Surname Saturday: The Dewsbury family

This week’s Surname Saturday theme is the surname of DEWSBURY from the villages of Soham, Barway, Wilburton, Stretham and Little Thetford in Cambridgeshire.

This week’s Surname Saturday blogging theme focuses on my ancestors with the Dewsbury surname.

The most recent ancestor in my tree to carry the Dewsbury name was my Great Great Grandmother – Elizabeth Dewsbury, who was born in Stretham in 1851 to William Dewsbury and his wife Rebecca (née Lythell).

Sadly, I have no photographs of a Dewsbury, or any of my direct Dewsbury ancestors, which has probably made this branch one that has seen me pick up the research, and put it down, time and time again.

Whilst Elizabeth married into the Barber family in 1871, ending the run of the name in my ancestry, her siblings and her father’s family continued to live and work in the surrounding villages – in particular those of Wilburton, the hamlet of Barway, Soham, and also with some staying in Stretham.

18th Century

Heading backwards four generations, to Elizabeth’s Great Great Grandparents (and my 7x Great Grandparents), you find John Dowsborough and his wife Edith (née Langford). They married on 3rd October 1749 in Soham, Cambridgeshire.

They had at least nine children. The last being born in about 1768, a year before what appears to be John’s burial at Ely Holy Trinity (where is he noted as ‘from Half Acre in Soham‘).

The earliest of their children that I have found, was my 6x Great Grandfather, William Dewsbury, who was born in about 1753. By 1769, at just 16yrs old, he walked down the aisle of Soham parish church with Elizabeth Cook, who was undoubtedly already pregnant with the couple’s first (of ten) children.

Sadly, this first child, a girl called Elizabeth, didn’t survive long – having been baptised on 9th and buried on 13th of November of that same year.

Their next child, born in about 1770, was my 5x Great Grandfather, Edward Dewsbury, who is noted as a ‘farmer‘ in 1814. He lived until June 1836, when he died in the village of Wilburton.

Edward married Sarah (her surname, and their marriage still remains aloof), and the couple appear ten times in baptism registers between 1795 and 1816. They had nine daughters and one son – the latter being my 4x Great Grandfather, another William Dewsbury, born in about 1811, and the father of Elizabeth, my final Dewsbury ancestor.

Families nearby

There are many Dewsbury name bearers in these villages around Ely, making it complicated to break them into small family groups, so I’ve been looking at other Dewsbury name-bearers in the villages to see if I can group those together and therefore help to eliminate or assign the many name duplicates to those other branches. It’s a great way to thin out the records.

This Will from 1756, gives a small clue to a family group of Edward, his wife Elizabeth, his married daughter Mary, and his son John.

Edward Dewsbury Will from 1756
This 1756 Will from an Edward Dewsbury, names his wife as Elizabeth, a daughter Mary, and a son named John.

I’ll now know that this group belongs together, but I am going to put them aside for the short-term because they aren’t the ancestral branch that I’m looking for.

Dewsbury Name Variants

The surname seems to take on no less than 14 different spellings – ranging from the most common spelling of Dewsbury to a wealth of variants, often interchanging in the same parish’s registers:

  • Dousberry
  • Dowsbury
  • Deusberry
  • Dewsberry
  • Dewesbury
  • Dowsborough
  • Disborow
  • Disbrow
  • Disborowe
  • Dousbury
  • Dawsberry
  • Desbery
  • Dewsborough

A second line

In addition, a Dewsbury family also marries into my Yarrow branch at Little Thetford, Cambridgeshire.

Whilst I’m yet to connect them, I am expecting them to appear somehow, given that the village in which they live, is a hamlet of Stretham, just a few miles apart.

The first appearance of Dewsbury (any spelling) in Little Thetford, is the baptism of John Dewsbery, son of Edward and Elizabeth, on 9th January 1725. Perhaps this is the family group mentioned in the Will?

Standard or News?

Guest blogger Jane Freeman writes about using local history sources in print and online to research her Stretham roots.

Ooooh, this is a bit scary …. my first “guest” blog. Let’s start with the fact that I’m nearly related to Andrew, via a chap called Francis Yarrow, of Little Thetford, who married Anne Langford in Stretham, back in the mists of time. So, Andrew & I are related in a rather tenuous way best described by my maternal grandmother as “their cat ran over our doorstep”.

My maternal grandmother, that is, who came from Stretham, and whose wedding photo started me on my genealogical travellings. Kate Langford was born in 1889 and left the village, as girls her age did, to go into service. Her brothers mostly stayed there and my visits to Stretham as a child were to see “Uncle Bill”, her older brother, by then a widower living with two of his step-daughters. Cis & Ethel – one of them was an excellent cook and to this day I remember her mince pies & sausage rolls at Christmas!

These are the kind of memories which I most like about family history; collecting names and occupations is fine, and satisfying in its own way, but I like to make them into “real” people again and this part of my research is being aided and abetted at the moment by the British Newspaper Archives. A brilliant resource, albeit slightly expensive – its Australian counterpart “Trove” is free. But I digress: my latest find was in the Chelmsford Chronicle, May 1844, under the heading “Awfully destructive fire at Stretham”, which described a widespread fire in the village affecting “not fewer than 25 houses, &c………including habitations of wealthy agriculturists and humble labourers….” (see below for transcription of the full article). Although these articles are very useful in telling one who was around at the time, the writing of them also fascinates me. They didn’t have photographs, of course, to show the destruction so the journalists had only words to use; and how well did they use them.

Stretham - A Feast of Memories by Beatrice Stevens

More up to date, but every bit as informative, is “Stretham: A Feast of Memories” by the late Beatrice Stevens. This book gives a portrait of life in the village in the early 20th century and is an absolute gold-mine of detail. The Cambridgeshire library has a number of copies and I recommend it highly for those who have an interest in the village! In its pages I discovered that Uncle Bill’s step-son emigrated to Canada, returning a few years later to fight in the Great War (wherein he was wounded and lost an eye – in the Ely Standard, that one) and returned once more to Stretham, this time with his wife. Because of these clues I went to the Outgoing Passenger Lists on FindMyPast, and thence to the Canadian Library & Archives for his Attestation Papers. Never mind that I’m not at all related to him – I just had to know what happened to him. He sailed on the “Tunisian” to Halifax, Nova Scotia, leaving Liverpool three days after the 1911 census, and subsequently joined the Canadian Mounted Rifles when the Great War broke out.

So, while I couldn’t live without the census and parish registers, it’s the “off-piste” information which I enjoy most of all; the only problem is that I get so easily side-tracked – I mean, what’s not to like about some of the old adverts or, my particular favourite, seeing articles in the Cambridge papers of the late 19th/early 20th century which are complaining about traffic chaos!

‘Awfully destructive fire at Stretham’

CHELMSFORD CHRONICLE – 10th May 1844

One of the most awful fires which it was ever our province to record took place Wednesday week, at Stretham, near Ely. The destruction of property is enormous; and when we say that not fewer than 25 houses, &c. have been razed to the ground, including habitations of wealthy agriculturists and humble labourers, the reader will imagine for himself the extent of misery which must be the consequence of this lamentable visitation.

The fire originated in small hovel adjoining the blacksmith’s shop of Mr. John Westby. It is supposed that some sparks of hot iron were the immediate cause of the catastrophe, but this does not quite clearly appear. At any rate, about one o’clock in the day the hovel was discovered to be in flames; and although assistance was hand, and the fire seemed at first but trifling, so dry were the materials of which the hovel was composed that it was very soon enveloped in flames, which communicated with Mr. Westbv’s house on one side, and Mr. Wright’s stack-yard the other. No sooner were Mr. Wright’s extensive and well-stored premises seized upon by the devouring element, than the utmost alarm for the safety of the village was entertained. Nor was this alarm unfounded, for the flames spread with such frightful rapidity, on both sides of the street, that in a little more than an hour from the time of their breaking out twenty-five occupations, extending over about fifteen acres of ground were in a blaze. To describe the scene would be impossible. The reader will conceive the terrible fright and disorder which prevailed, and the awful character of the destruction going on. So wonderfully rapid was the spread of the names, and so great the heat emanating from the immense mass of burning materials, that many those who fancied their premises secure when the fire first broke out, and consequently neglected to take care their own furniture, clothes, &c. were unable to secure a particle. Some have lost every chip and every rag, save the garments they happened to have on at the time. There is no engine at Stretham. About two o’clock the Haddenham engine arrived, and to the good use made of it, under the most active and energetic directions of the Rev. S. Banks, incumbent of Haddenham, may be attributed the saving of great part of the village. On one side of the street, the progress of the flames was arrested at a cow-lodge, belonging to Mr. Hazel, and the other side the yard of the public-house, next Messrs. Senet and Graves’s premises. In order that the reader may form an idea the extent of damage done by this destructive conflagration, we will give a list of the premises burnt.

  1. The hovel in which the fire originated.
  2. John Westby, blacksmith.—House, furniture, and clothes destroyed.
  3. Mr. Boultentarf, miller.—House, furniture, out-buildings, hay, &c.
  4. Mr. Wright, farmer.—Mr. Wright’s premises occupy both sides the street; at present we are describing the property on the south, but we include Mr. Wright’s total loss. Two barns, stables, cart-lodges, 300 coombs of wheat, 4 wheat stacks, 3 hay stacks, 2 straw stacks, a large number of pigs and fowls, &c. destroyed. House saved.
  5. Mr. Coy, farmer.—Dwelling-house, new barn, granary, stables, machines, wagons, out-buildings, wheat stack, beanstack, hay stack, straw stack, about 12 pigs, fowls, &c.
  6. Mr. Murfitt.—House, furniture, barn, stables, hay, &c.
  7. Mr. Lester, butcher.—House, furniture, clothes, stables, cart, five £5 notes, and 40s. in silver.
  8. Mr. Jackson.—House, barn, hay stable, & building in the yard.
  9. Mr. S. Wright.—House, bam, stables, hay stack, wheat, peas, and beans.
  10. Mr. Philips, baker.—House, furniture, clothes, stock-in-trade, and in fact every thing.
  11. Alms-houses—two families.
  12. Ditto —four families.
  13. Mr. John Wheeler, shoemaker and brewer.—House, furniture, stock in trade, warehouse, &c.
  14. Mr. Hazel.—Cow-lodge. Here the fire was stopped on this side of the street.
  15. Mr. Wright.—See No. 4.
  16. Mr. R. Wheeler.—House and out-buildings.
  17. Mr. Gibbons, shoemaker.—House, furniture, stock in trade, and every thing.
  18. Mr. Dimmock.—House, buildings, &c.
  19. Mr. Langford, linen-draper.—House, furniture, stocktrade, and every thing.
  20. Mr. Baxter, harness-maker.-The same.
  21. Mr. Savidge, tailor.—The same.
  22. Mr. T. Grainger farmer.—Barn, stables, every outbuilding, haystack, straw stack, 30 coomb of beans, about 40 coomb oats, 14 pigs, a quantity of fowls, &c. Mr. Grainger’s barn was the largest the county: nothing but the walls are left, and so intense was the heat that the brickwork seems in some places to have been almost molten. The house was saved.
  23. Mr. L Langford – House, stable, barn & other buildings.
  24. Mr. Dring, veterinary surgeon – House and furniture.
  25. Messrs. Senet and Graves.—House, barn, and stables.

It will be understood from the foregoing that the desolation is heart-rending. The Church was made the receptacle of the furniture, &c. which could saved: and as to the numerous persons deprived of house and home, they were accommodated as well as circumstances would admit, and every attention paid to them by the clergyman and their neighbours. Two engines from Ely were present: and the Superintendent and some men of the isle Ely constabulary rendered great service in the prevention of depredations. It is of course difficult to speak with any thing like accuracy but it has been estimated at between £15,000 and £20,000, a great portion of the property being, we fear, uninsured.— Cambridge Chronicle.

The Mystery of Elizabeth Yarrow’s Gravestone

Elizabeth Yarrow’s death spans two years. Her age at death spans 8 years. Two churches registers, and a gravestone all give conflicting and some corresponding information. What’s the real answer?

I have a mystery to solve and hopefully the death certificate of an Elizabeth Yarrow, whose death is recorded in the June quarter of 1838 in St Pancras, will unravel it.

This gravestone stands in Stretham churchyard, Cambridgeshire, amongst many other Yarrow gravestones. There is something engraved near the foot of the stone but I can’t make it out now, and perhaps didn’t spot it at the time.

However, this stone appears to have some errors.

The Stretham burials transcript gives William Yarrow as being 71, and Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright) as having been buried in 1837.

The Little Thetford burials transcript (Little Thetford being a hamlet of Stretham and it’s common for inhabitants to be buried at Stretham), gives a different story: “YARROW Elizabeth otp 50 wife of William farmer, died in London was carried home and buried at Stretham” (Nov 23 1837).

This gives two positive mentions of 1837, rather than the stone’s 1839. The Stretham transcript gives the right age for her, but not for him.

There’s no mention of William in the Little Thetford transcript.

Looking at FreeBMD, there’s only an Elizabeth Yarrow death (so far) available, and that’s the one registered in the June Quarter of 1838 at St. Pancras!

The GRO certificate is ordered… so lets see what it uncovers.

What do you think happened? Here’s a couple of my ideas…

  1. Maybe the stone was erected many years after William and Elizabeth deaths, and so family couldn’t quite remember?
  2. Elizabeth’s death was registered in the June 1838, because certification was new in late 1837 – perhaps they were resisting it (like some), or simply didn’t know that certificates had to be issued or how to go about it?

Surname Saturday: YARROW

Surname Saturday: The Yarrow family.

An unusual surname lives on through large families and a drive for business.

My maternal great grandmother gives me my connection to this unusual surname of Yarrow. She, Maude Yarrow, was born just over 110 years ago, living to the ripe old age of 104 – an age that is not unlike those reached by her many siblings – some of whom are still alive today.

Yarrow siblings
Six of the 15 Yarrow children during the 1930s.

Occupations

During the Victorian era, my Yarrow relations were concentrated in the villages of Little Thetford and Stretham, just a few miles outside of Ely, Cambridgeshire. Here they seemed to have dealings in practically every business going – pubs, shops, farms, church, school, dairy, brewing, charities for the poor, musicians, railways, parish council and even the parish’s census returns.

The Yarrow family owned and ran both The Wheat Sheaf and The Three Horseshoes pubs over the years, often alternating ownership between them and the Dewsbury family. Neither pub is operating now.

The Yarrow name, despite being unusual, was relatively common in these fenland parts due to large families. Despite riots in Little Thetford during 1833, then inclosures in 1844 benefited the family when they gained large areas of land – with William Yarrow receiving the second largest chunk of land (45 acres) after Mary Hammond (60.5 acres), and another Yarrow member receiving a smaller chunk. This event would inevitably set them up as major land owners and employers, as well as influential people in the parish.

A Victorian boy-band?

William Yarrow in Liverpool Cathedral
William Yarrow (far right) at Liverpool Cathedral.

During the late 1800s my Gt Gt Gt Grandfather, James Yarrow, is well recorded as having performed and travelled with his “fine alto voice” accompanied by his equally able brothers, Owen, William and Albert. Newspaper reports praise their regular performances and fine singing voices. I can only assume that they were some kind of early boy-band! Whilst Albert is noted as being an organist at one point, William eventually moves north, where he is a key member of the choir – performing for Kings at Liverpool Cathedral.

Both myself and my mother both have musical skills and it’s a nice thought that perhaps this is where it comes from.

Large Families

In my ancestry, it is the Yarrow family that appear to have had the largest families. My own Gt Grandmother was one of 15 live-born children – none of whom were twins, and most survived into adulthood. She claimed that there were 21 children, but church records don’t support this (although this might not cover still-born or miscarriages). Meanwhile, her aunt and uncle – John ‘Jack’ William Yarrow and his wife Amy Ann (née Howard) had a family of nine children too. Of those that did survive their first years, reaching the ages of 90 and 100 is very common, which suggests that perhaps the Yarrow genes have an air of longevity to them.

Looking at the Yarrow families of the late-Victorian era, there is a higher frequency of female births, which may suggest a reason why the surname has become uncommon/unusual, with daughters adopting married names.

Origins

It is unclear as to what is the true origin of the Yarrow surname. It could be from the Achillea plant, a river in Lancashire, a place in Scotland, or a Viking target in South Tyneside.