The Neilson/Robertson connection

The information on this page includes research carried out by my late mother Pam Warland (nee Robertson) and her relative Geoff Neilson in the 1990s.

Around 1745 - 1748 - Birth of Charles McDonald, Scotland?

Charles McDonald, said to be 21 at the time, married Elizabeth Ellison in Liverpool in 1768. This would put his date of birth from 1745 to 1748. The website findmypast has the following boys with that name recorded in that timeframe. Scotland's People has the same names, but with more details:

It is therefore assumed that the Charles Mcdonald who married Elizabeth Ellison in Liverpool 21 years later was from Scotland.

1746 - Birth of Elizabeth Ellison, Liverpool

Samuel Ellison of Liverpool married before 1744. He and his wife (name not yet known) had at least three children, all baptised in Liverpool:

1760 - Marriage of Janet Cumming and Alexander McDonald - Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland

It is not yet known if this couple have any connection with the Cumming or McDonald's mentioned above below. It is included here for reference only at this point, as a Cumming (a name that appears below) married a McDonald from Blair Atholl.

On 7 February 1760, Alexander McDonald married Janet Cumming, at Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland (also in Scotland's People, Ref 334/10/341). Scotland's People has a record of the same named individuals who married in nearby Fortingall on 26 January 1760 (Ref 355A 10/220):

The relationship with other individuals below is not yet known. Were they the cousins of Charles McDonald (bap 12 January 1746, Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland) with parents Donald McDonald and Ann Stewart (Ref 334/10/121)?

1765 - Birth of Mary Mercer

The 1841 and 1851 census both record a Mary Mercer living with Alexander Neilson and his wife Jane (nee Mercer), who was born around 1765. She may be James Mercer's older sister, given the other information below. However, there is only one Mary Mercer born in Denbighshire in this timeframe, born in 1773.

1768 - Marriage of Charles MacDonald and Elizabeth Ellison, Liverpool

On 27 May 1768, Charles Macdonald, a 21 year old mariner and bachelor, expressed his intention to marry Elizabeth Ellison aged 21 and a spinster, both of the Parish of Liverpool, Diocese of Chester. In the document, it states that neither knew or bleived of 'any lawful Let, or Impediment, or reason of any Precontract', entered into before the twenty-fifth day of March 1754, 'consanguinity, affinity, or any other cause whatsoever to hinder the said intended marriage'. It was noted that they planned to marry at the Parochial Chapel of St Nicholas in Liverpool. The document was signed by Charles Mcdonald and sworn before Thomas Brereton. Charles and Elizabeth had the following children (original birth records, all for the non-conformist registers, sighted for each):

1770s - Stofer family in Walpole, Suffolk

A Sarah Stofer appears below. Sarah was the daughter of Isaac Stofer who was born sometime from 1765 to 1775 and then marries in Walpole in 1797.

Various people with the surname Stofer were born in Walpole from 1775 to 1780:

1774 - Birth of James Mercer, in Burton, Gresford, Denbighshire, Wales

James Mercer, possibly the father of Jane Mercer born in 1807, was born in 1774 in Denbighshire, Wales. He was the son of John Mercer of Burton, a township in the Gresford Parish. He was baptised on 24 May 1774. The mother's name is not yet known.

Around 1774 - Birth of Ann Roberts, in Gresford, Denbighshire, Wales

Ann Roberts, possibly the mother of Jane Mercer born in 1807, was born some time around 1774, probably in Gresford as it was said she was 'of this parish' when she married in 1806 (see below). She may be the child of that name baptised on 17 May 1772, the daughter of Owen Roberts of Allington, not far from Gresford.

About 1775 - Marriage of William Nelson and Elizabeth ?

It is believed that the Neilson line may have started as Nelson, and possibly be from Liverpool.

Based on the birth records of children below, all baptised at St Nicholas in Liverpool, it is believed that William Nelson married an Elizabeth in around 1775.

William may have had two brothers, Thomas Nelson, a hairdresser of Hanover Street (who possibly married Ann Eccles in 1776 in Liverpool), and John Nelson, a mariner of Moor Street, whose children were baptised at St Nicholas in the same period. (Source: LDS Film 93833)

It is worth noting that 'In 1775 the church was reported to be in a ruinous state and it was decided to pull down the external walls and the roof, the new church being rebuilt around the old galleries.' (Source:

1777/1778 - Birth and Death of Martha Nelson

Martha Nelson, the daughter of William Nelson of Chapel Street and a 'fan mounter', was born on 9 February and baptised on 25 March 1777 at St Nicholas, Liverpool. (Source: LDS Film 93833, Page 12, Entry 119). She died on 14 July and was buried on 15 July 1778 at St Nicholas, Liverpool. (Source: LDS Film 93833, page 14, entry 176). Martha is assumed to be the sister of Alexander Nelson, in the following entry.

1779 - Birth of Alexander Nelson

An Alexander Nelson was born on 26 April 1779 to William Nelson, still recorded as a 'fan mounter' of Chapel Street. He was baptised between 14 and 16 May (actual date was obscured) 1779 at St Nicholas, Liverpool, Lancashire. (Source: LDS Film 93833, paged 44, entry 269).

1780 - Marriage of William Nelson

On 13 September 1780, William Nelson (possibly 'toy maker'), of the Parish of Liverpool in the Diocese of Chester, aged 21 and a bachelor, registered his intention (banns) to marry Ann Hodgson of the Parish of Liverpool also, also aged 21 or older, and a spinster. The banns are clearly signed 'William Nelson'. The marriage took place at St Nicholas church, strongly suggesting that a possible related group of Nelsons attended that church. (Source: digitised banns record on It is not known if this William has any connection to the William above but it is interesting that the earlier William was a 'fan mounter' while this William appears to have been possibly a 'toy maker'. Were they cousins, perhaps?

February 1782 - Birth of Ann Nelson

Ann Nelson, the daughter of William Nelson, of Chapel Street, a 'fan mounter', was born on 2 January and baptised on 4 February 1782 at St Nicholas, Liverpool. (Source: LDS Film 93833, page 79, entry 76).

December 1784 - Birth of David Nelson

David Nelson, the son of William (a 'fan moulder') and Elizabeth Nelson of Chapel Street, Liverpool, was born on 6 November and baptised on 6 December 1784 at St Nicholas, Liverpool. (Source: LDS Film 93833, page 123, entry 952)

1797 - Isaac Stofer marries Sarah Barry, birth of Sarah Stofer

Isaac Stofer (abt 1767, Walpole/Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk) and Sarah Barry (from Debenham) married in Bury St Edmunds in 1797. They had the following children, all baptised in Walpole, Suffolk (needs confirmation from original documents):

Several Stofer families lived in the Walpole area. The apparent absence of a birth for Isaac and the surname suggests the possibility that the family came from Europe, although this is only speculation and needs further research.

1798 - Alexander Nelson (Neilson) marries Mary McDonald in Liverpool

Alexander Nelson (signed as 'Neilson') was recorded as a joiner when he married Mary McDonald in (possibly) the Church of England Parochial Chapel of St Nicholas in Liverpool on 8 April 1798. The witnesses were John Wright and William Benson. (Source: Lancashire Online Parish records, LDC Film 93839, Page 387, Entry 107). His marriage at St Nicholas strongly suggests a link with the Alexander Nelson baptised in the same church in 1779.

Alexander and Mary Neilson had four children, all baptised in the Oldham Street Scotch Church (cross checked on

1806/1807 - Marriage of James Mercer and Ann Roberts, birth of Jane Mercer

James Mercer (batchelor) (born 1774) and Ann Roberts (singlewoman) married by licence in the Parish of Gresford, Denbighshire, on 3 October 1806. Gresford is around 38 miles south of Liverpool. The witnesses to the wedding were Joseph Cooper, David Roberts and Jane Roberts. Jane was clearly pregnant when she married: Jane Mercer was born on 12 January 1807. Her birth record reads as follows: Mercer Jane the daughter of James Mercer Farmer and Ann his wife of the Township of Gresford, January 12, 1807.

It is not yet completely clear if the Jane Mercer born to James and Ann Mercer is the same Jane Mercer who recorded her banns in Chester, Chesire, with Alexander Neilson in 1828 (see below). However, Gresford and Chester around only around 10kms apart from each other and so it seems quite possible that Jane Mercer from Gresford was in nearby Chester, possibly working there, when she met Alexander Neilson from nearby Liverpool. The actual circumstances of their meeting will never be known.

However, in the 1841 census, we see Alexander and Jane Neilson with their children living in the same household with two women, Mary Mercer ('independent', born around 1765) and Alice Mercer (also 'independent', born 1800/1801). It is not yet known who these two women are. Potentially, Mary Mercer is Jane's aunt (rather than her mother), and Alice could be either Jane's sister or a cousin (daughter of Mary?). This is no more than speculation until it can be resolved.

A possible clue to this is the name 'Cumming', given as a second name by Alexander and Jane Neilson to two of their children, John Cumming Neilson and Henry Cumming Neilson (a name that was then given by Henry's daughter Jessie to her second son - see below). Cumming is more likely to be a Scottish name, does not seem to appear in relation to the Neilson line, and it seems possible that this may give a clue to Jane's parents or grandparents.

1828 - Alexander Neilson (1804 - 1860) marries Jane Mercer

Alexander Neilson was variously described as a clerk, architect and book-keeper in the records of St Andrews Scotch Presbyterian Church in Liverpool, and as a Treasury Clerk when the death of his son Henry Cumming Neilson was recorded in 1930. He was recorded as a bookkeeper in 1828.

Alexander Neilson, of Warren St, Liverpool, in the Parish of Liverpool, County of Lancaster and Diocese of Chester, and Jane Mercer of the same parish, recorded their intention to marry (banns) on 15 October 1828. The witnesses were William Mercer, Mary Addison, and Alice Mercer. Alexander swore that he was 21 or older and a bachelor, and intended to marry Jane Mercer of the same parish. Jane was 21 or older and a spinster. They proposed to marry in the Church of St Michael in the same Parish, and swore that there was no hindrance to marriage. They married on 16 October 1828 in St Michael's Church of England. (Source LDS Film 1545924, paged 58, entry 174).

Alexander and Jane Neilson had the following children, all baptised at St Andrews in Liverpool:

The origin of the name 'Cumming' or 'Foster' is not known, but Cumming is more likely to have been a link with Scotland as it does not appear in Wales. Aside from Henry Cumming and John Foster Neilson, it is not known what happened to the other children.

Alexander and Jane Neilson's growing family appears to have required them to move three times. Alexander and Jane were living at 3 Warren Street, Liverpool, when their first three children were born. They were living at Hawke Street, Liverpool, when their fourth child was born, and then in Upper Mill Street, Toxteth Park (near the Liverpool docks), for the next two years.

1820 - Henry Andrews marries Sarah Stofer

Henry Andrews was likely born in Suffolk around 1800 and had at least one sister Elizabeth Andrews and a brother William Andrews. Details of their parents have not yet been found.

Henry Andrews married Sarah Stofer in Walpole, Suffolk, in 1820. They had (around) seven children and migrated to Australia:

1832 - Robert Pawsey marries Harriet Stead

Details of the Pawsey family below were kindly provided by a descendent in early 2020.

Robert Pawsey (11 April 1803 - 25 February 1891, Stawell, Victoria (Vic BDM Ref 4073)) married Harriet Stead (29 October 1808 - 7 June 1839, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk) in the village of Chevington, Suffolk on 9 November 1832 (note, a Robert Pawsey married further south in Sudbury in 1831). Two children were born from this marriage:

Harriet Pawsey (nee Stead) died on 7 June 1839.

By 1840 - Robert Pawsey marries Elizabeth Andrews

Robert Pawsey then married Elizabeth Andrews (abt 1807 - 11 August 1901, Stawell (Vic BDM Ref 11685)). Elizabeth Andrews (who may have been a widow) was the sister of Henry Andrews who married Sarah Stofer in 1820 (above). They had two children, both born in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, UK):

Robert and Elizabeth Pawsey and the three sons migrated to Australia possibly on the Clifton which left London on 11 November 1849 with their sons Joseph Josiah Pawsey, Henry Andrews Pawsey and Charles Robert Pawsey. The Clifton arrived on 12 February 1850. Click this link to learn more of their life in Australia.

1841 census - Neilson family

The 1841 census records Mary Neilson (aged 65, independent), her son John (40, a joiner) and daughter Agnes (30), and a child Margaret Neilson (aged 9), all living at 5 Mulberry Street, Liverpool.

Mary's son Alexander Neilson and his family is recorded at 2 Wesley Place, Harrington, Toxteth Park (part of Liverpool, near parks and playing fields). At this time, according to Henry and John's birth certificates, Alexander was recorded as a 'Measure clerk for Liverpool'. The family members and others recorded at that location were:

It is assumed that John Cumming Neilson had died before 1841 as he is not present in either the 1841 or 1851 census.

1841 Census - Other Mercers in Toxteth

Several other Mercer families or individuals were also recorded in the 1841 living in Toxteth Park. These individuals may and may not be related to Jane Mercer, Mary Mercer, or Alice Mercer (the latter two recorded as 'Mircir' in the transcription). However, they appear at about the same time as Alexander and Jane Neilson in Toxteth Park.

1841 census - Andrews family

The following members of the Andrews family appear in the 1841 census in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.

Burwell, Newmarket, Suffolk, England

Dalham, Newmarket, Suffolk, England

Fordham, Newmarket, Suffolk, England

Ousden, Newmarket, Suffolk, England

Newmarket All Saints, Newmarket, Suffolk, England

At Kingston Road/Yard (Ref GC_1841_0065_0145)

At High Street York Buildings (Ref GC_1841_0065_0149)

1841 Census - Stofer families

The census records the following members of the Stofer family in Newmarket St Mary, Newmarket, Cambridgeshire & Suffolk, England.

Location TBA (Ref GBC_1841_1027_0467)

Location TBA (Ref GBC_1841_1027_xxxx)

The census records the following members of the Stofer family in Walpole, Blything, Suffolk, England

Walpole - Ref GBC_1841_1017_0047

Walpole - Ref GBC_1841_1017_0055

Unplaced (TBA)

The following other Stofers are recorded in the census:

1851 census - Neilson family

In 1851, Alexander Neilson (born 1804) was recorded as an accountant. The 1851 UK census states that Jane and the family, less Alexander (who may have been away on business), were living in Grange Lane, Birkenhead (just across the Mersey from Liverpool) with the following children: Margaret (Mary), William, Alexander (jnr), George, Alice, Henry, John and Donald. The following visitors were also present: Mary Mercer (aged 86, probably Jane's mother) and Alice Mercer (aged 51, probably Jane's sister) of Liverpool, and Margaret Beattie (aged 19) of Toxteth Park, a servant.

Liverpool directories indicate that Alexander Neilson (born 1804) was living at 2 Market Cross, Birkenhead, in 1857, and at 22 Egerton Terrace, Cleveland Street, Birkenhead, in 1859 and 1860. Cleveland Street is near the docks in Liverpool.

1851 census - Andrews family

It is not yet possible to locate the Andrews family in the 1851 census suggesting that they had already migrated to Australia.

1851 census - Pawsey family

There are no Pawseys in the 1851 census in Newmarket All Saints.

Pawsey family

Details about the Pawsey family in the UK are still being researched.

Families in Australia.

Click this link to read more about the Andrews, Neilson, Pawsey, Robertson families in Australia.

Page created 11 February 2012, updated 24 February 2020. Copyright Andrew Warland. email: andrewwarland(at)