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.

 

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.

Ellwood anomalies

Ellwood anomalies

Having recently discovered a whole lot more Ellwood ancestors, there are also a lot more descendants that we may be related to, and one of the things that we have discovered is that a large number of online family trees have links to the wrong families, with children who died in infancy being shown as having long lines of descendants and so on. One of the great dangers of online family trees is that they seem to encourage cut-and-paste genealogy.

John Ellwood (1748-?)

John Ellwood was born in Alston, Cumberland, in about 1748, the son of Thomas and Mary Ellwood.

Some researchers show him as married to Mary Gibson born in 1748 in Moresby, Cumberland, and having seven children, born in Whitehaven. At some point in the late 18th century the family moved to Scotland, where some of the children married, and some of them emigrated with their spouses to the USA.

Other researchers show this same John Ellwood as married to Elizabeth Hogg, and having a completely different set of children.They can’t both be right.

Eleanor Ellwood and Thomas Jaques (or Jacques)

In 1850 a Thomas Jaques (or Jacques) married an Eleanor Ellwood in Whitehaven, Cumberland.

Quite a number of online trees show Eleanor (born 1829) as the daughter of Robert Ellwood and Martha Saxton (or Saxon).

Now Robert Ellwood and Martha Saxon did indeed have a daughter Eleanor, but she was born in 1822, not 1829, and she probably died young. The Eleanor Ellwood who married Thomas Jaques in 1850 was probably born in 1829, but the one who was born in 1829 was the daughter of William and Ann Ellwood, and not the daughter of Robert and Martha.

We’ve looked at lots of online trees with Eleanor in them, in the hope that some researcher has found the antecedents of William and Ann Ellwood, to see if they link into the same Ellwood family somewhere, but so far we haven’t found any. Most of them have opted for the bogus link to Robert and Martha.

Incidentally, there was another Eleanor Ellwood, born in 1821, the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Ellwood, who married Richard Herring in 1846 and had descendants, but nobody seems to be interested in her, and she doesn’t seem to feature in anyone’s online tree.

So if you have Ellwood ancestors and are interesting in meeting cousins and other Ellwood researchers, please have a look at the Ellwood family forum. There you can share information and ask for help with research problems and so on, and perhaps we can resolve some of these anomalies if we work together.

 

Ellwood family of Whitehaven

We’ve just made contact with a previously unknown (to us) Ellwood cousin, Genie Zappanti of Arizona, USA, which has led us to some research done by Bruce Morrison, also of the USA, which has added several generations to our Ellwood family tree all at once.

Val’s maternal grandmother was Martha (Mattie) Ellwood, who married William Pearson in Pinetown, Natal, in 1913, and lived at 315 Main Road, Escombe, Natal.  They were both from Whitehaven, Cumberland, in England. After William Pearson died in 1956, Val’s gran went to live with them — they built on a granny flat, and she lived there for 12 years until she died in 1968. She wrote regularly to her brothers and sisters in Whitehaven, and they sent her the Whitehaven News, and so Val grew up hearing stories of the family in Whitehaven.

When we started our family history, therefore, the Ellwood side was quite easy, at least for a couple of generations back, because a lot of the material was at hand. But we were stuck with Val’s great great great grandparents, Robert and Martha Ellwood, and couldn’t get back any further than them.

One of the things genealogy text books tell you is that you should always get in touch with living relatives, and ask them what they know, and some of them may even be interested in family history. There’s no point in working hard to collect lots of information and draw up a family tree only to show it to a cousin who says, “Oh, Uncle George did all that years ago.”

But we started six years after Val’s grandmother died, and since she had died the family had not kept in touch with the Whitehaven relatives. So we wrote to the Whitehaven News, asking any Ellwood or Pearson relatives to get in touch.

Some did, and in some cases we remained in touch with them, especially some of Val’s mother’s double first cousins, Ralph and John Pearson. Their father, Ernest Pearson was the brother of William, and their mother was Margaret Ellwood, Mattie Ellwood’s sister. John Pearson’s wife, Norah, was an inveterate letter writer, and kept in touch for many years after John died, and we met her and her daughters Maxine Wincott and Zania McKenzie when we went to the UK in 2005. Ralph Pearson became interested in the family history after we had made contact with him, and collected a lot of information, especially on the Pearson side.

Thomas Ellwood (1845-1914)

Our letter in the Whitehaven News also elicited a response from a cousin we had not previously heard of, Mrs Mary Ann Tumilty of Elk Grove Village, Illinois in the USA. She happened to be visiting Whitehaven in the week that our letter was published, and when she got back to the USA wrote to say that she had a family Bible that had the dates of birth and death of all the children of Val’s great great grandparents, John Ellwood (1819-1892) and Bridget Anderson (1819-1876). That also revealed that Val’s great grandfather, Thomas Ellwood (1845-1914), had been born at Wingate Grange in County Durham, which was why we had not been able to find his birth certificate. Now, with resources such as FreeBMD, finding such things is relatively easy, but back in 1975 it wasn’t.

And now, 37 years later, we’ve made contact with another cousin in the USA, Genie Zappanti, who is also interested in the family history.

And through her we have also made the link to Bruce Morrison’s Ellwood Genealogy web site, which traces the Ellwood family back to the village of Dufton in Westmorland where they were farmers for several generations until some became miners. At first they were lead miners in nearby Alston, and later coal miners in Whitehaven.

 

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