Why the Wellocks?

Wellock signature
Signature of Mary Wellock, my great grandmother, new year 1907. Own collection

Some of you may have noticed a bit of an influx of Wellock related articles which is set to continue over the next few months. Given it’s my maternal great grandmother’s maiden name it accounts for just 12.5% of our family tree and yet it is the surname which seems to resonate the most for me. You may be wondering why.

I love being a double Houseman. It’s not a common surname (according to freebmd as at 3 August 2022 there were 2,641 births registered between 1837 & 1992) which makes it memorable. Combining Houseman with Natasha makes my name practically unique (googling has identified just one other Natasha Houseman living in Canada, if you ever find another I’d love to hear of it). It’s also incredibly concentrated. Around 20% of those births were registered in Claro and three predecessor districts of Knaresborough, Ripon and Pateley Bridge. There are parts of Yorkshire where everyone knows a member of the Houseman family and they are mostly related to me. The only Housemans in Yorkshire I have found who are not related by blood descend from Richard Houseman (1824 – 1893). Richard, who was born in London, had a son, William Shaw Houseman. William’s first wife, Hannah Smith, was herself a granddaughter of a Houseman. Even those who are not related by blood are connected by marriage.

Yet still it’s the Wellock surname which I plan to pursue as a one name study.

The family of Mary & Richard Wellock. Back row L to R: Thomas, Margaret, Walker, Elizabeth. Middle row L to R: David, Major, Front row L to R: Benjamin, Richard (father), Mary, Mary (mother), Richard

Mary or Pollie Wellock, Grandpy’s mother, married George Thomas Barrett on 4 October 1917. Pollie & George named their first son, Grandpy’s brother, Henry Wellock Barrett. (Incidentally I just worked out that Henry was most definitely a honeymoon baby arriving eight months and three weeks to the day). Unlike Grandpy, Uncle Henry never went by his middle name, but we all somehow knew it.

We also heard stories of our Canada cousins. Two of Mary’s brothers, David and Major Preston, emigrated to the prairie plains of Saskatchewan on 15 March 1907. She noted their departure in the front of her date book – it was a big moment in her life. As were the return visits which I can track through various photos I have inherited.

Then there’s the long-lived lives of the Wellock family. Mary’s parents, Richard and Mary, lived long enough to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in 1916 and died aged 86 and 76 years respectively. Whilst two siblings, Richard & Hornby, died in childhood, the average age lived by the remaining siblings was an astonishing 73 years and five months.

I’ve inherited so many wonderful documents, photos and stories which in turn has enabled me to get to “know” these ancestors I have never met.

A one name study though is not just about the stories, the numbers matter. Wellock is both incredibly uncommon and very geographically concentrated.

The general consensus is that the Wellock surname dates back to a family who were established in Linton-on-Craven over 600 years ago. There followed such a level of continuity of Wellocks in the area that I have been able to trace their stories almost to the present day (see the Wellocks of High Garnshaw).

The following table sets out the number of births registered in England and Wales for each of our great grandparents surnames between 1837 & 1992 taken using the count function on www.freebmd.org on 3 August 2022. The figure in (brackets) gives the count for North, West & South Yorkshire and their predecessor counties West & North Ridings, the figure in [brackets] also includes the counties of Westmoreland and Lancashire.

Scott – 226,130 (29,595 – 13%)

Booth – 124,990 (32,510 – 26%)

Barrett – 91,085 (10,613 – 12%)

Moody – 32,877 (4,597 – 14%)

Clapham – 9,891 (4,095 – 41%) [5,097 – 52%]

Houseman – 2,651 (1,152 – 44%) [1,587 – 60%]

Wellock – 1,239 (785 – 63%) [1,072 – 87%]

There were almost as many Smiths births registered in the first quarter of registration, Q3 1837, as there were Wellocks in 150 years. Honestly, if my family’s surnames were Smith & Jones, I am not sure family history would have been my thing! I am also slowly discovering the joy in the (lack of) variety of Irish & Scottish surnames……

The final reason for choosing Wellock over Houseman relates to the incredible amount of work that has already been done in piecing together the Houseman family tree. Gary Houseman’s website www.houseman.info has been really valuable in helping with my research but it does leave rather less to be discovered.

And so the Wellock story begins.

Stories about Wellocks where I know the relationship connection can be found either through my Grandpy’s page or through the tag Wellock. Shorter stories from as yet unrelated Wellocks (mostly descended from a man named Henry who lived in the 1600s) can all be found on “the other branch.”