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The Lythgoe Ladies


When you start to unravel your family tree, it is moment of great excitement to uncover a new surname that you never knew belonged to you. Like any new researcher, I was delighted to find that Samuel Mort (born 1715) married Ellen Lythgoe on the 16th August 1744 at Leigh.

I grew up in Newton - Le - Willows and knew the Lythgoe name very well. I had mostly associated this family with a rural area North East of Warrington known as Culcheth and Croft. Certain farms were referred to as ‘Lythgoes farms’ even though they were now known by another name. This was obviously a name given to some of these farms many years ago, and was still in use by the present population. The Lythgoes were well known land owners within this area. My association with this family was a surprise to me and not something I had expected.

As I began to dig deeper into my family tree, I then discovered that Samuels father was John Mort, born 1693 in Astley. John got married on the 21st October 1714. He married Ann Lythgoe from Culcheth. Okay - that name rings a bell! So - if my records are correct - Samuel Mort’s mother was called Lythgoe and his wife and my G*6 Grandmother was also called Lythgoe.

After some thought, I decided that this was probably not that unusual. The more surnames you acquire in your family tree and the deeper you dig, the more you find certain surnames keep re-occurring. However, prior to this my surname repetitions were either several generations apart or from completely different branches.

The reappearance of the Lythgoe name was a little too close for comfort. Was Ann the mother of Samuel connected genetically to her son’s wife Ellen? I didn’t know much about the Lythgoe family, but out of curiosity decided to investigate some of the records. I went first into the IGI.


I did a routine search and pulled out 2 candidates who could have qualified as John’s wife:
1) The first Ann was christened on the 18th July 1700 in Shakerley, Leigh.
2) The younger Ann was born on the 2nd August 1700 in an area of Culcheth known as Newchurch, Kenyon. Her father is shown to be ‘Thomas Lythgoe’.
Both ‘Ann Lythgoes’ would have just turned 15 at the age of marriage, but then again, girls did marry younger in days gone by.


I then decided to double check the information in the ‘MortFamily.net database. For those of you who are not yet registered, you are missing out on the use of some very good software plus a database of many ancestors with surnames other than ‘Mort’.

I found six surnames beginning with the letter ‘L’, of which three of these were the name of Lythgoe. I only had the two names, so I guess there must have been another Lythgoe rattling around in the Mort cupboard! I found Ann Lythgoe but alas had no date of birth for her. So I came to the conclusion that whoever submitted this data was as confused as I was in finding two Ann’s born two weeks apart in two areas very close to Culcheth and Leigh. Too many twos!

I then decided to turn my attention to Samuels wife Ellen, (who he married on 31st October 1738 - Halloween wedding - nice! I ran an IGI search against her name and at this point became even more confused and was starting to develop a genealogical headache.


By the way - this stands for International Genealogical Index). It is free to use and a great resource.

I found Ellen Lythgoe born about 1722 in Bedford Leigh, who married a Samuel Mort on the 16th August 1744. The Halloween date had stuck in my mind from earlier and I knew straight away this was not the same marriage - but it was a Mort and a Lythgoe. Looking back, it wasn’t even the same year. This was 1744 - six years later! Could there be two Ellen Mort’s who both happened to marry a chap called Samuel Mort - and if so - which one belonged to me? Whatever the situation, they had about ten children, of which one of these was ‘John Mort’ born 1751- which according to my records was my G*5 Grandfather.

I then did another search and pulled out the names of Ellen Lythgoe, Mary Lythgoe and Mary Ellen Lythgoe. Time to grab an Aspirin as this headache was not going to go away in a hurry.

I then took another approach, and this time just entered Samuel Mort’s name and the surname of Lythgoe and searched for marriage dates. I was correct - a Samuel Mort did marry an Ellen Lythgoe in Leigh in both 1738 and 1744. I found a pedigree resource file attached to the 1738 date and sure enough, this confirmed that the Samuel who married Mary Ellen Lythgoe in 1738 was the son of Ann Lythgoe and John Mort - my family at last! For the records, my Samuel was born on the 11th September 1715. He married Mary Ellen Lythgoe on the 31st October 1738. Mary Ellen was born in 1715 and her father was Joseph.

This still raised the question about the ‘other’ marriage in 1744. I then remembered that the MortFamily.net database had shown three Lythgoe surnames and decided to look into our own home grown on line resource.


The results showed three Lythgoe ladies.
1) Samuels mother Ann Lythgoe, wife to John with an unknown date of birth.
2) My Mary Ellen Lythgoe born 1717 who married Samuel on Halloween 1738. On this database, she is shown as having two children with Samuel.
3) Ellen Lythgoe, born 1722, who was four years younger than Mary Ellen. She also married Samuel Mort in 1744 and had eight children with him.

Okay, headache now turning into a migraine! I knew that Samuel Mort had ten children, but according to this he had two wives and he had two children with the one he married first and eight children with the one he married a few years later. It would appear that my Lythgoe lady ancestor was therefore the second wife and not the first as I had originally thought.

I was starting to wonder what the story was with Samuel and his family. Both his wives were called Lythgoe which also happened to be the same maiden name as his mother.

I had more than one database up my sleeve so decided to check this information against other records.


This again confirmed that Samuel married twice, however this information only added to this puzzle. This database showed the following:
1) First wife, was called Mary Lythgoe. She lived between the years of 1717 - 1741. This lady (whatever the truth of her forename) had a sad short life. Her first son John was born in 1739 and was buried in 1740. She had another child ‘Alice’ who was born in 1741, the year of her death. It is probable that Mary or Ellen (wife number one) may have died in childbirth, as was common in that era.
2) Second wife - Ellen (or Mary Ellen) was born in 1722.


No, I don’t think so - more like an act of charity and kindness. We must remember that this was an era of history well before child benefit, unemployment allowance and government hand outs. People depended on their families to support one another and keep each other alive when times where hard.

These were small tightly knit communities. Even now, Kenyon is less than a hamlet and Croft is only slightly bigger. Driving through the winding country lanes, I could count the number of farms or cottages on one hand. They all knew each other and certainly the Mort and Lythgoe families knew each other. It is possible they were neighbouring farmers and good friends.

Samuel Mort was a single father raising a three year old girl on his own, having already buried his wife and son. His mother was a Lythgoe. I have no idea what year she died, but if she had been alive whilst her son Samuel was going through this awful period of his life, like any other mother I am sure she would have been concerned. She may have had a niece or younger cousin, who at 22 years of age was a pleasant girl - ready for marriage and able to act as a step mother to the young Alice Mort.

Mary Ellen or Ellen lived at Westleigh. This was an area far enough away from Culcheth to suggest that maybe they were not the closest of relatives.

It is possible that this was an arranged marriage? People didn’t just bump into each other at an 18th century barn dance when they lived over sixteen miles apart. Arranged marriages were a tradition that has long since died away in the UK, but marrying into the same families by arrangement was not uncommon in small communities within England in this era.


I started this mission wanting to prove the relationship between the three Lythgoe ladies associated with Samuel Mort. I discovered how easy it is to go down the wrong track with genealogy, especially when certain ancestors have the same names, were born in the same areas and then married the same people.

I still can’t figure out which wife was Ellen, Mary or Mary Ellen. However, what I think this does indicate is how people lived in the mid 18th century and how family relationships were so important to people at a time when there was little in the way of government support.

These days we have lost much of that community bonding and neighbourhood spirit.

If any Morts or Lythgoes would like to ‘take up the Mantle’ and carry on with this investigation where I have left off - please feel free. My head cannot take anymore conflicting databases, and I am all out of painkillers to cure the headache this story has given me. Good Luck.

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