05 May 2014

Thomas Lee 1839 - 1902

Today’s photo came with two letters written in 1902 by Ellen Major in Wigan, Lancashire and sent to her brother Thomas Lee in Penrose, Auckland, New Zealand. Tantalisingly I still don’t know who the people in the photograph are, so let’s start at the beginning.

These two letters plus the photograph were purchased from a stamp dealer in Wellington (NZ) recently, not by me, I was very generously sent them by fellow genealogy enthusiast Deborah Shuker.


Transcription as written:

No 8 Kendal St
Wigan Sep 1st 1902
Dear Brother I have been to Manchester on august monday as it is a great holiday in wigan I went to our moses widow first as the tram stops close by they looked very comfortable her two sons are in grogers shops they told me our John was dead twelve months ago I was not sorry to hear we know the last of him I then went to emmo salisbury John as not worked for twelve months he told emna he had worked long enough for her I told emma I should want him to keep on working her daughter is a dressmaker she gets a deal of money we had a ramble through the park and cemetery emma is going in 71 John is 68 he is fine strong man You might have a letter from them I sent you two newspapers about your premier visiting st helens and Wigan they made a great deal of him I hope you are quite well as it leaves me at present the rogues are on there Journey to H
so no more at present
from your sister
ellen Major lee


Transcription as written:

Sep 11th
Dear Brother I received your letter on the 7th of September I hope this will find you all wright I was bad myself I tried a little wiskey in my tea it did me more good than all the medince  in Wigan and a lot cheaper hoping you will do the same you musent let me see you all out I had my Son Thomas hear from Yorkshire but hesas gone back there hours is a deal lees he looks sush a little old man
So no more at present from your Loving Sister
Mrs Ellen Wagor Lee
I sent you a letter a week before I received yours
Mrs Ellen Wagor No 8
Kendal St off frog Lane
this is Mrs Lee right adress Come from Manchester

The first letter arrived in Auckland on the 13 Oct 1902 and the second one on the 14 Oct 1902, yet written 10 days apart. Included with the second letter is the address mentioned of Mrs Lee in Manchester.


Perhaps the photograph was sent with the address from Manchester as the writing on the above address seems to be in a much neater hand as does the writing on the back of the photograph than the writing in the two letters (were they each written by a different hand?). I can see various differences in some of the letters, the N in New on both the envelope and the address for instance.

If the photo did come from Manchester it would have been from Moses’ widow and therefore would she have written ‘sister’? Possibly. But I get ahead of myself.

I was to later find out that Thomas Lee had died just five days before the two letters arrived in Auckland, so he would never have read them, what a shame, the ‘wiskey’ might have done him the world of good! Perhaps in his letter to Ellen he had mentioned he wasn’t well and that’s why she said ‘you musent let me see you all out’. Here is the photo that came with the letters, it’s a small snapshot and has been hand cut along one edge as if to fit inside a small envelope, the envelopes measure 12cm x 9.5cm, so it may very well have been sent with one of the letters although I would have thought September to be a little bit early for a Christmas card, but I guess in those days they had to post early because of how long it would take to arrive by sea on the other side of the world.


A nice little family but who are they? The word ‘Jim’ written on the back might be a clue, so we’re looking for a man named James in the family, let’s see what we can find.


The address the letters were sent from was – 8 Kendal St, Wigan – and that’s where I found a widowed Ellen Major living in the 1901 census, along with her son George, a nephew & a niece James & Jane Jones - Source Citation: Class: RG13; Piece: 3556; Folio: 138; Page: 22:-



Ellen & George were born in Manchester & James & Jane in Wigan, Lancashire. So we’re onto the right family but the woman in the photo is a lot younger than Ellen who was 65 in 1901. I’ve had the photo dated and the consensus is it was taken soon after the turn of the century and maybe upto about 1920 so if it was sent with one of the letters then it would have been taken about 1901 or 1902. If it was sent later than that then it wouldn’t have been with the letters because Thomas Lee never received them. The woman looks to be in her 30s or maybe 40s with the young girl about 10 perhaps 12.

As far as I can make out Ellen had only two daughters, the eldest child was Eliza born 1854 and the youngest was Mary Ellen born 1872, in between them were six sons:- Thomas 1856, Alfred 1858, Moses 1860, John 1863, George 1866 and Edward 1869. Ellen had previously married Stephen Major in 1852:-


Ellen Lee was the daughter of John Lee and Ellen Dinaley, born on the 8 Jun 1831 & baptised 2 Feb 1834 at Manchester Cathedral, her father was a shopkeeper:-


I’m not 100% sure that her mother was Ellen Dinaley as there were a few John Lee marriages to an Ellen someone, however, this marriage said that he was a shopkeeper of Manchester Town so it seems likely the right marriage:-


John & Ellen Lee had the following children:-

Eliza bap 16 May 1830, father a shopkeeper of Chorlton Row, at home in 1841, nothing more known;
Ellen bn 8 Jun 1831 bap 2 Feb 1834, father a shopkeeper of Manchester, married 11 Jan 1852 to Stephen Major, died 9 Jan 1910 at 8 Kendal St, Wigan, her will probate went to William Major book-keeper, however Ellen doesn't seem to have had a son named William so he may be a b-i-l;
William bap 27 Jul 1831, father a shopkeeper of Chorlton Row, not at home in 1841, nothing more known, strange that Ellen wasn't baptised on the same day as she had been born the month before;
John bap 2 Feb 1834, father a shopkeeper of Manchester, possible black sheep of the family as Ellen wasn't sorry to hear he'd died, baptised the same day as each other;
Elizabeth bap 9 Jul 1837, father a shopkeeper of Manchester, not at home in 1841, nothing more known;
Moses bap 9 Jul 1837, father a shopkeeper of Manchester, married Mary Ann Medley in 1865, had three sons William (possibly died before 1901), Thomas & Edward (noted on Manchester address page), admitted to County Asylum 10 Aug 1885, died there in Jun 1891, was buried 4 Jun at Prestwich;
Thomas bap 13 Mar 1839, father a provision dealer of Manchester; emigrated to NZ, married there 12 Jul 1873 to Frances Tweedale, died 8 Oct 1902, buried next day at St Peter's Churchyard, Onehunga, Auckland, no known children.



In Loving Memory



the beloved wife of


who died July 29th 1899

aged 67 years


of the above named


who died 8th Oct 1902


So far we don’t have a James! But wait, Ellen & Stephen Major’s eldest daughter, Eliza, married a James Jones (a widower), could that be them?


Married 1876, their first two children were – Elizabeth born 1877 and James born 1880 – they would have been too old to be the children in the photo if it was taken around 1901.

Eliza & James did have more children – Hugh 1882, Jane 1884, Moses 1886-88, Mary Ellen 1890 & Leah 1895 - but they don’t seem to have had another son younger than any of the daughters.

So onto the other children of Ellen & Stephen Major, after Eliza they had six sons, none of them named James, and then one more daughter, Mary Ellen. She married Thomas Jolley in 1894 and they had six children, none of them named James. In 1910 Mary Ellen Jolley along with four of mary-ellen-jollyher children emigrated to Fayette, Pennsylvania, USA where she died in 1942. On the passenger list of the ‘Campania’ her next of kin is listed as her brother John Major in Wigan. One of Mary Ellen’s other brothers, Moses, had also emigrated to Fayette about 1887. (There’s one small error in Mary Ellen’s obituary, she was born Mary Ellen Major not Lee.)

Now back to Eliza & James Jones’ children – daughter Elizabeth married William Dawber in 1897 and in the 1911 census they are living at 8 Kendal St, Wigan, the same address the two letters were sent from. Also living in the house were six Dawber children as well as three of Elizabeth’s Jones siblings – James, Jane & Mary Ellen/Nellie, none of them married. Elizabeth’s other two siblings had both married, Hugh to Amy Catherine Scholes and Leah to James Scanlan in America. Leah had emigrated to the US, she’s found travelling with her Uncle Moses Major on the ‘Campania’ in 1910 and her next of kin is listed as ‘Lizzie Dobie (Dawber) of 8 Kendal St, Wigan’.

As far as I can see no-one seems to fit the people in the photograph although I’m sure I’ve missed a clue somewhere along the way! The only possibility I can see is that if the photo was taken about 1890 they could then be James Jones, wife Eliza and daughter Elizabeth who would have been about 14, but if the boy is son James he doesn’t look to be aged 10 so maybe he’s the younger son Hugh who would have been 8. But then why would you be sending a photo that was ten years old that included only two of the six children you had by 1902? I’m afraid it’s beaten me!

One anomaly re the 1901 census - Ellen Major is listed as living with her son George 35, nephew James Jones 21 & niece Jane Jones 18 – but James & Jane Jones were Ellen’s grandchildren. I suspect that son George had filled out the census form & had absent mindedly filled in the relationship to himself instead of the head of the house, Ellen.

One last note: on the baptisms of William & Edward Lee, two of the sons of Ellen’s brother Moses & his wife Mary Ann, was the address of 3 Purslow St, Ashton New Rd, Moses was listed as a carver & gilder.

References: FreeBMD; ancestry.com.au; familysearch.org; NZBDM Online


If anyone knows anything about or is connected to the LEE or MAJOR families (or any of them) please do contact me, I would love to pass the letters & photo onto a family member, even a distant one. Contact by email is preferable but if you are going to leave a comment please don’t forget to include your email address.

Dawn Scotting

1 comment:

Unknown said...


I was so excited to read this!

I'm a distant relative of the Major family and some of this information I was unaware of! So thank you. It's so nice to see that some letters/photographs still exist.

Kirsty x