I love going over the facts on my family tree to check if they’re correct. Very often it happens to me that I feel unsure about some of my past online findings, and I start to wonder whether I may have leapt to a conclusion too fast. For instance, tonight I have spent the best part of the last hour wondering about an ancestor of mine who was born toward the end of the 18th century and whose true identity I have yet to prove conclusively.
What I knew for sure was that her name was Ellen and at some point around 1820 she married my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Mound (for the record, I haven’t been able to track down a marriage entry for them circa 1820). Since Ellen died in 1860, she only had time to be recorded in the 1841 and 1851 census, both of which seem to offer a somewhat contradictory story about her; the 1841 census records Thomas Mound as being about 40 years old, and Ellen as being about 50 (as ages for adults were rounded down in the 1841 census, she could have been born roughly at any point between 1787 and 1791) and it states that she was not born in the county where the census was taken (in this case, Herefordshire). So we can deduce that Ellen (maiden name unknown) was born in 1787-1791 somewhere outside Herefordshire.
I then take a look at the 1851 census, taken ten years later. Surprise! Ellen is down again as Thomas’s wife, only this time he seems to be older than she; in fact, Ellen appears to be 42 years old now. If I am to believe her age as stated, then I’m afraid I’m not buying her story. If her age was really 42, she would have been born circa 1809, and as her eldest recorded daughter was born in 1820 (this I know for a fact), I very much doubt Ellen became a mother when she was just 11 years old. No, I believe her age would have been closer to 62 than 42 when the 1851 census was taken, thus making the facts on the 1841 census fit better. I simply think Ellen vainly pretended to be younger, as mature women often do. Even more revealing is the fact (finally) relating her place of birth: Bitterley, in the county of Shropshire. Everything seems to match, except the little detail concerning her age. Success!
Having combined all the facts gathered from the two census entries, I do a search on Ancestry, FreeREG and FamilySearch to check if there is an Ellen born around the late 1780’s in Bitterley, Shropshire.
Aha! Elinor Hughes, christened 14th June 1789, looks promising. A quick search reveals that there seem to be no other Ellens/Elinors recorded in the 1851 census (or later records) who were born in Bitterley which would fit the birth year span. It also seems that Elinor Hughes had quite a big family, and curiously she gave her son the name of her brother Richard and her mother’s name to her eldest daughter. OK, maybe I’m seeing things I just want to see, but I really can’t see any other alternatives to my Ellen’s identity. Going up the tree of the Hughes family I discover that Elinor’s grandfather was first married to a woman called Ann Maund (sic). Coincidence, fate, or simply the result of two families intermarrying through different generations almost 100 years apart? Does this prove my Ellen was actually born Elinor Hughes, and that she was the one who married Thomas Mound around 1820? I’ll see what my brain comes up with tomorrow…
You are beginning to look like Sherlock Holmes!
I was browsing the genealogy blogs and recognized the photo as St. Mary’s Church in Bitterley, which is where my ancestors were christened and buried in the mid 1600’s!
Congrats on your most recent discovery! Much luck to you.
Thank you very much Marianne! Yes indeed, Bitterley has only just recently popped into my family history; who knows, I might need a few tips from someone who knows the place! 😉 Maybe your ancestors knew my ancestors!
If you ever need them, I have a copy of the Bitterley Parish Records and can do some look ups. Also, I believe they are online in the form of a Google book now too. 🙂 Maybe we are distant cousins!
That’s very kind of you! Thanks! As far as I know I have most of Ellen Hughes’s ancestors up to the 1600’s, but she had quite a few brothers and sisters who may well be connected to you. They were born between 1768 and 1786, and their names were Samuel, Richard, Thomas, Jane, William and Susannah Hughes. If you can place any of them in your tree or else find any reference to what became of them I’d love to know!