WILLIAM OKEY was my 4x Great Grandfather, in my Grandmother’s MOYSES branch of the family. I’ve always had something of a soft spot for William. He didn’t live a long life, and I think what life he did live was difficult. He was born at the hamlet of March, Cambridgeshire, on 31 May 1819, and was the son of CLEMENT OKEY and ELIZABETH RUST. 
March is part of the Isle of Ely, which was once an island set amid marshy fens. Before the draining of the Fens, March was essentially an island in its own right, and, thanks to its proximity to the River Nene, operated as a successful 16th century port and market town. It’s known around the world as the home of St Wendreda, a gothic style church with a hammer beam roof carved with 120 wooden angels. It’s the only church in the world dedicated to Wendreda, an 11th century English princess who shunned royal life and instead dedicated herself to healing others. The town’s primary industry was shipping until the railroad came through, after which the March inhabitants relied on agriculture and trade.
WILLIAM OKEY married ELIZABETH HALES at the parish church in nearby Wisbech on 17 August 1840. She was the daughter of JOSEPH HALES and ANN ARCHER, and she was baptized in Thorney (another village on the Fens) on 20 June 1818.  Elizabeth was 23 the day she married William, and he was 22. William, his father Clement, and Elizabeth’s father Joseph Hales were all laborers.
We know from the 1841 census that the couple lived on Thomas Street, in Wisbech St Mary, the first year of their marriage and that Elizabeth’s sister ANN HALES lived with them. William was an agricultural laborer and probably worked on a neighboring farm.  Nineteen months after their wedding, Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter ELIZABETH OKEY, on 24 March 1842. She was baptized at St Mary’s Church a month later on the 24th of April. Sadly, Elizabeth never had a chance to get to really know her father, as William died on 10 February 1845, when she was not yet three.  He wasn’t a well man and the cause of death was a somewhat cryptic “decline.” One has to wonder what might have caused a young man of 24 to waste away. Life on the Isle of Ely was challenging in the 19th century. The economy was depressed and disease was rampant. There were at least three cholera outbreaks in Wisbech in the 1830s and 40s and it’s possible he’d become ill during one of the epidemics and never recovered. Perhaps the family was too poor for good medicine, or maybe that winter was especially harsh and too much for his weakened condition, whatever that may have been. At any rate, Elizabeth was a young widow, with little if any means of supporting herself and her toddler. She married BENJAMIN CLIPHAM a year later, although Elizabeth never took her step father’s name. Elizabeth and Benjamin had no children of their own. He was a shepherd, and they lived out their lives together in Peterborough.  Elizabeth died in 1896. 
Okeys appear in the Isle of Ely parish registers going back to the mid 1500s. Many were farmers, and some generations were more affluent than others. I’ve come across quite a few Yeoman; there was a John Okey who owned his own shop; and, one early Thomas Okey was a bailiff. The most confounding aspect of researching the Okeys (whose name often appears as OAKEY in those early registers) is the family’s propensity for naming children John, Robert, Thomas, and Clement. And they had the unfortunate habit of giving children born the same year as their cousins and siblings the same name, which makes sorting out my family tree difficult. The next in the Okey series of articles will discuss the puzzle of determining which of the Isle of Ely Clement Okeys married Elizabeth Hales and fathered William.
 Cambridgeshire Family History Society (CFHS), transcriber, Cambridgeshire Baptisms Online Database, FindMyPast (http: www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 14 January 2011).
 Cambridgeshire Family History Society, transcriber, Parish Registers of St Mary & St Botolph Thorney, “Thorney_Baptisms_1779-1820.pdf” (CD-ROM: CFHS, n.d.), 153.
 England, Cambridgeshire, Wisbech, certified copy of an entry of marriage for William Okey & Elizabeth Hales, (17 August 1840); citing Aug-Sep-Oct, Wisbech, Vol. 14:193; given at GRO, copy held by: author.
 1841 UK Census , Cambridgeshire, Wisbech, FindMyPast (http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 10 August 2013); digital image, The National Archives of the UK; TNA microfilm HO107, Piece 78, Folio 4, page 2.
 England, Cambridgeshire, Wisbech, certified copy of an entry of death, William Okey (10 February 1845); citing Jan-Feb-Mar, Wisbech, Vol.14:119; given at GRO, copy held by: author.
 England, Cambridgeshire, Wisbech, certified copy of a marriage, Marriage Benjamin Clipham & Elizabeth Okey (7 October 1846); Given at GRO. Copy held by: author.
 1881 UK Census, Peterborough, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 4 August 2013); digital image, The National Archives of the UK (TNA); TNA Microfilm RG11 Piece: 1595; Folio: 116; Page: 20; GSU roll: 1341382.
 England, Northamptonshire, Peterborough, certified copy of a death, Elizabeth Clipham (1896); citing Apr-May-Jun, Peterborough, Vol. 3b:198; given at GRO, copy held by author.