To be totally honest, this post is less about the curiosity of someone called George and more my curiosity about someone called George and the sheer madness and frustration researching him has brought me! It is absolutely typical that he is to be found hanging on my father’s English side of the family tree – and is an elder brother of my grandmother, Norah. This group of children – the family of Emily Alice Palmer – always somehow infuriate me!(more…)
I am leaving the Holborows alone for a bit (at least in terms of blogging – the research continues ever onward – yesterday I had a battle with a series of Israels which I think were beaten into submission, even if I did overlook a very obvious baptism when looking to ‘hook’ a branch onto existing research which had me cursing and facepalming at the same time) and looking at some of my dad’s American side. It has bothered me for a while that I hadn’t looked into any potential military ancestors as I’m sure there must be some.
So I turned, not to the Stanfield/Paynes but to the Davis’ – that is, the family of my great-grandmother, Nellie Davis. Nellie was one of 7 children born to Willis Henry Davis and his wife Martha Mattie Butterfield. Then I noticed something that had escaped me entirely – Willis had lost his father when he was just 10 years old. What happened?(more…)
It’s funny what becomes the root cause of a post of mine. Sometimes it’s a new piece of research that solves an old mystery, maybe a new record set becomes available shedding new light on a family – or sometimes it can be something a bit more unexpected.
For example, this one. A few days into the New Year my mum messaged me saying that my father (who has never really been hugely interested in the family history) had asked about Grampy Eddie’s first wife and did I know anything about her. Of course I did, I swiftly replied, and sent her what I knew. Only, it turned out that what I knew wasn’t exactly the truth …(more…)
There are always lines or families in your family tree that take precedence over others – they’re either more interesting, more relevant or perhaps just ‘easier’ to find. On the flip side, this means that there are some families which just don’t get the same attention.
For me, one of those families has lurked in the not-too-distant past in my father’s English tree, specifically that of my 4 x great-grandmother, Charlotte Brine nee Kew. But after many years of neglect, I turned to her recently and made a breakthrough and found a few surprises along the way!(more…)
When I was a child I used to have this odd … not fantasy … belief? … that I was adopted. (Or maybe actually an android. Or maybe a dragon. You get the point.) 8 year old me can rest easy knowing that my dad is definitely my dad and my mother is definitely my mother. (And I am definitely human.)
As I thought, my dad’s DNA results from Ancestry were delivered about a week after my mum’s.
And holy moly …
I mentioned my paternal great-grandparents Everett & Nellie Payne way back in September 2013 in this post, but have never come back to talk about this family in more detail. But this post is less an exploration of them, and more a warning about the ever-present danger of trusting other people’s data – even when sourced – and not eyeballing that evidence for yourself …(more…)
In my previous post about Australian migration, I mentioned a lady who had (possibly/probably) married her (possibly/probably) deceased first husband’s (half) uncle. I don’t want to leave you thinking that this kind of thing was present in only one side of my family. Oh no. My father’s side has an interesting tale to tell too …(more…)
I was having a wander through my family tree, trying to find an ancestor or family to share with you. I was reminded, on my father’s mother’s side of the Norris family of Collingbourne Kingston, Wiltshire, and after reacquainting myself with the line found a rather surprising association.
Emily Alice Palmer has been mentioned before – and her less than ‘traditional’ life that she lived. Her maternal grandmother was named Priscilla Brine. Her great-grandmother was Mary Norris. Her great-great-grandfather was John Norris. (Are you still with me, generation fans? We’re back to my 10 x great-grandfather now!) He had been made vicar of Collingbourne Kingston in 1647 and in August 1660 moved to Aldbourne in Wiltshire. It was here that he died on 18 March 1682, and was survived by his wife, Elizabeth.
Searching the Clergy of the Church of England Database (CCEd), John obtained his BA from Pembroke College, Cambridge on 17 June 1636 and his MA on 2 May 1639. What little evidence there is seems to show that he was a Calvinist (that is, a form of Protestantism based on the Reformation-era teachings of John Calvin). He and his wife Elizabeth had 5 children, 3 of whom survived into adulthood.
I am descended from his son Henry, who seems to have remained in Collingbourne Ducis, marrying Catherine Hellyard on 16 October 1674 and having at least five children.
Henry’s brother John – born on 2 January 1657 in Collingbourne Kingston – seems to have taken a quite different turn with his life. Educated first at Winchester College, he entered Exeter College, Oxford in 1676. He read classical literature widely, but was drawn to the writings of Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle and was drawn to various metaphysical and mystical teachings. He obtained his BA in 1680 and became an elected fellow of All Souls. He also discovered the works of the rationalist philosopher Nicolas Malebranche and his work Search after Truth (aka ‘Concerning the Search after Truth. In which is treated the nature of the human mind and the use that must be made of it to avoid error in the sciences’ – which I think we can agree is a most snappy title …). In 1684 he took his MA and was ordained.
In 1689 he left Oxford and married his wife, Elizabeth. They moved to Newton St Loe near Bath in Somerset where he was the vicar. It was here that he wrote a critique to John Locke’s An Essay on Human Understanding. In 1692 the Norris family moved to Bemerton, Wiltshire (just outside Salisbury) – a position that Locke had recommended him for. The two Johns (as it were) had a mutual friend in Lady Damaris Cudworth Masham, a philosopher and feminist in her own right. She argued that mothers were essential to the well-being of political society and also advocated women’s participation in disciplines long dominated by men: sciences and philosophy.
Although the friendship between John Norris and John Locke and Lady Masham didn’t last (and Locke dismissed him from serious consideration, describing him as “an obscure, enthusiastic man”), he was a close friend and supporter of other learned ladies, such as Elizabeth Thomas and Lady Mary Chudleigh. His closest friendship here was, however, with Mary Astell.
Mary had received an informal education from her uncle, who had left the clergy due to bouts of alcoholism, but introduced her to the works of Plato and Aristotle. Following the death of her father, mother and aunt, she moved to London and came under the patronage of various women, including Lady Elizabeth Hastings, the daughter of the 7th Earl of Huntingdon (Elizabeth and Mary would both die after having a mastectomy following breast cancer). It was under their aegis that she was able to develop and publish her works on the importance of marriage equality and education for women – so much so that she presented an idea of women having the same religious and secular education as men, ideally in a protected environment. Jonathan Swift (he of Gulliver’s Travels fame) mocked her, and Daniel Defoe (yes, Robinson Crusoe) called them “impracticable” – but this didn’t stop him from using almost the exact same idea in a later essay of his.
The more I read about Mary Astell, what she overcame and how she managed to debate freely with some of the most learned men and women of her age, the more I wonder why more isn’t known about her, and other like her. (The answer is, I feel, somewhat obvious.)
One of her key quotes is the following, from her book Some Reflections Upon Marriage:
If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?
She had a great many good things to say about John Norris, including the following:
…though some morose Gentleman wou’d perhaps remit me to the Distaff or the Kitchin … yet expecting better things from the more Equitable and ingenious Mr. Norris, who is not so narrow-Soul’d as to confine Learning to his own Sex, or to envy it in ours, I presume to beg his Attention a little to the Impertinencies of a Woman’s Pen.
She wrote in 1694: “Women are from their very Infancy debar’d those Advantages, with the want of which they are afterwards reproached …They are] nursed up in those Vices which will hereafter be upbraided to them. So partial are Men as to expect Brick where they afford no Straw. … How can you be content to be in the World like Tulips in a Garden, to make a fine shew and be good for nothing?”
She urged women to be scholars and poets and to strive for excellence, arguing that the life of the mind was “a Matter infinitely more worthy your Debates, than what Colours are most agreeable, or what’s the Dress becomes you best”. She encouraged women to aspire to higher things than “to attract the Eyes of Men. We value them too much, and ourselves too little, if we place any part of our desert in their Opinion; and don’t think our selves capable of Nobler Things than the pitiful Conquest of some worthless heart.”
For my own part, and as non-religious as I am, I have to say that I am proud of John and his cultivation of not only his own education but also the support of the notion that women are – shock, horror – just as capable of rational thought as men. In their correspondence, he and Mary agree that as bodies have motion, so minds have love.
I’m not sure I can add anything to that.
“How fading are the joys we dote upon!
Like apparitions seen and gone.
But those which soonest take their flight
Are the most exquisite and strong—
Like angels’ visits, short and bright;
Mortality’s too weak to bear them long.”
John Norris, The Parting (1678)
For more on John Norris:
For more on Mary Astell:
Its always good when you have an ancestor – or at least family – involved in one of history’s Great Events. Not that you wish them harm, but it increases the likelihood of there being records regarding their life – or at the minimum proves that they were there. Its one of the reasons military-minded ancestors are such a boon: not only do you get a shot at some personal info (height, weight, hair/eye colour, etc) but also – if you’re lucky – you get a sense of the kind of person they were.
During my investigations into my American families, its only my paternal side that has given me any long roots in America (not that the maternal side has none – I just haven’t been able to find it yet!), and there is a frisson when you get back as far as the 1600s and can count the ‘Founding Fathers’ of certain townships in your ancestry. But leading back to New Hampshire in the late 17th century there is also another event that looms at the back of your mind: the Salem witch trials.