My Greenwood Family Tree

Stories for my Children


Greenwoods of Coxwold

Thomas Greenwood of the 86th Foot, the Deserter

A NCO and Officer, the privates are behind them.

I continue my search trying to find where my great (x4) grandfather comes from. Digging into the stories of the Thomas Greenwoods from Yorkshire in the early 19th century, I came across Thomas Greenwood of the 86th Foot in the British Army in 1838. He was 19 at the time, so born around 1819 and his record say he came from Easingwold.

There are some good records of the British Army on the internet, and I found the history of the 86th foot has been fully digitised, click on the picture on the left to go there. The 86th were essentially a Irish Regiment, named the Royal County Down. In 1838 they had just returned from 10 years  in the West Indies, where they suffered at the hands of rioting slaves and tropical diseases. They were barracked in Stockport, Cheshire. During 1837 and 1838 they were much employed during the Chartist  disturbances in Manchester at that time, when large public demonstrations were held against poor wages and working conditions in the cotton mills.

Thomas, at 19, would not of course have been in the West Indies for all that time, may be he had just joined the regiment on their return. Perhaps he was sent out to Barbados for their last regimental posting, soon returning to Stockport and Manchester.

Either way, he didn’t want to stay in the Army and deserted in August. The records don’t show if he was caught and punished, or spent the rest of life on the run. If caught he would have been flogged and spent time in military prison. Apparently around 1/5th of enlisted soldiers deserted during campaigns.

This Thomas is one of those enigma’s I frequently come across. There is no record of him being born in Easingwold, or any close parish. All of the Thomas Greenwoods born then come from the West Riding around Halifax, Todmorden and Huddersfield. If he survived and survived into 1851, he hasn’t declared his birthplace as Easingwold either.  So what happened to him is impossible to say. His legacy into the 21st century is his desertion.


The Greenwood Sisters from Armley

There were only about 20 people named Greenwood living in Armley village in the mid 1700’s. They may well have all been related. One particularity successful Greenwood family had six children. Three sisters, Elizabeth, Margaret and Ellen Greenwood and three brothers Edward, John and Samuel. For reasons I have covered in my previous blog I don’t know the name of their parents but from Elizabeth’s will we do know that they were sisters.

Tallow Chandler
Tallow Chandler

This family were probably Tallow Chandlers. A tallow-chandler made and sold candles of suet or fat and may even have boiled soap from similar ingredients. Its possible that they ran a store that sold their candles, soap and general provisions. Unusually, two of the sisters stayed unmarried all their lives, spinsters until their deaths. Ellen Greenwood did marry, she married William Barker of Coxwold. Accredited in the Coxwold trade directory in 1823, William was also a Tallow Chandler. Strangely, there are no records of this marriage in Yorkshire Parish records, so it is difficult to find out more about Ellen. It could be that she was a young widow before she married William, or perhaps Ellen is a variant of her Christian name given at baptism. Elizabeth later joined her sister in that small Ryedale village, perhaps bringing her nephew Richard with her to work in the trade.

Margaret Greenwood moved to York, where she died in 1811 and was buried in St Saviours Church. Her  will leaves £5 per annum to her niece Catherine Butler and the rest to her sister Elizabeth of Coxwold. Elizabeth later left that inheritance to Catherine, plus what looks like £1,000 per annum! That is the equivalent of £110,000 in todays money. I wonder where that money came from?

Their brother, Edward Greenwood, married about 1775. He probably married close by in Calverley or Guiseley and lived locally in Armley. Its not proved possible to put a name to his wife. They had at least four children in Armley, Edward junior, Richard, Robert and Sarah.  It is possible they had a further two,  George and Catherine who are both mentioned as nephew and niece in Elizabeth’s will and so its likely they are Edwards children. Around 1786 Edward’s family moved to Horsforth a couple of miles further out from Leeds, where they had a further three children; Thomas, John and Ellen (named after her aunt). There was a census taken in Horsforth in 1795 and we can see Edward with just a family of six there, perhaps his sons had moved out of the family home onto careers of their own. Again, Elizabeth’s will is a good guide to who is where when she dies. She names Richard Greenwood of Pickering as her executor and we can see from the 1851 census that he was born in Armley. Edward and Ellen her nephew and niece from Horsforth are also mentioned along with George’s son William.  In Horsforth there is also another Greenwood family mentioned in the census. This is Samuel and his family of four, who may have been from Low Wortley, near Armley, to where he moved back around the turn of the century. He is probably Elizabeth’s brother although the only link is based on coming from Armley.

Richard Greenwoods  Grocers & Tallow Chandlers Shop on Potters Hills Pickering.
Richard Greenwood’s Grocers & Tallow Chandlers Shop from 1820’s on Potters Hills Pickering.

Richard Greenwood took on the family occupation as a grocer and tallow chandler. At some time he must have followed his aunt Ellen to Coxwold, where he married  Hannah Rowell in 1806. He was a grocer when he married Hannah and they soon move to Pickering, some 17 miles away and where he establishes a Tallow Chandlers business. He is mentioned in the Pickering Trade directories in 1823 and 1829 trading from Potters Hill, where he stayed for the rest of his life. Richard is the executor of Elizabeth’s will and was clearly an important relative to Elizabeth.

Richard becomes a Police Constable, probably Pickering’s first and only policeman and his house could have becomes the Police station.

I don’t think they had family together and Hannah sadly dies in 1839. In early 1841 Richard marries Mary Brown, a young widow, who moves in with her two children. He retires from the police before 1851 and starts a property business as a house and land proprietor until he dies age 77 in 1858.

Looking back at the will again, Elizabeth mentions another niece, Sarah Wood, the wife of Isaac Wood of Harewood, Leeds. They married in Coxwold in 1806 where they were both living at the time, perhaps also running the grocery business. Isaac was a joiner and they had a son John Wood born 1812 in Coxwold.

Finally, Ellen Greenwood, Edward’s last daughter, born in Horsforth, married James Walton in Guiseley and they go onto have a family of four, descendants of whom are still around in Leeds today.

Elizabeth apparently wrote her will weel before she died, covering many of her family,. She died in 1835 probably in Pickering, age 82 and is buried in the parish church of St Peter & St Paul.

Family of Elizabeth Greenwood of Coxwold
Family of Elizabeth Greenwood of Coxwold

Elizabeth Greenwood of Coxwolds Will

Elizabeth Greenwood header

This blog is a technical discussion and general moan about some of the travails of putting together a family history. It isn’t even my Greenwood family. So if you find it boring do skip to the next blog which is the story of this Elizabeth Greenwood of Coxwold.

There comes a stage when researching a family tree that one hits a wall. Its like the “Wall” when marathon running, you just run out of oxygen. You are stuck, there is a complete gap in information to use in finding out about your long lost family. It usually happens when you run out of census information, probably 1851, but you can get some reverse momentum to 1841 and then 1837 when civic records started.

Beyond that you are relying on the details held in Parish Registers, which is often sketchy at best.  For example, in my own family tree we have a few William Greenwoods, pinning down the right one in the registers means potentially looking through the 861 William Greenwoods born in Yorkshire between 1830 and 1837, most of them in the area around Heptonstall.

A few years ago when tracing my direct ancestral line of Greenwoods, I could not find any ancestors beyond my great (x3) grandfather Thomas Greenwood of Welburn in North Yorkshire. So I set about looking around the neighbouring villages; trawling through the Parish Registers; searching wills; contacting local historians and wandering through Churchyards. Nothing worked.

However, I did find other Greenwood families in the area, particularly around Coxwold, Husthwaite and Stillington. The Coxwold family looked promising as they were mobile across the villages in the area. Then I  found a will from an Elizabeth Greenwood of Coxwold, dated as proved 11th March 1836. In it she lists a large number of her family and where they came from. This could have been a breakthrough linking the few Greenwoods in Ryedale, North Yorkshire to the much larger number of Greenwoods in West Yorkshire.

Elizabeth Will Details

Elizabeth Greenwood of Coxwold was a spinster who had an extended family in Coxwold and villages around Leeds. From the registry entry shown above, it is not clear why this will was lodged in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Placing the will in Canterbury Court rather than York would only apply if property was outside the Archbishop of  Yorks area. I not sure what property Elizabeth would have that this would apply to, more research is needed. I did go down a wasted journey to find out about Stowell Quires, referred to above. Apparently the section of  register of Wills is named after the clerk who complied it, so it is clerk Quires writing we can see.

Elizabeths executor was her nephew,  Richard Greenwood a Tallow Chandler living in Pickering. Then she mentions her sisters,  Margaret and Ellen.  Margaret  was already dead, but Ellen had married into the Barker family in Coxwold.

Then there were other nephews and nieces, Catherine Butler, the wife of John Butler, Sarah Wood, wife of Isaac Wood of Harewood, Edward and Ellen Greenwood of Horsforth, and William Greenwood son of late nephew George. Here was plenty to go on, particularity showing she had at least one brother, probably coming from Horsforth, which was then a village outside Leeds. But it was all to no avail, after some frustrating research, I could not establish any connection to my family living just 10 miles further east.

Rather than waste the research into Elizabeth Greenwood of Coxwold, I have compiled the part of her story I have.  This is in the next blog;

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