A step closer to my great grandfather?

For some time now, an enduring mystery has been who is the father of my grandmother, Beatrice Eleanor Chapman?

I have been going through DNA matches for a while trying to sort them into those that also match with 1st cousins and a half 1st cousin of my mum and dad, so I can identify a grandparent related to each match that I can see in common with any particular cousin who has tested.

Recently, my mum also tested with Family Tree DNA, and her results were interesting to look at, as one of my top matches is also one of mum’s top matches on FTDNA.

Some of mum’s top matches on Family Tree DNA

The 2nd DNA match down in the image above is the match of interest to my mum.  In the image below, the 1st DNA match is the same match on my match list:


I have deliberately removed any names from the screenshots above.

Having been in contact with this DNA match some time ago I can say that this person’s ancestors in the relevant timescale were from south east England, from London and the surrounding counties.

I decided to try playing around with an experimental family tree, to see if I added different people’s names during the right timeframe in different positions, based on the amounts of shared DNA in common and making an educated guess based on those shared amounts in relation to DNA matches I have managed to confirm, whether I would get any shared ancestor hints on the Ancestry DNA test, which I upoaded to FTDNA some time ago.

Sure enough, I had to get a shared ancestor hint eventually from this process, and it came by placing this family in the tree on the branch of my unknown great grandfather!  And it links in fairly nicely with my estimate, although possibly a generation out.


Although this isn’t the same DNA match as on the FTDNA website, they are related, through a different branch of the Cox family.

I mentioned briefly above that I am possibly a generation out.  If you’ve read my “Beatrice’s Story” post, you may know that my grandmother, Beatrice Eleanor Chapman was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1925.

I decided to try looking for a Cox family in the Edinburgh area on the Scottish 1911 census who were born in England, I found this family living in Quality Street, Cramond, on the outskirts of Edinburgh in 1911:


As you can see from the above image, George Cox, aged 44 was born in England.  This would mean that he was born in about 1867.

Going back to the shared ancestor hint image further above, you’ll notice the shared ancestors are William Cox and Louisa Moore, they did have a son called George, only he was born much later than 1867.

William Cox, however, also had a brother called George Cox born at about the right time to be the same George as shown in the 1911 census. William and George being children of Robert Cox and Amelia Morgan.

From the birth registration of one of George and Mary E’s children, the certificate states that George and Mary Ellen (nee Tuttle) were married in London, England in the mid 1890s, this would place them in the right area to fit in with the other Cox family members at the right time.

And so, it is possible that one of George and Mary Ellen’s son’s is my great grandfather.  George W, born about 1896, Tom R. C. born about 1901, or Jack A, born in about 1905.  The same year Frances Eleanor Chapman was born.

Or I could be completely wrong!

UPDATE 22/11/16.  The George Cox in the census image above appears to have been born in Lincolnshire, not London. 


The Pim/Pym family

Betsy Pimm, the daughter of Reuben and Ann (nee Bradshaw) was born on the 16th March 1839, and baptised at St. Mary, Lancaster/Lancaster Priory, on the 9th June that same year.  Reuben was a white smith.

Betsy went on to marry John Walter Chapman “son of Thomas and Sophie”, a carpenter, at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Lancaster in 1857.  They are one set of my three times great grandparents.

Betsy’s grandparents were Reuben and Margaret (nee Blaickow) who had married at St. Mary, Lancaster in 1785, both were of Skerton at the time of their marriage.  Reuben had previously been married to a Jane Butler at Lancaster  in 1782, at that time of the 47th regiment of foot.

On the first October 1817, a removal order was issued that stated “Reuben Pym and Margaret his wife” should be removed from Lancaster, to their “lawful settlement….of Banwell in the County of Somersett”

Reuben was buried at St. Mary, Lancaster on the 9th September 1821, aged 71, from the age given at his burial, we can guess that he was born in about 1750, and we can observe that clearly, Reuben and Margaret were not removed to Banwell in Somerset, or if they had been, had made their way back to Lancaster to live out the last years of their lives with their children surrounding them.

However, it does potentially give us a clue as to Reuben’s origins, Banwell in Somerset.

The Ancestry website has recently added some new records, interestingly, for Somerset, so I decided to do some searching for any potential clues.

There is a baptism of a Reuben Pim recorded at Banwell, Somerset.  But, it is in 1744, 6 years earlier than Reuben’s approximate date of birth, to William and Frances on the 18th May 1744.

This Reuben appears to have married an Anstice Kitching in 1765, then as a widower, to a Mary Quick in 1769.  And this is where it gets interesting.

On the 5th January 1783, there are 2 baptisms to Reuben and Mary at Banwell, Somerset.  William, aged 5 years 6 months, and Phillip, aged 19 months.

At 22 Marton Street, Lancaster, Lancashire on the 1851 Census are the following family:

Philip Pimm – Head – Mar. – 76 – Ship Carpenter – born Bristol, Somerset

Margaret Pimm – Wife – Mar. – 66 – born Lancaster, Lancashire

George Pimm – Son – Unmarr. – 24 – Cordwainer – born Lancaster

Robert Pimm – Son – Unmarr. – 17 – Tailor – born Lancaster

William Pimm – Grandson – 8 – scholar – born Lancaster

Maria Pimm – Grand dau – 3 – born Lancaster

This Philip Pim is most likely the same Philip who was baptised at Banwell, Somerset to Reuben and Mary, and due to the removal order naming Banwell, Somerset as the “lawful settlement” of Reuben and Margaret, it is highly likely that these families were closely linked in some way.

The Reuben baptised in 1744 at Banwell was either the same Reuben who went on to marry Jane Butler, then Margaret Blaickow in Lancaster, or, he was the Reuben who married Anstice Kitching, then Mary Quick in Somerset.

Could the 2 Reubens have been cousins?  The families must have known each other.



The Robertson Orphan Home for girls, Musselburgh

Seemingly it is difficult to find records of orphanages in archives. From what I have heard in the past, the Church of Scotland certainly isn’t alone in its lax attitudes towards the archive of potentially important information for future generations, or social historians, apparently many organisations are neglectful in relation to archiving materials.

That being the case, a small leaflet for the Church of Scotland run Robertson Orphan Home for girls in Musselburgh, Scotland, appears to be the only official record of the orphanage which my grandmother, Beatrice Eleanor Chapman was placed in, in about 1932 following several enquiries to various archive holding organisations in Scotland.

When I was sent this leaflet I was not told that this was in copyright, or could not share this in any way, and didn’t have to sign any copyright declaration, so assume that this leaflet is free from copyright, unlike other material which directly relates to our own ancestors.

It’s a fascinating look at how the Church of Scotland wanted to present themselves to supporters in relation to their orphanage at Musselburgh.

To view each page full size, please click on each image.

Robertson Orphan Home for girls leaflet page 1Robertson Orphan Home for girls leaflet page 2Robertson Orphan Home for girls leaflet page 3Robertson Orphan Home for girls leaflet page 4Robertson Orphan Home for girls leaflet page 5

Transcript of the will of James Burrow 1729

St. Mary, Crosthwaite, Westmorland

James Burrow, one of my 9th great grandfathers, was born in about 1657, and was a yeoman.  At the time of his marriage to Jennet Swenson, daughter of Edward on the 4th October 1682 at St. Mary, Crosthwaite, Westmorland, James was of Underbarrow and Jennet was of Winster, both close by to Crosthwaite.

The couple had 6 children that I know of;  William, Septimus, Elizabeth, Janett, James and Miles.

At the time of his death in 1730, James was living at Crosthwaite Green.  He was buried at St. Mary, Crosthwaite on the 8th March 1730.

James’s will is dated the 14th December 1729, and probate was granted in 1730.

In the name of God amen, I James Burrow of Crosthwaite in the parish of Heversham and county of Westmorland yeoman being at this time aged and infirm of body;  yet of sound and perfect mind and memory, doe make publish and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following:

First and principally I commit my soul into the merciful hand of almight God my maker and creator and my body to the grave to be interred according to the discretion of my loving wife and executor hereinafter named and my temporal estate I dispose of as followeth.

Imprurius I give and devise all that my freehold messuage and tenement situate lying and being at Tarnside in Crosthwaite of the annual free rent of eleven shillings and ten pence with all the rights and appertenances thereunto belonging unto my son William Burrow and his heirs and assigns forever upon the conditions hereinafter mentioned.

Upon condition that he my said son his heirs and assigns shall and doe well and truly pay or cause to be paid unto Jennet my loving wife the sum of five pounds yearly during her natural life at four even and equal payments in every year during the said term on the second day of February on the first day of May on the first day of August and on the eleventh day of November yearly for and in full satisfaction and lieu of her dower forth and out of the same if my said wife please so to accept thereof and the first of the quarterly payments to commence on the first of those days which shall happen next after my decease

but if my said wife refuse to accept thereof in full satisfaction of her dower then the above said annuity to her bequeathed to be null and voyd and also upon condition that he my said son William Burrow his heirs and assigns shall and doe pay forth and out of the said estate the sum of two hundred and forty one pounds fifteen shillings of good and lawful money of Great Britaine in manner following:

the sum of one pound fifteen shillings part thereof unto my son Myles Burrow his executors and administrators at the end of one whole year after my decease and the sum of one hundred and sixty pounds also part thereof unto my son James Burrow at the end of one whole year next after my decease and the sum of eighty pounds and residue thereof at the end of one year next after my decease of my said wife unto my daughter Elizabeth Burrow

and it is further my will and mind that if either of these my two last named children and legators shall happen to dye before his or her legacy fall due and without lawful heir then living past them then five pounds of the legacy of him or her so dying shall be paid to my son Myles Burrow his executors and administrators and one half of the residue thereof unto the survivor of them and the other half of the said residue will shall be and remain to my said son William Burrow and his heirs but if the deceased leave issue that then the legacy of him or her so dying shall be paid to his or her heir equally amongst them at the same time it would have fallen due to him or her so dying.

I give and devise all that my parcel of peat moss which I purchased of Robert Noble of Mosside belonging to Whitebeck and also all that my parcel of peat moss late in the possession of John Atkinson and adjoining to a parcel of moss belonging to William Gibson together with three yards in length of the west end of my peat coat adjoining to the highway heading from Whitebeck to Cockmoss with all the rights and appertenances belonging to them or any of them unto my son James Burrow and to his heirs and assigns forever.

And the residue of my peat coat aforesaid I give and devise unto my said son William Burrow his heirs and assigns forever.  I give and bequeath all the loose wood lying and being in my peat barn at Tarnside aforesaid unto my son James Burrow.  I give and bequeath all my household goods and husbandry gear situate lying and being at Crosthwaite Green where I now dwell unto Jennet my loving wife sole executor of this my last will and testament.

I constitute and appoint my son William Burrow abovenamed unto whom I give and bequeath all the rest and residue of my goods cattell and chattels rights credits and personal estate whatsoever unbequeathed he paying all my just debts legacies given out of my personal estate anf funeral expences and supravisors of this my last will and testament I nominate and appoint my brother William Burrow and my brother in law Joseph Garnett and my friend William Williamson —ring them as I espose trust in them to see this my last will and testement truly performed and I give to each of them the sum of five shillings a token of my love to them.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this fourteenth day of December in the year of our Lord God one thousand seven hundred and twenty nine.

Signed sealed published and declared by James Burrow the testator to be his lst will and testament (these words [and sixty] in one place and those words [and my friend William Williamson] in another place being first Interlined and one erased out of a line and one half being also made be sifore execution or sealing thereof) in the sight and presence of us whose names are hereunto subscribed who also attended the same in the presence of the testator as follows

James Burrow [Seal]

G Pennington

Agnes Pennington

Edward Scales


The extraordinary lives of “ordinary” people

For me, “doing” the family tree has never primarily been about finding a link to some famous person, although there is a distant link to Jamie Oliver (an English cook), a possible link to Katherine Parr (last wife of Henry VIII), and, we have been told there is a possible link to Sebastian Coe (a former runner).

I have found that the most “ordinary” people can have the most extraordinary stories.  The battles faced on a daily basis for hundreds of years by “commoners” like my ancestors can be an inspiration and give you an insight into the lives of ordinary people over many hundreds of years.

The widow forced to bring up a large family on her own, with the threat of the “workhouse” and no social security available, could be forced to steal to try and feed her family.

The child, who, in the depths of winter, is cold, and scared.  He sees the opportunity to steal a large woolen cloth from a seemingly wealthy person to take home to try and provide comfort for himself and his family.

Another child in another area lives close to a farm, the family mustn’t have eaten properly for some time, perhaps surving on scraps of food, possibly donations from extended family, or through poor relief from the established church. (which wasn’t always forthcoming, and often relief given grudgingly, or the family sent away to another area to deal with)  The child decides to steal a duck from the farm so the family can have something to eat that day.

Another family moves from one region to another to try and make a better life for their family.  Perhaps they will find work?  Maybe there are other relatives there, when there aren’t any close by where they are currently living.

One family gets lucky, a son finds a real talent for something, and is able to survive without any assistance from any church, and makes sure that his family do not have to cope with the threat of the workhouse hanging over them, like it hung over his parents.

A daughter in another family marries into a wealthy family, suddenly the family’s fortunes are changed.  You find entries in public school records for their children, one or more of their children may have even gone to Oxford or Cambridge university.  Two of the sons become vicars, their children and their children’s children may become lawyers and vicars also, one or more of their daughters may end up marrying city types from London.

The naming traditions of another family tell a story of the importance of certain names.  The third son should be called Edmund, or Edward.  Or the male children of a couple should unusually first be named after the mother’s father, then the father, then the father’s dad.  These naming traditions may be passed down for centuries.

When you put all of these stories together, these “ordinary people” could live such different lives, in such different areas at such different times.

You see history unfolding in front of your eyes.  The fortunes of families changing – some getting worse, others better.  The movement of people not only within countries but also between countries.  Large scale emigration over hundreds of years to countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Mexico and many more.

Genealogy is, strictly speaking, a lineage of people, either ancestors, or a line of descent.  Whereas, family history is far more rewarding I believe, and, I would suggest, provides a bigger contribution to the story of human history as a whole.  You could say family historians are sociologists in their own right, studying societies, groups of families, the interconnections between individuals, their lives, structures, employment, education, interactions with religious, charitable and state organisations etc…

Family history is a worthwhile endeavour to catalogue the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.  And, to be quite honest, i’m glad that I descend from ordinary people.

Ordinary people contribute so much to our heritage, and through our ancestors lives, family historians contribute just as much to a society as, say, a sociologist, an artist or a scientist.



DNA testing for family history

In recent years, DNA testing has been linked closely in the popular mindset with those tv programmes which are on during the day, with titles such as “I’m going to prove you’re the dad of the baby we had before you decided to run off with the babysitter”.  And in some ways, lots of people think of that sort of scenario when you mention the words “DNA test” to them.

However, in this post, I am aiming to explain that DNA testing can be very useful for family history and genealogical research.

It was only relatively recently that the cost of having a DNA test has fallen, making it more affordable for many people, who couldn’t previously afford it, to take one of these tests.

There are several different types of test available however, with different testing companies.

Many who have taken a test with one company also choose to take a test with another company.

One of the tests which is useful to take for family history purposes is called the “autosomnal DNA” test.  Different companies will obviously market their own products differently.

Another interesting thing which various companies test is the geographical genetic composition within your dna.  Here’s an example of mine from Ancestry DNA:

Ancestry DNA geographical DNA screenshot

23 and me is a company which also tests for certain traits and potential risk factors for various health conditions, however, you can easily opt out of receiving your “health reports” by ticking a box on their website.  As you can see from the screenshot below,  they also provide a geographic genetic composition results section for those who test with them.

23andme screenshot

While Family Tree DNA is another provider of DNA test services.  I uploaded my Ancestry DNA results to FTDNA, which you can do free of charge.  Although haven’t yet made any confirmed matches through that website.  Their services, however, do seem very professional.  This is a screenshot as an example of how matches will appear.  (I’ve scrubbed out some of the personally identifiable information here)

FTDNA Matches page screenshot

A more recent addition to the trio of dna testing companies above is My Heritage. You can find out more about what they offer by clicking here.

So, as you can see, there are different companies available for you to test with, if you are interested in using DNA to further your family history research.  And, using DNA for this purpose can certainly help.

I’ll give an example.

One of my 8 times great grandparents, called Randulph (or Randle) Poynton/Pointon was a potential son of 2 different sets of parents.  Looking at baptismal records from Norton in the Moors, Staffordshire, and then searching through my match lists for people with the surname Poynton/Pointon in the family trees also solved this riddle.

I could not have been related to another match via one of the baptisms as following that line would have taken me well beyond the predicted relationship range of the match, while looking at the predicted relationship range on Ancestry, and then using the Gedmatch website to check what it said about the number of estimated generations to our most recent common ancestor, the other baptism was a perfect match when comparing our trees also.

And that is a key thing I believe, when you decide to take one of these DNA tests, make sure you have a family tree available for comparison, otherwise, the process doesn’t seem to make any sense.

When I first took a DNA test, I didn’t have a clue how they worked or how the matches worked, I still don’t know a lot, however, i’m learning more now.  One of the main things is to provide some method of comparison, or at least provide a method of contact so that somebody who is a potential match can get in touch to share notes, and ask how they may be related.

This is a screenshot of some of my closest matches at 23andme, I haven’t scrubbed any of the names, or anything else out, this is how they appear, except for the one at the very bottom of the image whose name just showed up on the image:

23andme DNA relatives screenshot

As you can see, none of some of the most closest matches have any method of either comparing results, getting in touch, or have provided even surnames they are interested in, or places of interest.

When you have provided your sample with one of the companies, and registered the DNA kit, before sending the kit back to the company, please take a little time to familiarise yourself with the settings on the website, and to at least add some family surnames and places where the family lived, possibly add a tree, privatising any people who are living if you would like to do so, or, indeed, any other family members, and, please, if you are going to take a DNA test and add no other information, please at least provide a means for contact.

Finally, when you have your results and are able to log in and view them, I highly recommend the Gedmatch website.

Gedmatch Analysis tools screenshot

It’s a great free tool for making comparisons with others who have been tested, and, it gives you an estimated number of generations to a most recent common ancestor. So far, the estimated number of generations with my confirmed matches has been pretty much exact.

Additionally, and, crucially, I believe for DNA and family history research combined, it does combine DNA and family tree data pretty well.

Your testing company will have a section allowing you to download your DNA data.  If you do that, you can then upload it to Gedmatch, there is even a section which checks your DNA and brings up family tree results for people who match your DNA.

DNA testing is fascinating stuff which I don’t fully understand, I don’t believe that any of the sites quite understand how to combine both DNA testing and family trees fully as yet.   However, it’s clearly the case that DNA testing can bring some successes, and can sometimes confirm your research, if you are unsure.