Tracing Woodend Family Roots England to Zimbabwe

What struck me was the intensity of the request by a woman on the comment section for information on her great grandfather written out on the April 28th Genealogy Blog which discussed searching for ancestors in the United Kingdom. Here, was this individual’s ancestor, who was a native of England, beginning a new life in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) in the early 20th century, and the descendant knew little or nothing about that relative.

I took on the task of seeing if I could locate information about this mysterious Frank Poole Woodend of England with little additional data. Commencing with the web site was a good starting point because of its UK connection. I could check the UK census databases for 1901, 1891 and 1881 since she believed Frank Woodend was born in the 1870s.

Nothing is immediately located in the 1901 census. In the 1891 and 1881 censuses there was a Frank P. Woodend, born about 1874 in Burrow, Lancashire Co., England and living with his parents in Dalton, Lancashire County. He had an older brother, James and younger siblings, Robert and Margaret. Frank’s parents were Robert Nelson Woodend and Margaret Jane Poole Woodend. Later finding the marriage record for Robert N. Woodend and Margaret Poole in 1870 in Lancashire County confirmed the tie-in to the right person since Frank’s middle name was ‘Poole.’

In 1891, the Woodend family lived on Market Street in Dalton and Robert Woodend was the owner and operator of the Wellington Hotel in town. Going backwards to 1881 census, the Woodend family lived in Barrow in Furness, Lancashire County on Church Street. Robert Woodend, the father, was in the same profession, owner and operator of an inn, the Temperance Hotel.

Another ten years back had just Robert Nelson Woodend and his bride, Margaret living in Dalton on Cross Street next to North Lancashire Hospital. On this census, Robert was listed as working as an ‘engine smith’ which is another term for a blacksmith. He lived next to a Thomas Woodend and his family, which would turn out to be his older brother with additional research.

By carefully keeping notes of each source and what I was locating, the pieces of the family lineage were coming together. Frank Woodend’s father could be traced using the UK censuses to 1861 when Robert was a blacksmith apprentice and then to 1851 when he lived with his parents, James and Elizabeth Woodend in Broughton West, Lancashire County. Finding Robert Nelson Woodend at age 2 years old with his siblings, including the older Thomas Woodend confirmed this was the right family.

While going through the census records there appeared a large number of Woodend families in the Lancashire region over the years. Many of their given names were also the same, such as Robert, James and Thomas. So good notes with full names, ages and locations were essential to keep on track.

I confirmed the marriage of Robert N. Woodend and Margaret J. Poole on the Free BMD Index 1837-1915 database. They married in Ulverston, Lancashire County between July and September 1870. The Free BMD database for births also had Robert’s birth from January to March 1848 in Ulverston, Cumbria, Lancashire County. Robert and Margaret Woodend and their youngest child, Margaret, were living in Kendal, Westmorland, England in the 1901 census and operating the Railroad Hotel on Wildman Street. Frank’s mother, Margaret died between January and March 1924 in Kendal. The death date for Robert N. Woodend was between January and March 1933 in Lancashire County, which were both listed on the Free BMD Index.

The same research steps have been used to trace information for Robert Nelson Woodend’s father, James W. Woodend (grandfather of Frank P. Woodend). James was born in 1811 in Cumberland, Lancashire County and he died in February 1868 in Lancashire County. James had married Elizabeth Robinson who was from Kirby, Ireleth, Lancashire County. Together they had seven children as James worked in the textile mills. Elizabeth died in 1872 in Lancashire County.

Further research using the UK census and the Free BMD possibility provided me with James N. Woodend’s parents. His father may have been William Woodend, who was born about 1777 in Colton, Lancashire Co., England. He worked as a miller and the family lived in Ulverston. William had married Jane (who was born 1781). William died about August 1864 in Ulverston. Given that there were several people with the William Woodend name in the Ulverston area and within ten years of each other in ages, this particular branch would require further research.

Next was to work more on Frank Poole Woodend to see what could be learned. As a young man in the 1890s, Frank traveled to the United States. He was on the ship Majestic on August 17, 1892, at age 18 years old leaving from Port of Liverpool, England then arriving at the Port of New York City. He was a carpenter and stated on the manifest he was headed to Chicago, Illinois for work. This information was on the database of New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957.

A little more than a year later Frank was listed as a passenger on the ship Umbria on November 13, 1893 going from the Port of New York City and arriving at the Port of Liverpool. Now age 20, he listed his occupation as a miner and he was heading home. This ship manifest was on database of UK Incoming Passengers Lists 1878 to 1960.

In those early years of the 20th century Frank may have been in South Africa as a miner because there is a listing for Mr. P. Woodend coming from South Africa to England in July 1903 on the ship Walmer Castle. This listing was on UK Incoming Passengers 1878 – 1960. Using the Free BMD database, it was learned that Frank P. Woodend married Mary Jane High between July and September 1903 in Ulverston, Lancashire. A daughter, Rena May Poole Woodend was born to Frank and Mary between April and June 1905 while they lived at # 20 Fell Croft in Dalton, Lancashire, as listed in the Free BMD Index.

Frank served during World War I with the 2nd Rhodesia Regiment 923 and the South Africa Sup. C. Regiment V375. He entered on March 15, 1915 as a Private. This information was on the database of British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914-1920.

Frank’s additional children’s names were: Morris W. Woodend, Rhodes Woodend and Isabel Woodend. A listing for another marriage, this to Bertha Bolton in Blackburn, Lancashire County between April and June 1932 was located. The source was database of England and Wales Marriage Index 1916 to 2005. Another later marriage may have been to Hlabathi Sibindi of Rhodesia.

It was the son, Morris W. Woodend, along with his siblings who would grow up in Rhodesia because of Frank settling permanently there after World War I. Frank Woodend died in Rhodesia in the first half of the 1940s. One of Morris’s daughters was named Dora and she was born in 1948 in Rhodesia. It was then Dora’s daughter, born in 1968, who was the individual requesting information about her great grandfather, Frank Poole Woodend and that lineage. Not much had ever been discussed by her mother or grandfather of the Woodend homeland of England.

Besides the use of vital records and indexes another source to use is by comparing the listings of names, dates and records on the OneWorldTrees and the Public Member Trees available on These are family trees submitted by individual family history researchers of their families. On Rootsweb a similar listing of family trees done by individuals is on the World Connect Project.

Providing this new information on the Woodend family history was exactly what the requester had been searching for with little success for over three years. She emailed me that she was truly grateful and felt as if this was a godsend to her. As it turned out, this requester was a single mother with two sons in one of the world’s poorest and politically ravaged nations in the world today.

The official name for what was once Rhodesia is the Republic of Zimbabwe, a landlocked nation in the southern portion of the continent of Africa. To its south is the nation of South Africa, Zambia to the northwest, Mozambique to the east and Botswana to the southwest. It was originally back in 1888 part of the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, or just known as Rhodesia. It proclaimed its independence from the United Kingdom in November 1965. There is a population of 12.5 million people in the country today. Located in Zimbabwe are the spectacular waterfalls of Victoria Falls.

Over the last twenty years with numerous political, health, economy problems and upheavals in the country, many citizens of Zimbabwe have immigrated to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. English remains primarily an official language, especially in the cities.

It had now become the requester’s ambition to learn of her father’s original homeland and hopefully immigrate to England to make a fresh start for her and her sons. This simple request for assistance about an ancestor posted on Genealogy Blog may well serve as a turning point in the requester’s life. Regardless of how this present-day situation resolves itself, there is the knowledge that in some small way helped provide some answers about the English Woodend heritage.

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