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Researching the Longleys of Leeds

When Mum (Anne Valerie Longley (nee Marks)) was ill with cancer in 2007, I spent a week with her in March while Dad (David Michael) was spending a few days in France.

During this time, she and I talked about a number of things, including her family tree research. This was something that she had talked about on and off for some time, though it had never interested me.

She talked about some of the work that she had done on tracing the family, and I knew that she had done some work in Family Tree Maker. While staying with her, I spent a little time on her computer and noticed a Family Tree file on her PC desktop. Knowing that neither she nor Dad had the time to regularly take backups, I emailed myself the file plus her Picasa photo albums.

After her untimely passing in November 2007, I did nothing with the file until early 2011. My interest was awakened when Ollie and I visited the Titanic Artefacts Exhibition at the O2 arena in London. At the end of the exhibition, which was less than scintillating, there was a huge board that showed the classes of travel, and within each, the names of survivors and those who perished. Listed in the survivors was a Gretchen Fiske Longley! We were off!

I opened Mum’s tree, and what I found was a quite substantial tree that covered various branches of the Longley/ Marks tree, but my interest lay in the Longleys. The tree went as far back as a possible Thomas Longley (Abt. 1780).

I quickly set off in different directions, due to various possible interesting connections in my (Longley) line as well as Jen’s family (Hawes). There have been a few Longley’s of minor note, a reputed connection to Major General John Lambert (d1684) – a close ally of Oliver Cromwell – and a reputed connection between Jen’s family and Sir Thomas More (d1535) up the Roper line through a marriage between Thomas More’s daughter Margaret More and William Roper in 1525.

What has become clear is that every family has one or more reputed connections to famous or wealthy people, and I have little doubt that at some point, these are true and do exist. What I have also learnt, to my cost, is that following these leads down from someone in the 16th century and up from the 21st century is hugely difficult and frustrating. Looking at my own tree, and going back to Thomas Longley (my 4th great grandfather), and assuming some averages, I have 1,500 direct and indirect relatives!

So, I’ve focussed on going straight back up the Longleys, investigating other branches only sufficiently to validate the facts that relate to my direct paternal line. This, I thought would be simple. Oh, how wrong I was!

The family is quite straightforward once you’ve untangled it, but it gets a little interesting where you find one Longley marrying another! I owe a debt of gratitude to Dominic Case – one of my father’s cousins, who had done much of the leg-work. He had found out, for example, that Alice Monica Longley married Reginald Walter Longley…

Polite note: This page is the text from a document that I maintain, in which there are many images. I have published the words of the document, along with other documents, such that it might prove useful to others. If you get in touch, and we can share research, I’ll happily share images.

Introduction (December 2013)

The tree I inherited from Mum was originally created on paper by my paternal grandfather Walter Gerald Longley, who had spent a lot of time working on it. I have several long sheets of pencil drawn family tree, which is quite indistinct in places, but not bad given that it could be 75 or more years old!

The tree started with Thomas (b1784) and Sarah, and I have so far been unable to get any further back with any confidence. There are a number of trees that have a line above Thomas and Sarah (notably James Hakim, and additionally Myke Leech), both of whom I corresponded with. Neither of their trees are supported by sufficient evidence for me to take their work and add it to my tree with certainty, though James Hakim’s goes back several generations, and it is deliciously tempting to take his work, as it goes back to 1565.

The focus of my work has been to take the Longley’s straight back up, but I haven’t been able to stop myself chasing down all of the ancestors from the top of my line. I have been following all male Longley’s down as far as I can go, as well as female Longley’s who marry, researching them until their demise. As well as being quite rewarding, it also extends the tree, and thus the number of people who are likely to find my tree, and where we can exchange help.

My Uncle (Charles Marks) has spent a lot of time on the Marks, Eastwoods and Garrards – and I have taken some of his very thorough work and incorporated it into my tree, but for me, it remains incidental.

My father had spent time on his maternal side, looking at the Hargraves, and Smiths etc.


My interest in genealogy was sparked, like for most people I suspect, by an event quite late in life, and all too sadly after my Mum was diagnosed, and was seriously ill with cancer. Although I glanced at my tree while she was alive, she was far too ill to comment, and when she was in respite, my relationship with my father was too patchy for this to be a topic of conversation. If we did discuss it, he ventured nothing of what I would later find.

When I was clearing Wynyards Cottage in 2019 and 2020, I discovered an absolute treasure trove of photographs and letters covering over 2 centuries, and some property deeds dating back 400+ years. The items had been stored in various states from appalling and mouse-eaten to fair, and their condition reflects that variable nature. I saved almost everything, and have been making my way through them systematically. I have hundreds of photos, and I know that if I had had these when Mum was alive, or Dad was more coherent, I would be able to put names to faces for the vast majority of my ancestral tree. I can’t roll back time, and it is what it is.

In the family, my Mum, Uncle (Charles William Marks “Bill”), father, paternal grandfather (Walter Gerald) and paternal great-grandfather (Reginald Walter) had all researched the family. I know this as I have hand-written notes exchanged between them, as well as paper records. Dad’s cousin Dominic Case has researched many lines in my tree, and we have compared notes extensively. I know that he has items in his family that would be precious to me, particularly relating to John William (chemist), but they have meaning to him and his brother (Andrew). I hope they stay in the family.

Passing the baton

Linked to the above, as I’ve researched family, and researched stories about “Longley’s” I’ve shared these with Charlie and Ollie – hoping to entertain them, but also to possibly inspire them. They know about the murders, the boiler explosions, the marrying of cousins, dropping locals into it, and more besides. Equally, as I’ve been “processing” the priceless items from my ancestors, I have shown great respect for them, and discussed my actions with them both. My time will come, and I want my life treated with as much respect as I have given to my parent’s legacy.

I hope that one or other of them may pick up where I leave off – inspired to learn more about their roots. Maybe they’ll research Jen’s family, or take mine back further. If they understand some of the weird photos and items that they’ve seen during their upbringing, that would be enough for me.

Leeds orientation

Given that my research back in time is stalled in Leeds and York in the 18th and 19th century, a little orientation is in order, if only for me. As we wander through the industrial revolution, an understanding of the parishes of Leeds will help enormously.

The Longley Builders in Leeds

I’m not going to duplicate the contents of an entire document here, save to say that in Leeds there are 2 clear firms of Builders. One (mine) is in central Leeds, while the other is in Hunslet. At times there is clear water between the 2 businesses, and the background, marrying patterns, and religious denominations are evidently very different. And then there are times, places, and events where it’s almost inconceivable that they are unrelated. The clearest example of this is the “Spurr” incident, which according to my research touches both businesses and/ or families.
In summary, Thomas Longley and Sons are “ours” (dissolved 1870), which spawns “William Longley and sons” (dissolved 1876). Longley Brothers (Hunslet) (dissolved 1875).

The names overlap horribly between my ancestors (Thomas, William, John, and James) with the “others” – being (Thomas, William, John, and James).
To unravel this would, I think, require living in Leeds for an extended period of time, and accessing local resources.

Longley builders in Leeds

The Church

In Dad’s side the church plays a major role in the occupations and lives of the Lamberts and Longleys, with vicars and canons popping up all over the place. While there have been very senior Longleys in the church (e.g. the Archbishop of Canterbury) there’s nothing at this stage to connect long-standing and loyal parish curates and vicars with the upper echelons of the church.

The Rev Reginald Walter Longley was honorary canon at Norwich Cathedral.

Canon Thomas Longley was canon at Lincoln Cathedral.

The Lamberts were extensively associated with the church.