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: 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.