A family quest with “thrills and sadness”

Malcolm Wallis
Malcolm Wallis

“I grew up in the 1960s as a young man fascinated by James Cook and his voyages to Australia.”

Father-of-two Malcolm Wallis, 56, explains why he has spent more than two decades looking into his past.

He said: “There was a family legend that we were related to William Sanderson.”

For the uninitiated, William Sanderson owned the shop in Staithes where James Cook worked before joining the Navy.

Armed with that knowledge, Malcolm began his search for more. He said: “It has been a journey of revelation and sadness at times.”

But how was William Sanderson part of the Wallis family?

All was revealed by Malcolm.

“My paternal grandfather was Sanderson Brown Wallis, born in Staithes on Christmas Eve 1892.

“There were about a dozen families in Staithes who intermarried and whose surnames became Christian names – Sanderson and Brown are to name but two.”

The Sanderson connection, he explained, originates with Alice Sanderson. Alice was one of nine children born to Ralph Saunderson also known as Sanderson.

He was a Staithes fisherman, who was one of five siblings – and one of them was the William Sanderson who worked as a merchant in Staithes and employed James Cook.

“The link is there,” said Malcolm.

But his own family’s history research has also yielded results.

Malcolm, who is married to Ann and has two grown-up children Laura and Philip from a previous marriage, has traced his family back to the mid 1770’s and to Christopher Wallis who was a stonemason in working in four quarries.

As the times changed, so did the family’s trade.

And by the 1861 census, the family business run by Christopher’s grandson (also called Christopher) was in joinery employing his sons, William and John.

William, born in 1825, left the tranquillity of North Yorkshire for the excitement and work in the new town of West Hartlepool.

He moved to Frederic Street with their son Francis.

Daughter Elizabeth, though, had already married a gamekeeper called John Hastings and stayed behind in North Yorkshire to live in Great Smeaton. William moved back to Lythe when he retired.

Malcolm, who is a former sales manager for the timber importing and joinery industries, said: “William had been a joiner and a successful one at that. On his death in 1898, he left an estate of £248. 2s. 1d, which equates to eight times the average annual income of the time.

“Francis had trained as a joiner and carried on the family business until he retired and bought a newsagent and tobacconist in Park Road.”

Malcolm’s research then took him to tales of sadness.

He explained: “Francis had married a woman from Staithes who he must have known years before. Her name was Patience Cole, formerly, Brown and from a renowned family of Staithes shipowners. She was a widow of Ralph Cole, who was a joiner and son of a Staithes fisherman.

“He died after 18 months of marriage from tuberculosis. Patience and Ralph had a son, Ralph, who also died of convulsions seven months after his father after surviving only 15 weeks.”

Malcolm said: “This is where we get back to the family legend. Patience’s father was Sanderson Brown, a master mariner who sailed to the Baltic, Riga and Danzig before having to give up due to ill health. He sadly died in 1876 aged only 46.

“His father, William Brown, was also a master mariner and ship owner. The ships had steadily grown in size and the one I remember, because of mementoes at my grandmothers, is the Waterwitch which was a 204-ton Brigantine built on the River Wear in 1840.”

She was registered in Whitby and William Brown owned her for a period. William died in 1848 aged 49 years.

William’s father Jacob Brown was also a seafarer and, in 1787 was master of the 48-ton Brotherly Love which was built in Staithes in 1770 and, after a period as a fishing vessel, was employed on the coastal trade to London.

Malcolm’s passion for genealogy has led him into business. He now runs his own company researching family trees called Lineage Research Limited.

l Are you an avid genealogist?

Would you like to share your fascinating findings with the Mail.

Give us a call and let us more about your own personal look into history.

l Together Again: Page 30