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: 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.