Tag Archives: ellen 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.

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.

My genealogy to-do list for the week ahead (week 15)

11 Apr

Last week was unusual, it felt like I was not doing much genealogy but by the end of the week I think I had achieved quite a bit. Having said that it is hard to actually quantify what I have done.

Much of my time seems to have been spent thinking about GASSONs and GEERINGs, with a quick look at some MITCHELLs.

  • The will of Ann GEERING has arrived, and I need to process that and decide where to go next with the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex.
  • Review my research into Ellen NICHOLLS, trying to find out what I can do to put right my previous mistake and where I can go now.
  • Transcribe all my notes from Saturday morning’s visit to the Centre for Kentish Studies. Create another plan for finding the parents of John GASSON (my 5x great-grandfather) based on the findings.
  • Continue working through my digital files updating Family Historian and sorting out folders and standardising my filenames. This week I will focus on the GASSON and MITCHELL families. I have so many loose ends that need tying up.

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.

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