Tag Archives: kent

Ellen NICHOLLS: the story gets even more complicated

29 Mar

Just when I thought I was starting to get a handle on my 3x great-grandmother Ellen NICHOLLS and her parents Thomas and Martha NICHOLLS, along comes something that has me shaking my head in disbelief.

Thomas died before 1851 and the family (Martha and her daughters Mary and Ellen) appears to have split up. I could find the individual members of the family in 1851 but never knew what became of Mary and Martha or where Ellen was in 1861 (by 1871 Ellen was in Lewes, Sussex).

In all honesty I hadn’t put a lot of effort into finding the family members before, just a few simple searches of the GRO BMD indexes and census returns, but last night I actually sat down and put some time and thought into the search.

When I actually put some thought into what I was doing it didn’t take long to find Martha. I knew her place and year of birth so I was able to search the 1861 census using just that information and her first name. There were only a few results, none with the surname of NICHOLLS or DRAPPER, so it was a simple case of checking for marriages to see if one of them was previously a NICHOLLS.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I checked the census entry for William and Martha GASSON, surely she couldn’t have married a GASSON. I have enough GASSONs in my family tree already, adding another who was probably distantly related would just make things more confusing.

According to the census entry William and Martha’s eldest child was Ellen GASSON aged 14, born in Blean, Kent, better known to me as Ellen NICHOLLS. It was quite easy to confirm William and Martha’s marriage, not in Kent as I had expected but in neighbouring Surrey (Q1 1854 in Godstone Registration District), where Martha’s surname had been recorded as NICKOLS.

The tragic end to the tale is that it looks like Martha died in 1866 aged just 45 years (William is shown as a widower in the 1871). The unfortunate Ellen NICHOLLS had now lost both her parents before reaching 21 years old.

To make things even more complicated the 1871 census shows William GASSON living with Thomas NICHOLLS, who is described as his son in law. I suspect this means that he was the son of Martha NICHOLLS before she and William were married (and after her first husband had died). Interestingly he is shown as Thomas GASSON in the 1861 census, and his age would mean he was born about a year before William and Martha were married.

This family is getting larger and more complicated with every piece of information I discover. It is certainly proving to be the most complicated set of relationships in my direct ancestry and I wonder just how much more complicated it can get.

Thinking some more about Kent

27 Mar

I have been thinking more about my issues with the county of Kent and now I am convinced that it would be beneficial to spend some time learning more about research in Kent.

I don’t have time to research all the parishes in Kent, at least not in one go anyway. Initially I need to focus on the places in my family tree that I need to learn more about and then let my family history research guide me from there, building up knowledge and information as I go along.

I am going to start by extracting a list of Kent parishes and registration districts from my family history software along with some names and dates. Then I can start working on the list of places.

I want to pull together a list of resources for each of the places, finding out which archives, libraries, websites or societies have information that might be of use to me. Along with this I need to build up a list of general links to Kent resources (and possibly some books). It would also be useful to find some maps (or links to some maps) to give me some help with the geography of the county.

The next question is how to record all this information? I am considering using a TiddlyWiki which I think might be ideal for the job, plus I have been looking for an excuse to use one for ages.

Why do I still have such a problem with Kent?

25 Mar

I still seem to have a real mental block when it comes to researching my family history in the county of Kent, England. So many of the branches of my family tree seem to stop abruptly when I cross the border into Kent and I have to admit that my heart sinks when I find an ancestor that comes from Kent.

I have nothing against Kent and it’s people, from what I have seen it is a nice place and I would like to spend more time there. For starters I still need to finish walking the North Downs Way through the county.

There doesn’t seem to be anything uniquely different about family history research in Kent. The same core record types exist as they do anywhere else in England and the research process is the same, but still I have a mental block on research in the county.

Accessibility is a problem, or at least I perceive it to be a problem. It is not particularly easy for me to get to the two main archives at Maidstone and Canterbury, but it is considerably easier than getting to the archives in Gloucester or Carlisle and only a lack of time and money are stopping me from going to those two.

I think the big problem is that I have been rather spoilt by my years of research in Sussex. I now have a pretty good idea of the resources available and where to find them, as well as a reasonable background knowledge of the county. I have also been very much spoilt by the wonderful resources of the Sussex Family History Group.

I am wondering if I need to do some serious research into the county itself. I think it might be worth my time and effort spending a while on the place and not the people, identifying the key records for the places I am interested in and which archive or website has them.

It could be quite a task, but the more I think about the more I think it could be a worthwhile exercise. Still at the back of my mind is the idea that this might just be another way for me to avoid having to do any real family history research in Kent.

Turns out I already knew where Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER were married

24 Mar

It turns out that I already had a pretty good idea of where Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER were married. Last week I went to the London Family History Centre and checked the parish registers for Chiddingstone, Kent expecting to find the marriage of my 4x great-grandparents.

I didn’t find the marriage, but I wasn’t really that surprised, the only reason I was expecting to find the marriage in Chiddingstone is because that is where the couple were living in the 1841 census, the year after they were married. I had hoped to avoid the cost of buying a certificate, but short of searching every nearby parish I had no real option but to order their marriage certificate.

Then last night as I was doing some digital filing I discovered that I already had a pretty good idea where the couple were married and even a very good idea of when. It seems that last time I was doing some research into the NICHOLLS family I had found the banns of marriage for Thomas and Martha, but hadn’t done anything with that information because I was unable to prove that they were the parents of my 3x great-grandmother Ellen NICHOLLS.

I had just filed that snippet of information away on my spreadsheet and completely forgot about it when I started looking at the family again. The good thing is that I wouldn’t have been able to check the marriage register last week anyway because the LFHC don’t hold that particular microfilm.

It might have saved me a little bit of time, but even that is unlikely as I still needed to check Chiddingstone marriages for Martha’s siblings. So in the end the impact wasn’t too great, but I could have wasted a lot of time and effort when I didn’t really need to.

Now I am pretty confident that Thomas and Martha were married in Sundridge, Kent (about 7 or 8 miles north of Chiddingstone). The banns were published in Chiddingstone (and presumably also in Sundridge) on the 23rd February, 1st March and 8th March 1840. From this the likely date for the marriage was 15th March 1840.

To my surprise Thomas was of the parish of Chiddingstone and Martha was of the parish of Sundridge. I had expected it to be the other way around, assuming that Martha and her family came from Chiddingstone and Thomas was travelling around to wherever there was work. I am sure future research will clarify the picture.

In the meantime I still need to wait patiently for the marriage certificate to confirm the date and place, and more importantly the father’s names for the bridge and groom.

Exploring the NICHOLLS and DRAPPER families at the LFHC

19 Mar

The reason I visited the London Family History Centre yesterday (other than to use up the last of my holiday entitlement before the end of the month) was to do some basic investigations into the NICHOLLS and DRAPPER families from Kent.

There were only two films that I wanted to look at, the parish registers  for Blean and Chiddingstone both in Kent. Technically speaking the film for Blean was of the Bishop’s Transcripts and not the actual registers, but at this stage it is not really that important. I am still finding my way in these families, trying to get a feel for what I am dealing with and hoping to find some further proof that I have the correct families.

In Chiddingstone I had expected to find the marriage of Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER (my 4x great-grandparents), Martha’s baptism record (and those of her siblings) and possibly the marriage of her parents. In Blean I was hoping to find a baptism for Ellen NICHOLLS (my 3x great-grandmother) and a burial for Thomas NICHOLLS.

What I actually found was not quite as I had expected, but that is not to say that it was a bad thing. In Blean I found a baptism for Ellen, except it was Eleanor not Ellen, but everything else matched. There was a burial of a Thomas NICHOLLS, but he was an infant (clearly I am going to need to search again for his death).

The biggest surprise to me was to find the likely baptism for Thomas NICHOLLS and his siblings in Blean. I hadn’t really considered why Thomas and Martha were in Blean, but it makes perfect sense that this was where Thomas came from. Likewise Chiddingstone was supposed to be the place where Martha came from.

I could find no trace of Martha’s baptism in Chiddingstone, although some of her sibling’s baptisms were there. There was no sign of her marriage to Thomas or of her parent’s marriage, but I did find the marriage of one of her sisters that is particularly helpful. Jane DRAPPER married James BARNES in Chiddingstone on the 12th October 1841 and one of the witnesses was Thomas NICHOLLS, which further cements the family relationship.

So a few of the records I had hoped for didn’t turn up, but I certainly didn’t go away empty-handed or disappointed. It has helped clarify a few points and disproved  a few others. It was no accident that Thomas and Martha were in Blean and the DRAPPER family may not have been so firmly rooted in Chiddingstone as I had first imagined.

The next step is obvious to me now, I had hoped to find the Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER and save the cost of ordering a certificate, but clearly I am going to need to do that now. That should confirm whether the baptism I found for Thomas in Blean is the correct one and also point to the likely place for Martha’s baptism.

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