Working Backwards on the Brimlows

William Brimlow (1800-1873)

For as long as I can remember, I have known about Henrietta (Brimlow) Frith (1847-1884) and her sad death at the age of 37. My mother told me the tale her grandmother Nettie Frith (1875-1963) had told her about her mother Henrietta dying and seeing her in the casket with her stillborn child in her arms. It was not difficult to trace Henrietta to her parents, George Brimlow and Elizabeth Weeks. It was also not difficult to work out George’s parents and siblings thanks to the early research provided by my distant cousin Chris Beale. Chris had done quite a bit of the legwork prior to the explosion of records online. It was Chris who outlined the basic family, located the family plot at Cypress Hills Cemetery, and located the passenger list. With Chris’s excellent research as a starting point, I went through thirty years of New York City and Brooklyn directories, combed the NY State Census records, and drove myself insane looking at New York and Brooklyn birth, death, and marriage records to fill in the gaps and add some flesh to the bones.

Here’s what we currently know about the family in New York along with the evidence:

William and Ann Broomelaw arrived in New York, along with their 5 children, aboard the Ajax on 29 Nov 1832.1
Ajax pass list 1832
William Broomelaw, 32 (1800), Miner, England
Ann, 35 (1837)
Jane, 9 (1823)
George, 12 (1820)
William, 7 (1825)
Henry, 6 (1826)
John, 3 (1829)

Let’s address the two concerns with this record – the name and the occupation. As stated in the previous post, a genealogist has to be flexible with the name. The family is English and if they are from Northwesterern England, Shropshire/Cheshire/Lancashire, which all border on Wales, the pronunciation of the name will sound more like Broom or Brom than it does Brim. As for the occupation… occupations are usually the job people last held and not necessarily what they may have done earlier in life or will be doing in the future. As proven in the previous post about William Brown, he listed himself as a farmer, but he was actually a butcher. And William Brimlow’s oldest son George named himself as a coffee roaster on the census and a clerk in the directory of the same year before changing his occupation to engineer only one year later. This is America—you can be whatever you choose.

William Brimlow makes his first appearance in the New York City directory in 1836 and remained at this particular address through 1846:2
“Brimlow William, coffee & spices 59 Cherry”

The family can be accounted for on the 1840 Federal Census in New York Ward 4 under the name Wm Brimlow:3
Males 10-14 – 1 (John 11),
15-19 – 2 (Henry14, Wm15),
20-29 – 1 (Geo 20),
40-49 – 1 (Wm 40),
Females 15-19 – 1 (Jane 17),
40-49 – 1( Ann 43)

The Brimlows are well established in New York’s Lower East Side. On 7 Nov 1842, William is naturalized.4 In 1846, the business address changes to 16 James Slip, where it will remain for at least the next 10 years. William and Ann appear with youngest son John on the 1850 Federal Census in New York Ward 4.5 The family has moved to 59 Monroe Street and middle son William appears in the city directory at that address with his father and brother George as a clerk for the first time in 1851.

Ann died 10 Mar 1851 in New York City, and William purchased the large family plot at Cypress Hills Cemetery, Sec 2, Lot 168 on 11 Mar 1851. Ann was the first interment in the plot on 13 Mar 1851.6

About 1852, William married Deborah (Gedney) Woodhall (1817-16 Nov 1895),7 17 years his junior, she was the widow of Thomas Woodhall (1818-1850). She had three children from her previous marriage: Mary Elizabeth (Woodhall) Wines Jones; Josephine (Woodhall) Johnson, and Leander Byron Woodhall. Some of these children were enumerated as Brimlow at times. William and Deborah had three children together: Arthur W., Frederick Austin, and Ella Helen.

By 1855, the entire family had moved across the river to Brooklyn. The New York City directories reflected the business address at James Slip with a home listing of Brooklyn. At the age of 65, William still listed himself as employed in N.Y.8

William died on 6 February 1873 at his home, 75 Taylor Street, Brooklyn.9 He was laid to rest with Ann in Cypress Hills Cemetery on 8 Feb 1873.10 Deborah died 16 Nov 1895 in Brooklyn and was buried in Eleazor Gedney Burial Ground, Mamaroneck, Westchester, New York.11
Wm dc 1873

The next post will be about William and Ann in England, and the evidence related to Ann’s maiden name in the Wood versus Chaddock debate.



1. “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Ancestry,” online images(accessed 20 May 2014), manifest, Ajax, 29 Nov 1832, William Broomelaw and family. Cit. Date: 20 May 2014.
2. 1836 – (City Directories – New York – p.114, Fold3.com
3. 1840 U.S. census, New York Ward 4, New York, New York, p. 219, line 20, Wm Brimlow; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 30 Nov 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M704, roll 300. Cit. Date: 30 Nov 2015.
4. Rec# 33, 7 Nov 1842, William Brimlow, English, Marine Court of New York City; digital images(accessed 20 May 2014). Cit. Date: 20 May 2014.
5. 1850 U.S. census, population schedule, New York, New York, p. 278A, dwelling 461, family 1694, William Brimlee; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 14 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll M432 536. Cit. Date: 14 May 2014.
6. Interment Records, Cypress Hills Cemetery interment #1254 – Ann Brimlow, 13 Mar 1851, Sec 2, Lot 168.
7. New York death certificate #19974, Deborah Brimlow, died 16 Nov 1895, 249 Broadway, 2nd floor, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, age 70 (or 76)y 6 mo., apoplexy, buried 19 Nov 1895. Cit. Date: 15 May 2014.
8. 1865 NewYork State Census, Brooklyn Ward 13, Kings, New York, p. 21, dwelling 88, family 152, line 29, Wm Brimlow 65, Deborah Brimlow 49, Leander W. Brimlow 18, Mary Wines 25, Arthur Brimlow 12, Fredk Brimlow 10, Ella Brimlow 8; digital images(accessed 30 Nov 2015). Cit. Date: 30 Nov 2015.
9. “New York Death Records,” database(accessed 27 Nov 2015), Certificate #1069, William Brimlow died 6 Feb 1873, age 73, Brooklyn, Kings, buried 8 Feb 1873 Cypress Hills Cemetery.
10. Interment Records, Cypress Hills Cemetery, William Brimlow was interred 8 Feb 1873, in Sec 2, Lot 168.
11. New York death certificate #19974, Deborah Brimlow, died 16 Nov 1895, 249 Broadway, 2nd floor, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, age 70 (or 76)y 6 mo., apoplexy, buried 19 Nov 1895. Cit. Date: 15 May 2014.

A Brimlow by Any Other Name

Brimlow/Brimalow/Broomelaw/Bromilow

Making the leap across the pond requires an understanding and acceptance of pronunciation and spelling. While the people who recorded the information were required to be able to read and write, they were not required to know how to spell. Spelling has been optional since the beginning of written records. Our names were really only hammered into some semblance of a final form when the federal government got involved. Many people believe that occurred with the advent of standardized birth records in the early 1900s and then solidified when Social Security came along. Once the government had your name spelled a certain way, then that’s the way it would always be unless you legally changed it.

But the spelling issue came much earlier for some people. Men who served in the military kept the name they enlisted under for government records – Henry and Robert Pickel both served in the Civil War under the name Pickel but after the war reverted to the original form of the name Bickel. They were not the first with the problem. The family story is that their great grandfather Tobias Bickel had served in the Revolutionary War but when he enlisted, his accent made the “B” sound like a “P” to company clerk, so he became Tobias Pickel on the records. Most of the Bickel/Pickel men used both spellings throughout their lives and I have found marriage records for one man under both names. I have seen brothers who each used a different spelling. John Pickel used Pickel throughout his life, while his brothers Henry and Robert started as Pickel but switched to Bickel after the war except when applying for their pensions and then they used Pickel again.

While it appears our ancestor’s name solidified to Brimlow (with just the usual spelling issues Bremlow/Bramlow/Brenlow/Brimbow) by about 1840 in New York, prior to that, it’s totally up for grabs and you have to be flexible in the investigation. According to the all-knowing website, The Internet Surname Database, the name Brimlow/Brimelow “…derive from the place called Bromlow in Shropshire: The place name has generated a number of variant surnames, as the bearers of the name moved to other areas and dialectal differences produced varying phonetic spellings, among them Bromilow, Brumloe, Brimelow and Bromblow. The original place name is recorded as “Bromlawe” in the 1255 Shropshire Hundred Rolls, and means “the broom-covered hill”, derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century “brom”, broom, with “hlaw, hlaew”, low hill, mound. …The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Bromlowe, which was dated May 28th 1534, marriage to Helenora Marsh, at Church Pulverbath, Shropshire…”

The reason to bring up the name discussion here is as a forewarning of what is to come. You can expect to see a wide variety of records when we make that leap across the pond and the discussion of “what should his name really be” is always fun to have. Do you go with the name he used as an adult, or list him with the name that appears in the baptism register? An evolving name is the bane of every genealogist because the names may change several times within a generation. You also can’t trust his signature. As stated, names evolve.

For all of the above reasons, I’m going to break the posts on William Bromilow/Brimalow/Broomelaw/Brimlow into several pieces. I’ll begin with William and Ann Brimlow from the arrival of the family in New York through death, because you can’t make the leap across the pond without all the little bits and pieces you know about the family to begin with. Knowing who the children are is key to locating the family in England. The next post will be about locating them in England and pinning down the family. Somewhere along the way we have to talk about the towns and villages and the occupations. It’ll be a complete disaster as far as the order of things, but in the end, you’ll know everything I know and hopefully understand why I came to the conclusions I did. And if you think I’m wrong, send me your chart with sources, and I’ll give it a serious look. Lord knows, I’ve barked up a few wrong trees before.