Earlier this year I was leafing through a recently arrived copy of Family Tree magazine when I reached an article about how to develop your research and break down some of the “brickwalls” which face us all from time to time when an ancestor just doesn’t want to be found. One of the pieces of advice was to ask for help from the genealogy community and not to soldier on alone.
For several years I had been struggling to find out anything about my 3x great grandfather George Blackburn. I knew that he had married my 3x great grandmother, Eliza Card, in May 1856 and had died in August later that same year. All I knew about him was that he had described himself as a painter when he married, he gave his father as William Blackburn, a card maker, and that he was 55 when he died. I had searched in vain to find him on the 1841 or 1851 census because I had no further information.
Spurred on by the article in the magazine I decided to post an appeal for help on the Facebook group “ The Brickwall Club”. Within a few hours I was stunned to receive several useful pieces of information – all of which had been there to be found if I’d used the full search facilities properly on sites including FindMyPast and Ancestry. My heartfelt thanks go to the members of the Brickwall Club Facebook group who located George and filled in a missing piece of my family tree.
At the time of his marriage and death, George Blackburn was living in Drury Lane, London. I thought I’d searched the street thoroughly but I hadn’t noticed a “George B Wilson” , a painter, living with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Ellen. This record made it easy to find several other pieces of information. The following is what I have learned so far:
George Blackburn was born in about 1801 in Halifax. His father, William , was a card maker, presumably making the cards used in the looms in a cloth or woollen mill.
By 1841 George had moved to Liverpool. He is on the census for Clayton Street, living with his wife Elizabeth, daughter Ellen and a 60 year old woman called Mary Blackburn, possibly his mother or an aunt? George, Elizabeth and Mary were stated to have been born outside Lancashire. Ellen was born in the county.
George Blackburn and family in Clayton Street, Liverpool, 1841
This is surely the same family who appear as “Wilson” on the London 1851 census, living in Drury Lane, . This record provides George’s link to Halifax although at the moment I can’t explain where the surname “Wilson” has come from. Logically this could perhaps be Elizabeth’s maiden name?
George Wilson / Blackburn in Drury Lane, London, 1851
A George Blackburn married an Elizabeth Issott in August 1830 in Leeds, again, the occupation is given as “painter” which ties in neatly with my George although so far I haven’t been able to find any birth record for an Elizabeth Issott born in Wakefield in about 1811. This may refer to another George and therefore might not be connected to my tree.
George’s daughter Ellen was baptised in Manchester in 1833 – the record states father George, a painter, mother Elizabeth.
Ellen Blackburn’s baptism
The family certainly appears to have moved around a lot – what had brought them to Liverpool by 1841? Whatever the reasons, by 1843 things weren’t going so well ,and George petitioned for insolvency in 1843. Perhaps it was this that prompted the family to use the surname Wilson in 1851?
George and his family next appear in the 1851 census, in Drury Lane, as mentioned above. In 1854 his wife Elizabeth Wilson Blackburn died of dropsy at the age of just 43.
On 10th May 1856 George married Eliza Card at the parish church of St George Bloomsbury. Interestingly, on the same day in May 1856 at St Giles in the Fields , George’s daughter Ellen married Edwin Green , a silversmith.
George died of pneumonia on August 22nd 1856, just 3 months after his marriage . He was buried at the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery on August 27th 1856. My 2x great grandmother, Esther Annie Blackburn, was born in March 1857.
There are still plenty of questions to be answered but for now I’m happy that, with the help of the Brickwall Club on Facebook, I have discovered a great deal more about my 3x great grandfather, George Blackburn.