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.

 

The mysterious Bessie Bagot

Bessie Bagot, aged 21

For the past few days I’ve been trying to find out more about Bessie Bagot and her relatives.

In the 1861 Census of Chorlton-upon-Medlock in Lancashire, England, she is shown, aged 5, staying with her cousins John and Mary Worrall.

That means she was born about 1856.

Mary Worrall’s maiden name was Cottam, and her mother was Margaret Bagot, born in 1811. So Margaret Bagot must have been Bessie’s aunt, and since Bessie was a lot younger than her married cousin Mary Worrall, her father must have been one of Margaret’s younger brothers. None of the census records, however, give a clue to Bessie’s parentage. She was brought up by other relatives — uncles, aunts and cousins.

The 1881 Census is no more helpful. Bessie was then about 25, and it was a couple of years after the photo was taken.

Dwelling: 20 Gloucester Rd
Census Place: Birkdale, Lancashire, England
Source: FHL Film 1341896     PRO Ref RG11    Piece 3746    Folio 40    Page 46
Household:
Marr Age   Sex    Birthplace
Robert RICHMOND
U    55    Male   Lancaster, Lancashire, England
Rel: Head
Occ: Annuitant
Margaret RICHMOND
U    58    Female Lancaster, Lancashire, England
Rel: Sister
Occ: Annuitant
Betty A. BAGOT
U    62    Female Lancaster, Lancashire, England
Rel: Cousin
Occ: Annuitant
Bessie BAGOT
U    25    Female Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Rel: Niece
Occ: Annuitant
Elizabeth MASON
U    20    Female Carlisle
Rel: Serv
Occ: Gen Serv.”

The “Betty A. Bagot” is probably Betsey Alice Bagot, a younger sister of Margaret Cottam (nee Bagot). So that would make Bessie Betsy’s niece in the strict sense of the word, as the daughter of a sibling. But which sibling?

There is a Robert Bagot born in 1814, and a Thomas born in 1821. Neither of them appears in the 1881 Census. Thomas appears in 1861, as a widower, a painter, living in Chorlton, not far from the Worralls, where Bessie is staying. That makes sense. He can’t look after an infant daughter while he’s out working all day, so let his niece, Mary Worrall, married with no kids, look after her.

And then the Worralls start having children of their own and move to London, which would be too far away for Thomas to see her regularly, so he asks his unmarried sister Betsy to look after young Bessie.

Betsy is living with unmarried cousins Robert and Margaret Richmond, and that seems to be a long-term arrangement, at least as far as Robert was concerned, and young Bessie seems to have been brought up by them after the Worralls moved to London.

This was confirmed by Robert Jordan, a descendant of Bessie, who had a copy of her baptism entry at St Peter’s Church, Liverpool, where she was baptised on 15 September 1864, and her parents are recorded as Thomas and Ann Bagot.

But that raises some more questions: Bessie was in fact born in Liverpool, but she never grew up there. In 1861 she was living at Chorlton, in 1881 she was at Birkdale, near Southport, both quite some distance from Liverpool. So why did someone, presumably her aunt Betsy Alice Bagot, take her all the way to Liverpool to be baptised at the age of 8?

Anyway, Betsy was married in 1890, at the age of 33, to James Smith Breeze, and they had two children, James Hedley Breeze and Robert Bagot Breeze. The Breeze brothers married two Taylor sisters. James Hedley Breeze’s only child died young, but Robert Bagot Breeze has several descendants, among them Robert Jordan, who helped unravel some of the mystery, but also to deepen some of it. Among other information he sent a transcription of a gravestone, which confirms a lot of the above:

In Loving Memory of Robert Richmond who died 29 October 1895 aged 70 years. “Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty.” Isaiah XXXIII 17. Also of Betsy Alice Bagot who fell asleep at Birkdale 6th July 1905 in her 88th year. “In my father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you.” St. John XIV 2. Also of James Smith Breeze born 15th of June 1858. Fell asleep 25th of August 1916. [Biblical quotation is illegible].

Betsy Bagot and Robert Richmond were related, but how?

Robert Richmond was born about 1825, and there was a Robert born around then who had a sister Margaret, children of Thomas and Alice Richmond. In 1851 Robert was staying with an uncle Henry Richmond. But which one of Robert’s uncles or aunts married a Bagot, or, possibly, a Mashiter? Or was his mother Alice possibly a Mashiter or a Bagot?

Just to confuse things still further, there is another Robert Richmond, born about 1833.  His sister Betsy Richmond married John Cottam in 1852, and that John Cottam was the brother of Richard Cottam who married Margaret Bagot, the sister of Betsy Alice Bagot who lived with her cousin Robert Richmond. And there is the possibility that one or both of the Roberts’ middle name was Casson.

If anyone can help us to find our way through tat tangled web, please join us on the Bagot Forum!

 

Transcription errors

One of the perils of doing genealogy and family history research far from the location of the original records is that one has to rely a lot on transcriptions of the records. Now I’m not knocking transcriptions, because without them I’d know a lot less about my family than I do, and I’m very grateful to those who have spend much time transcribing records so they can be put on line. But it is always better to look at the original records, or at least microfilm or microfiche or scanned copies, if possible. A case in point is my Bagot family of North Lancashire. Using the transcribed 1881 census on FamilySearch (the old one), I was able to find the children of Henry Bagley Bagot (1838-1919 – my first cousin 4 times removed). He lived in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, and he and his wife Lucy Brown had five children: 

  • Ann Jane Bagot
  • Ellen Bagot
  • Lewis Brown Bagot
  • Robert M. Bagot
  • Walter Bagot

 

From their ages at the census I was able to find, on FreeBMD, their appoximate dates of birth, and possible dates of marriage and death. All except for Robert M. who seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth, and there was no record of his birth. Suspecting a transcription error, I checked the original of the 1881 census, and there he was, not Robert M. but Herbert W. And from there it was possible to track him in other records. He was Herbert Wilson Bagot (1870-1927). He was born in Barrow in Furness. At the age of 20 he was in Govan, Scotland, as an electrical engineer. A few years later he made at least one voyage to Australia as a ship’s electrician. He married Isabella Christina Davidson of Aberdeen at Chorlton in Lancashire in 1898 (why at the opposite end of the county to where his parents lived is not clear), and by the 1901 census he was in Aberdeen as an electrical engineer. He died in Glasgow in 1929, and may have had a son, Walter Fraser Bagot, who was a medical student.
See more on the Bagot family forum.

BagotHW.pdf Download this file

Ellwood family history

Since we added 8 generations to our Ellwood family tree a couple of weeks ago we have spent every spare moment of leisure time updating the Ellwood family tree, and trying to make contact with Ellwood cousins and researchers we hadn’t known about before. We have started a mailing list for Ellwood researchers and family members at 

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ellwood/ 

and hope that others will join us there as a way of getting and keeping in touch and exchanging family information.

Park, Vause and Drake families of Hull and Bath

One of the long-standing mysteries of our family history is how my great great grandfather Richard Vause, who lived in Hull, met his bride Matilda Park, who was born in Belfast and lived in Bath. He was living in Hull in the 1851 census, and at the beginning of 1852 they were married in Bath and very soon sailed to Natal.

Now we’ve found a couple of census records that could explain how they met.

Matilda Park was the daughter of William Park (of Belfast, Bath and Quebec) and Mary Martin (daughter of John Martin of Belfast). There is more information about the family here and here.

One of Matilda Park’s sisters was Margaret Martin Park, who married James Drake, a surgeon dentist, at St Saviour’s Church, Bath, on 8 June 1848, and the 1851 census shows them in Hull, as visitors in the home of Simeon Mosely, also a surgeon dentist, at 15 Whitefriars Gate, Holy Trinity, Hull.  Their daughter Mary Edith Drake was born in Hull in about December 1850.

Perhaps James Drake and Simeon Mosely were partners in a dental practice, and perhaps Richard Vause was one of their patients, and maybe Matilda Park went to Hull to visit her sister. A lot of maybes, perhaps, or perhapses, maybe. But the fact that members of the Park family were living in Hull in 1850 could explain how Richard Vause met them.

In the 1861 census the Drake family were living at Castle Church, Staffordshire, and in 1871 in Warwickshire, where Margaret Drake appears to have died in 1878.

Mary Edith Drake was later known as Edith, and was single, living on her own means in Penge, London, in the 1891 census. She appears to have been the only child, and does not seem to have married, so there’s no point in looking for present-day relatives from that branch of the family.

Perhaps one thing that could be added is that last week I was contacted by Peter Henderson, who is researching a William Park/Mary Martin family for a friend. That family is in Scotland, and it is not the same family as the one I have been describing here. Peter said a Catherine Raw had a family tree that has conflated the two families. Richard and Matilda Vause’s eldest daughter Polly did marry a John James Raw, so there is a link between the Vause and Raw families, though I’m not sure where Catherine fits in. But the Park/Martin family of Scotland appears to be entirely separate, with no link to ours.

Looking for Franca Greene, nee Bladezki

Have you ever watched Heir Hunters on the History Channel? We have had heir hunters looking for the heirs of Ignat Bladezki. Two different lots of heir hunters in the UK have contacted us in the last couple of weeks, looking for the heirs of Ignat Bladezki, who died in Coventry, England, in May last year.

Our connection is that a daughter of Ignat Bladezki, Franca, married Val’s dad’s cousin, Errol Royden Norman Greene. We met Franca Greene once, about 18 years ago, when she was living in Bryanston with her daughter Courtney, who was then about 14. Errol Greene died in 1980, when Courtney was less than a year old. We chatted about family history, and Franca gave us some details for the family tree. She said her father, Ignat Bladezki, was born in Russia, but had deserted from the Red Army and gone to live in England, so it may not even have been his real name, and he spoke very little about family connections. He married Yola Conti, who died some years before he did, and, according to the heir hunters, he himself died in a nursing home and no one on the staff knew who his relatives were.

We’ve lost touch with Franca, and Courtney, who must be about 30 now, may have married and changed her name. But we’d like to get in touch with Franca again, to let her know that her father has died, and also that she probably stands to inherit a sum large enough to make the heir hunters think it worth their while to try to trace the next-of-kin (they make their money by taking a commission).

Franca was Errol Greene’s second wife. He had two daughters by his first wife, Dionne and Tracey. They don’t stand to inherit anything, but if they can be traced they may help us to find Franca. Franca told us that Tracey had married a Grant Stack. So if anyone reading this knows where Franca or Courtney are, please ask them to get in touch with us.


Errol Greene ran an air-conditioning business in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, before his death in 1980.

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