Tracing my father's Townsley family line back in time I soon got back to great, grandmother Mary Ellen Dawson and her parents - Edmund and Rhoda in Bingley, Yorkshire. This is where the line stopped for a time while I worked on some of the other branches of the family tree. But eventually I got back to this particular thread.
Edmund Dawson (1833-1880?)
There are many Dawsons in Yorkshire but Edmund was not a common first name so I eventually found census entries and their marriage certificate - Edmund Dawson, son of James, and Rhoda Tattersfield, whose father was also a James, married 25 January 1858 at Upper Chapel Independent, Heckmondwike, Yorkshire. Both were born before civil registration started but both baptisms appeared in the IGI - in Otley and Birstall respectively - so that helped a lot. But it soon became clear that they were members of two families that were very numerous in their respective locations - there was going to be a lot of names to process on both sides. The details worked out are -
Edmund and Rhoda had 10 children - James (1860), Avice (1862), Mary Ellen (28 May 1863), Thomas Moody (1866), Daniel (1867), Charles (1870), Rhoda (Jan 1871), Edmund (1876) and William (1879).
The census entries are confused about where the children were born but the current indications are that James and Avice were born in Mirfield while Mary Ellen was born at Elm Tree Hill, Bingley. So it seems that the family started out in Mirfield and then moved to Bingley. Certainly the family had an established Plumbing & Glazing business at 164 Main Street, Bingley by 1871 and the remaining 7 children were most likely born there. But by 1881 Rhoda was a widow and had moved to 4 Fox Street, Bingley; where she seems to have stayed for many years.
None of the children, other than Mary Ellen, have been traced in any detail. The release of the 1901 Census confirmed that some of the other 9 had survived but did not provide much in terms of identifying further family members. More manual searches of the Bingley 1891 Census could still turn up some "new" marriages and grand children.
Rhoda Tattersfield (1836-1897?)
A series of web searches and e-mails to other researchers (in England and Australia) lead me to a real "expert" on the Tattersfield families - who kindly provided a huge amount of extra information and confirmed / corrected what I had already found. Details are given on the Tattersfield page.
James Dawson (1792-1869)
In the case of the Dawson families I did not find a helping hand but using Family Search and other web resources I did get enough information (with the help of some census returns) to put together the outline of Edmund's parents and family -
James Dawson - born January 1792, Otley - married Ellen Moody - born April 1801, Otley - on 3 January 1820 at Otley Parish Church. Their possible children total 15 - but some could be wrongly assigned or double entries. These children are - John (Nov 1820), John (July 1821), William (Jan 1823), Charles (Jan 1824), Charles (Jan 1825), Ann Caroline (Dec 1826), James (Jan 1829), Charles (Apr 1831), Edmond (May 1833), Mary Hannah (Jul 1835), Martha (1840), Emily (1842), Elizabeth (1844) and Sarah Ellen (1846).
There may be another child as well - because there was a grandson, William (1856), working for Edmond in Bingley at the time of the census (also possibly a son of John).
Other likely descendants of James and Ellen are - James who married Jane and had children Emily (1861) and Fred B (1864).
A trip to the Bridge Street Independent Church in Otley lead to the discovery of the headstone for James and Ellen - the first I had found for any of my 19th century relatives. The headstone did not include any details of their children but was still a rare physical link with the past.
James Dawson (1756-1826?)
Going back one more generation using Family Search produced an outline family group that looks like this -
James Dawson married Mary Hoyle on 12 December 1779 also at Otley Parish Church. Their 9 possible children were - Catherine (Sep 1780), Sarah (May 1782), John (Aug 1784), Ellen (Jan 1787), Daniel (Aug 1789), James (Jan 1792), Joshua (Aug 1794), Martha Juliana (Mar 1801) and William (May 1805).
And some possible descendents of James and Mary seem to be -
John married Alice and had children Joseph (Dec 1804) and Martha (Aug 1806)
Daniel married Mary Pickard on 18 July 1814
Joshua married Harriett Watmough on 7 July 1817 and had son Elijah (Feb 1821)
Going back further becomes very tenuous but it is possible that James was the son of the James that married Ellinor Chapman on 10 September 1755 at Otley Parish Church. However I have not found any other children for James and Ellinor so the evidence is limited.
Clearly having this number of known children spread over 3 generations in the relatively small town of Otley should have lead to some connections amongst the current Otley inhabitants or, at least, those of near-by towns.
Some more clues to the number of Dawsons in Otley are given by Baines's Directory of 1822; which lists -
Dawson Caleb, North gate, Saddler
Dawson James, Westgate, Joiners, House Builders, &c.
Dawson James, Westgate, Chief bailiff to the Archbishop for the Liberty of Cawood, Wistow, and Otley, Crier of the court, Inspector of the weights, &c.
Dawson James, jun. Westgate, Cabinet Maker
Dawson John, Market place, land valuer
Dawson John, Market place, Cattle Dealer (grazier)
Dawson Joshua, Westgate, perpetual overseer
Dawson William, Boroughgate, Maltster
Are there any of you out there that link to these lines? Surely some of the other 9 children of Edmund and Rhoda Dawson must be someone's ancestors?
If you think so - let me know.
The treasurer of the Bridge Church (United Reformed Church), Otley has been in touch to confirm that Charles, Edmund, Mary Hannah, Fanny, Martha, Emily,Elizabeth and Sarah Ellen (parents James [1792-1869] and Ellen) were all baptised at the Salem Chapel and have entries in the baptismal register. Apparently James and Ellen Dawson were prominent members of the church in its early years (it was founded in 1821). Also grandchildren Frances Ann (1851) and James Henry (1853) were baptised there. Additional William Dawson (brother of James [1792-1869]) became famous as the founder of the Otley Printing Machine industry and inventor, with David Payne, of the Wharfedale Printing Press - an important development in printing which lasted many years. Their surviving machines being seen in many museums.
Update June 2010
Nic Wilson provided significant input for this family tree; from his database covering the inhabitants of the Wharfedale area over many generations - for further information, please visit his website - Wharfedale & Craven Genealogical Study at www.wharfegen.org.uk