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?

The Guy Fawkes Night Fire

Mourning the death of her husband James Yarrow, Mary (née Gothard) loses her thatched cottage on Guy Fawkes Night when a stray firework burns it to the ground. Just 3 months later, she too passes away.

Whilst Guy Fawkes Night is marked this weekend with bonfires and fireworks, the night was one far from celebration in the small village of Little Thetford, near Ely, Cambridgeshire.

On about the 28th October 1930, my Great Great Great Grandfather, James Yarrow died aged 84yrs. He was buried in Little Thetford on 30th. His widow, Mary (née Gothard), aged about 83-84yrs survived him.

James Yarrow and his wife Mary (née Gothard)
James and Mary Yarrow outside their house in Little Thetford, pre-late October 1930.

With the memory of her husband’s death still fresh in her mind, Mary went to stay with her middle son (my Great Great Grandfather) James Yarrow at nearby Wilburton Station.

However, six days after James’ funeral, and on Guy Fawkes Night (5th November), a stray firework landed on the thatched roof of her home. The building was razed to the ground.

The Cambridgeshire Times reported the story as follows:

“… The cottage was the property of Mrs. Lister, and had been in the occupation of the Yarrow family for many years. It was the one in which Mr James Yarrow, whose death was recorded in our last issue, died only a week and two days previously, and the advanced age of 84 years.

The outbreak of fire was first noticed about 8:30pm, but the Ely Fire Brigade was not summoned until 9:35. They responded to the call in their usual speedy manner, and were on the scene of the fire by 9:50. Meanwhile, Mr. H. E. Kisby and a number of willing helpers had been working heroically in an endeavour to keep the fire subdued. They experienced some difficulty in preventing the flames from spreading to a house standing opposite in the occupation of Mr. F. O. Yarrow. Fortunately they were able to save all the furniture inside the burning cottage, which was not occupied at the time. The widow of the late Mr. James Yarrow was living with her son at Wilburton Station.

When the Brigade arrived under the charge of Lieut-Col. G. L. Archer, they endeavoured to get water from a nearby pond, but this was found to be unsuitable and they had to move the engine to a drain some 500 or 600 yards from the scene of the fire. The supply of water from this was not very good, and the brigade had to use several lengths of hose. They were unable to put out the flames and the old cottage gradually burnt itself out”.

It was fortunate that Mary was away, and extremely fortunate that her neighbours had rallied around to rescue as many of her possessions as they could.

Mary Gothard (1847-1931)
Mary outside her house before the fire.

The effects of this double tragedy are recounted in Mary’s obituary on page 15 of The Cambridgeshire Times of the 27th February 1931 – just 3 months after the fire.

“Death of Mrs Yarrow – The death took place on Saturday week of Mrs. Mary Yarrow at the age of 84 years. Mrs Yarrow, who was most highly respected in the village, was the widow of the late Mr Jas. Yarrow, whose death was reported a short time ago. She had just moved into a small cottage, her old home being destroyed by fire a few days after her husband’s death, while she was staying with her son Mr Jas. Yarrow  at Wilburton, and undoubtedly these two events hastened her end.”

I’m very fortunate to have located 2, possibly 3 photos of James and Mary – which may have even survived only because of the bravery of those villagers who entered her burning property and retrieved her belongings.

So, whatever you do this Guy Fawkes Night, please stay safe and act responsibly when near to bonfires and fireworks. Here’s some safety tips from BBC’s Newsround.

Happy Anniversary Ernest and Maude

On this day in 1929: Ernest Herbert Barber married Maude Yarrow at Wilburton, Cambridgeshire.

On this day in 1929, my maternal great grandparents; Ernest Herbert Barber (1902-1983) and Maude Yarrow (1899-2004) were married at St Peter’s Church, Wilburton, Cambridgeshire.

I was very lucky to have known them both well, as well as Maude’s siblings who appear here as bridesmaids. One of which (Agnes, far right) is still alive today.

Newlyweds Ernest and Maude Barber
Ernest and Maude – married on 1st April 1929.

Happy Anniversary!

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.

Surname Saturday: DEWEY

The Dewey surname is my closest linking ancestral name after my own surname.

There are many Dewey name bearers in the world – including a decimal system for libraries and a cartoon duck.

My own branch have lived in the county of Cambridgeshire, England since at least the 1700s, inhabiting the villages of Wentworth, Wilburton, Witchford and Witcham.

The earliest ancestor that I have confirmed so far was Thomas Dewey, who in 1768 married Elizabeth Covell at Witchford’s church of St. Andrew (this is where my own name comes from!). The couple had at least 3 daughters and a son George, and it is this son who travelled to Witcham where he married Mary Long in 1790. Sadly by 1807, Mary had died. This led to George heading to Wentworth to re-marry to a Mary Payton and continuing his family. In all, he fathered at least 11 children – 6 with his first wife.

George’s first child, William born in Witchford, is my ancestor and he married Ellen Markerham of Waterbeach. The couple set up home in Witchford where they had 6 children – 5 of them sons. The Dewey family grew and soon those children were having children and grandchildren themselves – continuing to grow the family throughout the county.

Variants

The surname has many variants: Dewey, Douay, Duey, Doway, Dowee, Doweay, Dewe, Dowey and Dewy, although as literacy rates improve, the surname generally ends up as Dewey or sometimes Dewy.

Dewi?

It is believed to be of Welsh origin, from the River Dewi area, although none of my ancestors have revealed their Welsh connections yet.