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Posts Tagged ‘ancestry’

Last week, it finally arrived, after nine horrendous months – the day I settled into my new home. I’ve made the tremendous leap north of twelve miles from Chesterfield to the leafy S11 area of Sheffield. I am extraordinarily happy to be in a city again, with all its buzz and opportunities, but especially THIS city.

Here’s why. Not just because it has the reputation as one of the safest cities in the country. Or because its residents are so friendly. And there’s real feminist activity going on (Feminists Over Fifty overflowing with members), and the independent cinema shows all the latest films WITH SUBTITLES every Monday…

For my research addiction, archives and local studies library are just a bus ride away. But most of all, I’m following my forefathers’ footsteps. Or more accurately, their short sojourn here, but it was a significant one. On 16 August 1878, my grandfather Ernest Danforth was born here, at 23 Sussex Street (in the south-east area of Darnall/Wicker near the present-day Cobweb Bridge). That was just seven months and a bit after the (bigamous) marriage of his parents William Danforth and Isabella Tamplin nee Clavering on 5 January 1878. We probably don’t need to ask why they married, in a Register Office, with unrelated witnesses.

The reason they were in Sheffield at all was only because Isabella, a Gateshead girl by birth, moved here from Manchester with first husband Joe Tamplin, an early Sheffield policeman. By the time she fell pregnant with grandad Ernest, Bella had lost Joe to TB only six months before, and all three of her previous children to scarlatina in 1875. A destitute widow, she brought in some pennies by running a little shop from her front room in Sussex Street. Perhaps Bill frequented her shop. As a steel puddler from Hoyland Nether just up t’road near Barnsley, he may have worked in the steelworks on Sussex Street (a decidedly industrial location) and called in to Mrs Tamplin’s shop for small purchases. More likely they met in the North Pole inn.

They didn’t stay long. By the 1881 census, they were in Brinsworth in Rotherham and Bill was a mill labourer, no longer using his muscles for steel-puddling. Local newspapers report devastating levels of poverty and destitution in Sheffield in the 1870s-80s as its steel manufacturers lost out to works in other parts of the country. The family’s further move to Glasgow a year or two later was probably a search for work (Bill had been there before in the 1860s with his first wife), although the long arm of the anti-bigamy law might have been a push factor too. As a result, grandad Ernest grew up a thoroughly east-Glasgow lad, reportedly with such a strong Glaswegian accent, no-one knew his Yorkshire roots. And for the rest of his life, his was the only Danforth family in Scotland.

In fact, the Danforth name is pretty rare in the UK generally. Thick on the ground in the USA because of two Danforth pilgrims from Framlingham in Suffolk who migrated in the early 17th century. But they are not related to my lot. In Thornhill, south Yorkshire, the name was first Dunforth, locational after a small habitation in that area, and probably pronounced in the local accent something like D’nf’d, so Dunford and Danford are regular variants, as well as many stranger ones.

Moving back to my Yorkshire roots at the start of the new-old year (March 25th) seems an appropriate time to launch a Yorkshire Danforth One Name Study. Well, more of a gentle push into the genealogical boating pond. Later I’ll set up an ONS website or blog but now is the start of data-gathering, and contacting potential Danforth matches via DNA test results (more about that to come).

Anyone reading this who is a Yorkshire Danforth, Danford or Dunford, please get in touch! Leave a comment below, or email me: celiarenshawATgmail.com.

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In 2008, during BBC4’s ‘Medieval Mind’ series, TV historian Michael Wood presented what I consider the best single historical TV programme, ever. It shows us in words and pictures the ordinary lives of ordinary people in a period we usually only know from stories of kings, queens and warring nobles. Michael explains and demonstrates how people lived on a daily basis – their homes, food, animals, faith – and the disasters that beset them, killing vast numbers, in the 14th century. He shows how these details of ordinary lives can be found in documents normally used only by academics – manorial and tax records. In some cases, these ancient documents, six or seven hundred years old, look as fresh as the day they were written – the ink still dark, handwriting neat and legible on clean parchment. Nowadays we have trouble with the Latin but help’s available for that, should we venture to look. Seeing Michael unroll and read those records was like watching Tut’s tomb being opened!

Most importantly though, the programme focuses fully on the life of one medieval woman – Christina Cok. She stands for the millions of women whose lives have been lost to our history, even when records about them exist. A female voice-over, speaking in the words and accents of Middle English, movingly talks to us from Wills and letters written by women at the time. And at the end, we’re taken through a montage of pictures of women over the centuries, while Michael tells us: this is the forgotten half of our ancestry – the women.

The programme has been re-broadcast numerous times and I’ve watched it every time. I never fail to shed tears at the end – in my aching regret for the forgotten half of my ancestry. In my experience, no other TV historian has highlighted the lost history of ordinary women in this way – something that was very long overdue in 2008 and much more is still needed.

“Christina – a Medieval Life” may be available to buy on DVD from Maya Vision International, as listed here: http://bufvc.ac.uk/dvdfind/index.php/title/av74666. And you may also be able to view it on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/102878103.

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Once upon a time, in the 1960s, there was a TV programme about Daniel Boone.  He was one of the most famous of America’s frontiersmen and in the USA he’s still a person of great interest to family researchers.  There’s even a Boone Society.

Round about 1742, Daniel Boone’s sister Sarah married a man called John Wilcockson.  He was probably born about 1720, either in the UK or in America.  As a result of this prestigious link to Daniel Boone, there are hundreds of American Wilcockson descendants who dearly want to know the origins of their “1720 John”.  Over the last year, largely because of my special interest in non-conformity, I have been helping a small group of them to track down some evidence…

What was already known about “1720 John” : Not a lot actually.  No suitable birth or baptism record has been found for him in the USA.  However, there’s a working theory that John was the son of a George Wilcockson who married Elizabeth Powell at a Quaker marriage in Exeter, Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1719.  George gave his fellow Quakers a ‘clearness certificate’ from Breach Monthly Meeting in Derbyshire stating that his father was John Wilcockson resident in Cossall, Notts, on the Notts/Derbys border (we call him Cossall John for ease of reference).

Sadly George and Elizabeth both died fairly young in 1739 and 1740.  They left no Wills and guardianship of their youngest child Mary was granted to another Quaker named Philip Yarnall, who appears to be unrelated.  Philip’s request for guardianship mentions that George and Elizabeth had older children but does not supply their names or details.

Through extensive research in Derbyshire, Notts and Staffs Quaker records (held at Notts and Staffs Archives), in Wills (held at Lichfield Record Office) and in Duffield Fee manorial records for Biggin near Wirksworth (held at Derbys Record Office), we’ve now established that migrant George and his five siblings (Ann, John, Dorothy, Isaac and David Wilcockson) were all born in Staffs between 1687 and 1699, their births recorded at Leek Monthly Meeting.  Their parents were John Wilcockson (Cossall John) and Dorothy Hall.  Cossall John and Dorothy married at a Quaker meeting at Dorothy’s home in Morrige near Leek in 1686, and we know from Quaker Sufferings that John was living nearby at a hamlet called Ford in Grindon parish, Staffs, in that year.

One telling point is that the children of first and second generation Wilcocksons in the USA also included David, John, George and Isaac as given names.  With David and Isaac being rare names among Wilcocksons and, in the UK, almost entirely confined to the Biggin family and its descendants, this naming pattern lends significant weight to the theory that migrant George was a close relative of 1720 John, and most likely his father.

Cossall John, Dorothy and the children all moved from Staffs to Biggin near Wirksworth in Derbyshire in about 1710, and John appears in the minutes of Breach Monthly Meeting between 1711 and 1718.  He died at Cossall in 1719.  Information from probate records proves that, despite his sojourn in Staffs, Cossall John was a native of Biggin, born there in about 1660 to parents John Wilcockson (called Ould John) and his wife Dorothy (surname unknown).  Ould John and Dorothy were not Quakers and Ould John wasn’t over-happy with son Cossall John’s choice of wife, even though she was also a Dorothy.  The  Breach MM minutes record his dissatisfaction with the proposed marriage and two Friends were despatched to his farm in Lower Biggin to persuade him to agree.

Duffield Fee manorial records have helped us take the Biggin Wilcockson family back another generation so the line to migrant George looks like this:

George Wilcockson (1585-1660) & 2nd wife Agnes Maddock (c1602-1667) m. 1622 Wirksworth (4 known children).  George’s first wife was widow Catherine Bonsol – they married in 1608 but do not appear to have had children before she died in 1622.

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Ould John Wilcockson (1633-1694) appears to have had a first wife Alice BAGNALL, daughter of Ralph BAGNALL and Alice MOOREWOOD, a family originally from the Alstonefield area of Staffs, and his oldest son Cossall John was perhaps born to her; he certainly had a wife Dorothy (c1639-1724) (5 known children in total)

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Cossall John Wilcockson (1660-1719) & Dorothy Hall (1655-after 1728) (6 children)

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Migrant George Wilcockson (1695-1739), who migrated to Pennsylvania and married Elizabeth Powell (1696-1740) in 1719 – the probable parents of 1720 John Wilcockson who married Daniel Boone’s sister Sarah Boone.

What’s left for us to discover? : The frustrating issue for American descendants of 1720 John and Sarah Boone Wilcockson is that no unarguable evidence has emerged to prove John’s parentage, either in the UK or  the USA.  The children of migrant George Wilcockson and Elizabeth Powell do not appear in any Quaker records in or around their abode in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  This may be because George and Elizabeth did not remain ‘in unity’ with the Quakers, or their birth records for this period may be lost.  Early birth or baptism records from other faiths in the area at that time are also few and far between.

There are other John Wilcocksons born in Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Cheshire at suitable dates to be candidates for 1720 John, but research so far suggests they all stayed put in the UK and did not migrate to the USA in time to marry Sarah Boone about 1742 (though this needs additional confirmation).

There is also an ongoing family myth in the USA that 1720 John “came from Wales” about 1740.  However, there are no signs of any Wilcocksons in Wales before that date, and it seems likely that descendants have been mixing up “Wales” in the UK with “North Wales”, an area in Pennyslvania settled by the Welsh Quaker families that migrant George married into.

It would be good to hear from anyone who’s descended from Derbyshire Wilcocksons, in particular anyone with an ancestor among the Breach Quakers, in hope that additional information might have been passed down the family lines to help illuminate this quest for 1720 John.  It may be of interest too that migrant George’s younger brother David Wilcockson married a Yorkshire Quaker Alice Anderson in 1724.  Many of this line remained Quaker over several generations.  In Yorkshire, they appear in Monthly Meetings for Skipton, Rylstone & Airton, Settle, Brighouse, Knaresborough and Bradford.  David and Alice’s son Isaac (born in Burnsall in 1727) moved across the Pennines to marry Mary Gilpin of Wray.  They and their descendants appear in the Quaker records of Wray, Fylde and Preston in Lancashire.

If you have a Wilcockson interest, please leave a comment at the end of this post, or contact me on celiarenshawATgmail.com.   In return, you might find you have a link to the famous Daniel Boone!  And definitely there’s a large amount of Wilcockson information ready to share from both the UK and the USA, including details available online at the Planet Murphy website.

[This post is based on an article published in the Derbyshire Family History Society Journal, March 2013]

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