Family history ups and downs

Over the last year we seem to have been jumping wildly from one branch of the family tree to another. Usually a breakthrough in one branch keeps us working almost exclusively on that for a month or two, and then a breakthrough in another branch gets us busy on that. For the last couple of months it has been the Ellwood family of Cumbria.

We had the family in Whitehaven, Cumberland, and have been chugging along finding a cousin here and a cousin there, going through microfilms of parish registers collecting all the people with names we were interested in, trying to reconstruct families and see what fitted. Then we discovered that the Ellwoods originally came from Westmorland, and that opened up a lot that we are still trying to catch up with.

Before that, in April and May, it was the Hannans. That was mostly because we went on holiday to the Western Cape, visiting relatives, and most of the relatives we saw were on the Hannan side of the family. And also managed to find a few of the Scottish relatives on Facebook, though we haven’t followed that up much yet.

At the beginning of the year it was the Mortons of Colchester in Essex. Val’s great great grandmother came from there and we knew her father’s name from her marriage certificate, and that was about all. Then we found her brothers and sisters, including two sisters who married on the same day as her and came to the Cape Colony, and an uncle Henry Morton who was transported to Australia.

And this time last year it was the Bagot and Cottam families of Lancashire,. where we found a whole bunch of ancestors and descendants we hadn’t known about before, including some who were interested in the family history, and with whom, we were able to share information.

For the moment we are still being kept busy with the Ellwoods, but I’m wondering what next.

Ellwood descendants in Australia

We have recently discovered quite a number of Ellwood descendants who went to Australia, and have made contact with some of these families. The family group sheets that follow show the emigrant generation, and, in some cases, the immediately preceding one in Cumbria.
Margaret Ellwood and Thomas Litster 

This is the one that is closest to us, since Margaret Ellwood was the sister of Val’s great grandfather Thomas Ellwood. They were children of John Ellwood and Bridget Anderson of Whitehaven, Cumberland. Thomas Litster had been married before, and had two children of his first marriage. Two children of the second marriage were born in Cumberland, and the remainder in Australia, where they emigrated in 1886.

Children of John Ellwood and Ann Bellas 

These are much less closely related to us, since the connection to a common ancestor lies several generations further back. Some of the children, and some of their children and some of their grandchildren emigrated. As with the Litster family, they seem to have initially gone to Victoria, and we wonder if they were in contact with each other there, and if they knew that they were related. We are in touch with some descendants of both families, and hope to learn more about the other descendants. See more details in the linked file. If you are related to any of these families, please get in touch with us. We would like to learn more about them.

EllAus1.pdf Download this file

Jane Ellwood and the perils of online family trees

Do you keep your primary genealogy data in an online family tree?

My advice is: Don’t.

If you use an online family tree, you should use it only as a back-up for you main data, or as a way of contacting other researchers. It is best to keep your data in a reliable genealogy program, on your own computer (with back-ups, of course).

We’ve been looking at a lot of online family trees lately, especially in connection with the Ellwood family, where the discovery of a link to several generations has opened up a lot of possibilities for more research, and shown a lot of people interested in various branches of the same family.

But we have also discovered that a lot of the online trees are full of errors, and the people who run the sites make it easy to propagate the errors by encouraging you to copy faulty research to your own tree. It also seems that in the some cases  online software actually creates and introduces errors that weren’t there in the first place. We’ve sent people GEDCOM files and when they’ve uploaded them to Ancestry.com, Geni.com, MyHeritage.com and other sites, they are full of errors that weren’t in the GEDCOM files we sent.

Here is an example where about 80% of the trees on Mundia/Ancestry were simply wrong.

There was a Jane Ellwood born about 1834/35 in Dufton, Westmorland, England.

She was the daughter of John Ellwood and Nancy Bell.

The majority of online family trees show her as married to Anthony Brunskill.

A much smaller number show her as married to John Ellison.

Since polygamy was illegal in England in that period, it is unlikely that she was married to both of them. So which is right?

You could take a majority vote, and say that since the majority of trees show she was married to Anthony Brunskill, that would be the correct conclusion, and the others must be wrong.

But that would be wrong.

A look at FreeBMD shows that Jane Ellwood married John Ellison in 1857.

And Jane Elwood married Anthony Brunskill in 1863.

So, logically, one should look at the 1861 census, when one Jane would be
married and the other wouldn’t.

But unfortunately in 1861 the unmarried Jane was not staying at home with her parents, but was staying with Robert Bellas Brunskill, and she is described as his sister-in-law, before she married his brother Anthony, who was also staying in the house.

That means that Robert Bellas Brunskill’s wife Bridget could be Jane’s sister, if we’re lucky.

Or, more remotely, that Robert had another sibling who married one of Jane’s other siblings.

It turns out that Bridget Brunskill’s maiden name was Ellwood, and she was
Jane’s sister.

Their parents were John Ellwood and Ann Bellas.

Note that a marriage certificate would not have solved this problem, because the father of both Janes was John.

So two Brunskill brothers married two Ellwood sisters, and what is more they were first cousins on the Bellas side. That doesn’t affect the identification much, though it does help to confirm it.

What is more, in 1861 Jane was staying with Bridget, in 1871 Bridget was staying with Jane.

So the Jane Ellwood who married Anthony Brunskill was the daughter of John Ellwood and Ann Bellas, and NOT the daughter of John Ellwood and Nancy Bell. The daughter of John and Nancy married John Ellison, but only a minority of
online family trees showed that.

Do you have these Janes in your family tree?

Make sure you have them attached to the right parents and the right husbands!

And be very careful with what you copy from online family trees. Ask the person who posted the tree where they got the information, and that they didn’t just incritically copy it from somewhere else. Unfortunately one of the other problems with family tree host sites is that they make it difficult for you to contact other researchers. They encourage you to use their own internal messaging system rather than regular e-mail, and sometimes to contact other researchers you have to pay to join that site. That is why they recommend it, of course. They want to get you to pay. But if one researcher you want to contact uses one site, and another uses another site, and yet another uses a third site, it can become quite exorbitantly expensive and time wasting.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.