Josiah Bell, Woodman of Mereworth,Kent

In former blogs I have written about John Billinghurst alias Bell, born 1800, the illegitimate son of Sarah Billinghurst, of Mereworth, Kent. See ‘The Story of an Alias-John Bell, Mereworth,Kent’ and ‘More on the Alias of John Bell, Mereworth, Kent’.
The following year Sarah Billinghurst married Josiah Bell, in St Lawrence, Mereworth. They had a daughter Elizabeth born 1803, whose story is told in ‘A Life Cut Short-Elizabeth Bell, Mereworth, Kent.’

In this blog I continue the family story about their son, Josiah Bell who was born in 1806.

Josiah Bell, the second child and son of Josiah and Sarah Bell (nee Billinghurst) was born in Mereworth in 1806. By his time his father was 52 years of age and his mother 42 years.
Josiah Bell was baptised at St Lawrence, Mereworth on 31 August 1806. He grew up in Mereworth and was only ten years of age when his father died. No doubt Josiah took on the care of his mother and sister from an early age, but by the time he was in his early twenties, he had lost both his sister and mother.
Josiah Bell married at St Mary’s, East Farleigh, on 29 January 1832, a cousin, Ann Bell, the daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox). She had been baptised at East Farleigh on 10 November 1811.

They had a large family all of whom were baptised at St Lawrence,
⦁ Sarah Bell, b 1832
⦁ Catherine Harriet Bell, b 1835
⦁ Josiah Bell, b 1837
⦁ James Bell, b 1838
⦁ Ann Bell, b 1840
⦁ Mercy, b 1843
⦁ Thomas, b1847
⦁ Robert Bell, b 1849
⦁ Mahalah, b 1851
⦁ George, b 1854
⦁ Frederick, b 1856

Josiah and Ann Bell remained in Mereworth, when Ann Bell’s parents, Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox), and most of her siblings emigrated to New South Wales on the Woodbridge, in 1838.

The Baptismal Font, St Lawrence, Mereworth
Copyright-Nola Mackey, 2004

Josiah and Ann Bell and family, can be found in the 1841,1851,1861,1871 Census Return for Mereworth, where Josiah is described as a ‘Wood Labourer’. We know his father was also recorded as a ‘Woodsman’ in several parish documents.

Josiah bell died and was buried in the Mereworth churchyard on 24 March 1874. His headstone is inscribed with “He was for 43 years a bellringer at this church”.

The weathered headstone of Josiah Bell, St Lawrence Churchyard.
Copyright- Nola Mackey,2004

After Josiah Bell’s death, his wife Ann, found employment as the Monthly Nurse. In the 1881 Census she was not at home, but in the household of John Humphrey’s, with his wife Mary Ann and their infant daughter, Edith.She is recorded there as 72 years of age, but would have been about 70 years.
In the 1891 Census, Ann Bell was living in Kent Street. Her invalid daughter Ann, and her youngest son, Frederick Bell and his family were living with her.
Ann Bell died in 1895 and is buried in the Mereworth Churchyard, possibly beside her husband, but her grave is unmarked.



Sudds Cousins Emigrate to America

In a former blog I wrote about the family of John Bell(b1822) Mereworth, Kent, England, who had married in Staplehurst in 1851, Harriet Hatcher. They had three children John (b.1851), Elizabeth (b.1853) and Mary Ann (b.1855) before they emigrated to the United States of America in 1856-7.

At the end of the blog I suggested they were probably not the first in the Bell family who had emigrated to America.

After assessing the large collection of documents my cousin Glenda and I had collected on the various branches of the Bell family, I narrowed down my ‘possible’ families.

One person of interest was William Daniel Sudds, the youngest son of Paul and Jane Sudds (nee Bell). His mother, Jane Bell (b.1778) was the eldest daughter of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence) of Mereworth, Kent, England. This couple, Thomas and Ann Bell was also Glenda and my 4X great-grandparents, although down through different children.


St Lawrence, Mereworth,Kent-Copyright Nola Mackey 2004

William Daniel Sudds (b.1811)known as Dan Sudds, is believed to have emigrated to New York about 1845. There he married a Mary Unknown and had a number of children including Emma (b.1846); Addison (b.1849); Josephine,(1852; Rachel (b.1854); Jennie (Jane) b.1856; Daniel (b.1859). This family also migrated to Michigan where two more daughters Maud (b.1860) and Elsie (b.1864) were born. The family resided at Chocolay, Michigan for a number of years. Dan Sudds died in 1868.

Dan Sudds would have been a first cousin to the former mentioned John Bell(b.1822) and also to my ancestor George Bell who emigrated to Australia in 1837.

Dan Sudds elder brother Iden (b.1804) married Jane Huggett in 1825 and had a number of children including Jane (b.1826); Mary Ann (b.1827); William (b.1828); Iden (b.1830); Sarah (b.1831); Isaac (b.1833); Ann (b.1836); Eleanor (b.1837); Catherine (b.1838); Emma (b.1841); Amos (b.1842); Caroline (b.1844); Frederick (b.1846) and Amy(b.1848).

We have been able to establish that the above mentioned Mary Ann Sudds(b.1827) married David Kennedy and Sarah Sudds (b.1831) married Jeremiah Wells. These couples emigrated to Canada c 1860. As yet I have not been able to establish if Mary and David Kennedy had any children, but she died in Ontario in 1895.

Jeremiah and Sarah Wells had a number of children including the following born in Ontario:- Julia (b.1863); Jessie (b.1865); Mary (b.1868);Mark (b.1869); and Minnie (b.1870).

I have been a member of the Kent Family History Society for over forty years. Over the years I have purchased most of their books and CD resources and in more recent years have been involved in the Global Branch of the Society. There members can post questions and problems concerning their family research on the Society’s website. I was most fortunate to have several KFHS members living in USA and Canada answer my queries and I was able to make further headway with my research over there

As well as the above mentioned Sudds families and connections, I found other Sudds families emigrating from Mereworth and Wateringbury, Kent. About 1875 Frederick Charles (b.1851) and Martha Sudds and his brother Timothy Sudds (b.1842)and his wife Sarah emigrated to the USA. They first settled in Michigan, but had moved to Ravenna Portage in Ohio by 1878. They remained there for several years, where Timothy was a saloon keeper. In about 1887 the families moved to Cook, Illinois.

Meanwhile back in Wateringbury, Kent, Frederick and Timothy’s younger brother Nathan (b.1854) had spent some time in the army, as a wheelwright. He was stationed in Malta, where he met and married a local girl, Carmella. They had a daughter, Elizabeth, born in Malta before they were shipped back to Kent about 1880. A son, Nathan, was born the following year. Then two daughters were born, Emily and Ann, in 1883 and 1885 respectively.

Soon afterwards the family decided to emigrate to USA and joined Nathan’s brothers and their families in Illinios. The family later settled in Thornton, where a number of children were born and by 1900 a total of ten children were living at home with the parents.

Although it was fun tracking down other twigs and branches of the far flung ‘Bell Family Tree’, Glenda and I decided it was time we returned to our more immediate family connection in Kent and Australia. There was still plenty of research to do.