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John Astell


One of the most frustrating aspects of genealogy is when allied branches of the family tree can be taken back centuries but the direct line can't. That's the scenario I've found myself in for some time. Now that I may have possibly broken my way through (I can't yet prove it), I want to lay out my notes in a form to which I can easily refer.

My Astell line is solid back four generations but information starts to become elusive in the fifth and going back one further is the real problem:

  1. Henry Charles Francis Astell (b 1971)
  2. Michael Henry Norman Astell (b 1943)
  3. Norman Francis Astell (b 1913)
  4. Walter Henry Astell (b 1875)
  5. John Astell (b 1839)

Why? Because John Astell was born to a single mother right before the standard censuses begin.

So, what do we know for sure?


John Astell was baptised on 14 Jun 1839 at St. Dunstan, Stepney, with 1839 also listed as the birth year. His mother was named Mary but no surname is provided, as was the norm. His father was not listed and his father's occupation is "Single Woman"; that's because there was no field for mother's occupation. The address provided was MEOT London Union.

MEOT is Mile End Old Town. First recorded in 1288 as "La Mile ende", Mile End was "the hamlet a mile away" from Aldgate in the City of London, along the Colchester road. When a new settlement took the name of Mile End New Town, the existing Mile End became Mile End Old Town.

London Union presumably refers to a workhouse. One was built in MEOT in 1803 and there were 284 inmates by 1828.

His baptism record is reference X024/020 in London, Docklands and East End Baptisms, 1558-1933.


John Astell married Ellen Page on 27 Nov 1859 in Shoreditch.

Ellen was the third child of John Page (b 1810) and Mary Clark (b c.1814), both from Boston, Lincolnshire. John was a bootmaker. They had at least seven children, though at least one (Christopher John) died young:

  1. Charles (b c.1835)
  2. Mary Elizabeth (b c.1836)
  3. Ellen (b 1839)
  4. Christopher John (b c.1847)
  5. Alfred (b c.1849)
  6. Sarah (b c.1853)
  7. Alice (b c.1857)

Their marriage record is in England & Wales Marriages 1837-2005 Vol. 1C p435.


John Astell died in Hackney, London in the second quarter of 1916. He was 78 years old.

His death record is in England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007 Vol. 1B p515.


John Astell is listed in a variety of censuses, which helped me to flesh out his list of children and correct some inaccuracies that the family had previously maintained. Of course, they also generate new questions!

Year M Age Born Occupation F Age Born Address Other Astells
1841 John Astell 3 Middlesex
1861 John Astell 24 Stepney
Boot Maker Ellen Astell 24 Islington
12 Bartholomew Sq
St Luke
Ellen M. Astell (6m)
1871 John Astell 33 Stepney
Bootmaker Ellen Astell 33 Islington
32 Blackstone Rd
Ellen Astell (10)
Alice Astell (8)
Ada Astell (6)
Amelia Astell (4)
Alfred Astell (2)
Chas Astell (8m)
1881 John Astell 42 Stepney
Boot Maker Ellen Astell 41 Islington
3 Victoria Chambers
Ellen M. Astell (20)
Alice Astell (18)
Ada Astell (16)
Amelia Astell (14)
Alfred Astell (12)
Fredk Astell (10)
Albert Astell (9)
Walter Astell (5)
John Astell (2)
George Astell (4m)
1891 John Astell 53 Stepney
Bootmaker 78 Wellington Rd
Constance A. Astell (23)
Alfred W. Astell (22)
Frederick J. Astell (20)
Albert E. Astell (19)
Walter H. Astell (15)
John C. Astell (13)
George A. Astell (1881)
1901 John Astell 63 Stepney
Boot Maker Martha Astell 65 Hoxton
37 Oriel Rd
John C. Astell (22)
George A. Astell (20)
1911 John Astell 74 Hackney Boot repairer 27 Swinnerton St

Some notes on this data:

  • In 1841, a 3 year old John Astell is living with the Grim family: Joseph and Matilda Grim, in their thirties, with their daughter, Priscilla, and an older Matilda Grim, aged 70. I can't confirm whether this is the same John Astell or not.
  • For some reason, I can't find a believable John Astell anywhere in the 1851 census.
  • In 1861, John and Ellen Astell are living with a slew of family beyond their 6 month old daughter, Ellen M. Head of the household is John Page, John's father-in-law, with his wife Mary and their children, Charles, Alfred, Sarah and Alice M. Thomas and Fanny Clark are Mary Page's parents, living there with their daughter Martha A., Mary's sister. Also present is Robert Anderson, an apprentice.
  • In 1871, John is the head of the household with lodgers of his own: Margaret Debit with her sons, Samuel and Francis; and Ann Fielding with her daughter, Clara.
  • In 1891, Ellen Astell is absent.
  • In 1901, Ellen Astell is still absent, but Martha Astell is listed as John's wife. Presumably this is a mistake and it's his sister-in-law, with her son Arthur Page, John's 25 year old nephew also present. A further family are also listed at the same address: Edwin F. and Amy E. Buckingham, both in their twenties, with their 7 month old son Edwin A.
  • In 1911, Martha Page is listed as John's sister-in-law, a 76 year old widow from Hoxton. John's birthplace is listed as 'to my knowledge Hackney'. The form was signed by John Astell.


John and Ellen Astell had eleven children, at least one of whom (Arthur Henry) died young.

As the table above suggests, their names varied on the censuses but a clear consensus can be found, especially with further investigation, as follows:

# Name b m Spouse d
1 Ellen Mary Elizabeth 1860 John Markquick 1938
2 Alice Louisa 1862 1885 Edward Ward
3 Ada 1865
4 Constance Amelia 1867 1892 William Riches 1904
5 Alfred William 1868 1893 Elizabeth Riches 1924
6 Frederick John Charles 1870 1895
Laura Butcher
? Briscoe
7 Albert Edward 1871 1898 Emily Riches 1930
8 Arthur Henry 1874 1875
9 Walter Henry 1875 1900 Minnie Butcher 1942
10 John Christian 1878 1903 Elizabeth Parfree 1949
11 George Arthur 1880 1905 1947

One note that leaps out here is the closeness of families, which continues one generation and perhaps goes back one too:

  • Constance, Alfred and Albert Astell married William, Elizabeth and Emily Riches (three siblings marrying three siblings).
  • Frederick and Walter Astell married Laura and Minnie Butcher (two siblings marrying two siblings).
  • Elizabeth and Emily Astell, daughters of Alfred and Elizabeth, married Arthur and Ernest Walton (two siblings marrying two siblings).
  • Elsie and Winifred Astell, two more daughters of Alfred and Elizabeth, married Henry and George Rich (two siblings marrying two siblings).

I've been able to track down the generations from here relatively easily, even when odd little quirks are thrown in. For instance, Constance Amelia Riches was the seventh child of William and Constance Riches but, after her mother died in childbirth, she was adopted by her uncle, Walter Astell.

In other words, one child born to parents who were part of a three siblings to three siblings family match was adopted by parents who were part of a two siblings to two siblings family match, all within the same generation of the same family. Whew.


But what about going up the generations? That's a whole new headache!

What we know for sure is that John Astell's mother was called Mary, who was a single mother who lived in Mile End Old Town, perhaps at the workhouse. That's not a lot to go on.

Searching around with looser and looser filters, I found possibilities worth following up on:

  • A Mary D. Astell was born on 20 Mar 1801 to Moses and Elizabeth Astell of St. George Hanover Square. This is presumably the Mary Astell who's living in a household of many families at Audley St N in St. George Hanover Square in the 1841 census and who died in the third quarter of 1848 in St. George Hanover Square. This is only five miles from Stepney.
  • A Mary Elizabeth Astell was born on 28 Mar 1807 to John Edmund and Elizabeth Astell. She was baptised a year later at St. James, Piccadilly. She's listed in the 1851 census as a 43 year old widowed laundress with a six year old son, Henry. She died at 17 Bride Lane, St. Bride a year later. It's worth mentioning here that John and Ellen's first child was Ellen Mary Elizabeth Astell, who could easily have been named after her mother and grandmother. However, it's also worth mentioning that Ellen's immediately elder sister was Mary Elizabeth Page.

However, the most likely candidate I'm seeing right now is Mary Pracy, who was born in 1815 to Thomas Pracy and Mary Morgan of Shoreditch. The reason for this is that trend of sibling matches. Let's explain:

  • In 1846, Mary Pracy married Frederick Michael Astell in Shoreditch. He was a little younger than her, having been born in 1819.
  • They had at least eight children: Louisa, Frederick, William Henry, James George, Charles Thomas, Mary Ann, Alfred Richard and Alfred John.
  • One of those children is Frederick Astell, whose birth in 1845 was out of wedlock, as his parents didn't marry until the following year. He seems to be their second child, so Louisa Astell was presumably born out of wedlock too.
  • John Astell was born in 1839, six years before Frederick. At that point Mary Pracy was 24 years old and Frederick Michael Astell was only 20.
  • In the 1841 census, Mary Pracy is listed as a 25 year old servant in the household of Sarah Bocquet, two decades her senior. While there are other servants, Frederick Michael Astell is not listed among them. This is also the census that has a 3 year old John Astell listed with an apparently unrelated family, the Grims.
  • In 1867, Frederick Astell, son of Frederick Michael Astell and Mary Pracy above, married Sarah Page in Mile End Old Town. You'll recall that John Astell had married Ellen Page eight years earlier and that Ellen's younger sister was Sarah.

There's lots of good possibility here. The dates and location fit. There's a direct tie between Astell and Pracy and a further tie between Astell and Page. There are confirmed births outside of wedlock and Mary was working within a household which may not have looked positively on such a thing. The very familiar names of the children help too.

The biggest catch to this theory is the suggested 1853 birth year of Sarah Page. That's based on one entry in one census, which experience tells me is not reliable on its own, but 14 seems a little young to be married. I'm now researching Sarah Page to find firm details of her birth and early life.

By the way, if the Astells and the Pages are connected twice, we might wonder why that closeness didn't continue. Most of the Astell family moved gradually east from London into Essex, which isn't very far, but I don't recall this new potential side of the family at all. Well, it seems that Frederick and Sarah Astell moved north. They were in Stepney in 1871 but in Hull, Yorkshire in 1881 with this Frederick a marine engineer. One of their sons, Frederick William, who was born in 1879 in Middlesex, emigrated to Canada in 1896 with his wife, the former Ada Ernestine Walker.

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Last update: 15th February, 2019