Tag Archives: chiddingstone

Ancestral Profile: Ellen NICHOLLS (c1847-1897)

8 Mar

Ellen NICHOLLS was my 3x great-grandmother and she is one of the most troublesome individuals in my family tree. It is not that her life was that different from any of my other ancestors, just that find the records has not been quite so straight-forward as it should have been.

Her birth and childhood have been particularly tricky to trace and whilst I have a pretty good idea in my head about where Ellen came from, I don’t have the evidence yet to prove it. It shouldn’t be tricky to prove it if I am correct (it just means spending a bit of time and money).

What I do know about Ellen’s birth comes from various census returns. They all give her place of birth as Chiddingstone, Kent and a date around 1846-1847. I only know that her maiden name was NICHOLLS from the birth certificate of her first son William (my 2x great-grandfather).

I have not been able to find a marriage certificate for Ellen NICHOLLS and William GEERING (although I have only searched the GRO Indexes, not the locally kept indexes) so I don’t know for certain the name of Ellen’s father.

William GEERING and Ellen certainly lived as husband and wife, even if they weren’t officially so. The first record I have of them together is the birth registration of their son William in 1868, however he isn’t baptised until 1875 at the same time as two of his younger sisters. This apparent disregard for baptisms and the church may explain why there is no marriage record.

It appears that the couple had seven children in all, all born and baptised (eventually) in Lewes, Sussex apart from the last two for whom I have not found baptism records yet:

  1. William GEERING (born Q3 1868, baptised 5 January 1875)
  2. Ellen GEERING (born Q4 1869, baptised 5 January 1875)
  3. Emily GEERING (born Q4 1872, baptised 5 January 1875)
  4. Clara Gertrude GEERING (born Q1 1875, baptised 7 October 1877)
  5. Edith GEERING (born Q3 1877, baptised 7 October 1877)
  6. Richard Thomas GEERING (born Q3 1879)
  7. Arthur GEERING (born Q2 1884)

The family lived at a variety of addresses in Lewes, in 1868 when William was born they were living in Sun Street. In 1871 they were living in Priory Street and in subsequent census returns they were living at 11 St. Nicholas Lane.

Ellen’s death was registered in Q1 1897. I don’t have a copy of her death certificate so I don’t know what the cause was, but she was aged 49 years at the time. She was buried on the 16th March 1897 at All Saints Church, Lewes, Sussex.

Ellen NICHOLLS: what next?

15 Apr

Having confessed that I made a mistake identifying the wrong Ellen NICHOLLS as my 3x great-grandmother, I now need to think about what I can do to put it right.

I can’t get the idea out of my head that my Ellen NICHOLLS may still be the daughter of Thomas and Martha NICHOLLS, named in memory of her dead sister.

There is a four year old Ellen NICHOLLS living in Seasalter, Kent who is the niece of James and Jane BARNES. Jane BARNES was born in Chiddingstone, Kent (which is where Ellen was supposed to have been born). Interestingly James BARNES married Jane DRAPPER in Q4 1841 in Sevenoaks Registration District.

Could it be that this Jane DRAPPER was the sister of Martha DRAPPER who was the wife of Thomas NICHOLLS. This would match the niece relationship in the census.

The 1851 census gives Ellen’s place of birth as Blean, Kent, and her age means that she would have been born about 1847. This date of birth matches quite well with what I know about my Ellen NICHOLLS, but of course the place of birth  doesn’t.

Now there should be a birth registration entry for Ellen around 1847, but there isn’t. What there is however are two entries in the GRO Birth Indexes for female NICHOLLS (meaning the baby girl hadn’t been named). Both were registered in the Blean Registration District, one in Q1 1847 and another Q2 1847. Could one of these have been Ellen?

I know that Thomas NICHOLLS died before the 1851 census because his wife Martha is shown as a widow, and guess what? There is a death entry in the indexes for Thomas NICHOLLS in Q1 1848 also in Blean Registration District.

Maybe I am just clutching at straws, but I have a good feeling about this scenario. It is the best bet I have at the moment. My next step is to have a look at the parish registers for Blean, Kent to see if there is any mention of the NICHOLLS, otherwise I might have to take a chance and spend some money on some GRO certificates.

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.

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