Sunday, July 25, 2010

From Isle of Guernsey to America

It takes a lot of courage to pack up your family, leave your homeland and sail off to a new land. That is exactly what John and Mary Ellis did when they left their home in Isle of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, in the early years of the 1800s.

There is much we do not know about their life in Isle of Guernsey or their early days in America, but we do know this: They married and had one child, John Ellis Jr., who was born 2 November 1814 before they left their homeland. There is some evidence that their next child, Mary A., was born circa 1818-1819 in New York. By 1820, they had settled in Pope County, Illinois, where John was a carpenter. Estate records for Pope County show a number of claims for coffins John built for deceased persons.

Born to John and Mary in Pope County were Martha (born circa 1824) and James (born 13 October 1825). By late 1828, the Ellis family had moved across the Ohio River to Livingston County, Kentucky, where they bought four acres of land adjoining Salem, the county seat. Salem was a thriving community and John's services as a carpenter were very likely in demand. Born to John and Mary while living near Salem were Bettie (born 1828) and Francis/Fannie (born 1830 and died 1853).

John must not have acquired a very large estate as when he died circa 1834, no mention was made of his death in the county court minutes and no estate administrator was appointed. Very likely his only asset was the land. It wasn't until 1854 that Mary Ellis, widow of John, and her children sold the four acres of land near Salem. The land transaction (Deed Book 2, p. 409) excluded the grave where John Ellis was buried. A tombstone marking John's grave has not been found.

Sometime during the 1840s, Mary moved to Smithland and she can be found on the 1850 census. Her children were marrying and becoming part of a larger community. Her daughter Martha married Jacob V. Scyster and lived in Smithland. Son John, a carpenter, married Susan Watts and also resided in Smithland. Daughter Mary married Joseph Ray Jr. and lived in Livingston County. Son James, a farmer, married (1) Sarah L.A. Jennings and also lived in Livingston County. Daughters Francis and Betty never married.

Mary Ellis died 1 March 1855 and is buried in Smithland Cemetery, where the name on her tombstone is Mary Angel Ellis. It is unknown if Angel is her maiden name or if it is a middle name. Mary's children John, James, Betty, Fannie and Martha are also buried in Smithland Cemetery.

I'll have more on the Ellis family in the future.

Copyright on text and photographs
by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog

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