Great Grandfather Ellis John Grey

I have already covered a part of my Great Grandfather Ellis John Grey’s life when I wrote about his wife Jane Hall. Here however I will cover his life in more detail particularly his childhood and what happened to him after his wife died at the young age of 49.

I had a terrible time trying to find Ellis’s birth. I had already learnt in the early days of my research to check our family name spelt GREY and GRAY. I knew his name from my Grandfather’s birth and marriage certificate and had found him on a couple of census returns. The census returns were pointing me in the direction of a birth recorded in Buckingham. Then bingo, not only a spelling of -AY (in more recent history we spell our name with an -EY) but his name recorded at birth was John Elias. Born on the 11 July 1844, the son of John Gray a Blacksmith and Rosetta Bowden. Rosetta’s surname was spelt Boughdon on his birth certificate yet another reminder that a lot of our ancestors were illiterate and it would be down to individual registrars how names would be spelt. It was his father John who was the informant of his birth and I wonder if he told the registrar the decided names the wrong way round because one month later, on 11 August 1844 he is baptized with the name Ellis John. Maybe the registrar misheard, Ellis or Elias are quite similar.

Ellis John (or John Elias) Birth Certificate

Ellis had a sister Maria two years older than him and the 1851 census finds the family living in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire. Both Ellis aged 6 and his sister are at school. Tragedy would strike the family just four years later when Ellis’s father dies at the age of 41. The cause of his death was Abscess of the Lungs. As a Blacksmith one can only imagine the type of conditions he would be working in. No health and safety making sure masks were worn back then.

So at the age of ten Ellis becomes the man of the family. By the next census of 1861, Ellis at just 16 years, is working as a Gardener, a job he has probably been doing for some time. Children in Victorian England would most likely be at work by the time they were eight and a half. In rural areas they tended to be a bit older but with Ellis losing his father he probably would have had to work to help support his Mother and sister. What I find interesting about the 1861 census is while Ellis and Maria are both working, there is no occupation listed for their mother Rosetta. The family are living in Hemel Hempstead at this point. This is where Ellis would marry Jane Hall in 1869.

At the time of his marriage Ellis has moved on from gardening and is a Rural Messenger for the Post Office. By the 1871 census the newly married couple have moved away from Hertfordshire to Clifton on Dunsmore in Warwickshire and Ellis is now employed as a Railway Policeman. The railways in Britain would have been rapidly expanding at this time. Ellis was employed by the Midland Railway Company and was to move his family to Nottinghamshire. I have managed to trace a bit of Ellis’s career with the Midland through some of their employment records. In November 1872 he was working as a Porter at Radford Station earning 17 shillings, this was to rise to 18 shillings in 1873. He had signed for his rule book in February of 1872 so I think this is probably when he started working for them. Sometime between then and 1877 he moves to Linby Station as a Pointsman and then succeeds the Gateman at Hucknall, his wages rising from 21 to 22 shillings. Another advancement sees him back at Linby as a Signalman. This fits in with the 1881 census when the family are living in the Railway Gatehouse, Linby.

1881 Census showing Ellis and his family living in the Railway Gatehouse

From what I can find out from the records the trail runs dry in 1885. I know they were in Linby in September 1883 as my Grandfather is born in the Gatehouse there. By the 1891 census the family are back in Hertfordshire in Kensworth. They have been there for at least two years as a son Laurence was born there in 1888. Ellis is now working as a Publican and a Farm Labourer. They are residing in the Red Lion on Village Road. Why the change from the railways? This move bought them closer to Jane, his wifes family. Her father had died in 1882 in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire about 50 miles from where they now lived. Jane’s family were farmers and it seems strange that Ellis is now working part of the time as a farm labourer. Is the intention to go back to his wife’s roots and help her mother with the family farm?

The family do in fact move to Hook Norton at some point as when Jane dies in 1897 that is where her death is registered. It is also interesting that on her death certificate Ellis is stated as being a Farmer. Did they return to help on her Mother’s farm or because of Jane’s failing health? Ellis remains in Hook Norton for the rest of his life. On the 1901 census he is listed as a Farmer in Netting, Hook Norton. He has two of his sons living and working with him, Ellis John (there is yet another Ellis John in the next generation – can get very confusing sometimes) and Laurence. Carter and Plough boy respectively.

In 1907 Ellis John Grey passed away at the age of 63.His son Ellis John was present at the time and registered the death. Cause of death was Sudden Heart Failure and his occupation was that of Farmer. According to the Hook Norton parish registers he was buried on the 01 August 1907.

Ellis John’s Death Certificate.

Back in 2007 I took a trip down to Hook Norton. It has a Brewery thought to have started commercial brewing back in 1856. There is a Brewery Museum, which also houses a Village Museum and Archive. I met up with two lovely ladies there who gave me some fantastic bits of information about the Grey’s of Hook Norton. However the best part was they put me in touch with a wonderful lady called Nellie. I went to visit her and it turns out she was my father’s cousin. Like me she was born a Grey and had the most fantastic poster for the auction when the Grey family farm was sold after Ellis’s death. Someone had written next to each lot the amount of money it went for. Lots included everything from cart horses and pigs, to farm implements and even manure, and all the household furniture. Ellis unfortunately did not leave a Will but according to the National Probate Calendar on the 12 August 1907 Elena Maria Woodcraft who was Ellis’s oldest child, was appointed Administer of his estate.

Poster advertising the Auction at Netting Farm.






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