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Brentford Families - Francis

Clare Francis wrote in January 2019: Joseph James Francis had no fewer than 19 children, recorded in the baptisms of children of those who worked on the waterways.
Children of Joseph James Francis by his two wives

Amazingly most made it through childhood (Walter, Richard Henry the first (1868) and Catherine seem to be the main three who disappear from the records, with the rest popping up in future records to prove their survival.

Clare has since sent more information about the ancestors of Henry Ernest Francis, one of the grandsons of Joseph James Francis; his family tree follows:

Francis family tree

Notes on the family of Henry (Harry) Ernest Francis who lived in Brentford and the surrounding villages in Middlesex between 1750 and 1980

Henry Ernest (senior and junior) Francis

Harry was born in 1913, the second in a family of four children. His father was called up as a driver in the Royal Artillery during WW1. Sadly, Harry’s mother Ada died during the 1918 flu epidemic and his father sent the youngest child Joseph to be adopted in Canada. Joseph Stephen returned to the UK in 1939, living with the family, until the outbreak of WW2, when he volunteered as a gunner. He was killed during the Battle of Britain defending airfield in Kent.

Meanwhile Harry had met and married (1935) Catherine(May) who he had met whilst working as a gardener at the West Middlesex Hospital. They had two children, Peter (1936) and Brian (1938). Sadly, Peter died aged 8 months and was buried with his great grandparents. Both Harry and his brother George served with the Royal Artillery during WW2 and in the 1970s George encouraged Harry and May to move to Peterborough, where Harry died in 1981. Their elder sister, also called Ada, had died in 1960.

Harry’s father, Henry Ernest Senior had been born in 1884 into a huge family (16 surviving children) and had left to join the Royal Artillery around the time of the Boer War. He was at the barracks in Leeds in 1901, but his records may have been destroyed in the later blitz, as many records of a similar name are fire damaged. Family oral history remembers Brian’s children playing with and losing his war medals. He was certainly out of the army by 1911, when he married his wife Ada Marie Thomas, who he too met at the hospital working in the laundry. Henry Ernest senior died in 1950 and was buried close to his parents.

Ada Marie Thomas (mother of Harry)

The Thomas family lived at Cressage Rd, but they had worked as carters and wagon driver (Carmen) as well as basket and punnet makers and market gardeners around Ealing Lane. Ada’s mother was Maria James and Maria’s father William Henry James was a labourer in the brickfield, who may have died in an accident at the gas works in 1877. He had moved his family around, living in Battersea (where he married his wife Eliza Bissell), Kent and Hammersmith, before resettling in Brentford, where he was born. William’s father Robert came from Hillingdon and the Bissells originated from Ealing/Hanwell with their records going back to beyond the 1750s.


Joseph James Francis (grandfather to Harry)

Fatherless aged 5 years, Joseph was apprenticed to become a Waterman and worked in this profession unloading the boats his whole working life. He married twice and fathered 19 children, of which16 survived to adulthood.

His first wife was Sarah Collins. She may have come from Westminster and they married at St Mary Ealing. They had nine children and the youngest Catherine was only 2yrs old when Sarah died in 1882. Catherine is missing from the next census so she too may have died, but she may have been adopted by others.

In 1883 Joseph remarried, a local girl called Eliza Bates who was only 20 and barely two years older than her first step-son (she was a witness at his wedding). Eliza and Joseph had another 10 children, all of whom survived into adulthood and he outlived Eliza by two years, dying in 1930. Their eldest child was Henry Ernest senior.

Eliza came from a family of Costermongers, Hawkers and street sellers who lived in the courts off Back Lane in Brentford. She had seven siblings and her father had died when she was 7yrs old, forcing her mother to become a washerwoman to survive. Her father Harry Bates had originally come from Thame in Oxfordshire, where his father originally worked as an agricultural labourer

Joseph Francis senior (Great-grandfather to Harry)

Joseph senior had begun life (1801) in the village of Hanwell with his 6 siblings. His father died when he was 12 yrs old and his mother 2 years later. He worked, first in agriculture and later as a general labourer and he married Charlotte Clifford in 1834, whilst still in Hanwell. By 1841 they have moved to the Ham in Brentford and began a family. He died in 1850, leaving Charlotte with 6 children and it is likely that she remarried to survive.

Charlotte had been born out of wedlock but her mother Hannah married soon after, although Charlotte did not take his name. She is last known of living in a shared house at the hundreds, Isleworth as a widow aged 49yrs old.

Robert Francis (Harry’s GG grandfather) and William Francis (Harry’s GGG Grandfather)

Robert Francis (c1756) married Elizabeth Buckett in 1780 in Hanwell. Robert had originally been from a small village called Little Shepperton near to Sunbury which in those days was in Surrey (it is now in Middlesex). His parents were William Francis and Mary Stevens. It is not known when they were born but they married on 25/12/1745. Christmas day was often used as a date to get married or to have children christened. People had few holidays and little spare food to party, so they often combined celebrations with other holidays. There were eight other children born to Mary and William.


Notes on these and other ancestors

Clare has also provided notes on those members of her family tree from Brntford or nearby, noting when and where born, baptised, married, died, life events, places lived, appearance, children, siblings and parents. To view or download just click on the link.

The male line, Francis, is listed first, then others, top to bottom from the chart above:

There are also some notes for three of the siblings of


Page published June 2019