Tag Archives: chiddingstone

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.

How much evidence is enough?

15 Oct

I have written several times about my problems with Ellen NICHOLLS one of my 3x great grandmothers. The lack of a marriage record is one problem, it is not the fact that there wasn’t a marriage that is the problem, but it is the fact that I am missing the evidence that the record contains that worries me.

From the 1871, 1881 and 1891 census I have a place of birth of Chiddingstone, Kent and a birth year of 1846-47. When I checked the Chiddingstone baptisms yesterday I found an Ellen NICHOLLS, but it wasn’t in 1846-47 it was in 1842.

So I have a baptism of a child with exactly the same name, in exactly the right place, but the date is four or five years out. I have no father’s name from a marriage record to confirm that I have the correct parents (Thomas and Martha).

Is it just coincidence that there is an Ellen NICHOLLS in the right place about the right time? Did she not know when she was born? Did she just lie about her age? Am I asking too many questions? Do I have enough evidence to make the connection?

What do you think? How much evidence do I need? Would you accept this as proof of her parentage?

Searching for a GEERING/NICHOLLS marriage in Lewes

6 Oct

After my quick trip to Worthing Library last Tuesday I made my way back along the coast to Brighton and then on to Lewes, to the East Sussex Record Office.

East Sussex Record Office, Lewes, Sussex

East Sussex Record Office, Lewes, Sussex

I had several look ups to do here, such as the marriage entry for Thomas RUSSELL and Caroline GILES, but my main goal was to try and find the marriage of my 3x great grandparents William GEERING and Ellen NICHOLLS.

This is the marriage that doesn’t appear to be in the GRO Marriage Indexes, and I thought I would try the parish registers for Lewes just in case for whatever reason it never made it to the GRO Indexes.

Several parishes make up the town of Lewes, and I didn’t try them all, so there is a possibility that they were married in one of the others, perhaps they were non-conformists, perhaps they married somewhere else in Sussex, perhaps somewhere in Kent, perhaps somewhere in England, perhaps… I think you get the idea.

They could have married just about anywhere or they may never have got married at all. I could spend the rest of my life searching for that marriage. Lewes was my best chance of a quick answer, but having turned up nothing there I feel that I should move on. I have no problem with William, his father was Richard GEERING and he was born in Lewes.

Ellen NICHOLLS is the problem. I have pretty consistent data from the census which points to her being born in Chiddingstone, Kent around 1847 +/- 1 year. The problem is that I can’t find an entry in the GRO Birth Indexes for Ellen in the right place (Sevenoaks Registration District), and I can’t seem to find her in the 1851 or 1861 census.

My best hope lies with the baptism register for Chiddingstone, Kent but I really don’t feel that I can trust any of the information that I have already. Maybe she lied about her age, maybe her surname was spelt differently, perhaps she grew up in Chiddingstone, but was born elsewhere and maybe her first name wasn’t actually Ellen but some other spelling variant or something else completely different.

Ellen NICHOLLS is the closest thing I have to a brick wall at the moment, but there are still several things I can try before declaring her a brick wall. For starters I can order the birth certificates for her other children. I already have the certificate for their first child, my 2x great grandfather William GEERING, but perhaps later registrars got a different answer to their questions.

Another birth certificate arrives, but doesn’t really help

18 Sep

Great excitement usually accompanies the arrival of certificate from the GRO (well at least for me anyway) and today was no exception. The envelope contained the birth certificate for William GEERING my 2x great grandfather.

William was born in Lewes, Sussex in 1868 that much I knew already, more precisely it was on the 24th August 1868 in Sun Street, Lewes. Sun Street is an address I hadn’t come across before in my research, but apart from the exact date and place the reason I wanted this certificate was to find out his mother’s name/maiden name.

I had previously been unable to locate a marriage in the GRO Indexes for William’s parents, and with a name like GEERING it should have been easy. I hoped that having his mother’s maiden name would help in the search, but so far it hasn’t.

In the space for the mother’s name it says Ellen Geering formerly Nicholls. I am pretty certain it says NICHOLLS, it would take quite a stretch of the imagination to make it anything else. So this implies that William’s father (also William) had married Ellen NICHOLLS, but still no entry in the marriage index is forthcoming.

I switched to the census, perhaps I could find Ellen NICHOLLS in the 1861 census (her future husband was unmarried in 1861) but nothing obvious stands out. There is one possible hit in 1851, but that is not really in the right area.

I tried the GRO Birth Index, and again no Ellen NICHOLLS in the right place or time frame, this really is starting to look very mysterious. The 1871, 1881 and 1891 census all give her place of birth as Chiddingstone, Kent and her age is pretty consistent, giving her year of birth around 1848.

So what has gone wrong here? Why is Ellen causing me such a problem? At least I have a maiden name now, but it is a maiden name that I don’t feel I can trust, at least not until I see it in writing somewhere else.

So what next? I need to widen all my searches on both the census and the GRO Indexes, in case one of the pieces of information is wrong and try some different census indexes. I need to visit the East Sussex Record Office and search the parish registers for a marriage entry (maybe it missed the GRO Indexes) and also for any sign of banns for the husband because I am sure he would have been in Lewes.

Such a disappointment to not have all the pieces fit into place, this looks like it could be a major obstacle to finding all my 4x great grandparents. Then again I wouldn’t want things too easy, would I?

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