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Some Historical Notes  
Some History

"The name Ela first appears in the records of the town of Haverhill, Mass., in 1656, and has been continued in that town till this day." So begins the Introduction to the genealogy of the Ela family, published in 1896 by Rev. David Hough Ela. In his book, "Genealogy of the Ela Family, Descendents of Israel Ela of Haverhill, Mass.", Rev. Ela, a descendant of Israel, writes that "A somewhat numerous Ela family in Fryeburg, Me., are descended from Joseph Healy, of Dunbarton. There is no connection between this family and that of Israel Ela, though the descendants of both lived at the same time in Conway, N.H., and both spelled their name Ela."

Based upon this Ela Genealogy, most researchers accept that there are two distinct Ela families. On this website, I will refer to the Israel Ela family as, "the Haverhill Elas", and the other family, from which I am descended, as "the Fryeburg Elas". The Fryeburg Ela family can trace it's descent from William Healy (yes, the name was originally, "Healy"), who lived in Conway, NH, around 1800. He and his wife, Lydia Ordway, are mentioned in the town records of Conway, although no census records for them exist. Ela Family tradition holds that William died in the War of 1812, and, indeed, my research has verified this to be true. William enlisted in the Army in 1813, at the age of 40, and died of "sickness" in Redfield, NY, in 1815. Of William's wife, Lydia, we know almost nothing. Her marriage to William is recorded in the town record of Conway, but I have found no information on her birth or death. Notes passed down from one of William's grandsons - James - states that William and Lydia had four daughters and one son - John - who is buried in Fryeburg, Maine. To date, I have found proof of only three of their children: John, Sally, and Mehitable. One of the Haverhill Elas, Johnathan, lived in Conway at the same time as William, and the town records make note of him, as well. The Ela Genealogy lists his wife and children, and accounts for them. However, there is an entry in the Town Record of Conway that purports to list "Jonathan Eley's family", and lists the names of children that do not agree with the Ela Genealogy. Frustratingly, this list also does not correspond with the names of William's children, although there are similarities. All of this raises many questions: What is the explanation for the 'mysterious' entry in the town records with a list of children that does not agree with commonly-accepted records of either man's family? Why did William and Lydia not show up in the Census of 1800, although Johnathan did? How did the surname change from 'Healy' to 'Ela'?

A Word About Spelling: In various records that I have searched, I have found our surname spelled a number of different ways, often when referring to the same person. Literacy, in the early years of our nation's history, was not as common as today, and it's likely that many records were written phonetically. Accordingly, the name has been spelled, "Healy", "Eley", "Ela", "Ealey", and "Ely". Those doing research in online databases would be well advised to use the Soundex form of the name in order to catch spelling variations. Harkening back to the Ela Genealogy, there is a note to the introduction by Alfred Ela, who claimed to have done much research, and concluded that the name originally had a gutteral ending, and originates from the Londonderry area of Ireland, where the name, "Elagh" still exists. An interesting theory, and would likely be a fascinating topic to research. I have done some Web searches, and found the "Elagh" name in that area of Ireland; but have never followed up on any connection.

For those who are descended from the Fryeburg Ela family, you may view my descendent chart here.