John Elson was born around 1734 in Rugby, Warwickshire, the oldest son of John Elson and Mary Fawks. He was baptised at St Andrews church in Rugby on 6 May 1734. He had two brothers: Marmaduke and Arthur, and two sisters, Mary and Ann. Marmaduke and Arthur were Fawks family names. John Elson senior was a cordwainer (shoe maker), as was brother Marmaduke. As it was the family trade, it is possible that John Elson junior was also a cordwainer.
John’s parents may have had an unequal marriage. The Fawks family were landed gentry from Dunchurch, a village near Rugby, compared with the Elson tradesmen. Coincidently, Dunchurch is also linked to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot, although he does not appear to be related to the Dunchurch family.
Whatever his occupation, as a young man, John Elson (b. 1734) moved from Rugby to the then nearby village of Hillmorton (now a Rugby suburb). His family appears to have remained in Rugby. John was resident in Hillmorton when he obtained a marriage licence to marry Ann Heritage in 1758. John Elson and Ann Heritage were married in Bicester, Oxfordshire, on 8 September 1758. Both signed with a mark rather than their names, so may not have been literate. John’s surname was written as Ellson in the register and he is described as a sojourner in the parish, so he was a visitor or recent resident.
I don’t know how John and Ann met, Rugby and Bicester are market towns about 60kms (38 miles) apart – a 12 to 13 hours walk, according to Google. Bicester did have a popular and well attended horse race, and in 1758, Bicester was required to undertake some major roadworks, so either could have brought John to town. Ann’s family were long time Bicester residents.
John and Ann Elson had nine children: Humphrey, Mary, Martha, William, John, Ann, Joseph (my ancestor), Thomas and Elizabeth. I am not sure where Humphrey and Mary were born, but the other children were all baptised in Bicester. Humphrey was an Elson family name. When Thomas was baptised in 1774, the new vicar, Rev. George Bray, wrote the surname as “Elston” and from that point onwards the T was part of the surname. Several of the children signed their marriage records, or witnessed their siblings’ marriages, as “Elston” or “Elstone”.
All of the children, with the possible exception of John, survived to adulthood.
John Elson died in Jun 1790, aged only 56 years old but a grandfather of at least 3 children. His parents were both still alive and living in Rugby at the time; I don’t know if they were in contact. The Bicester burial register records John Elstone being buried on 10 Jun 1790.
John has been interesting to research. It took a long time for me to discover that he came from Rugby. I find it curious that thanks to an apparent whim on the part of a vicar, the surname changed, gaining the T.
Notes on Lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > John Henry Smith > Harry Smith > John Smith > Elizabeth Elston > Joseph Elston > John Elson