Akers - Ellmer - Bilton family

Our Family Bibles and the Primitive Methodist Connexion

For almost 160 years our family Bibles have been stored in a cupboard in one house after another with their owners not realising the treasures they had in their keeping. Indeed it is a wonder that they have survived at all with the gradual decline in church attendance and the passage of so much time. We have two Family Bibles which are:-

Akers – Ellmer Family Bible, and
Akers Family Bible

Akers-Ellmer Family Bible

This Bible was printed by Michael Garlick, a Halifax printer and bookbinder. He purchased this business from Jonas Nicholson in 1808. The Bible is titled Old and New Testaments and is a Self-Interpreting Family Bible. Unfortunately the whereabouts of the New Testament is not known.

The Self Interpreting Bible was first printed by John Brown in 1778 and was subsequently allowed to be printed by many publishers.

This Bible was passed to Ann Ellmer by her parents Richard and Hannah Ellmer. Ann married Robert Akers and she recorded the birth of her children in the Bible. The Bible has passed down through many generations of the Akers’ family to its present owner.

This Bible is of significance to the Methodist society as well as to the Akers’ family.

Akers Family Bible

This is a similar Bible containing Old and New Testaments. It was printed by Adam & Co Ltd in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1870.

This Bible records the details of Henry Bilton Akers and his family.  Henry is the son of Robert and Ann Akers.

It records the births, marriage, and deaths in his family between 1845 and 1901.


These Bibles came into our possession in 1983 and were accordingly stored in the said cupboard. It wasn’t until recently that they were brought into the daylight once more. My wife was looking up the family records as she had started researching our ancestry following her retirement.

Unfortunately, successive generations have not maintained the records. Research has therefore been completed by many visits to various Archives throughout the country and latterly using on-line records. A visit to the Mormon centre in Salt Lake City also helped to establish descendants of Robert Akers in the USA.

Family Records in the Akers-Ellmer Family Bible

The Akers-Ellmer Bible owned by Robert and Ann Akers (nee Ellmer) recorded the birth of all of their children, some down to the hour of day. This formed a very useful starting point and a valuable source of information in our research as sometimes we found that the birth registrations had not been officially recorded. The Bible records the birth of their nine children between the years of 1835 and 1845. They lived in Owston Ferry which is situated approximately 10 miles north of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire in the Isle of Axholme. It is located on the River Trent and was a bustling river port at this time.

Robert worked as a Coal Porter for over thirty years, becoming a fisherman to support him and his wife, Ann, later in life.

The Bible was in a very distressed condition but was re-furbished in 2013.

Elisabeth Akas was born the 14th day of August 1835 5 minutes before 6 at night the daughter of Robert and Ann Akas Ferry.
Henry Akes was Born the 28th day of October at half past six at night 1837
Richard Akas was born Dec 13th 1839 son of Robert & Ann Akas Ferry
Hannah Elizabeth Akas was born December 19th, 1840 Daughter of Robert and Ann Akas Ferry
Robert Akas was born the 2nd day of September 1843
Mary Ann was born the 6th day of febery 1846
Reuben Akers was born Dec 24th 1847 at 5 oclock at night.
(but the writing was much fainter than the rest)
Henery Bilton Akas was born 9th day of april 1850
David Akas was born 4th day of march 1854

Elizabeth Akers died as an infant.

Henry Akers died of Typhus at the age of eleven.

Richard Akers also died as an infant.

Elizabeth , Henry and Richard Akers were all born and lived in Owston Ferry all their lives.

Hannah Elizabeth Akers was born in Owston Ferry and moved to Barnsley with her second husband. She was buried in the Municipal Cemetery in Barnsley where many of the Akers’ family were buried. Burial in the unconsecrated section of the cemetery was a regular occurrence for Primitive Methodists who were not allowed to be buried in the main churchyard.

Robert Akers was born in Owston Ferry and was deaf and dumb as recorded in the census records. He emigrated to the United States in 1882 with his brother David.

Mary Ann Akers died in the same year as Henry. The death registrations at that time suggest that an epidemic was taking its toll in Owston Ferry.

Reuben Akers birth is recorded in the Bible but our research has not revealed what became of him as no record of his birth, marriage or death has been found.

Henry Bilton Akers moved to Barnsley in South Yorkshire and became a miner. He married Hannah Axon, in Barnsley in South Yorkshire. He was killed at the young age of 25 in the Swaithe Main colliery disaster near Barnsley in 1875.

David Akers was born in 1854. David began his working life on the land working in Wildsworth, not far from Owston Ferry. Later, he moved to Worsborough, near Barnsley, where he began working in the coal mines as a trammer, moving the coal carts within the collieries. He married Mary Ann Vasey in Scarborough in 1882. That same year David and his wife emigrated to the United States. He took his brother Robert with him in search of a better life.

Whether his brother’s death influenced David decision to emigrate will never be known. However a very strong influence would have been the fact that Mary Ann’s parents and siblings, nine in total, emigrated to the United States in the 1880’s.

Family Records in the Akers Family Bible

Henry Bilton Akers date of birth is recorded in in both Family Bibles. Henry moved from Owston Ferry, Lincolnshire to Barnsley, Yorkshire. He married Hannah Axon, a Yorkshire lass, on the 5th November 1870 in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and they lived in Buckley  St., Barnsley. Henry and his wife Hannah owned the Akers Family Bible.

Henry was killed in 1875 at the age of 25 in the Swaithe Main Colliery Disaster. Initially it was thought that he was responsible for the explosion but recovery of his body and explosives disproved that possibility.

Henry was interred in January 1876. Local newspapers confirmed that Henry was a Sunday school teacher at the Salem Chapel, Blucher St, in Barnsley. The Rev. J Doughty, the minister at the Salem Chapel, carried out the internment. Many of the members of the chapel and his class scholars attended his funeral. He was also a member of a local friendly society whose members also attended. Henry was buried in the Non-Conformist section of the Barnsley Municipal Cemetery in the plot adjacent to his sister Hannah Elizabeth.

His wife, Hannah was a regular attender at the Salem Chapel. After Henry’s death Hannah continued to attend at the Salem Chapel and helped to raise funds for the extension of the chapel and school.

Henry Bilton Akers received a Class Ticket in 1873 for the United Christian Churches in Barnsley. However its source has not been determined. The ticket was found inside the Akers Family Bible.

These and other family events are recorded in the Akers Family Bible.

Isreal Akers was born on the 21st February 1872. He was a miner and died at the age of 19 from TB.

Samuel Akers was born on the 5th May 1873. He moved from the mines to become a boiler-maker and died in Sheffield in 1937.

Samuel was my grandfather and presumed to be in the possession of both of these Bibles and the route by which these came to be in our possession today.

The Primitive Methodist Connexion

Of special significance are the Class Tickets inside the front and back covers of the Akers-Ellmer Bible. All of the tickets are in good condition and carry the name of the person who received the ticket, who was a formal member of the chapel.

There is a Wesleyan ticket, issued in 1818. The Ellmer family were living in Westgate, Belton and this ticket was issued at the Bracon Wesleyan Chapel built in 1802. The location of the Bracon Chapel in Belton is unknown.

Wesleyan Chapel                            Hannah   Ellmer                     Mar 1818

The Ellmer family then began attending the Primitive Methodist Connexion chapel, in Churchtown. Ten further tickets were issued between 1823 and 1838 at this church. All except one of these have handwritten family names.

It is important to note the fact that the Class Tickets dated Aug 1829 were among the first tickets issued with the title “Primitive Methodist Connexion”.

The Primitive Methodist Connexion church began in 1807, and locally only becoming established in North Lincolnshire from 1819 onwards.

Primitive Methodist                               Hannah Ellmer                        May 1823
Primitive Methodist                               Hannah Helmer                      Feb 1825
Primitive Methodist Connexion             Hannah Ellmer                        Aug 1829
Primitive Methodist Connexion             Richard Ellmer                        Aug 1829
Primitive Methodist Connexion             Hannah Ellmer                        May 1831
Primitive Methodist Connexion             Ann                                          Feb 1832
Primitive Methodist Connexion             Hannah Ellmer                        May 1833
Primitive Methodist Connexion             Hannah Ellmer                        Aug 1833
Primitive Methodist Connexion             Hannah Ellmer                        Aug 1837
Primitive Methodist Connexion                                                             Feb 1838

The tickets were issued by the Providence Primitive Methodist Chapel in Churchtown, Belton. They show that Richard and Hannah were regular attendees and committed members at the Primitive Methodist Connexion chapel over many years. This meant that they helped to support the chapel financially.

The Bible records the re-opening of the Ranters Chapel after extensions were made.  The notes were made by Hannah Ellmer

“ranter chapel inlarged
then it was opened the 30 day of october 1836
funn colection the 9 day of april 1837
a mishanary meeting held june the 23 1837
noted by hannah Ellmer

The Primitive Methodist Connexion chapel, Churchtown was initially constructed in 1821. The Primitive Methodist missionaries were only in this area from 1820 onwards so prior to this preaching would have been in the open air or in hired rooms.

The chapel was then enlarged in 1835. It was rebuilt in 1888 with a Sunday school opening in 1923. The last service was held in 1948 and subsequently the chapel was converted and is now a private residence.

The notes of Hannah confirm the chapel concerned was the Primitive Methodist Providence Chapel in Churchtown, Belton.

The Bible was passed on to Ann Ellmer

”  1829  “
“Richard and Hannah Ellmer their Book
given to ann Ellmer their daughter june 26 after thear the death
of her father and mother”

The date of 1829 was originally thought to refer to her father’s death as there is a ticket for Richard dated August 1829 in the Bible. However, his burial was recorded in 1836 in Westgate. Hannah lived on until 1869. Hannah was aged 88 but the local newspaper; the “Epworth Bells” records her having reached the age of 91 at the time of her death.

Ann Ellmer married Robert Akers on the 3rd May 1830.

No further records exist to show that Ann or he husband Robert Akers continued to attend the Primitive Methodist Chapel. However, her son Henry Bilton Akers attended the United Christian Church on the Barnsley circuit as shown by the ticket dated December 1873.

Ellmer Family – Methodist history

Methodism in the Ellmer family spans four generations.

  • From the “Epworth Bells” 26th September 1931, it was recorded that Richard and Hannah Ellmer (nee Bilton) were staunch Methodists.
  • From the Primitive Methodist Magazine 1903, Richard the son of Richard and Hannah Ellmer is also recorded as being a staunch member of the Methodist church. He was converted in 1843 and worked as a local preacher until his death in 1902.
  • Richard’s son, John Ellmer, the subject of the “Epworth Bells” article, was a Methodist preacher and he was celebrating his 50th year as a local preacher in 1931.
  • John’s three daughters were also active in the Methodist church.
  • Henry Bilton, Hannah’s nephew was also a Methodist Preacher.

Richard and Hannah Ellmer (nee Bilton)

Richard was born in Belton in 1770. Hannah Bilton was born in Horkstowe in 1781.  They moved around Lincolnshire and Yorkshire with their children being born in either in Barton on Humber, Hook or Belton in Axholme.

Whilst Richard and Hannah Ellmer were living in Swinefleet, Hannah entertained the first band of “Roving Ranters” as the early Primitive Methodists were called.Hannah was made a first class leader there and left “in charge” of the converts. She died at the age of 91 according to the “Epworth Bells”, still being an active Primitive Methodist. Her actual age was nearer 88 from baptism and burial records. The majority of the Class tickets belonged to Hannah.

Her husband, Richard was converted during this visit of the “Roving Ranters”, one of the tickets belonged to Richard.

Richard and Hannah had ten children.

Robert Bilton Ellmer was born in 1808 in Barton on Humber before moving to Barnsley.

Ann Ellmer was also born in Barton in Humber in 1809 and married Robert Akers in Belton in 1830. They lived most of their lives in Owston Ferry, Lincolnshire. Robert was a Coal Porter but later in life became a fisherman to support himself and Ann. After Robert’s death, Ann continued to live in Owston Ferry for several years before moving to Barnsley, to live with her daughter Hannah Elizabeth. She died in 1884. One of the tickets in the Bible belonged to Ann.

Ann’s cousin Henry Bilton was also a Primitive Methodist preacher in Wrawby, North Lincolnshire.

Richard Ellmer was born in 1811 but died in infancy.

Timothy Ellmer was born in 1813 in Barton on Humber. He married Sarah Scott and lived and worked on the land in Thorne, Lincolnshire.

Richard Ellmer was born in Belton in 1814. Records show that he was baptised there and then again in Hook, Yorkshire at the same time as his brother John Bilton. There was nothing to indicate at this time any Methodist involvement.

John Bilton Ellmer was born in 1816 in Hook, Yorkshire before marrying and moving to Wakefield, Yorkshire.

Reuben Ellmer was born in 1819 in  Hook, Yorkshire but little is known of his life as no records have been found.

Their last three children were born in Belton in Axholme.

Joseph Ellmer born in 1823, no records found after his marriage to Harriet Arrand.

Emmanuel Ellmer born in 1825 married Jane Ann Pilsworth. They lived in Scarborough, Yorkshire.

David Ellmer was born in 1828 but no further records have been found.

Richard Ellmer

Richard Ellmer, the fifth child of Richard and Hannah went on to become a local preacher. He was born in Belton, Lincs. His birth was re-registered in 1817 in Swinefleet. His Obituary in the 1903 Primitive Methodist Magazine says that he led a very wicked life before his conversion around 1843. His conversion took place in Belton, in the Epworth Circuit.

He spoke kindly of his mothers’ prayers and people remarked that they could clearly see the change in his spirit and conduct. He became a class leader and attended regularly. As a local leader he travelled far and wide often walking in the most inclement weather conditions.

Primitive Methodist Preachers Plans name Richard as a local preacher with assignments in Burnham and Belton (Westgate).

His last sermon was about ten weeks before his death. His last word before he died was “Jesus”; he was buried in the graveyard at Kimberworth near Rotherham in 1902.

John Ellmer

Richard’s son, John Ellmer, also became a local preacher.

John was born in 1853 and baptised in the Primitive Methodist chapel in Belton.

His Methodist life was celebrated in the “Epworth Bells” in 1931 when he completed his fiftieth year as a Primitive Methodist local preacher.

John was living in Westgate, Belton in 1880 when he was converted in the Westgate Primitive Methodist chapel. Within 17 months he was put on a Circuit Plan. He walked thousands of miles to fulfil his appointments preaching in 78 places of worship in the Epworth and Rotherham circuits holding services in cellars, kitchens, mission rooms, lodging houses and Salvation Army huts.

John lived in Rotherham for 23 years and then spent a further 10 years at the Fruit Farm in Epworth before returning to his native town of Belton.

John had been a Sunday School superintendent, president of Band of Hope and Christian Endeavour Societies as well as holding all the offices open to a layman except that of Circuit Steward.

At the time the article was written he was still attached to the Westgate chapel as a class leader.

John had 8 children in all but only three of his daughters survived him.

He died on the 14th December 1936 at his home in Westgate Rd. as recorded in the “Epworth Bells”.

John Ellmer’s daughters

John’s daughters went on to become involved in Primitive Methodism also.

John’s youngest daughter Olive Jubb lived in Belton and was a member and worker at the same church. She had 3 children all baptised in the Primitive Methodist chapel.

Alice Myatt who was living with her father has been a local preacher since 1917. She was the president of the Pleasant Hour and a junior Class Teacher at Westgate.

John’s eldest daughter Sarah Knighton emigrated to Canada in 1916. Her husband Charles had emigrated some 5 years earlier and she went to join him with their 3 children. Sarah became a recruiting sergeant for the Salvation Army at East Windsor, Ontario, Canada visiting hospitals and jails. She travelled to the United States and also returned to Westgate, Belton in 1930 and 1937.


Rev David Leese. Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, Epworth for the guidance in producing this article.

The Mechanics Institute, Epworth for research with the “Epworth Bells”

Methodist Preaching Plan –  Lincolnshire Archives: by permission of The Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes

Tudor Bookbinding Ltd, Leicester for the superb job refurbishing the Bible.

Akers-Ellmer Bible. Class Tickets inside front cover. Hannah Ellmer passed the bible to her daughter Ann Ellmer who married Robert Akers.
Richard & Hannah Ellmer both had Class Tickets for Aug 1829. These were among the first tickets to be issued with the title Primitive Methodist Connection. (enhanced for clarity)
Our Bible was much in distress after 160yrs of storage. Re-furbished to look as good "as new".
Despite the enlargement of the Churchtown Chapel recorded in the Bible, it was decided to build a new Chapel in Westgate to serve the larger population of Belton.
Westgate PM Chapel, the inscription survives
Richard Ellmer is a Preacher named on the 1894, 1895 and 1899 Epworth Circuit Preaching Plans
Henry Bilton Akers received Class Tickets in Barnsley, Yorks in 1873.


The Akers-Ellmer Bible contains Class Tickets and records the enlargement of the "ranter chapel" which was opened in 1836. The article in the Primitive Methodist Magazine confirms that the Ellmer family were members of the Primitive Methodist Church in Belton Churchtown. The Church at Churchtown was closed and is now a converted private residence. The newer Church at Westgate still stands but is used as a place for storage of transport memorabilia.
Hannah Ellmer was a very influential person within her family. Her nephew Henry Bilton was also a much respected Methodist Preacher. They both lived in North Lincolnshire.
The discovery of an article in the local newspaper, the "Epworth Bells" gave a further insight as to the involvement of the Ellmer family in Methodism. We learned that other family members were also very much involved.
Knowing that John Ellmer was much respected made it easier to find this article after his death in the "Epworth Bells"
Realising that the Class Tickets in our Family Bible were of great interest we made a visit to the Englesea Brook Methodist Museum to learn more. This visit allowed us to search for family history in the Primitive Methodist Magazine. Surprisingly we found a reference to Richard Ellmer who died in Rotherham in 1902. This Obituary confirmed that it was John Ellmer's paternal grandfather that was referred to in his Obituary. Knowing that John's daughters were also Preachers established that four generations of the Ellmer family were involved with the Methodist movement
Four generations of the Ellmer family have Methodist connections, not counting the Akers and Bilton family members.

Comments about this page

  • This page was modified on 26 November 2015 to include further information about Henry Bilton Akers, and a revised family tree, following further research by Barry Akers.

    By Geoff Dickinson (27/11/2015)

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