I am trying to trace a direct ancestor who is something of a mystery. Ellen WILEY is my ggg grandmother. She married my ggg grandfather Robert WARD in 1839 by licence and from the various Ages she used on the census she must have been born about 1815-1818. They lived in Marfleet in Yorkshire, on the North side of the Humber overlooking Lincolnshire, which was Robert Ward’s parish at the time and where he had been born.
Her earlier roots are the problem. They shouldn’t be. She has coverage on 6 censuses and she has two marriage certificates; the church records prior to formal certificates for the whole county are all complete. But here’s the problem: we have her on 6 censuses each of which has a different place of birth, and she was married twice, and for each she gave a different father’s name. There is no baptism for an Ellen W(H)ILEY at any of the places she identified as being her parish of origin. Her birth places have some consistency in that some are around Friskney and Wainfleet, where WILEY families lived. On her first marriage, she claimed her father was Edward WILEY, but no-one of that name is mentioned at all – he seems to be a red herring. But in her second marriage, she said her father was William WILEY, and there is a William in Friskney.
What we know:1815-1818 Ellen WILEY born9 Jan 1839 Ellen WILEY married Robert WARD in Marfleet by licence, father named as Edward WILEY1841 census birthplace Yorkshire age 201851 census birthplace Lincs Foston (sic meant to be Boston?) age 331861 census birthplace Lincs Rangle (Wrangle?) age 431871 census birthplace Lincs Wainflit (Wainfleet?) age 531881 census birthplace Yorks Preston aged 6623 Apr 1888 Ellen WARD married Edward HUNTER, father named as William WILEY aged 711891 census birthplace Lincs Boston age 74Died 1891 Marfleet
Let me hazard a hypothesis. I wonder whether my Ellen WILEY is the Elizabeth WHILEY baptised in Friskney in 1818. She was the daughter of William WHILEY and Betsy, William was an Innkeeper who hanged himself in 1838, a scandal which at the time might have been widely reported. When getting married just a matter of months later, she did not want to be associated with the event, so she fabricated a different father’s name for the certificate. She may have even called herself my a new name, Ellen not Elizabeth, although she might be called Ellie either way. When asked her place of birth on the census, she may not have wished to be associated with that area. It was a poor area, and Robert Ward was a professional upwardly mobile working man in a prosperous area along the Humber! Perhaps she did not want the neighbours to know she was the daughter of an alcoholic from a rough part of rural Lincs.