of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and connected waterways

Burscough Canal

WELCOME to our updated website - launched 6th April 2015.


At the launch of the site, in March 2010, there were more than 3,000 names, mostly families of canal workers on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, all connected by marriage, in one tree, Canal Family 1.

This tree has grown to more than 50,000 people as it spread from Lancashire and Yorkshire into Cheshire, Staffordshire and beyond. Our next three trees have now all been merged into Canal Family 1 and deleted: Canal Family 2 with 95 people on 6th June 2014, Canal Family 3 with 24 people on 24th July 2019, and Canal Family 4 with 273 people in October 2013.

A new tree, Canal Family 5 (120 people), was created on 8th February 2014, and still survives. Another, Canal Family 6 (124 people), was merged into Canal Family 1 on 26th Oct 2017 and deleted.

Canal Family 7 (initially containing 523 names) was added on Nov 10 2017 and soon updated to 1,063 people. Another tree, intended to become Canal Family 8 with 952 people, was found to be linked so both these trees were merged into Canal Family 1 on 25th January 2019.

Except for those openly listed in the 1939 census, we do not knowingly include living people without family permission. Information has been compiled from private research by ODFHS members and other contributors, from the websites of Lancashire On-line Parish Clerks, Lancashire BMDs, Censuses - and increasingly from parish records on Ancestry, Findmypast and FamilySearch (IGI). Some details are inevitably more complete than others, but where copies of birth, marriage or death certificates are held, this is shown in individuals' Life Histories by the letters BC, MC or DC.

We welcome contributions to help expand existing trees. Additional data or amendments can be emailed to boatfamilies[at] or by using the contact us link - please indicate sources, especially if you have verification by certificates etc. We can accept data in any form convenient to you, but if you have a tree of three or more generations we would appreciate receiving it as an attachment in GEDCOM format to the same address. (Your family history program will have an option to export a GEDCOM tree, which can be sent as an email attachment.)

SOFTWARE: This website is compiled using The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, v.12.0 (written by Darrin Lythgoe 2001-2019 ©). Note that clicking the link at the bottom of each page (to the TNG website) will take you away from this site.

Ormskirk & District
Family History Society

Boat Families Website

The Society is indebted to the small group of dedicated enthusiasts who have developed this site. Using this site and the other ODFHS products; such as the CD of Burscough Boat Families, should enable you to discover many of your ancestors.
Bill Huyton, Chairman ODFHS, March 2011.

The purpose of this site is to assist researchers whose ancestors worked on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal & associated waterways, especially in South-West Lancashire and Cheshire, and more recently in Yorkshire east of Leeds. Lower down this column there is more information on how to submit questions and family trees for inclusion.


Use the Surnames link (top right) to see a list of main names in all trees, with an option to select a specific name from the alphabetic panel above. You can search for a particular person by using the search box, or you can see names in specific trees by changing 'all trees' to, eg, 'canal family 3' etc. At various places on the site you will see a small tree icon, which will show the family tree of your chosen individual. You can click on any name shown to reveal their details. Once you have chosen the first name it is possible to navigate that entire tree. Returning to the Group Names page will allow you to visit another tree.

NOTE: The search box on the right is a simple search on Canal Family 1. For more options and to search all trees together go to the Advanced Search page and choose from the various drop-down boxes.


More information relating to the updates shown on the right can be found in the Update History files which can be viewed by going to the MEDIA link above and selecting DOCUMENTS.


If you have any questions or comments about the information on this site, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you. Click on Info and Contact Us.


We have spent a great deal of time in building & populating this site. We have made every effort to produce a site that is accurate & easy to use. However No warranty is given, or implied.


We are grateful to have so many free sources of information: Lancashire Archives, Preston; the London FamilySearch Centre, whose microfilms are now at the Society of Genealogists HQ in London; UKBMD; Lancashire OnLine Parish Clerks, the General Record Office Online Index and others. Our researchers also subscribe to the Ancestry and Findmypast websites.

Ainscough Flour Mill


A summary of our newest tree Canal Family 9, developed in conjunction with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society, is in Media/Documents/Benjamin Curry Walls. A booklet based on interviews with L&L boatmen by Norman Walls is being prepared, and excerpts appear in recent issues of the Society's newsletter.

Canal Family 1:
7 October 2020 . . . V121
New Total: 50,694 individuals
New Names: Mortimer 50; Forrington 9; Barley 8; Parsonson 7
Main increases: Bisby +66; Lee +47; Widdowson +29; Cooper, Raper +26; Fowler +25; Booth, Ridgway +16; Todd +15; Hinchsliff +13; Sutton +10

Most of our new names and increases involve Yorkshire 'keelmen' based on the canals and rivers between Doncaster and Hull. The Forringtons, Rapers and Parsonsons are connected to four Mortimer brothers, William, Samuel, Richard and Thomas, born in the early 1800s at Thorne - as are the Ridgways of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. Two Bisby families from Mexborough are also linked.

We have expanded other Thorne families, with cousins Ann Elizabeth Sutton (b1861, father George) and Annie Sutton (b1861 father Hugh) marrying watermen brothers William Palmer Todd and Edward Todd. Edward's daughter Sarah Lizzie married Charles Luke Widdowson, from a boatfamily headed by Luke Widdowson b1803 Killamarsh, nr Sheffield. The Hinchsliff and Fowler increases are also in this area.

Three inter-connected Lee families also feature, headed by George Lee b1802 of Mexborough, Henry Lee b1849 of Doncaster and George Lee b 1852 of Bollington, Cheshire, who married Susannah Whiteley of Knottingley, on the Aire and Calder Navigation. Henry's daughter Frances Lee married in 1864 George's son, Phineas Foulstone Lee.

Thanks go to Joanne Thorley for uncovering yet another Warrington link to Burscough boatmen through the marriage of ship's carpenter Nathaniel Cooper and Sarah Jane Leigh of Sankey. Their daughter Sarah Jane Cooper was already on our site as wife of John Barrow, son of Newburgh boatman Henry Barrow b1851.

Canal Families 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 & 8 have all now been merged into our main tree, Canal Family 1 (details, see left hand column).

Canal Family 5:
15 September 2019 . . . V03
New total: 125 individuals
Main names: Ainscough 29, Mason 26, Fairclough 23

Canal Family 9:
2 March 2019 - 45 individuals
Main name: Walls 29

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