Last night I was picking my way through my family history database, looking for things to do, and trying to fill in a few missing details. One of the relations I had come across during my research was Elkanah RUSSELL, but hadn’t really investigated him further.
I believe Elkanah was the brother of my 3x great-grandfather Thomas RUSSELL, and that they were both the sons of William and Ann RUSSELL from Salehurst, Sussex.
I decided I would try and find out a bit more about Elkanah, after all it would be useful to try and prove the connection with Thomas. I had a little difficulty finding Elkanah in the 1841 census, eventually I found him recorded as Elvah RUSSELL, with his wife Sarah and son William, in Balcombe, Sussex.
I almost dismissed this family because I wasn’t expecting to find them as far west as Balcombe, but they were definitely the correct family. As I looked at the census image I noticed something curious.
Nearly all the heads of household on the page were bricklayers (like Elkanah) or stone masons. I had seen this sort of thing before, there was obviously a major construction project underway in Balcombe in 1841.
There was something else curious about the census image, the addresses were all dittos (is that the correct plural of ditto?), so was the page before, and the page before that. Finally I found a name of a house “Railway hut near the viaduct”. Then it struck me, all these men were building the railway viaduct, that would take the railway line that ran from London to Brighton across the Ouse Valley.
Sure enough, a quick search online found that the viaduct was indeed built in 1841. I have passed over the viaduct many times, but in the future when I pass over it I will be able to say with pride that one of my relations helped build this marvellous piece of Victorian engineering.