Tag Archives: kent

It may have been a complicated theory, but I think it was correct

15 Mar

Last week I described a rather complicated theory about the birth of Ellen NICHOLLS my 3x great-grandmother. I took a chance and ordered one of the two likely birth certificates. The certificate arrived yesterday and it looks like the gamble paid off.

The unnamed girl was born on the 27th March 1847 in Blean, Kent. Her parents were Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha NICHOLLS formerly DRAPPER, the parents were the two that I had hoped for.

The birth was registered a whole month after she was born, so I find it very hard to explain why they still did not have a name for their daughter a whole month after she was born.

I am pretty confident now that my theory is correct, Thomas and Martha had three children (all daughters) and my Ellen NICHOLLS was born in Blean and not Chiddingstone, Kent. The unnamed girl is almost certainly the 4-year-old Ellen NICHOLLS living with her uncle and aunt James and Jane BARNES.

I need to check the parish registers for Blean to see if the unnamed girl was actually baptised there, and whether she had been given a name then. Also I need to check if her father Thomas was also buried there. Then I need to get into the parish registers for Chiddingstone to confirm that Jane BARNES was actually Martha’s sister.

There should be plenty of DRAPPERs in the Chiddingstone parish registers that need extracting and entering into my database, hopefully including Martha’s parents and her marriage. I am not sure where Thomas comes from, but hopefully the marriage entry should give me enough clues to make a start tracing his parents.

Ellen NICHOLLS: a rather complicated theory

9 Mar

Ellen NICHOLLS, my 3x great-grandmother, has so far been one of my trickiest ancestors to track down. I wrote yesterday about what I do know, which is mainly that she and William GEERING had some children and some years later she died.

From the census I have a date and place of birth (c1847, Chiddingstone, Kent) and back in 2009 I put together a family tree which looked plausible, until I discovered that the Ellen NICHOLLS I was looking at died aged 2 years and 9 months. Clearly not my 3x great-grandmother.

Oddly enough though I think I still have the correct pair of parents. They are Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER, who married in Q1 1840 in the Sevenoaks Registration District. Chiddingstone is in Sevenoaks Registration District, but I haven’t actually requested a copy of the marriage certificate or searched for the parish register entry yet. I don’t want to start heading down that road until I am happy that I have the correct set of parents, although it is nice to know that a certificate (with fathers’ names) is waiting to be ordered once I am certain.

I already have a fair bit of information on Martha’s family because she and Thomas are living with them in 1841, on the census is Martha’s father (George) and at least five siblings. Thomas is listed as an excavator, which suggests to me that he was working on building the railway from Redhill to Tonbridge.

Thomas and Martha had two children Ellen (in 1842) and Mary (in 1845), both baptised in Chiddingstone, unfortunately Ellen was buried at Chiddingstone on the 7th February 1845. That wasn’t the only tragedy, because by the time the 1851 census comes around Martha is a widow, and she is working as servant in Penshurst, Kent, without any sign of children.

Her daughter Mary turns out to be living with a family by the name of COLLISTER in Bletchingly, Surrey. She is shown as a nurse child of John and Mary COLLISTER. In Q3 1849 both John COLLISTER and Mary Ann DRAPPER were married in Godstone Registration District (hopefully to each other) and I suspect that Mary Ann is Martha’s sister.

Also in 1851 there is an Ellen NICHOLLS living with James and Jane BARNES in Seasalter, Kent. Ellen is shown as the niece of James and Jane, and once again I suspect that Jane is another of Martha’s sisters. James BARNES and Jane DRAPPER were both married in Q4 1841 in Sevenoaks Registration District.

I believe this Ellen NICHOLLS is my 3x great-grandmother, in 1851 her age is given as 4 years, which would mean she was born around 1847. Her place of birth is given as Blean, Kent which doesn’t fit quite so well. I seems to me quite likely that the second Ellen NICHOLLS was named after her deceased older sister.

It also seems reasonable that given the upheaval in the early years of her life that she was not really aware of where she was born or even who her parents were. Her sister Mary was born in Chiddingstone, but not Ellen herself although she may have known that her mother’s family at least came from Chiddingstone.

The big problem with this is that there is no birth registration in the GRO indexes in Sevenoaks or Blean Registration Districts for Ellen NICHOLLS around 1847. There are however two registrations for a female NICHOLLS, one in the first quarter and one in the second quarter of 1847 in the Blean Registration District. I am hoping that one of these girls will have Thomas and Martha as parents, even if they hadn’t decided on a name for their daughter yet.

Interestingly there is also a death registration for a Thomas NICHOLLS in Blean Registration District in Q1 1848, could this be the death of Ellen’s father? He must only have been in his late twenties when he died, so there must be an interesting story there.

There is lots of uncertainty in all of this, lots of ifs and buts, but it all goes together far too well. A lot of the relationships need proving but I feel I have enough evidence to build a very strong case that the 4 year old Ellen on the 1851 census is my 3x great-grandmother.

It would be very easy to use this information to go back from Thomas and Martha, but having been caught out once (with the death of the younger Ellen) I need to be 100% certain.

My next step is to get copies of the two birth certificates and hope that one of those has the names Thomas and Martha on it. Then I need to use that to try to find a baptism record, hopefully they would have settled on a name for their daughter by then.

Last night I ordered one of the certificates (the one from the second quarter of 1847) hoping that I strike it lucky with that one and save the cost of a second certificate. Now I need to wait patiently for the postman to bring it and hope that it brings the news I am after!

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.

Did Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT spend time in Canterbury?

19 Jan

A few months ago I ordered a copy of the will of Henry WRIGHT (as he was known when he died), it wasn’t particularly detailed and didn’t contain any major revelations or death-bed confessions, just the usual stuff you would expect to find.

From a genealogical point of view the helpful feature of the will was a list of all his children, which gave the married names of his daughters. This is a great help if you are trying to piece together a family tree and don’t have copies of marriage certificates or access to the relevant parish registers.

Most interesting to me was Henry’s eldest daughter Mary Ann because she (like my 2x great-grandmother Harriet) was born before the family moved to Alton, Hampshire. Knowing that Mary Ann had married Henry William TRIMMER has led to a couple of interesting discoveries:

1.¬† When she married her name was recorded as Mary Ann LAY – LAY was Mary Ann’s mother’s maiden name, suggesting that Mary Ann was born before Henry SHORNDEN and Sarah LAY were married, and thus raising the question of whether she was actually Henry’s daughter. I need to get the full marriage certificate to see who she named as her father.

2. Mary Ann claimed to have been born in Canterbury, Kent – Knowing Mary Ann’s married name has enabled me to trace her in the census and the information about her place of birth is pretty consistent. Whether Canterbury actually means the city itself or whether it means somewhere nearby remains to be discovered.

Although at first glance the Henry’s will didn’t look particularly helpful (or to be honest particularly interesting) it has provided a lead to some potentially useful information, which I may not have found easily because I wouldn’t have looked for a marriage of Mary Ann LAY.

Joseph and Hannah LAY: an update

14 Jan

Following the discovery of a likely baptism record for my 3x great-grandmother Sarah LAY (the wife of Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT) I have been poking around looking for more details on her parents Joseph and Hannah LAY.

Things have not been quite as straightforward as I had hoped. I have found a likely couple in the 1841 census, in fact I think they are the only couple of that name in the 1841. The problem is that they are living in Reigate, Surrey with no obvious connection to Deptford, Kent (where Sarah was baptised).

This is not as neat as I would have liked, it doesn’t rule them out, but makes my life a lot harder trying to prove they are the correct parents. This hypothesis ignores the fact that one or both of the parents may have died before 1841. However Deptford and Reigate are only about 20 miles apart, so it is not that long a journey and not completely inconceivable.

The other fly in the ointment is that Joseph and Hannah were married in Reigate in 1824, two years after Sarah’s baptism. Again this doesn’t rule them out and may actually explain why Sarah wasn’t baptised in Reigate. The Vicar at Reigate would presumably known that her parent’s weren’t married.

Joseph and Hannah had several other children in Reigate after they were married. Hannah appears to have died between 1841 and 1851, and Joseph remarried between 1851 and 1861. Joseph’s second marriage could be useful because it was after the start of civil registration, so his marriage certificate should have his father’s name on it, where the parish register recording the first marriage probably won’t.

What I really need to find now is a record that links the Reigate LAYs to Sarah. That might be a witness on a marriage certificate or an informant on a death certificate. It seems unlikely that Joseph or either of his wives would have left a will, but it is worth checking that as well. I certainly need to check the 1841 census for Reigate very carefully just in case Henry and Sarah SHORNDEN/WRIGHT is hiding in there.

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