Archive for the ‘Nelsons’ Category

Like Bilbo and Frodo, I was drawn into addiction by the One Ring.Ring 2

A family heirloom that passed down the women of my mother’s family is a Victorian mourning ring. Engraved inside it are these words: “George Nelson, died 1836 aged 67 years”. My mother often said she’d like to know who he was, as there were no living Nelsons in our family. One day I took up the quest, little guessing the addiction that would swiftly set in, 14 years ago now and still holding fast.

In those days before the internet groaned under the weight of genealogical information, it took a while to pin George down. The necessary visits to archives in Northampton, London and Milton Keynes were infrequent treats. Eventually though I established he was a self-made man, an early country banker in Buckingham. Via his sister-in-law Sophia Millagan, banker George had fascinating links to the literati and beau monde of Regency London. I enjoyed researching them for a long time, marvelling at the tightly interlocked group of families the Nelsons were part of – details of which you can find by clicking the ‘One Ring’ tab above. The Duke of Wellington comes into that story too!

Tracking banker George’s line further back, I found that his grandfather of the same name married a Sarah Cooper of Sulgrave, Northamptonshire in 1727 and their four children were born in Sulgrave. That place name is of course well-known to many Americans, as the ancestral family seat of the Washingtons. George and Sarah’s third child, yet another George, was baptised in Sulgrave on 1 December 1734.

Now for the interesting bit. There are many references online to a George Nelson of Philadelphia, Pennyslvania, a businessman who kept diaries during the Revolutionary War. I have copies of documents from Sulgrave Manor archives conveying property in Sulgrave from George Nelson yeoman of Philadelphia to his brother Thomas Nelson in Northampton.

My 5xgreat-grandfather Thomas Nelson (brother of the George baptised in 1734) was an innkeeper in Northampton at the date the conveyance was made, so the signs are strong that Philly George is 1734 George of Sulgrave, my 5xgreat-uncle. Here is some information I gleaned from “Knowledge is Power – the diffusion of information in early America, 1700-1865” by Richard D Brown, Oxford University Press, 1991:

“Nelson, who was born in 1736 in the English midlands, came to Philadelphia in 1755.  An Anglican… he married into an established family, a connection one suspects was motivated largely by prudential considerations since when he married in 1760 his wife, Sarah Tomlinson, age 50, was 24 years his senior… In business he operated a partnership, Nelson and Fox, and later became a subordinate associate of Jacob Hiltzheimer, a Philadelphia merchant who dealt extensively in provisions and livestock.  During the Revolution, Nelson worked with and for Hiltzheimer and the Congress supplying American troops.  Later he became a wholesale salt and sugar dealer.  Though he never approached the front ranks of Philadelphia society, Nelson served as a vestryman for St. Paul’s church and as president of a mutual benefit society, and during the years for which his diary and letters survive, 1780-81 and 1790-92, he was a respected, long established resident.”

Sadly, if this was my distant uncle George, he doesn’t appear to have left any children. Except… I believe he left England for the colonies to escape responsibility for an out-of-wedlock child, a George Nelson Moss, son of Sarah Moss, baptised 16 April 1754 in Culworth, Northamptonshire, just a stone’s throw from Sulgrave. That fits rather neatly with an arrival in America in 1755!

George Nelson Moss became plain George Nelson later in life, and he left a considerable Nelson dynasty in Tingewick, Buckingham and London that I have tracked so far into the 20th century. So there could be hope of finding I’m related to yet another George Nelson via DNA testing.


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