The vase on the grave of Emma Boler in West Deeping Cemetery has been empty for as long as anyone can remember – until February 15th, 2014.
Joyce Gebhard, who lives near Birmingham, never knew her grandmother, Emma Boler, who died in 1930 at the age of 40. She had a photograph of Emma; she knew that Emma was born and died in West Deeping, although when she married she went to live in Nottinghamshire. But Joyce had got stuck – she didn’t know Emma’s parentage and she couldn’t find a grave. Last year she contacted local churches in the hope that one of them could locate her grandmother’s grave. As a last resort she emailed West Deeping Parish Clerk who passed on the request to West Deeping Heritage Group.
The group holds the archives for the Cemetery in King Street. There is a hand-drawn plan of the burial plots and a numbered index. Over the years the numbering has got rather confused, as paths have been filled in and new areas added – but in 2013 the plan was re-drawn and an index to the numbering was made by West Deeping resident, Peter Wright, who has lived in the village since he was born and can identify many of his relatives’ graves in the cemetery. So it was easy to trace Emma Boler’s grave – in the older part of the cemetery, plot number 161.
Just behind her grave are plot numbers 252 and 253 for James William and Louisa Wright, who we now know are her parents. The banns in 1880 for the marriage of James William Wright and Louisa Bloodworth, spinster of the parish of Helpston, provided Joyce with the clue to her great-grandmother’s origins.
The 1891 census for West Deeping reveals that James’ and Louisa’s daughter Emma was 10 months old, the youngest of the 5 children listed. At this time they lived on King Street, near the Red Lion Public House. In 1901, they had apparently moved to one of the cottages in The Row, at the end of The Lane. There were another 2 children by then, John and Edward. By the time of the next census in 1911 Emma Evelyn Wright was in Old Fletton, Peterborough, with her elder sister Florence, now the wife of Joseph Fountain, a platelayer on the Great Northern Railway.
We’re not sure how or where Emma met Walter Boler, who lived in Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire. He had survived the First World War as a Sergeant in the 9th Sherwood Foresters, having seen action at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles, and in 1916 on the Somme where he was wounded. He had married Emma in 1917, and the couple lived in Mansfield. After recovering from his wounds he trained troops in Britain. After the war ended he became a policeman in 1919. In 1922, their son (Joyce’s father John) was baptised in West Deeping. After 32 years of service Walter had achieved the rank of Chief Superintendent in the Nottinghamshire Police Force. After Emma had died in 1930, he remarried and had further children.
Joyce’s visit to West Deeping still left unanswered the question of how Emma met Walter, but the pink roses in the vase on Emma’s grave mark the fact that Joyce has traced an important link between her family and the village of West Deeping. Peter Wright’s work on the cemetery plan has had the unexpected result of discovering another branch of his own family tree!