Ever since my dad bought me a subscription on Ancestry.co.uk last Christmas, I have spent many hours researching and downloading documents about my relatives in England, America and the Commonwealth. A few days ago I discovered someone had published their family tree on Ancestry, and surprisingly some of their Allen ancestors from Colwall (Herefordshire) actually matched people on my tree as well. Of course, I had to double check in order to see if the information published by these (so far unknown) relatives of mine was correct, and indeed it seems generally so. Beware, Ancestry users: always check if the information you find on someone else’s tree does match the facts on your tree, as very often we tend to take things online as gospel. In fact I have actually found one or two mistakes on this particular tree about the Allens, but I’m so excited about finding out more about them that I haven’t had time to actually send a message to the administrator and correct the mistakes. But give me time.
These past two days I have digging information about two very distant relatives of wine born at the end of the 18th century. The two sisters, Kitty and Hester Allen, are actually related to me through two lines, given the fact that their parents were both great-grandchildren of an ancestor of mine born in the 1600’s. Kitty and Hester did actually have more brothers and sisters, but so far I have only managed to locate them in the 1841 and later censuses. It is possible the other siblings died before the first census was taken, or else they emigrated, always a possibility to be borne in mind.
Kitty was actually christened Kitty (not Catherine) in Colwall Church in 1785. Kitty’s husband was a John Willoughby, who would have been roughly the same age as she. John came from Godalming, in the distant county of Surrey; instead of moving back to Godalming, Kitty (usually down as Catherine in the baptism registry of her children) and John Willoughby remained in Colwall, on the edge between the counties of Hereford and Worcester.
Kitty gave birth in quick succession to seven babies, by name John, Sarah, Henry, Milborough, Elizabeth, George and Mary Ann. Tragically, only a year after the couple had their last child, their eldest daughter Sarah died aged just 17. The following year 14 year-old Milborough and 2 year-old Mary Ann died within six months of each other. The final blow came two years after, when Kitty’s eldest son John died at the age 22.
The pain of losing four children in just four years must have been heartbreaking for John and Kitty Willoughby. Fortunately, they still had three robust children who did eventually make it into adulthood. In late 1840 Elizabeth, Kitty’s only remaining daughter, married John Eacock, a member of one of Colwall’s largest and oldest resident families. The couple don’t seem to have had any children.
Five years later it was the turn of Kitty’s son Henry to marry. He and his wife, Sarah Smith, had three daughters, finally making Kitty a grandmother. Unfortunately, the youngest of the girls died in 1863, but the other two, Martha and Mary, led long and probably eventful lives. Mary in fact married Thomas Eacock (one of her uncle’s nephews) and had two sons by him, but Thomas disappears (presumably he died shortly after) and Mary remarried Adam Clark, with whom she had six more children. By 1901 she and her growing family had moved up to Yorkshire, where she died in 1919. Her sister Martha also married and had a large family of her own. This branch, however, settled in nearby Birmingham.
Kitty and John Willoughby’s remaining son George married Elizabeth Newell in 1851. Although they had no children together, George did take care of Elizabeth’s illegitimate daughter (by an unknown father) as if she were his own. Thus, despite the fact that Kitty Willoughby (née Allen) had seven children in total, she became a grandmother only through her son Henry and to just three girls, in whose descendants her blood continues to flow into the 21st century.
Unlike Kitty, who by the way died in 1856 in her 70th year, her sister Hester’s family was much smaller than Kitty’s, and in fact they did not make it even into the 20th century. Hester was born in Colwall in 1789. She probably moved away to nearby Ledbury in the 1810’s, because it was there that she married in 1818 a Welshman called Hugh Hughes.
There must have been a large age difference between the two, as in 1851 Hugh was almost 90 years of age and his wife was only 60. But despite the difference in age, the couple had two children together whom they named Elizabeth and William, both born in Ledbury in 1820 and 1822 respectively. Although William seems to disappear at some point after 1851, I did find that Elizabeth did marry in 1855 a man called Charles Aubury Court, an auctioneer and furniture broker from Monmouth. The family, including Hester (who became a widow in the 1850’s), settled in Monmouth, where she died shortly thereafter. Charles A. Court himself died in late 1871, followed to the grave by his widow less than two years later. Until I find any documentary evidence about Elizabeth’s brother William Hughes, my conclusion is that, with the end of the Courts’ childless marriage in the 1870’s, Hester’s line also came to an abrupt end less than 100 years after her own birth.
Sources: for the photo of Colwall, click here, and for the photo of Regency-style fashion, press here.