#52Ancestors “Water”

Welcome to Week 14 of my Genealogy Challenge, from the wonderful Amy Johnson Crow, of writing something about one of my Ancestors every week for a year, #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

Week 14’s prompt is “Water” and if there was any doubt about my families qualification for this category then the fact that there are no less than 52 Lukes family members listed in the Thames Watermen & Lightermen 1688-2010 category, should tell you all you need to know!

So let me introduce you to just one of them, my 3 x Great Grandfather Joseph Richard Lukes, Waterman and River Pilot.

The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames was founded in 1514, when the earliest Act of Parliament, for regulating Watermen, Wherrymen and Bargemen received Royal Assent from King Henry VIII. Under a further Act of 1555 the Company introduced apprenticeships for those wishing to learn the skills of the Watermen. In 1700 the Lightermen (Carriers of goods/cargo) joined the Water Company. 

Joseph was Born in 1833 in Gravesend in Kent, the youngest of ten children Born to Jesse Lukes and Susannah (Ann) Ebrall. He was baptised on 23rd June 1833 at St. Peter and    St. Paul Church, Milton Gravesend.

Joseph Richard Lukes Baptism

1841 Census

We first see Joseph recorded in the 1841 Census for Milton, Gravesend, living with his Mother, Ann aged 50 and older Sister Jane aged 15. What is noticeable is that Joseph’s father Jesse is missing from this Census and Ann is listed as living by ‘Independent Means’. We know that Jesse and Ann are together in 1851, so the assumption is that Jesse was possibly away at Sea and Ann is possibly, living off investments and/or rents from property, highly unlikely, or more likely she is unable to work and living with Family.

1851 Census

By 1851 Joseph is living at 1, Chapel Lane, Gravesend, Kent and like his Father, he is employed as a Waterman. The Lukes Family at every generation, across the whole Family, are mainly employed as Watermen along the River Thames, it would appear to be a Family Tradition! Living at home with Jospeh are both his parents, Jesse and Ann, plus his Sister Sophia and his Uncle James Lukes.

Joseph Richard Lukes Sophia Smith Marriage

In 1858 we see Joseph Richard Lukes Marry Sophia Smith on 27th September 1858 at     St. Clement Danes, Westminster, London.


St. Clement Danes Parish

1861 Census

In 1861 the family have moved to 26, Terrace, Milton, Gravesend and Joseph is still employed as a Waterman and he is living at home with his Wife Sophia and new born Daughter Emma Sophia Lukes. Also living at the property are Sophia’s parents.

1871 Census

By 1871 The Family had moved again, still within the Parish of Milton and can be found living at 1, Bentley Cottages, Milton Gravesend. Joseph had also changed his occupation slightly as he was now listed as a River Pilot. He was listed at home with his Wife Sophia, Daughters Emma and Sophia and his Son Joseph Richard Lukes Junior.

1881 Census

In 1881 We see Joseph and his family had moved yet again, all still within a very small area of Milton, Gravesend. This time they are residing at 26, Cross Street, Milton, Gravesend and living at home with Joseph is his Wife Sophia and Children, Emma aged 21, Joseph aged 17, Sophia aged 15, Susannah aged 8, Jane aged 7 and John aged 4. Jospeh is still listed as a River Pilot at this time.

Sadly the next record that we find for Joseph is his Death on 18th July 1881 aged just 48.

He was buried two days later on 20th July 1881 at St. Botolph’s Church, Northfleet, Kent

Joseph Richard Lukes Burial

Below is the Last Will and Testament of Joseph Richard Lukes whereby he bequeaths his worldly fortune to his Widow, Sophia Lukes.

Joseph Richard Lukes Will 2

There is still a lot more to uncover about my 3 x Great Grandfather’s life, so watch this space, as I try uncover more about his life story and try to discover more documents that will reveal hopefully a little bit more about Joseph Richard Lukes.


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