It is with the deepest sadness that I have to let everyone know about the death of my mum, Valerie Janet Finch. She had Christmas 2018 with her family in Scotland but returned home in Lincolnshire on the night of the 28th. She died at home with her husband Tony at her side on the morning of the 29th December 2018.
The service and committal will be followed by a reception at the The Ship Inn in Billinghay, Lincolnshire (LN4 4AU) starting around 1.30 pm.
The nearest airports are East Midlands or Doncaster/Sheffield. Other airports including Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds/Bradford are a bit further away. Stansted is a significant distance but right next to the M11/A14/A1 and you can go along motorways all the way to Grantham by car very quickly.
The nearest town to Billinghay is SLEAFORD and there is a Travelodge there, about 20 minutes drive. There is a PremierInn south of Lincoln (Lincoln Canwick), normally about 35-40 minutes away, although this is to the North of roadworks associated with the building of the Lincoln by-pass and there are several road closures and diversions in operation. There are other hotels closer if you look on booking.com or on tripadvisor and one is the aptly named Finch-Hatton Arms about 20 minutes drive away.
After the funeral I will use this web page to present a short biography.
Francis Robert HONEYMAN was the son of David HONEYMAN and Ann WYNN and was born in St George’s Southwark on the 18 Nov 1782. He was the third of eleven children growing up in a family of well-to-do curriers. He was reasonably well educated (he could read and write well in later years) and may have followed his father’s trade as a currier. He was married around 1802 to Sarah whose last name we cannot identify. They had a family of eleven children born in St George the Martyr in Southwark, on the south side of the River Thames. By 1810, the family were living in Barron’s Buildings, along the Blackfriars Road. An entry in the London Directory for 1811 refers to a ‘Robert Honeyman Leather Dresser of 19 Barron’s Buildings, Westminster Road’, which may be the same man, indicating that he had trained as a Leather Dresser.
The Royal Circus had been a place of entertainment along Blackfriars Road since 1782 owned by the theatre manager and playwright Charles Dibdin the elder. When Honeyman was born and during his formative years, equestrian events and circus acts performed regularly. In 1815, the decision was made to convert the Circus into the ‘Surrey Theatre’. The circus rink itself was made into a standing area for spectators and the stables next door were converted into a saloon bar adjacent to the Theatre itself. It may not be coincidence that Francis appears in the list of licenced victuallers alongside Charles DIBDIN in that same year, demonstrating that he moved into a licenced establishment from that date and in 1821, at the birth of his son Walter, we learn his establishment was called “Evans Coffee Shop” along the Blackfriars Road. Francis named his daughter Charlotte Dibdin Honeyman, presumably after his business partner.
By 1822, Francis’s coffee shop was known as ‘Honeyman’s Coffee Shop adjoining the Surrey Theatre‘ and the ‘Circus Coffee Shop‘ showing that he now managed, if not before, the saloon built in the place of the Circus stables. It is also likely that he was taking an interest in the activities within the Theatre itself. The Theatre was the site of the first London performance of John Baldwin Buckstone on the 30th Jan 1823 as David Ramsay in the play of Scott’s book, ‘The Fortunes of Nigel’. We know that by late 1824, Francis was treasurer of the Theatre when there was a scandal involving embezzlement of the door takings by one of the employees and this event seems to have precipitated the decision of one of the leasees, Llewellyn Watkins WILLIAMS, to sell his interests in the Surrey Theatre to Francis Honeyman in early 1825.
The Surrey Theatre in 1828, just as Francis Honeyman had given up his ownership. The pub he owned is shown on the left.
The inside of the ‘Royal Circus’ before Honeyman’s time, but giving a sense of the interior. The central region was where the equestrian shows were held but these were for spectators in Honeyman’s time.
By mid 1825, having taken over the Theatre, Honeyman made the decision to refurbish it, and it was reopened on 26th December 1825. The manager was his friend Charles DIBDIN the younger and the opening night included several plays and vignettes written by Dibdin. Honeyman employed several key stage names of his day including Buckstone and the celebrated actor George Holland in 1826. Honeyman had to run the gauntlet of a draconian law that allowed only Theatres with Royal Patent to stage ‘drama’ and this was restricted to the Drury Lane, Covent Garden and Haymarket theatres. Honeyman could get around the law by including substantial amounts of musical accompaniment which meant that the house was staging ‘mimes and ballets’ rather than drama. Honeyman was a celebrated figure of his time – when misfortune came to his son (who was kicked by a horse and nearly lost an eye in 1826) and daughter (who was attacked in the street in 1827), the reports omitted the names of the children but stated that they were the children of ‘Mr Honeyman of the Surrey Theatre‘.
Honeyman kept the Theatre until 1827 when it returned to the management of a previous manager, Robert William ELLISTON. In 1827 he is already being described as ‘late proprietor’ of the Surrey Theatre. It may be that Honeyman could not make ends meet since in later years, he would become embroiled in disagreements about money and income; alternatively he may have brought others with greater experience in to be the headline names. On the 28th Mar 1828, Honeyman witnessed the marriage of his daughter Annie Marie Honeyman to the actor John Baldwin Buckstone; the marriage was also witnessed by her sister Mary Ann and (probably her sister) Sarah.
In 1833, Sarah the mother died from Mason Street, Southwark, and Francis left Southwark. In 1838 his son Francis William was married and Francis Robert was then described as a ‘currier’, hinting that he had returned to his father’s trade. In 1839, he took Henry YOUNG, the manager of the Saddlers Wells Theatre, to the Surrey Sheriff’s Court asking for payment for silk bills that he had had given to Young. The case gives an interesting snapshot of Honeyman’s family life. His daughter Maria was described as Maria CROSBY and his daughter Sarah was living in Lewisham, presumably with his daughter and son-in-law, John Baldwin and Annie Maria BUCKSTONE. Francis was living in a room upstairs in a boarding house in Oakley Street, Chelsea where he had entertained Young three years earlier in 1836. By the 1841 census, Honeyman is described as a ‘Composer’ in St Sepulchre without Newgate parish in London. The census does not allow us to determine precisely where but the large numbers of single men in the establishment suggests that it is some form of boarding house. A few years later when Francis died, his address was given as 18, West Street, West Smithfield, which is consistent with this address in 1841, but his burial in 1843 indicates that this address was the ‘Union Workhouse, West Street’ suggesting that he had been in the West London Union workhouse since before 1841.
He died on the 8 May 1843 and he wrote the codicil to his own will, showing that he was educated and could read and write. He left his estate to his fourth daughter Maria Matilda Honeyman, who was described variously as a ‘spinster’ and as the wife of George CROSBY, Chelsea Pensioner. The documents indicate that Maria was not married to Crosby, even if they lived as man and wife.
Francis Robert Honeyman’s Children
Francis and Sarah had upwards of 11 children, most of whom grew to adulthood. Only one of the surviving children was a son – Francis William HONEYMAN – who was transported to New South Wales for theft (see below). Hence most of Honeyman’s lineage comes from his daughters. Honeyman’s family appear to have dissipated around 1836, each moving away from the family home.
Many of of his daughters lived with or married people linked to the stage. However we cannot find marriages for many of his daughters. Maria CROSBY is variously described as a wife and a spinster, and we infer that she lived with, but was not married to, George Crosby. Eleanor Emily Honeyman clearly lived as a married couple with Christopher John SMITH having three children, but did not marry him until 1859, some 23 years after the birth of their first child. It may be that the reason we cannot trace some daughters is that they entered into what appeared externally to be married relationships but without formal marriages that we can now trace.
Mary Ann Susannah HONEYMAN (1803-?) was born 17 Dec 1803 in St George the Martyr, Southwark. She may have been the ‘daughter of Mr Honeyman of Surrey Theatre’ who was followed and attacked in 1827. We know she was alive when she witnessed her sister’s marriage in 1828. It may be that she is Mary Ann who married James BULL and had a son James Honeyman BULL born in 1829.
Sarah HONEYMAN (1805-?) was born 29 May 1805 in St George the Martyr, Southwark. She is probably the Sarah Honeyman who witnessed the marriage of her sister Anne Maria in 1828. She was a witness to the case between her father Francis Robert HONEYMAN and Henry YOUNG in 1839. She stated that she had moved out to Lewisham in 1836, presumably living with her sister Anne Marie who had married John Baldwin BUCKSTONE and was living there at the time.
Anne Marie HONEYMAN (1807-1844) was born 21 Jan 1807 in St George the Martyr, Southwark. She married the celebrated comedian and actor John Baldwin BUCKSTONE at St John Waterloo on the 28 Mar 1828. She had four children with him but died 3 Jul 1844 at 6 Brompton Square, Kensington, London. Buckstone married a second time and had a further six children.
Catherine Elizabeth HONEYMAN (1808-1810) was born 25 Jul 1808 in St George the Martyr, Southwark. Buried from Barron’s Buildings in Jul 1810.
Francis Thomas HONEYMAN (1810-1810) was born 26 Mar 1810 and died 5 Oct 1810 in St George the Martyr, Southwark.
Maria Matilda HONEYMAN (1812-?) was born 10 Sep 1812 in St George the Martyr, Southwark. She was a witness in the case between her father and Henry YOUNG when she was described as ‘Maria CROSBY’. She was the primary recipient of her father’s estate in 1843, at which time she was described as of Old Pye Street, Westminster. The documentation associated with her father’s estate make it clear that she is not formally married to Crosby, who is probably the George CROSBY who witnesses Honeyman’s will and is described as a ‘Chelsea Pensioner’.
Eliza HONEYMAN (1814-?) was born 27 Apr 1814 in Barons Buildings, St George the Martyr, Southwark. On 14 Aug 1838, she married George Thomas OAKLEY at St Margaret’s Westminster and had at least three children. In the 1841 census, she is in Birch Street, Lambeth with her family. She is the recipient of the estate of her brother Walter, which she received in 1859, 15 years after his death. At that time she was described as of ‘11 Lucretia Street, New Cut, Blackfriars Road, Surrey’. On the 1861 census, she is found in 15 Ferry Street, Lambeth.
Francis William alias William HONEYMAN (1815-1893) was born in Barrons Buildings, St George the Martyr, Southwark. In 1826, he was involved in an incident when a horse kicked him and he nearly lost his right eye. In 1837, he was arrested and tried at the Old Bailey for theft and given 6 months imprisonment. He was married in 20 Mar 1838 to Elizabeth JONES in St George Bloomsbury – he signed his name with a flourish, indicating that he was educated. He was described as an office clerk of Vauxhall Bridge Road. A few months later he was arrested for the theft of a clock and one of the constables recognised him from his previous conviction. As a result, Francis William was sentenced to 14 years transportation. He was conveyed on the ship called the ‘John Barry’ and the description of the convicts makes comment of the damage and scar around his right eye. He is now described as being unmarried, but I infer that the marriage with Elizabeth Jones was ignored through mutual consent. Honeyman appeared in the records of New South Wales from his arrival on the 22 Mar 1839. He described himself normally as ‘William HONEYMAN’ and appears to have had a casual relationship with Catherine SULLIVAN by whom he had at least two daughters and lived in North Parramatta, New South Wales. In 1851, after he was formally pardoned, he married Eliza Jane MOORE in Sydney and his signature is identical to that in 1838. They had six children. He died in New South Wales in 20 Oct 1893.
Newspaper entry from 1826 describing the injury of Francis William Honeyman. The scars around his right eye would be mentioned as part of his description when he was transported on the John Barry to New South Wales. 13 Apr 1826 in the London Morning Advertiser.
Eleanor Emily HONEYMAN (1818-1878) was born in St George the Martyr, Southwark. She entered into a relationship with the comedian and actor, Christopher John SMITH around 1836 and they had three children together. They finally married in Norbiton 15 Nov 1859 after they had been together for around 24 years. Eleanor died about 1878 and her husband lived for a further ten years.
Charlotte Dibdin HONEYMAN (1820-1821) was born 15 Apr 1820 in St George the Martyr, Southwark. She was most likely named after her father’s business partner, Charles Dibdin the younger. She died in Jan 1821 and was buried in St George the Martyr churchyard.
Walter Evans HONEYMAN (1821-1844) was born 31 Oct 1821 in Evans Coffee House, Blackfriars Road, Southwark. In 1837 he was admitted to Southwark workhouse because of illness. He died 25 Nov 1844 in Westminster Hospital and was buried in St Margaret, Westminster. His estate was finally released to his sister Eliza in 1859.
James Bull is one of the most enigmatic of our ancestors. He was married to a Mary Ann whose surname is unknown and was the father of James Honeyman BULL baptised in 1831 in St James Piccadilly. What exactly do we know about this elusive ancestor?
What do we actually know?
The first definite reference to him is in 1 May 1831 when his son James Honeyman BULL was baptised as the son of James BULL and Mary Ann. We have suggestions as to earlier references than this, but this is the first confirmed record. At that time their address was given as ‘Eden Lane, Pimlico’ and James was a Leatherdresser. James Honeyman Bull’s age was given as ‘above 1 1/2 years’ meaning he was born around late 1829.
The only other confirmed reference was when James Honeyman Bull got married in 1855. He described his father as James Bull innkeeper. There is no mention that James Bull was ‘deceased’ on the marriage certificate, although it is not clear that that would have necessarily been recorded. This indicates that between 1831 and 1855, James BULL had changed profession from leatherdresser to innkeeper.
What can we reasonably infer?
If James Honeyman Bull was born in 1829, we can infer that James BULL married Mary Ann sometime before say 1828. Since the father was James, and the son was called James, it might be reasonable to assume that James is one of the first children, possibly even the first child. This would make the marriage closer to 1828, rather than, for example, 1818.
By 1831, the family is in ‘Eden Place’ in Pimlico. Strangely Pimlico was not in the parish of St James Piccadilly, where the baptism took place, and we cannot find such an address in Pimlico. However there is an ‘Eaton Place’, which was a key address in Pimlico.
James BULL is not described as ‘deceased’ on his son’s marriage certificate. We cannot incontrovertibly conclude that James Bull was alive in 1855 – this registrar might not have recorded whether a parent were deceased – but it suggests he was. If he were alive, he should therefore be found on the 1841 and 1851 censuses.
The choice of name ‘James Honeyman BULL’ is unusual – there were relatively few double names at this time. Honeyman is a Scots name, particularly strong in Fife, and using a surname as a middle name in this way as a middle name is a particularly Scots tradition. It hints tantalisingly at a Scots heritage, either for him or for his wife Mary Ann. In future years, James Honeyman Bull would call his daughter Harriet Chilwell Honeyman Bull, named after the child’s grandmother Harriet CHILWELL. Following that model, it might mean that Mary Ann’s maiden name was HONEYMAN and/or that James Honeyman BULL’s grandfather was James HONEYMAN. Certainly James BULL was close to, and probably closely related to, someone whose name was Honeyman.
Searching for More Records: The Marriage to Mary Ann
As yet, there is no marriage we can find between a James BULL and a Mary Ann HONEYMAN. If we assume that James BULL and Mary Ann were married around 1825 +/- 5 years, then there are two marriages in the London area that fit the bill:
Mary Ann NEALE 28 Apr 1828 at St Leonard Shoreditch
Mary Ann HOLLOWAY 19 Feb 1827 at St George Hanover Square
The marriage of James Bull to Mary Ann Holloway took place on 19th February 1827 at St. George Hanover Square by Banns. Both parties were from that parish. The latter is the most interesting, since Pimlico lay within this parish – the place we know them to be in 1831. The Witnesses were William Holloway, undoubtedly related to Mary Ann, and Sarah Barrett. The next wedding in the same register on the same day is Frederick Marsh and Sarah Barrett, also of that parish by Banns. The witnesses to that marriage are John Wing and Mary Ann Bull (using her married name for the first time). It could be that this was a double wedding and that Sarah Barrett and Mary Ann Holloway were related. Conversely, it might mean that neither couple had arrived at the church with witnesses and asked others in the same situation to witness for them.
Of course, James Bull and Mary Ann may not have been married but simply lived as such.
Are There Other Siblings of James Honeyman BULL?
Possibly. There is a James BULL with a wife Mary Ann in All Saints, Huntingdon, having children born between 1828 to 1836 at a rate of one every two years, but there is no evidence that this family left Huntingdon. This is not our family.
In 1826, there is a baptism and birth of a Mary Anne BULL, daughter of James and Mary Ann in the Wesleyan registers, for a family in St Clement Danes, just a few miles from Pimlico.
Is this a sister of James Honeyman BULL? It is possible. If Mary Ann were a sister of James Honeyman Bull, we would need to explain why the family is moving between different denominations. If this is James Honeyman Bull’s sister, then neither wedding we have identified is the right one, since Mary Ann BULL is born in 1826 before the earliest marriage we have found.
What if We Assume Mary Ann was Mary Ann HONEYMAN?
If she was Mary Ann HONEYMAN, then she would have been born around say 1805, being say 24 when James Honeyman BULL was born in 1829. There are two possibilities:
1. a baptism in St Olave Bermondsey for a Mary Ann HONEYMAN, daughter of James and Mary HONEYMAN, baker, born 10 Jun 1806 and baptised 29 Jun 1806 and There is a burial entry on 28 Oct 1808 for a Maria HONEYMAN, but it does not state whether this is an infant burial or an adult. A son John HONEYMAN is born in 1810. There follow no more baptisms to James and Mary, but in 1819, there is a daughter Matilda Lucrezia born to James and Elizabeth HONEYMAN, Leather Stainer. James might have married Elizabeth after the death of Mary, or this may be another couple entering the area with older children born elsewhere. There does not appear to be a marriage by Mary Ann HONEYMAN.
The key thing is that there are two credible Mary Ann HONEYMANs who could be James BULL’s wife. That would make sense of the use of Honeyman as a middle name in James Honeyman BULL.
James and Mary Ann BULLs from the Census
James BULL of Finsbury
There is a Phoebe Ann BULL born 28 Jan 1836, the child of James and Mary Ann BULL, Oilman of Whitecross Street, St Luke’s Finsbury amongst the Quaker birth registers. On the 1851 Census, the family is at 7 1/2 Coleman Street, Finsbury. By 1851 he is a ‘Housekeeper’, aged 45 of Stock, Essex; Mary Ann is 43, born Purleigh, Essex and they now have a daughter Emma born in 1841.
This family has some attractions. First, our James starts as a leatherdresser and this James is an oilman. Are these equivalent jobs? Leather dressing involved the rendering of hides and the removal of fats, so this is not entirely impossible. This James goes on to become a ‘housekeeper’ whereas our James becomes an ‘Innkeeper’. Clearly both change jobs at the same time. However Emma’s birth certificate (below) shows that the wife Mary Ann is nee RADLEY. We can trace James BULL in the Quaker records. He married Mary Ann RADLEY on 17 May 1832, after James Honeyman BULL was baptised. This is not our man.
2. James BULL of Clarence Hotel, Brighton
A James BULL is an Hotel Keeper owning the Clarence Hotel Brighton in 1851. He is aged 59, born Billericay, Essex with a wife Eliza aged 43, born Brighton and a daughter Eliza F BULL aged 18 born London. This family is attractive because James is an Innkeeper and they were in London around 1833 when the daughter “Eliza F BULL” was born. This James BULL is a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Innkeepers, being made free of the company in 1832. Eliza Frances BULL was baptised 28 May 1832 in St Sepulchre, London while James worked as an innkeeper on Snow Hill, London. The marriage was by licence and the licence survives. It shows the marriage to have taken place in Brighton in 1831. However this date is after James Honeyman BULL was born. It might have been possible that our James BULL married twice, first to Mary Ann, who died, and then to Eliza. However, this James BULL is a bachelor in the marriage to Eliza. Furthermore, the family received bequests in the will of Joseph ENNEVER in 1837 but James Honeyman BULL is not mentioned. This James BULL is not our man.
James Honeyman BULL lived one of the most interesting and enigmatic lives amongst our ancestors. His live included being convicted of embezzlement, moving with a job on the railways before settling in Camberwell. He died in Surrey Lunatic Asylum at the relatively young age of 49 after what appears to be a debilitating stroke.
About Oct 1829 Born, probably in Westminster, the son of James and Mary Ann BULL.
1 May 1831 Baptised St. James Piccadilly, with an address given as Eaton Lane, Pimlico. His father James BULL was a leather dresser.
Early 1840s Educated at a school (could read and write in later life)
[Cannot be identified confidently on the 1841 census]
Nov 1848 Took up a Job with Thomas FELTHOUSE as a clerk, because the previous incumbent, Joseph PATRICK, absconded with his Master’s money.
30 Mar 1851 On 1851 census at 122 West Orchard, Coventry. lodging with William and John ORAM, and described as a ‘Book Keeper’. We can infer he was working for Thomas FELTHOUSE in Coventry.
1 Sep 1851 As a merchant’s Clerk, he stole £21 from Felthouse in Coventry and then absconded
Early Jun 1852 Arrested in Northampton for the theft of Felthouse’s money and conveyed back to Coventry.
17 Jun 1852 Charged with theft at Warwickshire Assizes. Convicted 30 Jun 1852 and given 12 months hard labour.
Jun 1853 Presumably released from Coventry Goal after having served his sentence. Then re-employed by Thomas FELTHOUSE.
3 Mar 1854 Joseph PATRICK was arrested and brought to court in Coventry for stealing from Thomas FELTHOUSE.
23 Apr 1855 Married Martha Eaves at Coventry registry office, whilst living in West Orchard, Coventry.
18 May 1855 Witness in a paternity case between Thomas FELTHOUSE and one of his maidservants who accused him of being the father of a child. At the enquiry, he was described as being Felthouse’s Merchant’s Clerk.
20 Jan 1856 Thomas FELTHOUSE died apparently leaving James Honeyman BULL out of work in Coventry.
24 Feb 1856 First Child Martha Honeyman BULL born in Radford, near Coventry; the birth is entered as Martha HONEYMAN. James Honeyman BULL described as a Merchant’s Clerk.
22 Apr 1857 Harriett Chilwell Honeyman BULL born at Radford. Harriet CHILWELL was the name of the child’s grandmother.
11 Sep 1858 William James HONEYMAN-BULL born in Shipston on Stour, and James is now described as a Railway Clerk, presumably working for London and North Western Railways which oversaw the line between Coventry and Shipston on Stour.
14 Jun 1860 Mary Ann Honeyman BULL born at Oddington, at which time James Honeyman BULL is described as a Station master.
7 Apr 1861 Not found on the Census. Children Martha and Harriet are with their grandparents, William and Harriet EAVES.
Late 1861/Early 1862 Moved to Camberwell.
1 Jan 1862 Started working for the London and North Western Railway as a Clerk. Worked from ‘Broad Street’ after 1865 and then ceased employment around 1872.
18 Jun 1862 Clara Louisa Honeyman BULL born at 4 Woodland Terrace, Commercial Road, Camberwell at which time James is described as a ‘Railway Clerk’.
5 Apr 1866 Florence Julia Honeyman BULL born at 4 Woodland Terrace, James Street, Commercial Road, Peckham – undoubtedly the same address as where they lived when Clara was born, but described differently. James is still identified as a ‘Railway Clerk’.
20 Jan 1868 Final child, James Walter Honeyman BULL, born at 4 Woodland Terrace, Cator Street, Camberwell and James the father is still described as a Railway Clerk.
2 Apr 1871 Appears on the 1871 Census living at 130 Cator Street, Camberwell.
1872 Ceased employment with the London and North Western railway.
25 Jun 1874 Wife Martha Honeyman BULL died at 130 Cator Street, Camberwell. By now James is described as a ‘Parcel Deliverer (Carman)’.
29 Dec 1877 Admitted to Surrey Lunatic Asylum after having had a debilitating seizure which had interfered with his speech. Appears subsequently in day-books.
23 Apr 1878 Died at the Surrey Lunatic Asylum.
30 Apr 1878 Buried at Nunhead Cemetery, South London.
James’s death left the family without a head and a form of income. The eldest child, Martha, was 22 when she took over responsibility for the whole family. Within a few weeks, Florence Julia, the youngest daughter, was sent to a parish boarding school, indicating that the parish authorities quickly became involved in overseeing the future of the children. William James joined the Navy and the youngest son, James Walter, joined the army as soon as he was old enough.
I’m pleased to be able to report that the Antiquarian Horological Society (AHS) has awarded the 2017 Percy Dawson Medal for our article on Edward East, published in two parts in the September and December issues of Antiquarian Horology. It is awarded annually for what is regarded by the Committee as the best article in Antiquarian Horology.
The award is commemorated by a medal which will be presented later in the year.
A few years ago I decided to try DNA matching to see if I could confirm my family tree. I tried it first with familytreeDNA and then with ancestry. My parents also tested a few years later. The autosomal DNA tests confirmed many of the key relationships that I had inferred from written records. It put me in touch with other descendants of common ancestors and, through them, I was able to expand and enrich my tree. Many of them had written documentation about common ancestors that I did not know about.
The vast majority of my DNA matches are to people whose relationship to me I cannot decipher. Many of them do not post a tree and do not respond to enquiries. But an interested few, when contacted, start a process of examination to try and work out the link. In a few instances, such as one that I will expand upon here, by determining the DNA link, we have worked out further generations of the tree and identified missing ancestors that no amount of serendipitous searching would have discovered. Without DNA matching, we would never have known where to look or what questions to ask. Many of our ancestors emigrated, moved away and reinvented themselves, and DNA is one of the only ways to bridge that gap.
Michael John Anthony SHARMAN and John Anthony SHERMAN
Two of my most unusual ancestors are John SHARMAN and Elizabeth ALLMAN. John and Elizabeth were both born in England; John in Earl Stonham in Suffolk and Elizabeth in Newark upon Trent. However, they were married on 16 Apr 1826 in the Governor’s Palace in Valetta in Malta, and a year later, on the 12 Jun 1827, their first son, Michael John Anthony SHARMAN was born in Valetta. My own ancestor, Mary Clara SHARMAN was born in Algiers around August 1830, precisely the moment in time that the French Army was attacking the Bey of Algiers. Although I can find no surviving birth or baptism records, it seems that Mary Clara was born into the middle of a war zone. I do not know why my ancestors were in the Mediterranean or what they were doing in a war zone but, by 1835, they were back in the relative safety of Brixton in South London, where their son Robert William SHARMAN was born. The family remained in South London for the rest of their lives where two daughters (Caroline Louisa, 1837; Martha, 1840) and a son (Albert Henry, 1846) were born. In later life John was a gardener, giving no particular clue to the career that sent him abroad.
The family appear on the 1841 census in Clapham. By this time Mary Clara appears as the eldest child: there is no sign of Michael John Anthony Sharman, who, by this time, would have been 13 years old. I assumed that he had died in the confused period between 1827 and 1835 when the family were in Malta and Algiers.
When my DNA matches came through, I found myself matched to someone in the US (Karen) whose family tree was extensive. The link between us was reasonably strong and I reasoned that we must be able to find the link. When my Dad also tested, it turned out the link to Karen was on my Dad’s side, and with the stronger signal, we were able to show that my Dad and Karen had a common match in another person in the US, Jeffrey. Fortunately, Jeffrey and Karen knew that their common link was John Anthony SHERMAN who had come to the US around the late 1840s. He had married Laura C LESLIE on the Wadham Mills, New York, on the 22 Sep 1850 and acquired US citizenship soon afterwards. John Anthony and Laura had had two daughters, with Karen descended from one daughter, and Jeffrey descended from the other. Laura Leslie was born in America from pioneers who had settled much earlier in American history, and hence she could not be the link to me in the UK.
Given that Jeffrey, Karen, my Dad and myself all shared common DNA, we inferred that we were all related through John Anthony Sherman. I looked at my tree and saw the name SHARMAN, but noted that the US connection was a SHERMAN and not SHARMAN. Looking at rough dates, we wondered whether my Michael John Anthony Sharman was Karen and Geoffrey’s John Anthony Sherman. We looked closely at the records for these two individuals. Fortunately, John Anthony Sherman had been a soldier in the American Civil War, and he had left documents related to his pension that gave some biographical details. He gave his parents as John and Elizabeth Sherman, claiming that his father had been a naval officer. He also left a family bible, and in this he had written that he was born in Valetta, Malta on 12 Jun 1827. This matched perfectly with my missing Michael John Anthony Sharman. We therefore concluded that my Michael John Anthony Sharman was the same as John Anthony Sherman in the US.
Nearly 180 years after the events, we were able to infer that Michael John Anthony Sharman joined the Navy as a cabin boy in his early teens, therefore avoiding the British 1841 census. He must have sailed to the US before disembarking in New York and establishing a family. Once in the US, he appears to have reinvented himself, using Sherman rather than Sharman as his name.
Every family tree has people who are unaccounted for. In this case, autosomal DNA was able to provide Karen and Jeffrey with links to the UK that they had sought for in vain for many years. In return, I learned the colourful career of a missing cousin who had joined the Navy, became an American citizen and fought in the American Civil War. This was only possible from the clues provided by DNA genealogy.
There are few families that can show that they are related to a saint. A selection of papers I recently found in the National Archives show that our family – the Finches of Redbourn – were related to the Abbot of Colchester, who resisted the English reformation and paid for it with his life. Subsequently, the Abbot was canonised for his support for Catholicism against King Henry.
What are the Documents?
The documents are an equity suit – a dispute in court where one party claims redress against another – and the case was heard in late 1552 or early 1553. The case was brought by John LOCKE who was claiming ownership of the manor of Brightlingsea in Essex. The manor had been – prior to the dissolution of the monasteries – part of the lands of the Abbey of St John the Baptist in Colchester. However another man – John CLARE – also had a deed that stated he had ownership of the same land. The Court of Chancery was asked to decide which claim was valid.
The story that the documents outline is as follows. In 1538, Henry VIII was pressing ahead with the break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England. Although many churchmen of the time acquiesced – however great their personal misgivings – a vociferous few refused to recognise Henry’s authority. Prominent among these was John BECHE, the Abbot of Colchester. He had been a continual thorn in Henry’s side by vigorously opposing the break with Rome. When Henry sent emissaries to demand the keys to the Abbey, John BECHE replied he would give in “but against my will and against my heart for I know by my learning that he cannot take it by right or law; wherefore in my conscience I cannot be content”. As a result, Henry decided to make an example of the troublesome Abbot and towards the end of 1538, it was clear that the game was up. Henry forced the dissolution of the Abbey and seized its lands; John himself was accused of treason for which the penalty was death. However, John BECHE tried one last attempt to foil Henry’s seizure of the Abbey lands. He quickly drew up a series of deeds, selling all the Abbey’s lands at knock-down prices to trusted folk that he felt would return the lands after (as he expected) the break with Rome was reversed. And therefore John BECHE sold the Abbey’s manor of Brightlingsea to ‘his near kinsman’ John FINCH, the son of John FINCH of Redbourn in the Co Herts deceased. But Henry was wise to this ploy and so he retrospectively nullified all deeds actioned by the Abbey that had taken place up to one year prior to dissolution. So as John BECHE sold the Abbey’s lands, he dated the sale one year earlier than that date on which it had actually taken place. This meant that John FINCH of Redbourn held what appeared to be a valid deed for the ownership of the manor of Brightlingsea.
It appears that John kept the deed quietly in a safe place and did not draw attention to its existence. In the interim, John BECHE was captured, tried for treason and hanged, drawn and quartered on the 1st Sep 1539. Henry seized the Abbey’s lands and passed the manor of Brightlingsea to a John LOCKE as a ‘pension’, possibly meaning a payment for his involvement in the dissolution of the Abbey.
13 years later, in 1552, John FINCH died intestate and without children. His brother Nicholas (from whom I am descended) inherited the deed and sold it to John CLARE who owned several other manors in the vicinity. It was then that the existence of competing title deeds were recognised. Locke’s grant from Henry appeared valid but so too did Clare’s which predated Henry’s dissolution of the monastery and nominally bore a date prior to the period over which Henry had nullified the Abbey’s land transactions. John LOCKE took John CLARE to court, asking the court of Chancery in London to decide in his favour and outlining the irregular way in which the bond had been drawn up.
The notes made at the time record that the court doubted the validity of Finch’s bond suspicious of the fact that Finch was the Abbot’s ‘near kinsman’. They asked Clare to provide better proof that the date on the grant was valid, which he was unable to do. The court therefore issued a decree (which survives) deciding the case in Locke’s favour. The court also required that Clare’s deed be brought to the court so that it could be destroyed.
How were the Abbot and John Finch related?
We know from other documents that John and Nicholas FINCH were the sons of John Finch of Redbourn. John the father married Elizabeth BECHE about 1505 and their children were born over a period of 20 years. It is almost certain that the Abbot, John BECHE, was closely related to Elizabeth. The youngest son of John and Elizabeth FINCH, Alban, was born as a posthumous child in 1524, after the father John had died (his will is 1524). If Elizabeth BECHE was giving birth to Alban after ~20 years of marriage, she was probably about 40 years old when her youngest child was born and about 20 when she was married. This puts her date of birth to be ~1485.
It is estimated that Abbot John BECHE was about 60 when he was executed in 1539. This puts his date of birth ~1480. We can therefore suppose that John and Elizabeth BECHE were brother and sister, and therefore that John and Nicholas FINCH were the Abbot’s nephews.
Abbot John BECHE’s Legacy
John BECHE’s refusal to give in to Henry was widely respected. His pectoral cross, apparently worn when he was executed, was subsequently revered and is now held at Buckfast Abbey. He was made a Catholic Saint in 1895.
I and my cousins Sandra and Adrian Grater spent some time cleaning up the grave of our ancestors Frederick and Eliza Ward. They are buried with their daughter Marian in the graveyard of St James, Hampton Hill near Twickenham. The grave was overgrown with thorns and brambles, but it took just a few minutes to clean the grave up sufficiently that the inscriptions could be read. The grave is in area B and is located as grave 9B 3.
Sacred to the memory of of Eliza WARD who died Nov 1st 1909 aged 65. And also Frederick Ward, husband of the above, who died Jan 4th 1925 aged 75 years. And Marian Ward who died Dec 2nd 1894 aged 7 years.
I and my cousin Sandra, 9th October 2017, at Hampton Hill.