Portsmouth?, ? 1840-1872
We actually are guessing about the whole of James Henry’s life until 1873 when his second child is born. We have so far not found a record of his birth or his first marriage, or the birth of his first child. We cannot find census records for he and his family before 1891. Therefore what we do know about his birth and parentage is entirely derived from later censuses and from his second marriage certificate.
The other thing that has to be said, is that, because we are relying on these records, we are relying entirely on what he said at the time. However, for the two census records we have so far found, the marriage certificate and his death certificate, it has to be said, that he is consistent about his age and where he was born, so it’s either an elaborate story he has come to live with or the truth.
So let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was born in 1840 in Portsmouth and that his father was another James Henry Ellis who was a sailor.
Never mind my uncle’s belief that he was from London. In fact my uncle thought that he had found his birth in Hoxton, London to a James Henry Ellis, but I have tracked this particular James Henry Ellis in later life and he is definitely not the right man.
Never mind that we cannot find either he or his father in Portsmouth in 1841, when he would have been a mere baby and surely still in Portsmouth. Nor are he or his parents there in 1851 (age 10 or 11). By 1861 he could have been anywhere of course.
If his father was truly a sailor, maybe he was born at sea? Did pregnant women travel with their sailor husbands? Surely not. We have also canvassed the possibility that he was illegitimate, and was therefore born with a different surname, but again, assuming that James and Henry are the names he was born with, there is no likely candidate born in 1840 in Portsmouth. The possibilities have been tracked and found to be other people. And then, of course, there is the gypsy theory.
More to the point though - where on earth was he between 1840 and 1873 when his second child was born in Hastings? He could, of course, have been anywhere - even overseas. His occupation in 1873 was hawker - a street vendor, so presumably pretty poor and possibly a vagrant who slipped through the net of the previous censuses, although the enumerators were supposed to include all the people living on the streets and in the fields in their records. 1841 and 1851 when he was a child are more problematical though. We continue to investigate.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PORTSMOUTH
• It is indeed a brief history, and no pictures but interesting for all that.
• The Portsmouth Museum website
• The Archives and Record Office of Portsmouth have a huge amount of stuff - must go there sometime
• A transcription of the entry for Portsmouth, which describes the town as it was in 1868, together with a small potted history