Ellen NICHOLLS: a confession

10 Apr

I have written before about Ellen NICHOLLS and how she was causing problems in my research. In brief, the problem was that I had a baptism record for Ellen which was in the right place, with the correct spelling of her name, but the baptism was too early compared to other records. I had found no marriage record that would give me her father’s name.

I had accepted this baptism as the correct one, my justification was that her father died not long after her birth, and I have no idea where Ellen was in the 1851 or 1861 census, certainly not with her mother. I saw this as a good enough reason for Ellen not to know her exact age.

I have to confess that there was another reason why I accepted this baptism record as correct.

I wanted to have her father Thomas NICHOLLS as my 4x great-grandfather. His occupation was given as excavator, and to me this sounded like he was building the local railway. I wanted to be able to say that one of my ancestors helped build part of England’s railway network.

What is more he may have died whilst building the railway. That one of my ancestors lost his life helping to build part of England’s railway network was something that really appealed to me.

Of course this is not the way to build a family tree. We can’t pick and choose our ancestors, but in my defence I would say that the baptism was a pretty good match for my Ellen NICHOLLS.

What I discovered at the Centre for Kentish Studies today has left one branch of my tree looking decidedly unsafe. I was looking for a burial record for Thomas in the Chiddingstone parish registers, but what I found was a burial record for Ellen instead. The age was correct, she was just two years and nine months old, she was buried on the 7th February 1844.

I was gutted that I had made a fundamental mistake, I was feeling guilty and ashamed that I had been caught out. My desire to have a railway navvy in my family tree had lead me down the wrong route.

Fortunately I had not done any further research beyond trying to find out what had happened after Thomas’ death, so I haven’t wasted much time and effort on the wrong people.

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