Some time ago, I found one Herbert YALLOTT working as a 'servant' for farmer Matthew RHODES (brother of my ggg-grandfather, George RHODES) in Mottram-in-Longdendale on the 1881 Census. He gave Australia as his place of birth which seemed an oddity, but no more than that. However, I was looking through the 1871 Census and found what seemed to be a linked entry. It was for John GODDARD (George Rhodes' brother-in-law) living in Market Place, Mottram and staying with him was his 14 year old niece, Ellen YALLOTT, place of birth Australia. She turns up again in 1881 at the same place, the Hare and Hounds pub, now being run by Ellen GODDARD, John's widow.

This seemed unlikely to be a coincidence and I became intrigued. Why would a family emigrate to Australia, only for their children to return? And why should they find their way to Mottram? I posted my puzzle to the Cheshire List. Within a few hours had received information that began to unlock the puzzle in the shape of birth and death records from Sydney, New South Wales, that showed Herbert and Ellen's parents had indeed emigrated and where they had died, at least three of their children returning to the UK.

Henry YELLOTT was born in Bradfield, Yorkshire, about four miles north of Sheffield. According to the IGI, he was baptised on 18 April 1816, the son of John YELLOTT and Ruth SPOONER who were married at Cathedral St Peter's, Sheffield on 2 May 1802. They had four other sons, Joel, John, William and Hugh.

In 1852 Henry married Harriet Woodger who was some fifteen years his junior. The couple emigrated to Australia, arriving in Sydney on 30 September 1852 on board the Ascendant which sailed from Liverpool. Between then and 1865, they had eight children, although at least three died young. The parents died within a year of each other in 1865 and 1866, leaving a young family - Ellen (13), Harriet (10) Mary (6) and Herbert (4).

How the children contrived to return to England is not yet clear, but return they did, Ellen going to live with her aunt and uncle, John GODDARD and his wife Ellen. In different censuses, Ellen GODDARD variously gives her place of birth as Wadsley and Bradfield, Yorkshire. Wadsley Bridge is just north of Sheffield.

I had no record of John and Ellen's marriage and the mistake I made was to assume that she was the mother of all his children – in short, I was checking marriages that were too early. In fact, Ellen was John's second wife. My theory was that she was Ellen Yellott, but the marriage records show her as being named Ellen Senior when they married in 1850 (information thanks to John Rhodes.) So had I got it wrong?

Significantly, her son born in 1851 was baptised Henry Yallott GODDARD, so perhaps she too had married twice. I checked the IGI and sure enough, I found a marriage between Ellen and a Joseph SENIOR at Ecclesfield in 1835. It was one of those 'Yes!!' moments. They possibly had a daughter, Sarah Jane, baptised on 17 November 1841 in Bradfield, but this link is still tenuous. However, it seems that Joseph died between April and June 1842 at Ecclesfield. How she came to marry John GODDARD , I don't yet know.

Of course, this doesn't explain why the YELLOTs went to Sydney. More importantly, how did a group of young orphans get back to the UK? Herbert and Mary were in Rotherham in 1871 as boarders with school master and mistress, William and Mary Bingham. It isn't clear what happened to Mary as she doesn't appear on later censuses and presumably died or married between then and 1881.

By 1881, Herbert was in Mottram with Matthew Rhodes following his sister, Ellen, who was already there in 1871 staying with her aunt Ellen.

There is no sign of Harriet in 1871 but in the 1881 census she is at Spotland, Lancashire (near Rochdale) where she was cook and domestic servant for Leonard SHAWCROSS, a cotton spinner employing 333 workers. Herbert and Ellen joined her in Rochdale by 1891.

According to Free BMD, Herbert married Sarah Ann Crabtree there in 1885. Sadly the union didn't last as Sarah died between October and December 1887 presumably giving birth to their daughter Annie. He remarried in 1897 to Agnes Hinchcliffe and they had thee children.

Ellen married Harry Reynolds in the June quarter of 1898 in Rochdale, but they don't appear to have had children, although their young niece Annie is lving with them in 1901 rather than with her father who had perhaps shunned her as was often the case when a mother had died in childbirth.

Harriet didn't marry and died in Rochdale between April and June 1917.

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