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!