John Ellis Jnr came from a family established in the Society of Friends (Quakers) from its beginning; the earliest record I have found is the marriage of his great-grandparents in 1676. They would have been born around the time that George Fox was setting up the Quaker movement in the 1650s.
John was born in Sheffield, the first of four children. About five years later the family moved to Mansfield where the youngest, George, was born. They would stay in Mansfield, where they worked as flax dressers, but John made his own way in the world as a schoolmaster. He landed a position in Gildersome, near Leeds in Yorkshire, about 100 km away. This was a considerable journey but I imagine schoolmasters would travel to wherever an opening presented itself.
A Yorkshire schoolmaster
John married a Gildersome girl, also from a family of Friends dating back to the 17th Century. The Quaker marriage ceremony was beautiful in its simplicity and I recommend you read the transcript here. There are 46 witnesses to the marriage, as well as the family and other guests. Quakers had to be careful that their marriages were able to be proved beyond doubt, but I do think 46 is a little excessive!
In 1789 John and Anna Perry made a journey through England with their son John, formerly a pupil at the Gildersome school. They visited the Ellises and mentioned this in their account. The whole journey is fascinating but the main interest for us is in footnote 27. You can download the pdf here.
John and Mary had nine children of whom three died before reaching the age of five. In modern times, child mortality is often an indication of poverty and deprivation. This family were well-to-do, being Quakers they wouldn’t drink or smoke and they lived far enough away from the new and dirty industries springing up in Bradford and Leeds. You would imagine their children would have had the best possible start in life.
Fortunately for us, our ancestor George lived to have eleven healthy children of his own.
A life well lived
In 1822 John Ellis made his will: you can find the transcript here. I am struck by the pains he has taken to treat all of his children, and their children, equally and the detailed instructions to his Trustees about the investment and sale of his estate.
Everything was left in Trust to his widow for her lifetime or re-marriage, plus they were instructed to invest enough to get her an income of £50 a year – over £43,000 in 2019. This would be on top of the rents from the four tenants he names, and any produce of his “gardens and fields”.
In fact Mary died in 1827, a year before John, so the Trustees would simply have sold the estate and divided the proceeds amongst the children as instructed. Mary and John were buried at the Quaker Burial Ground at Gildersome, which is still in use at the time of writing (2021).
Father of George Ellis and son of John and Mary Ellis
Born 25th of the 6th month (August) 1745 in Sheffield, Yorkshire and recorded there at the Quakers’ monthly meeting
Married Mary Horsfall on the 27th day of the 9th month called September 1774
Died on the 6th and buried on the 10th of the 7th month (July) 1828