UK trip 9 May 2005: Gobowen to Whitehaven

Continued from UK trip 8 May 2005: Davies family at Gobowen | Khanya

We spent the light with John and Shirley Davies at Gobowen, near Oswestry. I woke up at about 2:00 am, and caught up with writing my diary and made family history notes. Later at breakfast Shirley told us more about their lives since I had last seen them 35 years before.

After breakfast Shirley did some spinning, and it was the first time I had ever seen a spinning wheel in action. I’d only ever seen them used as decorations before, starting with the people who bought our old house in Westville, and made it into the homes and gardens pages of one of the Natal papers, which featured a picture of a spinning wheel.

I’d also read about spinning wheels in Grimm’s fairy tales, and still had no idea of how they worked, and pictured someone with a fat thumb pressing raw wool on to the big wheel and somehow manipulating it into thread. The name of their house, Nyddfa, means “place of spinning”. The house was interesting — a compact single storey, with a nice back garden; no TV, but a computer, which Shirley worked on often. She said, “What did you do when you woke up early before you had a computer?” and I was at a loss to tell her. She wakes up before John, as I do, and John, she said, sleeps nearly 12 hours a night now. But as I get older I wake up earlier, and find the computer provides plenty to occupy me with in the early hours
of the morning. They had good furniture, and everything is neat and clean and comfortable, with ornaments, and such a contrast to their life in South Africa, where the furniture was makeshift, and
everything simple, the garden a jungle, especially at 11 Queens Road Parktown. Shirley said she hated living there, because she felt boxed in, but it held good memories for me, because that was where they lived when I knew them best.

Shirley Davis spinning at Nyddfa, Gobowen. 9 May 2005

Shirley Davis spinning at Nyddfa, Gobowen. 9 May 2005

We left just after lunch, at 1:30, heading north, and re-entered Wales, going in to Wrexham to cash a travellers cheque at the Nat West Bank, and then going on to the M6 motorway and driving as fast as the traffic and speed limit would allow. We stopped at one of the services places after we had passed the Liverpool-Manchester conurbation to buy sweets and a Coke and a Sunday paper, the Independent. While my Cottam ancestors had lived in Manchester and in the Lancashire area, we did not have time to go and look for the places where they had lived, and so stuck to the motorway through the urban areas.

I noticed a change there from when I had lived in the UK in the 1960s. Then I had been struck by how orderly and polite British drivers had been compared to South African ones, who tended to be aggressive. Back then British motorists would flash their headlamps to say “After you,” while South African motorists would flash their headlamps to say “Get out of my way.” Now it was the other way round.

I recalled a visit from Val’s second cousins a couple of years previously, John and Maxine Wincott. I took them on a tour of Tshwane, and John was amazed at the behavious of drivers at four-way stop steets and places where the road narrowed, how they filtered in, taking it in turns. On the busy motorway junctions in the Liverpool-Manchester area, however, if anyone tried to filter in from an acceleration lane there would be angry light flashings and sometimes hooting from other vehicles. I wondered if it was a change in culture brought about by Maggie Thatcher.

We turned off the motorway to drive to Windermere, where I had once visited the home of a college friend, Craufurd Murray, in 1967. Then it had been cold and overcast, and the lake had looked grim and grey and cheerless. Now it looked a bit brighter.

Lake Windermere, Cumbria, 9 May 2005

Lake Windermere, Cumbria, 9 May 2005

We drove round the northern end of Lake Windermere, through Ambleside, and then over the Wrynose and Hardknott passes, which were reminiscient of the mountains of Lesotho, though of course they were much lower and closer to the sea.

The Wrnose Pass, looking back East towards Windermere. 9 May 2005.

The Wrynose Pass in the Cumbrian fells, looking back East towards Windermere. 9 May 2005.

The roads were narrow and winding, and we saw lots of sheep. The young lambs were black, and the older sheep brown with white faces. Seeing them reminded me of Rebecca West’s book Black lamb and grey falcon, describing travels in the Balkans in the 1930s, and indeed the Cumberland fells looked a lot like the mountains of Albania too. The Hardknott Pass was even steeper than the Wrynose Pass, but we were going downhill over the steepest bits, down into Eskdale.

skdale, Cumbria, from the Hardknott Pass. 9 May 2005.

Eskdale, Cumbria, from the Hardknott Pass. 9 May 2005.

We drove in to Whitehaven, where Val’s Pearson and Ellwood ancestors had come from (see The Pearson and Ellwood families of Whitehaven | Hayes & Greene family history). We looked for somewhere to stay,
and also for a loo, but could not easily find either.

We went to see Nora Pearson, the widow of Val’s mother’s double-first cousin John Pearson (and the mother of Maxine Wincott, mentioned earlier), and had coffee with her, and showed her photos of the
family. She had been ill, and was only now able to walk around again. She had a cat which she kept a prisoner and would not allow to go outside, though she had a fairly big garden and lived in a quiet cul-de-sac. We had corresponded with her for about 30 years about the family history, but this was the first time we had actually met her face to face.

Val Hayes and Nora Pearson, Whitehyaven, 9 May 2005

Val Hayes and Nora Pearson, Whitehyaven, 9 May 2005

We phoned one of the bed and breakfast places on our list, at Lowca, and went out to stay there, and returned to Whitehaven for supper in a Chinese restaurant, one of the few open and serving food as it was after 9:30 pm. We were the only ones there, and an excessively polite and smiley waiter persuaded me to try Chinese beer, which wasn’t bad. We had eggs foo yong which was good, and sweet and sour pork, but that was not up to our benchmark of the Phoenix restaurant in Point Road in Durban, which was the standard by which we evaluated all Chinese restaurants.

We looked at books on old Whitehaven that the people in the B&B place had lent us, and there was one on Lowca Engineering, which had made steam locomotives, where Ernest Pearson (Nora’s father-in-law)  had worked. He was originally an acetylene welder at Lowca Engineering Works, near Whitehaven. He served in the 1914-1918 War in the Royal Flying Corps at Halton, Bucks and at Blandford, Devon. About 1923 the Lowca Engineering Works closed down, and he went to work for his brother-in-law’s company, John Ellwood & Co, as a plumber and electrician, and remained there for the rest of his working life.

Tombstone Tuesday: Pearson of Whitehaven

This Tombstone Tuesday I’m adding some pictures of tombstones of the Pearson and Ellwood families of Whitehaven, Cumberland. They relate to the Pearson and Ellwood families featured in the post immediately below this one.

Gravestone of Daniel William Pearson and Sarah Jane Walker in Whitehaven Cemetery

Daniel William Pearson (1855-1929) and his wife Sarah Jane Walker (1857-1959) are buried in Whitehaven Cemetery, Ward 1, Section O.

They were Val’s maternal great-grandparents.

Daniel William Pearson was the son of William Pearson, a butcher of Whitehaven, and his wife Sarah Johnson, who was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

Sarah Jane Walker was born in Sylecroft, Whicham, in the south of Cumberland, and was the daughter of William Walker, a spirit merchant of Sylecroft, and his wife Agnes Duke, who was born in Ulverston, Lancashire (which is now part of the new county of Cumbria.

Daniel William Pearson started is career as a butcher, like his father, and then became Whitehaven’s Sanitary Inspector and Inspector of Nuisances (lovely title, that!) Two of ths brothers, Charles and Henry, were Anglican clergymen, while another brother, John Johnson Pearson, was an apothecary of sorts, and wrote books about his travels in the Middle East.

M Ellwood grave

Gravestone of Margaret Pearson (nee Ellwood), in Whitehaven, Cumberland, England

Our second tombstone is of Margaret Pearson, the daughter-in-law of Daniel William and Sarah Jane Pearson.

Ernest Pearson (1892-1975) was a plumber and electrician of Whitehaven, and married Margaret Ellwood (1892-1958), the daughter of Thomas Ellwood and Mary Carr.

They had three sons, Gilbert, Ralph and John, and a daughter, Edith Margaret Pearson.

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.


Maternal lines

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Matrilineal Line suggests:

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1) List your matrilineal line – your mother, her mother, etc. back to the first identifiable mother. Note: this line is how your mitochondrial DNA was passed to you!

2) Tell us if you have had your mitochondrial DNA tested, and if so, which Haplogroup you are in.

3) Post your responses on your own blog post, in Comments to this blog post, or in a Note or status line on Facebook.

Well here’s my matrilineal line:

a) Steve Hayes
b) Ella Growdon (1910-1983) married Frank Wynn Hayes
c) Janet McCartney Hannan (1882-1946) married George Growdon
d) Ellen McFarlane (1858-1933) married William Hannan
e) Amelia or Emily Livingston (c1826-?) married David McFarlane – of Glasgow, Scotland

and here’s Val’s line:

a) Valerie Greene
b) Dorothy Pearson (1823-1984) married Keith Dudley Vincent Greene
c) Martha Ellwood (1885-1968) married William Walker Pearson
d) Mary Carr (1847-1897) married Thomas Ellwood
e) Isabella Little (1822-1895) married Ralph Carr
f) Ann Akin married Edward Little — of Cumberland, England

Neither of us have had our mitochondrial DNA tested.


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