thanks for the reply. I have been able to find out a lot about my immediate forebears from Edward Dowdican/Dowdigan/Donnegan downwards, ie that he married Margaret Farrell and had 10 children, several of whom died young or in childbirth. In fact Margaret died in childbirth giving birth to Bridget who also died. Consequently the youngest child was Catherine (Katie) who was my grandmother. Katie married Charles Hill from Hetton, whose oldest daughter (Frances) was my mother. I can remember my mother mentioning her Auntie Ellen (Nellie).
Please get in touch so that we can compare notes.
Anthony Lyons (ex Houghton-le-Spring, living in Sussex)