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.