In an earlier post I raised the question as to why my 2 x great grandparents Daniel Roe and Mary Ann Blanch gave the middle name ‘Ellis’ to their son Daniel, and why my great grandparents, Joseph Roe and Eliza Bailey, continued the tradition, giving the same middle name to their son Walter. What was the connection between the families and why was the Ellis connection so important for the Roe and Blanch families?

At first, the only Ellis link I could find was the mention in the 1851 census of two year old Mary Ann Ellis living at the Bethnal Green home of John and Kezia Blanch, the parents of Mary Ann Blanch. She is described as a ‘nurse child’ and was presumably being looked after by Kezia. 

The next link was provided by the 1871 census, which has Mary Ann Ellis, now 21, living at the Chelsea home of her sister, Frances Marianne, who is married to James George Blanch, a coach builder. James (born 1836) was the eldest son of David Blanch (born 1810), the younger brother of the John Blanch who married Kezia. Also living with James and Frances were Mary Ann Ellis’ brother Henry and their widowed mother Marian.

A third link was provided by one of my genealogical contacts, Robin Blanch, who pointed out that James Blanch’s younger brother David John (born 1841) married another Ellis sister, Sophia Sarah, in 1863. David and Sophia had a son, Walter David, in 1864 and emigrated to Australia shortly afterwards.

These connections raise a number of intriguing questions. Was Kezia’s role in looking after young Mary Ann Ellis simply a business arrangement – which seems unlikely, given that the child was actually living in the Blanch household, some distance from home – or did it come about because of some previous link between the two families? Was this the first contact between the families, leading to James George’s and David John’s links with the older Ellis sisters, or did all of these contacts result from a previous connection?

One clue to a longer-standing link between the Blanch and Ellis families can be found in the names they gave their children. I’m intrigued, for example, by the fact that the names Sophia Sarah, as well as belonging to the Ellis sister who married David John Blanch, were also borne by the elder sister (born 1799) of John and David Blanch senior, the name Sophia being inherited from their mother Sophia Blanch nee Atkins.

Pursuing this hunch of an earlier family connection, I’ve been re-examining the records that we have of the Branch and Ellis families. Frances Marianne, Sophia Sarah and Mary Ann Ellis were the daughters of Richard and Marianne Ellis, born born around 1817. Although we have census records that show Frances Marianne and Mary Ann living with these parents, I’ve been unable to find any evidence that links Sophia Sarah with them. However, Robin informs me that her marriage certificate confirms that she is the daughter of Richard and Marianne. 

Sophia Sarah seems to have been born in the 1840s, perhaps in 1843 or 1847, so it’s a mystery why she does not appear in the 1851 census return, which has the Ellis family living at 3 Richmond Street, Westminster. To date, I’ve been unable to find any 1851 census record that matches what we know about Sophia, which isn’t to say that something won’t turn up eventually. I’ve had more success with the 1861 census, which mentions a 15 year old Sophia Ellis, born in Westminster in about 1847, living at 55 Oxford Street and working as a nurse maid in the household of Jonathan Puckridge, a tea dealer and grocer, originally from Wiltshire. It seems to have been quite a wealthy household, as there are a number of other servants living at the same address. It’s likely that Sophia was employed to look after 9 month old Arthur Puckridge. The Morris business directory for 1884 mentions a Jonathan Puckridge, tea dealer, occupying premises at 116 Oxford and at 71-73 Berners Street. We know that Victorian nurse maids – and domestic servants generally – were often very young girls, so to be a nursemaid at 15 would not have been at all unusual.

In my attempt to discover a deeper reason for the Blanch-Ellis connexion, I wondered whether the two families were linked by marriage in an earlier generation. I wondered, for example, whether Marianne Ellis – Richard’s wife and mother to Frances, Sophia and Mary Ann – might have been a Blanch by birth. At first, I couldn’t find any trace of Richard and Marianne’s marriage, so I looked back over their census records. In 1851 they were both said to be 39 (so born around 1812, though the 1861 census gives Richard’s birth year as 1817), and Richard, who was born in St.James, Westminster, is described as a ‘builder master’ with two men working for him. Marianne is said to have been born at St. Clement Danes, Westminster. We’ve already noted that, for some reason, Sophia was not living at home, and we know that Mary Ann was with the Blanches, but they have three other children living with them – Frances Marianne, 9 (born 1841 or 1842), David Richard, 6 (born 1845) and Alfred H. B. Ellis, age 2 months (the census was taken in March, so he was probably born in January). The recent arrival of Alfred suggests why Marianne may have sought help with looking after 2 year old Mary Ann. 

Alfred’s middle initials aroused my curiosity. We can be fairly sure that the H stands for Henry, since by the time of the 1861 census Henry has become his preferred first name (unless Alfred died and another son was born in the same year, which seems unlikely). But the B is unusual at the time. Could it possibly stand for Blanch, thus mirroring the Blanch habit of giving Ellis as a middle name, and resembling the general habit of using family surnames as middle names (for example: John Holdsworth Blanch, son of John Blanch and Kezia Holdsworth, who then gave Holdsworth as a middle name to a number of his own children)?

Two other people are living with the Ellis family: Mary Anne Harrison, a widow aged 56 (so born around 1796), described as a visitor, born in the parish of St George, Borough, and Richard Metcalf, a nephew aged 12.  I haven’t yet been able to work out who Richard’s parents were and how they might be connected to Richard and Marianne. 

At first, I thought Mary Anne Harrison might be Marianne Ellis’ mother, but then I managed to locate what appeared to be Richard and Marianne’s marriage via the Church of Latter Day Saints Family Search website. There’s a record of a marriage on 25 March 1841 in St. James, Westminster, between a Richard Ellis, son of Thomas Ellis, and a Marianne Burbidge, daughter of Robert Burbidge. Given that Richard and Marianne’s first child, Frances, was born in 1841 or 1842, I’m working on the assumption that this is ‘our’ Richard and Marianne. I haven’t had much luck yet in tracing their families – either or both of their fathers could have died by the time of the wedding and their names would still be recorded on the certificate. However, I was intrigued to find an Ellis family in Aldgate at around this time, in which the name Frances (unusual at that date?) is passed from mother to daughter.

If Marianne’s maiden name was Burbidge, this means that Mary Anne Harrison is not her mother-in-law. So who was she? In 1861 we find Richard and Mariann living at 2 Clifton Place, Kensington, where he is working as a carpenter. Frances is now 19 and an assistant at a dye works, David Richard is 17 and a dyer, Mary Ann is 11 and back with the family, and Henry is 10. The family have two lodgers: Charlotte Caughtrey, 22, a ribbon blocker at a dye works (and therefore probably a workmate of David and/or Frances) and James Blanch, 24, a coach painter, who we know will marry Frances two years later.

At the same address there’s also a 66 year old widowed laundress, born in St. George’s Fields, Surrey, whose name is mistakenly and unhelpfully given as ‘Mary Ann Widow’. But the details match the Mary Anne Harrison who was living with the family in 1851.

Ten years later, in 1871, James and Frances, now aged 34 and 29 respectively and married, are living at 237 Kings Road, Chelsea, and James is working as a coach builder. Living with them are Mary Ann Ellis, 21, described as James’ sister in law; Marian Ellis, his mother in law, working as a needlewoman and now a widow, and his brother in law Henry, working as a coach painter, presumably alongside James.

Next, I looked back at the Blanch family records for a similar period. The 1841 census finds David and Sarah Blanch living in King Street, Soho, where David is working as a coach builder – the profession he would pass on to his son James George. At this time James was 4, William 3 and David John 11 months.

But what’s really interesting about this particular record is the names of the people listed below the Blanch family. There is a Maria Brodland, age 60, a Mary Harrison, 45, and an Elizabeth Higham, 15, none of them born in the county (i.e. Middlesex). Confirmation that these women were part of the Blanch household can be found in the 1851 census, when the family has moved to Chelsea. Besides David and Sarah and their children James, William, David and Thomas, the household incudes one Maria Bodberd, 69, described as an aunt and working as an ‘assistant’, and Elizabeth Higham, 30 (remember that the 1841 census ages were inaccurate, often being rounded to the nearest 5), described as a servant.

Given the different spellings of Maria’s unusual surname in the two censuses, might it be that both are wrong? In fact, the Christian name and date of birth are a close match for David Blanch’s older half-sister Maria Blanch, product of his father James’ first marriage to Jane Barlow. Maria married John Rodbard in 1811 (according to the Blanch family tree on the Ancestry site). Given the difference in ages between them (Maria was born in 1781, David in 1810), is it unreasonable to suppose that David regarded her as an aunt rather than as a sister?

Now, can we make the assumption that the Mary Harrison living with the Blanches in 1841 is the same Mary Ann Harrison who we find living with the Ellis family in 1851 and probably 1861? Certainly the dates match. But in that case, who is she? Solving the mystery of Maria Rodbard suggested one possible solution: perhaps this was another sister of David’s?

It turns out that David Blanch had another older sister Mary Ann – in this case, they shared the same mother, Sophia Atkins. Mary Ann was born in 1794 in the parish of St. George the Martyr, Southwark. Moreover, it appears that a Mary Ann Blanch married a Thomas Harrison in 1828 in St.George in the Borough. St. George the Martyr, St. George in the Borough and St. George’s Fields are, in fact, one and the same parish.

I’m still trying to work out why this widowed member of the Blanch family would be living with the Ellis family in 1851 and 1861. Answering that question will, I’m sure, throw some light on the deeper links between the two families. 


Many thanks to Robin Blanch for providing an additional piece of information about Mary Ann Harrison. Apparently the 1871 census finds her, now 77 years old, living at 348 Fulham Road with Joseph and Maria Jane Cheshire and their family. Maria Jane (sometimes referred to simply as Jane) was the youngest daughter of David Blanch senior, and thus Mary Ann Harrison was her aunt.

Robin also points out that the Cheshire link is another example of two Blanch siblings marrying into the same family. Maria Jane married Joseph, while her older brother William Henry Blanch married Joseph’s sister Catherine Mary Ann Cheshire.

I also noted from looking up the 1871 record, that Maria Jane perpetuated some familiar Blanch names: her first three children were named David, Sophia and Jane. Looking at Robin’s own family tree, I also noted that Maria Jane and Joseph went on to have five more children: Frederick, Ella, Katherine, Minnie and Frances. Was the last child named with her aunt Frances Marianne nee Ellis in mind? Interesting, too, to come across an example of a ‘Minnie’ – the first time I’ve seen the name used outside the Roe family (my Nan – daughter of Joseph Priestley Roe – was Minnie Louisa Roe).