The Search for My Ashton Family Ancestors
When my wife and I first started doing serious research on our family trees, Ancestry was in it’s infancy. One of the best places to do research was through the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS). The nearest LDS Research Center was in Cherry Hill, so off we went.
At the time, records were not online. First you looked up what you wanted on microfiche. Then,while they had some records at the Center, others you had to order from Salt Lake City!
Anyway, I started with both my parents surnames- Karn and Ashton. I had little luck with Karn, but when I searched the Ashton surname one stood out-John Sherrington Ashton! That’s my grandfather’s name.
Finding the Original John Sherrington Ashton
The John Sherrington Ashton listed on the microfiche turned out the be my 3rd great-grandfather. The record was the baptismal record from Holbeach in Lincolnshire England. The baptismal record listed his parents as Thomas Ashton and Mary. Here’s a copy of the record.
Help from an Ashton cousin leads to John’s Grandfather James
A little while later, I made contact with a Paul Ashton, who was descended from Thomas‘s brother Edward. He provided information that Thomas and Edward were two of the sons of James Ashton and Ann Done. Thomas was born in Buslingthorpe in Lincolnshire in 1791.
According to information sent to me by Paul Ashton, James Ashton was renting 161 acres on the Revesby Eatate in 1791 and is recorded in accounts for the Revesby Estates until and including 1807. There are also references to him having been paid for keeping a number of children. The children were probably being maintained by the parish under poor laws. Paul’s theory is that James may have been the church warden, and sometimes the job of parish warden included a farm.
After finding John Sherrington’s birth record, I still didn’t know when his parents got married or even his mother’s last name. Considering the name Sherrington seemed like a surname my theory was that Mary’s maiden name was Sherrington. When I presented this theory to Paul, he looked at the Ashton family tree hanging in his house and confirmed that Mary‘s last name was in fact Sherrington!
Years later when the LDS records went on-line at Familysearch.org I found the record. They were married on August 2,1810 in Kirkby upon Bain.
John Sherrington Marries Martha Short and Starts a Family
An additional search through the Holbeach church records revealed a birth record for John‘s sister Maria . As well as, a marriage record for John Sherrington. On May 27,1836 John Sherrington Ashton married Martha Wilson Short daughter of James Short and Delley Willson.
In the following years John and Martha had five children :
John Sherrington Jr. 1837
William Short 1842
Arabella Short 1844
James Edwin 1851
John and Martha arrive in America
John Sherrington, Martha, daughter Mary and baby James arrived in New York on June 11,1852 on the ship Mary.
William Short, Arabella, and John Jr. arrived in Philadelphia more than a year later on August 12th of 1853 on the City of Glasgow.
Reading about the City of Glasgow here I discovered the ship was lost at sea on a voyage between Liverpool and Philadelphia in January of 1854.
The first US census that the Ashton family appears is in Beverly, New Jersey in 1860. In this census John Sherrington Ashton, Sr is listed as a farmer. Living with John are: wife Martha, son William S, daughter Arabella and son James. William is listed as a farm laborer and Arabella as a domestic. Martha keeps house and takes care of eight year-old James and everyone else I’m sure.
John S Jr and his wife Mary are living with a Mary Carr. John is listed as Shin Ashton and is a railroad worker while Mary is a seamstress.
Death strikes the Ashton Family
The only child missing is Mary Ellen. I soon discovered Mary Ellen had died in December of 1859 at the age of 20 years old.
Mary Ellen’s death was the first tragedy for John and Martha‘s family, but not the last. In February of 1863 their daughter Arabella died at the age of 19. and then John Jr. (my 2nd great-grandfather) was killed in 1864 at the age of 27.
By the time of the 1870 census, John and Martha had seen the death of three of their five children.
After searching the 1870 census in Beverly, I finally found Martha living alone in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. So the question became where were John Sr, and sons William S. and James Edwin?
The Search for William Short Ashton
I was able to find a William Ashton living in Philadelphia who was the right age, but I had nothing to confirm that he was John and Martha’s son. There was however circumstantial evidence. Along with his wife Bridget, he had three children: Mary E, Arabella and William. Mary and Arabella are the names of William Short Ashton‘s two sisters who passed away, so I felt pretty certain that this was my William Ashton.
Many times when you’re researching a family, you follow each person through the various censuses to track them. In the 1880 census, I found that William Ashton was still living in Philadelphia. He is working as a stevedore. He is listed as a widower and his daughters Mary and Arabella are still living with him. Additionally, the census indicates that Arabella was born in New Jersey. That’s another potential tie to my Ashton family.
Notice that I said William‘s daughters were living with him. His ten-year old son William Jr. Was not listed. Where as he??
Martha’s Grandson Provides a Link to son William
Previously, I had located Martha Short Ashton in the 1880 Burlington,New Jersey census. I went back and looked at that census record. Looking at that census again I saw that living with Martha was her 10 year-old grandson William H Ashton. The record states that he was born in Pennsylvania and his father was born in England and his mother in Ireland. William‘s mother would have been Bridget Kent who was born in Ireland if he was the son of the Pennsylvania William Short Ashton!
A subsequent paper trail confirmed that the Philadelphia William Ashton was William Short Ashton. William died in 1919 in Philadelphia.
Finally the Youngest Child James Edwin Ashton
So now I have accounted for four of the five children of John Sherringron Ashton Sr. The only one left is James Edwin. In the 1870 census there is a James Ashton listed as a farm laborer on the farm of Samuel Allen in Cinnaminson NJ. That appears to be the correct James since his mother Martha was also living in Cinnaminson. The record says he is 22 which is older than James E would have been in 1870 and it also lists his birthplace as NJ. Since he is not living with his family, who knows whether the information listed is correct
Fast forwarding many years, I found James E again in the 1895 census living in Burlington and then again in Burlington in the 1900 census. In the 1900 census he is a farm laborer living on River Road in Burlington with his wife Mary and stepson Winfield Templeton.
James died in December of 1938, at the time of his death he was living on Old York Road in Springfield Township, NJ. The 1930 census is the last census he appears in. In that census he was a widower boarding and working on the Livesay Farm on Jacksonville Road in Springfield Township. Livesay was the maiden name of James wife Mary. I’m not sure of the relationship of this family to Mary.
The Fates of John and Martha’s Children
So now all of the children of John Sherrington Ashton and Martha Short Ashton have been accounted for-
1. Mary died in 1859
2. Arabella died in 1863
3. John Sherrington married Mary Parezo in 1858
He fathered two children
John Sherrington Ashton III (my great-grandfather)
4. William Short Ashton married Bridget Kent
And had three children
Mary Ellen, Arabella and William H
He died in Philadelphia in 1919
5. James E married Mary Livesy
They had no children. Mary had a son
Winfield Templeton from a previous marriage.
James died in 1938 in Springfield Twp, NJ.
The Fates of John Sherrington Ashton and Martha
Ok so let’s get back to John Sherrington Sr.
Remember how he wasn’t in the 1880 census? One day when we were researching at the Trenton Archives, my wife found John listed in the 1880 Federal Mortality index. The Mortality Index is an index of people who died in the census year, but prior to the census being taken. When we saw John Sr.’s listing it said the cause of death was “lost at sea – City of Boston”.
When I researched further, I discovered that the City of Boston left New York in January of 1870 for England. It never arrived and all crew and passengers perished. Here is a link to a post titled – The loss of the CITY OF BOSTON 1870
And finally Martha….
The last Federal census that Martha s Ashton appears in is 1880. In that census, Martha is living in Burlington. For the longest time I searched the New Jersey death records between 1880 to 1900 for Martha’s death record and found none. Through records now on-line, I recently discovered Martha died in 1887. She died in Philadelphia and is buried in old Cathedral Cemetery. Her son William Short and his children are also buried in that cemetery.
Summarizing My Direct Ashton Family Line
I have traced my mother’s paternal family line back to my 5th great grandparents. Here is a summary of the direct line.
5th great-grandparents James Ashton and Ann Done
4th great-grandparents Thomas Ashton and Mary Sherrington
3rd great-grandparents John Sherrington Ashton and Martha Wilson Short
2nd great-grandparents John Sherrington Ashton and Mary Parezo
great-grandparent John Sherrington Ashton and Margaret McCloskey
grandparents – John Ashton and Elva Regars
So far I have told the basic stories of John Sherrington Ashton Sr and Junior and my great-grandfather John Sherrington Ashton III and how DNA has helped find new cousins. The Ashton family only forms the trunk of my mother’s paternal family tree. There are still a lot of branches to explore, like the McCloskeys, the Parezos, the Shorts and the Sherringtons. There is even more on my mother’s maternal side where my roots extend back into New York in the 1600s.
So hopefully I haven’t bored you too much because there’s a lot more to come!