Louise Pouclee

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Louise Pouclee


Louise Pouclee was born into a poor Jersey family in 1831, entered a London workhouse with two children in 1855, and died in New Zealand in 1921 at the age of 90. But seven years earlier a New Zealand newspaper reported that she had celebrated her 100th birthday

Louise Pouclee was baptised in St Helier on 25 September 1831, the daughter of Jean and Anne, nee Le Dain. Ten years later the census showed her living in Common Lane, St Helier, with her mother, three sisters and two brothers.

There was no sign of her father, who married Anne in 1823, and was in and out of prison during his adult life, although we can find no specific reference to that in 1841. In 1832 he was sentenced for riotous behaviour and in 1840 for 'breaking the peace'.

Poor area of town

Common Lane was a very poor area of the town and as well as Anne Pouclee and her children, there were three other households in the same property. Anne was described as a 'workhousewoman'. The family seems to have broken up by 1851. Anne was living with her sister Elizabeth but there is no record of any of her children, even though the last but one of the eight, Caroline, was 13 at the time.

Jean, a carter, died in 1861. He was not the only member of the family to frequent Jersey's prison. His daughter Ann was sentenced to eight days hard labour in 1853 for 'breaking the peace' and appeared in Court again in 1855 for vagabondage, and four times in 1856, once for 'bad behaviour' and three times for 'breaking the peace'.

By 1855 Louise appears to have married labourer Edward Henry James Gibbs, who was 12 years older than her, and to have had two children. There is a record of her admission to St George's workhouse in London on 16 March 1855, as Louise Gibbs. She is described as a destitute shoe binder from 21 Duke Street. But this record contains the first of several mysteries concerning Louise because it describes her as 'single'.


The following year Edward and Louisa emigrated to New Zealand. They are recorded as passengers on the Oliver Lang, which sailed from Liverpool on 24 September with 450 passengers. Her Master was Captain Joseph Mundle.

Among those passengers were Edward Henry Gibbs (37), occupation sawyer, his wife 'Larisa' (28) and their two young daughters, Priscilla (3) and Harriet. The ship arrived at Wellington on 19 December 1856 after a quick passage of 85 days and carried on to Nelson and Lyttleton in the South Island.

Louise must have left Jersey by 1853 because Priscilla is believed to have been born in Burton-on-Trent in March that year and Harriet in Stratford-on-Avon in 1855. Their births were both registered as Gibbs, but whether Louise and Edward were married has not been established. The couple went on to have three more sons and two daughters in Wellington, New Zealand, between 1857 and 1870.

But the mystery surrounding Louise and Edward deepens. New Zealand records produce some very contradictory dates for the couple.

Was Louise Gibbs, nee Pouclee, born in Jersey, really 100 in 1915, as claimed in this newspaper report, or 84, as suggested by her baptism record, or 93 as suggested by her death certificate?

Death certificates

A death certificate was issued in 1898 in Invercargill, New Zealand, for James Gibbs, which descendants have associated with Edward Henry, but we do not believe that this can be the same person. The certificate states James Gibbs' age at death as 85, giving a birth date, in London, of 1813. It gives his time living in New Zealand as 38 years, suggesting an arrival date of 1860, compared with 1856 shown in the Oliver Lang's manifest. It gives his age on marrying as 31, suggesting a date of 1844 if the 1813 year of birth is accurate.

Elsewhere family information shows Edward Henry James Gibbs born in Gloucestershire, England in 1819.

But Louise, if she was married to this James Gibbs, shown as son of another James, would have been 13 in 1844. It seems that the death certificate has been associated with Edward Henry Gibbs because it shows James' wife as Lucy Puoaley and their marriage in Jersey, Channel Islands. Family records indicate that Louise was also known as Lucy.

Louisa Gibbs' 1921 death certificate shows her born in Jersey 99 years earlier, daughter of Louisa and John Poukley and living in New Zealand for 65 years - suggesting an arrival date in 1856. The certificate shows her marrying Edward Henry Gibbs at the age of 24 - 1855, if her birth in 1931 is accepted, 1846 if her age at death as 99 is accepted.

An 1855 marriage would coincide with the year that she was admitted to the London workhouse as Lousa Gibbs, but two years after the birth of her daughter Priscilla.

'100th birthday'

The most bizarre record held by her descendants is an article in an Invercargill newspaper, believed to date from 22 March 1914, which appears to record Louise's 100th birthday:

"On the little island of Jersey, in the English Channel, there came to life in the year immediately preceding that in which Waterloo was fought [1815] a girl who was destined to live beyond the appointed span of threescore years and ten. In the island she lived out her girlhood, and afterwards she was wooed and won by Edward Gibbs, a young labourer. Mr Gibbs was made of sterner stuff than many of his mates, and shortly after he was married he decided that life on the island held too little for him. Accordingly he and his bried took ship to New Zealand and finally found their way to the Province of Southland, where the husband found work and the young wife proceeded to rear his family. After years of toil Edward Gibbs died 17 years ago at the age of 88 years. On Friday mrs Gibbs reached her hundredth birthday, and in the moderately comfortable little cottage at Graqssmere she passed the day."

It is perhaps noteworthy that the article continued:

"Her memory of events seemed to be quite clear, but she admitted frankly that her mind was no longer capable of retaining such tricky things as dates."
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