Geoffs Genealogy Update 10 August 2015

I’ve been spending a bit of time looking further at the Archer line. Unfortunately at the moment I can’t develop the line back further than Thomas Archer (c1720-1794), but I’m putting some effort into developing the line down from Thomas Archer’s generation towards the present day. A few years ago this type of research would have been difficult to do, but with the resources that are now available online, and a bit of luck, it is now quite possible to do this.

I have been concentrating on the line down from Rachel Archer (c1759-1816) and her husband William Dover (c1764-1837). As I wrote in my June blog this couple married at St John, Hackney in November 1796, and lived at Edmonton in Middlesex. I have traced three children of this couple:

Rachael Dover was born c1796 and died in 1799, being buried in All Saints, Edmonton churchyard in June of that year. We have not yet traced a baptism for Rachael, but calculate her birth date from the age stated in her burial entry.

William Dover (1799 – 1851). More on him below.

Thomas Dover was born in 1801 and died in 18o6, being buried in All Saints, Edmonton churchyard.

William was a farmer in Edmonton, but at some time the family had moved to Peckham, then in Surrey, and it was there that he was enumerated in 1851. He died in October 1851, by which time the family was living in Morden, Surrey, but he was returned to his old home parish for burial in the graveyard of All Saints church, Edmonton.

The Dovers had nine children, so far as I know. They were:

Robert Charles Dover (b  abt 1827)
Mary J Dover (b abt 1830-32)
Louisa M Dover (b abt 1830)
James Dover (b abt 1833)
Frances E Dover (b abt 1835)
Frederick Dover (b abt 1836)
Francis Dover (1838-1922)
George Edwin Dover (b abt 1840)
Arthur Dover (b abt 1842)

The first eight of  these children were born in Edmonton, and Arthur was born at Walthamstow, Essex.

As you will appreciate, potentially there is a lot of work needed to trace all these families down towards the present day, and so far I have only scratched the surface. For no particular reason I have started by researching Francis Dover (1838-1922). He was married on 12 March 1862 to a certain Jane Parker (c 1840-1921). Like his father and grandfather before him, Francis was married at St Stephen Walbrook, London. In 1871 and 1881 his occupation was recorded as Electroplate Traveller, and in 1891 he was said to be a Hardware Factor. According to the 1901 census he was a Hardware Merchant, so it seems that he was a salesman of hardware goods that were electro plated. Maybe cutlery.

These Dovers lived in Forest Gate, Essex in the first 20 years of their marriage, and this is where their two children were born. By 1891 they had moved to Lewisham in South East London, and in 1911 they were at Crofton Park, which is near Catford Bridge. Francis died in 1922.

As I mentioned above, we have identified two children of Francis & Jane Dover:

Francis William Dover (1864-1927)
He married Eleanor Whybrow (b 1865) at St Giles, Cripplegate, London.

Agnes Dover (b 1864). She married Clarence Brandon (1862-1917) at Christ Church. South Hackney on 25 July 1903. Charles was a London Barrister.

That is as far as I have got with this research at the moment. I think it is likely to take me quite a while to complete this work, as I have a couple of other projects on the go that I really need to give some time to, but I look forward to finding out more about the Dovers as soon as I can.

In the meantime, if you are interested in these people I would be pleased to hear from you.

  • This page was last updated on Monday August 10th, 2015.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 13 July 2015

Following on from last month’s entry, in the past few weeks I have continued researching my Archer  line, seeking to build on my recent breakthrough. You will recall that this recent breakthrough was prompted by an email that I received several years ago from Will. Well, Will and I have been in touch during the past few weeks and he has given me an outline of Grace (Miller) Archer (c1727-1794)‘s parentage, which he has traced. However, like me, to date he has not been able to trace the parents of Grace’s spouse – Thomas Archer (c1720-1794), which is a shame. Hopefully, in due course, I shall be able to do this, but in the meantime I have done some more work on tracing the descendants of Thomas & Grace.

So far as I know Thomas & Grace Archer had four children, all of whom married and had children:

Thomas Archer (c1750-1810) married Hannah Bide (c1760-1813) and they were the parents of our my ancestor, Nathan Archer (1793-1845) and another four children.

William Archer (c1752-1820) married, but I have not yet succeeded in tracing the event. We know from his will that his wife’s christian name was Frances, and I have traced her burial at St John, Hackney in 1827. However I have not yet traced William’s marriage. That said, I have noted a marriage in 1777 at St Andrew Holborn, in which a certain William Archer married Frances Thompson by Banns. This could be the entry I seek, but at the moment I have no way of proving or disproving it. So far I have only traced one child of William – Grace Archer (1778-1858). She married William Adamson (c1773-1827).

Grace Archer (c1756-1848) married Thomas Matson (c1725-1799), a Citizen and Haberdasher of London. Thomas had been married previously, and he and Grace did not have any children. He died only eight years after they were married, and she lived on as a widow for another forty nine years after his death. Grace appears as a witness at a number of family events, and interestingly, on the 1841 census she was enumerated living next door to her nephew, Samuel William Archer (1790-1870), in Mare Street, Hackney. Samuel was a brother of the above Nathan Archer.

Rachael Archer (1759-1816) married William Dover (c1764-1837). Interestingly, although William Dover made a will , and probate of his estate was granted in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury to his executors – William Dover (his son) and Mary Dover (his second wife) – shortly after his death, in fact the probate was not then carried ou. In fact his son’s widow re-applied for administration of the estate in 1861, after the death of both executors, and she then carried through the probate. A most unusual circumstance.

So far as I have traced they had three children – Rachel Dover (b 1798), William Dover (1799-1851) and Thomas Dover (1801-1805). I do not know what became of the first named of these children, but have ascertained that William Dover b 1799 married Louisa Mary Blackburn (c1800-1871), and they had at least nine children.

This is very much a work in progress, as I am still researching these people, but if anybody researching this family would like more information I shall be happy to help. You can email me by using one of the email links on the Geoffs Genealogy website.

Another interesting recent development came in the form of a comment on a blog post that I wrote on 1 April 2012, about my research into Alice Lethbridge, who was a first cousin once removed of my grandmother. Alice’s skirt dancing prowess made her was a great star of the Victorian stage. I mentioned in my blog that I had found a marriage in the civil registration index that I thought probably was her second marriage, but was unable to prove this.  The marriage in question took place in 1906 at Marylebone, and the parties to the marriage aere Thomas R St Johnston and Alice Turner. Turner was the name of Alice’s first husband, who sadly died only two years after their wedding.

Earlier in this month Ian made a comment on this matter, saying that he had seen a book  From A Colonial Governors Notebook, written by a prominent diplomat named Sir Thomas Reginald St Johnston, and in it the author stated that

“….my wife’s niece Lady Drummond Hay was the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airship”.

As we already know that Lady Drummond Hay was Grace Marguerite Lethbridge (1894-1946), who was a daughter of Alice’s brother Sidney Thomas Lethbridge (1868-1937), so we now know that we have found the correct marriage.

I am extremely grateful to Ian for sending me this crucial piece of information, which he followed up by pointing me to the 1948 entry in the probate calendars relating to the estate of “St Johnston, Alice Matilda ….. wife of Sir Thomas Reginald St Johnston KCMG”. Magnificent work!

Having made this connection, we can now further develop our Lethbridge research. We have found that Sir Thomas Reginald St Johnston KCMG (1881-1950) enjoyed a distinguished diplomatic career, which took him to a number of countries, particularly in the West Indies. His wife would have travelled to these places with him. There is a lot of information about him on the internet. He died two years after his spouse, and had authored a number of other books in addition to From A Colonial Governors Notebook. One of these was his History of Dancing (1906, London, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, &​ Co), recounting the history of dancing from ancient times to the early 1900s. In one chapter of this work he writes about the career of Alice Lethbridge, adding a great amount of detail to what we already knew.

As ever, one discovery leads to the next. That’s the way it is with family history, which is why it is such a fascinating activity. I can only assume that my grandmother did not know of her connection to these people, as I cannot imagine that she would have kept the information to herself.

  • This page was last updated on Monday July 13th, 2015.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 14 June 2015

How time flies.

It hardly seems five years since I was contacted by an Archer descendant named Will. He had been looking into his ancestry, and had found some very interesting information that strongly suggested that he and I shared common Archer ancestry, but he lacked conclusive proof. At the time I looked into the matter as well as I could, but as the London Metrropolitan Archives were not then available online, and my research visits to London were rare, I was not able to help prove or disprove Will’s thesis.

We now scroll forward five years – to last month, in fact. I still had Will’s email in my pile of things to do, but to be honest had almost forgotten it. However, in May it reached the top of the pile, and on re-reading it I decided to check the records that are now available online. This research has occupied most of my research time during May 2015.

I won’t bore you with the details of the work I have done on the Archers over the past few weeks, as that could be somewhat tedious. In summary, nearly all the records that I have used are on the website,  in the London Metropolitan Archives collection. Additionally, there were some wills that were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, which are also on, and a marriage licence allegation that was sworn in the Vicar General’s office. I identified this source by using the index to Vicar General marriage licence allegations that is on the website, but the actual allegations are not available online, so I had to engage a private researcher to look this up for me at the Society of Genealogists in London, and she sent me a copy of the document.

The end result of this research is as follows:

I have discovered that Thomas Archer, father of Nathan Archer, was born circa 1750, the son of Thomas Archer and Grace, nee Miller. He died in January 1810, being buried at All Hallows, Tottenham, Middlesex. Based on the available evidence relating to his Archer contemporaries he may have lived at least part of his life in Tottenham, but in his will he described himself as Thos Archer of Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London, watch maker. His spouse was Hannah Bide, who was born circa 1760, although I have not been able to trace her baptism. She outlived her spouse by three years, being buried at All Hallows, Tottenham in January 1813, and in the burial entry she was described as being resident in Islington, Middlesex.

Thomas Archer, father of Nathan Archer, appears to have had three younger siblings:

William Archer (c1752 – 1720). I have not yet succeeded in tracing William’s marriage, but know from his will that his spouse’s christian name was Frances. At various times in his life William had lived at Hackney and Hornsey, both in Middlesex, and he was buried at All Hallows, Tottenham in August 1720. According to his will he had a daughter who survived him, named Grace (Archer) Adamson. She married a certain William Adamson, who was a gardener  of Stoke Newington, Middlesex. William Adamson died in 1848, and his spouse showed on the 1851 census for Marylebone, London, as a widowed annuitant, aged 72. She died in 1858.

 Grace Archer (c1756-1848). Grace was baptised at All Hallows, Tottenham and in November 1791 she married Thomas Matson (1725-1791) at the same church. As you will have noted, Thomas was more than thirty years older than Grace, and he had been married and widowed previously. He was a Citizen & Haberdasher of London, and he and Grace had no children. Both Grace and Thomas were buried at All Hallows, Tottenham. Thomas awas evidently a prosperous man, to judge from his will.

Grace (Archer) Matson appears in some of the family records as a witness to marriages , and it is interesting to note that on the 1841 census she was enumerated as a widow living in Hackney, in the next property to her nephew, Samuel William Archer (1790-1870) and his family.

Rachel Archer (c1759-1816). Rachel was a witness to the marriage of her sister Grace Archer, and in 1796 she married William Dover (c1764-1837) at St John, Hackney. This couple seem to have lived at Edmonton in Middlesex, not far from Tottenham, and I have so far traced two children – William Dover (b 1799) and Thomas Dover (b 1801). Rachel was buried at All Saints, Edmonton in February 1816, but her spouse survived her by 21 years. By this time he was living in Clapton, Middlesex, and he was buried at St John, Hackney, Middlesex.

But what about Thomas Archer and Grace Miller, I hear you say.

Well, Thomas was born circa 1720 and Grace was born circa 1727, but I do not know where either of them were born. They married at St Mary, Newington, Surrey in November 1749, and both of them were said to be of the parish of Tottenham. You may ask why, if they were both from Tottenham, were they married on the other side of the capital, in Newington? It seems to me that the most likely explanation is that their first child, our Thomas, had probably already been conceived.

Be that as it may, at some stage this couple moved back to their home parish, and they seem to have lived out their lives there. In his will, which he made a few days before his death, Thomas stated his place of residence as Wood Green, High Cross, Tottenham, Middlesex.

It is apparent that Thomas and Grace Archer were both very ill when Thomas made his will, and they died within a few days of one another – Thomas on 22 November 1794 and Grace on 29 November 1794. They were both buried in their home parish of All Hallows, Tottenham.

So there you have it. I’ve told you most of the information I have discovered in the past few weeks about my Archer ancestry. The image below shows how these recent discoiveries affect the Archer family tree (apologies for it being a little blurred):

Nathan Archer Forebears

Recently identified forebears of Nathan Archer (1793-1845)

If you are able to add anything to all this I shall be delighted to hear from you.

In case you are wondering, I have been in touch with Will, who sparked this off with his email five years ago, and he is still interested. Indeed, it seems that he has already found all this himself in the intervening period, so I am rather behind in this game. Still, better late than never!







  • This page was last updated on Sunday June 14th, 2015.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 5 March 2013

Over the years I have not processed all the items that I have found whilst visiting various records offices around the country. I am afraid that I am inclined to be rather greedy when I go on a treeing trip, and concentrate on collecting as many sources as I can. After all, these days most archives let you use your digital camera to record sources, although often for a fee, so for the most part there is not the need to write out your notes in longhand.

There is a down side to this however. I have quite a lot of records that I obtained a couple of years ago or more, and I still have not worked on them. Once I’ve left them for a couple of years or more my memory fades, and thus when I come to work on them I sometimes can’t recall the detail of the source as well as I should. I know that in the interest of sound research, and to get the best out of the material that I gather, I should deal with these items soon after gathering them, but that said, I don’t expect I’ll change.

During February I finally got around to processing a source that I annotated in March 2009 at Guildhall Library in London. These are the Insurance Registers. Guildhall Library used to hold a large, but incomplete, series of these records, which relate to several insurance companies and cover the years 1696 to 1883, but since I viewed them they have been moved to London Metropolitan Archives.  You can read about this source on the following webpage:

On the National Archives website there was an index to a section of the Sun Life Insurance Registers, source reference Ms 11936/419 -560, covering the period 1800 – 1839, and I made use of that before visiting Guildhall Library, to identify the sources that I wanted to look at during my visit. Thus, I arrived at London with a list of documents that I wanted to see, and was able to crack on with the research straight away.

I had never seen archive insurance registers before, and found them very interesting, particularly as they give a good insight into the lifestyle of our forebears. I was able to trace a number of records relating to several Bankes descendants:

John Collyer (1783-1840), Carver & Gilder of London
David Price (1774-1840), Cheesemonger / Warehouseman of London
Nathan Archer (1793-1845), Printer & Stationer / Engraver of London

I also traced some material relating to Nathan Archer’s brothers – Thomas Archer (1786-1866) and Samuel William Archer (1790-1870), as well as a certain William Thomas Archer. I have come across William in my research previously; he was obviously related to Nathan Archer, but I have not yet been able to work out his connection.

So what do these records tell us?

Well, firstly they give us a series of addresses for the people named. In the case of John Collyer and David Price this merely confirms existing information, but in the case of the Archer men there is quite a bit to learn. I had known that Thomas Archer, brother of my Nathan, lived at Long Lane, West Smithfield, London when he was a young man, but it seems from these records that Nathan and maybe William Thomas also lived at that address for a period, although the exact sequence of events is not spelled out clearly. I am not sure whether Long Lane was both residential and business address, but it looks as though that could have been the case.

After his marriage to Mary Ann Stephens in 1817, Nathan appears to have moved to a brick building at 39 Goswell Street, London. I assume that this was Goswell Road, in Clerkenwell. Here he lived, presumably with his wife, and according to the insurance schedules he had his printing office at the rear of the building.

In 1821 Nathan Archer was on the move again. This time he moved to 219 Shoreditch, to another brick house which appears to have been both his home and workplace. In 1821 he had entered into a partnership with a  certain Alfred Catherwood as Printers, Booksellers and Stationers, and that was probably the reason for this move, I think. The costs of the insurance premiums that Nathan and Alfred had to pay was considerable – £1200 in 1821, on the stock, utensils and goods that were stores at their premises.

The partnership between messers Archer & Catherwood did not last long, and on 15 July 1823 a notice appeared in the London Gazette, announcing its breakup. Nathan and family then went to live at 26 Tabernacle Walk, St Lukes, London. Again, this appears to have been both his home and workplace, and in 1823 and 1825 his premium on his household goods, clothes, glass & china, stock etc was £1100.

The last entry I found for Nathan was dated 9 January 1839, when he was at 15 Old Street Road in Clerkenwell. This may have only been his dwelling house, I suspect, as the premium was lower (£350), and there is no mention in the schedule of stock. The Archer family were still at that address in 1841, when the census was taken.

There is one other member of the Archer clan mentioned in these records – Nathan’s brother Samuel William Archer. He was described as a Jeweller, Silversmith and Dealer in Watches and Locks, and appears to have been a very prosperous man. His address was recorded as “Nearly opposite St Thomas Square Hackney”, and the hint that he probably did  trade from that address comes in the value of “stock and utensils Jewels excepted £900”.

One or two other points that may be of interest.

Firstly, many of the records state “no stove therein”, presumably because no stove meant less fire risk. I can’t imagine how the people would have kept warm in those circumstances, though.

It is interesting to see that David Price’s premiums included amounts to cover musical instruments. The cost of this cover was £50 in 1827, but this was doubled the following year. This gives an impression of a certain elegent lifestyle in the Price household. I wonder what instruments they had, and who played them. Do you think that they were played by David Price’s daughters, Anne and Mary, in a scene reminiscent of Jane Austen?

I could go on about these records for ages longer, but I guess that by now you have the idea that these are quite fascinating sources, which cast light on many aspects of the lives of our forebears. I really must make sure that I investigate some of the other items I have stores in folders before too long.

As I leave you I must give my usual plug for the Reunion of John Bankes’ Descendants, which we are holding at Coulsdon, Surrey on 8th June. The big day is now drawing very close, and we would love to have the opportunity to meet and greet as many Bankes descendants as possible. If you can come, please do. I’m sure you will thoroughly enjoy the day. Details are on the Geoffs Genealogy website.



  • This page was last updated on Tuesday March 5th, 2013.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 3 February 2013

January has been an interesting month for me.

Firstly it was the month when my term as Editor of the Shropshire Family History Society came to an end, and my joint successors in the post started work on the next issue, due out in March. I am really looking forward to seeing the results of all their work, after years of knowing in advance what was in the journal!

As I’ve mentioned a number of times over the years, I’ve really enjoyed my eleven years as editor, and already miss the involvement. I’ve made many friends in the role, and worked with some great people in what is a first class family history society. If you are not a member of a family history society I urge you to join at the earliest opportunity. You will surely benefit from your membership in many ways.

Secondly, I began to step up the preparatory work for the second Reunion of Descendants of John Bankes, Citizen & Haberdasher of London (c1650-1719). There is now only four months to the big day – 8th June, so if you are a Bankes descendant I urge you to book your place at what should be a thoroughly enjoyable day. See the Geoffs Genealogy website for brief details, and information about the previous event.

Thirdly, as some of you may have noticed, during January I have made a few additions and amendments to the Hunt & Stephens section of the Geoffs Genealogy website.

I have prepared and launched a new page entitled Mary Ann Archer & John Brown Smith. This page deals with Mary Ann, daughter of Mary Ann Archer & Nathan Archer, and her husband. In so doing it also relates what we know of John’s parents, and in particular his father – James Bayly Smith. Both John and his father served as Excise officers, and as there are extensive staff records of the Excise Department on microfilm at The National Archives at Kew we have been able to learn a lot about these two men and their careers.

In the course of linking this new page into the website I realised that when I uploaded the page on Mary Ann Stephens and Nathan Archer I omitted to add the references. A serious omission in my book, and one which I was anxious to correct. I have now added these  references, but in the process of compiling them I had occasion to read through the page about Mary Ann Stephens and Nathan Archer. Inevitably, as some time had passed since I updated this page, I found a few areas in which the information on the page did not reflect our most recent research. I therefore updated a couple of areas on this page, as well.

As you may imagine, all this work has taken me some considerable time, but hopefully the information on the website about these people is now up to date. Now on to the next task. Let me see …..

Last month I mentioned that I was reading a recently published book –  Marriage Law for Genealogists, by Professor Rebecca Probert,  published by Takeaway Publishing (2012).

I have now read this book, and can say that I found it most interesting in many respects. It is written in a very accessible style, and is very informative in disproving a number of the myths and misconceptions about marriage in days gone by that abound  in family histoy circles. This is a short book, and well worth a read. Also, it will make a very handy reference book for future research.

Before closing this entry I’ll just mention a couple of websites that I find interesting and / or useful, in case you may also want to use them:

Bomb Sight is a fairly new website that maps the bombs that fell on London in World War Two. If, like me, your family members lived in London during WW2 you cannot fail to find this remarkable website interesting.

Family historians often fail to “kill off” their ancestors for a variety of reasons, and it can be quite difficult to trace that relevant burial entry. The Deceased Online website my help. It is a project to create a central UK database of burial and cremation entries. Very much a work in progress, but I’ve already found some entries relevant to my research in it, and hopefully you may, as well.

London Lives is a fascinating website if you are interested in life in the capital in the eighteenth century, funded by the ESRC, and implemented by the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield and the Higher Education Digitisation Service at the University of Hertfordshire. To quote the Home page this site offers  “A fully searchable edition of 240,000 manuscripts from eight archives and fifteen datasets, giving access to 3.35 million names.”





  • This page was last updated on Sunday February 3rd, 2013.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 07 March 2008

When I signed off last time I said that in this entry I’ll tell you about how Helen and I spent our afternoon in London on 12 February, so here goes ….

I have been visiting London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) at Islington for more than 15 years. and the venue has certainly seen some changes in that time. For a start, the name – when I first went there it was called the Greater London Records Office.

If you are researching family or local history in the Greater London area you are sure to need to visit LMA at some time. It holds a vast range of sources, including items as diverse as parish registers, directories, local authority records, photographs and the Middlesex Deeds Registers. At present it also holds the records usually held at the Corporation of London Records Office in the City of London, and these include the records of Freedoms of the City of London. It holds these records while the Guildhall in the City of London is undergoing some alterations, but they will be returning to their usual home in due course.

The LMA is, itself, in a period of considerable renovation at present, and in fact was closed for a period until a few weeks ago. More details about LMA can be obtained from the LMA website

When I go on a research trip I always take a long list of research jobs to do. I never manage to do anything like everything that is on the list, but I find that if I get fed up working on one area of research it is good to have a choice of other things to do. I find it good for morale to always come home with some sort of positive result – even if it is something that does not seem all that important to my research. I therefore make sure that my list includes a few “soft targets”.

On this occasion I decided to look at the parish registers for Christ Church, Spitalfields, concentrating on the baptisms 1843-1875. I knew from the IGI that this record should include several entries relating to the Hazeltine and Winmill families. Adam Hazeltine was the first spouse of Mary Ann Smedley (b 1819), and George Winmill was her second husband.

Sure enough, I found the entries I expected. We should always aim to check entries found on the IGI against the original register, partly because it is always possible that the index entry contains an error, but also because the original entry may well contain information that is not shown on the IGI. In the entries I looked at I found out the father’s stated occupation and the address of the household for each entry.

We also found the baptism, at St Thomas, Stepney in 1857, of William Thomas Archer, son of Samuel and (we assume) Emma Mayhew. Oddly, the mother was not named in this entry. We think that this was merely an oversight on the part of the vicar, as in the next entry the mother’s name was also omitted. Very odd.

Helen and I looked for a number of other entries at LMA, without success. That was a bit disappointing, but our disappointment was tempered by the several good finds that I had made when looking at the Wills Calendars in the morning. We adjourned to Euston Station for a well earned burger meal and a punctual ride home, courtesy of Virgin Rail.

  • This page was last updated on Friday March 7th, 2008.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 17 February 2008

Hello again.

I visited London last Tuesday, with my daughter Helen. Helen was on a business trip, and I was treeing, so we travelled down from Wolverhampton early in the morning then went our separate ways, meeting up again in the afternoon.

I had never before visited the offices of HM Courts Service at First Avenue House, Holborn, so I decided to use this occasion to rectify this omission. As is my wont, I took with me a lengthy list of items to research. I always set myself far too many tasks on these trips, but at least I never run out of things to do!

The system in operation at this venue is very simple. There are a series of racks containing quite large books. These contain the probate calendars, which list and summarise the Wills and Administrations dealt with by HMCR. They date from 1858, when the Church Courts ceased to deal with probates, to about 1995. There are a number of books for each year, and each year is split alphabetically. You simply find the book you need and look for the entry that interests you. If you find it you will probably want to annotate the details of the entry, but if you wish you can order a copy of the document. I ordered copies of three wills, which will take about a week to arrive by post, and cost me £5.00 each. It is also possible to obtain a copy will one hour after ordering it.

If you want to order a copy of a Will you need to complete a simple form and take the relevant calendar to an official, who checks that you have completed your application correctly. You then pay your money to a cashier, who takes your order for processing.

I imagine you are all agog, wanting to know whether I found anything of great interest. Well, in my three hours stay I managed to cover about 3/4 of my list. I’ll mention a few.

As I expected, my poor old Smith forebears do not appear to have left wills – not even my mum’s uncle Jim – James Archer Smith – who had his own businesses and was said by members of the family to have been quite prosperous.

I did have quite a number of successes, however. Ralph Hewitt (d. 1938) left a will, as did Caleb Oliver and his wife Alicia Blandina, who died in 1879 and 1897 respectively. Alicia was the daughter of Samuel William Archer (1790-1870).

I found records of the wills of Hannah Archer (1818-1904) and her brother Samuel Archer (1822-1889). I also was able to trace the probates relating to children of Thomas Hunt (1798-1897) and his wife Martha Mary Colam (1808-1861). They were Matilda Hunt (1831-1908), Esther Maria Hunt (1833-1911)

The most surprising information I found was contained in the probate calendar entry for Ann Maria (Holt) Heppell (c1817-1886), the widow of Richard Bryan Heppell (1812-1861). Her son and only next of kin was Richard William George Heppell, who was said to be living in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York, USA. No wonder I had not traced his death in the UK records! I may be able to find him in the USA censuses online at Ancestry.

You can find all the above people in the family tree section of Geoff’s Genealogy.

Oh! I nearly forgot to tell you what the calendar entries actually tell us. Well, they follow a pretty set format, and basically tell us the name of the deceased, his or her address, the date and location of the death, the date and location of probate or admons, the name of the person to whom probate was granted and the value of the estate. In my experience, many of these entries contain as much information as the full will – but not always.

You can see these calendars on microfiche at many libraries or records offices in England and Wales, but the records at First Avenue House are more up to date, so if you want to see a record relating to more recent probate you will need to go there.

I spent the rest of the day at the revamped London Metropolitan Archives. I may tell you about that next time.

Good hunting.

  • This page was last updated on Sunday February 17th, 2008.

Geoffs Genealogy Website Updates – 13 January 2008

Last Sunday Helen and I put a series of updates on to the Geoffs Genealogywebsite, as the latest stage of our ongoing updating process. Over the past few weeks I have been through all the pages of text on the site and amended them so that they are up to date as of now. In most cases this has involved the correction of a few errors (typos mainly), the addition of an odd sentence or paragraph of text, the changing or addition of a date here and there, and appropriate additions to the references pages.

In the case of the webpage Arthur Ackland Hunt – Artist the changes made are quite significant. Firstly, courtesy of Richard Bradley, I am able to share with you two wonderful photographs – of Arthur Ackland Hunt and his wife – Emma Sarah Blagg.In addition to this, I have added a newspaper report of the marriage of Arthur and Emma in 1879, an image of one of the Blagg family homes in Cheadle, and a short section of information about the Blagg family.

As readers of this blog will know, I am in the process of gleaning information about the Blaggs from the Cheadle parish registers, and I hope that eventually I shall be able to expand my coverage of this family.

On the Thomas Hunt, Doctor page the main addition is a superb image of the doctor himself, which I only received last week. Again, my thanks to Richard Bradley for allowing me to share this picture with you.

I have added quite a large number of websites to the Geoffs Genealogy Links page, and hope that you will find them to be useful and informative. I try to include a wide variety of relevant links – some well known and others not so well known – and also confine myself to sites that I consider to be reliable sources of information.

I have tried to bring the Geoffs Genealogy tree completely up to date, but not quite made it, I’m afraid. If you have sent me some material and you can’t find it there I apologise. I shall be beavering away over the next few months, trying to correct any such omissions. I have to say, however, that I have added a great deal of information to the tree, and I hope that visitors to the site will find it even more interesting than previously.

Among the areas of the Geoffs Genealogy Tree that I have expanded significantly in the last year are the following:

My thanks to Brenda for sharing her information with me. Thanks to her the Archer section of the tree is greatly expanded, and includes information on the line down from Thomas Archer (1786-c1866) the brother of Nathan Archer, my ancestor.

Charles Heppell married my great aunt – Alice Victoria Smith – in 1891 at Shoreditch, and thus the Heppells became part of my family tree. I was greatly surprised when I started to look into the Heppell family history and found that they came from Sunderland in the North East of England. There is much still to be discovered on this line of research, but I have made a fair start, I think.

My mother’s uncle Jim was James Archer Smith (1877-1957), who I knew had married a lady named Ophelia. That was as much as I knew up to a year ago, but after digging into Ophelia’s life story I find that she was born Ophelia Eliza Florence Worthy in 1865. She married a certain William Henry Kerr in 1882 at Bethnal Green, had seven Kerr children, and was widowed sometime between 1896 and 1901. She then married mum’s uncle Jim and died in 1928 at Hoxton. I have no idea whether or not mum knew all that; I found the reserach quite fascinating, and wrote about it on my blog during the period February – March 2007.

Next I need to inveestigate James Archer Smith’s second marriage, but for now I’ve added theinformation about Ophelia to the tree.

My thanks to Chris Marshall for sharing with me her information about her line of descent from Benjamin Culshaw (b 1828) and his spouse Barbara Blackwell (b 1828). This has added a great deal to my Culshaw family tree. I still have more of Chris’s information to add, as she has sent me some material relating to her Heaps ancestors. Hopefully I’ll manage this during 2008.

Early in 2007 I was contacted by a Sleigh descendant of Robert Hanham Collyer(1814-1891) and his wife Emily Jeans Clements (born c1847), and the tree now includes some information on this line.

Da Costa
I spent some time during 2007 researching the Da Costa family, using civil registration indexes and censuses. I made great progress, and have therefore been able to add quite a lot of information to this brance of the pedigree. In case you are wondering, around the turn of the 18th-19th centuries two of the daughters of William Hunt (b 1763) married two Da Costa brothers. I now know that one of them – Antonio Da Costa – was the Brazilian Vice Consul during the mid nineteenth century.

Thanks to Ted George in Australia I have been able to add quite a lot to our knowledge of this clan, and that is reflected in the tree. Ted’s forebear – Albert George Benzoni –
dropped the “Benzoni” and adopted “George” as the family surname, hence Ted’s surname. I mention this in case you wonder why I show the surname of some of the people on the tree as “Benzoni/George”.

This was my genealogical highlight of 2007, and was the subject of a number of entries on my blog. This time last year I was completely stuck on my Guyatt research, and had been so stuck for about ten years. Now I’m again stuck – but not at the same point! I’m eagerly seeking the next breakthrough, and hoping that it is not another ten years away! Visitors to the Guyatt section of the tree will find much that is new there. What I now need to know is the birthplace of my John Guyatt, born about 1784 and maried to Hannah Wright in 1817 at High Wycombe. Any offers?

My grateful thanks to my cousin, Pat, for all her help in sorting out the various conundrums that came to light in researching William Freeman Guyatt and his family. We finally got to the bottom of it all, and uncovered some wonderful material. I shall be working towards incorporating it into Geoffs Genealogy as soon as I can.

Whilst researching the Guyatts I was also able to develop the Smedley family history a little. Much remains to be done on this, but the new information is included in the tree, and I hope that we shall learn more before too long.

And more besides
In addition to the above I have added much to many other areas of the Bankes pedigree, using online records – mainly census returns and civil registration indexes. This is a stage in my ongoing effort to “dot the Is and cross the Ts” as much as possible, and I shall continue with this work during 2008. My approach to this is a bit random – I just tend to pick on an individual on the tree and see what I can find.

I think that more or less covers the latest batch of updates. I hope you will find something of interest in Geoffs Genealogy. If so, please let me know, and if you think you may be able to help add to our knowledge I shall be highly delighted to hear from you.

  • This page was last updated on Tuesday January 15th, 2008.

Geoffs Genealogy Update 14 November 2007

It’s that time of year again. Here in the UK the nights have well and truly drawn in; the weather is colder the clocks have been turned back an hour and the garden has been tidied up. Christmas looms on the horizon and the shops are getting busier. I think there is a good case to be made in favour of hibernation – in fact I’ve probably just made it! Still, these colder, darker evenings are the perfect time for a bit of family history research on your computer.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve completed (for now) the Archer research I’ve been doing over the past couple of months. When stuck together the resulting family tree extended pretty well across our lounge – a most impressive spectacle! I hope that Brenda was pleased with it – I certainly enjoyed working on it.

I had a nasty shock on Sunday, when I realised that my memory stick must have been in my shirt pocket when that garment was consigned to our washing machine! Oh my goodness; I had done a lot of work on a local history project and not saved it to my computer. I cursed my stupidity and prayed!

The memory stick was found in the washing machine and with bated breath I slotted it into my computer. Nothing. The computer did not register its presence in the usb port. Oh dear – all that work lost due to my failure to make sure the data was secure!

But salvation was at hand in the form of my resident genius, aka younger son. He told me that when the memory stick dries out properly it may prove to be ok, and sure enough, that was the case! Last evening I was able to see all my precious data on the computer screen. Thank goodness! Much as I enjoy local history research I did not really want to reprise a couple of months’ work.

The moral of this tale is that we should always back up our data. I hope that this near escape has taught me a lesson, but knowing me I’ll probably regress again at some time.

Thanks to some help from my cousin Pat we’ve partly cracked the problem of the Devon Guyatts. I’m not sure whether or not I’ve mentioned this particular problem before, but in case not it concerns the existence on the 1901 census of a youth named Alfred Guyatt in the household of Rowland Simmonds and his wife, Caroline nee Guyatt. Who was he?

Well, we think we have found the answer, but have a little more work to do to clear the matter up beyond all doubt. I won’t go through it in detail here, but if any of you are interested in this poser please feel free to drop me an email and I’ll explain it to you.

More developments. Thanks to a contact made via the website Jan has made contact with a distant cousin on her Carmarthenshire Richards line. The gent in question still lives in the area inhabited by his forebears in the nineteenth century; lucky fellow. Carmarthenshire is a truly beautiful part of the UK.

I’ve booked a microfiche reader at Stafford Records Office for a couple of hours this coming Saturday, so that I can check the Cheadle, Staffs registers for Blagg events. I mentioned the Blaggs in previous posts a while ago. They were a prosperous midlands family, one of whom married into the Hunt family and lived the rest of her days in Kidbrooke, now in south east London but then in Kent.

Finally for today, have you noticed that the non-conformist non-parochial records held by The National Archives in classes RG4 and RG5 have now appeared on the web? They can be seen at I have already used these records extensively at the Family Records Centre, as quite a number of Bankes descendants were non-conformists, but I shall certainly be making good use of this resource in the future.

  • This page was last updated on Wednesday November 14th, 2007.