Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Geoffs Genealogy Update 30 November 2010

Well, the weather here in Blighty certainly has taken on a wintery chill in the past week. As I write this we in Shropshire have a covering of snow on the ground and are having to contend with icy roads and footpaths as we wend our way to the office or the shops etc. It’s very unusual for this sort of wintry weather to invade our shores so early – winter hasn’t even started yet – and following quite a harsh winter last year it certainly is most unwelcome. To counter thoughts of the winter chill I am keeping my mind on the fact that it is only seven months to our Reunion of Bankes Descendants, which will undoubtedly be held in blazing sunshine, next June.

Bookings for the reunion are going well, and we expect to have a great day, with people from all the branches of descent from John Bankes’ siblings in attendance. I do hope that if you are a Bankes descendant you will reserve yourself a place at this event as soon as possible. Just to clarify, the only qualification you need to be able to attend is that you are able to trace your ancestry to a sibling of John Bankes, Citizen and Haberdasher of London (abt 1650 – 1719). It doesn’t have to be a male line of descent. My ancestral link back to Mary Mitchell is mainly via a female line, but I am still very much a Bankes descendant, and proud of it! If you are not sure whether you can qualify, have a look at my website, and see whether you can find your forebears on the Bankes Pedigree. If you are still not sure whether you are a Bankes descendant send me an email using one of the links on my website. I’ll be delighted to hear from you.

Just to clarify, the half siblings of John Bankes were:

John Rand (abt 1661 – bef 1716)

Joseph Rand (abt 1665 – bef 1708)
Mary Mitchell (abt 1668 – 1739)
Elizabeth Hopkins (abt 1662 – 1728)
Anne Deane (abt 1679 – aft 1733)


A couple of months ago I told you about my research into the first known wife of Robert Hanham Collyer (RHC) (1814 – abt 1891). You may recall that I had traced the death and probate record of Susannah Hawley MacDonald (abt 1815 – 1869) and had learned quite a lot about her and her kinsfolk. At the time I ordered a copy of her will from the UK Probate service. In the past I have found that a copy of a will would take but a few days to arrive, but in this case it took a whole month before I received it! When it came it was accompanied by a note apologising for the delay, which was caused by a huge increase in the number of orders for copy wills. Apparently steps are being taken to deal with the situation, which I assume means extra staff. It does not surprise me that the number of orders for copy wills has gone up so markedly. After all, the Probate Calendars from 1858 onwards started to appear on Ancestry.co.uk during the summer, and one would expect this to result in a significant number of orders. Hopefully the Probate Service will get this sorted out sooner rather than later. It must be quite a money-spinner for them.

Anyway, Susannah’s will was an interesting document, which yielded several important pieces of information.

Firstly, it named the cemetery in which she wanted to be buried. Not that unusual in itself, but what was unusual was the fact that she stated that her son had been buried in grave number 16074 at Kensal Green Cemetery in West London, and she wished to be buried with him. Kensal Green is a vast cemetery, and I feel sure that quite a few Bankes descendants were buried there. I have never searched its burial registers, but I certainly need to do so sometime. I believe that a copy of the early records – up to 1872 - is held at London Metropolitan Archives, so I should add this to my ever growing research list for my next trip to London. The cemetery is owned privately, by the General Cemetery Company, and I guess they may be able to advise the whereabouts of the more recent records.

Susannah named her deceased son as Summer MacDonald – an unusual forename, I think you will agree. I have encountered Summer previously, as a passenger list dated 28 July 1845 recorded his arrival in New York with his mother and stepfather – Robert Hanham Collyer – after crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool on the vessel St Patrick. Actually, in this record, Summer was named as Somerset R McDonald, and his age stated as 7 years. Thus he was apparently born c 1838, about two years after Susannah had married her first spouse, Robert Collins MacDonald. To date my efforts to trace Summer / Somerset in the records have proved unsuccessful, but I am keeping an eye open for him as I carry out my research. It is perfectly possible that he was not born in England or Wales, as I do not know where his family may have been at the time of his birth.

Another interesting aspect of Susannah MacDonald’s will is that she gave information about deceased members of her family. If I had not already known I would have learned that her late father was James Clarke of Sid Abbey in Devon. Her deceased spouse – Robert Collins MacDonald – was a Major in the service of the East India Company.

The will had three codicils, each of them revising the bequests. Through these codicils we can see that prior to 1863 Susannah had been resident in Bath, Somerset, but in 1863 she was living in Bayswater, Middlesex. When she made her first codicil in 1865 she had moved back to Bath, but by the date of her second codicil in 1867 she had returned to live in Bayswater and she was still living there when she died, in 1869.

Bequests were made to a number of family members, but the over-riding thing about this will so far as I’m concerned was that at no point did Susannah name her second husband, Robert Hanham Collyer (RHC). At the time this will was made RHC was in his second marriage, to Emily Jeans Clements Collyer – a marriage that was annulled in 1864, because at the time of the ceremony Susannah was still alive (see previous blog postings). It seems that the break-up of Susannah’s marriage to RHC was probably a stormy affair, and she cut him out of her life completely, reverting to her first husband’s surname. However, as it seems that the couple were never actually divorced, legally they were still married at the time of Susannah’s death, and my understanding is that under the law relating property belonging to married women, RHC would have had a good claim to her estate. My assumption is that that is why RHC sued Susannah’s executor in the Court of Chancery in 1875-6. However, the available records indicate that he did not win his case.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Geoffs Genealogy Update 1 November 2010

I'm pleased to say that a number of people have said that they aim to be at the Reunion of John Bankes' Descendants in June 2011,and we are hoping very much to get a good attendance.

It should be a really enjoyable day for all of you who are interested in the Bankes Pedigree, and we are hoping to meet people from all the various lines of descent from the half siblings of John Bankes.

One person said to me the other day that she did not feel that the event was for her as she has only a tenuous link to a sister of John Bankes. In fact, Anne Deane (abt 1679 - aft 1733), half sister to Bankes, features in her family history, so she has just as much of a claim to be a Bankes descendant as I do! The point is that you will hopefully be able to meet people who are descended on the same line as you, and thereby enjoy a social event, as well as maybe adding to your knowledge.

Anyway, for information about the event please visit
our special page on the Geoffs Genealogy website.

A while ago Ancestry placed online a collection of images from London parish registers dated 1538-1812. These were unindexed at the time, but valuable insofar as you could search through them page by page, as we used to do in records offices in pre-internet days. Well, a couple of weeks ago Ancestry published an index to these records, making our searches so much easier. Needless to say I've been spending some time searching these records - with considerable success.

Some years ago I traced a marriage licence allegation relating to a marriage in 1715 between a certain Robert Mitchell and Elizabeth Russell. The forename of the bride tied in with the facts we had gleaned from the Haberdashers' Company's Bankes Pedigree Book, and these factors made me think this document could relate to my family. Comparison of the signature of this Robert Mitchell to a sample of the signature of "my" Robert Mitchell, Skinner of London (abt 1692 - bef May 1742) was inconclusive. I thought them similar, but there were nine years between the two specimen signatures, and as Robert was a young man at the time it is reasonable to suppose that his signature was evolving at the time. I entered Elizabeth Russell on to my tree, placing her surname in brackets to indicate that there was an element of uncertainty about this.

Some time later I found the Will of Elizabeth Bankes (d 1733), widow of John Bankes, as well as some documents in the Court of Chancery relating to proceedings involving this lady. The will, which was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in 1733, included reference to Elizabeth's daughter Elizabeth Mitchell, wife of Robert Mitchell, and this relationship was confirmed in the Chancery documents. I already knew that Elizabeth's surname on her marriage to John Bankes in 1715 was Trevers. This latest piece of evidence indicated that if I was correct about Elizabeth Russell being the wife of our Robert Mitchell, Elizabeth Trevers / Bankes had probably been married previously to a Mr Russell.

I found several other pieces of evidence, which gave me more information about Elizabeth's family. As far as I know she had two other daughters, besides Elizabeth. I discovered the names of their spouses, and also the names of their children. Still, I could not definitively resolve the question about Robert Mitchell's wife and John Bankes' widow, and this poser remained "on the back burner" for a number of years ..... until now.

Using the parish registers on Ancestry I traced the marriage of Hannah Russell to
Edmund Jones at St Olave Bermondsey in 1705. I also found the births of two of their children in the same parish in 1706 and 1708, confirming the information I had found. Further confirmation of the Russell connection came in the discovery of Arabella Russell's marriage to John Young at Bermondsey in 1711. Mr Young evidently died after a few years, and Arabella remarried in 1730, her new spouse being John Craister.

Actually, Mr Craister died in 1739 - I have a copy of his will - and sometime later Arabella married for a third time, to Richard Spindelow, Gentleman of St James, London.

All of these marriages took place by Licences, granted by the Vicar-General's office. I have ascertained the dates of these licences and hope to be able to look them up sometime in the new year, at the Society of Genealogists in London.

As if all that was not enough, I have also traced more information about the children of the above mentioned Hannah Jones. For instance, I now know that in 1752 a daughter named Alithea Jones married a doctor in Bedford!

So there we are. the pieces of information I found in the Ancestry parish registers have not only enabled me to prove that the surname of Robert Mitchell's wife was indeed Russell, and that she was the daughter of the second wife of John Bankes, but also provided the links to piece together all the other bits of information about Elizabeth's family that I had previously found. I have not managed to find her marriages to Mr Russell and Mr Trevers, or the burials of her first two spouses, but I am satisfied that these events did take place and hopefully I may find them one day. For now, my next task is to enter all this information into my computer records.