ELLIS FAMILY HISTORY
(This History Was Written In 1995)
Since I began my ancestor searching with my paternal Grandfather’s family, it was only natural for my next search to be of my paternal Grandmother’s (Mary Jane Ellis) family.
From family history not much was available regarding my paternal Great Grandparents, William Alfred and Margaret Ellis.
I learned from my father that they were from Golconda, Illinois. My father also gave me an interesting piece of Ellis Family Memorabilia which has provided me with more questions than answers about the family. In my possession I have a Credit Ledger used by my Great Grandfather in his General Store business.
The Credit Ledger is what I consider to be a history book of its time. It spans a period of 5 years from September 1880 to 1885. The ledger not only tells us what type of business he had, but also gives us an idea of the types of items he sold.
Meat – 4lbs…………….$-.60
I find it interesting that 2 shirts cost not much more than 4 lbs. of meat at that time (just imagine what labor costs were back then).
The ledger was also used by William Alford to record contracts and to keep track of hours worked by employees.
The business entries alone were enough reason to preserve and protect this ledger for future generations. However, I believe the reason why this book has survived over the years is because the last couple of pages were used to record dates of marriages, birth and death of family members. For example, the ledger lists both marriages of William Alford Ellis and the name and dates of birth of all of his 13 children.
William Alford and his first wife, Margaret, had five children. One of his five children was my Grandmother, - Mary Jane. William Alford and his second wife, Lizzia V. Madden – Holden had eight children. A sad statistic regarding his children is that they had a poor survival rate. Of the five children born during the first marriage, two died at a young age. From the second marriage only one child out of seven appeared to have survived to adulthood.
From my Great Grandfather’s Credit Ledger we learned a lot; we know that he was a successful businessman and kept meticulous records of his business and his family.
I did not locate an Ellis family in the U.S. Census for Golconda, Illinois (Pope County) until 1850. There I found a Goodman Ellis and his family:
ELLIS, Goodman age 35 born NC
Mary 35 NC
William 5 IL
John 3 IL
Moses 1 IL
My first thoughts were that “Ellis” is a fairly common name. But, could this be my Great Grandfather? Could William, age 5, be Gran Gran’s father? I certainly needed more evidence to be sure. I checked further and found Goodman Ellis in the 1860 Census with (3) three additions to the family.
“Gran Gran” is the name the Grand Children called their Grandmother, Mary Ellis.
ELLIS, George age 7 born IL
Henry 5 IL
Martha 1 IL
With Goodman Ellis and family being the only Ellis family listed in the 1850 Census for Golconda, Illinois I just had to believe that he was my Great Great Grandfather. However, I knew I needed more than just census records to be certain. Therefore, I searched for more evidence. I found that evidence in the form of a death record I received from the Pope County Court House. The “Oath of Decease”, as it is called, provided me with the date of death for Goodman Ellis, and it also listed names and dates of birth of each dependent child. William Alford Ellis is listed as the oldest child, born August 21, 1844, the same date of birth listed for William Alford Ellis in the “Credit Ledger” given to me by my father. Indeed, I had found my Great Grandfather, William Alford Ellis, and as a bonus, I had also discovered my Great Great Grandparents, Goodman and Mary E. Ellis.
One other interesting bit of information provided to me by the Pope County Clerk’s Office was that both Goodman and William Ellis were listed in the Pope County Militia Roll of 1861.
MARY E. ELLIS:
The "Will" of Goodman Ellis indicates he left all of his property equally to his wife and children. By the time the "Will" was seen in court, April 1870, Mary E. Ellis had remarried to become Mary E. Lacy.
In the 1870 Census I found E. Lacy with all of her children. The children were incorrectly given the last name of Lacy by the census taker. As a surprise, no husband was listed with Mary E. Lacy. She was listed as the head of the household. This could be another error by the census taker, or possibly the husband had died or left the home for other reasons.
Also, listed in the home with Mary E. Lacy was a Mary Howard, age 60, and an Elizabeth J. White, age 22. Could this Mary Howard be the mother of my Great Great Grandmother, or rather is she my Great Great Great Grandmother. Both Mary E. Lacy and Mary Howard are shown to have been born in N. Carolina. I will probably never find out for sure, but it is still exciting to believe Mary E. and Mary Howard could have been mother and daughter.
OTHER CHILDREN OF GOODMAN ELLIS:
The last child of Goodman and Mary E. Ellis is listed on Goodman’s death record as “Martha Ann Mary Jane Ellis”, - age 3. I immediately assumed that with such a long name this had to be two different people, - possibly twins. However, a marriage record I received from the Pope County Court House indicates this to be only one person.
Following is a list of all the marriage records I acquired from the Pope County Court House.
Wm. A. Ellis – Margaret E. Gun/Gan
12 Jan. 1864
Wm. A. Ellis – Lizzia V. Madden – Holden
1 Sept. 1873
George A. Ellis – Martha Gilbert
18 April 1872
Martha Ann Mary Jane Ellis – John Pettyford
25 Dec. 1877
John T. Ellis – Ellen Hess
24 Nov. 1870
No marriage record was found for Moses Ellis, even though I was later able to locate court records from Pope County, IL which indicates Moses had indeed married. Possibly the marriage itself had taken place in another county or just wasn’t listed.
This court record I acquired on Moses, indicates his death on December 11, 1872. Apparently, Moses died without a "Will" and the courts were deciding on the disposition of his assets and the payment of his debts. Initially William Alford Ellis, his brother, had been appointed to administer the estate, but after about a year, and William’s failure to act on his court appointment, the courts appointed someone else. His wife, Mary Ann, had remarried by this time to become Mary Ann Thaxton. The court record indicated the couple had only one child, Henry Nathaniel Ellis, who died shortly after his birth.
One interesting aspect about William Alford’s failure to act on his court appointment is that the court requested the Sheriff to serve a summons on him to report to the court and explain why he had failed to do his job. The sheriff returned the summons indicating “William A. Ellis not found in my county – This 9th day of January 1874”. The question to answer is just where was he? After all, just four (4) months before, he married Lizzia V. Madden-Holden in the same county, - Pope County, IL. Had he left the county following his marriage to “Lizzia”?
WILLIAM ALFORD ELLIS:
It is a fact that all of the children of Goodman and Mary E. Ellis were married in Pope County, IL, including my Great Grandfather, William Alford Ellis. However, I found it quite odd that I was unable to find any of the children listed in the Illinois U.S. Census from 1880 on. There were many families listed with the “Ellis” name, but none were the children or Grandchildren of Goodman Ellis that I could successfully identify.
At this point all I knew was that William Alford Ellis did marry twice in Pope County, IL, and he owned and operated a General Store. But just where was the General Store located? This is something I felt I needed to know in order to complete the Ellis Family History.
I continued my search for William Alford Ellis and his General Store. In the Credit Ledger there are over 30 names of individuals to whom William Alford gave credit to in his store. Two of the names from the list were those of doctors. I made a list of the names and sent them to several genealogists in the Pope County area, hoping they would recognize some of the names. I received only two replies which gave suggestions on places to check, but no one recognized the names I listed.
I could not find any of the names listed in any other counties of Illinois, based on the Illinois State Census indexes. At my request, the Pope County Clerk reviewed property tax records from this period and was unsuccessful in locating any of the names. Also, the Clerk could not find a record of William Alford Ellis paying taxes on his business in Pope County, IL. One genealogist suggested that the General Store might have been located just across the river in Kentucky. He further commented that the names in the ledger could have been of transients going up and down the river, never staying long enough to be counted in the U.S. Census or to pay property tax. However, the ledger spanned a period of over 5 years, and some names were listed many times during that period.
I did follow up on one genealogist’s suggestion that I review records in Kentucky. Without knowing the name of the county, such a search would be difficult. I did, however, review U.S. Census records of Kentucky and could not find any of the names listed in the State indexes.
I finally had to conclude that I would not find the people listed in my Great Grandfather’s Credit Ledger, nor would I find the location of his General Store. I had searched every record available to me without success.
THE ELLIS CEMETERY:
Without success in locating any record of William Alford Ellis living with his family in Pope County, Illinois, I then attempted to locate the family burial place. I contacted the Historical Society of Pope County. I was told that as of 1995 only about one third of all the cemeteries, which includes abandoned cemeteries, had been searched and indexed. A total of three (3) volumes were available. They searched all three (3) volumes and were not able to locate William Alford Ellis and his family. However, I was informed of one cemetery called the Ellis Cemetery. Supposedly, only members of the Ellis family are buried there. It was described as a huge cemetery with no marked stones, just row after row of sandrocks. Could the family be buried in this cemetery of unmarked graves? Perhaps, but we’ll probably never know for sure.