THE NEIL FAMILY of Tranmere & Cumbria

 See also the Neil Census transcripts

Neil family photographs

Neil Family Tree



Early History: The Neil family is a sept (a division) of the MacNeils of Barra,  Scotland, who in turn were descended from Naill of the Nine Hostages.  Nial was high King of Ireland in 379 and was the progenitor of the O’Neill dynasty. In about 1030 a branch of the O’Neills; Niall XXI son of Aogh Aonrachan, left Ireland and settled on the isle of Barra in the outer Hebrides of Scotland. More details can be found at the Clan/Family Histories – MacNeil, Clan MacNeil or NcNeil Genealogy  or the publication The Clan MacneilClann Niall of Scotland by Robert Lister Macneil, 1923 (if you can find a copy!)



I have traced our Neil line back from Tranmere, Cheshire into Whitehaven, Cumbria, although I am now almost sure that I have a link at last, to Scotland.  The parents of our John Neil born in 1837, were  John Neel and Hannah Wilson.  I had been unable to find any Neils in Whitehaven at the time of the 1851 until I found the family transcribed as Nail 2.  John Nail was born in Scotland in about 1816, according to the census, but without knowing exactly where in Scotland, I am now at a brick wall as to his ancestors.  [There are a few possibilities as far as is concerned. One is John Neel born 11th May, 1817 at Linton whose parents are William Neil and Elizabeth Patterson; (and as my mother-in-law had a scrap of paper with the name Patterson, together with Neil and Raven, I am wondering if this is indeed him.  If only he had married a few months later, I would know his father for sure!)  If this is the right John, then he would have had an uncle James, a master mariner and an uncle Alexander, both of whom I found in the 1841 census] 

Whoever his father is, we do know that John Neel/Nail married Hannah Wilson, daughter of Thomas Wilson and Hannah Mawson, on 23rd April, 1837 at St. James, Whitehaven. 1 John was a mariner and they had at least three children:

John Neil/Neel (Ship’s carpenter) bp 15.10.1837 Whitehaven St. James                                                                                                                                                                                  m 3.6.1862 Kirkdale, Walton to Ann Dixon (b 1839)                                                                                                                                                    d 20.5.1890 Tranmere
Thomas Neel/Neale bp 25.11.1839 Whitehaven St. James                                                                                                                                                                                 d Dec 1839 Whitehaven
Hannah Nail b 1842 Whitehaven                                                                                                                                                                                                                  m 1862 Whitehaven to Thomas Nicholson


John, Hannah and their 8 year old daughter Hannah lived at Strand Street, Whitehaven at the time of the 1851 census 2, but recently I also found Hannah aged 28 and three year old John living at Key Plan, Whitehaven back in 1841.  John could have probably been away at sea but then I found a 25 years old mariner; John McNeil born in Scotland, and living at Temple Lane, Liverpool which looks promising 2. It appears that Thomas may have died in infancy 6.  As yet, there is no sign of their son John, born in 1837 at the time of the 1851 census.
It appears that John and Hannah may have died by early 1861 as their children John and Hannah are living with John Raven, Stone Mason, their uncle (John Raven married Hannah’s sister, Elizabeth Wilson in 1831).  However, there is the possibility that John was away at sea yet again as in the 1861 census there is a John Neil, mate aboard the “Reindeer” aged 42 and born at Queensferry, Scotland 2.   There is really no way to confirm that this is the same John Neil unless we can locate all his service history. If this was him, it would also mean that the previously mentioned possibility of him being born at West Linton would be wrong!



John Neil was born in 1837 at Whitehaven, and baptised on 15th October, 1837 at St. James, Whitehaven 1.   There is no sign of John In the 1851 census, but in 1861 John and his sister Hannah were living at No. 6, James’ Pit, Whitehaven, Cumbria aged 24 with John Raven, a stone mason and his wife Elizabeth (John’s aunt). He is a ship’s carpenter. He married Ann Dixon, daughter of Thomas Dixon and Mary, on 3rd June, 1862 at St. Andrew’s Church, Kirkdale, Walton-on-the-Hill 3.  The had the following children:

John Raven Neil b 1863, bp 21.12.1863 Whitehaven                                                                                                                                                                                      m 1891 Birkenhead to Elizabeth Evans                                                                                                                                                                  d 1909 West Derby
Thomas Dixon Neil (Electrician) b 1865, bp 13.11.1864 Whitehaven                                                                                                                                                                                      m 1885 Tranmere to Ellen Jennings 
Simon Neil b 1867 Liverpool                                                                                                                                                                                                                       m 1897 Tranmere to Elizabeth Weaver 
William Robert Neil  b 1869 Tranmere
Mary Ann Elizabeth Neil b 1871 Tranmere
Joseph Henry Neil b 24.1.1874 Tranmere                                                                                                                                                                                                             m 6.12.1896 Liverpool to Pheobe Sanderson (born 1875)
Hannah Wilson Neil b 1876 Tranmere
Frederick George Neil b 25.7.1878 Tranmere                                                                                                                                                                                                           m 1902 Toxteth Park to Mary Ann Evans                                                                                                                                                             d 1964 Liverpool
Albert Ernest Neil (Electrician’s Labourer) b 1880 Tranmere
Isabelle Anne Neil b 1880 Tranmere (twins)


At the time of the 1871 census they were living at 15 West View, Tranmere with his wife Annie and young children, he is 32 and in 1881, at the same address he is 45 2.   John died on 20th May, 1890 at 27 Beaconsfield Road, Tranmere aged 50 (again, not quite accurate)  from cirrhosis of the liver; his son Thomas Dixon Neil was in attendance. His widow Ann is not mentioned.



Hannah Nail/Neil born in 1842, was living with her uncle John Raven and hr brother John in 18612 .  She married Thomas Nicholson, a blacksmith in 1862 at Whitehaven.  At the time of the 1871 census, however, she was found to be still living with her uncle John Raven, stone mason and her aunts Elizabeth and Mary.  She was noted as married, so I am presuming that Thomas was away working. She also had four children by this time.  Hannah and Thomas had the following children : 


Elizabeth Jane Nicholson bp 9.3.1862 Whitehaven
William Brown Nicholson bp 21.2.1864 Whitehaven 
Thomas William Nicholson bp 25.11.1866 Whitehaven 
Mary Hannah Nicholson bp 28.2.1869 Millom 
Elizabeth H Storey Nicholson b 187? 
Richard Storey Nicholson b 1878


At the time of the 1881 census, Thomas and Hannah were living at 27 Boswick Rise, Millom, Bootle and Hannah is recorded a being born in Scotland and not Whitehaven. They were at the same address at the time of the 1891 census, Hannah still born in Scotland 2 !  This may explain why I cannot find her baptism in Whitehaven with her brothers. 

Hannah died in 1897 and Thomas in 1898.  I have not been able to trace their burial places. 





John Raven Neil, born in 1863 at Whitehaven, became a Carpenter’s labourer.  He and wife Elizabeth were living at 33 Roman Street, Seaforth, Lancs (RG13/3444/18/28/167) in 1901 with three children:

Edith Neil b 1893, Seaforth
Matilda Neil b 1895 Seaforth
John Neil b 1900 Seaforth

John Raven’s youngest brother, Albert (born 1880) was living in 1901 with his brother Thomas Dixon Neil, an electrician and his family at Broughton 2.


Joseph Henry Neil, was born on 24th January, 1874 at 15 West View, Tranmere.  He was a labourer and married Phoebe Sanderson, daughter of John Sanderson and Catherine Dunbar, on 6th December, 1896 at Liverpool parish Church 3.
They had the following children:

Frederick George Neil b 19.4.1897 New Ferry, bp 20.6.1897 New Ferry                                                                                                                                                              d 5.5.1918 in WW1, bur St Venant-Robecq, France 
Joseph Henry Neil (Seaman) b 30.4.1898 Hood Street, Bootle, bp 22.6.1898 St Leonards, Bootle                                                                                                                           m 1924 St Peter’s, Rock Ferry to Elizabeth Williams
John Raven Neil b 6.9.1899 Liverpool, bp 8.10.1899 St James, Toxteth                                                                                                                                                   m ? Emily 
William Alfred Neil b 1900, bp 27.1.1901 St Mary, Birkenhead                                                                                                                                                                         m 1927 Tranmere, St Luke to Elsie Taylor
Florence Neil b 12.5.1902 8 Rock Ferry, bp 28.5.1902 Rock Ferry                                                                                                                                                         m 1927 West Derby Reg Office to Michael Keegan
Edith Neil b 23.6.1903 Roslyn Street Birkenhead, bp 2.8.1903 Birkenhead                                                                                                                                  m 1925 to William Bibby
Albert Neil bp 30.11.1904 St. Barnabas Rock Ferry                                                                                                                                                                              m 1929 Birkenhead to Alice Jane Kerr                                                                                                                                                                    d 1995 Elsemere Port
Nellie Neil bp 9.12.1906 St Luke Tranmere                                                                                                                                                                                            d 1908 Birkenhead 7                                                                                                                                                                            Edward Neil b 11.11.1907, bp 11.3.1908 St. Barnabas Rock Ferry                                                                                                                                                         m Jane                                                                                                                                                                                                                         d 1991
George Neil b 1909 Birkenhead, no bap                                                                                                                                                                                                    m 1938 Holy Trinity, Hoylake to Alice Hazelhurst 
Walter Neil b 1911 Tranmere, bp 18.12.1912 St Luke Tranmere (died infant)
Arthur Neil (Able Seaman) bp 9.2.1913 St Luke Tranmere                                                                                                                                                                                             m 1936 to Georgina Blackburn                                                                                                                                                                              d 4.10.1943 at Sea
James Neil bp 9.12.1917 St. Mary, Birkenhead
Harold Neil b 24.5.1919 6, bp 8.6.1919 St Mary, Birkenhead                                                                                                                                                                d 1981 6


It appears that Joseph and Phoebe moved about a bit between the Wirral and Liverpool.  In 1897 when their first son Frederick was born they were in New Ferry and then the following year at 48 Hood Street, Bootle.  The year after that in 1899 when John was born they were living at 111 Warwick Street, Toxteth.  By the time of the 1901 Census, they were living at 18 Roslyn Street, Birkenhead with their first four children 2.  After this time, no details are known about the family other than the fact that Edith, was in 1903 4 at 4 Rose Cottages and that Joseph and Pheobe lived at this address until at least 1918 when their son Frederick George died in WW1.

Frederick had joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the First World War and unfortunately died on 5th May 1918 aged only 20.   His grave is at St. Venant-Robecq Road British Cemetery, in the village of Rebecq, Pas de Calais, France (See Record from CWGC) 5 . By this time Joseph was a Coal merchant with his own horse and cart.

Son John Raven Neil, born 1899, went to live in New York at some point, but did not stay there. He married Emily and was guardian to his nephew Frank (son of James Neil).  From the Ellis island  website, I found a  John Neil born 1899 that looked promising; arriving in New York on 19th December, 1919 on the ship Baltic, his residence is listed as Lower Tranmere.  Looking at the detailed ship’s manifest  he was born on 6th September, 1899 at Birkenhead, he was a ship’s Trimmer, was 5ft 9ins tall and his permanent address  was 4 Rose Cottages, Lower Tranmere. This latter address confirms that he is the right John Neil. 

Joseph Henry Neil 1898

Joseph Henry Neil 1898

On the same ship, the Baltic, but arriving on 24th August, 1919, is a Joseph Neil aged 21, also a Trimmer, 5ft 7in tall.  This manifest does not give us the home address, so we cannot confirm that this is definitely John’s brother, Joseph Henry from this alone. However, his identity is confirmed by the Identity Certificate (No. 474982) found alongside Joseph’s Mercantile Marine War Medal that also states him as being a Trimmer. A photograph was also attached.

He later married Elizabeth Williams at St. Peter’s  Church, Rock Ferry in 1924 6

Edith Neil (1903 - 1985)

Edith Neil (1903 – 1985)



Edith Neil married William Alfred Bibby in 1925 at Tranmere United Reformed Church 3 See the Bibby family for more on Edith.   







Albert and Agnes Neil

Albert and Agnes Neil

Thanks to Frank Neil from Chester, we now know a little about Albert Neil, born in 1904 (Frank’s father). Albert married Agnes Jane Kerr in June 1929 in Birkenhead and had 7 children. He was also kind enough to send us  a photo of Albert and his wife (left).

 Arthur Neil was the youngest child of Joseph Henry Neil and Phoebe Sanderson, born in 1913.  He was an Able  Seaman.  He married Georgina Blackburn in 1936 and they had four children: Jean, Frederick, Ann Elizabeth and  Terrance Arthur. Arthur Neil died at sea aged 30 during the 2nd World War on 4th October, 1943. He had been serving on the ship Samite 5 (See Arthur’s CWGC record).   After his death Georgina struggled and all four of their children were given up for adoption in 1944 and took on separate identities from their adoptive parents.  They traced each other 34 years later!

Joseph Henry died in 1929 aged 55 at Birkenhead.  Pheobe died in 1956 aged 83 at Lancaster.  



Frederick George Neil (1879 - 1964)

Frederick George Neil (1879 – 1964)


 Frederick George Neil was born 25th July, 1878 at West View, Tranmere. He was an apprentice electrical engineer’s linesman at the time of the 1901 census,  where he was living at 276 Picton Road, Wavertree, Liverpool, boarding with Mark Broughton and his family 2. He  married Mary Ann Evans (daughter of William Evans) on 6th April, 1902 at St. Matthew’s Toxteth Park and they had a daughter Charlotte Ellen Neil in 1903 6.  At the time of the 1911 census, Frederick and Mary Ann were living at 5 Garden Lane, Bootle where he was now a  Tramway Trollywire linesman working for Bootle council 2.  Thanks to Graham Thomas, I have a photo of Frederick  at the wedding for Graham’s grandparents Charles Evans and Martha Emily Wildgoose which took place on 22nd  April 1914 at st. Luke’s church, Walton. Frederick was a witness 3.  

And now, thanks to Neil Mackenzie, I have a further photo of Frederick and his family plus a little more information on his life. He was given his first job after demonstrating his ability to make electrical junction boxes on polished marble and apparently played a major part in the designing of the Birkenhead and Liverpool tramways. He was offered jobs designing tramway systems in Cape Town and Naples, but his wife refused to move. 

During WW2, Liverpool brought him out of retirement to locate the junction boxes that needed repairing after the Blitz.  He won medals for boxing and cycling and owned one of the first motorbikes which used a leather drive belt.  Their house had been full of antiques that had been acquired through his wife’s brother Charles, who ran an antiques business.  When his wife Mary died, Frederick left never to return and his daughter and son-in-law sold the house and entire contents. Frederick died aged 85 in 1964 at Liverpool 6.





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1 Parish records from

2 Census returns from

3 marriage certificate

4 birth certificate

Commonwealth War Graves Commission  

6 Freebmd

7 baptisms, marriages, burials on

8 1939 Register at



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