Leanor Ann Appleton – Part 2.

I found her.

People who are not genealogists will probably never understand the excitement and sense of accomplishment that comes from tracking down an elusive ancestor that has eluded them for years.  You may wonder why it matters so much to me to find out what happened to a fourth great aunt who died over a hundred years ago, but that gap in the tree was excruciating.  I could account for all of my third great grandmother’s siblings, even those who went abroad and the habitual criminal, but Leanor with her mischievous name changing and bigamous antics eluded me.  I do not exaggerate when I say I have spent days of my life searching and barking up wrong trees.  I have looked at the records for every “Leanor” or “Angelina” of the approximate age, likewise for every Moxon and Appleton, written to Essex council for the local burial records, scoured emigration records, workhouse roads, the initials of asylum patients in the censuses, checked previous addresses, relatives of both her husbands, uncovered her secret daughter, spent hours manipulating the algorithms of various websites and chased various red herrings like a dog with a bone.

The only advice I can give to someone in a similar predicament with a scurrilous, evasive ancestor is: Don’t give up, leave no stone unturned, the truth is out there, somewhere.  And always look at middle names.

So how did I track down Leanor?

I was idly flicking through distant relations on the Appleton branch when I stumbled upon Alice Ellen Lavinia Coshall.  Alice was Leanor’s great-niece; the link between them is as follows:

Alice (photo: boisehawkeye, Ancestry)

Leanor’s sister, Lavinia, died in 1889.  Leanor moved in with Lavinia’s widower (William Baldwin) after her death, possibly to look after the younger children (but who knows with Leanor…).  One of the Lavinia and William’s children was Ellen, who by then was married to John Cornelius Coshall.  She died in 1895, aged 27, leaving two young children, one of whom was Alice.

One of Alice’s descendants had put some information and photos of her on Ancestry and as I browsed this my eyes settled on her Find A Grave page, which showed she emigrated to the USA and had over 100 descendents at the time of her death.  It was definitely the right Alice, with the correct names, places and dates of birth but somehow I couldn’t fit the information on her obituary to what I knew.  It said she was brought up by her aunt until she was fifteen, then went to live with her uncle in California.  But she didn’t have an uncle in California, and wasn’t with either of her aunts in the 1901 census.  So I searched for her on the census, to find out exactly who she was with.

Alice Ellen Lavinia Coshall Denne Shaffer Eaton

I found her at 20 Montague Road in Leytonstone (yes, just 5km from my home…) living with Richard Denne, and his wife, “Lena Denne”.   Could this be…?  Lena was the same age as Leanor, she was not Alice’s aunt but her great aunt, and her place of birth was “Missing, Essex” which I don’t know if is a mistranscription of “Messing, Essex” (which is not where Leanor was born but is where the Appleton family originated from) or if the information was literally missing (sounds very much like Leanor).   In any case, my gut feeling was that this had to be Leanor – who else could it be? – but I needed a bit more proof – and I also wondered how I could have missed the marriage to Richard Denne.  Well, the second part of that had a simple answer – there was no marriage.  I imagine that with Henry James Collins still alive, Leanor probably felt that one bigamous marriage was enough and perhaps she should not chance her arm with a second, and merely lived with Richard as if married.  I had a feeling that I’d heard the name Denne somewhere before, but a surname search in my tree drew a blank and I just couldn’t think until it came to me…

Leanor’s daughter, who was born and died 1874, supposedly the child of Henry Collins, but I had always had my doubts…  Rebecca Emily Denn Collins.  DENN.  It seems to me that Leanor’s association with Mr Denne had started a long, long time ago.


Now I knew what had happened to Leanor, there was only one thing left to do and that was to formally kill her off.  I located her death record with relative ease now I knew what surname I was looking for, and found she died at West Ham Infirmary (now Whipps Cross Hospital) in 1904, aged 56, due to “morbus cordis” (heart disease).  I have not yet been able to locate her burial place but if I do I will sure to track her down and give her a stern talking to about her evasive ways.


Find A Grave: Memorial for Alice Eaton.  (Retrieved 12/2/20)
1901 England Census for Leyton, Essex.  Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.Original data – Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives, 1901. Data imaged from the National Archives, London, England. The National Archives (via Ancestry)
Death certificate for Leanor(a) Ann Denne, 1904.  General Register Office.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s