Little by little

A couple of years ago we accepted a challenge by Randy Seaver to list ancestors in the maternal line, and Val’s list is as follows:

  1. Valerie Greene
  2. Dorothy Pearson (1823-1984) married Keith Dudley Vincent Greene
  3. Martha Ellwood (1885-1968) married William Walker Pearson
  4. Mary Carr (1847-1897) married Thomas Ellwood
  5. Isabella Little (1822-1895) married Ralph Carr
  6. Ann Akin married Edward Little — of Cumberland, England

And since then we’ve gone a generation further back, and discovered that Ann (or Nancy) Akin was probably the daughter of James and Margaret Aiken, and was probably born in Keswick, Cumberland around 1780.

When we started our family history research in 1974, just after we got married, we made our most rapid progress on the Pearson, Ellwood, Carr and Little sides of the family, because Val’s grandmother, Mattie Pearson, born Ellwood, had lived with them in Escombe, Natal, for twelve years after the death of her husband, and Val still had lots of her photos and press cuttings. Among the photos was this one:

Carr and Ellwood families, Whitehaven, Cumberland, 12 June 1874. Back: William Carr (14), Bessie Carr (17?), Ralph Carr (23), Thomas Carr (12), Thomas Ellwood. Front (sitting): Unknown, Isabella Carr (born Little, 52), Mary Ellwood (born Carr, 31); Isabella Carr Ellwood (sitting on lap, 1), John Ellwood (4), Ralph Carr Ellwood (3)

Bessie Carr may be the woman sitting in front on the left, in which case the woman standing behind her is the unknown one. Bessie’s full name was Elizabeth Renney Carr, and she married Tom Spedding in 1884, ten years after the picture was taken. We have a picture drawn by her daughter Nellie (Eleanor) Spedding:

The Empty Chair, by Nellie Spedding

Isabella Carr was the daughter of Edward and Ann Little, and was born in Mealsgate, near Bolton, Cumberland, in 1822. The trouble was that there was more than one Edward Little who had married an Ann. There was Edward Little who married Ann (or Nancy) Akin, and an Edward Vipond Little who had married an Ann Moffatt. We wrote to some of Val’s mother’s cousins in England to ask if they knew which one it was, and one of the cousins, Ralph Pearson, latched on to Edward Vipond Little, son of George Little and Hannah Vipond, and traced his ancestry back several generations. They were from the east of Cumberland, near the Westmorland border. Checking with descendants of Edward Vipond Little, who had gone to Australia, showed that that was a false trail, however. Isabella’s father was Edward Little, a blacksmith of Bolton, and Ann or Nancy Akin, and she was the youngest 0f five children that we have been able to find so far.

Isabella Little married Ralph Carr, a master mariner, whose father and grandfather were also named Ralph Carr, and also appear to have been mariners. On 4 May 1862 Ralph Carr died on board the schooner Hematite of Whitehaven during the passage to Oporto in Lat 43 2 N Long 9 4 W, in the 42nd year of his age, leaving the pregnant Isabella a widow. Their son Thomas Carr was born a month after his father’s death, on 4 June 1862 (he is in the picture above, aged 12).

Ralph Carr was buried at Corunna in Spain, on the west side of the harbour near to the grave of the celebrated General Sir John Moore who was killed during the retreat of the British Army to that place durimng the Napoleonic Wars. At school I had to learn a poem about the burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna:

We buried him darkly at the dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning,
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light,
And the lantern dimly burning.

But Ralph Carr was presumably buried in daylight.

After Ralph’s death Isabella supported herself and her children with her pawnbroking business, which was later taken over by her daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Thomas Ellwood. Two of her sons, Ralph and William, also went into pawnbroking.

Since then we have added to our knowlege of the Little family, Little by Little, as it were. One of the tantalising clues was that in a couple of censuses there is an Edwin Little staying with the Carr family. In 1861 he was a ship’s carpenter’s apprentice, aged 18, and and in 1871 he was a ship’s carpenter, aged 28. What is not clear is who his parents were. He could have been an illegitimate son of one of Isabella’s sisters, or a son of her brother Edward. We have since discovered that he went to Victoria (Australia), where he married Elizabeth Allen, and they had a son, Edward Allen Little.

More recently, with many records coming online through FamilySearch and FreeBMD, we have been able to find more Little descendants.

Isabella’s eldest sister Sarah married John Brindle in Torpenhow, Cumberland, and had six children. We have managed to trace one or more generations of three of them, including a fairly sizeable Taggart family.

 

A couple of Ellwood mysteries

One of the long-standing mysteries in our research into the Ellwood family history is the appearance of a Mary Ann Disno in the 1881 Census of Whitehaven, Cumberland.

She is shown as staying with John Ellwood (1819-1892) and Ann his wife, and is listed as their niece, aged 23, and born in Liverpool. Presumably one of her parents was a brother of sister of John or Ann Ellwood, or possibly even of John Ellwood’s first wife, Bridget Anderson (1819-1876). But Mary Ann Disno seems to come out of nowhere. There is no mention of such a person in the 1861 or 1871 censuses. So who was she, and who were here parents?

We can only conclude that her name was misspelt in 1881, and was actually something else. Someone pointed to a Mary Ann Dyson, born in Liverpool in 1857. Perhaps she could fit. Her parents seem to have been William Westword Dyson and Mary Ann Ellis, but it seems unlikely that they would connect with Ellwoods in Whitehaven. They seem to have been Roman Catholics, and John Ellwood’s second wife Ann was a Primitive Methodist, and seems to have converted him to that faith. Back in those days Roman Catholics and Primitive Methodists had little in common.

And then there is John Ellwood’s second wife herself. Who was she?

We haven’t been able to find a likely marriage of John Ellwood to an Ann after the death of Bridget in 1876 and before the census in 1881. Someone drew our attention to an Ann Kidd who married a John Ellwood in that period at Ulverstone, but we know about her, and she seems to have married a different John Ellwood closer to her own age. And even the first wife, Bridget Anderson, is something of a mystery. We have her birth date from family Bibles, and we have her father’s name from her marriage certificate when she married John Ellwood in 1839. But there is no record of a baptism for her, and we don’t know the names of her mother of any of her siblings, so that is no help in solving the mystery of Mary Ann Disno either.

So there are three mystery people linked to John Ellwood
  • Bridget Anderson, his first wife, born 19 Nov 1819 in Whitehaven
  • Ann, his second wife, born about 1824 in Hensingham, maiden name unknown
  • Mary Ann Disno, niece of one of them, born in Liverpool about 1857
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