End of the Line: The Keighley Owstons

· End of the Line Series

Up to this point, the “End of the Line” series has featured extinct lines from three different branches of the Sherburn Family.  With this post, we turn to the Thornholme Family for our next extinct line – the Keighley Line.  This extinct line of Owstons descended from the Thornholme Family’s William Owston Branch.  For those outside of the UK, Keighley is pronounced KEEF-LEE.

This line’s last male, William Porter Owston, died in 1934 and the surname completely passed from the lineage with the death of his unmarried sister four years later.  The line is delineated as follows:

While it is believed that the Thornholme Family is connected to older Ganton lines, the Thornholme Owstons cannot be satisfactorily traced beyond Richard Owston who died in 1739.  Y-DNA testing has proved that the surviving Sherburn, Ganton, and Thornholme lines share a common ancestor; however, the exact relationship among the three is currently unknown.

The majority of surviving Thornholme lines descend from Richard Owston’s (d. 1739) grandson Porter Owston (1763-1820). In addition to a daughter named Jane, Porter Owston had four sons William, Michael, Robert, and Richard.  While Robert only produced daughters, Owston descendants of William and Richard still exist to the present.

The Keighley Line, however, descended from Michael Owston who spent his time between Scarborough, North Yorkshire and Bridlington in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  Michael’s oldest son, John, was born in Scarborough on 16 November 1819 and the event was delineated in the records of Ebenezer Particular Baptist Meeting House.

By trade, Michael was a watchmaker.  His son John followed in the business, and after marrying Elizabeth Watson in the Newcastle district in 1847, he set up shop in Keighley in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

John and Elizabeth had five children with four surviving into adulthood:

  • Emily Owston (1851-????)
  • William Porter Owston (1853-1934)
  • Louisa A. Owston (1856-1920)
  • Hannah Owston (1859-1861)
  • Julie H. Owston (1860-1938)

While Hannah died in her second year, the fate of Emily is not currently known by this researcher.  She was living in her father’s household in 1871; however, she is not with her father and sisters in 1881.  Neither a death nor a marriage record could be satisfactorily attributed to Emily.  The other three children, who never married, lived into the twentieth century.

John and Elizabeth’s only son was christened William Porter Owston.  The “Porter” appellation was the first name of his great grandfather and the maiden name of his second great grandmother, Jane Porter (1724-1791).  Other Owstons shared the “Porter” name as a first and middle name including a first cousin, once removed who was also named William Porter Owston (1835-1900).

It was intended that John’s only son would continue in the family business, as William apprenticed with his father in watch making; but it was not his life’s calling.   The tipping point for choosing another career may have been John’s declaring bankruptcy in 1876.  In the process, John’s assets were apparently liquidated to pay his creditors.

By 1881, William Porter Owston was employed as an Inland Revenue Officer and would remain in that career with the Customs and Excise Service until retirement.  His post at that time was in Barnstaple, Devon where he boarded in the home of Edward Martin.

Period flag for His Majesty’s Customs and Excise Service

The same census reports that John, Louisa, and Julia had moved to Middleham, North Yorkshire where the daughters were employed as schoolmistresses.  John continued to be identified as a watchmaker and it appears that he was able to ply his trade until he died suddenly on June 10, 1882.  John was buried next to his wife in the Utley Cemetery at Keighley. Elizabeth had previously passed away at the age of 46 on July 5, 1868.

Grave marker of John and Elizabeth Owston courtesy of Wendy Sutherland.

Since William Porter Owston and his two unmarried sisters cannot be located in the 1891 census, it is not known whether they cohabited from the time of their father’s death in 1882.  They are found together in Kilchoman, Argyll, Scotland in 1901; however, this was not the case in 1911. Identified as a First Class Officer of Customs and Excise, William Porter Owston was listed as living alone with a housekeeper in the 1911 census.

As for his sisters, it appears that the Louisa and Julia lived together in Cardiff, Wales until Louisa’s death on December 27, 1920.  Her estate of slightly over £601 passed to Julia.  At the time of William’s death on September 23, 1934, his residence was located in Sydenham, Kent; however, he passed away at Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex – a distance of nearly fifty miles from his home.  The circumstances of his death are not known.  His entire estate, valued at over £1777, was inherited by Julia.

Residence where William Porter Owston died.

It is not known whether Julia moved in with William Porter Owston at his home in Sydenham, Kent or that she inherited the property upon his death and then moved into the structure – probate records list their final home as the same address.  She died on June 12, 1938.  His Majesty’s Treasurer Solicitor administered the estate which had grown to £3190.

Apartment complex on the site where William Porter and Julia Owston’s home was located.

With the deaths of William Porter Owston in 1934 and that of his sister Julia in 1938, the Keighley Line of Owstons was one of many Owston and Ouston lineages that passed out of existence during the twentieth century.


1841 England and Wales census. Findmypast.com.

1851 England and Wales census. Findmypast.com.

1861 England and Wales census. Findmypast.com.

1871 England and Wales census. Findmypast.com.

1881 England and Wales census. Findmypast.com.

1901 Scotland census. Ancestry.com.

1911 Scotland census. ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk.

A brief history of HM Customs and Excise. (n.d.).  London:  HM Revenue & Customs.  http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/history/hmce.htm.

Bankruptcy Act, 1869: John Owston of Keighley. (1876, June 27).  The London Times, p. 3178.

England & Wales, national probate calendar, 1858-1966. (2012).  Ancestry.com.

International genealogical index (2011). Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Ouston, R. J. (2004). 2003 Directory of Ouston/Owston families. Highbridge, Somerset, UK: Roger J. Ouston.

Owston England and Wales General Register Office death records 1911-2006. Ancestry.com and FindmyPast.co.uk.

Owston England and Wales General Register Office marriage records 1837-1910. Ancestry.com and FindmyPast.co.uk.

Sutherland, W.  (2011). Find A Grave memorial for Elizabeth Owston at Utley Cemetery. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=77706363

Sutherland, W.  (2011). Find A Grave memorial for John Owston at Utley Cemetery.  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=77706357.

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