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4 Nov 2017

The Three Counties Challenge

Come on then folks! Which of your forebears do you reckon qualifies for the Three Counties Challenge? Entrance qualifications are simple: they need to have exactly three counties of origin! Here are my four contenders who had a massive impact on my tree.

(1) My first forebear was my grandmother Mary, born 1921 in Cheshire. She has ancestry in Somerset, Cornwall and Norfolk, which impressed me very much at the time.
Q. What brings these genes together?
A. Methodist ministers marrying girls from 'out-of-county' two generations in a row.

(2) Then we go back nearly a century to Dad's great-grandma Annie Gibson, born 1836 in Allendale, near the geographical centre of mainland Britain, but far north of anything I'd heard of before. She brought three new counties to the yard: Cumberland, Northumberland and some part of lowland Scotland, most likely Dumfriesshire. I can't help thinking of John Peel with his coat so gay, out hunting in the Cumberland countryside when I think of this line.
Q. What brings these genes together?
A. The uber-meddling Christopher Bird, vicar of Chollerton, who pulled my relatives across the Pennines. Then a certain knee injury on the railway in 1844, which proved fatal, and which spat poor Annie back the other side of the Pennines again.

(3) We reverse another 25 years to the birth of Blanche Morton, my Grandpa's great-grandmother, born about 1811 in Newport, south Wales. She brings Monmouthshire, Glamorganshire and, much earlier, Carmarthenshire to the table. This is an impressive haul, and without her, I'd really have no proper Welsh ancestry at all, so big thanks go to Blanche on this one. As a bonus we have her photo too.
Q. What brings these genes together?
A. Water and boats. The boatbuilder moved along the coast and up the rivers, marrying and moving as he went.

(4) It's now time to put the time-machine back in fast rewind, to get back another whole 43 years before this. That's right folks, we need to whoosh past Trafalgar, the French revolution and even American independence, back to 1768. I'm sorry it's a little cold out here, with the mini ice-age just having left and we're only halfway through the hundred years of Georges.

It's time to introduce Nathaniel Gee, born in West Bromwich in 1768. His birthplace is not somewhere I expected to find on my tree - ever. My family have managed to avoid the Midlands, carefully skirting around it, but Nathaniel is born slap-bang in the middle, just as the industrial revolution is hitting. Exciting times, no doubt. Nathaniel provides yet another three new counties: Cheshire, Staffordshire and the much earlier Shropshire.
Q. What brings these genes together?
A. The magnetic pull of Wolverhampton and its satellites, sweeping ironworkers into town. And more importantly, water and boats. The boatbuilder moved around the canal network, marrying and moving.

The final list of counties hauled in by these individuals is impressive: Somerset, Cornwall, Norfolk, Cumberland, Northumberland, Dumfriesshire (probably), Monmouthshire, Glamorganshire, Carmarthenshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire. And the causes were Methodism,  a meddling vicar, a trapped knee, and plenty of boats on the water.

Can any of your ancestors pass the three counties challenge? I'd be interested to hear about them.