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18 Mar 2022

The family of Jonathan Gee, the canal-builder

Jonathan Gee was baptised in 8 May 1743 in the parish of Hyde, Cheshire, the son of Nathaniel Gee. An older boy named Jonathan had been baptised there on 11 May 1737 to the same couple, but he had died. (This boy by pure fluke is literally within touching distance of his brother on the same page of closely written baptisms.)

The parish registers do not give the mother's name.

There are several possible marriages for Nathaniel Gee:

Nathaniel Gee married 30 Dec 1734 to Mary Brundrett (widow), both of Manchester

Nathaniel Gee married 17 Jan 1721 at Stockport to Sarah Benison

Helping with our decisions is the following list of baptisms in the area:

George Gee baptised 1 Jun 1722 Stockport to Nathaniel and Sarah

Sarah Gee baptised 15 Nov 1723 Stockport to Nathaniel and Sarah

Mary Gee baptised 29 Apr 1726 Stockport to Nathaniel

Hannah Gee baptised 27 Aug 1733 Hyde Presbyterian Chapel to Nathaniel and Sarah of Werneth

Jonathan Gee baptised 11 May 1737 Hyde Presbyterian Chapel son of Nathaniel, weaver at Werneth

Jonathan Gee baptised 8 May 1743 Hyde Presbyterian Chapel son of Nathaniel of Werneth

In the 1700s and 1800s it was not unusual for a brood of children to be born over a period of twenty years. When I first started family history I thought that was impossible. It is certainly a bit odd that the best candidate for Jonathan's parents married 22 years prior to his birth. But we can see that the move from Stockport to Hyde does rather account for a break in the family (1726-33), and the youngest Jonathan is a typical 'late child', perhaps occasioned by the onset of the menopause, forgive the modern biological intrusion.

There may be further children baptised at some place or chapel unknown in the years 1726-33, where perhaps records have not survived.

The name Gee is staggeringly common in the area, with the settlement of Gee's Cross sending all our compasses, spinning just around the corner. Nathaniel Gee the preacher and school-teacher of Dukinfield is not thought to be the same man. A couple named Nathaniel and Martha Gee are having children in Gorton, Manchester in the 1740s, and a dreadfully stubborn set of online trees are now 'recommended' by Ancestry as being Jonathan's parents. Ours is not to reason why.

Nathaniel Gee features in a tax assessment of Werneth 1785, but this was a hatter of Romiley, our Nathaniel had perhaps already died in 1780. We ran aground somewhat on the sheer popularity of the name in the area. He is certainly named in the will of his brother-in-law Jonathan Bennison, innkeeper at Werneth, 1749 which is available here:


We can assume that Jonathan had some technical aptitude, learnt at his father's knee. (There is a Scottish engineer whose name escapes me presently, that combined the efforts in his workshop with babysitting his orphan son, by having the son on one knee.)

A quick search suggests that Stockport, Macclesfield, Bollington and Congleton were silk-weaving towns, aided in time by the presence of the rivers Dane, Bollin, Dean and Goyt to provide a moist environment and power to drive a mill's waterwheel. It appears that cotton was not imported to Britain until the 1750s.

My guess is Jonathan (1742) might have had a lucky break working on one of the early canals in the Manchester area, perhaps the Bridgewater Canal, 1759 (act of parliament) -1761 (grand opening of at least part of the route).

The first documented canal on which Jonathan worked as a contractor was the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal 1766-1771, a full 75 miles south of his home town. It really doesn't appear that Jonathan will be heading back to Cheshire. He was to forge great friendships and partnerships with Midlands men, particularly Thomas Dadford Sr and Jr, a Catholic family from Wolverhampton.

Further reading about Jonathan, and the work of the canal contractor (part gang-master, part engineer-in-waiting) compiled by Peter Cross-Rudkin, is available here - I also append a link to Thomas Dadford's entry, featuring Jonathan, in the Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland (2002):

"The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal runs through softly undulating West Midlands countryside. It skirts around the edges of Birmingham without ever becoming truly urban."

What a beautiful description.

It was here, at lock 17-19, Marsh to Hinksford, that Jonathan met his bride, Sarah Brasier of the village of Swindon, in the parish of Wombourne. Swindon today sits right on the canal, and the Green Man public house is waiting for your custom. I have a photograph of my muddy feet in the pub (February 2018) after a cold walk from Kinver, six miles south. The public house was associated with the Brasier family.

Sarah Brasier had been baptised at Kinver on 19 September 1751, and popped onto my screen in October 2017. She then bore the distinction of being the youngest known of my 256 6xgreat-grandparents, though that crown has since slipped in favour of her son's mother-in-law (one Millicent Marsden, q.v. infra). It was appealing to note that bus number 256 will take one from Stourbridge to the parish church of Wombourne in 2018, and that was very approximately 256 years since Sarah had walked as a young girl the dusty route north from Kinver to the new home at Swindon, in the parish of Wombourne.

As befits Sarah being one of my youngest forebears, she was only 16 when she married at St Thomas "Top Church" in Dudley on Christmas Day, 1767. Her brother and sister had both fled the nest earlier the same year, marrying on the Same Day as each other - at St Thomas, and at Halesowen.

The Gee children were baptised at a healthy variety of places around the country, a sustained stint near Killamarsh being the construction of the Norwood Tunnel, now permanently out-of-commission, on the Chesterfield Canal. This list is not complete and several of the children seem to have had rather unsavoury offspring. The two eldest feature in a mini-treatise on DNA, below.

* Nathaniel Gee 1768 West Bromwich (m 1791 Chesterfield and 1794 Sheffield)
* Sarah Gee 1770 Wombourne (mother's name given as Elizabeth which has confused seemingly everybody) (m 1789 Wolverhampton)
* William Gee c 1772 Hartshorne Yorkshire
* Jonathan Gee 1776 Eckington Derbyshire: helpfully names a son Nathaniel in ~1808 (after his late uncle)
* John Gee 1778 Eckington Derbyshire
* Thomas Gee 1780 Eckington Derbyshire (buried 1787 Killamarsh?)
* Sarah Gee 1783 Killamarsh Derbyshire (had an illegitimate child locally)
* James Gee 1787 Killamarsh Derbyshire
* James Gee 1792 Cadoxton-juxta-Neath, Glamorganshire
* John Gee 1795 Cadoxton-juxta-Neath, Glamorganshire

Several of the sons were sometimes listed as 'boatmen', Nathaniel (1768) certainly owned a boat on the Chesterfield Canal in the 1790s per the Chesterfield Canal Archive compiled by Christine Richardson:

Jonathan worked in later life on the Neath Canal in Wales, and I will append a photograph of myself walking its path in summer 2018. There had been a lull in canal-building in the years post-American Independence (1776), so in the 1780s Jonathan may have been kicking his heels amid the foundries of the Derbyshire, which later provided work (and opportunity for murder) for his sons and grandsons.

The 1790s saw the younger family members head to Wales: we don't know if the Neath Canal was built on the back of grief of the loss of his wife Sarah, as her end is not known. The records shine brightly sometimes and then withdraw quickly into historical darkness once more.

Jonathan is buried 18 Jun 1817 as from the Riddings, at Alfreton, and we have not the faintest idea what happened to his wife Sarah. Perhaps she survived him and repaired to the home of their eldest daughter at Raddle Hall, Broseley, or was she lost somewhere in Wales many years earlier, in a burial ground with no surviving (non-comformist) records? More probably.


DNA. A surprise all these years later is that we have documented DNA from the Gee family, and quite possibly from the Brasiers too.

Line 1 HENRY: Thomas Brasier 1742 - Sarah 1776- Henry Newton 1800 Cradley Heath

Line 2 HANNAH: Sarah Brasier 1751- Nathaniel Gee 1768- Hannah Gee 1792 Chesterfield

Line 3 THOMAS: Sarah Brasier 1751- Nathaniel Gee 1768- Thomas Gee c 1802 Chesterfield

Line 4 JOHN: Sarah Brasier 1751- Hannah Gee 1770- John Turton c 1795 Broseley Shropshire

I descend from Hannah Gee (1792), and there is a single segment of DNA on chromosome seven, which is shared by several Brasier descendants from the four lines identified above. So far we are aware of one or two representatives from each line, but it would naturally be wonderful to learn more about our Brasier origins.

Rather charmingly, John Brasier (father of Thomas and Sarah and their sister Mary), leaves his rabbit warren at Checkhill Common to a family member, as well as a number of implements of nail-making.

We are very fortunate to have such well documented ancestry in South Staffordshire, an area well worth a visit, though I would recommend warmer weather than my visit of February (2018).

5 Mar 2022

Second cousins of my grandparents: a window on times past and right now the present

No question I have fond thoughts of my grandparents. They (mostly) lived in my era, and they also lived in the previous, fascinating, era of the early-mid twentieth century. They knew older people. All four grew up in towns. But even towns weren't that industrial back in the previous generation. Before long you are back in the countryside, which feels a healthier place to research, and definitely easier, even if the lives they lived back then are more illusory. My own history on farms and rural landscapes around Britain in 1990s informs my view, as does the many diaries I've read, some published, some not. The January Man (2018) and Village School (1955) and others just about get us back to this epoch.

Grandparents' second cousins  - they give me a full tour. So let's hop on.

Maternal grandfather (born 1925); these are the second cousins of his I met: Doris Prosser-Evans (first contact 1991 near Swansea), Tom Davies (at his caravan on the Exe estuary 1992), Annie Powell (as I came off the hills 1995 Morriston), Richard Lamont Shugg (missed him 1990s), Barbara Vanstone (c. 1998 Plymouth she's genetically closer than the third cousin that she really is), Jean Hewitt (c. 1998 Weston-super-Mare). I corresponded with several more. And then the final surprise of Hazel by post in about 2004, the final link, granddaughter of the mysterious 'Mrs Hubbard' on our family tree, 15 years before DNA finally confirmed that connection. Her death in 2019 brings down the lights on this generation.

Tom had worked for many years as a pharmacist, with his first day of work age 20 being when war broke out (1939). He and his wife were the first generation to have this thing called retirement, and were contented to be travelling down to the Exe estuary in their caravan.

Maternal grandmother (born 1921); these are the second cousins of hers that I met on the maternal side: Joan Waldron (by post and phone only 1992); Anita Hardenburg (1999 Leatherhead); Mary Lintott (1999 St Albans); Florence Headworth (via son 2006); May Smith (2014 Romford). I didn't meet Florence Headworth but she passed useful messages to me. Then on the paternal side: Dick Padfield (by post and phone only 1992); Hilda Hunt (ditto); Kingsley Padfield (2000 Ashford Kent), and a few others by post, grandchildren of the highly mustached William Haine Padfield (born 1849). The list of the 'missing' on this line is as compelling: Philip Bell, who closed the extraordinary Bell saga in USA, 1977 Oregon, leaving my grandmother as his closest living relative. Also featuring in my blog 'end of the line' is Treasure Peach (third cousin twice over) who had the horrific duty of burning his history, as his line would close no heirs. Muriel House (1895-1993) another third cousin twice over, was '98 and living in Toowoomba' and probably met my grandmother's great-great-uncle Haine in another century and another lifetime. We think there is just one second cousin remaining - sole representative of more than fifty grandchildren - living in Northamptonshire.

May Smith grew up in a close-knit community of streets in Bethnal Green - all now gone, her own mother of Huguenot descent being born in the same property. She was a 'Cockney'. She recounted many of the people that lived in her street in the 1939 register, as well as details of the caravanning they had around Northamptonshire with the extended family. The closest she came to our shared Norfolk ancestry was going to visit Diss in Norfolk where her hard-working father had been born, but on getting home they realised it wasn't Diss, it was Deopham!

Paternal grandfather (born 1902); second cousins were a distant dream for this Irish grandfather, with the earliest mutual forebear being born about 1790. (One such cousin was a potato farmer's wife in northern Maine, long since deceased.) However, an old notebook revealed in 2004 that Loretta Brodie, ancient retired telegraphist, in South Boston USA, from the 1790 line, was likely still alive in 1970. In fact she was not-dead-yet in 2004, but this fact only emerged later. I have now seen the beautiful gravestone she prepared for herself and her family. In 2015, I found a former neighbour, up a ladder, of another second cousin, Peggy (South Boston too), but she had died some time prior. Against the odds though, with a helping hand from Irish late motherhood, a second cousin named Geraldine was living in Massachusetts, little did I know, but this connection was only revealed some years later through DNA after she had died. Old father time has snatched further connections from me, but that's ok, we are going back a lot of years, and have grabbed a few things from him too. We're even.

Maternal grandmother (born 1905); considering her cousins pre-dated Mussolini and Maynard Keynes, I expected nothing on this line: her second cousins in Liverpool, the Draycotts, were long gone. Due to a rejuvenated great-uncle (born 1836), my research led to a surprise second cousin John Ingledow (1921) who I believe I did hear from by email in about the year 2005. I learnt too late that others from this line had recently passed away in Manchester, at an advanced age. Grandma's remaining three grandparents had no siblings, or so I had thought. Then in about 2006 it emerged great-aunt Mary Ann had a young son Walter Gregory living with her, but oh blow! he was eventually identified as a step-grandson. So Grandma's mother Henrietta had NO first cousins, and that was that!

Except in 2021, when the identity of Henrietta's birth grandfather was identified through DNA. Astonishingly, Dorothy and Irene Potts (born 1920s), his legitimate great-grandchildren, appear to be still alive in Canada (2022), in their twilight years. They are grandma's half-second cousins, and a great place to conclude. There will be no more chapters.

Collectively these folk are the vessels by which our 3rd great-grandparents and their history have poured down to us.

22 Nov 2021

Welsh Research 2008-2021

There have been a number of times when there really hasn’t been anyone else who has researched the family I’m researching. I really like this. This was especially the case for my four Dibben sisters of Sturminster Newton and a lot of the families I researched back in the 1990s. There are a surprising number of cases where people don't leave a Will, and there is nothing much about them online: I am thinking of two instances involving Michigan and New Brunswick. There was nothing regarding my forebear Nathaniel Gee until I decided to make his ancestry public. Most of my paternal side have been a struggle with only irrelevant material on trees.

I usually think if a couple married before 1911 they and their issue will appear on several trees, but often seemingly not. Going the other way, if people are researching backwards, the kind souls who work out the maiden names of the female forebears are doing us all a favour. However when it comes to Wales, confusion can spread like wildfire.

It does rather get my goat when people say they are relying on a tree, or cannot verify your findings from a tree, or cite some not very good tree, or a wrong tree. So I end up working for years, ‘burrowing away in the darkness’ painstakingly making connections between a person listed in one record, and a person listed in another record. By far the most pains being taken relate to my Welsh line, my only real Welsh line.

Despite the strong Celtic rotos I possess, there are some anomalies. My maternal side houses more Irish lines than my paternal Irish line. We have the Urches, Edwards, Richards, Kellys, Bells, Woodsides in Waterford, Wexford, Meath, Coleraine, Bangor and Dublin (via Galway).

Similarly a few of my English lines made it to Wales, take a bow: Lloyd, Evans, Blowers, Davis, Pittard, Harding and Whitehead at Bangor, Wrexham, Aberystwyth, Orielton, Port Talbot, Tonyrefail and Llanwrst. Plus some of my Cornish folk who were raised in south Wales ended up in to Montgomery and more deliberately in Deeside.

The port of Haverfordwest is approximately the site of my main Welsh line, but aside from a possibile illegitimacy in 1776, and the extraordinary wiggle down to the Medway (a young DNA match), I really cannot be said to have discovered anything at all. The location of any incidents was often somewhere quite far from Wales.

Back in 2008, when this tale begins, I had a notion that there were layers of ancestry yet to be to be explored, and which were beyond my kenning. The basecamp for any further research back in time was Merthyr Tydfil: very much in the centre of my kaleidoscope, blocking the view.

Ancestry and FindMyPast had been building up their census collections for awhile, and in 2008 I figured out (duh) that Blanche Morton (born 1812) might have some Morton relatives in the 1841 census for the area where she lived. The last counties from 1851 were released on FindMyPast in November 2009, completing its run of census returns, as an Office of Fair Trading report the same year writes. Indeed there were Mortons in Merthyr, including Blanche's mother who lives on past 1851 giving her birthplace as Bassaleg, Monmouthshire. An Evans from Bassaleg equals Welsh research. We can begin.

I was not brave enough to tackle the Evanses in any depth. My research was saved from extinction by new aunt Mary Evans (born 1790) marrying a second time in the Victorian era, was late enough to name her father and confirm her first marriage back around Waterloo. I had a gentle struggle through her offspring, but failed to take account of two couples in this huge parish, and consequently found too late that not all the children were ‘mine’. For a while I believe Mrs Evans attained the age of 100, but that was the other wife. This was a mess I didn't spot or untangle and has been quietly forgotten. Mercifully I came to a graceful pause on this line, as the summer of 2008 had me preoccupied with my Northcountry story which gave as good as it got for several months straight.

At this point I would not have described myself as possessing any Welsh knowledge. My efforts were cursory and it’s painfully apparent, the Evans tree is among my least thrilling efforts.

The cost of one of my favourite research tools, the copy Will, rose from £5 to £10 by August 2009. I had really run out of patience with paying £10 per head per Will per person per copy per wait per inconvenience per disappointment per regret. I clocked that the wills were actually available in Kensington, just sitting there on permanent loan on an array of microfilms. These microfilms had been accurately catalogued but in such a way that no sane human could jump to the right film unaided. I asked the director if she’d like me to write a program to make the process easier. She was kind enough to say that this would be nice. Mostly of course I wanted to make the process harder – anything that meant the user had to look up a reference in a table, and cross-reference that with a second table added to the fun. Of course the computer does the looking up but the activity still occurs: delicious. I made a list of microfilms to consult for wills held across the available period 1858-1925 and saved myself a good deal of money. In July 2019 I would be ordering 97 wills in one day, when the price dropped overnight, but that’s still ten years away.

Regrettably, a few days prior to this plan being implemented, I had succumbed and bought Elizabeth Morton’s Will (1859) for ten whole pounds and this came by post a few days later. I think it would have been better value if it had never arrived. At least I’d have got some mileage out of the suspense. I had hoped that she’d reveal hitherto unknown relatives, but the Reveal showed just some very known relatives: the feeling rankled. There was nothing more to do on the Morton side. Perhaps the parish registers for Cadoxton-juxta-Neath could be combed through for the unit at Glamorgan Archives, but I was in no hurry to go there, particularly not just to look at a baptism for a known child in a known place. So, you would correctly conclude that my Welsh research was non-existent. I had no plans to do much more with that line, wasn’t a great fan of ‘going backwards’ anyway, and had plenty else to keep me busy.

The next pertinent activity was huge, game-changing, but one of chance. One evening after work (2010) I found some great pre-1858 wills for my Norfolk forebears and was soon keen to see the corresponding death duty records in the IR26 series. Before the family records centre closed in 2008, I had completed a survey explaining how much I used IR26 records – in effect they were a proxy for a will index in the era when each diocese had its own court, and pre-1858 wills were deposited countrywide through record offices. Having written the program to find district wills the previous summer, I decided to do something similar for death duty records. It was a case of going through all the IR26 reels and putting the details of their contents into a table. Mayhap there was a ‘guide’ on the shelves with this task already done, but there was certainly nothing online, so I created one. In June 2010 I went into TNA with my bag of lookups for post-1858 wills (Lain, Gibson, Harvey). Just for fun I included Elizabeth Morton, the terrible will from the previous year.  It may be sour grapes, but she got included. Little did I know my entire Welsh experience depended on this casual inclusion.

At 1pm on 5 June 2010 in the National Archives, Kew,, I open the IR26 death duty volume for Miss Morton, our not very Welsh-sounding link-person. I find these cryptic scribbled words: "This estate takes £100 of E Pengilly WR3.25.5/5 for W27564/60".

Seven hours later I have the Eureka! moment, about 8pm at night, when I downloaded the Will of Elizabeth Pengilly from the National Archives. Nothing will be quite the same again...

I had known of Elizabeth’s nephew “Thomas Pengelly Morton” but as Pengelly is a Cornish name, I’d concluded the family were just friendly neighbours who did something worthy of a boy being named in their honour. But the above scribble in relation to Thomas’s aunt suggests otherwise: a Will had been left. Not many people of this name were leaving Wills. Fifteen to twenty minutes of Googling on my return to the flat led me to Brian Wagstaffe’s pages. The incredibly hardworking Mr Wagstaffe (‘Waggy’), a local man, had passed away six years prior, but his pages had been kept going by Rootsweb, and I am very grateful for that. Waggy’s pages listed: Will of Elizabeth Pengilly , Widow of Neath Abbey 12 July 1825.

The timings was off. 2011 and 2011 were extremely busy years. There was no opportunity for reflection: changing jobs, helping with a youth organisation, running the marathon, studying, plotting my next move overseas and managing the distractions of London. Ten years later I have an opportunity to do a timeline, a belated research diary, and it makes sense now to focus on the Welsh family, as you’ll see.

In the Will dated about 1825, Elizabeth Pengilly had confessed to being the aunt of Elizabeth Morton and thus great-aunt of my Blanche. But she threw in two curve balls in the shape of a brother "Morgan Rees" and a niece "Mary Evans", wife of a plumber and glazier. I did the best I could, muddling through, and finding nothing much, over the next few months.

I was preoccupied with all the rest of my family trees, and had wanted to let the new Welsh material sink in. 180 letters were written on various lines between 2009-2011, a busy period. At Christmas, I resolved to study my Cornish-Welsh kin, the Taylors. This involved fighting a lot of dragons, but thanks to being a quick learner, I was getting somewhere. I knew what worked. After 'cracking' the Taylor family, a gathering was brooked for late July 2011. I decided to make a few days of it, and again, whether by happenstance or no, I planned to ‘throw in’ a morning at Archifau Morgannwg (likely Tuesday 27 July). I was very scared of the records, as I knew they would be old, unindexed and with perhaps little clues to differentiate between individuals and to figure out who anyone was.

The gathering went well, and the follow-up days camping at Cwmdare and hunting records in Merthyr, were both informative. It was now time to visit Archifau Morgannwg in the capital city. My fears about the parish records were grounded. But I was luckier than most, as I had names, just now needed to figure out the relationships. Fortunately there was an index, and I was able to track back from Elizabeth Pengilly (born about 1766) through two marriages to her maiden name of Morgan, and then find that the baptism in 1766 (to father Griffith and un-named mother) fitted her best, as Griffith not only had another daughter Ann (my forebear), but had married a Mrs Jennet Rees (presumably the mother of Morgan Rees, the ‘brother’ of Elizabeth). We can now conclude that Morgan Rees must have had a different father, one Morgan Rees, and this information from junior's baptism indicated he was born posthumously. So there was a window of a few years for possible older children of Mr Rees and Jennet to be born. I made a note of some. The mother’s are not listed in the registers at all. I could see Gwenllian and Catherine Rees baptised around 1750 were potential half-siblings and there were marriages and possible children for them both. How exciting! I found a borderline-convincing entry of marriage for Elizabeth Pengilly’s favourite niece Mary, to become Mrs Mary Evans, but no baptism for her. Garr this was not easy! Panic rose in my research organ as the clock was ticking and I needed to do a massive search: a massive search of Cadoxton and possibly Neath too for any children of Mrs Mary Evans getting married. Fortunately they would have the distinctive words ‘glazier’ or ‘plumber and glazier’ listed for father’s occupation so the hunt was on. As a mildly unenthused clerk (2011) warned, time was disappearing. But then up pops Catherine Evans, father Plumber and glazier, who was shown as marrying in 1842, just eighteen months into the search. My day was done. Now just the thorny challenge of getting the images onto a memory stick and slumping in the National Express coach back to London. So ended Tuesday.

Wednesday morning saw me make a light and lazy breakfast, yawn, look out my attic window at blue sky – Canary Wharf visible in the distance – and turn my attention to more immediate matters: 1780s Glamorganshire. Now that I knew some of the characters' identities, I checked their names against the LLGC catalogue to see who left wills. Nobody! I did notice howeover, that Jennet Morgan, the matriarch of the tribe, had letters of administration for her estate. In this case there were two interesting-looking sureties for the administration: William Cook (farmer) and David Thomas (clockmaker). These days they would be known as FAN (friends associates neighbours). I was just plain nosy and followed them up. This nasal intervention paid off, as Mrs Cook (widow of William), for whatever reason, left her estate equally between four people, whom I was forced to hypothesise were siblings: (Captain) Rees Rees, Gwenllian Rees (Mrs William), Catherine Rees (Mrs Smith) and Morgan Rees (jr). Note that Mrs Cook really can’t be bothered with Jennet’s younger children. I had no real idea what she was up to, but I was grateful. It was much nicer working from Mrs Cook’s list than guessing the connection from old registers

The hitherto unknown Rees Rees, now revealed as the eldest child was the one I hadn’t been able to lock down at Archifau Morgannwg. I hadn’t tried too hard. I mean as a name, I was a bit floored by him to be honest. So I could stitch on Rees Rees baptised 11 June 1748 son of Morgan Rees, to the rapidly progressing family quilt. Looking at the inventory for the siblings we had:

  1. Rees Rees (1748), listed as Captain of the barque Eliza Ann. More work to do
  2. Gwenllian Rees, Mrs William. Known to be mother of Mary Evans, wife of the plumber and glazier. Herself had a daughter Catherine Ace (thanks to that marriage of 1842 naming the father and his occupation). More work to do.
  3. Catherine Rees, Mrs Smith. After her fisherman husband died, she had a posthumous son, William Smith. He grew up to exhibit nice handwriting and to witness family documents but was otherwise frustrating me as there was not enough proof to assign him to any of the several possibles in the area. More work to do.
  4. Morgan Rees. Had thoughtful appeared in one of the very few books on display at Archifau Morgannwg (2011): his tombstone at Neath had been transcribed and seemed to indicate he had two sons that survived past 1841 in the area.
  5. Ann Morgan, Mrs Morton. She was my line and there wasn’t much more to say about that.
  6. David Morgan. Completely unknown. Genuine panic sets in when I think of where he might have gone. Absolutely anywhere. Not going to touch him at all.
  7. Illegitimate daughter of Mr Morgan. She is baptised after her mother had already died, and five years before her father marries Mrs Rees. I have a quick look but suspect she is adopted locally or possibly collected by a family member from West Wales with a view to her growing up there. Not going to bother pursuing her.
  8. Elizabeth Morgan. She led us into the maze to begin with, by marrying factory superintendent Pengilly as her second husband, and leaving enough spondulicks to niece Elizabeth that got the Stamp Office interested 35 years later; and me, 150 years after that. She is 18 years younger than her eldest sibling, Rees Rees.

I begin with Rees Rees and eventually work out he too left a Will proven at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury just as his sister E. Pengilly would do a dozen years later. Both, in an ironic twist, feature on the webpage Brian Wagstaffe had put together, he’s just 26 rows below her on the same page.

Next we have Catherine Rees. Her only child William Smith appears to be listed in a Chancery case in 1810 in respect of the will of William Cook of Margam – that FAN person we saw earlier. It appears FAN can cut both ways. Chancery cases are not much fun, particularly if your name is William, as we shall see.

Eldest girl Gwenllian Rees’s has a grandchild Catherine Evans (her of the last-minute marriage find) who deserves our acclaim for actually being traceable despite common names, mothers not being listed on baptisms and some baptisms not being listed at all (her mother, Mary’s, is missing). However the good news ends there, as despite us going from Evans to Ace to Dobbs and to a very fancy pottery and glassware store in Cardiff High Street, and an interesting diversion to a lace exhibition in Exeter… she has No Living Descendants! We are down on our uppers, with no place to go. Gwenllian is not getting unlocked this easy. Believe it or not five years will need to go by, before we get our big break on this line.

And so this breathless Wednesday morning turns into a soggy afternoon, and it’s time to see the streets of Harringay. I definitely deserve a Turkish yogurtlu adana, and it’s highly probably that I will have one. ~~~I give away most of my books, box up my possessions and head abroad. ~~~

It’s Summer 2012 and the living is easy. My teaching programme has paused and I am allowed days and days at the gambling paradise that is Batumi, on the border with Turkey in the State of Sakartvelo. I do not want days and days in Batumi: I appreciated the chance to buy knitting equipment in a back street but this particular visit is on sufferance. In the American Library, the black formica tables gleam as several of us sit around reading. I am about to solve a big Welsh puzzle, although I am many miles and years from the place in question.

Jennet Rees (born about 1783) was one of the four daughters of Morgan Rees jr: named after her grandmother, the matriarch and first Jennet. By some counting methods there will be 14 Jennets in the family tree. I could not find this one: she had disappeared completely. So I envisioned that she’d had a child, a boy? Could that boy be given the names Morgan Rees, for his father? It seemed so. There was such a boy – two of them in fact. The first was her sister’s child, and the second was her own. Both were baptised Morgan Rees Price and the first died, as did his mother, while the second did not. Jennet had taken her deceased sister’s husband - against the law! Together they run a number of pubs including the Lamb and Flag at Glynneath. She had in fact married him, but as ‘Jane Reece’ in the big city of Bristol 80 miles to the east. No wonder I couldn’t find her. Back in England in 2013 I track down her descendant called Ann Jennet, in Gloucestershire and we have a good catch-up. Slowly I am getting confident at the Welsh work, and am beginning to know what I am looking for. I should point out that there is not a single online tree or any such assist, to aid me in my work. It’s cold turkey, all the way. The following summer I get wrapped up with researching the Dibbens from Somersetshire. There is lots of work on finding descendants on all kinds of lines. Wales waits.

In October 2014, I go down to Kew to transcribe as much as I can of the Chancery case where William Smith is ostensibly put on trial in 1810 for how he ‘managed’ the estate of William Cook. The phrase 'no idea where the rest of the money went' appears as does the rather jolly 'unlawful confederacy'. William Cook was a character familiar to today’s members of the opposition, a wealthy man racking up multiple children by multiple women. In this case his wife his childless. The farm is absolute chaos, and W. Smith is the only person keeping the show on the road. As far as can be seen Smith only survives the chancery case a couple of years, likely a shadow of his former self. Although we do learn the lovely tidbit that Mrs Pengilly made mourning clothing for her siblings' late uncle. I attack the Cambrian index one more time, learning a few snippets, and on Wikipedia find this vivid episode, that: HMS Dragon in October 1810 ran into and dismasted our Brig the Eliza Ann (master Rees) at the Hamoaze (mouth of Tamar) which vessel had been running from Neath to London. Poor uncle Rees!

In December 2015, I subject the parish registers of St Ishmael, Carmarthenshire to a full study, for my likely forebears, back to the 1500s. This is deeply diverting for a short time. They are the oldest surviving parish registers in south Wales.

In July 2016, I do battle with Catherine Smith, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and could easily be mistaken (by me) for an illegitimate child of the widowed Catherine Smith (formerly Rees), born in about 1785 and deceased before any surviving census. The younger Catherine, despite marrying a Hogg at Sully in Glamorgan (which her ‘brother’ William had done) is nothing to do with it. This is eventually established thanks to following her around the country to Cornwall to Newcastle, where there’s an exceptionally useful 1841 census return, and then up some more to Pitlivie, county Angus, where she is baptised in 1785. So she is not a member of our Rees family from the Neath valley.

 In August 2016, I pen the article “Creating Speculative Searches to Find Missing Records Online”, and a goodly number of these are from my Welsh ancestry. In regard to the Neath valley kin, I briefly mention Jennet Rees (the granddaughter), having had the son Morgan Rees Price. This technique is clearly on my mind.

In September 2016, I get the ball rolling and try to smoke out one Eleanor Jenkins from her lair. She had married my relative as her third partner in Aberdare in 1866 and was really baffling me, just popping up in the odd census thirty years apart. The goodly folks at RootsChat found that she was sometimes Elender or Ellen with variant ages and locations and her husband was misrecorded (where present) as Thomas! I sent a letter off to one of her descendants in London a little while later.

In November 2016, I reapply my own methology, creating a speculative search for a child of another Jennet, this time Jennet William, the oldest of the grandchildren (and sister of the disappointing Mary Evans plumber-and-glazier-wife where all our hard work came to naught). I wondered if she might have had a son called Anthony, as this name worked really hard on that corner of the family tree. Guess what? She did. Finally I am able to take Gwenllian Rees’s children down past 1800 in a line that might actually survive. This is the biggest break in years. Bashing my head against a wall had worked.

In February 2017, I am so privileged to get a letter and contact from cousin Ennis in Neath. She was put onto me by the third cousin of hers in London. She descends from my Mortons of Abercanaid, so it’s not long before I introduce Ennis to these earlier Morgan, Rees families in the Neath valley. She humours me and we have a great exchange, sharing whatever particulars emerge.

In February 2017, I finally pen a blog about Jennet Rees (the granddaughter) and her elopement with Jenkin Price in Bristol, before their triumphal return to the public house at Glynneath. Ennis adds a helpful comment regarding geography, as I had misread the bridegroom’s place of residence (‘Glenhenwye’ rather than the clever half-truth of Glyntawe).

In February 2017, I confess that I have stalled with my progress taking Gwenllian Rees (born 1751)’s descendants down to the present day. An early ‘win’ was the Welsh journalist and author Jessie Phillips Morris, but the rest of them are eluding me. Until today. By searching Ancestry trees for Catherine Lewis born about 1821 in Merthyr Tydfil, I stumble on the incredible tree of the late Dick Webber, barbershop singer, electrical engineer and genealogist. He had privileged information about the three Lewis sisters, born in the 1830s in Merthyr Tydfil: Mary Lewis, Anna Price and Jennet Jenkins. It would be next to impossible to figure out these ladies. All came to the United States and married Welshmen. I am kept very busy tracking the descendants of their sister in Merthyr Tydfil, now called Catherine Abraham. It is apparent her husband emphatically did not want to leave the country.

In March 2017, I hear from Mrs Owen in Knighton who is the first documented descendants of Gwenllian Rees that I have reached (reesed). A moment on which to reflect. It's taken six years.

In 2018 I take a well deserved year out. Ha. Obviously that isn’t true. In October 2017 after a curious day when I drank two unexpected Stellas and learnt that the paternal line was failing, I that evening solved the mystery of 'who was Nathaniel Gee?'; and attempted (thereafter) to crack 'who was his wife Ann?' This research dominated the rest of 2017 and 2018 including dozens of letters to potential mtDNA matches, a visit to the new territory of Staffordshire in February 2018.

In about April 2019 I stumble on a family tree posted by someone in Utah purporting to show Ann Phillips and her husband John Thomas as having one child Margaret, marrying a member of the LDS Church and emigrating to the United States. Other trees were just as keen to suggest this was “Ann Tasker” who had married John Thomas in 1815. But which John Thomas? And how was I supposed to know if my Ann Phillips (baptised 1797 Neath) would actually marry in Merthyr Tydfil? Yes John Thomas appeared to witness the marriage of her sister Gwenllian. But how could I be sure of any of the John/Ann couples from the census? The appearance of this Tasker person on a tree, in the wrong town, shook any confidence I might have in this sketchy bit of data-grubbing. I step away. 

In May 2019 I decide to write to the Lewis sisters and their descendants in Pennsylvania and in Ohio. While doing the necessary research, they went from being very unfamiliar to me to being people that I knew. First I need to resolve ‘Jennet Jenkins’ eventually I find her birth as Janet and marriage to Mr Thomas, and most winningly of all, I find her great-granddaughter still in the area, and happy to talk with me.

In July 2019, I order 97 wills of which about 5 relate to the Merthyr Tydfil line, descendants of Catherine Abraham which leads to more letter-writing to descendants. Bearing in mind the surnames in Merthyr Tydfil, I needed all the help I could get. I manage to find one on Facebook (not sure how) and we chat shortly after this time.

In August 2019, I headed down to Neath on a site visit, and one of the items I stopped at was William Cook’s grave, right outside the church porch of St Catwg, Cadoxton. It is not in fact just his grave at all, but one commemorating a vast number of family members. In fairness I’d had a transcription for some  time from a Cook researcher, but it was something else seeing the actual stone. On it are: Morgan Rees (who dies in 1757), his mother Gwenllian, and Mrs Cook, who is revealed (ta-da!) as Morgan’s half-sister. This explains why she was at pains to focus on the four Rees children in her Will rather than including their Morgan half-siblings. There are absolutely no parish records to confirm any of these stony details.

In November 2019, I write to a descendant of these Lewis sisters, in the female line. He agrees to do a mitochondrial DNA test, which we’ll keep on file until more female line descendants emerge.

In Summer 2020, I finally discover that Gwenllian was often shortened to ‘Luce’ or Lucy. (In Ireland Delia is often short for Bridget.) This helps me bolt on William Williams (1782-1847) onto the tree (mother ‘Luce’), create a plausible outcome for his sister Gwen ‘Lucy’, and rather crucially get some instant descendants for Mary Evans speak-to-my-husband-he’s-the-plumber, via her own Gwenllian ‘Lucy’. And to bring back yet another Gwenllian (Phillips) (1799-1871) from a premature death many years prior (she was herself, then Susan then Lucy in the censuses rather than being three separate wives). If only I could tell you that I happened on the name variation in a learned way. But no: I revisited Anthony Williams (baptised 1808) and considered who his father might be at birth. Was he related? Lo and behold, up pops ‘mother Luce’ against the father’s baptism instead of the expected Gwenllian. A brief lookup confirms this Welsh custom. Hand claps forehead at the lost years of ignorance; and the above four life events incorporating Ls who are really Gs are soldered correctly into position. (I have contact with a cousin in Washington state and together we convince each other that William Williams (1809) is certainly the father of the man in Pennsylvania, and probably yes the son of the man baptised 1782 at Cadoxton. The only fly in the ointment is an eldest child Samuel (1805) which might tip some people towards a William Williams baptised in 1782 at Cilybebyll, the son of Samuel. But all the other names you could possibly hope to wish for, and more, are among the rest of the siblings.

In Summer 2020, I find the marriage bonds and there’s a blog about that. Of marginal interest were my new Turbervilles, notionally in Wales, but of deeper interest was David Thomas, my clockmaker making an appearance again.

Also in summer 2020, I make two more discoveries. Perhaps I am emboldened by having a fellow genealogist under my roof. For some reason I return to the Utah suggestion by online trees that Margaret Thomas, wife of Thomas Davis Giles, the blind harpist and LDS stake president, daughter of John and Ann Thomas; and my own extended thought that was this Ann Phillips, was baptised in 1797 at Neath, the eldest grandchild of Gwenllian Rees. I was actually hunting steadily for Ann’s younger siblings Margaret and Catherine, who have wonderful names and whose fates I was considering. Combing through census returns, even ordering speculative birth certificates for possible children (born in Merthyr Tydfil with mother’s maiden name Phillips). All drew a blank or were inconclusive. I put everyone under the microscope and ended up ordering the death certificate of Thomas Phillip(s) 1849. This was very exciting. Even more so when it came in and informant was Ann Thomas, more evidence that she was the daughter. I remained sceptical about the connection until further digging, prodding and poking yielded up from the FamilySearch tree, a document submitted by a Giles researcher, viz. the second marriage certificate of Ann Thomas (previously Phillips) to Thomas Jarman just prior to their sailing to Utah. Game set and match.

Summer 2020 continued: The next problem was what exactly was the family set up with regard to the granddaughter Ann Hughes that seemingly accompanied them on the trip to Utah. The core family unit was Thomas Davis Giles, sightless player of the harp, who apparently wrote flawless Welsh script, until I realised this was his scribe. Thomas lost his sight thanks to a big rock falling on him, underground. Thomas’s wife Margaret headed west with him. She is buried under Wyoming rock, having died in childbed on the way. Now, a casual glance at the 1851 census for Tredegar shows that Ann Hughes was a “niece”, and one can infer from the places involved that she’s the wife’s “niece”. A rudimentary peering at the Utah Pioneer Database shows that Ann Hughs came with them. And then a closer peek shows that Ann Hughes ‘born 12 March 1840 Merthyr Tudful’ marries and dies in Provo, Utah, with umpteen children and grandchildren. Believe it or not, not a single resident of Utah had clocked that Ann was Margaret’s niece. I mean; really. Having said that it took me a year (from 2019) to be convinced that this whole unit fitted, and another year (from Summer 2020) to get all the certificates and DNA evidence to understand Ann Hughes’s family set-up.

The set-up of the family of Ann Hughes (b. 1841)

Ann Hughes, the niece, was actually born 20 March 1841 at Caedraw, Merthyr Tydfil, being the only person born in this time-frame with the requisite father of David Hughes, and the additional benefit of her mother being Mrs Hughes ‘formerly Thomas’. In 1851 she, or at least the person of this name that emigrates to Utah, is living age ‘11’ with her aunt Margaret Giles nee Thomas at 28 Church Square, Tredegar.

I was really trying to weigh up what had happened to Ann’s parents – the obvious inference was that they had both died. Instead we find David and Mrs Hughes living happy-as-larry in a little row of houses in Aberaman, Aberdare at the time of the census in March 1851. I would like this not to be true but the two daughters (Eliza age 8, and Mary Ann age 2) are found with births registered:

Eliza as Elizabeth Hughes, born 18 Jul 1843 at High Street, Merthyr Tydfil.
Mary Ann Hughes, born 11 Jun 1850 at Onllwyn (not two years of age at all)

So it looks very much as if the eldest child was living permanently with her mother’s sister from perhaps a fairly early age, most likely age 10. As the birth parents had just left Onllwyn, and her aunt had just arrived in Tredegar, and would be living by herself for awhile, I would imagine that Ann Hughes was sent to her aunt at this point (1850/1), effectively becoming their foster child. The aunt was to give birth to nine children, but only one is recorded to have survived infancy: Hyrum Lorenzo Giles. Is it chance that his young cousin was present during his early years? By the time the Giles family chose to permanently emigrate in 1855, there were several small infants.

Crazy as it seems to us, Ann Hughes accompanied her foster parents to Utah, rather than return to her birth parents in Aberdare. At age 15, the emigration focussed on her responsibilities rather than the need for anyone to parent her. Her foster mother (aunt Margaret) died during the migration; and Ann stated that she had ‘lost her mother’. But she hadn’t! Her mother was alive and well in Wales.

So the 1851 census for David and Mrs  Hughes, suspected as being long dead, living in the unexpected locale of Aberdare, was the first twist. Their eldest child had gone to look after an aunt who was struggling, at the age of 10, and had accompanied that aunt in an emigration to Utah four years later with various minor infants. We’re not done yet. [image of 1851]

The next surprise was David Hughes. The 1861 census for himself is equivocal, it’s not at all clear what’s going on. He appears to be lodging in Wind Street Aberdare, a married man, with a daughter, but it’s hard to say. The 1871 census however is crystal clear. He is a widower living with his married youngest child, Mrs Rees, and his status hasn’t changed much by his own death in 1888. That’s absolutely fine at first glance: we can see several possible deaths for his wife in the preceding twenty years. The trouble is they were all eliminated, and she did not die in Wales. She was actually still alive!

Mrs Hughes was interred on the 30 March 1891 at Provo City Cemetery, Utah, and if one is sceptical that this is all too convenient, or inconvenient, her parents are named in the register as ‘John Tomas and Ann Philips’. And, in case you were wondering, her new husband, Andrew Lee Allen, is named too. She was described in papers from his family as being a ‘good and faithful wife’ (to him).

Also buried in Provo City Cemetery are Ann Hughes (daughter) and Ann Phillips (mother). It’s forty years to the day since that census of 1851 that shows Mrs Hughes on a divergent direction to mother and daughter, all three in different households scattered around South Wales. But here they are united in this cemetery.

Ann Hughes, the girl of 15 at emigration, never fully recovered the use of her legs after the exceptionally cold weather of her final walk to Salt Lake, 1856. Why though, does her son John, who ought to have known such things, record Ann’s mother as ‘unknown’ at Ann’s death years later? John would have known and met his grandmother (Mrs Hughes later Allen). Instead he faithfully records David Hughes’s name, a figure he could never surely have met.

Mrs Hughes surely emigrated on her own in the 1850s, as the next wave of emigration from the Welsh valleys began. Her mother and daughter were already in Utah. This family unit is at once the most simple and the most complex I have ever seen.

Her other daughters remained in Wales all their days: Elizabeth marrying at 21 and having a large family who still live in Aberaman; Mary Ann marrying at 18 to a pit engineer and moving with him (and her father David) over the hill and through the forest to Ferndale, which has some of the best public parks in the valleys. Family remembered rumours of an aunt in the United States. And Elizabeth’s descendants form a cluster of DNA matches with Ann’s descendants (in Utah) in a way very much compatible with their being sisters. I was granted access to this information in summer 2021.

Next steps? Well, I would like to find an agreeable descendant of David Thomas, the clockmaker at Llantrisant who was surety at the administration bond of Jennet Morgan’s estate in 1785 and whose daughter was Jennet Giles. Many questions: did he grant an apprenticeship to Jennet’s youngest son, David Morgan? But none of that is for 2021.

21 Nov 2021

Crossing the Rubicon again and again in Wales

I am in the middle of working out how long it could possibly take to identify Mrs Lloyd. The answer, at the minute, seems to be about 13 years. It was in 2008 that I began the journey and possibly another 13 years before that if we want to go back to the beginning. There would be a number of rivers to cross.

I had just finished my lambing at a little village on the Welsh border west of Kington. I was still a teenager and it was time to take my new (old) car for a bit of a spin through Wales before heading home. I found myself at the foot of Cefn Vaynor in the Brecon Beacons: a cracking walk. I was here because in 1834 Blanche Morton had got married at Vaynor to my forebear William Francis and taken the line forward to me. I knew this from the Family Bible and from the International Genealogical Index on microfiche in the library.

Actually we need to read that the other way around. Blanche getting married at Vaynor will be taking me back from 1834, in many directions possibly all at once. But it was the route to Mrs Lloyd that has taken the longest, so far.

The first Rubicon. The first child of Blanche was to die young (like so many others of her brood, and that of her twin's), but at her baptism at Pontmorlais Methodist Chapel in Merthyr, the little infant is listed with her maternal grandparents' names: David and Margaret Morton. Seeing as Blanche herself has no baptism, the first Rubicon is crossed. We are now in Monmouthshire, Blanche's birthplace.

The second Rubicon. Although Ann Morgan's baptism takes place as expected, at Cadoxton-juxta-Neath, it's probable we would know nothing of her siblings were it not for an extremely helpful will. The Will of Elizabeth Pengilly, found in 2009, means we can link Ann to her parents, siblings and half-siblings.

The third Rubicon. It was another seven years before I found the marriage of Jennet William to Mr Philip, and became confident the bride was correctly identified. It was a further three and a half years before I found Mr Philip's death certificate and re-examined the evidence indicating that his daughter was part of the Thomas and Hughes families.

The fourth Rubicon. In the same summer as the last (2020) I needed compelling proof that Ann Thomas (circa 1814) had indeed married the most likely David Hughes and that the couple of this name with a daughter Elizabeth were one and the same. Obtaining all permutations of birth certificates confirmed this. I still required proof that the child Elizabeth stayed behind in Aberdare whilst her sister, mother and grandmother each and severally emigrated to Utah. This came in the form of a DNA test, which was completed favourably, and analysed in the summer of 2021. Elizabeth's descendants are matches of the appropriate degree to her sister's descendants, found in some number in Utah*.

Four Rubicons crossed: although with the peregrinations of the family taking us through the same towns more than once, it does feel as if there have been several crossings of the same mighty river.

As the rivers were crossed, swathes of genealogical forest became accessible. If the search had been easy, it would certainly not have been completed.

 *Full analysis would necessitate the use of a chromosome browser. As this whole exercise has been 'for my entertainment only', I do not currently intend writing up the results, corroborating as they seem to do, the documentary evidence.

8 Jul 2021

Relationships that survived: despite moves, name changes and time passing...

In May 2019 I made a list of stories, snapshots and situations within the family that demonstrated the longevity of the nature of kin. In this day and age we may be in a tearing hurry to leave all that cousinhood behind, but ties remained then.

Into this blog I will be adding in my 'shuttering down' theory. It's a little complex and has some sketches, so might be a separate entry. Meanwhile, for the archive, here are the connections I found:

The Indoes taking in sister Jane Chappell, suddenly widowed with children in 1871 in Somerset.

The Thompsons in Westmorland, having their "wife's cousin" visit in 1871 in Westmorland.

Martha Bell having her niece's illegitimate child to stay in 1939 in Haltwhistle (born 200 miles away!). It was this entry that prompted the entire blog.

Grandpa being photographed with all the "olds" including Great Aunt Maggie and her daughter up from Cornwall, 1920s South Wales.

Granny's granny (Nellie Smith) mentioning her cousin Margaret in a letter in 1921. Margaret was living in Hildaville Avenue, Westcliff-on-sea with Nellie's aunt.

J. H. Brown of Belfast apparently keeping in touch with his second cousin, Daisy Skinner, who had the two hotels in Bexhill. I have a note to locate him in the 1939 Register.

John Francis leaving some money to his great-nephew James Weeks who had lately arrived in the North Shields area in the 1880s. That caused some scampering about to identify the nature of That relationship.

Gwenllian and Mary Williams, naming their sons Anthony after their late brother, helping to prove the family connection. Mary went a step further and named another son after her uncle Powell. We are just outside Neath in the early 1800s.

Florrie Jones finding a home with her cousin Lilla's granddaughter Edna in Southampton in the 1950s.

Mrs Cocker sending photographic postcards from her home in the Peak District to her cousin's granddaughter on the occasion of her wedding in 1930 in London (my grandparents').

Emma Longden sending a postcard from Sheffield in 1912 to her second cousin Ann in Manchester mentioning a further second cousin (Florrie).

Isaac Ridgway and his second wife finding a home with his first wife's nephew Tom in Sheffield around the time of World War One.

Cathie Drummond travelling from Glasgow to Haltwhistle and then on to the Dales to visit her great-grandmother in around 1890. (As a girl of five she would be accompanied by family members.) And yet my grandmother born 20 years later never met the good lady, OR her daughter (missing out twice over). And then some folk remembered stories of the mother of this great-grandmother, born 1789.

Annie Gibson travelling to the home of her childless aunt Margaret Atkinson, across the Pennines, in 1844 from South Shields to the shores of the Lakes.

William Exton Treasure taking care of his elderly grandmother, Martha, and going to visit her brother uncle William Haine. These folk died in the late 1890s.

Elizabeth, Mrs Grist, being surrounded by at least four of her young grandchildren at the sunset of her life, in 1841 on the Somerset/Wiltshire border. (Her younger sister, my forebear Mary, had already passed on, so does not feature in this peculiarly useful census.)

The Brodies of South Boston staying in touch (somehow) with their second cousins in county Cork. They were organised ladies, working as telephonists and all in the charge of the youngest, who outlived them all and organised the beautiful gravestone. This contact spans the entire twentieth century.

My maternal grandfather who knew so many of his second cousins in the community in South Wales (1930s).

The Dibben girls who were emphatically in contact with one another, even as they rampaged across a dozen counties and married in places where there was either no index, or frankly, no marriage. I think they mopped up the soldiers left over the from the Peninsula War in the Napoleonic era. (link)

Percy Chappell the aunt who named everyone in her Will, including her late cousin Rosa's eldest daughter, 1930s Somerset.

Ellen Oliver formerly Charlton, whom I could not place on the tree at all, yet lived in a household full of Gibsons on the banks of the Tyne at Crawcrook in 1861. She was aunt and grandmother to them.

Reviewing these, I had expected a lot more incidences on the maternal side, which is where I had been researching for longer. Or, as I note, there was the triple whammy of (a) having more time aware of them (b) more consequences having developed from my initial contact and (c) more people were alive at the time of this research giving me a deeper window into the past (or fewer truncated memories).

Having said that the above examples were fresh in my mind when I wrote them. I could probably name a dozen similar such in my Somerset farming folk or perhaps my Cornish mining folk (both maternal), but as they've sat on my tree for nearly 25 years I cannot claim these any longer as a 'discovery'.

Did my grandparents know their second cousins?

My father's father must have been aware of his second cousins, the Brodies of South Boston, New York. How so? Well I suspect he would not have been interested in the least, but when he visited Ireland in the 1950s, his cousin there (in the Garda) certainly had a notebook (which I saw at a distance) and in the address book were the Brodies. The weak link is we do not know for sure that the cousin mentioned the Boston cousins to my grandfather, but I think my grandfather would have divined their existence if not have ever known, heard or recalled the name.

My father's mother saw very little of her paternal side and I cannot imagine she knew any second cousins on that side. (Although one of her paternal cousins must have met the ones in Liverpool, the Draycotts and Hugheses, at a funeral in the 1930s.) Her mother emerged with a cousin briefly before we discounted him. I even had a note that there were no maternal cousins. There were, thanks to our out-of-wedlock origins which emerged in 2021. My grandmother (born 1905) actually has a second cousin, of the half-blood, still living, in Ontario, at the time of writing. Her niece took a DNA test.

My father's mother (continued). Can you tell she is my favourite line? She wrote about her family origins in hardly any depth at all. She knew her mother's second cousin Lilla, as this lady had married her uncle and attended my grandparents' own wedding in 1930. Her Grandmother's first cousin sent some postcards on this occasion as well. And in addition there was a postcard from another of her mother's second cousins (on a third line) sitting in the family trunk, which I found 100 years after it was sent.

My mother's father knew tonnes of his second cousins. There was Cyril (his mother's mother's side), Jean and her sister (his mother's father's side), the entire Harris clan (his father's mother's side) but especially the chicken farmer's wife. Ironically one of the last of his second cousins was Miss Hebbard (born 1928), however this lady was the granddaughter of great-aunt Mrs Mary Hebbard, and we never knew any of her family. They did not leave nearby. There was a note on the family tree she had 'married Mr Hubbard of Morriston' which was almost true. My grandfather had no real idea how the cousins all connected being the baby of the family.

My mother's mother. Funnily enough, although this is the line I worked first being the easiest, I really think the answer here has to be no. (Her eldest brother, my great-uncle - a comfortable networker with motive and opportunity - knew a good deal of them, but I am confident they were not discussed.)

So the answer is: yes if he wanted to (but not interested); not really (but mother's second cousins = yes), definitely and no.

Hereford to Manchester by Wills, Probate and Registers in 200 years, but not by Train

Hereford to Manchester

Here is the journey back from Manchester to Hereford, we are going through the generations.
(1) My great-grandmother Henrietta born 1875 Salford (grows up in Manchester) Lancashire
(2) Ellen Bagshaw born 1846 Eyam Derbyshire
(2) Millicent Bagshaw born 1826 Eyam Derbyshire
(3) Hannah Gee born 1792 Chesterfield Derbyshire
(4) Nathaniel Gee born 1768 West Bromwich Staffordshire
(5) parents of Nathaniel Gee marry 1767 Dudley Worcestershire. They were canal builders who would shortly depart to work on the Norwood Tunnel near Killamarsh, Derbyshire.
(6) Sarah Brasier born 1751 Kinver, Staffordshire
(6) Hannah Kidson born 1718 Kinver, Staffordshire
Kinver is at its closest point just 1.5 miles from the border with the county of Shropshire. Earlier Kidson family members certainly resided in Shropshire although we have not been able to make the connection.

(7) other Kidson family members resided in Shropshire, for example in the parishes of Claverley and Astley Abbotts

And so to Hereford: In 1742 the Will of Walter Kidson of Astley Abbotts, Shropshire was proven at Hereford, as much of Shropshire falls into the Diocese of Hereford.

We have reached our journey's end. It is possible that the Wills of certain earlier unknown ancestors of Hannah Kidson, in Shropshire, will similarly have been proven at Hereford. Perhaps if we go back to the 1670s or so.

We have come a long way from Manchester. There is in fact a train which will take you the whole journey back to Hereford, via Crewe, Shrewsbury and then through the Shropshire Hills. This journey took at least two hundred years, which is far slower than any train.

Postscript: I have added in Killamarsh to the map: the location of the Norwood Tunnel.

7 Jul 2021

One-click wonder: who are you Mary Carroll born 1845 Ireland?

I was dead excited when cousin Olaf popped up as a match to me, and later to The Tester. At last a clue on my Irish Carroll line. Mary Carroll, below, had died leaving lots of children to mourn her loss and some doggerel was written by her grieving, ancient, widower, a Classics teacher.

I had asked my grandfather some extremely pertinent questions in the 1980s, which were not particularly well received but we didn't get on to grandmother Mary Carroll.

The widower neglected to include where she was from or any personal criteria about her in his rhymed work. But we do know she left lots of children. These have mostly now been rounded up by the genealogy process, and only one will have family. But who was Mary Carroll?

Olaf remains our closest match on this side, so we compare the two 'sisters' stories closely. I am still annoyed that his mother was still alive when I visited USA in 2015 as I normally exploit such biological impossibilities.

Evidence: Margaret's parents were Denis and Mary Carroll (Boston Cathedral marriage record)

Evidence: Mary's father was Denis Carroll farmer (Tipperary Town marriage record)

Margaret's husband was from Doneraile, Cork, Ireland. We can now see that:
Denis Carroll married in 1840 at Doneraile, Cork to Mary Healy and their daughters included:

Mary Carroll baptised 1843 Doneraile and Margaret Carroll baptised 1845 Doneraile

I am concluding that Mary Carroll ('born 1845 Ireland') was likely the daughter of this couple. But this is all a bit hazy logic and we really need something to lock it all together. Maybe if there was a Healy in the mix?

(There were biographical components which seemed to fit too. The Classics master was revealed with a brother-in-law that had sold books and a nephew that taught. And it seems we just must accept that Margaret produced her youngest child, the only one to have family, at the age of nearly 47. We have photographs but they lend no weight at all in any direction.)

Shared matches

Time marches on and we can see that both Lynette and Martin appear as shared matches to both The Tester and Olaf. Could they belong to my Carroll line as well? I do hope so. But how?

I spotted that Lynette's unlinked tree was fairly basic. In particular a recent forebear had very little information concerning them. So I CLICKED on the fabled 'search on Ancestry' button, one that I am now thoroughly recommending.

Suddenly we have gone from darkness to light:

And if you look closely you can see, voila!, a Healy. The resulting family tree looks like this:

The witness at the 1840 marriage of my (to-be-confirmed) Mary Healy was a Patrick Healy, so it is not impossible that the chap on the tree was her nephew or even a much younger brother.

I like the Healy connection as it adds weight to our previously flimsy Doneraile connection. I haven't combed through all the other testing sites, nor voraciously hunted down DNA segments from the distant past. I did attempt to cluster all my Irish matches - but irritatingly, what should have been two (or more) separate clusters from different parts of the Kingdom of Munster started to merge into one, so I abandoned that exercise fairly swiftly too.

It is commonly cited that Irish folk (e)migrate first and marry later. I wish it were otherwise but in effect all three of our protagonists have done exactly that from Doneraile: Mary to Tipperary Town (not a long way), Margaret to Boston (which is further) and Patrick seemingly to Virginia.

It really was a one-click wonder one morning when I idled around Lynette's DNA that gave us our answer to 'who are you Mary Carroll?'.

Note: As to the immediate discrepancy between Olaf's results (54cM shared) and Lynette's results (46cM shared), despite Lynette being apparently one or more generations remoter... this is likely a function of the fact that Patrick Healy (c 1837) has considerably more descendants than the two Carroll sisters put together. And the DNA-matching exercise allows the person who shares the most to 'bubble' to the top of the list. The Carroll sisters' offspring is a much smaller pool, so the chances of a top-matching 3rd cousin cousin are slimmer when fishing in that pool.