednesday 22nd October 1930 in the same Baptist chapel at Billesdon where her mother & father were married at the beginning of the century in November 1900.

Annie Geary Wedding

The Wedding of Annie Geary & Leonard Bates

Annie-Geary-Wedding-ID1. Violet Bates (Groom’s Cousin)
2. Edwin Bates (Groom’s Father)
3. Betsy Bates (Groom’s Mother)
4. Ernest Bates (Groom’s Brother)
5. Bert Geary (Bride’s Brother)
6. Leonard Bates (Groom)
7. EMMA Geary – nee Shellaker (Mother of the Bride)
8. Annie Geary (Bride)
9. Sam Abell Geary (Father of the Bride)
10. Mrs. Sarah Geary (Bride’s paternal Grandmother)
11. Connie Bates (Groom’s Sister)

12. Olive Brown (Nellie’s daughter)
13. Beryl Shellaker (John’s daughter)
14. Edna Garfoot
15. Kathleen Garfoot
16. One of the Garfoot boys
17. Another of the Garfoot boys

Two years after the wedding of his daughter Annie, Emma’s husband Sam died suddenly at the age of 55 years on Saturday 10th December 1932 whilst working at Skeffington Hall. He had a stroke. Sam was a Deacon, and a Sunday School teacher at the Baptist chapel. He was very much loved by both children and adults and had a very gracious way and he loved children. Olive Swift recalls that the whole village of Billesdon was in a state of stock and sadness when the news of Sam’s death spread around the village. His death was recorded in the local paper, The Leicester Mercury

Sam Death Notice“GEARY. On the 10th of December. at Church Street, Billesdon, Sam Abell, beloved husband of Emma, passed peacefully away. Funeral service at Baptist Church, Billesdon, on Wednesday 2.30.”

Sam Geary Funeral NewspaperSam Abell Geary’s funeral service was held at the Baptist chapel, Billesdon on Wednesday 14th December 1832 and in addition to his family and local villagers the funeral was also attended by five vicars of nearby villages and a number of Baptist local preachers. The funeral of was reported the following day in the Leicester Mercury


Big Gathering at Billesdon Funeral
The funeral of Mr. Sam Abell Geary, of Billesdon, who died after a short illness, took place at the Baptist Chapel, Billesdon, with which he had been connected for 40 years, today.

The family mourners were Mrs. Geary (widow), Mr. Bert Geary (son), Mrs. L. Bates (daughter), Mr. L. Bates (son-in-law), Mr. & Mrs. John Geary (brother & sister-in-law), Miss M.E. Geary (sister), Mrs. Lawrence (cousin) Ellistown, Mr. F. Lawrence (cousin) Hugglescote, Mr. & Mrs. J. Brown, Mr. & Mrs. J. Shellaker and Mr. & Mrs. W. Shellaker. ( brothers-in-law & sisters in law).

Others present were the newly appointed vicar of Billesdon (the Rev. C.O. McDowell), the Rev. H.W. Bevan (Gaulby with Kings Norton), Rev. Hill-Melling (Illston with Carlton Curlieu), Rev. G.A. Henson (Tugby), Rev. A. Goldberg (Alexton), Mr. J. Huckerby (Bushby) and Mr. Wesley (Leicester). Local preachers ; Mr. Marratt (Houghton), Mrs. Foster (Leicester), Mr. Stafford ( Stockerston), and Mr. Corbett  (representing the firm of John Lyne and Sons).

The service in the chapel was conducted by the Minister of Robert Hall Memorial Chapel Leicester. (The Rev. C.A. Ashpool).


Sam Abel Geary died without making a will, so died intestate. I obtained a copy of the intestate document from the Leicester Probate Office. The sureties of the document were; “William Albert Geary of  Billesdon, Leicestershire, Carpenter and Decorator” and “Leonard Bates of Billesdon aforesaid, Commercial Traveller”. The Gross value of the Estate was £997.  4.   8. The Net value of Personal Estate £  91.  3.   8. Probate was granted on the 1st day of  May 1933 to “Emma Geary of “Ivy House”, the lawful widow and relict.”  

Emma’s son, WILLIAM ALBERT (BERT) married GLADYS BETTS on Wednesday 27th December 1933. They were married at the Baptist chapel at Belton in Rutland.

Below are pictures of all of Emma’s ten Grandchildren.

The Grandchildren of Emma Shellaker

Emma’s son Bert and his wife Gladys had three children; DORIS, born on Monday 24th September 1934, girl, NANCY, born on Tuesday 22nd October 1935 and a boy born on Saturday 12th September 1936  named SAM, after his grandfather. Bert and Gladys and their three children lived with Emma, at 44, Front Street. On the far right is Bert & Gladys Geary with their three children, from left to right , Nancy, Sam and Doris.

On the far right – THE CHILDREN OF ANNIE & LEN
The wedding of Emma’s daughter Annie to Len Bates, also produced grandchildren for Emma; MICHAEL EDWIN born on Friday 14th June 1935 and JANET CHRISTINE who was born on Tuesday 30th August 1938. Both children were born at White’s Barn Farm, Quenby, near Hungarton in Leicestershire and that is where the picture on the far right was taken. This faded picture, has an incorrect note on the back indicating it was taken in the summer of 1951 but this cannot be correct – more likely 1949/1950 when Emma was around 83 or 84 years old. Emma is shown with Michael and Christine.

The two pictures in the centre – THE CHILDREN OF MARY CURTIS
Mary Garfoot with her baby DorisMary’s marriage to Clifford Garfoot produced five children; KENNETH ERNEST born on the 4th June 1924, EDWARD ROY born on the 10th July 1926, CLIFFORD GORDON who was born on the 17th of September 1928, a daughter, ROSEMARY born on the 21st September 1928 and and second girl born on the 14th April 1940, she was named DORIS. In the photograph centre right are their three sons -from left to right Roy, Gordon and Kenneth. Mary’s daughter, Rosemary is pictured centre left, sitting on a chair

When I was a young boy I knew Gordon Garfoot and was told by my mother that he ‘was sort of related to us’. In the year 2000 I meet Gordon again at his home,  along with his brother Ken, and I asked them if they knew where their mother was born. Neither of them knew for certain but they guessed it was “somewhere in Leicestershire“.

Both Gordon & Ken were very surprised when I told them their mother was born in Christchurch in Dorset while staying, when pregnant, with her older sister Polly and her husband Frank Brown.

Doris, the youngest child of Mary Garfoot (née Curtis) died as an infant on the 28th January 1941. Sarah Shellaker, Emma oldest sister recorded the burial of Doris Garfoot in her diary; “Jan 30 1941 Mary Garfoot Baby buried. 9 months old .” The picture on the right shows Mary Garfoot (née Curtis/Shellaker) with Doris her baby daughter.

Emma is pictured below shortly after the Second World War celebrated the achievement of the four firstborn children of the Richard of Richard & Mary Shellaker reaching the age of eighty years old. Emma, who was the fourth, and therefore the youngest of this group, reached the age of eighty in August 1946. The photograph was taken very soon after that time as her brother William was to die two months later in October 1946. It is believed that Polly’s husband Frank Brown, who was at one time a professional photographer, took the picture which was taken outside of the front door of Nellie Brown’s home, Emma’s sister,  the New Nursery in Back Street/Brook Lane, Billesdon.

William, Polly, Emma, Sarah Shellaker

Standing – Polly Brown (née Shellaker) Emma Geary (née Shellaker)

Seated – William Shellaker          Sarah Shellaker

It is interesting to note that of the original thirteen children, the six who survived into adulthood all lived into their eighties. The average age of the six at their deaths was 85 years old.

In the history of the Baptist chapel at Billesdon there are many references to singing by children trained by “Miss E. Shellaker” ( and later Mrs E. Geary) who continued to work for 60 years as a choirmistress. In the minutes of various meetings at the Baptist chapel the following comments are noted relating to Emma and her family;

  • 1907 - “Organ bought - cost £47 and 10 shillings and half pence”    “Organist at opening Mrs Emma Geary” “......from about this time Mrs Geary was training people to sing at Special  Services.”
  • 1913 - “Emma Geary was a Deacon and Choirmistress”.
  • 1930 “Helena Brown & Annie Geary (Emma’s daughter) baptised.”
  • 1942 - “Mrs. Geary retired as organist; her son had been playing for sometime.” “Bert Geary was organist for more than 20 years.”   “Mrs. Geary & Mrs. Brown (Nellie) are providing hospitality for visiting preachers.”

Emma Geary Presentation Chapel 1949On Wednesday 25th May 1949, a presentation was made to Emma in recognition for her service to the Baptist chapel. This presentation was reported in the local paper, the Leicester Mercury. As with the other newspaper cuttings I have re-typed below the text.

Wednesday, May 25, 1949
“Billesdon Presentation – Mrs Samuel Geary, who for the past 60 years has been a choir leader and who has trained the children for the annual Sunday school anniversary for a similar length of time, has been presented with a hymn book with music, suitably inscribed, as a token of esteem, for services rendered at the Billesdon Baptist Church.”

Beryl Leedham (née Shellaker) recalls that Emma’s approach to the teaching of the choir was quite strict and authoritarian. On one occasion a ‘new girl’ – a Mrs Fawcitt, was brought to the choir by another girl named Jessie.Upon seeing this new uninvited visitor Emma commented loudly … “and WHO asked you to come?” Beryl Shellaker said to Emma if this new member, Mrs. Fawcitt, could not be allowed to join the choir then she did not want to be in it either and they then both left. Emma’s granddaughter, DORIS GEARY, continued the family tradition of service to the Baptist chapel in Billesdon. She was the treasurer and the fourth generation of her family to worship at the chapel.

In the last years of Emma’s life she began to show signs of a form of dementia which progressively worsen up until her death.  Some of the symptoms of her illness were loss of memory, confusion and erratic behavior. During his time she needed constant supervision from her son Bert Geary and daughter –in-law Gladys in their home at 44, Front Street/Church Street. During the summer months, to give Bert and Gladys a respite from caring for Emma, she would stay with her daughter Annie and and son-in-law Len in Quenby, near Hungarton in Leicestershire.  Their children Michael and Christine would also share responsibility to stop ‘Granny wandering off’ while their mother was tending the poultry. At the time it was said ‘her mind has gone’ but is is now believed, by those who knew her in those final years, she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Emma death-NewspaperEmma passed away on Sunday the 25th February 1951, aged 84 years.

“Geary – On Feb. 25, 1951, Emma, wife of the late Sam Abel Geary of Church Street, Billesdon, passed peacefully away, aged 84 years. Funeral service, Baptist Chapel, Billesdon, Wednesday at 2.30.”

On the following Wednesday and after a service at the Baptist chapel she was buried in Billesdon cemetery in the same grave as her husband, Sam. The inscription of their gravestone reads; “In Heavenly Love Abiding.” Over a decade before she died, on the 24th February 1937, Emma Geary made her Will , in which she appointed her son-in-law, Leonard Bates and her brother-in-law, John Brown to be joint Executors. Emma bequeathed her estate to her children, William Albert Geary & Annie Elizabeth Bates. I obtained a full copy of Emma’s Will from the Leicester Probate Office. Probate was granted on this Will on 1st February 1952. The value of the estate was £1,053 gross.

 Emma 1946

Emma Shellaker

(15th August 1866 – 25th February 1951)

Mary Garfoot, the firstborn of Emma’s surviving children died suddenly of a heart attack nine years after Emma’s death in October 1960, aged 61 years. Four years later on Wednesday 2nd December 1964, Bert Geary died, aged 61 years. The last surviving child of Emma and Sam Geary; Annie Elizabeth Bates, died on Monday 28th September 1987, aged 81 years and was buried at Hungarton churchyard with her husband Len.


I would like to thank all those who, unlike myself, actually knew Emma Shellaker and who supplied photographs, certificates and information to enable this brief history of the life of Emma Shellaker to be recorded. These include Doris Geary, Christine Bates, Beryl Leedham, Olive Swift and Gordon & Ken Garfoot.