Family History Unravelled

Where to begin?

Have you ever watched “Who Do You Think You Are” on BBC One?
I watched the first series a couple of years ago now and I LOVED it. I found it really fascinating to hear about people’s ancestors, and loved the journey they went on.

So I started to trace my family tree. It is bloody addictive and many nights I would still be trawling through the census till after midnight. My Dad’s side was quite straight forward, but my mum’s side is way more complicated, but it was my mum’s side that I was particularly fascinated by. She hasn’t really any memorabilia from her family, the odd photograph of her as girl but that’s about it. She had been told that her Grandfather ( who she never met) was an artist, and that it was rumoured that his Father was an artist and had exhibited at the Royal Academy.

 I sent for my Nanna’s birth certificate and tried to trace back.

I am so excited to say that I found my Great, Great grandfather.
 He was called Edwin Ellis (1842-1895). On the census it says that he was an Artist/Painter in oil. My husband “Googled” him, and we found some more information about him.

by courtesy of Nottingham City art Gallery

He was a marine and landscape painter. He was born in Nottingham to Thomas (a lace manufacturer) and Anne, and worked for a brief period in a lace factory.
He studied art under Henry Dawson.

I contacted the Royal Academy library and a lovely lady there has given me loads of information about his paintings, which galleries house collections of his work, and the societies he was a member of. He is listed in the dictionary of Victorian painters, British marine painters and also the dictionary of Sea painters.
He was an elected member of the Society of British Artists in 1875.

The BBC have a new site called ‘Your Paintings’ and some of his work is listed there.

I have found out that Manchester city art gallery have one of his paintings, so I am going to take my mum so she can have a look at it. I also found out today that the V and A have one of his watercolours in the prints and drawings study room.

I am giddy beyond belief. I am humbled, and I am very probably rambling.

How cool is that?

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18 thoughts on “Family History Unravelled

  1. That's ultra cool is what it is. How wonderful to not only find out your ancestor was an artist but his work is valued enough in a gallery for you to go and see it up close!

  2. Steve – It's beyond ultra cool even! Going to see his work is a pretty good excuse to do some travelling in this country, and to think that it will be art galleries I will be visiting is a bonus. I should be mega inspired.

  3. I love that programme and will do this myself when I can devote the time to it as I know I will get obsessed by the whole process. Your story is fascinating and so exciting. We have paintings on our walls by some dim and distant relative … am gonna Google him and see what happens … eeek!

  4. Wow, how fantastic – you've obviously inherited the artistic genes. I've done quite a bit of family history myself – back to the 15th century on my mother's side – not nearly so far on my father's. Lots of interesting stories, but nothing as exciting as that! That artistic link is such a great thing to have.

  5. potterjotter – It can definitely become all consuming if you are not careful, really frustrating, but ultimately rewarding if you find out some great info.Jude – Wow 15th Century, that's amazing. I have stopped for now, but will definitely go back to it in a few months.I love the artistic link too.

  6. Natalie – That made me smile, I'm sure we are all related to petty criminals somewhere along the line :)It has taken me by surpise that I have got so involved in this topic, I am turning into a bit of a geek!

  7. wow – this is totally, totally cool! I too would love to do this and can imagine it is very addictive indeed!What a find and how talented too.Thanks for your lovely cooment over at mine.Amelia.xx

  8. Amelia – Thanks for the comment. I am over the moon.Tom – My dad used to work for Lion Brewery in Blackburn, as a child I collected beer Mats and bottle labels!

  9. hi, have you seen the new exhibition at the V&A called shadow catchers, its camra less photography. Thought it would be just your thing, check it online atwww.vam.ac.uk then go to collections. hope alls well z.

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