Tag Archives: nicholls

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.

Moving on from Ann the wife of James GEERING

6 Mar

It appears that I have reached a dead-end with my research into Ann the wife of James GEERING. I am reluctant to call it a brick-wall at the moment because I haven’t quite exhausted all avenues of research yet, but I have certainly exhausted all the quick and easy avenues.

The marriage register entry for Ann HOWLETT and James GEARING gave me the names of two witnesses, one of which I couldn’t read properly, but neither looked like any name that was familiar to me. I have a copy of the marriage licence allegation, but haven’t checked the bond which might give me a couple more names to work on.

I am still pretty certain that Ann was a HOWLETT because of the naming of her children and that there is probably a connection with Francis HOWLETT the schoolmaster and postmaster of Hailsham, Sussex. Francis was born about 1751 and Ann was born about 1777 so it is possible that Francis was Ann’s father.

I have two problems, first that Francis HOWLETT was “one of a party of strolling players who arrived in the place on a professional tour, he gave up the buskin and settled down to quiet domestic life, married a wife from the neighbourhood” (according to Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish), so he could have come from just about anywhere in the country, and I don’t know what happened to his wife.

The second problem is that I don’t know much about James GEERING between his baptism in 1776 and the 1841 census. There is a suggestion that he may have been in the military, but I haven’t come up with any evidence for this yet.

Anyway for the time being I think it is time to move on, there are plenty of other ancestors I need to trace, but I have planted the seed now and I will wait and see if anything else comes to mind whilst I focus my attention on someone else.

Next on my list is Ellen NICHOLLS, my 3x great-grandmother. I need to be certain that I have the correct parents and then find their parents. It is quite a complicated affair but I do at least have some idea of the work I need to do. I also need to have another look at finding evidence of her marriage to William GEERING.

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: in my defence

13 Apr

Last Saturday I had to admit that I had made a mistake in my family tree when I failed to spot that my 3x great-grandmother Ellen NICHOLLS wasn’t the person I thought she was, and had actually died as an infant.

When I looked at the entry for Ellen NICHOLLS in Family Historian I discovered that although I had linked Ellen to the wrong parents, I had actually left myself a rather obvious note, which indicated that I wasn’t happy with the situation at the time.

It is not certain that the Ellen NICHOLLS that is the daughter of Thomas and Martha NICHOLLS is the same Ellen NICHOLLS who was the partner of William GEERING. The place of birth and the spelling of her name is correct, but her date of birth is about five years too early from that given in the census.

So in my defence I would say that it was something I was aware of, and that anyone who looked at my tree would have seen, so it is not quite as bad as it seemed. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

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