Collections of correspondence not only make fascinating reading but are also fantastic sources of information for many historical disciplines, not least family historians. It is important, however, that the contents are correctly interpreted and contextualised, as if not, the result is a misaligned pedigree! The following is taken from the:
Old letters found in Loaned House at the death of Mrs White and taken possession of by Mrs Grace Ann Smith her daughter [wife of George Smith of Ancroft] and by her, handed to me Stephen Sanderson October and November 1865 ...’
The Nicholson, Smith and other associated families such as the Middletons etc., about some of whom I have previously written, intermarried on several occasions and a goodly chunk of Norham’s churchyard collectively bears witness to their passing. Many of the early generations of these families are buried in close proximity to one another.
London, 28th January 1716
On the 28th January 1716, a young man wrote home to his family on Tweedside from London. The letter is written in an elegant italic hand which displays evidence of a good education and the content suggests a maturity that is possibly beyond his years.
He was about to embark on a new life in Maryland but had been delayed due to ‘frost so strong here of the like of it has not been seen these many years, our Ships are all fast yet tho we have had a Thaw these eight days’ as London was held in an icy grip. He hoped to be underway within the next fourteen days aboard a ship called 'The Colchester' under the command of a Captain Samson.
'The previous day he had received a letter from his mother which brought news of grave illness in a close family member. She had also sought his advice about a possible apprenticeship for his brother, John, to a Mr Bordley who was currently in Newcastle. Whilst his mother is concerned for John’s welfare & hopes Mr Bordley will be kind to John and provide him with ‘all the necessaries’ during his seven years, (for she was unable to), the writer is more concerned his brother may be hindered by forgetting his Latin! He concedes, however, he would be ‘very glad’ to have his brother near him.
His ‘Master’ is a Merchant who has loaded ‘scarce any thing youl name but he has bought’ aboard ship in preparation of departure. The writer has with him his own parcel containing ‘a dozen Laced Hatts’ on which he has expended the last of his money, perhaps in the hope of trading them for a profit at his destination.
He closed his letter:
Love to my Brother & sisters & all friends, & that God almighty may bless you &
keep you all in good health till I see you again is the earnest prayer of him who
is your most loving Brother
[note ‘Brother’ written in the singular.]
The penman’s name was James Nicholson and his letter tells the reader a good deal about himself, his family and their situation in just a few short lines.
Information contained in the letter
Collections such as these are a real boon for historians as they are packed with references to so many aspects of history that extend beyond the interest in the family to whom the letters relate. Following this particular archive of correspondence takes the reader on a series of social, economic, political as well as personal journeys through the eighteenth century on both side of the Atlantic, with all manner of associated hardships and joys.
These topics are not the feature of this month’s blog, however, but the use and analysis of collections such as these and how they can make us better researchers, is a topic planned for a future article for Family Tree Magazine; so keep an eye open for it! Instead, this month’s blog asks just who were the parents of James Nicholson our intrepid traveller in 1716, for he was NOT the son of George Nicholson of Loanend and his wife Mary as widely accepted and documented.  Somehow, somewhere a spot of misalignment has clearly occurred!
James Nicholson of South River, Maryland d. 1764 – the Evidence
The ‘established’ pedigree in public circulation records that James Nicholson who emigrated to Maryland in 1716, was the son of George Nicholson (1641 – 26 Jun 1727) of Loanend, Horncliffe, Northumberland and his wife Mary (c.1639 – Nov 1704). Taking this first letter alone and in isolation strongly suggests this simply cannot be for the following reasons:
When subsequent correspondence is taken into consideration the evidence against the parentage suggested is compounded:
At first glance it would appear the letters, which constitute crucial primary evidence, were not consulted as part of the research into this particular area of the Nicholson family tree. Whilst this is altogether disappointing and of some concern to me, what is most surprising is the fact this glaring error has not been spotted before now, particularly as Philip Aynsley-Smith spent a great deal of time researching the Nicholson family in the late 1980s. For a basic error such as this to have escaped his meticulous research and recording thereof is most out of character. Needless to say on further investigation Philip had indeed spotted the problem and taken steps to have it rectified.
How the errors in the Nicholson pedigree occurred
In an attempt to source the origin of the misalignment a bit of digging in Philip’s records was required. It appears there was more than one single contributory event that led to it appearing in print.
( Many thanks indeed for your letter of 15th March – and with all the material comments (in Red ink!) and useful extra information that I hadn’t got. I must say thank you for putting me right regarding page 1 – and the generation of George – I clearly was wrong there – and certainly needed red ink. I have amended my tree accordingly.)
Sadly, there is no documentation of exactly which George he writes but given previous correspondence I strongly suspect it was regarding James Nicholson’s incorrect parentage. It appears the amendments may never have been made, as the misalignment of James’ parentage has persisted into the 2003 edition of his book, some six years after Philip’s death.
From this evidence alone it would appear that the researcher in Brisbane has in good faith recreated the pedigree as given to her by the Rev Nigel Nicholson and attached it to another family history published in Australia in 2016. The Rev Nigel Nicholson in turn derived his information from historian John Crawford Hodgson and was unaware of the errors and amendments that should have been made until they were brought to his attention by Philip. As Philip was to discover, this was not the first time Hodgson’s Nicholson pedigree had fallen under the scrutiny of a family member, but that evidence does not belong here.
The earlier Generation – Errors & Omissions
The Parentage of William Nicholson gentleman of Berwick upon Tweed died 1690.
The ‘Master’ of whom James Nicholson, our intrepid traveller writes was a William Nicholson of South River, Maryland, a tobacco grower, Merchant and landowner. William’s wife died of measles on 9th March 1717 and William, followed shortly after in 1719. James Nicholson was recorded in his Will as both a servant, friend and as an Executor. He was bequeathed £5 a young horse and a suit of mourning clothes but nowhere was any form of kinship recorded or inferred.
William of Maryland was undoubtedly the son of William Nicholson, a wealthy gentleman of Berwick upon on Tweed who died in 1690. He left a detailed Will dated the 15th April of the same year, which names his surviving children and places executorship thereof in the hands of his son William and a nephew Cuthbert Brady. The accompanying inventory dated 20 February 1691 totalled £78 3s 8d.
Given the attention to detail here and in other clauses of his Will I find it somewhat strange that if he had had a son named William neither he, nor his heirs, were mentioned at all.
The Missing Generation
Missing from the pedigree entirely are two key individuals who nonetheless left evidence of their passage in the form of a probate Bond & Inventory and a Will & Inventory. One dates from 1689 and the other 1690, which when William Nicholson of Berwick is added to the equation, makes a total of three Nicholsons with potential connections to Loanend to die within a twelve-month period. The first absentee is a John Nicholson of Loanend whose Will is dated 5th July 1689 and accompanying Inventory the 29th July of the same year.
[Extract from North East Inheritance Database, DPR/I/1690/N3/2.] A True & perfect Inventory of the goods and Chattels which John Nicholson late of Hornecliff (alias) Horcliffloanend in the County pallatine of Durham yeoman, Taken Vallued & Apprized the nine & twentieth day of July Anno D[omi]ni 1689 by us whose names are hereunder Subscribed
His Will mentions the following 3 children
The second individual who is currently absent from the pedigree is a Robert Nicholson of Loaned who died sometime before his Inventory was prepared on the 14 April.
[Extract North East Inheritance Database DPR/I/1/1690/N5] Aprill the 14th 1690 A True Inventary of All the Goods And Chattels which belong to Robert Nickolson of horclief lonend Lattly Deceased Taken And Aprised by those whose names Are under written This 14 day of Aprill in the year of our Lord 1690
Sadly the relating Bond DPR/I/3/1690/B22 is not available online which might have held clues to his relations through whoever was granted administration of his estate. Is it possible this is Robert the eldest son of George who died in 1655?
Whatever the relationship may have been, it is eminently clear that the individuals in both cases farmed, if not owned, the land at Horncliffe Loanend. As both John and Robert appear after it is stated Loanend was purchased in 1626, they, and their offspring if any, should also feature in the family tree. The fact they do not would suggest that their relationship to one another as well as to others in the early part of the pedigree has not yet been determined. In the limited time spent on the collection to date I can shed no light on the matter either beyond expressing an opinion that they were undoubtedly family members who have, for whatever reason, been overlooked or omitted.
So, who were James Nicholson of Maryland’s Parents?
As to the parentage of James Nicholson who sailed to Maryland in 1716, although not 100% verified I can be a little more certain. A kinship to the Loanend Nicholsons certainly existed at least by marriage, as I strongly believe he was brother to Elizabeth Nicholson, wife of Robert Nicholson of Loanend and one of at least 6 children born to the Rev Alexander Nicholson d.1711 and his wife Alison Home whom he married at Gordon in 1685.
Be cautious in taking relationships too literally; a brother may mean brother-in-law or sometimes even a more distant relative, and a cousin may be far more removed than first. Customs surrounding forms of address and terms of endearment differed from what we know today, so it is as well to be on your guard to prevent misalignments appearing in a family tree.
(If you are interested in my transcripts of the Wills mentioned in the above post please contact me for copies.)
 The original letters and other documents in this collection are deposited at Berwick Record Office NRO 1955/A.
 The Rev Canon Nigel Nicholson & Mrs Rosemary Kitson, ‘Nicholson being a Compilation of Family trees of Nichsolon and Nicolson …’, Gateshead, 2003, Vol II. p.554; Michael White, ‘19th Century Pioneer:
Frank Villeneuve Nicholson Family in Australia’, Appendix I - George Nicholson of Loanend down to Frank Villeneuve Nicholson (1655 to 1898) Compiled by Kaye Mobsby p.12, Brisbane 2016; Circa 70 Ancestry Online Trees; etc.
 Michael White, ‘19th Century Pioneer: Frank Villeneuve Nicholson Family in Australia’, Appendix I - George Nicholson of Loanend down to Frank Villeneuve Nicholson (1655 to 1898) Compiled by Kaye Mobsby p.12, Brisbane 2016
 England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858 for Gulielmi Nicholson, PROB 11: Will Registers, 1713-1722, Piece 572: Shaller, Quire Numbers 1-48 (1720)
 North East Inheritance Database DPR/I/1/1691/N4/1-2 & DPR/I/1/1691/N4/3
 North East Inheritance Database DPRI/1/1664/N3
 North East Inheritance Database DPR/I/1/1690/N5/1-2
Just how well do, or did we know our parents, grandparents, or indeed any of our forebears? This month’s blog demonstrates the importance of memoir and recording first-hand experiences, recollections and reflections for future generations. It is written by my second cousin once removed Catherine (Cathy) Aynsley-Smith and is an extract taken from Chapter 8 of her family history book which is headed FREEDMAN AND COFNAS ANCESTRY, “My Mother’s Story”.
Cathy, her sister Vivie and I share mutual ancestors in John Smith (1813 – 1881) and Hannah Aynsley (1837 – 1922). They are granddaughters of my great-granduncle George Aynsley-Smith senior (1886 – 1942), (who along with his eldest son Philip, were the compilers of so much of our mutual paternal line family history), and his wife Jeanne Eugenie Mournetas (1878 – 1947). Their father was the second child of three sons and one daughter born to the couple, George Aynsley-Smith junior, (Dick), ‘a nickname he had been given when very young by the family cook due to his love of spotted-dick pudding. Or so the story goes.’ Their mother was Asna Freedman, and this is her story …
Extracts from ‘My Mother’s Story’
My mother, Asna Freedman, was born to Jewish parents Joseph Freedman and Jane (Janey Myers) Schneider at 57 Lord Street, Cheetham, Manchester on 4th May 1914. (Lord Street was also sometime home of the Jewish Soup Kitchen.) She was the youngest of eight children born to the couple. Her eldest brother was Abraham (Abe) born in 1896. He was followed by a sibling in 1901 who died in 1911 and whose name is not known, then Miriam (1897), Golda (1900) who died aged 17 from the world-wide influenza epidemic. There followed Frank (1903), Sally (1905), David (1909) and lastly Asna (1914).
The little I know about her early life and her family comes from the odd snippets of information she told me and from notes that she wrote in later life. Some of her life experiences are described in the ‘diaries’ that she wrote at my request when she was in her eighties. Much of that information was new to me as she rarely mentioned her childhood and in fact, the diaries tell far more than I can. They give an interesting flavour of various parts of her life which I have copied verbatim.
Memories of her young days written by Asna in 2001
Cathie once suggested I write down incidents in my life as they came to mind & this morning, Sept 18th 2001, I am doing just that. I received a notice in the post this morning from the BHA (British Humanist Assn) about a Xmas holiday in Buxton, so memories came flooding back.
Although pumping was quite difficult for small children nevertheless we wouldn't forego this pleasure which I looked forward to daily.
Asna’s notes continue:
But I remember her telling me on many an occasion how this curtailment of her formal education disappointed her and affected her future life. In the 1920s her sister Sally went to work in London and some years later at the age of nineteen Asna left Manchester to follow her. Due to the poverty she saw in her childhood she developed an interest in politics and through attending political meetings and demonstrations she met my father Dick (George Aynsley-Smith junior). When in her eighties she would often talk about their life together and describe how they ‘had 44 happy years together’ and explain how he came from a Quaker family but that as ‘he too felt the same about religion and politics as I did so that there was no disharmony on these issues, nor on any others that matters, such as the emancipation of women, equality in the home and workplace etc.. I felt very bereft when he died over 16 years ago and still do.’
All sorts of thoughts pass through my mind in the morning and today, for some unknown reason, my mind went back to my brother, Abe.
Strange. I cannot recollect anything about him before he married in 1921. He was in the Army in the ‘Great War’ (1914-1918) & I seem to remember him in ‘Kahki’ (sic) uniform on his return but no other memories of him at home until I used to visit him & his wife, Emma, at their home & even then only after the birth of their first daughter, Eileen, when I was 8 years old. I remember that Emma made my first gym slip when I started secondary school & seemed bad-tempered at the fittings & ‘ticking me off’ for various reasons.
However, I digress, as I was actually thinking of Abe in a much later period in connection with myself. I went up to M/c to tell him of my intended marriage which he opposed on grounds of religion (as I knew my mother would too) but said if I intended to go ahead – which I did – advised me not to disclose this to my mother & I followed his advice – perhaps I should say his wishes – which I’ve always regretted. I’m sure she would eventually have become reconciled (she had met Dick in London & when I tentatively brought up the question of our marrying, put the same religious objection though she thought ‘he was very nice’ & I am certain that knowing & seeing Cathie, my first baby, would have given her some pleasure in the last few months; she died in Aug ’43 without knowing I was married or of Cathie’s existence. Something I cannot remember without pain. What surprised me was being warmly received by both Abe & Emma when I called some months later with Cathie whilst staying in M/c with Sylvia & Maurice for a few weeks during the heavy bombing. After that first ‘reconciliation’ we remained on amicable terms, but didn’t meet again only communicating by letter & a phone call – before mother’s death.
The diaspora of Jewish people to Europe was to escape from the persecution that beset them continually in Russia and Eastern Europe. But they had a hard time in the countries where they settled with only low paid, mostly manual work, open to them. There were certain periods over the centuries where they did enjoy freedom to pursue their cultural and professional careers as in Spain and Germany and for a short time in England but these periods always passed with further oppression and discrimination and so they fled to whichever country would take them. In the time of the Spanish Inquisition many Jews converted to Christianity otherwise it meant death, unless they could escape and some came to England.
I remember them in Manchester when I was a child as their religious practices were slightly modified allowing them to use transport on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) and as many were quite affluent having brought their wealth with them from Spain, we saw them arrive to their special Synagogues in their cars – quite a phenomenon in those days of the early 20s. The Synagogues were called ‘Reform Synagogues’. I remember when a young child going to our own Synagogue and sitting in the Balcony where all the women sat – we had a good view of all the happenings below. At a certain part of the Service the Scrolls – “Torahs” were brought out of their little Ark and carried round, their coverings were of white satin, which I thought was lovely!
I was told by Sally that my parents experienced hard times but always ‘pulled through’. I don’t know a great deal about my parents’ early married life but Jewish immigrants had a hard time and in those days it was difficult for them to work in the professions or follow a career, the only work being available was manual (in the tailoring trade mostly) or in business.
I believe at one time my father ventured into the coal business, having one employee to deliver, but he was no businessman and was a soft touch when families were badly off with no heating in winter and did not insist on payment. This venture didn’t last long! As my father’s attempt in business wasn’t very successful and having been a teacher in the Jewish Community in Russia, he started a small school. By the time I was born he had been teaching Hebrew in a room in the Synagogue which I visited with messages or whatever for my father. Whilst waiting till there was a break I’d sit and watch and listen but not understand apart from a few everyday words. Girls were not included in this education as primarily it was to prepare the boys for their Bar Mitzva at the age of 13. My father was called a Rebbe i.e. teacher & my Grandfather was a Rabbi – the Religious Head (Minister) of the local Jewish community.
The boys came after their English school-day finished and for a full day on a Sunday. My Father also officiated in the local Synagogue and helped my Grandfather in his duties as a Rabbi both were held in high regard by the local Jewish community in our area – Jewish people seemed to have lived in various areas of Manchester by the time I came on the scene.
Top Tips regarding Surnames in Documentary Evidence
- What is the period? English spellings were largely phonetic – the first dictionary of standardised English language was published in 1755, but even afterwards words continued to be written as they sounded or were pronounced.
- Was the individual/family literate? Look for signatures on supporting records – have they been handwritten or substituted by a mark? If the latter, then the spelling of the surname would have relied on the literacy and interpretation of the clerk or scribe recording the event.
- Were the family foreign or from outside the area? This also includes folks from other parts of the British Isles and Ireland. Unfamiliar sounding names including those from Ireland and Scotland frequently appear with variant spellings that search engines don’t pick up. Think phonetically, use regional dialects and accents, put yourself in place of the clerk or scribe, be generous in your use of wildcards, and beware the Anglicised Scot or Irishman who has dropped his ‘Mac’! (NB. Beyond the Borders in Scotland, lookout for names in Gaelic)
- ‘The family fell out and/or they changed their name to distinguish between different branches’. Hmmm, whilst there may well be instances where this may be the case, I have yet to clap eyes on documented evidence beyond family legend having been committed to paper. It is far more likely that the spelling became standardised in different places at different points in time but actually has the same point of origin.
Y-DNA - The Test for Surnames
Pearcy (and variant spellings) DNA Project
(Please note, you will also need to sign-up to Family Tree DNA to join the project if you have not already done so. You do NOT need to purchase a DNA test from FTDNA to join. Registration is completely free of charge at www.familytreedna.com/autosomal-transfer & you do not need to transfer your atDNA if you do not wish to.)
Top Tip – The Genetic Distance in Y-DNA Test Results
Common Question - Matches of the same surname as myself match me at 12 markers but not 111
Top Tip – Check the level the match has tested to.
Y-DNA Matches with Different Surnames
Daughtering Out & Inheritance
‘The later Middle Ages were a transitional period in which older bynames co-existed with newer hereditary surnames as a type of cognoma. Consequently, it is not always possible to distinguish one from the other.’
- Gibbe Roderfordman for a servant of Gilbert Rutherford
- John Twysontheday, for harper named for an ‘event’
- William Andreson of Tynedale alias William Stockhalgh the son of Andrew Stockhalgh
- Little William Robson son of Robert Joly
- John Johnson the son of John Thomson
- William Robynson Hynne
- Richard Jackson Lambee
‘as reasonable to conjecture, described a family relationship by adding a patronym to a hereditary surname in order to assist with identification’.
Classifications of Tithes
These related to the ‘fruits of the earth’, so anything that grew in it, or from it, such as corn, hay and other crops. It also often included wood. These were the most valuable class of tithes.
Mixed Tithes related largely to animals such as lambs, calves, colts, or to animal products such as wool, milk, eggs etc.
These tithes were payable on the gains of labour in related agricultural industries such as corn milling or fishing.
Tithe Collection & Satire
The Tythe Pig
In Country Village Lives a Vicar,
Fond – as all are – of Tythes and Liquor,
To mirth his ears are seldom Shut,
He’ll Crack a Joke, and laugh at Smut;
But when his Tythes he gathers in,
True Parson then – no coin! No grin
On Fish, On Flesh, On Bird, On Beast,
Alike lays hold the Churlish Priest
Hob’s Wife and Sow – as Gossips tell
Both at a time in Pieces fell;
The Parson comes, the Pig he claims
And the good Wife with Taunts inflames;
Bust she quite arch bow’d low and Smil’d
Kept back the Pig and held the Child;
The Priest look’d warm, the Wife look’d big,
Z…ds, Sir! quoth she, no Child, no Pig
Boitard & Müller, The Tythe Pig, 1751
Although tithes could cause contention and friction, their real significance lies in the numerous relationships they created within eighteenth-century English society. These relationships constituted some of the most important everyday economic, contractual and social connections between individuals and were a central feature of parochial life during this period.
Impropriation & Impropriators
… tithe purchase involved an agreement made before harvest. The tithe purchaser entered into a contract with the tithe owner by which he or she agreed to pay a certain sum for the bought tithes on appointed days. Tithes sold in this way made up a significant portion of all the grain which reached the market.
Tithe Records for Historical Study
Composition and Modus
an original and two copies of every confirmed instrument of apportionment. The originals are now in The National Archives. The two copies were deposited with the registrar of the diocese and with the incumbents of and churchwardens of the parish. In many cases the copies and subsequent altered apportionments are now deposited in the relevant local record office.
The Genealogist & Tithe Records Online
Examples and snippets relating to Horncliffe & Norham Mains.
- George Smith owned and occupied 194 acres and 32 perches at East Loanend himself.
- He also occupied a further 150 acres, 1 rood and 6 perches at West Loanend, owned by Mary White and Jane Simpson.
- The maiden names of these two women was Nicholson. Mary White was George’s mother-in- law, and Jane Simpson, her sister and George’s wife Grace Ann’s aunt.
- Alexander Smith, the owner and occupier of 55 acres 35 perches of land at Loaned at 7 above was Alexander Smith of Gallagate Farm, Norham, husband of George’s cousin Agnes Young. Agnes Young’s father was Aaron Young who drowned in River Whiteadder on New Year’s Day 1822.
- Also listed is William Mather at 5, owner of 10 acres 1 rood 18 perches occupied by Richard Brown. What is most interesting here is that he did so as executor of the Will of Thomas Naters. Thomas Naters was a reclusive millionaire who died at his Schloss in Switzerland in 1836. The tithe records would suggest that he held an interest in property at both Longridge and Horncliffe at the time of his death.
- For every Cow and Calf 2d
- For every Cow not in Calf 1d halfpenny
- For every score of Ewes milked 4d
- For every Mare in Foal 4d
- For every Hive of Bees 8d
 When entitlement passed to the church or religious houses it was ‘appropriated’.
 B Ben Dodds, ‘Peasants and Production in the Medieval North-East’, Regions and Regionalism in History, Woodbridge, 2007, p.162.
 Ben Dodds, ‘Peasants and Production in the Medieval North-East’, Regions and Regionalism in History, Woodbridge, 2007; Ben Dodds, ‘Peasants, Landlords and Production between the Tyne and the Tees, 1349-1450’, Regions and Regionalisms in History, Woodbridge, 2005.
 The National Archives
 There were approximately 8 bushels to the quarter and 4 quarters to the avoirdupois ton which equated to 20 cwt, or 2,000lbs, = 62.5lbs per bushel.
War by sea between England and Scotland was soon followed by war by land, and in the letter of remonstrance and defiance to Henry VIII., with which James preceded the invasion of England, the unjust slaughter of Andrew Barton, and the capture of his ships, were stated among the principal grievances for which redress was thus sought. Even when battle was at hand, also, Lord Thomas Howard sent a message to the Scottish king, boasting of his share in the death of Barton, whom he persisted in calling a pirate, and adding that he was ready to justify the deed in the vanguard, where his command lay, and where he meant to show as little mercy as he expected to receive. And then succeeded the battle of Flodden, in which James and the best of the Scottish nobility fell; and after Flodden, a loss occurred which Barton would rather have died than witnessed.
The Moorish Lassies and the Black Lady Tournaments
A doubt about the genuiness of the Black Lady’s ‘African’ identity is raised by the black chamois sleeves which she wore as part of her costume. These were conventionally used as part of the Renaissance ‘blackface’ disguise in court masques. It is credible that they could also be worn for the purpose of modesty and warmth by a genuine African in the Scottish weather… The role might have been played by two separate people in the two different years and could even have been played by a man. Nor do the record of the tournament expenses give up the secrets – the documents maintain the illusion, recording the outlay on the clothes of the Black Lady, just as they do when recording payments for the unicorn pulling her chariot.
Dragons, a unicorn and other unlikely animals … They may also have included animals from the Royal Menagerie which at this time included a lion and a wolf. 
African Soldiers at Hadrian’s Wall
John White the Black Tudor Trumpeter
Sir Pedro Negro and Lady Marion Hume in 1548/9
… she is complaining about the villainy of the English who ‘dystrow all this cuntre’. Strangely it seems the Spaniards, and ‘the Mour’ behave better, ‘lyk noble men’. They owe money to the ‘pur wyfis in this toun for ther expenssis’. It seems then, that the English and Spanish, who had been at Haddington, passed through Hume on 19 March, and were billeted there, leaving debts. Yet, Lady Hume seems to show special favour to the Spaniards, and especially the Moor, urging Guise to be ‘gud prenssis’ to them. Perhaps her favour was won the year before, when the Spaniards were involved in a failed attempt to take Hume castle from the English.
…Whether this Moor was Pedro Negro is not certain. Sadly Lady Hume does not mention him by name. But the circumstantial evidence is striking. There was clearly at least one Moor in Berwickshire in 1549: if it was not Pedro Negro, then who was it? If not Pedro Negro, then perhaps Jacques Granado, another mercenary, knighted by Somerset a week after Negro on 1 October 1547, at Newcastle,41 whose name suggests he was from Grenada, and whose arms include ‘a Blackamoor’s head couped Sable, wreathed argent’
'Egyptians' in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders
The first undoubted record referring to Gypsies in Great Britain is :—' 1505, April 22. Item to the Egyptianis be the Kingis command, vij lib.' "
By the mid-19th century there seems to have been some debate over their ethnic origins, colour of their skin and other and other traits.
The special opinion of him as an Egyptian, or one of a different breed from the other inhabitants of this and, must be established; and this proceeding on those noted and peculiar circumstances of manner and appearance by which, in all countries that they have visited, this loose and lazy race have so remarkably been distinguished. Among these are the black eye and swarthy complexion ; a peculiar language or gibberish, intelligible only to themselves …
 Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh Castle Research, The Medieval Documents, 2018
 Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh Castle Research, The Medieval Documents, 2018
 Miranda Kauffman
 David MacRitchie, Scottish Gypsies under the Stewarts, Edinburgh, 1894.
 Hume's Commentaries on the Law of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1844, vol. i. pp. 474, 475.
https://electricscotland.com/history/gipsies/scottishgypsies2.pdf page 2.
For those of you who like digging about in old manuscripts but can't access the State Papers Online, a fabulous website The Tudor Chamber Books of Henry VII and Henry VIII containing transcriptions of manuscripts dating from 1485 - 1521 is available online at:
It was a copy of a book, sent to me by my friend and colleague Kevin Graham from Berwick Record Office, that prompted the subject of this month’s blog. ‘Reminiscences of Thomas Marshall of Berwick’ is an autobiographical, often humorous account of the many sojourns that comprised the authors life. Born in 1782 at Horncliffe, a small village close to Norham to an ordinary family, Thomas’ life was anything but. Thomas suffered from an extremely bad case of eighteenth century ‘itchy feet’. His numerous occupations varying from Shop Boy, Gardener, Grocer, Travelling Salesman to Ships Surgeon, Doctor in Melrose and a stint in the Durham Militia took him around the globe from Barbados, Nova Scotia, New York, Madeira, Brazil to Cadiz defy his humble birth and in some ways flout the rules concerning movement imposed by the administrative systems of the day.
Most of our ancestors would neither have travelled so far as Thomas Marshall, nor, would they have had such a variety of occupations, but the one thing the book does do well is emphasise that move they certainly did! This is perhaps a consideration that is too easily lost in the course of family history research.
Movement as a Manorial Tenant - Serfdom
Serfdom was not purely about the work that was done, and different levies and requirements the serfs paid can be found in different manors. In many cases the lord of the manor held the right to receive a serf’s possessions after their death. This could be waived in some cases, as Theobald allowed Adam Donnesheued’s widow and daughter to remove his goods and chattels out of the manor, to his loss of 68 shillings. Some serfs tried to escape. In 1445-6 The prior of Lindisfarne received the goods of Robert Atkynson of Fenham manor after his death, but their accounts also refer to expenses in arresting bringing back John Atkynson of Fenham, Robert’s son, a native ‘meditating flight’. He didn’t run away after this, as in 1453-4 John Atkynson of Fenham, a native of the prior of Lindisfarne paid five shillings in for the merchet of his daughter Mariot.
Settlement & Removal
- Birth – a legitimate child took its father’s parish of settlement, even if it was not where it was born.
- Apprenticeship – either arranged by the parish or privately by the family
- Service – providing someone was hired for a year (365 days) or more, they would gain settlement in that parish of work.
- Marriage or remarriage – the wife assumed the place of settlement of her husband.
- Renting property worth at least £10 per annum and paying parish rates
- Election to a parish office (e.g. Overseer of the Poor; Churchwarden) for a year
- Individual’s name
- Parish of settlement
- Parish of destination
- Date the certificate was issued.
- Individual’s name and possibly names of children
- The parish from which they were being removed
- The parish deemed their place of settlement or where they were being sent
 Northumberland Archives, ‘Tied to the land – serfs from manorial history’.
The Pearcy family of ‘Glendale’ Northumberland & the value of Probate Inventories to the Family Historian
As part of his journey of discovery, David’s budget this month has taken advantage of a discounted Y-DNA test (available through Family Tree DNA until 31st August) to support (and hopefully enhance) his investigations into his patrilineal ‘Pearcy’ line. As readers of my blogs will know, the Y chromosome is carried, passed on and inherited exclusively by men, meaning they are the only ones who can take a Y-DNA test. (Ladies, do not despair, as due to the way Y-DNA recombines, testing a male cousin or uncle can be just as effective as testing a father or brother, just so long as they are from the same patrilineal (father) line.)
David had already tested his autosomal DNA with Ancestry before he sought me out and through his matches had connected with a distant cousin compiling a family history about early members of the family. As is always the case, however, like the A1 which traverses Northumberland, there is one heck of a lot more to discover if the time is taken to leave the trunk road and explore!
Confirmed Pearcy Ancestors
Earlier Pearcy Family Groups
The earliest vital event noted in north Northumberland parish registers is the marriage of Robert Pearsey [sic] to Francis Salmond at Berwick in Dec 1584. Outside of Berwick, the earliest parish register entry found to date is for the burial of a Thomas Piercy of Catfordlaw [Hay Farm] at Ford in January 1692/3. Relatively close on its heels is the baptism of a Gilbert Persey [sic] at Carham in June 1704. A badly worn memorial headstone at Kirknewton dating from circa 1759 provides early evidence of Pearcy links and the Christian name Gilbert with Doddington [Dorinton].
From his age of 87 recorded at burial in 1829, a year of birth for David’s 4th great grandfather, John Pearcy, can be estimated as 1742. A possibility for David’s 5th or even 6th great grandfather is a Roger Pearcy of Ewart, an historic township of Doddington, who married a Margaret Scot at Doddington in June 1713, but to date there is insufficient evidence to prove any relationship beyond doubt. There is also a possible burial record for Roger in 1724 which would rule him out.
Inventory of Gilbert Pearcie of Thom[p]sons Walls, 1687
Inventory of Thomas Mewres of Thom[p]sons Walls, 1683
North East Inheritance Database
Notes to the Inventory transcriptions.
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.)
 National Archives, Currency Convertor
For two centuries from 1474 pewter was unrivalled as a material for plates, dishes, drinking vessels and similar ware. From the 16th century the indispensable preliminary for a Freeman setting up as a Master Pewterer and opening his own shop was to record his 'touch' or trade mark on large pewter sheets retained by the Company in the Hall. The early touch plates were lost in the Great Fire; the five that survive today record the marks of Master Pewterers from then until the beginning of the 19th century when the Company no longer exercised the power to enforce this regulation. These plates provide a unique record of pewterers of the period containing over 1,000 individual marks and are of great historical value.
The Worshipful Company of Pewterers dates from the medieval period, with the earliest documented reference dating from 1348. The Guild ranks No 16 in the pecking order of over 100 City of London Livery Companies. The Company’s website provides some fascinating historical background as well as the role of the Company today.
The Fifteen Minute Challenge
- Areas of the map beyond the boundaries of the focal subject, likely part of Guyzance Township, are left blank. This identifies it as part of an Old County Series map at a scale of 25 inches to a mile which were introduced from 1854, early copies of which were available hand coloured. The focal area appears to be Brainshaugh Farm.
- Handwritten notes in places refer to areas of land 'In old Grass in 1892'.
- The map contains printed 3 digit parcel numbers but any parcel acreages have been added by hand. Parcel Numbers, (which we know now as field numbers calculated from Ordnance Survey grid references), were historically allocated by the parish and date from the maps produced for the Tithe Commutations in 1834. Before 1879 acreages and land use/cropping figures were recorded in a separate book, similar to the undated handwritten schedule on the map.  After the mid-1880s the books were scrapped and acreages printed on the maps instead.
Guyzance chapel was originally part of Guyzance, or Brainshaugh, Priory of St Wilfrid, which was founded between 1147-1152 by Richard Tison for Premonstratensian Canonesses. It is thought to have been abandoned at the time of the Black Death and later became a cell for the Premonstratensian Abbey at Alnwick. It was dissolved in 1539.
Historic England also contains a record for Brainshaugh House, list no 1153504 first registered in 1969.
House. Late C16 or early C17; south front remodelled in second quarter of C18; enlarged and given new west front 1805 for Thomas Cook. Squared stone, of near-ashlar quality in 1805 parts, except for rubble of east elevation and roughly-squared stone of east part of north elevation; cut dressings. Lakeland slate roof to main block; kitchen wing with pantiles except for asbestos sheets on east end; stacks rebuilt in brick on old bases. Main block formerly L-plan, enlarged to a square in 1805; kitchen wing to south- east.
1597 Gray, Annes Brainshaugh
1672 Thompson, Arthure Brainshaugh inventory
1678 Osmonderley, Mary Brainshaugh will, inventory, bond
1706 Barker, Edward Brainshaugh will, wrapper, will bond
1736 Davison, Thomas Brainshaugh yeoman will, will bond
1748 Cook, William Brainshaugh gentleman will
1769 Beall, Ralph Brainshaugh yeoman will
1775 Cook, Edward Brainshaugh esquire will
1786 Tomling, Henry Brainshaugh yeoman administration bond
1792 Cook, Thomas Brainshaugh gentleman administration bond
1792 Tate, Margaret Brainshaugh administration bond
1814, 1815 Graham, Richard Brainshaugh farmer will, will bond
1786, 1824 Tomlin, Henry Brainshaugh yeoman court docs/admin bond
1826 Robson, George Brainshaugh farmer will
1832 Tate, John Brainshaugh esquire will
1834 Garrett, Benjamin Brainshaugh husbandman will
1835 Grey, John Brainshaugh husbandman will, codicil
1837 Tate, Maria Brainshaugh will
1841 Bell, William Brainshaugh farmer will, affidavit
1843 Tate, John Brainshaugh esquire administration bond
1856 Bolam, Robert Brainshaugh farmer will, wrapper
Henrye GRAY, husband of Annes Gray, yeoman, of Gisons (Guysone, Gyasings) within the parishe of Brainshaughe within the countye of Northumberlande [Brainshaugh, Northumberland]; also spelt Graye
Date of probate: 1597
The inventory includes the debts of Gray's wife, and was apprised upon her death: among the debts is a fee Gray's widow charged for cleansing the house after the plague, and with which disease it is likely Henrye Gray was infected when he died.
- will, 1 August 1596 (DPR/I/1/1597/G8/1-2)
Will, with list of debts owing to the testator of £1 11s. Endorsed: proved.
- inventory, actual total £50 6s 6d (with account of debts of £3 7s 7d), 14 August 1597 (DPR/I/1/1597/G8/3-4)
[joint] inventory of the goods etc. of Henrye Gray deceased [and of his wife, appraised] at the death of his wife Annes Gray; with list of debts owing by Annes Gray at the time of her death
There were two further households at Brainshaugh, one, very possibly Brainshaugh House, consisting of three individuals, two named Mitcheson, a retired Merchant and his wife, and the third occupant their nephew by the name of Carss.
The second household contained Thomas Dickson an Agricultural Labourer and eight members of his family, the youngest of which was likewise the only child to have been born at Guyzance. Like the Farm House, the occupants of the two other properties were born in Scotland, Berwick upon Tweed or other parishes in north Northumberland, which may indicate they all came to Brainshaugh as a ‘job lot’. Further research may even reveal a degree of relatedness perhaps?
Out of time and still many more sources to search online such as Poll Books, Newspapers etc., but the above is not a bad haul for just 15 minutes of research!
A simple lot with an auction estimate of £80 - £120 has already revealed a wealth of information with no doubt much more to come with further digging. It just goes to show how auction houses are priceless contributors to ‘Public History’ and by no means to be overlooked as respositories of historical sources. I will be tuned into the Railtons auction next Saturday through the-salroom.com (where it is free to register) to watch the map go under the hammer at a safe social distance, it would be great if you could join me – who knows, I might even sneak in a cheeky bid!
 National Library of Scotland. The Ordnance Survey Books of Reference (‘Area Books’, or ‘Parish Area Books’) published between 1855-1882 to accompany the Ordnance Survey’s 25 inch to the mile maps. Free download available here:
To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history. (Cicero)
Sale of land at Moat Farm, Elsdon in 1686
Extract of transcription relating to the 1686 sale of land at Elsdon
Twenty first day of May in the Second year of the reigne
of our sov[er]aigne Lord kinge James the second over England
Annoq[u]e d[om]ini 1686 Between Michaell Elsden of Elsden
in the County of Northumberland yeoman of the one par[t]
and Thomas Pattinson of the Towne of Newcastle upon
Tyne gen[tleman] of the other part are as followeth
Imp[rimis] Hee the said Michael Elsden for him & Mary his wife doth
Coven[an]t to and with the said Thomas Pattinson that he the said
Michael Elsden sha and Mary his wife shall upon demand well
The 'Ogg' family of Aberdeenshire & Oldtown Farm Aboyne
There are, however, other measures that can be tried before resorting solely to the research of others! Broadening the net to catch as many potential relatives as possible and investigating their connections is just one way to ‘ring fence’ your own ancestors. I think of this as gaining access to the required information through the ‘side door’. Then, as now, family connections and the principle of ‘who’ rather than ‘what you know’ often played a pivotal role. Taking a closer look at fellow passengers, communicants of a specific church, or trades, occupations and residents in particular community may just pay dividends.
Johnston Case Study
- Jane Johnston, wife of emigrant James Davison of Alnwick was Andrew Johnston’s sister
- John Johnston was a brother to both Andrew Johnston and James Davison’s wife Jane
- Andrew Johnston was an only child :-/
Using DNA for early ancestor searches
Broaden the ancestral search
Possible Connections between Johnston, Mein & Turnbull Families
‘Banff Mill is a tiny village on the river Teviot, opposite Kelso/Sprouston, but in the parish of Berwickshire which is renowned for its poor or missing records’
- There is nothing left of Banff Mill per se. It certainly is NOT, nor likely ever was, a village.
- It most definitely lies on the River Tweed not the Teviot.
- Far from being opposite Sprouston it is on the same bank.
- It was most definitely in Roxburghshire not Berwickshire.
- Berwickshire is most definitely a County not a parish.
Johnston Baptisms at Wells St Church 1775-1826
- There was a large proportion of skilled tradesmen baptising children at this time and a lack of father’s designated as ‘labourers’. Amongst the occupations recorded, there were a high number of carpenters and stone masons possibly reflecting the Georgian building boom of the pre-Napoleonic era. Several tailors were also noted.
- Only one illegitimate birth, to a couple from Inverness, was noted during the period.
- Although it was a Scotch Church there are very few surnames prefixed with Mc or Mac, suggesting the Scots that made up the congregation were predominantly from the lowland regions.
- A couple of baptisms to the Broadwood family of piano manufacturers were noted in the Wells St records. The Company founder John Broadwood was born in Oldhamstocks, close to the Berwickshire border in 1832. He had moved to London in 1761. It is though that Andrew Johnston worked for the Broadwood firm on moving to London himself. Is there perhaps an earlier family connection between the two families? Although his parentage has not been confirmed, they may have been James Broadwood and Margaret Purvis who married there in 1727. More information can be found on the history of the Company at http://www.broadwood.co.uk/history.html
- There were a further six Johnston couples baptising children at Wells St during this period and shortly afterwards, of which two are of particular interest.
1. Andrew Johnston and Hamilton Bruce
John 6th Oct 1811 Andrew & Hamilton Johnston St Marys Hornsey Carpenter
Hamilton 17th Mar 1814 Andrew & Hamilton Johnston Hornsey Implement Maker
Janet 26th Sep 1816 Andrew & Hamilton Johnston Hornsey Ag Implem. Maker
Andrew 9th Aug 1818 Andrew & Hamilton Johnston Hornsey Ag Implem. Maker
2. Andrew Johnston and Elizabeth Fairbairn
Andrew 25th Feb 1812 Andrew & Elizabeth Johnston Marylebone Carpenter
Elizabeth 1st Feb 1814 Andrew & Elizabeth Johnston St John Westminster Carpenter
Janet 29th Feb 1816 Andrew & Elizabeth Johnston St Johns Westminster Builder
James 20th Nov 1818 Andrew & Elizabeth Johnston All Saints, Isleworth Architect
Margaret 20th Nov 1818 Andrew & Elizabeth Johnston All Saints, Isleworth Architect
And Janet Dods both in this
Parish & craved proclamation in
Order to Marriage They produced
Patrick Jeffrey Cautioner for the man
& Nicol Dods for the woman 
 Scotlands People, Marriage Patrick Johnston & Janet Dodds 1771 ScotlandsPeople_OPR808_000_0020_0235Z