The Pearcy family of ‘Glendale’ Northumberland & the value of Probate Inventories to the Family Historian
This month I would like to introduce you to David Pearcy one of my highly valued, longstanding customers. Rather than jumping all in and selecting a one-off research and report commission, David has joined the increasing number of folks who elect to pay a manageable sum each month to uncover a new aspect of their family history in bitesize chunks. Not only does this make researching his family history more affordable, it means it is a constantly evolving story. As we all know family history is NEVER done and during this extraordinary period of restricted movement it means, in some small way, David has had a new discovery or snippet of information to look forward to each month.
Rather than focusing on one particular line or individual, David is all encompassing in his approach to family history and whilst like most of us he has more questions concerning a specific individual or branch, he is looking for the whole story. Whilst always having had an active interest in his family’s history, it began in earnest following the passing of his mother and the re-discovery of her own meticulous research that contained several ancestor mysteries.
Legends abound concerning the origins of the Pearcy/Piercy family of Northumberland not to mention its wider potential connections! (A quick reminder here that the line of decent of the current incumbents of the title Duke of Northumberland although ancient has twice passed through the female line. If planning to use Y-DNA to explore links to these ‘Percys’ do please bear this in mind!) Refreshingly, David is not interested in investigating potential connections to illustrious personages but keen to delve deeper into his own historical origins – whatever they may be!
Confirmed Pearcy Ancestors
By the turn of the nineteenth century David’s Pearcy ancestors were firmly established in the ‘Glendale’ area of Northumberland, and indications are that they had been for some time previous. David’s 4th great grandfather was almost certainly a John Pearcy, in this instance spelled Piercy, who died at Nesbit Buildings aged 87 in 1829 and buried at Doddington on 1st September. In 1778 John Pearcy [Percy] had married a Mary Smith on 17th May at Doddington. In August the following year David’s 3rd great grandfather ‘Roger son to John Pearcy by his wife Mary, Doddington, was born 28 August 1779’ and baptised at Wooler West Street Presbyterian Chapel on 4th September.
Mary ‘wife to John Percy [sic] died at Nesbit Buildings’ aged 69 in 1819 and was buried at Doddington on 11th July. In addition to Roger, David’s 3rd great grandfather it appears the couple had a further six children, the youngest of which, ‘Gilbert son of John Pearcy and Mary his wife Doddington Greens, born 7th September’ was baptised at West Chapel, Presbyterian Chapel Wooler on 9th September 1792. This name of this youngest son may prove to be a significant key in unravelling earlier generations of the family.
David’s 2nd great grandfather Stephen Pearcy who was born at Fenwick in August in 1815 became the Landlord at the Angel Inn on Wooler High Street, where he died in May 1855. After Stephen’s death his widow Mary Cock, whose family also had longstanding connections with Doddington and the ‘Cock Inn’, returned to the village and lived as housekeeper to her brother until her death at the Mill House in 1884. David has a fascinating collection of photographs and pub memorabilia dating from his family’s time at the Angel.
Subsequent generations of the Pearcy family followed the path taken by so many living in the rural communities of North Northumberland who headed south to the towns where the advent of the railway and the County’s deep mines afforded employment for skilled joiners and other craft trades. His grandfather ‘Jack’ Pearcy was the last of the line to have been born at Doddington on 7th May 1885.
Earlier Pearcy Family Groups
The earlier generations of the Pearcy family are more challenging to unravel, not least as there are a few of them, but also by a lack of evidence to ‘glue’ them together. By the late eighteenth century, distinct family groups are evident in the areas around Norham (Horncliffe), and Ford as well as Doddington, Wooler and Kirknewton. Do these groups all descend from a common Pearcy ancestor? Naming patterns and geographic locality would suggest a degree of familial connection exists but at what genetic distance? This is just one of the questions being posed and to which David’s Y-DNA may just hold some answers.
There are other potential candidates in a William Pearcy of Hazlerigg baptising children at Doddington in 1709, and a John Pearcy of Downam (Cornhill) the father of a Gilbert baptised at Carham in 1704, although from the dates these too may be from an earlier generation. Given the prevalence of the name Gilbert throughout, however, this particular family branch cannot be overlooked. It is thought highly likely that Roger, William and John were related, if not brothers, then perhaps cousins. A Gilbert Pearcy born circa 1727, calculated from the age recorded at his burial in Doddington in 1815, was likely to have been another close relative. Gilbert certainly had close ties to Doddington and appears to have been married at least twice if not three times.
Inventory of Gilbert Pearcie of Thom[p]sons Walls, 1687
The discovery of an administration bond and inventory for a Gilbert Pearcie of Thomsons Walls near Kirknewton dating from 1687 is therefore potentially relevant to the investigation. Where they have survived, Inventories are veritable gems of information and tell us so much about farm livestock levels and land use, in this case of an upland and semi-upland farm during the relevant period. As some folks will know this is another interest of mine, especially its capabilities and limitations of feeding an army, as in 1513. This single page of text does not disappoint.
Sadly, the admin bond itself is unavailable online or to order which is unfortunate but as admin bonds are generally of limited genealogical value, not a disaster. Due to the nature of many of the pre 1695 Will Bonds it cannot be photocopied and is only available to view on site. However, as the inventory contains an amount owed for sheep, it would perhaps suggest that a relative, brother, cousin, son or nephew named Andrew Pearcy was also farming in the vicinity. Although not as distinctive a name as Gilbert, Andrew also features in David’s line of decent, indeed it was the Christian name of his Great Grandfather who was born at the Angel Inn at Wooler the 16th November 1848.
Inventory of Thomas Mewres of Thom[p]sons Walls, 1683
Interestingly, the 1683 Inventory of Thomas Mewres also of Thomsons Walls is also available online. It would appear he was possibly farming a larger area and carrying more stock. It also shows a figure for £50, an equivalent of £5722.49 as at 2017 was owing to the deceased although it does not state by whom.  Is it perhaps the opposite entry to the debt which appears, and was still owing by Gilbert Pearcy in 1687?
It is interesting to note that whilst the probate valuation undertaken in April 1687 for Gilbert Pearcy includes a figure for crops in the ground, the valuation of October 1683 does not. Does this suggest that if autumn sowing formed part of the arable rotation it was yet to take place? The autumn valuation for Thomas Mewres in 1683 with its larger quantities of Oats, Rye and Barley in store would suggest it was perhaps immediately post-harvest? There is a total absence of Wheat, which due to the nature of the land is to be expected.
It was also noted that this autumn valuation contained large quantities of cheese and butter. Before the seventeenth century, cheese was largely made from ewe’s milk but by the time the probate was drafted it is thought the cheese would have been made from the milk from the five cows with calves at foot. It is glimpses into the past like these that shed light on the staple foods that formed part of our ancestors’ diets.
Although not included here there are two further inventories and associated documents relating to the Mewres [Mures] family of Thom[p]sons Walls. A George Mures dating from 1694, a Robert Mures from 1710 which also includes a Will. He appears to have died unmarried and without issue as several nephews as nieces are named as beneficiaries. A jump to Lowick and a George Muross [sic] sees my own 4th great grandfather George Smith of Horncliffe standing as administration guarantor. If interested these can be found in the
North East Inheritance Database
Clearly it has only been possible to cover a small fraction of Pearcy research and associated evidence in just one blog. The little snippets included here are designed to ‘pique’ the interest, illustrate the longevity of the Glendale connection and provide some general historical interest for non-Pearcy readers.
Should your interest lie with the extended Pearcy pedigree, however, several lines of decent have to date been traced and followed to Howick, Alnwick and beyond. The more folks that come forward with their own personal snippets of family knowledge and the more Pearcy/Piercy men that test their DNA, the more evidence will become available and meaningful conclusions can be drawn over time. If this is you, or is of interest to you, then please do get in touch with us!
Notes to the Inventory transcriptions.
Whilst the spellings are typically erratic, most of the language in the Inventories will be familiar, however, definitions have been provided for the more obscure words below:
OED online. A hardy variety of barley grown mainly in northern England and Scotland. Cf. bere n.1.
Now considered to be one of the cultivated varieties of Hordeum vulgare subsp. vulgare, this type of barley was previously known as H. tetrastichum because it appears to have four rows of grains in the ear.
barley-bigg, Scotch bigg: see the first elements.
'Hoges' here have been taken to mean sheep in their 2nd year of life.
A Wether/Weather/Wedder is a castrated male sheep.
OED Online. A measure of capacity for grain, etc., used in Scotland and the north of England, containing in Scotland generally 6 imperial bushels, but in the north of England varying locally from the ‘old boll’ of 6 bushels to the ‘new boll’ of 2 bushels. Also a measure of weight, containing for flour 10 stone (= 140 pounds). (A very full table of its local values is given in Old Country & Farming Words (E.D.S. 1880) p. 168). (NB. At the time of Flodden in 1513 there were 8 bushels of corn to the Quarter and 4 Quarters to the ton.)
 The publications of the Surtees Society are always worth consulting when looking for collections of early Wills & Inventories. Some, such as, Wills and inventories illustrative of the history, manners, language, statistics, &c., of the northern counties of England, from the eleventh century downwards, are available online
 National Archives, Currency Convertor