Following the AGM, Debbie Staynes gave us a talk entitled A Black Sheep in the Family about her
ancestor Thomas Henry Staynes and she invited us to listen to her talk and judge for ourselves
whether he was in fact a black sheep.
We were told about the considerable resources she had at home, including the Staynes family
bible which listed all the children born. Her Auntie Clarice, born 1882, had been the keeper of
family photos and stories and Debbie’s father took over this role. Armed with this information,
Debbie tried to find out a bit more.
Thomas Henry Staynes was born in 1865 in Wakefield and he appeared on both the 1871 and
1881 Wakefield censuses. He resented paternal authority which was illustrated by the fact that he
attacked the barber he worked for and then ran away to sea.
He was in the habit however, of coming home to visit and bringing a ship’s mate with him, one of
whom disappeared with a gold watch. His home port was Bristol and a return home would involve
him travelling by train to Normanton then walking to Wakefield. He wrote home regularly and
during a long period when there were no letters, his shipping company was contacted but it
appeared he had deserted. The mystery was solved when the family started receiving letters from
a Henry Beauchamp.
Thomas Henry also tried his hand at gold prospecting in Australia. There was a JH Staynes aged
29 on the SS Innamincka in September 1895 when he was sailing from Victoria to Freemantle, but
this was the only evidence Debbie could find of his time in Australia. She also found that on some
occasions he had been economical with the truth; on the 1900 US census he claimed to have been
in that country for 20 years, when Debbie had evidence of him on the UK census. In 1904 he was
cook on a ship called the Morven and Debbie showed us a photo rumoured to have been taken on
board ship in 1917; we were told of the eventual fate of this ship and two others which Thomas had
He eventually settled in Roseburg, Oregon, married to Alice Delilah, a farmer with his own farm.
Thomas died in 1930 aged 65, Alice living on until 1944.
Debbie concluded her very interesting talk, asking us to consider whether Thomas was a black
sheep, a rolling stone, or a Jonah on account of the fate of three of the ships he had travelled on.