The Woods Family
The Woods family in India descended from Roger Woods who was born in 1812 in
Tipperary, Ireland. He was a labourer and married Mary Quinn in 1834 in Dublin. He enlisted
as a Gunner Royal in the Royal Artillery at Dublin, 1836. He arrived in India that year, on the
“Repulse”, and was promoted over the ensuing years to “Serjt. Sub-Conductor”. (From FIBIS
I have the following from a fellow researcher: “Roger died at Lucknow from wounds inflicted
from a couple days before while trying to defend the Baillie Guard
Gate during the Siege of Lucknow. As part of the records of
people fleeing Lucknow after the Siege there was a Mrs Woods
(widower of Sgt Woods) and three children listed (no names) and
one child deceased (unfortunately many children died during the
Roger’s surviving son, Albert Woods (1851 - 1920), who was my
paternal grandmother’s father, had an interesting story to tell:
FROM: Dy File: Master A. W. Woods Bankipore
TO: The Telegraph Master in Charge Bankipore
Dated: 26 Septr 93
I have the honor to state that My Father Roger Woods and my
mother Mary Woods were both from Tipperary (Ireland).
My Father came out to India in the Royal Artillery and after a time he joined the D. P. W.
During the Mutiny of 1857 my Father was a Conductor and Supervisor at Lucknow.
During the Siege at Lucknow there was Battery called the Cawnpore Battery and it so
happened that the enemy knocked this battery down and my Father was ordered to put it up
In doing this a round shot from the enemy shattered his right arm, just as the battery had
been finished which had to be amputated, and owing to the want of proper nourishing food
he lived 7 days after the operation.
My Mother drew a pension of 80 Rupees a month after we arrived at Calcutta from Lucknow
and each child 10 Rupees a month.
My only Sister is in England and has settled down at Croydon. My Uncle Bartlett Quinn is in America and other relatives in England. I have no relatives now in India.
A W Woods
The book, Personal narrative of the Siege of Lucknowby Sir Colin Campbell (available as
a free Ebook from Google), lists: “Woods, widow of Serjeant Woods, and three children (one
Family lore has it that, during the siege of
Lucknow, Albert, then about 5 years old,
carried water for the troops. He was “quite a
rake and a Roman Catholic until he met
Sarah Emmeline Newberry, whereupon he
immediately reformed and also became a
Baptist”. Albert’s birth and baptism records
are missing, but I have found the baptisms
of 3 siblings in Jullunder.
Albert’s wife Sarah, born in Tamil Nadu in
1865, was “very beautiful and studied
medicine in Calcutta in the early 1900s and
had a clientele of petty Nawabs wives”,
again from family lore. Sarah was the
daughter of a soldier, William Newberry, a
drum major in the Native Infantry. She died
in 1944 in Jubbulpore, where many of the
Woods and Wilson families had lived.
Albert and Sarah had a son Albert and 4
daughters: Hilda Myrtle, Violet Iris, Daisy
Muriel and Hyacinth Noreen. Violet (1893 - 1981) was my grandmother; she married Denis
Wilson, an army NCO, in 1915 in Jubbulpore. I remember her on visits to Portslade and
Hove as a little old lady, very gracious and very deaf.
Violet’s sisters also married: Daisy to Leslie Thomas; she died at the age of 47 in 1941, in
Hilda married Henry Richardson. One of their daughters, Sheila, my cousin once removed,
lived for many years in Zimbabwe where I met her several times (I lived in Zambia). I was
then only dimly aware of our connections. After Henry’s death, Hilda remarried in 1918, to
George Grover in Jubbulpore. She died in Kenya in 1952.
Hyacinth married Ernest Bellamy, a “mercantile assistant”, in 1923 in Jubbulpore.
Albert and Sarah’s son, Albert Mervern (1908 1942), was a Police inspector in Bombay, and
he married Marjorie Constance Mace (1918 - ). I haven’t yet found much more of their details
- they seem to be thin on the ground!
My paternal great grandfather was John Clement Wilson, a railway engine driver. He and
14 other siblings were born to Archibald Wilson. Only 8 survived childhood.
Like Roger Woods on my granny’s side, Archibald came to India as a soldier. He was born in
Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1825 and arrived in Lahore, India on the “Duke of Cornwall” in 1843.
A lot of this information was found on his pension certificate, issued on his discharge from
“Her Majesty’s H[orse]. Arty” in 1862, having served them for 21 years.
Archibald married Mary Anne MacKenzie (born 1835) at Iaulnah in 1850. Like Albert Woods’
wife, she was the daughter of a soldier, Alexander. He was a farrier in the Horse Brigade; his
wife was Sophia Scott. Archibald died in 1885. At her death in 1900, from “copper poisoning”
Mary Anne was described as “waiting room servant
John Clement Wilson, my grandfather, left us a family
Bible in which the family had written many records - some
of which I haven’t been able to verify elsewhere. A sad
note in the Bible is from his mother, Mary Anne, at the
death of her youngest child, Richard Scott Wilson aged 6:
“My Beloved Richard died on the morning of the 12th
October  at 3 A. M. after a painful and violent
attack of spasms. God have mercy on him and prepare
his all for that great change & May God of his great mercy bring his all together to... his... at the great and glorious day, where the hearts of all hearts shall be open”
None of John’s male siblings was a soldier. Twins Edward and Robert were on the railways
like John. Henry Archibald was a Police Inspector.
Of the female siblings that I’ve been able to trace, Grace Louisa is most interesting. She
married William Clarke, a railwayman. One of their grandchildren took the Wilson surname,
rather than Clarke, in the form Scott-Wilson.
John C Wilson married Isabell Toomey and she gave birth to 6 children, the second of which
was my grandfather Denis. It was Denis who married a Woods - my grandmother Violet Iris.
My father, their first-born, left India in 1935 to study at the Royal School of Mines in
Camborne. In 1938 he travelled by ship and train to the then Northern Rhodesia to work in
the Roan Antelope Mine. After a spell in Burma during WW2, he returned and met and
married my mother (a teacher fresh out from England). My sisters and I lived in Zambia (as it
is now) until 1967.
The “other” Woods child
Recollect that my great grandfather mentioned in his letter of 1893 that “my only Sister is in
I have recently followed that up and discovered a whole network of Woods descendants in
several countries. The lady in question was Margaret Alice Helena Woods, often going by
just Alice Helena. She turns out to have been a remarkable woman: she married twice, bore
13 children over 25 years, and lived on three continents!
She first married, in 1868 (aged just 15), one Thomas Price Williams, a Telegraph
department employee, in Dacca. A witness was her brother, Albert Woods - I guess he also
worked in that department in Comilla. The poor man died from dysentery at the age of just
33. They had 4 sons, one bearing the unusual name of Elphinstone. The name is of Scottish
origin, and appears in British India a few times, including Mountstuart Elphinstone, a former
governor of Mumbai.
After the death of her first husband, Margaret married William Norman Morris in Agra. He
was a Bristol-born soldier in the 10th Hussars. They raised 9 children, 3 born in India and the
remainder in England. The penchant for unusual names continued: Fidelia Alice, Isoline
Lucy, and Geraldine Isoline.
The parents and surviving children appear in the UK 1891 and 1901 censuses - except for
her husband William, who in 1900 secured a Short Service Commission in the Imperial
Yeomanry in South Africa. This was during the 2nd Boer War, and he ended up in Kimberley
(which was besieged by the Boers in 1899) where Margaret and many of the children joined
him in about 1901. It looks like Margaret narrowly avoided living through another siege!
I then set about tracing descendants in South Africa. On the way I found that a grandson by
her first marriage had emigrated to New Zealand and has descendants living there and in
Finding records in South Africa wasn’t easy - certainly the LDS (familysearch.org) is a great
help. I found that locating a deceased person’s estate (or probate) papers in South Africa is
a key move. It can contain a lot of information on their past life including children and
marriages. There are free databases such as NASA (National Archives of South Africa)
provided by the government. I did employ a local researcher who was a great help in
bringing local knowledge to the quest.
The most fascinating family was that of Fidelia Alice Morris. She married in 1907 in
Beaconsfield, a town near Kimberley, to Hubert Fisher. He was from Birmingham, an
engineer. They had a child in 1912 but she died 4 months later. Now something odd
happened - the next record I can find is of a son, Ronald Fisher, being born in 1915 in Sydney, Australia! Then 2 years later she
remarries in Sydney, to one Benjamin
Louw, a South African. A few months later
Ronald is baptised and given the surname
Louw. The three of them return to South
Africa where a daughter is born in 1926.
What became of the first husband, Hubert
Fisher? I found a story on a Facebook
group, from the book Kimberley Murders
Most Foul True Tales Of Murder Between
1870 To 1950 From The Diamond Capital
Of The World by Steve Lunderstedt
(ISBN 9780620277990). It appears that
Fidelia “ left him in 1914 to go to Australia
with another man. He initiated divorce
proceedings in 1916, and divorce was
granted that same year”. Hubert became
infatuated with Mary, the daughter of the household he was boarding with. One evening in
1920 he came across Mary and her boyfriend in a park. He “fired two shots from a pistol”,
mortally wounding Herbert Wright and wounding young Mary. He was tried for murder and
attempted murder and sentenced to death. He was buried in a cemetery in Cape Town.
I have managed to track down the ship on which Fidelia (and Benjamin, it turns out) travelled
to Australia. It was the “Borda” and it arrived in June 1914. Shortly afterwards it became a
WW1 troop ship. Fidelia’s second husband had the wonderful given names of Benjamin
Francois Duminy, which made tracing his ancestors quite straightforward - the names
strongly indicate French origins.
Back to Ronald Fisher/Louw. He married into a strong Jewish family: the patriarch Harry
Landsberg changed his name to Landon, around the time of the Great War. Ronald’s bride
was Harry’s youngest daughter Joyce, and they raised four daughters in the Cape - to whom
I am indebted for so much of this part of the story.
|1857 Map of India
1857 Map of Northern India
Crutchley's Map of the Indian Mutiny
|1812 || Roger Woods born in Tipperary |
|1825 || Archibald Wilson born in Berwick-upon-Tweed |
|1834 || Roger Woods married Mary Quinn |
|1836 || Roger Woods arrives in India |
|1843 || Archibald Wilson arrives in India |
|1850 || Archibald Wilson marries Mary Anne MacKenzie |
|1857 || Indian Mutiny |
|1865 || Sarah Woods born in Tamil Nadu |
|1885 || Archibald Wilson dies |
|1893 || Violet Woods born |
|1850 || Mary Anne Wilson dies |
|1915 || Violet Woods marries Denis Wilson |
|1938 || John C Wilson moves to Northern Rhodesia |
|1944 || Sarah Woods dies in Jubbulpore, |