I’ve just found a record of the marriage of Henry Ellis, son of Richard and Marianne Ellis, a discovery which has thrown up some interesting new information. But first, some background.

The first we hear of Richard and Marianne’s youngest son is in the 1851 census record, which shows two month old Alfred H.B.Ellis living at 3 Richmond Street, Soho with his parents and older siblings Frances and David. I’ve always assumed that the ‘H’ stood for Henry and that this was the same person as the 10 year old Henry Ellis whom we find living with Richard and Marianne in Kensington in 1861.

The 1871 census census finds Henry, now 21, with his widowed mother, living in the house of his sister, Frances, and her husband, James Blanch, in Kings Road, Chelsea. James was a coach builder and Henry is described as a coach painter: presumably he was working with his brother-in-law (it would be wonderful if there were a list of employees in the various Blanch coach-building businesses from these years).

My suspicions about what the ‘B’ in Henry’s name might stand for were confirmed today when I finally tracked down his marriage record. Alfred Henry Blanch Ellis, 23, married Mary Sarah Hunt, 22, daughter of builder Charles Hunt,  at St. Luke’s, Chelsea, on 21 November 1874. The bridegroom is described as a coach builder and the newlyweds gave their address as 237 Kings Road: the house where Henry had been living in 1871. According to later records, Mary was born in Gunnel, Dorset. The marriage record also provides another new snippet of information: the name of Henry’s (late) father is given as Richard Francis Ellis. This is the first mention of a middle name for Richard, and it may help in tracking down missing records.

As with my Roe ancestors’ use of ‘Ellis’ as a middle name for their children, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly why Richard and Marianne Ellis added ‘Blanch’ to their son’s list of forenames. Around the time of Henry’s birth, his sister Mary Ann was being nursed by John Blanch’s wife Keziah in Bethnal Green. Two Ellis daughters would marry two Blanch brothers (sons of John’s brother David), but these events were some years in the future. It may simply have been the case that the two families were close friends, drawn together as neighbours in Soho, or possibly (in the case of David Blanch and Richard Ellis) through their work. But every other instance I’ve found of surnames being used as middle names has been within families, often as a way of perpetuating a mother’s maiden name. Examples that spring to mind include John and Keziah Blanch naming their son John Holdsworth Blanch, or Daniel and Mary Ann Roe calling one of their daughters Mary Ann Blanch Roe. So I still wonder if there’s an earlier, yet-to-be-discovered family tie between the Blanch and Ellis families.

By 1881 Henry, Mary and their four year old son Charles were living at 67 Edith Grove South in Chelsea. Henry is described as a builder and their neighbours include architects and artists. Ten years later they were living in Ranelagh Avenue, Fulham and now had a second son, Sydney, 17 months. They could also afford to employ a servant, and journalists and actors were now among their close neighbours.

In 1897 Charles married Florence Alice Maria Seawell.  I’m not absolutely sure where any of the family were in 1901, though there’s a curious reference to an Alfred H. Ellis, 50, born in St. James, Westminster and a builder, visiting a house in Fulham on the night of the census; however, this person is described as unmarried. An Alfred Henry B. Ellis died in Marylebone in 1909, but again I can’t be sure that this is ‘our’ Henry.

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