Background:  This research provides the genealogical background and historical context for the “engagement token” of Jane Stoker and Edward Thomas (“JS to ET 1 April 1820) in the possession of one of their descendants.

A transcribed record in Ancestry’s database shows Jane Stoker born 15 December 1799 to John Stoker and Jane Penman was baptised on 2 March 1800 Whickham, Durham, England.  A more detailed transcription at freereg.co.uk shows Jane was baptised in St Mary the Virgin Church, Whickham, Durham. The family lived at Swalwell and John Stoker’s occupation is Keelman, an operator of flat bottom boats.[1]  There is also a notation describing Jane as the third daughter of John Stocker, native of Ovingham Parish (Northumberland) and his wife Jane, daughter of Andrew Penman, native of this Parish (Durham). [2]   A search through marriage transcriptions on freereg.co.uk reveals John Stoker and Jane “Ponman” (sic) married at St Mary the Virgin Church, Ovingham, Northumberland on 28 May 1792.  John’s occupation is not recorded. [3]  Images of the original documents are not available to verify the accuracy of these transcriptions. 

However, these details fit partly with the search results for Jane Thomas’s registered death, 1867, on the Births Deaths and Marriages Registry, Victoria, Australia.  Her father’s name (John Stoker) and her place of birth (Durham) are recorded while her mother is documented as Jane, surname unknown.  More likely, the John Stoker of 25 Meeting House Alley, Old Gravel Lane, London listed as a relative in the diary kept by Jane and Edward’s third born son Edward William, on the voyage from England to Australia in 1849 is a brother or relative rather than Jane’s father.

It may be the inscription date of 1 April 1820 on the “engagement token” or love tokens as they were also known commemorates the date an understanding of marriage was reached, either by the couple or their families.  Another way of thinking about the token, is that Jane Stoker, gave it to Edward Thomas “JS to ET” as a declaration of her love. 

Fortunately the “engagement token”, identified as a Shilling, was minted in 1817. [4]  Before this date, identifying coins circulating in Britain’s monetary system were made difficult by an array of currency, “guineas, silver trade tokens, worn silver of William III, Anne, George I and II, plus copper trade tokens, cartwheels, worn halfpennies of George III as well as foreign currencies and, of course, large numbers of counterfeits”. [5]  The smoothing of the back of the coin and inscription may have been executed by Edward. 

Marriage banns were not published until 1824.  The lengthy betrothal may be indicative of the time for Edward Thomas to earn sufficient money to support a family and, or complete his apprenticeship in lapidary or gemstone cutting.  Both Jane and Edward could marry with parental consent before they turned twenty-one years.  Under the Clandestine Marriage Act of 1753, as under the cannon law, “the legal power of a parent to forbid a marriage ended when a child reached the age of twenty-one, but wills and settlements could – and sometimes did – specify that provision would be delayed to a later age”. [6]  On 9 May 1824 and the two successive Sundays, marriage banns were proclaimed at St James Church, Clerkenwell, Islington.  Jane signed the marriage register by her mark on 30 May 1824 before witnesses Matthew Brown and Rachel Miller.[7] 

Attached to John Stoker Thomas in several family trees on Ancestry is an extract from a family bible or manuscript chronicling the births and deaths of Jane and Edward’s children. Two daughters not mentioned in this extract are Elizabeth and Mary Ann Thomas.  Elizabeth born 6 February 1837 was baptised November 1848 three years after Edward’s death.  The baptismal register does not state Edward is deceased and his occupation of lapidary is recorded.  Jane and her children reside at 26 King Street, several doors down from Mr Morgan (Oil and Colorman) of 34 King Street, Clerkenwell described as a relative in the diary of Edward William Thomas. [8]

A baptismal record has not been located for Mary Ann Thomas, the youngest child of Jane and Edward who married John Hiscock, son of Thomas Hiscock the gold discoverer.  However, she is enumerated in the 1841 Census England with her family, domiciled at Lower Smith Street, Clerkenwell in the Borough of Finsbury, where watchmakers, jewellers and silversmiths resided.  Clerkenwell was not overwhelmed by poverty and decay like many other working-class areas of London.  A Report prepared by the Education Committee of the Statistical Society of London on the Borough of Finsbury, 1843, says Clerkenwell “has, none of the usual characteristics of a manufacturing town. There are many miles of open well ventilated streets containing exclusively private houses which look neat and comfortable and the stranger is not struck by the appearance of extreme misery and wealth alternating with each other in close juxtaposition. The cause of this peculiarity of Clerkenwell, which so distinguishes it from other parts of the metropolis is to be found in the nature of its manufacture …”.[9]

Edward Thomas died June 1845 and in 1849 Jane emigrated to Australia with her children.  Her death notice appeared in The Ballarat Star, Friday 25 October 1867.  She is described residing Buninyong, age sixty-eight years, widow of Edward Thomas, lapidary, Clerkenwell, London.  Cause of death dropsy.  The Benalla Standard published Elizabeth (Mrs Thomas Hiscock) Thomas’ Obituary, October 1922.

Copyright rests with the author Sarah Baird, and due acknowledgement must always be made of the use of any material contained in, or derived from, this paper. All errors are my own. Citation: “Sarah Baird, “Jane Stoker 1799-1867,  December 2020” at https://sbaird1.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/jane-stoker-1799-1867/


[1] For more information about Keelman see https://www.sunnisidelocalhistorysociety.co.uk/durham.html. In the Durham area, keelmen transported coal by river.

[2] Free UK Genealogy, “Register of unspecified type, St Mary the Virgin Church, Whickham, Durham” database, FreeREG (https://www.freereg.org.uk/search_records/58180f07e93790ec8ba777af) : accessed 9 Dec 2020), [data about Jane Stoker 2 Mar 1800 ]; citing Register number.

[3] Free UK Genealogy, “Register of unspecified type, St Mary the Virgin Church, Ovingham, Northumberland” database, FreeREG (https://www.freereg.org.uk/search_records/58182971e93790eb7f48d3e2) : accessed 9 Dec 2020), [data about John Stoker to Jane Ponman 28 May 1792 ]; citing Register number : Detailed information about the Parishes of Ovingham, Northumberland and Whickham, Durham can be found on the website genuki.org.uk.

[4] The “engagement token” matches an image located on museums Victoria website. Item NU 875 Coin – Shilling, George III, Great Britain, 1817 Silver coin; denomination Shilling Royal Mint, London George III (1760-1820). Image https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/search?query=silver+coin+George+1817

[5] Bridget Millmore, “Love tokens: engraved coins, emotions and the poor 1700-1856”, (PhD thesis University of Brighton, 2015), 98, https://research.brighton.ac.uk/en/studentTheses/love-tokens-engraved-coins-emotions-and-the-poor-1700-1856.

[6] Rebecca Probert, Control over Marriage in England and Wales, 1753—1823: The Clandestine Marriages Act of 1753 in Context, Law and History Review , Summer 2009, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Summer 2009), pp. 413-450, 415.

[7] “London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921” Ancestry.com “London Metropolitan Archives, Saint James, Clerkenwell, Register of banns of marriage, P76/JS1, Item 177”: “London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921” Ancestry.com “London Metropolitan Archives, Saint James, Clerkenwell, Register of marriages, P76/JS1, Item 039.

[8] “London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906” Ancestry.com “London Metropolitan Archives, Clerkenwell St James, Register of Baptism, p76/js1, Item 019”.

[9] Naima Browne, “Socio-Economic Factors and the Schooling of Working-Class Children aged seven and under in seven areas of north of London, 1800-1851”, (PhD thesis University of London, 1990), 87: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10018504/1/122428.pdf.