The Strange Metamorphosis of William Grainger

The re-structured family of William COLLEY and Elizabeth WHITING (“Beeford Elizabeth”) currently shows the couple with just three children. There is an eight-year gap between George and Maria so there may have been more.

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The three children reached adulthood. Ann married blacksmith William BLENKIN(G), George had at least ten children with Jane WALLIS/WALLACE, and Maria married William GRAINGER. Some handwritten sources show his name spelt “Granger” with an insertion mark and the “i” above as if he’d noticed the mistake and demanded a correction. He is a man of mystery, to me at least.

Family lore says he was a schoolmaster and the church marriage register supports this.

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Born in 1821, the son of Francis, he is “impannelled” on the Grand Jury at the General Quarter Sessions for the Eastern Division of Yorkshire, held in the Spring of 1844, as “Mr William Grainger, of Beverley, Schoolmaster”. His first child, Anne Elizabeth, was then about six months old.

The births of three more children were registered to a Grainger/Colley duo; Maria (1845), William Henry (1847) and Ellen (1849). I haven’t found any baptism sources that give the father’s occupation.

The census enumerator finds the family incomplete in 1851 at Albert Terrace, Beverley. The two older children are with their parents but William Henry is with his Aunt, Ann Blenking, in Bridlington and Ellen eluded my search. Father William’s occupation is given as “Butler and Proprietor of Houses”. It is a surprising career change, but even more startling is that he has aged terribly. Maria’s given age is 28 and William’s 44. His birthplace is given as Warter. Subsequent censuses agree with the revised birth year of 1807 but give his place of birth as “Holm(e)” or Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, a village about twelve miles from Warter. Searches for a William Grainger of this age and place of origin suggest his father was William and not Francis as stated in the marriage register.

I tried but failed to find a convincing 1841 census record for William Graingers aged around 34 or twenty.

Maria dies in 1852, aged 30, and is buried in Beverley. William the Butler marries Mary SMALLEY, a 40-year-old Lincolnshire woman in 1859. At the census in 1861, Mary is at home with her “daughter” Helen, aged 11. The girl’s name is not a mangling by the enumerator. She will be Helen, rather than Ellen, to the end of her days. On this census night, William is with his employer, Mary HARVEY, 68.

Ten years later the Grainger household in St Mary’s Terrace, Beverley, comprises father William, stepmother Mary, daughter Helen and 54-year-old boarder, Elizabeth TURNER. (Elizabeth will stay with the family until 1881, at least).

Helen is one of several children over ten baptised in April 1866 at the church of St Mary and St Nicholas in Beverley, though her entry has “Xtened only” by it.

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Death came to the Graingers in threes in the early 1880s. William departed in September 1882; Anne Elizabeth, his first child, died just a couple of weeks later (in Derbyshire as Mrs Bradshaw). William’s second wife, Mary, followed in the first quarter of 1883.

Helen lived on at St Mary’s Terrace and married from there in 1890. She was forty, her husband a 56-year-old widower, Robert Smith PARNELL.

William’s age at death is given as 75, consistent with all but the one record saying he was born in or about 1807. As most readily available sources make sense of his life-journey, the real mystery man is the young schoolmaster he may never have been.

End of a Line?

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Sacred to the memory of ELIZABETH, wife of CHRISTOPHER COLTAS of Gristhorpe, who departed this life November 14th 1836, aged 30 years.

The languishing head [is] at rest

Its thinking and aching are o’er

This quiet immovable breast

Is heaved [by affliction] no more

This heart [is no longer the seat

Of trouble and torturing pain]

My digitization of the Crimlisk Survey of St Oswald’s churchyard has “ELIZABETH [blank] EMMA” beneath the verse inscription and my first search on FamilySearch Tree found the wee girl. Filey Genealogy & Connections offered the sad information that Elizabeth Emma had been baptised the day after her mother was buried – and died at 16 months.

For a while, I made little progress with online searches and thought the representation of this small family on FamilySearch would mirror the MI details.

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FG&C indicated that Elizabeth was 24 years old when she married, so it would have been surprising if Elizabeth Emma had been her first child.

I then happened upon a census household containing two COLTAS brothers, Edwin and Herbert A. It took a while, but I found a source that told me Herbert’s middle name was “Atkinson”. It seemed certain that these fellows were older brothers of Elizabeth Emma but it was the discovery of their church marriage register entries that confirmed Christopher, a farmer, as their father.

FG&C had given Christopher’s occupation as a Filey“schoolmaster” so I was disconcerted – until I found his own marriage record.

When his wife died, Christopher’s boys were five and seven years old, and possibly not too difficult to raise on his own. It was surprising that he didn’t marry again quite quickly though. He waited 15 years, marrying Mary, third daughter of the late Francis HILL, Lloyd’s agent, in August 1845. I have yet to find confirmation of this union in civil, church or census records but a notice in the local newspaper adds a detail to the information above – that Christopher was a “farmer and grazier”.

I don’t know how old Mary was at marriage but she presented him, in his late forties, with two sons, Alfred and Frederick, both with the middle name Hill. Alfred died not long after he was born, and Frederick before his first birthday. A year after Frederick’s death, Mary had another son. They called him “Frederick Hill”. And about 18 months later they named their last child “Alfred Hill”.

Christopher’s sons with Elizabeth ATKINSON married but don’t appear to have had offspring. Herbert died in 1876 aged 43 and I think Edwin departed this life in 1881 aged 50. Returning briefly to the second Alfred and Frederick. I haven’t been able to discover yet whether or not they reached adulthood and were able to continue the COLTAS name. I chanced upon a Frederick Hill Coltas who died in Scarborough in1882, in his first year. Two years earlier a Frederick Hill Coltas had married across the Pennines, in Salford.

If this line of the Coltas family did persist it may well have morphed into the more common “Coultas”. For now, the question mark in this post’s title is appropriate and hopeful. If I can find the marriage record for Christopher and Mary I will add the details to FamilySearch Tree, with the Hill boys and any descendants they may have had. Find Christopher and Elizabeth here.