Where there's a Will there's usually a way - but not in this case!

Category: Handy Family History Links

Did you know the majority of wills that were proved in Devon were destroyed during an air-raid on Exeter in 1942? Some Devon wills, however, were originally proved in London at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and these have survived.

Somewhat tantalizing is the fact that calendars (lists) of many of the lost wills had been compiled before the war and so we know about the previous existence of a will that our Devon ancestor left but, in many cases, the contents have been lost forever.

Over a number of years, the Devon Wills Project tracked down a proportion of copies, transcripts and abstracts of the lost wills and administrations from a variety of sources and created a central index of where these documents can be found. The index can be viewed at http://genuki.cs.ncl.ac.uk/DEV/DevonWillsProject/ and is also available to FindMyPast subscribers at http://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-Records/devon-wills-index-1163-1999

I'm currently researching some of my North Devon ancestors and have learnt that my 7 x great-grandfather, Nathaniel Randal from Hatherleigh, left a will after he died in 1731. You've guessed it, all we have now is a list entry. I wonder what his will would have told us about his family, his occupation and his wealth and status in those times. Sadly, we shall never know!

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Testing dad's Y-DNA in search of my Hibbitt roots

Category: DNA

DNA Helix
Designed by Freepik

A Y37 Y-DNA kit for my dad is on order from FamilyTreeDNA in the hope we may be able to learn a little more about our direct paternal ancestry. This would be our Hibbitt line where our earliest known ancestor is John Hybit who married three times in Exton, Rutland, between 1712 and 1732.

Only men can take the Y-DNA test as women don't possess a Y chromosome. The aim is to see whether my dad's DNA matches anyone else with a similar surname, or if not, then perhaps find a pointer to see where to look if a different surname pops up frequently with any other men who have tested.

The Y37 test looks for STR markers which change slowly from one generation to the next. This means if dad has a match, they could end up being related within or outside the genealogical time frame where records can assist in the research. Let's hope he gets a close match!

If you are male and have, or you know any men with, the following surnames it would be great if you/they could also take the Y-DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA and then join the recently started Hibbert DNA Project to find out whether we have a common ancestor:


The Y37 test also provides an estimated Y-DNA haplogroup which indicates where a person's deep paternal ancestry may have originated. I have already calculated dad's Y-DNA haplogroup using his autosomal DNA test from AncestryDNA (using Method One here) so it will be interesting to note whether the FamilyTreeDNA Y37 test confirms this.

Dad's calculated haplogroup is S190 which points to an ancestor who probably lived in Scotland somewhere near Stirling about 1200 years ago. In order to fine-tune dad's membership of the Little Scottish Cluster, as it is known, we have ordered a specific Y-SNP test which other men in this group have tested positive for. We now wait with bated breath.

Thanks dad, for being a great sport.

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Tracing my forbears in North Devon

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

Barnstaple, North Devon
Barnstaple, North Devon

Our son has recently relocated to Barnstaple in North Devon and so I decided to see how close I could come to finding forbears who lived near there. I knew I had ancestors from North Devon and so I made a start by looking into my 5 x great-grandparents, James Alford (abt. 1772-1847) and his wife, Catherine Bellew (abt 1785-).

When the couple married, James was resident in Bideford and Catherine in nearby Westleigh, the latter being situated some 6.5 miles south-west of Barnstaple town centre.

James initially worked on the land as a husbandman in Great Torrington but by 1841, at the age of almost 70, he was described as a toll collector located at Chapelton Gate, Tawstock, about 6 miles south of Barnstaple.

After James' death in 1847, Catherine continued as a toll collector at the Turnpike Gate at Ashreigney, a few miles south of Chapelton. She was still described as a turnpike gate keeper ten years later in 1861, although she was visiting one of her daughters in Bridgetown, Tawstock, on the day the census was taken. Catherine was approximately 76 years old and still working.

Map of North Devon
Map of North Devon

The Alfords came from High Bickington and before this, in the early 18th century, from Roborough by Torrington. I am familiar with a Roborough in the north of Plymouth and, at the back of my mind I seemed to recall there was another Roborough in Devon. What I didn't know was that there is a third Roborough, an area very near to Barnstaple itself.

My 8 x great-grandparents, Lewis Alford and Mary Beale, married in Roborough by Torrington (14 miles due south of Barnstaple) in 1704 and their son, also called Lewis, married a Mary Alford and so Mary didn't need to change her name after she'd wed. This couple had ten children, one of whom was called George, a yeoman born in 1747, who married Margaret Hern/Hearn. These were my 6 x great-grandparents and they are buried at High Bickington, about 4 miles north-east of Roborough.

Margaret's parents were John Hearn and Frances Newcombe who were both from High Bickington. Four years after John's death, Frances remarried, this time to a John Richards. John Hearn's parents were Robert Hearn and Margaret Edworthy who married in High Bickington in 1714 and Frances was the daughter of William Newcombe and Joan Crocker.

Catherine Bellew's forbears all came from Yarnscombe which lies approximately 8 miles south of Barnstaple. Her parents, William Bellew and Catherine Paddon, were born in about 1750 and 1752 respectively. Catherine Paddon's parents were Peter Paddon and Sara Isaac who married in Yarnscombe in 1748.

Back to my 6 x great-grandfather, William Bellew, his parents were Henry Bellew and Mary Fursman. Henry was born in Yarnscombe in about 1719, the first of seven children belonging to William Bellew and Elizabeth Milton. This William Bellew was born in the 17th century, the son of my 9 x great-grandparents, Laurence Bellew and Mary Mogridg who married in 1682. Laurence was a yeoman when he died in 1713, having left a will, an abstract of which has apparently survived. I have yet to discover the contents of this document.

Finally, I have the name of my 10 x great-grandfather, William Mogridg, but nothing more is known about him.

None of these ancestors made it all the way to Barnstaple but James Alford and Catherine Bellew did in fact come very close.

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Sentimental Sunday: My Granny Geake would have been 100 today

Category: Sharing Memories

My Granny Geake
My Granny Geake.

What a celebration we would have had if my Granny (Phyllis Grace Geake, nee Weaver) was still with us as she would have been 100 years old today. This is a photo of her celebrating her 80th birthday. Cheers Gran and thanks for the memories!

[Why Sentimental Sunday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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100 Years But Not Forgotten

Category: Ancestors Corner

Henry James Weaver
Henry James Weaver. R.I.P.

I can't let today pass without marking the centenary of the death of my great-grandfather, Henry (Harry) James Weaver. I've blogged a number of times before about how he was accidentally killed when a bomb (hand grenade) prematurely detonated during training back at the base after serving in the trenches in WW1. Therefore, today I thought it would be fitting to simply post a photograph of my Granny Geake's father, whose presence in her life she dearly missed.

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Remembering my hilarious Granny on her birthday

Category: Sharing Memories

Ivy Alice Hibbitt, nee Dando
My Granny Hibbitt: Ivy Alice Hibbitt, nee Dando.

My Granny Hibbitt (Ivy Alice Hibbitt, nee Dando) was born on 1st September 1904 above a sweet and tobacconist shop called the Golden Butterfly in Saffron Walden in Essex.

After moving to Plymouth with her family, she attended Gunnerside School for Girls situated in North Road East in Plymouth. In 1920 she joined the Post Office working as a telephone operator and married my Grandpa in 1931, having previously been engaged to three other men. Way to go, Granny! She later worked in Bond, Pearce, Eliott & Knape Solicitors in Plymouth until she retired in 1961.

Much of Granny and Grandpa's early married life was spent in Tavistock where they rented a bungalow which they named Walden after Granny's birth place. They retired to the village of East Allington in the South Hams and I can remember many happy visits to their house, days spent on Grandpa's little boat on the Kingsbridge/Salcombe estuary and walks down by the local stream where there was an abundance of bluebells.

Granny had a funny turn of phrase. She was well-spoken but would mess around with words too, sometimes pretending to be posh (with huge tongue in cheek) and then using poor grammar on purpose just because she liked the sound of it, I guess. Here's an excerpt of a letter she wrote to my dad in 1950 when dad was presumably away on a course...

"...We are very glad you are coming back and your honourable Father will meet you at North Road Station whence you will proceed to the offices of the most important and highly respected solicitors in the West of England and pick up your most esteemed Mother. Thence to your country home in the wilds of Dartmoor."

She goes on...

"I am of a most desolate miserable disconsolateness about my Peter Lansdale wot only got 8 points. I had set my heart on him winning it, the poor darling. I expect some beastly, dirty, filthy, lousy, swinish, form of human life in the shape of another speedway rider put his elbows out and pushed my Pete..."

She did make me laugh a lot, did Gran.

After Grandpa died in 1972, Granny stayed on in their cottage until her final year in 1992.

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Our Family Tree Pedigree Charts are now online

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

A section from Annie's Pedigree Chart
A section from Annie's Pedigree Chart

I've added a new feature to my family history website - family tree pedigree charts of Harvey's and my direct ancestors. The charts are in PDF format and can be zoomed in and out in order to view different parts of the family.

These charts are especially useful as a starting point for those matching our DNA but they can also help anyone interested in finding out where individuals might fit into our trees.


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The Barnes Family Tree has grown

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

Barnes Family Tree

You haven't seen many blog posts from me in recent months but this isn't to say I haven't been busy with genealogy. On the contrary, I thought it was about time I worked on expanding Harvey's family tree which, until recently, had 88 individuals within 32 families. The BARNES Tree has now grown to 506 individuals within 171 families covering all of Harvey's ancestral lines.

Some branches remain fairly sparse whereas others reach back to the 17th century and it's interesting to discover where some of his families come from.

Harvey's dad was from Newlyn in Cornwall and three quarters of Harvey's paternal side hailed from this area or from within a few miles of the village. Some of the primary names include BARNES, HARVEY, THOMAS, REYNOLDS, DAWES, TRELEAVEN, TREGURTHA, KEIGWIN, KELYNACK, COTTON, TONKIN, REED, PAUL, LEAH and GUY. The final quarter comprised the WRIGHT family from East Devon and the DEVERILL family from Mere in Wiltshire.

Harvey's maternal families are more widely spread. His grandad's father, William SMITH, was from Selkirk and the generation before him was from Dumfries. Harvey's grandad's mother's line was the London-based BYDEN family with older generations originating from Southampton and there were also the DAVEYs from Sussex. We also find offshoots from Harvey's maternal grandmother living in parts of Kent. These were the GARDNER, BUTCHER, CROTHALL, LAW and WORGER families. In London we find ancestors by the names of ADAMS and HARLEY. Finally, in Norfolk, we have the APPLEGATE, ALLEN, BIRD, EVERETT, JACKSON and WABON families.

There are two 9 x great-grandfathers in the tree; Richard JENNENS/JENNINGS from Ludgvan, Cornwall, whose eldest child was born in about 1684; and John ARGOLL, also from Ludgvan, whose daughter was born in about 1681. There may, in fact, be 8 x great-grandparents who were even older; Robert BUTCHER and his wife, Mary STROUDE, married in Monks Horton, Kent, in 1670.

The least developed branch are the Scottish SMITH family, hindered by the fact that I don't have access to many Scottish records and the surname being so common. Nevertheless, I hope to make some more discoveries in future as we are still within the number of generations where autosomal DNA can help to provide answers.

Please click here to explore the BARNES FAMILY TREE.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]

Church Record Sunday: DNA helps me find more ancestors

Category: DNA

St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel
St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel.

My latest breakthrough has come via DNA testing. For some time now I have known my 5 x great-grandmother was called Anne Twogood/Toogood. She married my 5 x great-grandfather, Robert Weaver snr., in Curry Rivel, Somerset, in 1779 but I had nothing else to go on. There were no suitable baptisms in the village and I didn't know when she was born.

Then last week I received an email from a person matching my maternal aunt's DNA and I immediately noticed the name, Toogood, in his tree. It turns out this person is descended from Anne's brother, James Toogood, and so, through parish records, I was able to ascertain that my 6 x great-grandparents were Robert Toogood and Elizabeth Ostler.

Robert Toogood was baptized in nearby Aller and this is where he married Elizabeth. I went on to discover that Elizabeth's family were from Curry Rivel and so my association with this village on this line dates back to at least the early 18th century when my 7 x great-grandparents, Edward Ostler and Mary Rich, married there in 1724 and had a total of eleven children. Sadly, so many of them died as infants or children, two of them being buried within a week of each other.

Because of the random nature of DNA, it's interesting to note that my mum didn't share any DNA with this match so, not surprisingly, neither did I. This is why it's great to have other family members tested.

[Why Church Record Sunday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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New Genealogical DNA web page

Category: DNA


I have today launched a new page on my website briefly outlining a few suggestions for people who match our families' DNA.

There are plenty of resources on the internet offering detailed information about the subject of genealogical DNA. Rather than reinventing the wheel, my page is a starter for anyone who thinks they may be related to me or Harvey and would like to know where we tested and what else they can do with their DNA results in order to carry out deeper analysis.

Topics include: 'Cousins, please consider testing', 'What is the AncestryDNA test' and 'Upload your raw data to GEDmatch'.

Click to view my Genealogical DNA web page.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]
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