Hellyer, Helyer, Hellier, Helliar, Heller, Hillier, Holliar and so it goes on...

Today's genealogical tip is to consider all name variants when you can't find a record for your ancestor.

I've had a minor breakthrough in tracing my Hellier/Hellyer line into the 18th century. For a while I'd been stuck at the marriage of my 4 x great-grandparents, Samuel Hellier and Elizabeth Gale, in Tavistock, Devon.

Various searches had drawn a blank in finding Samuel's baptism until I checked the FindMyPast website once more. The site is very useful in picking up name variants and lo and behold, I came across a baptism of a Samuel Heller (note the missing 'i' or 'y') on 15th December 1781 in Abbey Chapel, Tavistock. It seems his parents were Presbyterians.

Samuel, who was a mason, had previously married Thomasin Langworthy in 1801 and a son, Thomas, was born in 1802. Thomasin died in November 1814 and Samuel wasted no time in marrying Elizabeth five months later. Doubtless, she was already carrying William, my 3 x great-grandfather, by then. Besides William, I could find no evidence that Elizabeth had produced any other children.

Thomasin was the illegitimate daughter of a mother with the same name. Elizabeth Gale's roots are still unknown. On one census she is noted as having been born in Widdecombe on the Moor [sic] but I cannot find any Gale baptisms in Widecombe.

St Eustachius Church, Tavistock
St Eustachius Church, Tavistock

Samuel Hellier's parents were John Hellier and Amy Bennett who married in St Eustachius Church in Tavistock on 11th December 1770. This church has seen many family weddings. Of the seven generations from my parents to my 5 x great-grandparents, five of these couples were married in this church and I was baptized there.

John and Amy's eldest daughter, Mary, had arrived by March 1771 and a second daughter was baptized in May 1773. Sadly, both children had died by the end of the year. Four sons followed but Thomas died in 1782, aged three, and two more daughters were born in 1784 and 1787.

I've made no further progress on Amy's ancestry and John's is uncertain. John Hellier died in early 1841 at the ripe old age of 90 so I knew he would have been born in approximately 1751.

There were a number of Hellier couples having children in Tavistock during the mid 18th century. However, I have a feeling that John's parents might have been Edward Hellier who married Mary Cann in Crediton in 1750. Their son, John, was baptized in Crediton that same year. Subsequent to this, an Edward and Mary Hellier were having children in Tavistock. As stated above, John and Amy named their first child Mary, and it so happens their eldest son was Edward. Could they have been named after their grandparents? Without additional evidence to link the Crediton couple to the Tavistock couple, I have decided to leave Edward and Mary off my tree for the time being.

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Category: Ancestors Corner

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