The name ROSS turns up a number of times in my tree and nearly 30 years ago we used ROSS as a middle name for our son. However, that was only because I knew it was one of my father's middle names and I wanted to use a family name and had always liked the name 'ROSS'. At the time I had no idea if the name had been used previously. This week I want to go back as far as I can and find out where and when it first arose in our tree.
The use of the name seems to go back in this order :
- my father was Derek Gordon Ross Bird. He was born in 1913 and lived until 1989.
- he must have got his Ross from his grandfather Henry Ross Bird 1854 - 1926. Not unusual.
But who was Henry named after ? Where did he get his Ross ? There are, I believe, two possibilities. His father was George Bird, a farmer of Chessington Court Farm, and George had 9 siblings including :
- a sister Elizabeth Bird who married five times mayor of Hastings Thomas Ross (1810 - 1881) in 1843. Thomas' father was another Thomas Ross (1775 - 1843) who was a master gunner of Hastings.
- another sister Anne Bird had married an unrelated Ross, Francis Ross (1801 - 1838) in 1835 and they had a son, Henry Ross (1838 - 1890). I know nothing about Francis' father.
Taking the Rosses of Hastings first. It wasn't until 1843 that Elizabeth married Thomas Ross and it wasn't until 1856 that Thomas first became Mayor of Hastings even though he had been on the Council since 1841 and was very well known locally. His father, the master gunner, was also well known in the Hastings area but I don't think that in 1854 there was really anything exceptional about this family which would cause one of Elizabeth's brothers to name a child after them.
Moving to the second option, I need to start off by explaining the complicated living arrangements as they were in 1854.
Who was Henry Ross ?
The oldest surviving daughter of my 3 x great grandfather, the ancestor I call 'William of Newnham', was Anne Bird. In 1835 she married Francis Ross who was “a clerk in the Excise office” and they had a son named HENRY ROSS on 24th August 1838. Sadly, Francis Ross died before the birth of his son on 13th March 1838, aged just 37 of “Decline” – which is possibly consumption or TB. Anne’s brother, George Bird, was present at the time of death, which took place at 8 Clapham Road Place in Lambeth which 'William of Newnham', the builder, built. In all likelihood, this was where Anne and her baby lived for the next couple of years.
Meanwhile, in 1840, another of William of Newnham’s daughters, Harriet, had met and married John Coveney, son of a farmer from Borden in Kent. As far as we know, they never had any children of their own. After their marriage they went to live nearby in Key Street, Bobbing and it seems Anne and her baby went to live with them (as per the 1841 census).
It is assumed, although not yet proven, that the mother of Henry Ross, Anne Bird, must have also died leaving young Henry without a parent. It looks like he was ‘adopted’ (not in the legal sense) by John and Harriott Coveney and on the 1851 census they are all living at the Manor House, Swanscombe Village and Henry is aged 12 described as a visitor. John Coveney, whose father had died in 1847, is a now a farmer of 500 acres employing 13 labourers, six of whom are living in the Manor House.
It seems to me that a successful middle class farmer who had a builder as a father would have found it socially beneficial to be not only associated by marriage but by name as well to this family who are more affluent and living in a manor house. The clincher for me came when I noticed that the name of George's first son born in 1851 was George Coveney Bird and then, three years later in 1854, having already used the Coveney name, decided to include the Ross name in his second sons name...... hence, Henry Ross Bird. What I don't know is whether the name was wholly or just partly after Henry Ross.
Now we know who this blog is about, I ought to complete the Henry Ross story.
By the time of the 1861 census, Henry Ross is still living at the Manor House with his adoptive parents plus John Coveney’s 75 year old mother, Sophia Coveney. John Coveney's farm has grown and he is now farming 950 acres and employing 25 labourers.
In 1866 Henry loses his maternal grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Bird, who dies aged 89 of “old age”. Henry Ross was still living with his adoptive parents in 1871 and his father is now farming a massive 1,000 acres and employing 30 workers.
His adoptive mother Harriet dies at the Manor House in November 1874 aged 60. It was a few days after her death, possibly around the time of her funeral, that Henry transcribes a list of family births and deaths from the Family Bible which was so useful in the early days of researching this part of the tree.
On 26th March 1878 first cousins Henry Ross and Eliza Bird (one of George Bird's children) marry at The Parish Church, Chessington, Surrey. He is 39 and she is two years younger. His residence at the time of the marriage was still Swanscombe and John Coveney was a witness at the wedding.
There is a book Henfield: Through the Lens of Marjorie Baker which says "The Wood family owned Chestham Park until the 1860's, and then the new owner, John Ross (think this should be John Coveney but could even refer to Henry Ross if he has already transferred it) enlarged the house in 1876".
John Coveney died on New Years Eve 1878 and London Illustrated News reports on 22nd February 1879 reported : “Wills and Bequests includes Mr John Coveney formerly of Swanscombe and late of Chestham, Henfield Kent”. The executor was his nephew Henry Ross and George Coveney Bird.
In 1881 Eliza and Henry are still living at Chestham Park. Henry is described as a farmer of 180 acres employing 8 men and 1 boy. They are living in the Manor House with a butler, a cook, a parlour maid, a housemaid and a kitchen maid. They are still there when the 1890 Directory of Sussex was published.
This Ross branch ended when Henry Ross FSA died on 18th August 1890 at the Bell Hotel, Gloucester suddenly “from disease of the heart” just before his fifty second birthday. He died childless so his genes were not carried on but, thanks to George Bird, the name ROSS continued through other generations right up to the present day.