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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

Shock shared ancestor!

It’s always nice to make contact with people researching the same family as yourself and establish you have a common ancestor. But it came as quite a surprise a few years ago when I discovered I shared an ancestor with someone I already know – my husband!

I guess it wouldn't have been so unexpected if both our ancestors had come from the same area, but my family hail from Staffordshire and Shropshire, and his from Suffolk and Essex.

It all began when we discovered his 3x great grandmother’s maiden name was Elliston. My own great-grandmother (pictured below) was also an Ellisdon – a slightly different spelling, but we all know not to be too fastidious when coming to surname spellings.

Frances Firman Ellisdon, born 1851

She was Frances Firman Ellisdon, mother to my thespian grandfather, Herbert Henry Coules Colley, (aka Ken Barton – his stage name) who was born in London. As a performer, he travelled around the country’s theatres, which was where he met my grandmother, a professional singer.

A Suffolk link

Frances, like her son, was born in London but her father, John Walter Ellisdon was born in Hadleigh, Suffolk, as was his father, John Patmore Ellisdon, my 3x great-grandfather. John Patmore was born in 1798 and was the village’s postmaster for many years and is buried in a peaceful corner of Hadleigh's graveyard.

John Patmore Ellisdon 1798-1849 - his gravestone is at right at the back of the group

My husband’s ancestor, Mary Elliston was also born in Suffolk, a year earlier than my 3x great-grandfather, in 1797, in a little village not 3 miles from Hadleigh, called Lindsey. Could there be a connection? Did they belong to the same Ellisdon family?

Clue in the name?

We did some digging and established that Mary’s parents were George Elliston and Hannah Firman, who’d married in 1796 in the tiny village of Edwardstone, a couple of miles from Lindsey, some 6 miles from Hadleigh.

St Mary's the Virgin, Edwardstone

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that Hannah’s maiden name and my great-grandmother’s middle name were both Firman. Surely it couldn’t be just a coincidence?

Frustratingly, all those years ago we hit a brick wall trying to prove the link, unable to confirm the identify of our common ancestor who, tantalisingly, we suspect was only one further generation back than we could access in the records.

So having dug out all our notes again, I’m keen to have another go. I’ll let you know if I crack the case!


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