Sells Family

Geographic Origins

In researching the Sells family name, I was surprised to find that there are lots of Sells families. In particular, I found that there are Sells families all over the US.

My focus is families that trace their history back to England, since this is where my own family comes from. Unfortunately (for me), all the researchers in the US seem to be looking at families that are not English in origin. They are cluttering up my landscape! Oh well, nothing can be done. The center of the universe for research into these non-English Sells families seems to be "The Family Celle" web page. There are researchers there looking into several variation on the name's spelling.

In The Beginning

The beginning for this Sells Family is the late 1600s on Saint Martins Lane in the parish of Saint Martin in the Fields in the Liberty of Westminster and county of Middlesex. Thomas Sells lived and worked as a coach and coach harness maker there. This is according to his will, which indicates that he also owned property that he rented out. I'm not sure what economic or social class this put him in, but he must have been doing all right.

I'm reasonably certain that Thomas did not just spring up in Westminster one day, but records that old are sparse and I haven't found anything about his ancestors.

However, his descendents married into the Perronet/Briggs family. These families can be traced back much further and have some very interesting history. I have created a family group page for them here.

Descendent Lines

What I know about Thomas comes from his last will and testament. It indicates that he and his wife, Suzanna Stanton, had 5 children (Edward, William, Thomas, John and Elizabeth). I have no further information on anyone but Edward. Fortunately for me, Edward was my 5th great-grandfather. The other lines obviously lead somewhere, but where? I'm aware of a Sells family in Hertfordshire, north of London. I assume that these families are related in some way. That's research for another day.

Edward Sells I

Edward Sells I was a coal merchant and lighterman on the Thames. I thought it was interesting that Edward was apprenticed to Samuel Price of Westminster who was mentioned in Thomas' will. It's nice to tie people and events together.

The coal trade was very good to Edward and to several generations that followed. It grew into Jones & Sells Coal Co, then Charrington, Sells, Dale and Co. which eventually became Charringtons. As I understand it, a common site on UK rail lines in the first half of the 20th centuty was coal cars labelled "Sells" or "Charrington and Sells".

From Westminster to Bankside

For the non-Londoners out there, Bankside is an area on the south side of the Thames near London Bridge, the Tate Modern Art Museum and the New Old Globe. The reason I mention this is that for a number of years beginning in the early or middle 1700, the Sells family owned property in this area. One of the properties is still standing. Today it is know as "Cardinal's Wharf" and has an interesting Internet presence, try googling if you're curious. There's even a book that talks about its history and digs into the Sells family in the area (Amazon UK has it here).


Here are some family members that I found interesting for one reason or another.

Charles Sells

Charles Sells was an engineer of some note during the 1800s. He spent 60 years with Maudsley, Sons & Field (a well know and respected 19th century engineering firm). The Imperial College & Science Museum Libraries in London has some holdings related to the firm and to Charles. (Go to the library catalog search and enter "Charles Sells" as keywords to see a description of their holdings. One is a collection of 12 volumes of hand written engineering notes.) When he died, 1 Dec, 1900, two trade magazines (Engineering and Engineer) published extensive obituaries. I have a copy of one of them here. I hope to have the other and possibly some other articles in the near future.

Charles De Grave Sells

Charles De Grave was Charles Sells' son and also an engineer. I don't know much more about him, except that he lived in Italy for a while. While he was there, in addition to his engineering work, he founded (with others) the Genoa Cricket & Football Club. See this wikipedia entry for more information.

John Henry Sells

John Henry Sells was another of Charles Sells' sons, as well as my Great-Grandfather. He also worked as an engineer for Maudsley in London for several years and then moved to India. He married an English woman while in India, Annie Edith March. I wonder if it was an arranged marriage. They had 2 children, John Francis Charles Sells and Edith May Stanton Sells. John Henry died at the age of 34. Annie took the children back to England, but died shortly thereafter.

John Henry left a sort of 19th century laptop which has survived and is in my possession. The best term I can find to describe it is a travel desk. It contains some personal items, letters of recommendation, photos of India and more. I hope to have a page showing it soon.

John Francis Charles Sells

John Francis Charles Sells was my Grandfather. He was orphaned at the age of six and was raised by his uncle Arthur Frederick Sells. He and his sister, Edith, were sent to St. Anne's School in Sussex. At the age of 16, he immigrated to Montreal, Canada. He thought had a job arranged there. But when he arrived, there was no job. At some point, he moved to Alberta. I have been told that he drove oxen as a youth there. Eventually, he became an accountant and moved to Chicago, Illinois.

Edith May Stanton Sells

Edith May Stanton Sells was my Great-Aunt. I know practically nothing about her, except that it is believed that she immigrated to Australia and spent most of her life there. She never married or had children, but there was a Sells family migration of sorts to Australia in the 1800s. I assume that is what drew her there.

Alfred Sells

Alfred Sells was Charles Sells' brother. He was an Anglican priest and ran a school in London before immigrating to Australia. Eventually, he became rector of St Michael's Church at Mitcham. The parish historian there has provided some interesting facts about his life, I have included her notes on Alfred's web page. One point that I find particularly interesting is that he was "very good amateur artist". And that some of his works are exhibited today. There also exists a six volume set of "Plutarch’s Lives" that Alfred owned, at least his bookplate appears on each volume. This set is available from a rare book dealer online for £275.00, if you are interested.