The Bishop family of Cambridgeshire and Lancashire

My maternal Bishop family history research has so far taken me back to my 6x Great Grandfather Joseph Bishop in the early 1770's in the village of Soham, just a few miles South-East of the city of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England.

It's the third generation of Bishop ancestors that sees my family leave Soham.

My 4x Great Grandfather Simpson Bishop (taking his first name from his mother's maiden name), is the one to lead the family away from the familiar fenland of Cambridgeshire.

The Bishop Family's First Move

The first hint of my Bishop family getting itchy feet in the Cambridgeshire fenland becomes evident in 1851, when on the census, rather than being back home in Soham, the family appears at Little Wapses Farm in Twineham, Sussex, in the south of England.

They weren't alone, as the previous census entry also shows a Cambridgeshire family living at neighbouring Great Wapses Farm. I'm assuming that the pair knew each other and all travelled down to be tenant farmers.

The family had returned to Cambridgeshire by 1860, the start of which is marked by the burial of Simpson's first wife (and my 4x Great Grandmother) Elizabeth Taylor. Simpson's own father John Bishop would lose three more wives by 1868.

Just over a year later, and during the 1861 census, the family and are found in Soham's neighbouring parish of Fordham.

By this time, my 3x Great Grandfather James Simpson Bishop has already married and is settled with his own family in nearby Wicken. For his widowed father and his younger siblings, everything was to about change again.

Coprolite Digging

During a short period in the late 1800s, the Bishop family are involved in Coprolite Digging - essentially the mining of fossilised dinosaur droppings to produce fertilizer. This odd bounty proved to be massively profitable and caused a 'rush' of digging in the Cambridgeshire region, but fell into decline by the mid-1880s.

The Bishop family in Lancashire

Just days after the 1861 census, Simpson re-marries to Elizabeth Ellinor, but their marriage was not to last long, and by April 1868 he has re-married again. Widow Sarah Washington (née Brown) is Simpson's third wife, and with this new wife and most of his children they head North, up to Lancashire where they traded a future of agricultural work for the cotton industry.

The Cotton Mills

Here, the family move to work at Reedsholme Works, one of the many cotton mills in the north of England. It would have been incredibly hard and dangerous work, but probably a steadier and more dependable pay than agriculture.

Simpson and his new wife Sarah are living apart in 1871 - Sarah living with her two Washington children, and the two young Bishop daughters, whilst Simpson is living a few doors away with his older Bishop children. They both state that they are married, but was this arrangement through necessity in order to home their large family, or did Simpson and Sarah's marriage break down?

In 1879, Simpson travels to Liverpool with his daughter Ann Elizabeth Bishop, her husband George Eve and their infant children. They board SS Spain and head to New York City, USA.

After passing through Castle Garden Immigration Center, they set up home in Minonk, Illinois, where Ann and George stay to raise their family, with Simpson living with them at the time of the US 1880 census. After this date, he seems to vanish.

An index card kept at the County Court in Woodford County, Illinois, shows that in 1886, a 'James Simpson Bishop' (one of the pseudonyms he used in UK), has applied for naturalization. I shall investigate further, to see whether it really is him.

Meanwhile, Sarah is noted as a 62yr old servant in 1891, and finally notes that she's a widow in 1901. Did he desert her?

Bishop family connections

The Bishop family is connected to a number of my ancestral families:


One noticeable trait of the Bishop family, is longevity - with many of their modern descendents living well into their late-90s and early 100s.

My records are indebted to fellow researcher and cousin, Gerard Kelly who kindly provided me with some more Bishop info whilst I was concentrating on other branches of my family tree research.