Wednesday, 22 June 2016


My 2x great-grandfather, Matthew Taylor, was supposedly twenty-years-old when he married Isabella Errington on 5 December 1857 at St John's Church, Gateshead Fell. Isabella is my 2x great-grandmother.

Matthew and Isabella went on to have at least eleven children, who were all born in various colliery towns and villages across Durham and Northumberland. 

The couple's first daughter was named Hannah Bell Taylor, who was born on 2 November 1863, and baptised on 24 December at Monkwearmouth, Durham. I thought Hannah Bell a rather curious name, and a one not usually the norm for people in this locality.

On the marriage certificate, Matthew's father is stated to be John Taylor, a blacksmith. No other clue to Matthew's family is given, and a relative of his is not even an official witness to the marriage. On census returns, his place of birth is stated to be either at Monkwearmouth, Gateshead or Low Fell. 

Going back in time to the 1851 census, a Matthew Taylor can be found living in Sunderland, born around 1839 in Hylton, Durham - which could hardly be mistaken for Monkwearmouth, Gateshead or Low Fell! His parents are John, a joiner, and Jane, who ultimately turned out to be his stepmother. The reason I suspect this to be my 2x great-grandfather is because he has a younger sister named "Hannah B."

Ten years previously in 1841, this particular Taylor family are living in Hylton, headed by John the joiner. This specific enumerator was fond of abbreviations, so John's wife is listed as "Isab,", and their children are DorothyJohnGeorge, "Mattw," and HannahJohn's mother Dorothy is also living with the family.

Matthew was baptised at St Mary's, South Hylton, on 9 February 1840. His date of birth is written in the margin as being 1 April 1838. Matthew's parents are written as "John Taylor and M. A. Isabella (late) Dodds." Below his entry, is that of his sister Hannah, or rather "Anna Isabella," as on the record, and her parents are written the same as on Matthew's entry. I have no idea what the "M. A." could stand for. I am perhaps safe to assume that the A refers to Anna, and so her full name, or a variation of it, was M. Anna Isabella, as her daughter's baptismal name suggests.

The baptisms of Matthew and Anna Isabella Taylor at South Hylton.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.

John Taylor and Isabella Dodds were married at Monkwearmouth on 3 September 1830. No extra names were given for Isabella. The only little clue about her family is that a possible relative was a witness to the marriage, an Elizabeth Dodds who made her mark. 

I knew that Isabella died sometime after the 1841 census, but before the 1851 census, as Matthew's father John had remarried to a woman named Jane by that time. I struggled for a long time on solving the mystery of Isabella until fairly recently, when I discovered the South Hylton Local History Society. The Society have transcribed numerous local records, and published them online. Their website can be found at

The Society have the burials of St Mary's, South Hylton transcribed for the years 1821 - 1883, and there are some twenty Taylors recorded. Amongst them is an Annabella Taylor, who was buried on 13 February 1844, aged 36. I later learnt that the actual record states that Annabella died on 11 February, and was the wife of John Taylor, a joiner.

Further research shows that Annabella gave birth to a child named Frances Blake Taylor, sometime in early February 1844. That implies that Annabella died in childbirth. I already knew Blake to be the maiden name of John's mother, Dorothy. Baby Frances was baptised on the same day her poor mother was buried, but sadly she also died, just two months later.

So is she my ancestress? 

Annabella or Isabella Dodds was born in around 1808. Where, I can't be sure, but probably in Durham, around the Sunderland area. Who her parents were is currently unknown to me. I am certain that she is my 3x great-grandmother.

Matthew Taylor's younger sister Hannah Bell married a Welshman by the name of William Williams. In later life she too used the name Annabella. Also, Matthew's eldest brother, John had a daughter who was baptised as Anna Bell, but registered under the name Hannah Bell.

Please comment if you have any ideas. I'd love to know people's thoughts. Perhaps a fellow family historian out there has gotten to the bottom of this one.

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