The Barrow in Furness Balshaws

. . .  or at least some of them!

The following question was posted on the balshaw e-group in December 2000.  

I am new to the "Balshaw" list and felt I should throw my connection out there in case someone has any info (I am also new to this genealogy hobby!)

My GGrandfather was John Henry BALSHAW b: abt 1888 in Barrow in Furness, he died 1958 in Morecambe. He married Mary Ann (Polly) ELWELL and they had 3 children: Selina Cassandra, Agnes Eliza and John James who died as an infant abt 1921. After ELWELL's death he married Nellie GLASCOW and had one more child, Brenda.

The only info I have on my GGGrandfather was that he was called James BALSHAW b: poss abt 1839 and he married Agnes Elizabeth BROWN b:abt 1843 in Ireland.

If any one has a connection I would love to hear about it and I look forward to hearing about other "BALSHAW's".


Jackie and everyone else

I will use this as an example of how to use the information on this site to follow a Balshaw family tree back a few generations, possibly two generations further back than the information supplied.  I don't guarantee that it will lead to success but at least there are some possible avenues to investigate here.  See Getting started in Family History Research.  All the following info. is available on the Balshaw Name web site, but I quite enjoy this type of detective work and can probably find my way around it much more quickly than anyone else.

(Obviously there is something awry with the information about James Balshaw - he seems to have married at the age of 4!  However, this illustrates a point too.  Often there is a kernel of truth in the information passed from generation to generation.  Let's get started.

Your Great Grandfather - John Henry Balshaw

His birth was registered in the December quarter of 1888, Barrow in Furness.

One marriage registered in the December quarter of 1909 in Barrow F. The other marriage is outside the period currently indexed.

1/ Apply for birth certificate from the PRO to confirm the names of his parents, and his mother’s father’s name and occupation.
2/ Apply for a marriage certificate  from the PRO to confirm his wife’s name and find his wife’s father’s name.
3/ Apply for a copy of the will (in 1958). You never know what you will discover.  Wills can be obtained from the Probate Sub-registry in York.

Your Great Great Grandfather - James Balshaw.

Assuming that he was also living in Barrow F, there are two likely candidates on the 1881 census. Both were called James, both unmarried at the time, both born in Preston in 1862 (see details below). (This is really hard luck, but if you are an optimist you might say that it makes the hunt more exciting!) It will need a little detective work to sort out which is yours, because neither can be eliminated yet. However, one avenue open to you is to apply for wills for both of them to get the names of children, wives etc. Their probable dates of death are given below.

1881 census information

1/ James, aged 18, living in Barrow F, Railway Clerk, born Preston, Lancs. (His parents were: James, aged 60, Railway Signalman, born Preston; Martha age 61. See below.)
2/ James, aged 18, living in Barrow F, no occupation given, born Preston, Lancs. (His parents were: Henry, aged 38, Railway Labourer, born Preston; Margaret age 37. See below.)

Note that neither was born in 1839 as you suggest.  The only Balshaws named James who would approximately fit these criteria on the 1881 census were
James, age 39, Altcar, Farm Labour
James, age 39, Blackburn, Lamplighter
James, age 42, Kirkham, Mason
James A, age 39, Newport Pagnell, Congregationa+

The 1891 census could help here, although it is less well indexed and I don't have access to the information for the Barrow area.

Civil registration


One of these could be your g g grandfather.
1/ James Balshaw, born Preston, June quarter 1862.
2/ James Balshaw, born Preston, September quarter 1862.

There are other entries in civil registration, but not with an obvious Barrow in Furness connection.


You say that James was James married in Ireland, and if so you will probably have difficulty tracing his marriage.  However, perhaps his wife came from Ireland and they married in England.  For reference, (and to muddy the waters further):

1/ James Balshaw married in Barrow F in September quarter 1883.
2/ James Balshaw married in Barrow F in March quarter 1888.
3/ James Balshaw married in Barrow F in March quarter 1897.

It is possible that none of these refer to you g g grandfather.


1/ James Balshaw died in Barrow F in 1889, aged 26. (Unlikely that he would have left a will, but you never know! He could still have been the father of John Henry Balshaw.)
2/ James Balshaw died in Barrow F in 1934, aged 72. (It is much more likely that he would have left a will, and this could lead to the names of his children and his wife, his occupation and perhaps other family connections.)


First gather all the information that you can about the later generation and see whether this helps at all.  Then see whether any of this means anything to members of your family.  It might remind them of something long forgotten if you are really lucky.  Then choose which certificates to order on the basis of the information available.

Your great great great grandfather (?)

2 likely options here as described above. The second seems more likely due to the name Henry. Children were often named after their grandfathers, but by no means always.

James Balshaw

Railway Signalman, born Preston about1820. Married Martha who was slightly older than him. (Date not known). Probably died in the December quarter of 1900 in Preston, aged 81. (Alternatively he might have emigrated, and this would then be another James- however a will would be helpful here).

a/ Apply for a will, but only if Henry (below) turns out not to be the right person.

Henry Balshaw

Railway Labourer, born in the June quarter of 1842 in Preston. Married Margaret. (Date not known). Three possible entries in civil registration for his death. (1887, aged 43 in Cardiff; or 1895 aged 56 in West Derby (just north of Liverpool), or 1928 aged 85 in Birkenhead). Then again he might have emigrated.

a/  Apply for a will first, if you can decide which is the most likely option, or apply for all three!
b/  If you decide that this is the right man, apply for a birth certificate to get the names of his parents, and you have another generation then.

Earlier generations?

The next generation back was born and probably married before civil registration began in 1837. It becomes far more difficult to trace them, but at this point you have to resort first to the International Genealogical Index (IGI). See the Mormon Church web site by following this link.

Written by Nick Balshaw,

An update from Jackie, May 2001

I just thought I would drop a line and let you know the info I have traced.

My great grandfather, according to the cert's, was John Henry BALSHAW who was born 2 Nov 1888 in Barrow. His parents were James BALSHAW who died suddenly at 26 years of age on 20 July 1889. Prior to his death he married Agnes Elizabeth HOTCHKISS who was possibly from Down County, Ireland. After BALSHAW died she married again and hence the surname BROWN (as per the will I mentioned before).

James BALSHAW's parents were possibly Thomas BALSHAW who married Grace WHITTLE (have to get cert yet for this one)."

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