#52ancestors: A surprise in my family tree!

As a newcomer to genealogy and researching my family history, each and every day something new is revealed ranging from being able to go back another generation through to associated historical events at the time the specific ancestor lived. In England this has included things like The English Civil War, a repeal of The Corn Laws, an outbreak of cholera, and even storms, floods and heatwaves that weren’t reported as “climate change”! Small surprises crop up such as the realisation that families were much larger in the 1700s and 1800s, and the horrific infant mortality rate. These are all seen on my mothers side of the family as well as my father’s.

Ancestry, family tree

But ….. one BIG surprise popped up a few days back on my father’s side of the family where all of my male direct relatives were occupied in the mining industry either for copper, tin, or later iron ore and coal. It was the same on my mother’s side. However getting back to my 2nd Great Grandfather, Jonathan, I discover that he wasn’t a miner but ….. a tailor! Now that isn’t the end of it, because when he died in December 1904, probate a month later showed him leaving the princely sum of £630-19-11 to a John Giles who was a “retired grocer” in London. In today’s value this would be £73,000! This was despite the fact that Jonathan’s son Henry was still alive and living in the same village in Devon! Why?

Probate of 2nd great grandfather 1905

#52Ancestors #52weeks

14 thoughts on “#52ancestors: A surprise in my family tree!

  1. Sounds like either an illegitemate son or maybe a large (huge) debt. What a curious thing to find. I did my family tree some years ago and decided to pass what I’d done on to the rest of my family to continue, but the ‘black sheep’ were mostly hinted at, so my mind boggles as what they might find!

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    1. You could be right Val, but I think it might be something to do with The Poor Law, so an unmarried or widowed woman was unsupported and outcast from medieval time unless she remarried. Rapid marriages often occurred with a woman marrying her deceased husbands brother for example. It may be the Poor Law that caused this, but I haven’t investigated it yet as I’m wrapped up in closer Cornish ancestors who migrated to Canada and USA.

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      1. Hope it is a happy story. My family search turned up an illegitimate son of my grandfather which had been kept a ‘dirty’ secret. The discovery did explain sudden changes of family location and certain family hostilities.

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        1. I’ve got one I’m struggling to verify where it looks like a brother and sister married in mid 1700s, which if true may be a consequence of the Poor Law!


        2. I know what you mean, I’ve got one from 1936 I’m investigating too and if it’s true it certainly won’t be posted here! I’m trying hard to make everything public on my posts and would only add private ones for family to see anyway. Some of the laws and statutes from the 1600s + I’m reading about for the first time, things I knew a little of only like corn laws, enclosure acts, poor law etc.


        3. My delete key works fine on my laptop! But considering a high proportion of my ancestors seem to have been miners and agricultural labourers it wouldn’t be surprising. I don’t think they would support the current popular Venezuela model though 😂


        4. Agreed (Venezuela).

          Some of these early movements were however surprisingly radical. Thomas More wanted a Utopia based on egalitarianism. Rousseau would have agreed but I don’t suppose you have found any French ancestors yet?

          Reminds me, I have seen it said that my surname Petcher is a derivative of the French Pêcheur or fisher and I have always liked the idea that my family were French émigrées. Revolutionaries of course!

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        5. I will connect philosophers to this period too. Interesting about the French connection, many Bretons came to Cornwall, and there was a “tin route” into France for millennia too. Also, English Metters may come from French Metier …… May explain my preference for French wine, escargots, frogs legs, oysters, plus my despising of Macron like most French folks these days.


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