Monthly Archives: March 2014

52 ancestors Thomas Willis

Thomas Willis was my Great Great Grandfather, he was born at Barnard Castle, County Durham in 1828, part of a large family. His father Joseph married twice and had 12 children, Thomas was the son of the first wife Ann Kipling, Thomas is possibly working as a man servant to a farmer in the 1841 census, living at Aislaby, near Yarm, but I’m not certain it is him. He went out to America around 1850 (have found a possible passenger record for him then) and in 1852 married Rachel Halden in Chicago, Illinois, the story is they went to see the parson to discuss their wedding plans and he offered to marry them there and then, so they agreed. When they returned home, Rachel’s brother was so horrified at the news, he ran away and was never seen again!

Halden Willis marriage

It must have been quite brave to move from County Durham to the USA; interestingly in 1870 in America his sister (half sister) Katherine is living with the family, I wonder if she stayed in the USA? Also the family paid a visit back to England in 1873.

New York Passenger List 1873 May 13th Willis family

Passenger list May 1873.

Thomas and Rachel had eight children but only two Katie Elizabeth (Kitty) and Eleanor Eaton (Nellie) lived to any age (84 and 80 respectively), Thomas also lived until he was 80, dying in 1908.

Rachel died in childbirth in the USA and when Nellie was about five Thomas returned with his two daughters to England where they were brought up by an Aunt. Many of the houses Thomas built in the USA burnt down in The Great Fire of Chicago as did the girls’ birth records. On returning to England Thomas apparently never worked again, although on the 1881 census he is described as a builder, not a retired builder, he was a member of the Masons and this photograph shows him with his masonic sword. In 1880 he married a second wife,  Ann Longstaff but by 1891 he is widowed and living with his daughter Katie/Kitty.

My Grandma told me that he used to sit her on his foot when she was a baby and sing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to her which she joined in with as “Yannee Nannee Noona” she was Winifred, so Winnie for short, so he called her Winnipeg and from that Peggy. My twitter name Jopeg comes from Grandma saying she thought of me being Jopeg (like her Winnipeg) because of my name being Joanna Margaret and Peggy being a derivation of Margaret.So Thomas Willis has in an indirect way made his mark on Twitter!


Thomas Willis with his masonic sword.

Thomas Willis with his masonic sword.


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52 ancestors Mary Flower/Kenyon

I know very little about Mary Flower and what I do know is largely because of this document, it shows that she and her husband Joseph Kenyon were evicted from Bolsover, Derbyshire because they were dependent on the parish but did not come from there in the first place so had to be moved on with their five young children William aged 9, Charles aged 6, Ann aged 4, Henry aged 2 and Elizabeth six months. They went on to have two more children, Joseph and Thomas.

Mary is my Great x4 Grandmother, she married Joseph in Mansfield in 1806 and is living with him in Worksop,  with their grandson Robert (son of Ann),  in 1841. Joseph is described in the census as an agricultural worker, so hopefully things had improved for the family. I am descended from their son Henry, their Grandson Barnet Kenyon went on to become an MP.


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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in genealogy, family history


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52 ancestors Albert John Calow

Albert John Calow was my Great Grandfather. He was born in Sheffield in 1873, where his family lived for a short period, but by 1881 he is living back in Clowne the birthplace of his parents Elisabeth and William (first cousins).They are living at 7 North Road.

In 1891, Albert is working as a Coal Miner Labourer and the family are now at 155 North Road; boarding with them is a young school teacher called Charles Hubert Mohertson, Elisabeth is now a widow.

Albert John married Alice Kenyon in 1893 and by 1901 is living at 103 Colliery Cottages, Barlborough with Alice, his daughter Ada and sons Alfred and Arthur, his occupation is described as Colliery Deputy below ground worker.

Albert John letter p1

In 1911 the family is back living in Clowne at 26 Gray Street and son Cyril is a further addition to the family.Father-in-law George Kenyon is also living with the family. His job has changed again and he is now an Insurance Agent. He continued doing this job for his working life, working for Wesleyan Insurance and collecting money from people for their insurance schemes (a way of saving).  Alice died in 1812, she was having another baby. At this stage they were living at 134 North Road.


Albert John married Lucy Bramer (nee Newton) in 1814 and she and her children joined the family, I think back at 7 North Road, (certainly North Road). She had a daughter Gertie and sons Joseph and Ernest (who were killed in WW1) and Frederick.

Albert John was a local councillor and judging by photographs and accounts, a rather austere figure. Grandma Walker called him “the Duke”. However this letter shows a softer more caring side.

Albert John letter p3You seem to have plenty of work but is there plenty of time to do it and plenty of good food that is the chief thing.

Albert John letter p2

Albert John letter p4

This is a photograph of Albert John and other Councillors at Clowne, it was reproduced in a newspaper in the 1970s.



He died in 1939, he left everything in his will to his widow Lucy.





Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized