Arthur Sidney Fell – The Man Who Shouldn’t Be In Our Family Tree

Over the weekend I received a query on my @AncestryUK family tree. It concerned a man who really shouldn’t be there. His name was Arthur Sidney Fell and he had been my great aunt’s fiancé until his death at the age of 25 in 1932. Nellie never married and after her death numerous mementoes of Arthur were found amongst her effects, including the last letter she ever received from him and a glowing obituary published by the church they both attended. I felt that Arthur’s life deserved to be remembered and so I added him to our family tree as Nellie’s spouse (with an explanatory note).

The query came from a present-day member of the church where Arthur’s life is commemorated in a plaque. This man had been trying to find out more about Arthur. He thought that Arthur had been married because probate records refer to Emma Fell, widow. I explained that Emma was Arthur’s widowed mother and that I too had been flummoxed by a lack of records for his birth. And both of us had failed to find him in the 1911 census.

I also explained my confusion about an ‘In Memoriam’ card for Arthur which stated that he was the son of the late Thomas Philip Fell. Although this man had married an Emma she was born in 1838 and Mr Fell had died in 1893. Arthur was born circa 1906/7. How could they be parents and son? I checked TP Fell’s probate record which referred to him as ‘Thomas Philip Fell the elder’. Which meant there must be a younger TP Fell. The penny began to drop.

Thomas Philip had a son, also named Thomas, but rarely referred to with the middle name Philip. I checked this man’s 1911 census record. He was described as married but his wife was at a different address on census night. Not uncommon. However, also living in his house were Emma Moreton, her relationship to Mr Fell Jnr. left conspicuously blank but her occupation described as Housekeeper. Her four children were also residing in the house, including an Arthur Moreton aged 4. This seemed too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence. If you see what I mean.

I checked birth records for Arthur Moreton circa 1906/7: Arthur Sidney Moreton born in the last quarter of 1906 in Aston, Birmingham. Eureka! And so the riddle of Arthur Sidney Fell is solved and he will remain in our family tree with a more complete ancestry to his name. 

Biographical note

Arthur and Nellie had known one another since at least 1927 and had a lot in common, but chiefly a love of music and of the church. Nellie was a classically trained pianist who played for silent cinema and Arthur was First Fiddle and leader of the orchestra at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham (hence the references to the panto in his letter).

They both gave music lessons for their respective instruments. Jack and Kate were Nellie’s much younger cousins.
Nellie was a keen amateur photographer and I am very grateful to her for providing me with a wealth of candid family photographs from the 1920s through to the late 1940s, including some of Arthur.


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