Esther Beilby 1830-1875

Esther Beilby is a first cousin four times removed and became a handcart pioneer in 1856. She was born in 1830 in Wheldrake which is a village very close to my own birthplace of Escrick. She was baptised in Elvington, probably in the Methodist faith. Her father is described in the 1841 census as an agricultural labourer and she lived with her family in a tied cottage outside the main village. She had three brothers, two of whom were agricultural labourers like their father and the other one was a shoemaker.  By 1851 she had married William Heaton from Horton, near Bradford whose occupation is listed as a wool comber. On their marriage certificate her father is described as a farmer and this is confirmed in the 1851 census where he is said to farm 15 acres. Her first child, Christopher, was born in 1852 and she went on to have five more children, all boys.

At some point early in the 1850s William changed his occupation and followed his Baptist faith. In a book on the Mormon pioneers written by LaRae McManama he is said to have served a four year mission in England and Scotland before the family emigrated to the United States. Esther and William and there, by then, two boys, walked from Iowa City, Iowa to Salt Lake City in Utah; a distance of 1300 miles. They were part of the Second Handcart Company whose Captain was Daniel D McArthur; he was a returning missionary from Scotland. The journey took about four months in 1856. Pushing poorly built handcarts loaded with supplies was arduous work and not everyone completed the journey. Sadly, as they arrived in Utah, Esther’s youngest son, William, died.

Once they were in Utah, Esther’s husband William was called to serve in the Muddy Mission where he was first councillor of the Bishopric. Between 1857 and 1866 Esther went on to have four more sons. They settled in Payson, Utah which is where Esther died in 1875 at the age of 44; she is buried in the cemetery there. William went on to marry Susan Terry in 1876 and became the secretary of the United Order in Orderville in 1877. He died later that year and is buried in Orderville cemetery. The Beilby name lives on as some of Esther’s grandchildren have been given it as their middle name.

However, some mysteries still remain; how did Esther meet William and what motivated them to seek a new life in America? In addition, I am looking forward to investigating more of my ancestors to see if they share my remaining three key values of autonomy and independence, curiosity and honesty and integrity.

Roots and connections

One of my initial reasons for carrying out my family history research was to see if I could work out where my “brains” came from. Most of my cousins and siblings have not progressed, from an educational point of view, beyond what were then called ‘O’ levels. I have gone much further than that and continue to seek out avenues to continue with my own learning and development.

I harboured for a long time a view that my intelligence must come from my maternal grandfather. A man I never met because he was a soldier in the Second World War and, although he didn’t die of injuries incurred during the war, he did die in a military hospital of a form of cancer at a relatively young age. I went to some lengths to get his war records so that I could find out more about his occupation before he enlisted, as there had been some suggestion that he had been a journalist. However, his war record confirmed that he had been a machine operator or printer for the Daily Express in Manchester; so no journalism there but perhaps an interest in words?

I have though followed his line further back into history as I knew very little about this branch of my family. I discovered that the Ellis family had come over from Ireland sometime between 1837 when their son Robert was born in Ireland and 1838 when my second great grandfather Francis was born in Herne Bay in Kent.

Francis had a successful career in the Coastguard service starting first in the Royal Navy as a seaman in Beirut working on a ship called the Renown. In the 1871 census he is a commissioned boatman in Sutton St Mary in Lincolnshire and by 1881 the chief boatman in Barrow on Humber. By 1891 he was chief officer of coast guards in Filey, Yorkshire; living with his family at 61 Hope St. This street is close to Cobble Landing where the RNLI lifeboat is currently stationed and is very familiar to me as we used to holiday in Filey when we were children; although  at that time I did not know we had had relatives living there. By 1901 Francis was described as a naval pensioner and living in York which is where I went to school.

His own father, also called Francis, had been a boatman in Ireland. When he brought his family to England he was stationed in the barracks at Fort Moncrieff in West Hythe, Kent. Sadly this station no longer exists. Francis, my third great grandfather, was born in Mullaghmore on the North West coast of Ireland in County Sligo. At the time it was part of a large estate owned by English absentee landlords – the Temple family; it is now considered a smart holiday destination. It was also off the coast of Mullaghmore in 1979 that Lord Mountbatten and members of his family were killed by a bomb planted by the Provisional IRA.

So what has this brief foray into my family history told me about my roots and connections? Two key things come to mind:

  • There is at least one example of someone in my family having a successful career moving through a profession in the way that I have.
  • There are many places in Yorkshire and elsewhere which are meaningful to me, with Filey in North Yorkshire being a good example of this.