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Tracing my forbears in North Devon

Category: What's New at

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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Our Family Tree Pedigree Charts are now online

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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

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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.

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Surname Saturday: My Oldest Direct Line to Date

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Hibbitt Family Tree section

I've recently been investigating my North Devon ancestors, in particular the Martin family who lived in the village of Shebbear, and I've managed to trace back further in time than any other line so far.

Henry Martin was my 11 x great-grandfather, which accounts for 15 generations if we include my son's generation. Henry married his first wife, Margery/Margarett Gawman, in 1613 so I would hazard a guess that he was born prior to 1595 when Queen Elizabeth I would have been on the throne and the 1588 invasion of the Spanish Armada would still have been fresh in the minds of her subjects. 1595 saw the Spanish Raids which destroyed Penzance, Newlyn, Mousehole and Paul.

The Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America in September 1620 and Margery died three months later. Henry married Johane/Joan Stapledon in the following June. There were three young children to care for so this may account for the haste. King James I had ascended to the throne in 1603 and in the following years England saw the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, the publishing of the King James Authorized Version of the Bible in 1611 and the death of William Shakespeare in 1616.

King Charles I inherited the throne from his father in March 1625 and six months later Henry and Johane's third child, Edward, was baptized in St Michael's Church, Shebbear. Edward Martin was my 10 x great-grandfather and would have been in his late teens and early 20s during the English Civil War which began in 1642. There was a decisive battle called the Battle of Torrington in February 1646 which ended Royalist resistance in the West Country. Great Torrington is less than 10 miles from Shebbear so might Edward have been involved in the fighting?

Edward's first wife, Rachell, died in 1660 but not before producing three children over a ten year period. Just a few months prior to this, Charles II had been restored to the throne after eleven years of Parliamentary rule known as the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell and then his son, Richard.

1666 saw the Great Fire of London, the Great Plague having broken out in the previous year. Edward married my 10 x great-grandmother, Rebecca, in 1672 and their eldest child, Mary, my 9 x great-grandmother, later married John Hopper.

Henry Martin passed away in 1674 and in 1687, Isaac Newton published his book, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. James II ruled from 1685 to 1688 until William of Orange and his wife Mary took the throne from the exiled James in what became known as 'The Glorious Revolution', then Queen Mary II died in 1694. She was followed by her husband in 1702 when Queen Anne succeeded her brother-in-law and Edward Martin died in November of the same year.

The Acts of Union took effect on 1st May 1707 uniting England and Scotland under one legislature, and Edward Martin's widow, Rebecca, died in early 1708 leaving 8 2s 0d in her will.

St Michael's Church, Shebbear
St Michael's Church, Shebbear
(Click the image above to view a larger version.)

Listed below are the direct descendants of Henry Martin through to my maternal grandmother:

1 HENRY MARTIN d: 1674
+JOHANE STAPLEDON m: 11 Jun 1621 in St Michael's Church, Shebbear, Devon

2 EDWARD MARTIN b: Abt. 1625 in Shebbear, Devon d: 1702
+REBECCA UNKNOWN m: 26 Nov 1672 in Germansweek, Devon d: Abt. 1708

3 MARY MARTIN b: Abt. 1674 in Shebbear, Devon
+JOHN HOPPER m: 02 May 1706 in St Michael's Church, Shebbear, Devon

4 MARY HOPPER b: Abt. 1707 in Shebbear, Devon
+JAMES LARKWORTHY m: 12 Sep 1728 in St Michael's Church, Shebbear, Devon

5 MAUD LARKWORTHY b: Abt. 1729 in Shebbear, Devon d: 1802
+JOHN RIGSBY m: 21 Feb 1751 in St Michael's Church, Shebbear, Devon

6 ANN RIGSBY b: Abt. 1754 in Shebbear, Devon d: 12 Oct 1811
+LEWIS BURDON HORN b: Abt. 1748 in Black Torrington, Devon m: 25 Sep 1773 in St Michael's Church, Shebbear, Devon d: 1833 in Black Torrington, Devon

7 WILLIAM HORN b: Abt. 1792 in Black Torrington, Devon d: 02 Sep 1870 in Black Torrington, Devon
+ANN BAYLEY b: Abt. 1792 in Black Torrington, Devon m: 29 Aug 1813 in St Mary's Church, Black Torrington, Devon d: Abt. 1858 in District of Holsworthy, Devon

8 ELIZABETH HORN b: Abt. 1816 in Black Torrington, Devon d: 15 Jul 1895 in Black Torrington, Devon
+JAMES SMALE b: Abt. 1813 in Shebbear, Devon m: 10 Aug 1836 in St Mary's Church, Black Torrington, Devon d: 1889 in The District of St Thomas, Devon

9 WILLIAM SMALE b: Abt. 1838 in Black Torrington, Devon d: 25 Jun 1872 in Black Torrington, Devon
+MARY JANE MOORE b: 31 Aug 1834 in Beaford, Devon m: 05 Dec 1857 in St Mary's Church, Black Torrington, Devon

10 WILLIAM HENRY SMALE b: 14 Jun 1865 in Sheepwash, Devon d: 1943 in 42 Bannawell Street, Tavistock, Devon
+GRACE MARTIN b: 15 Dec 1856 in Bradford, Devon m: 1885 in The District of Holsworthy, Devon d: 09 Mar 1925 in 22 Ford Street, Tavistock, Devon

11 FLORENCE SMALE b: 11 Jan 1888 in Heathfield, Tavistock, Devon d: 18 Aug 1921 in 22 Ford Street, Tavistock, Devon
+HENRY JAMES WEAVER b: 03 Oct 1882 in Curry Rivel, Somerset m: 12 Dec 1915 in St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel, Somerset d: 08 Sep 1916 in France

12 PHYLLIS GRACE WEAVER b: 18 Sep 1916 in 22 Ford Street, Tavistock, Devon d: 10 Jun 2005 in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, Devon
+WILLIAM HELLYER GEAKE b: 25 Apr 1917 in Gilfach Goch, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Glamorgan, Wales m: 14 Aug 1938 in St Eustachius Church, Tavistock, Devon d: 18 Jun 1994 in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, Devon

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

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Site Updates - Surnames: Edwards, Bishop, Jones, Geake

Category: What's New at

Hibbitt Family Tree section

FindMyPast have recently released the 'British Army, Casualty Index War of 1812' collection. I knew of an ancestor who was in the army around the time of the Napoleonic Wars so I thought I'd look him up to see if he featured in these records.

Angel Edwards was the son of my 5 x great-grandparents, Nathaniel & Grace Edwards. I knew he was born in Hatherleigh, North Devon, in around 1783 but I hadn't been able to find out what had eventually become of him after he'd enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1803 and, at some point, become a regular soldier in the 8th (King's) Regiment of Foot, 1st Battalion. It turns out that Angel died of wounds in 1814 after the Battle of Lundy's Lane (also known as the Battle of Niagara Falls). He'd have been about 31 years old.

The Battle of Lundy's Lane, which took place during the 'War of 1812', was fought between American troops and British regulars assisted by Canadians defending their homeland and militia on the evening of 25 July 1814, almost within sight of Niagara Falls. You can read more about it at the War of 1812 website.


I've added a few more details for Thomas Bishop & Elizabeth Jones. Thomas was a coal miner and the family lived in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil.

Thomas' father was Joseph Bishop but not much is known about him as yet.

Elizabeth's parents were Thomas Jones and Hannah (maiden name unknown). Thomas' occupation was a Railman and the couple had nine children.

My grandparents, Phyl & Bill Geake
My grandparents, Phyl & Bill Geake

Lastly, I've added some additional information for my grandpa, William Hellyer Geake, but there'll be more to come when I have the time.

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Site Updates - Surnames: Smith, Byden, Ellen, plus Photos of The Lower Struma taken during WW1

Category: What's New at

Barnes Family Tree section

For some reason, the family took the surname, Ellen, the surname of Blanche's first husband, even after she married William Smith. The reason for this is a complete mystery but the Smith name was passed down to later generations as middle names.

Place names: Selkirk in Scotland; Seaham Harbour in Durham; Sunderland; Brighton; London; Guildford.

Barnes Family Picture Gallery > Places > The Lower Struma, Greece, during WW1 section

  • A series of photographs of the Lower Struma in Greece, believed to have been taken by Observer Sub-Lieutenant Cyril Norman Ellen whilst he was based at Stavros. The River Struma formed the Front Line between the Allied and Central Powers.

The Lower Struma
A small section from the series of photos of the The Lower Struma

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Site Updates: Features and photographs of the 1935 Quetta Earthquake

Category: What's New at

Resources section

I've added an index page under the Resources section of the website dedicated to Harvey's grandparents, Air Commodore Cyril Norman Ellen D.F.C and Gladys Lily Ellen (nee Gardner). I'll be adding further articles and photographs to this section as time permits but, to get started, I've published a page about the Quetta Earthquake in 1935.

Cyril was the Squadron Leader of No. 5 (AC) Squadron which was based at Quetta when the disaster struck and Gladys was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Silver Medal for her part in the rescue effort. The page includes an excerpt from the RAF Operations Books giving an account of the earthquake. It shows what the people went through and speaks of the incredible devastation caused by the catastrophe.

Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935
Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935

Barnes Family Picture Gallery > Places > Quetta in the Aftermath of the Earthquake in 1935 section

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Site Updates - Surnames: Stenlake, Northcott, Martin, plus US Troops in Tavistock Photos.

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Hibbitt Family Tree section

Place names: Holsworthy, Tavistock and East Budleigh in Devon. Curry Rivel in Somerset.

Hibbitt Family Picture Gallery > Places > Tavistock, Devon section

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Site Updates - Surnames: Reckett, Edwards, Saunders, Bowden, Dashper

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Hibbitt Family Tree section

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Richard Fryer (1663-1710) - Last Will and Testament: new document in the E-Shop

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At last, following on from the publication of my series of articles in the Discover Your History magazine last year, my final article is now available for download in the E-Shop.

Last Will and Testament

Complementing the document, 'Richard Fryer (abt. 1663-1710) - Biography', Last Will and Testament is a commentary examining Richard's will and the inventory drawn up after his death, placing his story into an historical context.

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