Surname Saturday: The Howlett family

Today’s ‘Surname Saturday’ post takes us back in time to meet the Howlett family.

The Howlett family are part of my paternal family tree, and give me one of very few tickets back through time beyond the fenland of Cambridgeshire.

Okay, admittedly it’s only to the adjoining county of Suffolk, but compared to most of the rest my ancestry – that’s the equivalent of the moon!

My most recent Howlett ancestor was Elizabeth Howlett. She was born to Thomas Howlett and his wife Caroline (née Clark) on 3rd March 1856, in the small parish of Kenny Hill – not far from Mildenhall, Suffolk, England.

Elizabeth Howlett with her husband James Gilbert, Burnt Fen, Cambridgeshire.
Elizabeth Howlett with her husband James Gilbert, Burnt Fen, Cambridgeshire. Photo: Andrew Martin

Thomas was the 6th of the 7 children of John Howlett and his second wife Elizabeth (formerly Goodings, née Poll), and the 8th child for Elizabeth after her first marriage to Michael Goodings ended with his premature death at just 27yrs.

John Howlett – my Great x 4 Grandfather, born in about 1786 in Ashfield, Norfolk is currently the extremity of my research. Likely suspects for his parents remain elusive.

At the ripe old age of 38, John married widow Eizabeth Goodings (née Poll) on 17th May 1824 at Wymondham, Norfolk, England, and around 3 months later she gave birth to the first of their eventual 7 children:

  • James Howlett b.1824
  • Hannah Howlett b.1827
  • Robert Howlett b.1828
  • Ellen Howlett b.1832
  • Honour Howlett b.1832
  • Thomas Howlett b.1835
  • Elizabeth Howlett b.1838

For John, this was his second marriage, and as I look back through my file, I see that I don’t yet know who my earlier Step-4x Great Grandmother was… or whether there was an earlier flock of Howlett children. I suspect there may have been – 38yrs in the 1820s, was probably leaving things a bit late!

Weaving in Wymondham

John is noted as a Weaver in 1824, and again in 1828 – just like his new-found father-in-law, Ishmael Poll (who is specifically noted as being a silk weaver). Wymondham had a booming weaving industry, and therefore once mastering weaving, there would have been plenty of looms around. Trade via Norwich, and Norfolk’s plentiful coast, no doubt aided this.  By 1841 though, he’s left weaving, and Norfolk, and appears on the 1841 census for Lakenheath, Suffolk, and has become a ‘labourer’ – undoubtedly on the fertile land surrounding his new home. He’d stay in the Mildenhall area of Suffolk until his death in February 1861.

Meanwhile, by the mid-1800’s John and Elizabeth’s children are marrying and bringing new branches to their family tree. All seven marry – some twice, and most have children.

Thomas’ little sister Elizabeth Howlett (1838) married George Gipp in 1854, and together they had 11 children – including the wonderfully named Rainauld Ishmael Gipp – presumably a nod to the child’s maternal silk weaving great grandfather.

Thomas Howlett

Thomas meanwhile, is working as an agricultural labourer. He married my 3x Great Grandmother, Caroline Clark in Mildenhall on 25th May 1855.

Thomas Howlett and Caroline Clark marriage register signatures
Thomas and Caroline were illiterate, both signing the marriage register with an ‘x’.

Ten months later, their daughter (and my 2x Great Grandmother) Elizabeth Howlett arrives. Life would have been hard for this young little family in the fenland, but it was about to get harder.

Caroline Coe (formerly Howlett, née Clark) - my Great x3 Grandmother c.1911.
Caroline Coe (formerly Howlett, née Clark) – my Great x3 Grandmother c.1911. Photo: Andrew Martin.

Thomas died aged 23 on 28th May 1858. Just days after his 3rd wedding anniversary, and just weeks after his daughter’s 2nd birthday.

He died at Whelpmoor, after suffering from Phthisis (essentially, Tuberculosis) for 9 months.

He must have been in severe pain, whilst desperately trying to provide for his family. Caroline was by his side as he died.

In later life, Caroline would go on to re-marry, to Robert ‘Dadda Bob’ Coe, and this new couple would spend their later years living next-door to her daughter Elizabeth as she married and raised her own family – this time with the Gilbert name.



Surname Saturday: The Haylock family

This week’s SURNAME SATURDAY themed post looks at the HAYLOCK family of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England.

This week’s Surname Saturday themed post, takes a look at my Haylock family connection, living in Ely, Cambridgeshire, during the 18th and early 19th Centuries.

I’ve seen the Haylock family turn up amongst the branches of my relatives, but only recently have I stumbled across them in my ancestry.

The most recent ancestor to carry this name was my 6x Great Grandmother, Mary Haylock, wife of my 6x Great Grandfather, Francis Newell.

St Mary's Church, Ely
St Mary’s Church, Ely. Photo: Robert Cutts via Creative Commons.

Mary was one of at least three (perhaps five) children of John Haylock and his wife Elizabeth (my 7x Great Grandparents). It seems that Elizabeth’s maiden name was Elizabeth Parson, but there is a bit of questioning here, as whilst a John and Elizabeth Haylock had two sons (both named John) in 1769 and 1770, the only marriage for a John Haylock and Elizabeth at any time around those dates, is actually in 1772 in a marriage at St Mary’s Church, Ely (right place) – after their baptisms (wrong time), and just before Mary’s (maybe not so wrong after all).

I’m therefore documenting it, but treading carefully with this option.

Therefore, the confirmed legitimate children were:

  1. Mary Haylock b.c.1773 d.Jul/Aug 1826 (my ancestor)
  2. Sarah Haylock b.c.1776 (and witness at Mary’s marriage to Francis Newell)
  3. Flanders Haylock b.c.1779 (son)

I’m related to ‘Little John’

Whilst the legend of Robin Hood may well have been a fabricated story, ‘Little John’ does indeed sit in my ancestry.

My 7x Great Grandfather John (mentioned above) is noted at the 1773 baptism of daughter (and my 6x Great Grandmother) Mary as ‘little John’.

I’m pretty sure we’re not talking height here, it’s far more likely to have related to his position in family hierarchy – and is probably the son or grandson of another still living John Haylock.

This is where my trail goes cold for now.

However, the Ely Haylock family turn up a few times in other branches of my ancestry including as spouses in my Newman and Yarrow trees. I also once had an English teacher called Mrs Haylock.

Variants of Haylock

In my research in just the St Mary’s parish register of Ely, Cambridgeshire, I have found six variants of Haylock. Those being:

  • Heylock
  • Healock
  • Hellock
  • Helock
  • Harlock
  • Herlock

Some of these variants interchange during the same year, an indication at just how volatile the spelling was, how low literacy was, or how thick the fenland accent was carried across. As this just represents one parish, I’m sure there will be other variants.

There’s even a memorial tablet from 1863, to a Charles Theodore Harlock who drowned aged 29. I’ve no idea if he might be related, but could no doubt determine his immediate ancestry through the records and available censuses.

Origins of Haylock suggests that the origin of the name Haylock comes from an old Anglo-Saxon personal name.

They also show that in 1891, Cambridgeshire was home to 23% of all of the UK’s Haylock name-bearers.

Surname Saturday – The Flower family

Surname Saturday – This week it’s the turn of the FLOWER family of Cambridgeshire – an unusual surname, that took on a harrowing battle at home.

The Flower family appear in my maternal ancestry – with its most recent name bearer being my 7x Great Grandmother, Frances Flower.

Frances was born in 1731, and was the oldest of five daughters born to William Flower and his second wife Phillipa Thorpe, who had married the previous year at Wicken parish church, Cambridgeshire, England.

St Laurence's church, Wicken. Photo: Steve Day via Creative Commons.
St. Laurence’s church, Wicken, Cambridgeshire, would have been a familiar sight for the Flower family. Photo: Steve Day via CreativeCommons.

William’s first marriage to Jane Diss on 3rd November 1715 at Wicken, had produced six children – the last, Thomas, born not long before Jane’s death in 1728.

  • Jane Flower b.c.1716
  • Mary Flower b.c.1718
  • Elizabeth Flower b.c.1719
  • Frances Flower b.c.1722 d.1726
  • William Flower b.c.1724
  • Thomas Flower b.c.1727 d.1748

Jane’s death left William with five young children, all under the age of 12 years old. Having re-married to Phillipa in 1730, the couple settled down to raise five children.

  • Frances Flower b.1731
  • Rose Flower b.c.1732
  • Anne Flower b.c.1734 d.1735
  • Anne Flower b.c.1737 d.1742
  • Elizabeth Flower d.1737

Frances was baptised at Wicken on 13th June 1731.

Frances married at about the age of 21, on 30th March 1752, to widower Richard Bayley, who also lived in Wicken.

The couple settled down and had nine children.

A danger strikes a fatal blow

Frances’ parents, lived until their 50s/60s, but the Wicken burial register notes ‘coll’ as the cause of death. I’m pretty convinced that this note, which appears alongside several other entries, suggests that there was an outbreak of Cholera in the village.

There are eight recorded ‘coll’ victims in Wicken in 1785-1786, and five of these were in the Bayley family – suggesting a contagious disease, which my other initial thought of ‘Colick’ is not (obviously, I am no doctor).

Both Frances and her husband, their son and daughter-in-law, and another married daughter, all died as a result of ‘coll’ within the space of five weeks.

Millions of people still die from cholera each year, but unlike those in the 18th Century, we can now treat the disease to help reduce that figure.

Cholera in Wicken might suggest that there was poor water sanitation in the village, or that the Bayley family had low food hygiene standards.

It is sometimes linked to poverty.

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?

Surname Saturday – Barker

This week’s Surname Saturday themed post covers my paternal Barker family, who I’ve traced back to a village in the county of Hertfordshire, England.

Today’s Surname Saturday themed post crosses the border into Hertfordshire, and visits a small village where my Barker ancestors lived.

My progress in researching the family history of my Barker family is somewhat incomplete. Of course, a family tree is never really complete, but what I mean to say is that it is not very well documented.

This will no doubt be down to the fact that researching Hertfordshire is not as convenient for me as Cambridgeshire, and also because I have stumbled across name duplication from different family groups.

It’s been more of a ‘i’ll come back to this puzzle later‘ approach. That’s probably why blogging about it here today is actually a good thing – as I do get messages from distant relatives who have read the blog and find myself getting back on the trail.

Meet the Hay-binders!

From what I do know, the most recent Barker in my ancestry was my Great Great Grandmother, Mary Ann Barker, who was born in 1854, in Barkway, Hertfordshire. She was the third of at least nine children of William Barker and Mary Head, who had married in October 1847. In all, it appears that she had 3 brothers, and 5 sisters.

  • Joseph Barker (b.c 1849)
  • Louisa Barker (b.c 1850)
  • Mary Ann (as mentioned, b. 1854)
  • Harriet Eliza Barker (b.c 1856)
  • Henry Barker (b.c 1859)
  • Elizabeth Barker (b.c 1861)
  • Esther Barker (b.c 1864)
  • Thomas Barker (b.c 1866 – d.1913)
  • Frances Barker (b.c 1869)

William Barker (born around 1823 in Barkway), is noted as a ‘Hay Binder’ at the time of the 1861 census, and his wife Mary is noted similarly as ‘Hay Binder’s Wife’. The rolling countryside around Barkway would no doubt have been great for hay, but by 1880 he had turned his hand to being a carpenter.

William is deceased by the time that Mary (his daughter) marries for the second time in 1896. Mary (née Head), his wife, appears to survive until at least 1911, when it looks like she is living alone as a widow at the Clock House in Barkway.

Barkway parish church, Hertfordshire
Barkway Parish Church would have been very familiar to the Barker family.

Thomas Barker

Note that the only death date I have of Mary’s siblings is for Thomas, her younger brother who died in 1913. He was my Great Great Great Uncle.

I only have this information due to a recent connection with distant relative (2nd cousin, twice removed, apparently!) Peter Barker, who is Thomas’ grandson. He kindly sent me the following photo of Thomas – it being the only photograph I have of a Barker relative.

Mary's little brother, Thomas Barker (1866-1913). Image: Peter Barker.
Mary’s little brother, Thomas Barker (1866-1913). Image: Peter Barker.

Sadly, Thomas died in July 1913 at London’s Royal Free Hospital when he was in his late 40s, from blood poisoning, which was as a result of his injuries of being run-over by a cart. He was a carman.

Finding Esther…

William was baptised at the parish church in Barkway on 16th March 1823. He was the second of at least seven children of Joseph Barker and his wife Esther. It’s worth noting now, that I am uncertain of the identity of Esther, as I have two possible candidates, but the dates are out.

Esther #1 may have been ‘Hester Hawks‘ who married Joseph Barker in 1809 – but then there was either a very long pause before marriage and first child (12 years), or there’s 12 year’s worth of children hiding somewhere.

Esther #2 may have been ‘Esther Elizabeth Nottage‘ (‘spinster’) who married Joseph Barker (noted as a ‘bachelor’) after the baptism of William (himself, the second child) in November 1823 at nearby Braughing. Were there two illegitimate sons, and a marriage in a different parish to hide the shame?

I’m stuck.

My only slight glimmer, is that on the same day that William went to church to be baptised in March 1823, he was joined on the day by John and Anne Nottage for their son’s baptism (also a William, albeit Nottage).

My Downton Abbey Moment

By the time of the 1871 census, Mary Ann becomes a kitchen maid for a wealthy land owner John H Phillips – a Justice of the Peace (JP) for Hertfordshire, and Deputy Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire. He is also noted as farming 400 acres, and employing 19 men and 7 boys.

Here, she is one of several staff members, including a Lady’s Maid, a Page, Butler, Nurse and a housemaid.

Research by the kind volunteers at Royston and District Museum, brought up several references to John Phillips and his family’s brewery, but none of Mary herself.  As a kitchen maid, it was unlikely that she’d be well documented, but it was worth a look in case a photograph might have been lurking.

However, what is likely, is that this is where Mary Ann learnt her skills in servitude, and hopefully earned herself a good reputation. The heads of the household may have written her a suitable reference that helped to take her down to London by 1880, where she appears as working in the now famous Abbey Road in St John’s Wood.

It was there in London, that she met my Great x 2 Grandfather George Burnell of Somerset, and their lives (and mine) grew into a new branch of the Burnell tree.

Check out some great ‘then-and-now’ photos of Barkway from Tom Doig over on the Barkway village website.

Surname Saturday – the Harrison family

Surname Saturday: Today’s Surname Saturday post takes a look at the HARRISON family, who lived in Cambridgeshire during the 18th Century.

This week’s Surname Saturday themed post looks at the Harrison family who have lived in the Cambridgeshire village of Little Downham since at least the 18th century.

Finding Frances Harrison

The most recent brush with the Harrison family is through my Great x 4 Grandmother, Fanny Harrison – often also named ‘Frances’.  She first appears in the village of Little Downham in Cambridgeshire in 1802, and was the fifth of eight children to Richard and Esther.

Fanny married Robert Tingey on 17th December 1820 at the Little Downham parish church. She was illiterate and signed the marriage register with an ‘x’. Robert was about four years older than her. The couple settled down to grow a family of at least 12 children over 28 years. My Great Great Great Grandmother, Mary, was their oldest child, born in 1820.

All seems well documented for Fanny and Robert, but when it comes to the 1861 census – right in the middle of a documented run – they’re missing. Both appear in the same street that they were in in 1851, and remain there in 1871, but where did they go for 1861? Searches on Ancestry and FindMyPast have proven unsuccessful, and in my attempt to avoid the simple transcription errors, I’ve also view the entire scanned set of folios for that area.

The 1861 census for Ely was destroyed in floods, and unless the couple are hiding under a different surname for a census (which happened for another part of my family), then maybe they were visiting someone and are recorded as so on the now lost Ely census. The mystery continues.

The 1970s Harrison Red Herring

Fast forward for a bit to about 1974, and my sister’s baby record book. In this keepsake is a family tree. This was probably the first family tree I ever saw (although not the one that got me into family history), and noted on it, is a mystery Harrison relative as my paternal great grandmother.

A family tree in a baby's keepsake book
A mystery and erroneous Harrison relative appears too recent in this tree from my sister’s baby keepsake book from 1974.

This Harrison appearance was two generations too late, and the role here belongs to Daisy Burnell.

Whilst the appearance of an error here is a red herring, it does at least suggest that the knowledge of a Harrison connection was there, handed down the family.

The 18th Century Harrisons

Let’s head back in time again, to Fanny’s parents – who appear to have been Richard Harrison (b.c.1770) and Esther (b.c.1772, d.c.1826).

Fanny was the fifth of their eight children – all christened at Little Downham, Cambridgeshire:

  • Elizabeth (b.c.1791)
  • Mary (b.c.1793)
  • Hannah (b.c.1796)
  • Richard (b.c.1798)
  • Fanny (1802-1881)
  • Sarah (1804-?)
  • Esther (1806-?)
  • Rebecca (1808-?)

Richard’s parents (Fanny’s grandparents, and my 6x Great Grandparents), appear to have been William Harrison (bc.1746, d.c Nov 1819) and Margaret Granger (d.c. March 1798).

I’ve yet to locate their marriage, but they themselves became parents in about 1764, when the first of their eventual nine children (William) was born.

  • William (b.c.1764, d.c March 1810)
  • Granger (b.c.1766)
  • Elizabeth (b.c.1767)
  • Francis (b.c.1768)
  • Richard (b.c.1770 – and the Richard mentioned above)
  • Mary (b.c.1773, d. July 1774)
  • Mary (b.c.1775)
  • Ellin (b.c.1777)
  • Margaret (b.c.1779)

Granger Harrison

Of this group of children, you’ll notice that the second child (a son) has fortunately been given the maiden name of his mother as his first name. With it being unusual, it makes him fairly easy to spot in records, and even turns up in google search results.

Come 2nd February 1816, Granger Harrison, who now appears to be living in the nearby hamlet of Pymoor, but ‘is about to quit his farm’, is having a live and dead stock auction. Everything from standing crops, to land, to animals through to a ‘large heap of manure’ is listed for sale in this notice published in an edition of the Cambridge Chronicle.

A Sale Notice for Dead and Live Stock belonging to Granger Harrison in 1816.
A Sale Notice for Dead and Live Stock belonging to Granger Harrison in 1816. Click image for original.

It seems that Granger probably remained in Little Downham, where his grandchildren were baptised. One of which, was also named Granger Harrison (b.c.1841, d.1910) – and who is equally blessed with turning up in census returns and search results.

This Granger Harrison is my own 2nd Cousin, 5 times removed… so pretty darn distant.. but with my own connection to the Harrison family being a little distant, and entirely photo-less, I’ll cast the net wide.

Here, Granger junior appears on the online family tree of Pete Bradshaw and Wendy Often. The site seems like it hasn’t been updated for a while, but I’ve sent them an email in a bid to expand my Harrison tree further.

If you have Harrison, Tingey, or Granger ancestors, drop me a line!


Surname Saturday: Ong

This week, the Surname Saturday theme stops at the story of the 18th Century unusually named ONG family of Stuntney and Ely, Cambridgeshire.

This Saturday we’re on the trail of the unusual surname of Ong.

The earliest reference that I can find for my Ong family, is the first marriage of my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather, Thomas Ong to his first wife Martha Jennings in Stuntney, Cambridgeshire in April 1757.

Illustration of Stuntney church, Cambridgeshire (1806)
Stuntney parish church, 1806.

I’ve not found any earlier record for him, but estimating his birth to have been in the 1730s, I have found a few potential matches via in the neighbouring county of Suffolk in its villages of Hepworth and Hinderclay – themselves neighbouring parishes.

Martha was already heavily pregnant when she walked the aisle with Thomas, and they soon welcomed their first son – John Ong – into the family, with him being baptised at Stuntney just four months later.

The couple and their baby shift from Stuntney, to the nearby Ely which it overlooks. Sadly, this happiness was to be short-lived, and Thomas’ luck was going to take a long-running bad turn.

Within seven years, Thomas had lost his wife Martha (d. August 1764), and three sons: John (1757-1758), Thomas (1760-1764) and John (1763). No doubt deep in grief, a widower, and childless, he vanishes for 9 years, returning to parish registers in 1766 at Ely.

In January 1766, he marries spinster Martha Feast, and they are joined by their first child Mary. Sadly, Thomas’ bad luck continues – claiming the lives of their first three children: Mary (1767-1769), Thomas (1769-1773) and John (1772-1773).

It’s not until Thomas’ 7th child (and Martha’s 4th) – Mary Ong – born in 1774, that a child survives into adulthood. Mary was to live until she was 85, and is my Great x 4 Grandmother.

Thomas and Martha continue to grow their family with another 4 children: Martha (1776-?), Thomas (1778-1781), Margaret (1780-?) and Thomas (1783).

Whilst it’s unclear as to what became of Mary’s siblings Martha and Margaret, Mary seems to be the only child of 10 to survive – perhaps accounting for the rarity of the Ong surname.

Mary goes on to thrive – marrying my Great x4 Grandfather Thomas Cross in Ely in 1790, and bearing 14 children (only 3 of whom are known to have died as children).

Mary outlived her husband Thomas Cross by 13 years, dying in February 1859, aged 85.

Variants of Ong

I’ve only spotted two versions of the surname whilst rummaging in the records of Ely and nearby Stuntney.

  • Ong – the main version
  • Ing – making one occurrence

However, the surname is so infrequent, that I am suspicious. Only one other ‘Ong’ appears, and as yet, she (Margaret Ong) remains unconnected – but probably the sister of my Gtx5 Grandfather Thomas. At the same time, and in both Ely and Stuntney, are rather a lot of parish register entries for the Long and Young families, and so with little imagination and some illiteracy, you could easily lose a letter or two, throw in an thick rural fenland accent, and you’re soon staring at an ‘Ong’ in a parish register.

Surname Saturday: Skeel

Skeel – An unusual and widely mis-spelt ancestral surname that appears to have roots in 18th Century Middlesex, is this week’s Surname Saturday themed post.

An unusual and widely mis-spelt ancestral surname that appears to have roots in 18th Century Middlesex.

My most recent Skeel ancestor, Elizabeth, was my 4x Great Grandmother. She was born in 1802 in the village of Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire, and was the oldest of a total of ten children – her parents having married the year before her birth.

St Mary's church, Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire.
St Mary’s church, Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire.

Elizabeth’s parents were Job Skeel and Elizabeth Richardson. Whilst Elizabeth was born and died in Swaffham Bulbeck (c.1781 – November 1872), Job’s origins were from outside this small village community, although he ended his days there in July 1860.

Skeel in Middlesex

The only clue so far, as to Job Skeels origins comes from the 1851 census (his last) – where it is noted that he is a ‘former Horse Breaker’ and was born Brentford, Middlesex (now part of modern-day Greater London). If his age was correct in 1851 (74 years), it means that he would have been born in approximately 1777.

In 1841, Job is noted as a ‘Fishmonger’ and because this census simply asks if the person was from within the county, it simply says ‘N’ for no.

Whilst there are many Skeels in and around Middlesex during the 1770s, there are also Skeels in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk – where a Job Skeels (of William and Mary) is baptised in 1777, and closer still to Swaffham Bulbeck, the surname appears in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire.

Great Yarmouth might have been where Job lived after his birth, because this would perhaps support why he’d become a fishmonger – with Great Yarmouth having been a major fishing port until it’s decline in the latter part of the 20th Century.

It is therefore unclear as to where his family were from, and whether they had only been in Brentford for a short while, having come from Norfolk or Cambridgeshire previously.

Further research of either the Brentford or Great Yarmouth parish registers may help to confirm his parents, and whether he had any siblings. For now, it remains a mystery.

Variants of Skeel

The surname attracts a number of variants – possibly due to illiteracy, or maybe due to regional accents (perhaps further support of the potential Norfolk connection?).

  • Skeel
  • Skeels
  • Scate
  • Scale
  • Scales

Surname Saturday: Lythell

The Lythell family name is this week’s Surname Saturday theme, focussing on Stretham and Little Downham in Cambridgeshire.

The Lythell surname, which has many variants in Cambridgeshire during the 19th century, is this week’s ‘Surname Saturday’ theme focus.

My most recent ancestor to carry this surname was my maternal Great x4 Grandmother Rebecca Lythell. She was born in about 1821 in the village of Stretham in Cambridgeshire, and was the third of at least five children to John Lythell and his wife (possibly his 2nd or 3rd wife) Frances Howard.

This couple had five children between 1817 and 1827 (Sarah, William, my Rebecca, Eliza, Ann).

Their daughter Rebecca, gave birth in 1840 to a son called William. She wasn’t married at the time, but soon married William Dewsbury of Stretham. William jnr adopts the Dewsbury surname at his baptism in 1842, taking Lythell to be his middle name. The newly-weds go on to have eleven children, with my Great x 3 grandmother being born in 1851.

John Lythell – serial dad

A few years earlier, Rebecca’s father John (c.1772-1830), appears in the Stretham baptism register with his daughter Alice in 1808, and her mother is noted as ‘Francess’. I’m guessing that this woman was probably my Gtx5 grandmother named above, and if it is, then this baptism occurs seven years before they married in 1815.

Earlier still, John appears in the baptism register this time in 1806, where he is noted as the ‘reputed’ father of Elijah. Interestingly, Elijah is named as ‘Elijah Lithell’ (so confirming the surname when it’s only ‘reputed’) and there’s no mention of the mother’s name. Whether this was an earlier child with Frances, I will never know as his birth is far outside that of the certification. Either way, Elijah grew up to marry and raise his own family of ten children – but more about that in a moment.

But, before all of this, John appears in the baptism register with his first wife Mary (Taylor of Soham, i think!), and they bring five children into the church between 1791 and 1800 (William, Miles, Elizabeth, Thomas and Mary). Mary’s baptism in 1800 seems to be the earliest appearance of the modern spelling of the surname – ‘Lythell’.

In total, John seemingly fathered at least twelve children from a potential 4 relationships.

John’s own parents were John Lithell (bc.1746) and Mary Finch (bc.1748), and appear to have had eight children themselves between 1769 and 1788 in Stretham. John and Mary died within weeks of each other in 1814 and were both buried in Stretham church yard.

Variants of the Lythell surname

Whilst looking at the Stretham parish registers, between 1769 and 1800 I’ve noticed six different spellings for the surname in this village alone. Here’s the full list that I’ve spotted in Cambridgeshire records:

  • Lythell
  • Lythall
  • Lithwell
  • Lithewell
  • Lyther
  • Lither
  • Liles (potentially)

19th Century Surname Distribution

In 1891, the main location for Lythell family groups is Cambridgeshire – claiming 67% (43) of the total 64 families noted on’s analysis of the 1891 census. The nearest rival is Yorkshire, with 20% (13 families). Lythell name-bearers continue to live in modern-day Cambridgeshire.

In the 18th century the surname certainly appears many times in Stretham, and a few times in nearby Little Thetford, Wicken, and Little Downham.

‘The Lythell Loop’

Walter and Rebecca Martin
Rebecca Ann Martin (née Lythell) holds her son on the left of this family photo. Rebecca and her husband Walter (far right) are both my maternal and paternal relatives.

A relationship loop has been caused – i’m calling it ‘The Lythell Loop’.

The son of the illegitimate Elijah Lithell mentioned above, was named Murfitt Lythell. After marrying, Murfitt and his wife Mary had at least six children – the penultimate being a daughter named Rebecca Ann Lythell, born in 1879.

Murfitt and his wife settle the family in Little Downham by 1881, and here is where Rebecca meets and marries Walter James Martin in 1901. The couple have six children, including one that’s partly named after her father – a James Murfitt Martin – although sadly he died at less than a year old in 1913.

Walter James Martin was my paternal Great Grandfather’s older brother. So whilst the loop is not genetic (only via marriage), the many relationships of John Lithell would eventually become connected up.

Surname Saturday: Boulter

The pop-up family of Boulter are the subject of this week’s Surname Saturday theme. Can you shed any light on this name in Cambridgeshire, England?

An unusual family name that stays in one village – simply popping up in records and then vanishing again.

My Boulter line came to an end when my maternal Great Great Grandmother Elizabeth Boulter married John Freeman Dewey in 1878 at the tiny village of Wentworth in Cambridgeshire.

Elizabeth’s parents were Robert Boulter and Mary Ann Moden who also married at Wentworth. After marrying in 1852, the couple went on to have 10 children with Elizabeth being the oldest. Out of the ten children, seven of them were daughters (one of whom did not survive infancy).

The earliest Boulter ancestors i’ve found so far is William Boulter and his wife Ann Covell – Robert’s parents. They married in 1815 (again, in Wentworth), and had at least four children – 3 sons and a daughter. I don’t yet know where William came from before his marriage to Ann – although she was from the neighbouring village of Witchford, so perhaps William was living in Wentworth in 1815.

John and Edward Boulter
John Boulter (right), my Gt Gt Grandmother’s illegitimate first child, with his son Edward ‘Happy’ Boulter (left) – the only part of the Boulter family that I have photographs for.

The mysteriousness of the family continues, with only one part of the Boulter family (not ancestral) that I have photographs of in my collection (see above) – given to me by a fellow researcher (and distant relative). The photo shows John Boulter (right), the illegitimate first son of my Gt Gt Grandmother Elizabeth Boulter, who was born five years before she married my Gt Gt Grandfather John Freeman Dewey. John Boulter occasionally takes the surname of Dewey in census returns, but this may have been more an attempt to hide the stigma attached to illegitimacy than it might have been to suggest that John was actually his father. In fact, when John got married in 1896, he names his father as ‘John Boulter – deceased’ – did he ever know the truth, or was he using his step-father’s first name?

John Boulter moved to London when he was just 17 where he married Alice Watts and started a family of 11 children (the photo shows him with his third son Edward). Eventually, he joined the Corporation of London as a groom and often rode First Postilion on the Lord Mayor of London’s coach during the annual show.

Distribution of the surname

With Robert and Mary’s family consisting of a larger number of female children than male, it may go some way to explaining how/why the surname has struggled to survive in the area – with the name becoming redundant upon marriage.

Distribution of Boulter families in England, 1891’s mapping of the distribution of Boulter families in England, according to the 1891 census. have plotted the 1891 census data for the surname, allowing me to see the distribution of 1,661 Boulter families (note – not individuals). According to this data, Cambridgeshire had just 21 families with the surname. Norfolk is the 4th highest concentration of Boulter families with 102 – with it being a neighbouring county, this data might suggest that the family went there or even came from there. Unsurprisingly London led the way with 310 and Leicestershire came second with 240 families. Wiltshire was third with 121.

Origin of the surname

John Ayto offers a couple of different origins for the surname, probably due to it’s common misspellings. In his book ‘Encyclopedia of Surnames
he suggests that the origin is either from a ‘maker of bolts’ (as in for arrows or crossbow); a name given to someone short and stocky; or to the name of someone who sifts flour (from the Middle English term ‘bolten’ – to sift flour).

Where next for research?

I hope one day to find a photograph of my Gt Gt Grandmother Elizabeth Dewey (née Boulter), particularly as I have a photo of her husband, and I know where her grave is. She is my closest ancestor of whom I don’t have a photograph.

As for finding the surname’s next generation back – I’ll be resuming the search in neighbouring parishes for clues (Witcham and Sutton are top of my list) on William’s parents, and I’ll be checking Wills to see if there are any clues left there.

If you have stumbled across this unusual name in your research, please do drop me a line!