Saturday, November 14, 2020

Ellen Whybrew

I was looking again recently at the records I have for the children of David and Susan Whybrew (nee Mason). Of the fourteen offspring born to Susan, I've found the date of death for all but two - Rose, who disappears without trace in America after 1918, and Ellen (known in childhood as Nellie). 

I've written about Rose several times. Here's what I know about Ellen, the Whybrew's eleventh child. Her father David, a soldier, was close to retirement when she was born in 1890 and the family lived in Colchester during her childhood. Of the three children born after Ellen, only Ada (b 1895) survived infancy.

High St, Colchester (2019)

At the age of twenty Ellen married George Frederick Howard, who was five years her senior. He was the son of Alfred and Sarah Howard of Stotfold in Bedfordshire. Sarah died when George was only nine years old, and he and his siblings were brought up by their father, a farm labourer. By the age of fifteen George was also employed as a farm labourer. 

However, sometime before the marriage in August 1910, most likely when he turned eighteen,  George enlisted in the army. On the marriage register in Colchester his occupation was recorded as "Drummer, Bedford Rgt." Strangely, his father Alfred was described as a "baker" on the marriage register. Perhaps this has been incorrectly transcribed. (I don't have the marriage certificate, only the information included on the transcription on

On the night the census was taken in 1911, George was resident in the barracks in Aldershot, as a private in the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire regiment. He was described as a drummer and musician. Ellen was alone in a six roomed house in Newport Road, Aldershot.

But she and George must have spent at least some time together over the next few years. Their first child, Alexander George Ernest, was born in 1911, followed by William Edward in March 1913 and Leslie Owen in December 1914. Sadly for Ellen, Leslie died before his first birthday, and it seems likely that William also died in infancy. His name doesn't appear with Ellen's in later records. 

Could William have been adopted by Ellen's brother William and his wife Adelaide? It's a tantalising thought, given that no record seems to exist for the birth of William and Adelaide's only child, William Ronald. (See Did William Whybrew have a son after all? ) But William Ronald is said to have been born on 20 August 1912, according to the 1939 register, which makes him at least seven months older than Ellen's child, so it seems unlikely that they are the same. It's more likely that Ellen's son is the William Edward Howard who died in Colchester at the age of two early in 1916.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, George went from being a drummer with the Bedfordshire regiment to a private with the Royal Sussex Regiment of the 11th battalion. He was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force. On 4 August 1917, he was killed in action and was buried among the many fallen soldiers in the Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Ellen probably never got to visit his grave. Just a few weeks later her father David also died, at home in Colchester.

Etaples Military Cemetery

She received a widows pension, but it must have been difficult for Ellen raising her only child alone. By the time she received George's few possessions from the army in 1919, she had moved to Islington. She married Alfred Lloyd at St Paul's, Canonbury in Islington in September that year. Her sister Ada and Ada's husband, Joseph Metson, were the witnesses.

The last trace I can find of Ellen is in the 1939 England and Wales register, taken just as the second World War began. She and Alfred were living in Merton in South London, along with Alexander, who was still single. Alfred was working as a government messenger, while Ellen described herself as a retired tailoress. So far I haven't been able to determine which of the many death registrations for women named Ellen Lloyd, born around 1890, is the right one for Ellen. 


Births, deaths and marriages:, GRO index search

Ellen's marriage to George Howard: 

George Howard's military service: Bedfordshire Roll of Honour, Stotfold  

Images: Etaples Military Cemetery: Wikimedia 

Colchester High St: David Martin  on


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