How many brick walls do you have in your family history research? This one is from my husband’s family. His family is complicated. Interesting, frustrating, fascinating…but complicated.
Since my last post, I found a crucial piece of the puzzle I never thought I’d be able to find for my wild and crazy theory about Alicia Eleanora ELLIS.
Here begins a series of posts about how I found a theory for my mysterious Alicia and the work I have done trying to knock down this tricky and troublesome brick wall for the past two years. I want to demonstrate how I have obtained and used the evidence to build up my theory, but also showing there are still some questions left unanswered which means some doubt must remain.
It is a complicated and convoluted story but I hope you’ll persevere as I think it definitely illustrates that while our research is based on data and evidence gathering, analysis and pure slog, sometimes following your gut instinct can lead you to unexpected places.
So, who’s ready to come with me on a bit of an adventure?
Setting the background
The BRAND family lived for generations in Topsham, Devon. They were a mercantile family owning property, ships and so on, including fishing interests in Newfoundland. Nicholas BRAND (b. abt 1761), lived in Ferryland, Newfoundland for a number years, meeting and marrying his wife Ann and having two children while there.
His first child, Henry BRAND, was born about 1796 with his second child, Anna Maria, following two years later.1 I don’t know when they all returned to England, but I suspect that the children, at least, were sent back at some point for their education. From 19th March 1814, Henry BRAND was articled as a clerk to an attorney called James Cornish the younger of Totnes, Devon for five years with the end result being that Henry was to become an attorney and solicitor. Henry’s aunt, Mary BRAND, his uncle, Comer BRAND, and, it would appear, his sister, Anna Maria BRAND, were parties to the Articles of Agreement.2
On the 17th of July 1820, Anna Maria BRAND married Francis William Locke ROSS in Topsham, Devon.3
Just three weeks later, on the 8th of August 1820, Henry BRAND married Alicia Eleanora ELLIS in Chard, Somerset.4
Questions, Questions, Questions
The above may all seem straightforward, but, from the beginning, I found many things strange about this marriage.
- Why did there not appear to be any family at Henry and Alicia’s wedding? I don’t know what the roads were like in the early 1800s, but, according to Google maps, Chard is only about 30-35 miles away from Topsham. Henry’s father, Nicholas, attended his daughter’s wedding as attested by the fact that he was a witness. However, it seems only strangers were witnesses to Henry’s and Alicia’s wedding.
- Why was there a notice of Anna Maria’s marriage to Francis ROSS in the newspaper, but no notice appeared for Henry and Alicia’s wedding, even though it was only three weeks later? And Henry was the only son.
- Henry finished his clerkship the year before in Totnes, Devon, so I suppose that about 1½ years would be enough time to meet and decide to marry, but why were either of them in Chard in the first place?
- Henry and Alicia were married by licence. This isn’t in itself strange, given that Henry’s sister also married by licence. But it did make me wonder a little bit, given the above questions.
What do we know about Alicia?
As you know from my previous post, I was originally working under a misapprehension based on a mis-transcription, that Alicia Eleanora’s maiden name was ELLIOTT or ELLIOT which put me off the scent for a couple of years. It was only recently that I discovered her name was actually ELLIS, but, to start with, ELLIOTT was what I had.
Based on her 1841-1861 England census records, Alicia was born about 1800-1802. Confusingly, the 1841 census notes she was born on the continent. However, this is not backed up by the 1851 and 1861 census records which state she was born in St Pancras, Middlesex.5,6,7
Alicia Eleanora was in Chard, Somerset at the time of the marriage.
Alicia Eleanora was also known as Alice.
…And that was all the information I had about her.
Not a promising start.
The search begins…
Of course, the first thing I did was try to find a baptism for Alicia.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
I tried alternative spellings, used a very broad date range, widened the search to the whole of UK.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
I tried to find family in Chard, Somerset that Alicia may be related to but no-one seemed to match up. I still don’t know why Alicia was in Chard when she was born in London.
I searched newspapers, followed up all kinds of possible families that may have been related in both Chard and London, tried all kinds of name spellings (including some really far out ones), different archives and subscription sites, and so on and so on.
You know the feeling. Your ancestor sprang fully formed from a pumpkin patch. It’s the only explanation.
In desperation, I eyeballed every baptism entry from the original scans of the St Pancras baptism records for a couple of years either side of 1801/1802 looking for any instance of Alicia, Alice, Eleanor and Eleanora, including variations in spelling.
Only one entry caught my eye.
A slight detour…
I should now explain that Henry and Alicia had 9 children. Most of the names of the children are fairly ordinary and are linked to the BRAND family. Four of the male children had middle names (the fifth was just called “Henry”):
Comer was obviously from Henry’s uncle. Hayman is a family name that appears in Topsham and other Devonshire parish records. I believe Robert comes from a cousin by marriage – Robert Cockeram – but that is a very long story and relates to the identity of Henry’s mother. I’ll be relating that story another time. Francis and William probably come from Henry’s sister’s new husband, Francis William Lock ROSS, though both William and John also appear in earlier generations of the BRAND family. Nicholas is, of course, from Henry’s father. Edward and Charles are very common names but I don’t have any idea where they came from specifically.
The one name which stands out and which I cannot account for is Ingram. It does not appear in the Topsham parish records that I can recall (and I eyeballed a lot of those trying to sort out the BRANDs). Given I can find no connection to the BRAND family, I always wondered if it had something to do with Alicia’s family.
Back to the story…
As I said, there was one entry that caught my eye:
Alicia, born 31st January 1799 and baptised at St Pancras Old Church, Middlesex on 26th February 1799, daughter to John Ingram LOCKHART and Alicia THOMAS.8
Slim pickings indeed upon which to hang a theory. But we shall see…
1 “A register of the families inhabitants in the District of Ferryland 1800 – Settlement of Ferryland,” transcription, Newfoundland’s Grand Banks, (http://ngb.chebucto.org/C1800/1800-ferryland-fer.shtml : accessed 27 July 2013), record of Henry Brand, Age 4 and Anna Maria Brand, Age 2, with father: Nicholas Brand and mother: Ann Brand; original image of record provided by email from Chris Morry on 20 June 2014.
2 “UK, Articles of Clerkship, 1756-1874,” database and image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 24 August 2014), image of articles of clerkship for Henry Brand to James Cornish signed by Mary Brand, 11 June 1814; citing The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Court of King’s Bench: Plea Side: Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles of Clerkship, Series I; Class: KB 105; Piece: 25.
3 “Devon Marriages Transcription,” index and images, findmypast.com.au (https://www.findmypast.com.au : accessed 27 Jun 2014), image of marriage entry for Francis William Locke Ross Esq and Anna Maria Brand, married 17 July 1820, Topsham, Devon, England; citing transcription by Devon Family History Society and image courtesy of Devon Heritage Services and Parochial Church Council.
4 “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NX1P-FLH : 10 December 2014), Henry Brand and Alicia Ellaner Elliott, 08 Aug 1820; citing Chard, Somerset, England, reference 54; FHL microfilm 1,526,462; original image via microfilm sighted 28 June 2016 at LDS FHC showing marriage for Henry Brand and Alicia Eleanora Ellis.
5 “1841 England Census,” database and image, findmypast.com (http://www.findmypast.com.au : accessed 22 April 2014), entry for Alice Brand (age 40), St David, Exeter, Devon; citing PRO HO 107/266/8, folio 8, p. 11, line 17.
6 “1851 England Census,” database and image, ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com.au : accessed 25 August 2013), entry for Alice Brand (age 50), St Thomas, Topsham, Devon; citing PRO HO 107/1866, folio 266, p. 32, line 11.
7 “1861 England Census,” database and image, ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com.au : accessed 25 August 2013), entry for Alice E Brand (age 59), Budock, Penwerris, Falmouth, Cornwall; citing PRO RG 9/1566, folio 72, p. 2; Falmouth registration district, Falmouth subdistrict, ED 8, household 14.
8 “London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812,” database and image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 November 2014), image of baptism for Alica Ingram, baptised 26 February 1799, St Pancras Old Church, Middlesex; citing London Metropolitan Archives, St Pancras Old Church, Camden, Register of baptisms, including index, Nov 1793-Dec 1801, P90/PAN1/008; original image shows name is Alicia daughter of John Ingram Lockhart and Alicia Thomas.