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John Wanless & Eleanor Trotter of Evenwood: finding his parents

For a long time, we didn’t have a candidate for a father or mother for John Wanless or Wandless (1777-1819) who married Eleanor Trotter circa 1805 and lived around Evenwood, Low Etherley, and Raby Park in Staindrop parish, County Durham, England. John was born about 1777 in Cockfield, according to the baptism of his son John in 1811, which stated:

  • 4 Sep 1811 John Wandless, born 28th August, 3rd son of John Wandless of Low Etherley, a hind & native of Cockfield, by his wife Eleanor Trotter, native of Evenwood

Gotta love those 1798-1812 baptisms in County Durham ! Anyway, there was no matching  baptism for John Wanless circa 1777 at Cockfield in the old IGI. However, going through Cockfield baptisms, I found this one:

  • 24 Aug 1777 John, bastard son of George Taylor & Isabella Wandless of Hamsterley Parish

(The old IGI, which didn’t handle illegitimate children well, indexed this only under Taylor, so a search for John Wanless or Wandless wouldn’t turn up this record. The new FamilySearch.org handles this much better, indexing it under both names.)

This is the only baptism of a John Wanless/Wandless at Cockfield in the right time frame. Isabella Wandless, if she’s the same one who lived in or around Hamsterley for the next 20 or 30 years, had several illegitimate children – this is the only one (so far) where the father is named. (As an aside, John’s widow Eleanor Trotter also baptized 2 children several years after John’s death; while one of them could have been his child, born after his death, it does not seem, given the ages in the census, that they could both have been his children, so it suggests that Eleanor too may have been an unmarried mother for awhile.)

I have moved Isabella’s family from the “small groups” tree 100 over to tree 37 and attached her to John as his mother – I realize it’s not proof, but it’s strong circumstantial evidence. This would mean that DNA tests for male-to-male descendants of John Wan(d)less & Eleanor Trotter would likely match George Taylor’s descendants, if he had any others. You can see the newly amended record for John Wanless & Eleanor Trotter here, with the new link to his parents George Taylor & Isabella Wandless.

One (of many) puzzling things about this family is that Isabella’s son Thomas, who was baptized at Hamsterley when he was 6 years old, claims in the 1851 census that he was born at Fulwell, Sunderland. If that’s true, presumably Isabella lived in Fulwell around 1789. John Wandlass & Jane Brown lived in Fulwell, having their first child there in 1789 which probably makes them the same generation as Isabella, but we don’t know of a connection between them and Isabella.

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