Four Ellis sisters: Mary, Anne, Lucy and Susan

Francis (1800-1876) and Jane Ellis (1803-1885) are my fourth great grandparents who moved from Ireland to Kent in 1839. They had nine children, five boys and four girls. So far, I have written about Francis and two of their sons Robert and Francis. The aim of this blog post is to write about their four daughters. There is also a brief mention of their other three sons: William, John and James.  

The eldest of the four Ellis sisters was Mary (1832-1880).  She was living in Dymchurch, Kent when she married her first husband James White on 11 August 1856 in Dymchurch parish church. James was a sailor serving on HMS Agamemnon at the time of their marriage and his father James was also a sailor. Mary’s father Francis was described as a pensioner as he had left the coastguard service by then. Her mother Jane was one of the witnesses.

St Peter and St Paul Church, Dymchurch by Peter Salmon CC BY-SA 2.0

James had served on a number of ships during his service in the Royal Navy, including during the Crimean war. It is possible that he met Mary through her brother John Ellis (1834-1906) who had also joined the HMS Agamemnon in 1852 like James.

HMS Agamemnon by unknown author (Public Domain)

Mary and James had one daughter Bridget Mary White (1857-1955) before James died on 10 April 1859 at “Sansabar”, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. At the time he was the acting boatswain on HMS Persian. He left his estate to Mary.

Mary married her second husband John Pain (b 1839), a blacksmith, on 16 July 1871 in the parish of St Mary, Dover. The witnesses were her sister Susan and her husband Robert Fox Hall. Although John described himself as a bachelor on their marriage certificate, he was a widower who had had four children with his first wife. Mary and John had one son John Francis Pain (1873-1962). Mary died in September 1880 when the family were living at 39 Queen Street, Folkestone. The last record found for John is an entry in the 1911 census when he was an inmate in the Elham Union Workhouse, Etchinghill, Lyminge. The site has since been redeveloped and just the chapel remains.

The following chart shows Mary, her two husbands and two generations of her descendants.

Descendant chart for Mary Ellis

Anne (b1838) was the second of Francis and Jane’s daughters born in Sligo, Ireland. At the time of her marriage to Emmerson Herron Smith (1826-1907) she was living in Dymchurch. Anne and Emmerson married on 22 January 1857 in the same church where her sister Mary had been married in 1856. By the time they married Emmerson had transferred to the coastguard service and gave his residence as Dymchurch on their marriage certificate. His father William Smith was described as a boatsman in the Port Royal Dockyard. Emmerson first enlisted in the Royal Navy as a boy 2nd class in 1840. He served on a number of ships, including HMS Victory and HMS Winchester, before joining the coastguard service in 1857.

So far, I’ve found three children born to Anne and Emmerson. Alice (b 1858) and Charles (1860-1902) were born in Dymchurch, Kent and their sister Elizabeth (b 1868) was born in County Meath, Ireland. It is likely that her father was serving as a coastguard at the Nanny Water coastguard station. There is then a gap in the census records for the family until 1901 when Emmerson and Anne are back living in Dymchurch. Emmerson is described as a pensioner and lunatic. I haven’t found a death record for Anne but Emmerson died in the Chartham lunatic asylum. He was admitted on 29 November 1906 and died on 16 January 1907. When the NHS was founded in 1948 the asylum was renamed St Augustine’s hospital and it closed in 1993.

The following chart shows Anne, her husband Emmerson and two generations of their descendants.

Descendant chart for Anne Ellis

Lucy (1842-1903) was the first of Francis and Jane’s daughters to be born in Kent, England. Although I’ve been unable to find a civil registration record for her birth, I have found a baptism record. She was baptised on 12 February 1843 in the parish church of St Stephens, Lympne. The family were recorded as living in West Hythe and her father’s occupation given as coastguard.

Lucy married George Chambers (1846-1920), a bricklayer from Biddenden, at St Margaret’s at Cliffe parish church, on 7 October 1869. George’s father Abraham was also a bricklayer. Lucy’s address was given as St Margaret’s at Cliffe and her father Francis recorded as a coastguard. They married by license and one of the witnesses was her brother John Ellis.

Lucy and George settled in Biddenden and had at least three children. In 1901, the last census before Lucy died, the family were living in the “cottage near the mill” in Biddenden, with George’s occupation described as a builder and employer. George died in 1920 and they are both buried in All Saints churchyard in Biddenden.

The following chart shows Lucy, her husband George and two generations of their descendants.

Descendant chart for Lucy Ellis

Susan (1847-1915) was also born in Kent and, like her sister Lucy, I’ve been unable to find a civil registration record for her birth. She was baptised on 9 May 1847 in the parish church of St Stephens, Lympne. The family were recorded as living in West Hythe and her father’s occupation given as coastguard. Susan married Robert Fox Hall (1846-1899), a widower and plasterer from Folkestone, on 11 May 1871 in Folkestone parish church. Robert’s father John Hall was described as a mariner. Susan’s residence was recorded as Dymchurch and her father Francis described as a “pensioner Royal Navy”. They were married by banns and the witnesses were Susan’s brother John Ellis and her sister Lucy Chambers.

Susan and Robert had moved to Canterbury by 1874. In 1881 they were living at 9 Crossington Road, Canterbury and Susan’s mother Jane Ellis was living with them. Robert died in Canterbury in 1899. Susan was still living in Canterbury in 1901 at 37 Nunnery Fields where she was described as a lodging house keeper living on her own account. She died in Folkestone in 1915.

The following chart shows Susan, her husband Robert and two generations of their descendants.

Descendant chart for Susan Ellis

Turning now to the menfolk in the Ellis family, I have already written about Francis senior (1800-1876), Robert (1836-1910) and Francis (1839-1925), which leaves three more sons: William (b 1829), John (1834-1906) and James (1845-1863). Both William and John were born in Ireland and James in West Hythe, Kent. All three of them became sailors with William joining the merchant navy as a boy in 1845. I’ve been unable to find out much more about him.

 John (1834-1906) entered the Royal Navy in 1849 and as previously mentioned served on HMS Agamemnon at the same time as his siter Mary’s first husband James White. By the 1861 census he was living with his parents Francis and Jane, brother James, sisters Mary and Susan and Mary’s daughter Bridget in Dymchurch. He was described on the census record as a “pensioner Greenwich”, indicating that he was now a Royal Naval pensioner. In the 1901 census his address was the Coastguard Cottages in Dymchurch and he was described as a “Naval pensioner and Navy man”. When he died in 1906, he was buried in the burial ground of Dymchurch parish church.

James (1845-1863) also joined the Royal Navy and became an ordinary seaman on HMS Orpheus on 5 November 1861. His service was cut short on 7 February 1863 when HMS Orpheus struck a sandbar on the approach to Manukau Harbour, Auckland, New Zealand. The ship broke up and 189 people died; James was one of them and his death was recorded as a drowning. The shipwreck is considered to be New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster.

The wreck of HMS Orpheus – photograph of a painting Richard Brydges Beechey (1803-1895)

I am interested in knowing more about all the people mentioned in this blog post. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.

Note: I have the baptism, marriage, death, census, military and other records for all the information provided in this story. Do let me know if you would like to know more.


Elham, Kent workhouse. : accessed October 2020.

Genuki. : accessed October 2020.

HMS Agamemnon (1852). : accessed October 2020.

HMS Orpheus Shipwreck. : accessed October 2020.

Mid-Victorian Royal Navy Vessels. : accessed October 2020.

The Russian (“Crimean”) war of 1854-1856. : accessed October 2020.

Vision of Britain. : accessed October 2020.