King Edward I, (1239 – 1307), Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots, 52 Ancestors #34

king edward i

Last week, when Valerie Bertinelli was featured on WDYTYA, I whined on Facebook about how jealous I am that not only is there ALWAYS a parking place in front of the library or archives in the series, but the celebrity’s records are always just waiting for them, while, mine, if there at all, are buried so deeply they require an archaeologist to excavate them. 

My husband said to me, “You just have to find a gateway ancestor, like Valerie, and then your pedigree will be done too.”  I told my husband that all my gateway ancestor would lead to is likely a prison cell.  My ancestors, at least some of them, were none too well behaved and let’s say that sometimes the only records they left were related to prosecution of some type.  Thank heavens they at least did that!!!  My family is always colorful, and interesting, and infamous…but seldom famous. 

As you all know, I write one of these “52 Ancestors” articles every week, generally late at night, and I often mutter rather unspeakable things at Amy Johnson Crow in the process.  Let’s just say that doing this series forces you to go back through your records, all of your records, for each ancestor, and to be sure they are in order.  Now, on the surface this is a good and admiral thing to be doing, but in the middle of the night, it just doesn’t seem so.

This week, I was working on my Bolton and Clarkson lines out of Claiborne County, TN and I noticed a rather large article on the Brooks family that my now deceased cousin, Bill Nevils, had written.  Bill was a retired Episcopal Priest, which is a story all by itself, especially being from Claiborne County in the Bible Belt south.  After his retirement, he moved home to “take care” of his mother, Thelma.  Now I met Thelma and Bill some years ago and let me tell you, I’m not at all sure it was Bill taking care of Thelma.  When we arrived, this little 90 year old lady had just finished mowing the yard with a push mower (and not because Bill wouldn’t, because she insisted) and came in to make lunch for us, and not one single hair out of place.  Fittingly, Bill had written the article about the Brooks family in tribute to his mother, Thelma.  Little did we know that Thelma would outlive her only child.  Not only that, after Bill’s death, she wrote me a lovely letter after I sent her a sympathy card.  She was celebrating Bill’s life, not grieving his death, although of course she was saddened by his passing. 

So you can understand why, when I saw this article, I paused to read it.  I mean, I’m already down to about 4 hours sleep so what are a few more lost minutes.  I was reading Bill’s lovely tribute to his mother and just kept reading when the article, of course, shifted to genealogy.  It was a “People’s History Book,” after all.  I should have stopped reading, but I was tired and just kept skimming.  I read that Thelma was descended from King Edward I.  I thought to myself, “Oh, Thelma is related to Valerie Bertinelli.”  And I kept reading, when I started recognizing familiar names.  And then more familiar names, and then I realized that the family that Thelma descended from that descended from King Edward I was my family too.  I read it a second time, because I was sure I had misread it.  Then a third time.  Then I went to bed, because I was sure I was hallucinating due to lack of sleep.

I read this again the next day, in broad daylight, after at least 4 hours sleep, and it said the same thing. 

Bill was a fastidious researcher.  He listed sources.  I checked them.  Bill, it seems, was right.  I was shocked and couldn’t quite believe my eyes.

And the great irony was that this line, this article that felled the wall, was right on my own shelf AND HAD BEEN for years.  Just like those celebrities at the archives, just waiting for me with no parking space needed.  I have to retract my whine. 

I have suddenly, for some unknown reason, developed a fascination with King Edward I, British history and royal genealogy.  Edward’s father, Henry III is at the bottom of this first tree and the top of the second tree.

brit royals 2 crop

brit royals 1 crop

How I wish I had known this before I went to England last year.  I skipped Westminster Abbey entirely and that is where Edward is buried, and was crowned.  I did visit Westminster Abbey in 1970 when I was in London, and I has absolutely NO IDEA that I had any history of any kind in England, let alone an ancestor buried in Westminster Abbey.

westminster abbey

What’s worse yet, is that Edward’s  coronation “chair” is in Westminster, and I could have seen it. 

edward's coronation chair

King Edward’s Chair (also known as St. Edward’s Chair), the throne on which English and British sovereigns have been seated at the moment of coronation, is housed within the Abbey and has been used at every coronation since 1308. From 1301 to 1996 (except for a short time in 1950 when it was temporarily stolen by Scottish nationalists), the chair also housed the Stone of Scone upon which the kings of Scotland are, or were, traditionally crowned. Although the Stone is now kept in Scotland, in Edinburgh Castle, at future coronations it is intended that the Stone will be returned to St. Edward’s Chair for use during the coronation ceremony.

The Stone of Scone would have been located beneath the seat of the chair.  A replica is shown below.

stone of scone

The photo below is of the coronation chair, before the stone was re-kidnapped and then broken in half.

coronation chair with stone

The stone and the coronation chair is show in this drawing from Westminster Abbey in 1855.  The Stone of Scone has a rich and mysterious history all of its own. 

coronation chair 1855

King Edward was born during the night of June 17/18, 1239 at Westminster Palace and died on July 7, 1307, the son of Henry III of England and Eleanor of Provence

He married Eleanor of Castille in 1254, between October 13th and November 1st, in the church of the monastery of Las Huelgas at Burgos, the capital city of Old Castille in northern Spain, shown below.  This was an arranged marriage.  Edward was only 14 years old and Eleanor 12 or 13, although their first child would be stillborn the following year. 

las huelgas

He and Eleanor perhaps walked in these protected cloisters, before or after their marriage, discussing their dreams for the future.

las huelgas cloister

Eleanor died on November 28, 1290 at in the house of Richard de Weston, the foundations of which can still be seen near Harby parish church.  Her body was taken to Westminster Abbey for burial where she and Edward were crowned August 19, 1274.

westminster abbey front

Eleanor had survived 16 pregnancies, but likely died of malaria or complications thereof.

Tomb effigy of Eleanor of Castile, Westminster Abbey

Grieving his Eleanor terribly, he had twelve “Eleanor Crosses” constructed at each location that her body stopped on its way from Harby, Nottinghamshire, to London for burial, including Charring Cross in London.  Three remain today, although none entirely.  There were originally massive crosses on the top of each monument.  The one at Northampton is shown below.

eleanor cross

After her body had been embalmed, which in the 13th century involved evisceration (removal of some of the internal organs, including the bowel,) Eleanor’s viscera were buried in Lincoln cathedral, and Edward placed a duplicate of the Westminster tomb there. The Lincoln tomb’s original stone chest survives; its effigy was destroyed in the 17th century and replaced with a 19th-century copy.  I must admit, having an ancestor with parts buried in two locations is a first for me.

eleanor tomb lincoln cathedral

Eleanor’s tomb in Lincoln Cathedral.

Edward and Eleanor had the following children:

  1. Daughter, stillborn in May 1255 in Bordeaux, France. Buried in Dominican Priory Church, Bordeaux, France.
  2. Katherine (before 17 June 1264 – 5 September 1264) and buried in Westminster Abbey.
  3. Joanna (January 1265 – before 7 September 1265), buried in Westminster Abbey.
  4. John (13 July 1266 – 3 August 1271), died at Wallingford, in the custody of his granduncle, Richard, Earl of Cornwall. Buried in Westminster Abbey.
  5. Henry (before 6 May 1268 – 16 October 1274), buried in Westminster Abbey.
  6. Eleanor (18 June 1269 – 29 August 1298). She was long betrothed to Alfonso III of Aragon, who died in 1291 before the marriage could take place, and in 1293 she married Count Henry III of Bar, by whom she had one son and one daughter.
  7. Daughter (28 May 1271, Palestine – 5 September 1271), probably buried in Dominican Priory Church, Bordeaux, France. Some sources call her Juliana, but there is no contemporary evidence for her name.
  8. Joan (April 1272 – 7 April 1307). She married (1) in 1290 Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford, who died in 1295, and (2) in 1297 Ralph de Monthermer, 1st Baron Monthermer. She had four children by each marriage.
  9. Alphonso (24 November 1273 – 19 August 1284), Earl of Chester.
  10. Margaret (15 March 1275 – after 1333). In 1290 she married John II of Brabant, who died in 1318. They had one son.
  11. Berengaria (1 May 1276 – before 27 June 1278), buried in Westminster Abbey.
  12. Daughter (December 1277/January 1278 – January 1278), buried in Westminster Abbey. There is no contemporary evidence for her name.
  13. Mary (11 March 1279 – 29 May 1332), a Benedictine nun in Amesbury.
  14. Son, born in 1280 or 1281 who died very shortly after birth. There is no contemporary evidence for his name.
  15. Elizabeth (7 August 1282 – 5 May 1316). She married (1) in 1297 John I, Count of Holland, (2) in 1302 Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford & 3rd Earl of Essex. The first marriage was childless, but by Bohun, Elizabeth had ten children.
  16. Edward II of England, also known as Edward of Caernarvon (25 April 1284 – 21 September 1327). In 1308 he married Isabella of France. They had two sons and two daughters.

My ancestor was their 15th child, Elizabeth.

Edward and Eleanor as Parents

It has been suggested that Eleanor and Edward were more devoted to each other than to their children. As king and queen, however, it was impossible for them to spend much time in one place, and when they were very young, the children could not travel constantly with their parents. The children had a household staffed with attendants carefully chosen for competence and loyalty, with whom the parents corresponded regularly. The children lived in this comfortable establishment until they were about seven years old; then they began to accompany their parents, if at first only on important occasions. By their teens they were with the king and queen much of the time. In 1290, Eleanor sent one of her scribes to join her children’s household, presumably to help with their education.

In 1306 Edward sharply scolded Margerie de Haustede, Eleanor’s former lady in waiting who was then in charge of his children by his second wife, because Margerie had not kept him well informed of their health. Edward also issued regular instructions for the care and guidance of these children.

Two incidents cited to imply Eleanor’s lack of interest in her children are easily explained in the contexts of royal childrearing in general, and of particular events surrounding Edward and Eleanor’s family. When their six-year-old son Henry lay dying at Guildford in 1274, neither parent made the short journey from London to see him; but Henry was tended by Edward’s mother Eleanor of Provence. The boy had lived with his grandmother while his parents were absent on crusade, and since he was barely two years old when they left England in 1270, he could not have had many worthwhile memories of them at the time they returned to England in August 1274, only weeks before his last illness and death. In other words, the dowager queen was a more familiar and comforting presence to her grandson than his parents would have been at that time, and it was in all respects better that she tended him then.

Similarly, Edward and Eleanor allowed her mother, Joan of Dammartin, to raise their daughter Joan in Ponthieu (1274–78). This implies no parental lack of interest in the girl; the practice of fostering noble children in other households of sufficient dignity was not unknown and Eleanor’s mother was, of course, dowager queen of Castile. Her household was thus safe and dignified, but it does appear that Edward and Eleanor had cause to regret their generosity in letting Joan of Dammartin foster young Joan. When the girl reached England in 1278, aged six, it turned out that she was badly spoiled. She was spirited and at times defiant in childhood, and in adulthood remained a handful for Edward, defying his plans for a prestigious second marriage for her by secretly marrying one of her late first husband’s squires. When the marriage was revealed in 1297 because Joan was pregnant, Edward was enraged that his dignity had been insulted by her marriage to a commoner of no importance. Joan, at twenty-five, reportedly defended her conduct to her father by saying that nobody saw anything wrong if a great earl married a poor woman, so there could be nothing wrong with a countess marrying a promising young man. Whether or not her retort ultimately changed his mind, Edward restored to Joan all the lands he had confiscated when he learned of her marriage, and accepted her new husband as a son-in-law in good standing. Joan marked her restoration to favour by having masses celebrated for the soul of her mother Eleanor.

Looks like spoiled children are nothing new to our life and times.  I would simply view her as “spirited” or perhaps she simply took after her father who, it seems, had a bit of a temper himself.

King Edward I

king edward i drawing

Drawing of Edward I taken from the various carvings.  He seemed to be a very handsome man, but his drooping eyelid was not portrayed in the drawing.

Edward I was known as Edward Longshanks and the “Hammer of the Scots.” The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father’s reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons.  In 1259, Edward briefly sided against his father with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford.

After reconciliation with his father, however, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons’ War. After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was hostage to the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and joined the fight against Simon de Montfort. Montfort was defeated at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, and within two years the rebellion was extinguished. With England pacified, Edward left on a crusade to the Holy Land.

The crusade accomplished little, and Edward was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster on 19 August.

He spent much of his reign reforming royal administration and common law. Through an extensive legal inquiry, Edward investigated the tenure of various feudal liberties, while the law was reformed through a series of statutes regulating criminal and property law. Increasingly, however, Edward’s attention was drawn towards military affairs. After suppressing a minor rebellion in Wales in 1276–77, Edward responded to a second rebellion in 1282–83 with a full-scale war of conquest. After a successful campaign, Edward subjected Wales to English rule, built a series of castles and towns in the countryside and settled them with Englishmen.

Next, his efforts were directed towards Scotland. Initially invited to arbitrate a succession dispute, Edward claimed feudal suzerainty over the kingdom. In the war that followed, the Scots persevered, even though the English seemed victorious at several points. At the same time there were problems at home. In the mid-1290s, extensive military campaigns required high levels of taxation, and Edward met with both lay and ecclesiastical opposition. These crises were initially averted, but issues remained unsettled. When the King died in 1307, he left to his son, Edward II, an ongoing war with Scotland and many financial and political problems.

Edward I was a tall man for his era, hence the nickname “Longshanks”. He was temperamental, and this, along with his height, made him an intimidating man, and he often instilled fear in his contemporaries. Nevertheless, he held the respect of his subjects for the way he embodied the medieval ideal of kingship, as a soldier, an administrator and a man of faith. Modern historians are divided on their assessment of the King: while some have praised him for his contribution to the law and administration, others have criticized him for his uncompromising attitude towards his nobility.

Currently, Edward I is credited with many accomplishments during his reign, including restoring royal authority after the reign of Henry III, establishing Parliament as a permanent institution and thereby also a functional system for raising taxes, and reforming the law through statutes. At the same time, he is also often criticized for other actions, such as his brutal conduct towards the Scots, and issuing the Edict of Expulsion in 1290 by which the Jews were expelled from England. The Edict remained in effect for the rest of the Middle Ages, and it would be over 350 years until it was formally overturned under Oliver Cromwell in 1656.

Edward as a Young Man

Edward was born at the Palace of Westminster (shown below) during the night of June 17/18, 1239, to King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence.  Ironically, I visited this location in 1970 as a student and bought a charm of the clock tower, known as Big Ben, which I still have.

westminster palace

Edward was an Anglo-Saxon name, and was not common among the aristocracy of England after the Norman Conquest, but Henry was devoted to the veneration of Edward the Confessor, and decided to name his firstborn son after the saint.

Edward was in the care of Hugh Giffard – father of the future Chancellor Godfrey Giffard – until Bartholomew Pecche took over at Giffard’s death in 1246.

There were concerns about Edward’s health as a child, and he fell ill in 1246, 1247, and 1251.

His illnesses apparently didn’t impair his health, as he became an imposing man; at 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) he towered over most of his contemporaries, and hence perhaps his epithet “Longshanks”, meaning “long legs” or “long shins”. The historian Michael Prestwich states that his “long arms gave him an advantage as a swordsman, long thighs one as a horseman. In youth, his curly hair was blond; in maturity it darkened, and in old age it turned white. His speech, despite a lisp, was said to be persuasive.”

Edward’s features were marked by piercing blue eyes and a drooping left eyelid, a trait that he inherited from his father and is depicted in the 14th century manuscript, below, where he is shown with Eleanor.

edward eleanor manuscript

In 1254, English fears of a Castilian invasion of the English province of Gascony induced Edward’s father to arrange a politically expedient marriage between his fourteen-year-old son and Eleanor, the half-sister of King Alfonso X of Castile.

Eleanor and Edward were married on or about November 1, 1254 in the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas in Castile. As part of the marriage agreement, the young prince received grants of land worth 15,000 marks a year. Though the endowments King Henry made were sizeable, they offered Edward little independence. He had already received Gascony as early as 1249, but Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, had been appointed as royal lieutenant the year before and, consequently, drew its income, so in practice Edward derived neither authority nor revenue from this province. The grant he received in 1254 included most of Ireland, and much land in Wales and England, including the earldom of Chester, but the King retained much control over the land in question, particularly in Ireland, so Edward’s power was limited there as well, and the King derived most of the income from those lands.

From 1254 to 1257, Edward was under the influence of his mother’s relatives, known as the Savoyards, the most notable of whom was Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle. After 1257, Edward increasingly fell in with the Poitevin or Lusignan faction – the half-brothers of his father Henry III – led by such men as William de Valence. There were tales of unruly and violent conduct by Edward and his Lusignan kinsmen, which raised questions about the royal heir’s personal qualities. The next years would be formative on Edward’s character.

Back in England, early in 1262, Edward fell out with some of his former Lusignan allies over financial matters. The next year, King Henry sent him on a campaign in Wales against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, with only limited results. Around the same time, Simon de Montfort, who had been out of the country since 1261, returned to England and reignited the baronial reform movement.  It was at this pivotal moment, as the King seemed ready to resign to the barons’ demands, that Edward began to take control of the situation. Whereas he had so far been unpredictable and equivocating, from this point on he remained firmly devoted to protecting his father’s royal rights.  He reunited with some of the men he had alienated the year before – and retook massive Windsor Castle, built by William the Conqueror, Edward’s 4th great-grandfather, shown below, from the rebels.

Through the arbitration of King Louis IX of France, an agreement was made between the two parties. This so-called Mise of Amiens was largely favorable to the royalist side, and laid the seeds for further conflict.

Wars and Crusades

Between 1262 and 1267, the Second Baron’s War took place in England.  In the end, after being held hostage for nearly a year, the Royalists were victorious and Edward began to plan for his Crusade to the Holy Land.

Edward took the crusader’s cross in an elaborate ceremony on 24 June 1268, with his brother Edmund and cousin and childhood friend, Henry of Almain.

With the country pacified, the greatest impediment to the project was providing sufficient finances. King Louis IX of France, who was the leader of the crusade, provided a loan of about £17,500. This, however, was not enough; the rest had to be raised through a tax on the laity, which had not been levied since 1237. In May 1270, Parliament granted a tax of a twentieth, in exchange for which the King agreed to reconfirm Magna Carta, and to impose restrictions on Jewish money lending.  On  August 20, Edward sailed from Dover for France. Historians have not determined the size of the force with any certainty, but Edward probably brought with him around 225 knights and all together less than 1000 men.

Originally, the Crusaders intended to relieve the beleaguered Christian stronghold of Acre, but Louis had been diverted to Tunis. The French King and his brother Charles of Anjou, who had made himself king of Sicily, decided to attack the emirate to establish a stronghold in North Africa. The plans failed when the French forces were struck by an epidemic which, on  August 25th, took the life of King Louis himself. By the time Edward arrived at Tunis, Charles had already signed a treaty with the emir, and there was little else to do but return to Sicily. The crusade was postponed until next spring, but a devastating storm off the coast of Sicily dissuaded Charles of Anjou and Louis’s successor Philip III from any further campaigning. Edward decided to continue alone, and on May 9, 1271, he finally landed at Acre.

crusade operations

Operations during the Crusade of Edward I.

By then, the situation in the Holy Land was a precarious one. Jerusalem had fallen in 1244, and Acre was now the center of the Christian state. The Muslim states were on the offensive under the Mamluk leadership of Baibars, and were now threatening Acre itself. Though Edward’s men were an important addition to the garrison, they stood little chance against Baibars’ superior forces, and an initial raid at nearby St Georges-de-Lebeyne in June was largely futile.  The area is shown below.

crusade holyland

An embassy to the Ilkhan Abaqa (1234–1282) of the Mongols helped bring about an attack on Aleppo in the north, which helped to distract Baibar’s forces. In November, Edward led a raid on Qaqun, which could have served as a bridgehead to Jerusalem, but both the Mongol invasion and the attack on Qaqun failed. Things now seemed increasingly desperate, and in May 1272 Hugh III of Cyprus, who was the nominal king of Jerusalem, signed a ten-year truce with Baibars.  Edward was initially defiant, but an attack by a Muslim assassin in June forced him to abandon any further campaigning. Although he managed to kill the assassin, he was struck in the arm by a dagger feared to be poisoned, and became severely weakened over the following months.

It was not until September 24th that Edward left Acre. Arriving in Sicily, he was met with the news that his father had died on November 16th. Edward was deeply saddened by this news, but rather than hurrying home at once, he made a leisurely journey northwards. This was partly due to his health still being poor, but also due to a lack of urgency. The political situation in England was stable after the mid-century upheavals, and Edward was proclaimed king at his father’s death, rather than at his own coronation, as had until then been customary.

In Edward’s absence, the country was governed by a royal council, led by Robert Burnell. The new king embarked on an overland journey through Italy and France, where among other things he visited the pope in Rome and suppressed a rebellion in Gascony. On August 2, 1274 he returned to England, and was crowned with Eleanor on August 19th in Westminster Abbey in London.

The Round Table

Edward had a reputation for a fierce temper, and he could be intimidating; one story tells of how the Dean of St Paul’s, wishing to confront Edward over the high level of taxation in 1295, fell down and died once he was in the King’s presence.

When Edward of Caernarfon demanded an earldom for his favorite Gaveston, the King erupted in anger and supposedly tore out handfuls of his son’s hair. Some of his contemporaries considered Edward frightening, particularly in his early days. The Song of Lewes in 1264, a very enlightening, if difficult to read poem translated from Latin about Edward, described him as a leopard, an animal regarded as particularly powerful and unpredictable.

Whereunto shall the noble Edward be compared? Perhaps he will be rightly called a leopard. If we divide the name it becomes lion and pard; lion, because we saw that he was not slow to attack the strongest places, fearing the onslaught of none, with the boldest valour making a raid amidst the castles, and wherever he goes succeeding as it were at his wish, as though like Alexander he would speedily subdue the whole world, if Fortune’s moving wheel would stand still for ever; wherein let the highest forthwith know that he will fall, and that he who reigns as lord will reign but a little time. And this has, it is clear, befallen the noble Edward, who, it is agreed, has fallen from his unstable position. A lion by pride and fierceness, he is by inconstancy and changeableness a pard, changing his word and promise, cloaking himself by pleasant speech. When he is in a strait he promises whatever you wish, but as soon as he has escaped he renounces his promise. Let Gloucester be witness, where, when free from his difficulty, he at once revoked what he had sworn. The treachery or falsehood whereby he is advanced he calls prudence; the way whereby he arrives whither he will, crooked though it be, is regarded as straight; wrong gives him pleasure and is called right ; whatever he likes he says is lawful, and he thinks that he is released from law, as though he were greater than the King. For every king is ruled by the laws which he makes; King Saul is rejected because he broke the laws; and David is related to have been punished as soon as he acted contrary to the law; hence, therefore, let him who makes laws, learn that he cannot rule who observes not the law; nor ought they, whose concern it is, to make this man king.

Despite these frightening character traits, however, Edward’s contemporaries considered him an able, even an ideal, king. Though not loved by his subjects, he was feared and respected. He met contemporary expectations of kingship in his role as an able, determined soldier and in his embodiment of shared chivalric ideals. In religious observance he also fulfilled the expectations of his age: he attended chapel regularly and gave alms generously.  He was also a model, loyal, husband in a time when model husband did not exist and loyalty was not expected in a royal marriage.

glastonbury abbey

Edward took a keen interest in the stories of King Arthur, which were highly popular in Europe during his reign. In 1278 he visited Glastonbury Abbey, in ruins today, shown above, to open what was then believed to be the tomb of Arthur and Guinevere, recovering “Arthur’s crown” from Llywelyn after the conquest of North Wales, while his new castles drew upon the Arthurian myths in their design and location.

glastonbury abbey 1900

Glastonbury Abbey Photochrom photo taken about 1900, above.

glastonbury king arthur tomb

He held “Round Table” events in 1284 and 1302, involving tournaments and feasting, and chroniclers compared him and the events at his court to Arthur. In some cases Edward appears to have used his interest in the Arthurian myths to serve his own political interests, including legitimizing his rule in Wales and discrediting the Welsh belief that Arthur might return as their political savior.

edward round table

This round table was made by Edward and is now hung in Winchester Castle.


Soon after assuming the throne, Edward set about restoring order and re-establishing royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father. To accomplish this, he immediately ordered an extensive change of administrative personnel. The most important of these was the appointment of Robert Burnell as chancellor, a man who would remain in the post until 1292 as one of the King’s closest associates.

Edward then replaced most local officials, such as the escheators and sheriffs. This last measure was done in preparation for an extensive inquest covering all of England, that would hear complaints about abuse of power by royal officers. The inquest produced the set of so-called Hundred Rolls, from the administrative subdivision of the hundred.

The second purpose of the inquest was to establish what land and rights the crown had lost during the reign of Henry III.

The Hundred Rolls formed the basis for the later legal inquiries called the Quo warranto proceedings. The purpose of these inquiries was to establish by what warrant various liberties were held. If the defendant could not produce a royal license to prove the grant of the liberty, then it was the crown’s opinion – based on the writings of the influential thirteenth-century legal scholar Bracton – that the liberty should revert to the king.

By enacting the Statute of Gloucester in 1278 the King challenged baronial rights through a revival of the system of general eyres (royal justices to go on tour throughout the land) and through a significant increase in the number of pleas of quo warranto to be heard by such eyres.

edward long cross penny

Long cross penny with portrait of Edward.

This caused great consternation among the aristocracy, who insisted that long use in itself constituted license. A compromise was eventually reached in 1290, whereby a liberty was considered legitimate as long as it could be shown to have been exercised since the coronation of King Richard I, in 1189. Royal gains from the Quo warranto proceedings were insignificant; few liberties were returned to the King. Edward had nevertheless won a significant victory, in clearly establishing the principle that all liberties essentially emanated from the crown.

edward groat

Groat of Edward (4 pences).

The 1290 statute of Quo warranto was only one part of a wider legislative effort, which was one of the most important contributions of Edward I’s reign. This era of legislative action had started already at the time of the baronial reform movement; the Statute of Marlborough (1267) contained elements both of the Provisions of Oxford and the Dictum of Kenilworth. The compilation of the Hundred Rolls was followed shortly after by the issue of Westminster I (1275), which asserted the royal prerogative and outlined restrictions on liberties. In the Mortmain (1279), the issue was grants of land to the church. The first clause of Westminster II (1285), known as De donis conditionalibus, dealt with family settlement of land, and entails. Merchants (1285) established firm rules for the recovery of debts, while Winchester (1285) dealt with peacekeeping on a local level. Quia emptores (1290) – issued along with Quo warranto – set out to remedy land ownership disputes resulting from alienation of land by subinfeudation or subletting their land. The age of the great statutes largely ended with the death of Robert Burnell in 1292.

Wars and Castles

Wars in medieval England seem to be a way of life.

From 1276 to1294, conflicts erupted in Wales.  They ebbed and flowed, and were politically motivated as most wars are.  In 1277, 15,000 English forcefully invaded Wales on a punitive mission.  Of those 15,000, 9000 were Welsh.  The Welsh surrendered.  However, in 1282, war broke out again and episodic rebellions would occur until 1294.  In 1284, the Statute of Rhuddlan incorporated the principality of Wales unto England.  Edward then focused on the English settlement of Wales and building castles.

An extensive project of castle-building was initiated under the direction of Master James of Saint George, a prestigious architect whom Edward had met in Savoy on his return from the crusade. These included the castles of Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech, intended to act both as fortresses and royal palaces for the King.

caernarfon castle

Caernarfon Castle where Edward’s son, Edward II, was born.

Aerial view Beaumaris Castle (CD34) Anglesey North Castles Historic Sites

Beaumaris Castle

Harlech Castle - A general view of the castle

Harlech Castle

edward's conwy castle

Conwy Castle

Many of these new towns, built for the English to settle in Wales, were extensively walled, such as Conwy.  The Conwy Castle walls extended to be the actual city walls.

Conwy Castle mockup

This artists rendition reconstructs Conwy Castle and the village in the 13th century.  You can see the remainder of the city walls extending from the castle below to the left, in 2013.

conwy wall

Conwy Castle, with its massive walls was extremely well fortified.

conwy front

Edward’s program of castle building in Wales heralded the introduction of the widespread use of arrowslits in castle walls across Europe, drawing on Eastern influences.

You can see an example, behind my left shoulder, in the ramparts of Conwy Castle.


When I visited Conwy Castle in the fall of 2013, I had no idea that I was connected in to this castle in quite this way.  I’m incredibly glad, now, that I visited when given the opportunity.

Also a product of the Crusades was the introduction of the concentric castle, and four of the eight castles Edward founded in Wales followed this design.

conwy distance

The castles made a clear, imperial statement about Edward’s intentions to rule North Wales permanently, and drew on imagery associated with the Byzantine Roman Empire and King Arthur in an attempt to build legitimacy for his new regime.

In 1284, King Edward had his son Edward (later King Edward II) born at Caernarfon Castle, probably to make a deliberate statement about the new political order in Wales. David Powel, a 16th-century clergyman, suggested that the baby was offered to the Welsh as a prince “that was borne in Wales and could speake never a word of English”, but there is no evidence to support this account. In 1301 at Lincoln, the young Edward became the first English prince to be invested with the title of Prince of Wales, when King Edward granted him the Earldom of Chester and lands across North Wales. The King seems to have hoped that this would help in the pacification of the region, and that it would give his son more financial independence.

However, even today when talking with the Welsh, there is clearly still tension between the two countries, or parts of the UK.  One Welchman told us that all he knew about English/Welsh history is that there were “bloody English castles all over the place, but we still speak Welsh here.”

The Great Cause of Scotland

Edward seems to have trouble keeping all of the neighbors under control.  Scotland paid homage to England in 1278, but by the 1280s, the question of succession in Scotland came to a head.  As a result of a long series of royal deaths, Edward’s then one year old son, Edward, was betrothed to the three year old Margaret, Maid of Norway, heir to the throne of Scotland after her parent’s deaths.  This brought Scotland clearly under the rule of England.  Her parents died, then she died in 1290.  Fourteen men claimed the heirless throne, but it came down to John Balloil and Robert de Brus.

balloil homage to edward

Edward was asked to mediate this dispute, which he did in favor of John.  However, Edward continued to assert his authority over Scotland, especially militarily.  The Scots took issue with this, especially as Edward pushed the issue, which led to Edward invading Scotland and taking the town of Berwick in a particularly bloody attack. 

At the Battle of Dunbar, in 1296, Scottish resistance was defeated.  Stirling castle surrendered – “the garrison having run away and left none but the porter, who did surrender the keys.”

However, while in Scotland, to add insult to injury, Edward confiscated the Stone of Scone, known as the Stone of Destiny, the Scottish coronation stone and brought it back to Westminster, placing it in King Edward’s chair.  The message to Scotland was clear – they were subjects of England.

Money Issues

Constant warfare drained the coffers and caused Edward to have to raise funds by levying taxes.  In 1275, he permanently taxed wool.

The Jews were another source of income as many English were indebted to and despised them. Christianity forbade money-lending, so the Jews were the financiers of English people.  In 1275, Edward outlawed usury and encouraged Jews to take up other occupations.  In 1279, he arrested all heads of Jewish households and executed about 300.  They still did not convert, and in 1290, following the lead of other European leaders such as France and Brittany, he expelled them in the Edict of Expulsion.  This generated revenue through royal appropriation of Jewish loans and property.

In 1295, Edward summoned 2 knights from each county and 2 men from each burgh to attend Parliament, setting the stage to collect lay subsidies on the entire population.  Lay subsidies were collected on a fraction of the moveable property of all laymen and were occasionally collected for special purposes during a King’s reign.  Henry III collected 4 during his reign and Edward collected 9 in total; three before 1294 and 4 between 1294-1297.  In addition, he seized wool and hides and the burden of prises (appropriation of food.)

Warfare is expensive.

Edward became very unpopular and his policies created a great deal of resentment.  However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the clerical subsidies ordered in 1294 which demanded half of all clerical (church) revenues.

In 1295, a papal bull from the Pope prohibited the Catholic churches from paying taxes to lay authorities without explicit consent from the Pope.  A compromise was reached which allowed clergymen to pay the tax “in cases or pressing urgency.”

In 1297, the Earl of Norfolk objected to the King’s right to demand military service.  He argued that the King’s ability to demand service was limited to those serving with him, but that he could not sail to Flanders, for example, and send his subjects to Gascony.  In July, Roger Bigod and Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Constable of England drew up a series of complaints known as The Remonstrances which included required military service and extortive levels of taxation.  Humphrey de Bohun was the father of Humphrey de Bohun, the 4th Earl of Hereford, born about 1276 who married King Edward’s daughter, Elizabeth in 1302, and from whom I descend.  Edward responded by levying another lay subsidy which was particularly provocative.

The King left for Flanders with a greatly reduced force and the country seemed on the brink of civil war. 

Ironically, it was the Scots that saved England.  The defeat by the Scots at the Battle of Stirling Bridge (below) provided a threat to the homeland and united the English, the King and the magnates in a common cause.

battle of stirling bridge

Edward signed a confirmation of the Magna Carta called Confirmatio cartarum (in Norman French) and the nobility agreed to serve with the King on the campaign in Scotland.  Edward’s father, Henry III, signed the original 1225 Magna Carta document, below.

1225 magna carta

Back to Scotland

The situation in Scotland had seemed resolved when Edward left the country in 1296, but resistance soon emerged under the leadership of the strategically gifted and charismatic William Wallace.  On September 11, 1297, a large English force under the leadership of John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, and Hugh de Cressingham was routed by a much smaller Scottish army led by Wallace and Andrew Moray at Stirling Bridge. The defeat sent shockwaves into England, and preparations for a retaliatory campaign started immediately. Soon after Edward returned from Flanders, he headed north.

stirling bridge today

Stirling Bridge with the Abbey Craig today.

On July 22, 1298, in the only major battle he had fought since Evesham in 1265, Edward defeated Wallace’s forces at the Battle of Falkirk by utilizing longbows, creating gaps in the Scot’s defenses allowing the cavalry to charge.

longbow practice

Edward, however, was not able to take advantage of the momentum, and the next year the Scots managed to recapture Stirling Castle. Even though Edward campaigned in Scotland both in 1300, when he successfully besieged Caerlaverock Castle and in 1301, the Scots refused to engage in open battle again, preferring instead to raid the English countryside in smaller groups.

caelaverick castle

Caelaverick Castle in ruins, about 1900.  The castle, shown from the air today, is triangularly shaped and was built in the 1200s.

caelaverick castle aerial

The defeated Scots, secretly urged on by the French, appealed to the pope to assert a claim of overlordship to Scotland in place of the English. His papal bull addressed to King Edward in these terms was firmly rejected on Edward’s behalf by the Barons’ Letter of 1301. The English managed to subdue the country by other means, however. In 1303, a peace agreement was reached between England and France, effectively breaking up the Franco-Scottish alliance.

Robert the Bruce, the grandson of the claimant to the crown in 1291, had sided with the English in the winter of 1301–02. By 1304, most of the other nobles of the country had also pledged their allegiance to Edward, and this year the English also managed to re-take Stirling Castle.

stirling castle 1693

Stirling Castle drawn in 1693.

A great propaganda victory was achieved in 1305 when Wallace was betrayed by Sir John de Menteith and turned over to the English, who had him taken to London where he was publicly executed. With Scotland largely under English control, Edward installed Englishmen and collaborating Scots to govern the country.

The situation changed again on February 10, 1306, when Robert the Bruce murdered his rival John Comyn and a few weeks later, on 25 March, had himself crowned King of Scotland by Isobel, sister of the Earl of Buchan. Bruce now embarked on a campaign to restore Scottish independence, and this campaign took the English by surprise.

King Edward was suffering ill health by this time, and instead of leading an expedition himself, he gave different military commands to Aymer de Valence and Henry Percy, while the main royal army was led by the Prince of Wales. The English initially met with success; on June 19, Aymer de Valence routed Bruce at the Battle of Methven. Bruce was forced into hiding, while the English forces recaptured their lost territory and castles. Edward responded with severe brutality against Bruce’s allies; it was clear that he now regarded the struggle not as a war between two nations, but as the suppression of a rebellion of disloyal subjects. This brutality, though, rather than helping to subdue the Scots, had the opposite effect, and rallied growing support for Bruce.

Unfulfilled Crusades and the War on the Continent

edward depiction

The portrait above has been reported to be Edward I and also his son, Edward II.

Edward never again went on crusade after his return to England in 1274, but he maintained an intention to do so, and took the cross again in 1287. Like pilgrims, each crusader swore a vow (a votus) to be fulfilled on successfully reaching Jerusalem, and they were granted a cloth cross (crux) to be sewn into their clothes. This “taking of the cross”, the crux, eventually became associated with the entire journey. They saw themselves as undertaking an iter, a journey, or a peregrinatio, an armed pilgrimage. The inspiration for this “messianism of the poor” was the expected mass apotheosis at Jerusalem.

This image from the Jena Codex in the 1400s shows the Crusader’s Cross.

jena codex crusader cross

This intention of leaving on a second Crusade guided much of Edward’s foreign policy, until at least 1291.

To stage a European-wide crusade, it was essential to prevent conflict between the greater princes on the continent. A major obstacle to this was represented by the conflict between the French House of Anjou ruling southern Italy, and the kingdom of Aragon in Spain. In 1282, the citizens of Palermo rose up against Charles of Anjou and turned for help to Peter of Aragon, in what has become known as the Sicilian Vespers. In the war that followed, Charles of Anjou’s son, Charles of Salerno, was taken prisoner by the Aragonese. The French began planning an attack on Aragon, raising the prospect of a large-scale European war. To Edward, it was imperative that such a war be avoided, and in Paris in 1286 he brokered a truce between France and Aragon that helped secure Charles’ release. As far as the crusades were concerned, however, Edward’s efforts proved ineffective. A devastating blow to his plans came in 1291, when the Mamluks captured Acre, the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land.

siege of acre

Medieval painting called “Les Templars” depicting the Siege of Acre.

After the fall of Acre, Edward’s international role changed from that of a diplomat to an antagonist. He had long been deeply involved in the affairs of his own Duchy of Gascony. In 1278 he assigned an investigating commission to his trusted associates Otto de Grandson and the chancellor Robert Burnell, which caused the replacement of the seneschal Luke de Tany. In 1286, Edward visited the region himself and stayed for almost three years. The perennial problem, however, was the status of Gascony within the kingdom of France, and Edward’s role as the French king’s vassal. On his diplomatic mission in 1286, Edward had paid homage to the new king, Philip IV, but in 1294 Philip declared Gascony forfeit when Edward refused to appear before him in Paris to discuss the recent conflict between English, Gascon, and French sailors (that had resulted in several French ships being captured, along with the sacking of the French port of La Rochelle).

edward homage to philip

Edward I (right) giving homage to Philip IV (left). As Duke of Aquitaine, Edward was a vassal of the French king.

Second Marriage

Eleanor of Castile died on November 28, 1290. Uncommon for such marriages of the period, and even though it was an arranged marriage, the couple loved each other.

edward and eleanor

Carvings of Edward and Eleanor at the Lincoln Cathedral.

Like his father, Edward was very devoted to his wife and was faithful to her throughout their married lives — a rarity among monarchs of the time. He was deeply affected by her death. He displayed his grief by erecting twelve so-called Eleanor crosses, one at each place where her funeral cortège stopped for the night. As part of the peace accord between England and France in 1294, it was agreed that Edward should marry Philip IV’s half-sister Margaret, but the marriage was delayed by the outbreak of war.

Edward made alliances with the German king, the Counts of Flanders and Guelders, and the Burgundians, who would attack France from the north. The alliances proved volatile, however, and Edward was facing trouble at home at the time, both in Wales and Scotland. It was not until August 1297 that he was finally able to sail for Flanders, at which time his allies there had already suffered defeat. The support from Germany never materialized, and Edward was forced to seek peace. His marriage to Margaret in 1299 ended the war, but the whole affair had proven both costly and fruitless for the English.

Edward married Margaret of France in 1299  and was married to her until his death in 1307.

Edward and Margaret had three more children.

  1. Thomas born 1 June 1300, died 4 Aug 1338, buried in the abbey of Bury St Edmunds. Married (1) Alice Hales, with children; (2) Mary Brewes, no children.
  2. Edmund born 1 Aug 1301, died 19 Mar 1330, married Margaret Wake, had children.
  3. Eleanor born 6 May 1306, died 1310.

It was sweet of Margaret to name her daughter Eleanor, especially as Henry’s health was declining.  Sadly, Eleanor died three years after her father.

Edward’s Death

In February 1307, Robert the Bruce reappeared and started gathering men, and in May he defeated Aymer de Valence at the Battle of Loudoun Hill. King Edward, who had rallied somewhat, now moved north himself.

The ailing but indomitable King , then aged 68, mortally ill but refusing to admit defeat, embarked on horseback on the journey June 26th which was to prove his last. The protracted journey underlines the poor state of his health, he finally had to be carried in a litter. He reached Kirkandrews-on-Eden on 2nd July but struggled on until three days later he arrived at Burgh by Sands (which is pronounced bruff, not burgh,) just south of the Scottish border, where he finally breathed his last, dying of dysentery.  When his servants came the next morning to lift him up so that he could eat, he died in their arms.

king edward's monument

This monument rising from Burgh Marsh marks the location of King Edward I’s death.

Various stories emerged about Edward’s deathbed wishes; according to one tradition, he requested that his heart be carried to the Holy Land, along with an army to fight the infidels. A more dubious story tells of how he wished for his bones to be carried along on future expeditions against the Scots. Yet another says that Edward wanted his flesh to be boiled from his bones so that they could be carried with the army on every campaign into Scotland and that his heart be buried in the Holy Land.  Another account of his deathbed scene is more credible; according to one chronicle, Edward gathered around him the Earls of Lincoln and Warwick, Aymer de Valence, and Robert Clifford, and charged them with looking after his son Edward. In particular they should make sure that Piers Gaveston was not allowed to return to the country. This wish, however, the son ignored, and had his favorite recalled from exile almost immediately.

King Edward’s body lay in state in St Michael’s Parish Church at Burgh by Sands before being taken to London in stages for burial at Westminster Abbey, the mausoleum of English kings. Below, the sculptured head of Edward I from Winchelsea Church.

edward image

He laid in state at Waltham Abbey, before being buried in Westminster Abbey on October 27th in a dalmatic (long tunic) of red silk damask with a mantle or rich crimson satin fastened with a fibula (brooch) gilt in gold.  His grave bears this epitaph ‘Edwardus Primus Scottorum Malleus hic est 1308. Pactum Serva’ (Here lies Edward, the Hammer of the Scots. Keep this vow).

His body was visited there by his eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, who had been in Scotland at the time of his father’s death, he was proclaimed Edward II the following day at Carlisle. The new king, Edward II, remained in the north until August, but then abandoned the campaign and headed south. He was crowned king on 25 February 1308.

The map below of Westminster Abbey, from Mark Humphrey’s page shows the location of Edward’s tomb circled in blue and Eleanor’s in red.

westminster abbey map

There are few records of the funeral, which cost £473. Edward’s tomb was an unusually plain sarcophagus of Purbeck marble, without the customary royal effigy, possibly the result of the shortage of royal funds after the King’s death. The sarcophagus may normally have been covered over with rich cloth, and originally might have been surrounded by carved busts and a devotional religious image, all since lost. The Society of Antiquaries opened the tomb in 1774, finding that the body had been well preserved over the preceding 467 years, and took the opportunity to determine the King’s original height.

According to Westminster Abbey, when Edward’s tomb was opened, they found the body wrapped in waxed linen cloth and wearing royal robes of red and gold with a crimson mantle.  He had a gilt crown on his head and carried a scepter surmounted by a dove and oak leaves in enamels.

Traces of the Latin inscription Edwardus Primus Scottorum Malleus hic est, 1308. Pactum Serva (“Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots, 1308. Keep the Vow”), can still be seen painted on the side of the tomb, referring to his vow to avenge the rebellion of Robert Bruce. This resulted in Edward being given the epithet the “Hammer of the Scots” by historians, but is not contemporary in origin, having been added by the Abbot John Feckenham in the 16th century.

edward tomb opening 1774

A drawing of Edward’s tomb from when it was opened in 1774.

Ironically, Edward has no decorative tomb, per se, and is buried under a plain marble slab, shown below.  I wonder why ornamentations weren’t later added.

edward tomb westminster

His tomb is shown in the drawing below from “The History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St. Peter, Westminster” by Edward Brayley, Vol 2, 1823.

edward tomb westminster drawing

The burial location of Eleanor is shown below at right.  The tomb of Henry III, the father of Edward I is shown at left.  Edward buried Eleanor beside his father.  The Norman-French inscription can be translated as “Here lies Eleanor, sometime Queen of England, wife of King Edward son of King Henry, and daughter of the King of Spain and Countess of Ponthieu, on whose soul God in His pity have mercy. Amen”.

eleanor tomb westminster drawing

Westminster Abbey probably hasn’t changed a great deal.  This drawing below shows the choir in 1848.

westminster choir 1858

Edward’s 26 year old widow, Margaret of France retired to Marlborough Castle after his death and never remarried, she is recorded as saying “when Edward died, all men died for me”. She lived on for ten years after her husband’s death, dying at the age of 36 and was buried at Greyfriars Church, Greenwich.

The King and I

King Edward I is my 23rd great-grandfather, or said another way, I’m the 25th generation downstream from him.  This means that I’m also related to Valerie Bertinelli.  Grandpa King Edward is her 16th great grandfather, so that means that she and are I are 16th cousins 7 times removed, or genetically equal to 19th cousins once removed.  Actually, I think she descended through the same daughter, so we’re actually at least one (and possibly more) generations closer.

Sixth cousins share under 1% of their DNA, So 19th cousins share a miniscule amount, if any.  It’s absolutely possible that Valerie and I share absolutely no DNA at all from King Edward.  In fact, it’s possible that neither Valerie nor I, individually, inherited ANY DNA from King Edward.  But let’s face it, despite the odds of not receiving any DNA from a specific ancestor that long ago, we did inherit DNA from ancestors that long ago, and even longer ago, so it had to come from someone, or we wouldn’t be here today with a full DNA compliment.  In other words, several someone’s beat the odds and their DNA survived.  Seems to me like Edward just might have had some of that survivor DNA to share.

I hope that Valerie will become curious and test her autosomal DNA, and will then have someone work with her to download her DNA to GedMatch where we can drop the thresholds to 1cM to see if we so share even a shred of Edward’s DNA. I’d be glad to volunteer!

I actually did the math, and at 15th cousins, we are down to only one matching base pair from a common ancestor.  But, given that, we also know that autosomal DNA is not inherited exactly at 50% in each generation and that it is inherited in clumps, sticky segments, so, indeed, maybe, just maybe…..

One thing we can do, however, is to check and see if the Plantagenet line is represented in DNA testing for the Y line.  That would be quite interesting.

In August 2013, Bradley Larkin published a paper about the Y DNA of the British Monarchy in honor of the birth of the Prince of Cambridge.

Bradley said: “A review was made of existing genetic genealogy findings that infer characteristics of the Y-DNA of members of the British Monarchy. Nine sustained Y-DNA lineages since the year 927 CE were noted as dynastic groups. Haplogroup and haplotype characteristics of three of the dynasties were presented with two more dynasties noted as testable but unpublished. Cultural and geographical origins of these dynasties were considered as context for their DNA haplogroups. Specimen candidates for further testing were identified noting that some will require Ancient DNA (aDNA) recovery and analysis.”

Bradley identified the dynasties of the British monarchy beginning in the year 927 and ending in 2013, as shown below.

  • Mountbatten/Romanov
  • Hannover
  • Windsor
  • Stuart
  • Tudor
  • Plantagenet
  • Blois
  • Wessex
  • Norman
  • Knytlinga (Viking)

Bradley then researched each dynasty and lineage. If lines have been tested, he provides the results. Several lines have no male descendants, so for those, we would need ancient DNA. The connections and interconnections are fascinating.

To view the detail and summary data about each dynasty, read Bradley’s paper here, especially the summary table near the end.

Now, you do know, that of course my Plantagenet line is one that is not yet represented in the DNA data bases.  However, King Richard III, being King Richard of the Car Park fame, descends from the same paternal male line.  King Richard is, in fact, the great-great-grandson of Edward I, through all males, so Richard should indeed carry the same Y DNA that King Edward I carried.  In February, 2014 the University of Leister announced that they were going to sequence the entire genome of Richard III.  I think that is absolutely wonderful news.

Richard would be my 7th cousin, 16 times removed, or genetically equivalent to my 15th cousin.  He’s more closely related to Valerie, 7th cousins 9 times removed, or equivalent to 11th cousins once removed.

I checked with Debbie Kennett who, being a genetic genealogist and blogger in Britain, is familiar with and interested in all things British, and she indicated that a paper is due imminently reporting the results of Richard III’s DNA testing, including Y DNA. I can hardly wait.  I did not inherit the patience gene from anyone!

It looks like Bradley will be able to update his table, I’ll be able to discover the Y DNA of my 23rd grandfather and so will Valerie Bertinelli.

And I don’t even have to chase down any relatives and try to figure out how to persuade them to test, nor do I have to pay for any testing.  I think this is wonderful.  And I didn’t even have to dig anyone up either!!!  All done for me!  How does this get better?

So, my husband asked me if I’m in the royal line of succession.  I had to admit, I had no idea.  It never occurred to me, and now that I think about it, I surely hope not!  I can’t even curtsey.

I’m not quite sure how things shifted from family lines, or why, since Edward I, so I googled.  I found out a lot about the British line of succession, and while Valerie and I both might be in that line along with thousands of our cousins, I discovered one thing for sure.  I hate to disappoint Valerie, but both of our families have a Catholic marriage between us and the good King Edward I, so even if we were in the line of succession, we’re disqualified now.  Sorry Valerie.  I know you’re crushed:)

So, I think that to celebrate our newly found royal ancestor, Valerie and I need to have a sitting to be fitted for our new royal tiaras.  Every girl wants to be a princess and my granddaughters would think this is THE coolest thing since sliced bread.  I mean, Grandma is a REAL princess.  Ok, 24 times removed, but who’s counting.  Details.  And they are real princesses too, 26 times removed.

So, I kind of like this tiara.  What do you think?


I don’t think they’ll let me borrow this one with those luscious green emeralds from the Louvre.


The granddaughters like this pink one.  Now there’s a surprise.

tiara 3

I’m thinking, this is probably about as close as I’m going to get.

tiara me

A couple of years ago, during one the Lost Colony Research Group archaeology digs on Hatteras Island, I fixed the computer in the library, which was refusing to print.  For that, I got to wear the honorary tiara.  It’s a local tradition.  It felt so comfortable, I forgot all about it and then wondered why people were looking at me strangely:)

What fun!

If you descend from the Sarah Ludlow and Reverend Nathaniel Brewster lines in the US, you too descend from King Edward I.  Sarah’s father was the Honorable Roger Ludlow, Deputy Governor of Massachusetts in 1634 and 10th great grandson of Edward I.  He’s the “gateway ancestor” who married Mary Cogan.  The Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, a member of the first graduating class at Harvard in 1642, married their daughter, Sarah Ludlow.  And the rest, is indeed, history.

Maybe you’ll need a tiara too!!!

Challenges with Irish Autosomal DNA Genealogy Research

Dr. Maurice Gleeson gave an excellent (and humorous) presentation this last weekend at the i4gg (Institute for Genetic Genealogy) in Chevy Chase, Maryland. 


Although his focus is Irish, this information applies to anyone utilizing autosomal DNA. 


He has very graciously made his presentation available on YouTube.  Enjoy.

Nancy Mann (c1780-1841), German or Irish, 52 Ancestors #33

Nancy Mann was the second wife of Henry Bolton.  Henry was born about 1759 in England and married Catherine Chapman in August of 1786 in Philadelphia.  On August 17, 1798, after bearing Henry six children, Catherine died where they had moved in Botetourt County, Virginia by 1795.  We don’t know exactly where Henry lived, and therefore, we don’t know where they are buried.


When Catherine died, Henry had 5 children under the age of 10.  He needed a wife, and the following year, on April 5, 1799, eight months after Catherine’s death, Henry, aged 39 or 40, married the much younger Nancy Mann.  Nancy, probably not even age 20, immediately inherited 5 children, and on January 11, 1800, she had her first child.  She and Henry would have 14 children in addition to the children from his first marriage, plus they raised Henry’s brother, Conrad’s orphan daughter, Sarah, after his death about 1810.

Nancy Mann died on October 16, 1841, according to the Bolton Family Bible which was in the possession of Hazel Venable Barnard in the 1980s when I first began researching the Bolton family in Claiborne Co., TN where Henry and Nancy’s son, Joseph Preston Bolton, had moved about 1845.  Three of Joseph’s siblings, John and David Bolton and their sister, Elizabeth “Elyann” Ann Bolton who married Isaac Patterson also settled in Claiborne County.  It’s obvious from the later entries in this Bible that this is the line of the family that kept the Bible.

Further digging revealed notes taken in Claiborne County now more than 30 years ago when talking with the “old widows,” as they called themselves, when the Bible was first revealed.

In addition to their own children, Elyann and Issac also raised the daughters of her brother David Bolton, Nancy and Martha Bolton.  Elyann brought Henry Bolton’s Bible with her which contained the birthdates of some of Henry’s children.  Elyann is buried in the Cave Springs Cemetery outside of Tazewell, Tennessee.

Hazel Venable was the great-granddaughter of Joseph Preston Bolton and his first wife, Mary Tankersley, so it’s likely that Joseph, at some point, wound up in possession of the family Bible.  This Bible itself is dated 1811, so it’s clearly not the original Henry Bolton Bible.  It could have been purchased as wedding gift for one of Henry’s children who copied the pertinent information from Henry’s original Bible.  Hazel Venable Barnard wrote that it was the Bible of Henry Bolton, Sr. at the bottom of the Bible page with the handwritten information.  The Bible record is available today through the DAR.

Several years ago, I visited Botetourt County, Virginia and extracted the original records for both Bolton and Mann.

The only clue we have as to Nancy’s family is that a James Mann signed as her surety.  Normally, if her father were living, he would sign.  If not, an uncle or older brother, typically.

Herein lies the problem.

We can’t identify James Mann.

German or Irish

Now, the good news is that the Mann Family of Botetourt County has had significant research performed by descendants and they have done a good job not only documenting the family, but researching and publishing their findings as well.

I was grateful to see this, as I had attempted a reconstruction as well from the records I retrieved.

In a nutshell, John Mann immigrated from Ireland in 1735 and declared that he immigrated to redeem land and then immediately assigned the land to a land speculator.  These are the men who would found the Scotch-Irish settlement in Augusta and Orange Counties of Virginia.  Botetourt would be taken from Orange County in 1770 and the Mann records followed with the county, so they obviously lived in the Botetourt portion.

“The Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia” tell us that John Mann, the immigrant, lived on the south side of Peaked Mountain, near the Stone Meeting House in Beverly Manor in Augusta County.  The 1749 road petition of the inhabitants of North River and Picot (Peaked) Mountain requests a road beginning at John Man’s smithshop on the south side of the Peaked Mountain, then goes on to mention the Stone Meeting House and the Courthouse Road.  Today, the Peaked Mountain Church is located in McGaheyville, VA, about 100 miles up the Shenandoah Valley from Fincastle.

 Peaked Mountain

Numerous members of the German Mann family are buried in the church cemetery there.

John Mann, the Irishman, had 4 known sons:

  • Moses who died before 1756, unmarried and with no children
  • Thomas who died in 1772 unmarried and with no children
  • John who died in 1778 with no will, but who had children. Moses and John are proven children, but many other candidates are present in Botetourt County.
  • William who died in 1778 with a will listing children: Moses born circa 1761 (married Jane Kinkead 1779), Alice, Jennie, Thomas born 1771, married, died in 1794, William Jr. born 1773, died 1794, Sarah, John born 1775 and Archibald born after his father’s death in 1778.

John’s sons moved a bit further south.  Fortunately, the tax lists for Botetourt County still exist for the 1770s and they include a basic description of where the taxpayer lived.

Both of John’s sons, John (Jr.) and William, lived in the same tax districts, as follows:

  • 1771 – Upper James
  • 1773 – James River to Buffalo Creek
  • 1774 – Cowpasture and Jackson River
  • 1776 – from Craig’s Creek up James River

Based on these landmarks, they lived someplace between Clifton Forge and Eagle Rock.  Buffalo Creek and Craig’s Creek meet at Clifton Forge.  The Cowpasture and Jackson River meet to form the James 3 or 4 miles below Clifton Forge, just below where the number 727 is located between the rivers today.

clifton forge

Given that our Nancy was born about 1780, if not a couple of years later, we can eliminate all 4 of the elder John’s sons and all of Williams son’s with the possible exception of Moses who married in 1779.  However, Moses didn’t die until 1816, so he could have signed his daughter’s marriage bond himself.

This, logically, shifts our focus to John Jr.’s children, who were not documented in his will.  Only two children were positively documented as his utilizing other records.

And of course, there’s a twist – there is also a German Mann family, Jacob, in the vicinity.  This family isn’t terribly close geographically, but they aren’t so far away that they can be eliminated either.  It does appear that both John Mann and the German Mann family started out in the Peaked Mountain vicinity.  Jacob Mann does have a son, James but he is too young to be Nancy’s father.  However, Nancy could have been the daughter of any of Jacob’s oldest 3 sons, Jacob, Adam or Moses.  I feel this is unlikely, especially since this family wound up after county splits being in Monroe and Greenbrier Counties of West Virginia.

However, there is an unaccounted for Nathaniel Mann on the Botetourt County tax lists of 1771-1775 who seems to be found in the Clifton Forge vicinity, but not on the same tax lists as William and John Mann.

In 1749, Jacob Mann, probably the German, signed a petition in Botetourt County.  Based on a 1770 record where Jacob Mann is an assignee of Jacob Miller, the connection between those two families is strongly suggested.

According to the Mann Family of Botetourt County:

According to the Houchins family history, around 1770 the Manns, Maddys and Millers moved from Rockingham county, Virginia into present day West Virginia, near Greenville in Monroe county. John Mann came to Pennsylvania from Germany and his son Jacob married Barbary Miller, daughter of Jacob Miller, emigrant. Jacob and Barbary Miller Mann had Jacob Mann, Junior who married Mary Kessinger on August 24, 1779; Adam, who married first Mary Maddy on December 9, 1783 and second Polly Flinn on May 3, 1790; Elizabeth, who married William Maddy on February 25, 1783 and a daughter who married a Mr. Low. Jacob Mann owned a gunpowder mill. Saltpetre was supplied from Maddy’s Cave during the Revolution. This cave had formerly belonged to the Manns of Springfield. This is an intriguing mystery since there is a story that William Mann and his father and/or uncles and brothers lived in a saltpetre cave when they first emigrated from Ireland to Virginia. I do not know what, if any, substance this story has. It may have been influenced by the presence of the German Manns at Greenville or it may be an authentic tradition. Springfields abound, both in the United States and in Ireland. There were Scots-Irish Mann emigrants to Springfield township in Bucks county, Pennsylvania and Scots-Irish Manns living in Springfield township, Chester county, Pennsylvania. Moses Mann, son of William, one of the sons of the emigrant John Man, bought 26 acres of land on both sides of Jackson’s River, including a saltpetre cave, on December 10, 1792, in Botetourt county. Some of the children of William Mann stayed in Bath and Alleghany counties, and some went to Greenbrier county in the vicinity of present day Monroe county. A Moses Mann bought 22 acres in Monroe county on March 4, 1831, adjoining the land of Adam Mann and Adam Miller. This may or may not be a descendant of William Mann.

The Mann family which ended up in Bucks county is described as the family of James Mann and his wife Mary Carroll. The Manns and Carrolls were from Scotland and in childhood James and Mary emigrated with their families to county Antrim around the year 1690. He married her about 1709. The names of their children were James, born in 1710; John, born in 1712; William in 1714 and a daughter named Mary. John, the second son, became the progenitor of the family in Bucks county when he embarked from Donegal in 1732 in the company of the McNairs and others bound for America. They landed at Philadelphia and proceeded to Bristol in the autumn of the same year, locating at different points in Bucks county. Although our John Man was imported immediately into Virginia, perhaps he was related in some fashion to these Bucks County Manns.

DNA testing of a male Mann from both lines would tell us unquestionably.

If you’re groaning by now, I was too….but the pretzel twist gets worse, actually, much worse.

If Nancy Mann descends from Jacob Mann who married Barbara Miller, then autosomal DNA won’t help me, because it’s possible, in fact, it’s downright likely, that I’m related to Barbara Miller.  I can’t confirm that right now, but the suspicion alone is enough to disallow any autosomal conclusions UNLESS we would have a 100% triangulated positive match with the Irish Mann family – and then we don’t really care about the German Mann family.

But you know if it was that easy, I would already have told you.  With the 7 descendants of Henry Bolton who have autosomally DNA tested at Family Tree DNA, we have no triangulated matches with the Mann family.  That doesn’t disprove anything – but it also doesn’t prove anything either.  All it does is frustrate me.  Even more frustrating is that there are matches at Ancestry in this same line, BUT since Ancestry doesn’t provide a chromosome browser, I can do nothing with them unless the participants are willing to download their files to GedMatch – and so far, with one exception, they haven’t responded at all – so that’s clearly not an option.

John Mann Jr.’s Possible Children

Since we know who the children of William Mann are, per his will, and the other two sons of immigrant John Mann had no children and died as young men, we can look at the names of many of the “stragglers” and they are candidates for the sons of John Mann (Jr.) who died in 1778 intestate.

In 1755, there is a Barnett Mann who deeds land to Jacob Mann and the land abuts George Mann, so those folks are affiliated with the German Manns.

There’s a Hugh Mann who has a mill in 1756.  We don’t know who he is, but he disappears from the records and there are no stray males between then and when John’s son’s die, so we can remove him from consideration.

Nathaniel Mann appears from 1771-1775, but then is gone.  He’s probably not a candidate for Nancy’s father in about 1780.  Nancy did not name any children Nathaniel, unless one died.  There is a 3 year gap between sons George and William.  Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann’s sons, in birth order, were Henry, George, William, John, Joseph, Absalom, Daniel, James and David.  Not terribly useful.

Beginning about 1780, a whole group of young Mann males come of age about the same time, like stair steps.

Esau Mann appears from 1781-1785

Asa Mann marries in 1780 and is found in the 1782 tax list.

Acre Mann is found in the records in 1784.

In 1785, on the tax list, there is a J. Mann beside Moses Mann.  I’d love to think this is James, and it might be, but it could also be John.  Why, oh why, could they not just write out those few letters?  I mean really, 3 or 4 letters would have made SUCH a difference.  Even just Jo or Ja or Jas.  For the want of just a couple letters.

Esau, Acre and Asa are candidates to be sons of John Jr., as well as Nathaniel…and of course, J, whoever he is.

If Nancy was actually born in 1778, it’s remotely possible that John Jr. was her father, but it’s unlikely because Nancy had her last child in 1826.  If she were born in 1780, that would make her 46 at that time, which is quite late, but not impossible, for a last child.  However, if she were born in 1778, that would make her 48 in 1826, which is even more unlikely.

In 1789 in Botetourt County Will Book A, on page 270, we find the will of William Renfro who lists, among his heirs, James Mann.  James Mann also signed and he may have been the executor as well, although it was hard for me to decipher the handwriting.  This does put a James Mann in the right place at the right time.

Not that it will help us any, but there are also Mann females: Margaret who married William McClure in 1790, Jane who married Michael Woodly in 1779, Mary who married Adam McCaslen in 1802, another Nancy who married Charles Wright in 1794 and Sarah who married Alexander McClinock in 1788.  These people weren’t children of William, per his will, so they had to be John’s, Nathaniel’s or the beginning of the next generation beginning about 1800.

So, having perused all of the records available, we’re, in essence, stuck.

Stuck – What Next?

Ok, let’s think about what else we can do.

People tend to marry other people like themselves.  In fact, the Germans who immigrated in the 1700s were still speaking German at home and in the churches in the early 1900s after spending 200 years migrating across three states.  My great-grandmother was one of them – although they stopped speaking German when World War I was declared.  In the later 1700s and even the early 1800s, they didn’t speak any English so they had to have someone handle their affairs for them – often the local miller.

Germans attended German churches.  The Irish attended Catholic churches and the Scotch-Irish, who were the majority of the immigrants from Ireland in the 1700s, attended Presbyterian churches.  The English attended the Anglican churches.  Methodists and Baptists were dissenting churches.  Indeed, the Presbyterian Church in Fincastle, in Botetourt County, was established in 1754.  You didn’t have a lot of opportunity to meet someone outside of your cultural circle and you certainly were not encouraged to “court” anyone from those other cultural circles.

So, if we had a way to figure out anything about Nancy Mann’s genetic lineage, we might be able to determine whether it is German or Irish.

Turns out – we do.

We have a male descendant from Nancy Mann through all females to the current generation.  And are we EVER grateful to that tester.  Yes, it’s a him, because in the current generation, men can test as well as women.  Remember, women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only the females pass it on.

Thanks to cousin Jay, we have Nancy’s full sequence mitochondrial DNA, which she inherited from her mother, and she from her mother, back into the old country, wherever the “old country” happens to be.

Let’s take a look.

Her haplogroup is K1c2, clearly very European.

The page of DNA results that is the most relevant to answer our question of where Nancy’s matrilineal line originated is Jay’s Matches Map.  This map shows us the location of the most distant ancestor of Jay’s matches.  In this case, I’m only showing the European portion of the map, because that’s the part that will answer our question.

Are you ready?

Drum roll……please!

Nancy Mann's mtDNA

What do you think?

Nancy’s closest matches, in red and orange, are clearly in Ireland, then England, yellow and green, then in continental Europe.  Therefore, her ancestors were most recently in Ireland, including her three exact matches, two of which are found in Dublin.

Nancy Mann Closeup

Therefore, if I were a betting person, I’m betting on Irish, or Scotch-Irish far and above Germany for Nancy’s matrilineal ancestry.  Given that, I’m also betting that Nancy is the granddaughter of John Mann Jr.  through one his unnamed sons, and the great-granddaughter of John Mann the immigrant.  And given that, I’m betting that the J. Mann next to Moses on the 1785 tax list was indeed, James.

I’d bet!

If you descend from Henry Bolton or John Mann, please consider DNA testing. If you are a male Mann who descends from John Mann Sr., the immigrant, we really need your participation and there is a DNA scholarship for the first male Mann to test from this line.


I’d like to thank cousin Jay for DNA testing, cousin Hazel Venable Barnard, now deceased, for being such a wonderful steward of that Bible record, cousin Dillis for lots of research over the past 25 or 30 years, so much and for so long that I no longer remember what was mine and what was his.

Ancestor Maps

Ancestor map

These maps are just fun!!!  They are yours, and fully customizable, so you can make them anything you want.  They could track the migrations of a single family across time.  They could show the genesis of your entire family.  They could be where your DNA matches are found.

I did this one just for fun and it shows where my ancestors were born, where they died, and states they lived in where they were neither born nor died.  You can see the westward migration, but not many ventured past the Mississippi and none beyond Texas!

Red = born
Purple = died, but not born there
Yellow = lived but not born or died there

Have fun!!!

Samuel Estwell H. Bolton (1894-1918), WWI Casualty, 52 Ancestors #32

This article is about only one chapter in the lives of my great-grandparents, Joseph “Dode” Bolton (1853-1920) and his wife, Margaret Claxton (Clarkson) Bolton (1851-1920.)  That chapter is the life, and death, of their son, Samuel Estwell H. Bolton (1894-1918).  Samuel gave his life for his country in World War I.

This week, we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that war, not something one would celebrate, but something to give us pause to reflect upon those who died for the cause of freedom.

In London this week, the Tower of London is decorated with hundreds of thousands of poppies, 888,246, to be exact, to remember, and honor each British soldier who perished.  The red “Remembrance Poppy” has been used since 1920 to commemorate those killed in war.  Poppies bloomed across the battlefields in France after the horrific battles of WWI, symbolizing the bloodshed there.

tower of london poppies

Additionally, 116,516 Americans died in WWI, among them, Samuel Bolton from Hancock County, Tennessee, my grandmother’s younger brother.

Joseph Bolton and Margaret Clarkson (Claxton) Bolton had 10 or 11 children, but only one died in the service of their country, and that one was Samuel.  A second son served in WWII, after their deaths.

Joseph and Margaret has been married more than 20 years when Samuel arrived on June 12, 1894.  He had a younger sibling as well, although the 1910 census shows Sammie as the youngest at that time.  He wasn’t in 1900, as the 8th Civil District, Hancock Co., TN, shows.

1900 Bolton census

The 1900 census shows Sammie, listed as Estwell, his middle name, age 5, with younger brother Henry.  Samuel’s middle initial, H., probably stood for Henry as well.  I wonder if his parents changed his middle name from Estwell to Henry after Henry died.

The 1910 census shows Sammie as the youngest child at home.  It looks like Henry has died, and the daughter, Cerenia that family oral history shows as the youngest child, was never shown on a census.  Regardless, it looks like Sammie is their youngest child in 1910, the baby of the family.

1910 bolton census

The 1910 census also shows us that they lived on Back Valley Road, very near the intersection with the main Mulberry Road in Hancock County, Tennessee not terribly far from the Claiborne County border.

When Sammie enlisted in the service in September of 1917, two days after his father’s 64th birthday, it’s difficult to surmise how his parents felt.

I’m sure that while they were swelled with pride, they were also more than a little apprehensive.  In addition, they were older people and losing help on the farm meant more work for them that they might not have been physically able to do.   Margaret, I’m sure, cried as she saw her baby leave, on his way to defend his country.  Having lost her youngest child or children already, did she know that he would never come home?  Was she worried?  Did she have a mother’s second sense?

Samuel’s military record is so cold and lifeless.  Just the facts.

1.306.789 W
Bolton, Samuel H.;
Service: Over Seas
Residence: Sneedville, Tennessee
Inducted: Sneedville, Tennessee on 9/20/1917
Born: Tazewell, Tennessee
Age: 23 years, 4 months
Organization: Hq Company 328th Infantry, 9/21/1917-10/14/1917; Company A 117th Infantry to 10/18/1918.
Grade: Private 9/20/1917; Private 1st Class Mch. January 1918.
Overseas service: 5/11/1918-10/8/1918
Killed in Action 10/8/1918.
Person notified of death: Joseph B. Bolton, Father, RFD #1, Hoop, Tennessee

Person notified of death – Joseph B. Bolton, Father – what a terrible visit to receive.

It was in Europe, in France, the furthest, I’m sure, that any Bolton had ever been from home, that Samuel would perish.

bolton europe map

Cousin Dillis found a wonderful summary of Samuel’s unit written by Billie McNamara.  It tells us what Samuel was doing, and when.  I wonder if his parents ever had this level of information, or if they simply knew that he died.  They both died just 16 months after Samuel’s death, and only 16 days apart.

Samuel served in the 117th Infantry, known at the Third Tennessee Infantry, headquartered out of Knoxville.  Called into service, they recruited heavily and left with the new recruits for Camp Sevier, SC in September of 1917.

The first part of the work at Camp Sevier was clearing a camp from a pine forest.  All military drill was impossible until the large pine trees and undergrowth had been removed and the holes leveled.  This hard physical work proved excellent for the men, as they hardened into fine condition and most of them gained in weight.  After fair grounds had been prepared, a strenuous daily schedule of infantry drill was carried out, discipline stiffened, and during the winter and spring of 1918, instruction was given by English officers and noncommissioned officers in trench warfare.  During the winter, which was a very severe one, one officer and twenty-nine enlisted men died from disease, principally pneumonia.

Orders were received May 2, 1918, to entrain for duty overseas, and on the night of May 10, 1918, the regiment went on board transports at New York.

I expect that Sammie, like many of the men, wrote a letter home to his parents during this time between receiving orders and shipping out.  He probably also sent a picture of himself proudly wearing his uniform.  Most servicemen did.  I would love to know what he was thinking.  Was he welcoming the adventure for which he had been training, or did he dread and fear the possible conflict that was waiting?  Was he confident, like so many, that we would “kick their butts?”  Did he put on a brave face for his parents, or perhaps try to persuade them that they didn’t need to worry about him and he would see them soon.

Some ten days later, after an attack by submarines off the Irish Coast, in which the convoy escaped without loss, landing was made at Liverpool, England, where special trains carried the regiment straight through London to Folkestone.  Transports ferried it across the English Channel by night to Calais, France.  American equipment was turned in there and British was issued in its stead.  The Thirtieth Division was one of seven American divisions which were concentrated in the British area for training and for use in case the Germans made their threatened drive for the Channel ports.  The enemy was said to have 20 divisions at this time just back of Ypres, ready to make this attack, but their withdrawal was made necessary later by the allied resistance on other parts of the front.


This is the sight that would have greeted Samuel in Ypres.  This is all that remained of Ypres, the cathedral in the center of the picture, and below, after Germans had shelled it for four years.  He had probably never seen the devastation of war.  Now, he was seeing it first hand.  It looked like the apocalypse.  If the reality of the situation hadn’t set in before, it surely did now.  I would suspect it was a very somber, quiet unit that surveyed this scene spread before them.

ypres cathedral

The 117th proceeded from Calais to Norbecourt, where, under British officers and non-commissioned officers, the officers and men of the regiment were trained strenuously for five weeks.  Detachments went up from time to time to the Canal Sector, between Ypres and Mont Kemmel, for front line work.  This was most important, for it gave the regiment some experience in actual warfare before it was ordered later to take over a part of the line.

About July 1, 1918, the Thirtieth Division was ordered to move into Belgium.  The 59th Brigade, which crossed the border on July 4, was the first unit of American forces to enter the war-torn little country, which bore the first assault of the German attack in the world war.

The 117th was assigned to Tunneling Camp, where it was given its final training in trench warfare and in attacking strong points.  After a few days of this work, the regiment was ordered into the battle line.  One battalion held the front line trenches, another was kept in support, while the third was held in reserve on the East Popperinghe Line.  The battalions alternated in these positions for twenty-four days, each receiving the same amount of real front line work.  On August 17, when it became evident that the Americans were fully able to handle the situation, the sector was turned over to the Thirtieth Division by the Thirty-third British Division, which had been stationed in the line there.  The extent of the sector was from the southern outskirts of Ypres to Voormezeele and was known as the Canal Sector.

With the exception of a limited offensive, conducted in cooperation with the British, in which Mont Kemmel was outflanked, Voormezeele captured, and an advance of about 1500 yards made, the Thirtieth Division was purely on the defensive in all the fighting in Belgium.  Yet this type of warfare was, perhaps, the most harassing through which it went during the whole war.  The Germans knew the location of every trench, and their artillery played upon them day and night.  Night bombers also made this a very uncomfortable sector, for they dropped tons of explosives both upon the front and at the rear.  There was little concealment on either side, because this part of Belgium was very flat.  Artificial camouflage provided what little deception was practiced upon the enemy.

The casualties of the 117th in the two months in which it was stationed in the Canal Sector were not heavy.  Only a few men were killed, and the number of wounded was less than 100.  King George of England and Field Marshal Haig, commander of the English armies, honored the regiment with a visit and made an inspection of its companies, shown below.

king george

So, it would appear that Samuel met, or at least saw, King George.

On the night of September 4, the 117th, together with the other units of the division, was withdrawn from the English Second Army and placed in British G. H. Q. reserve.  The next two weeks were given to intensive training with tanks, with a view to coming offensive operations with them.

September 1st, trucks and busses were provided and the regiment moved through Albert, Bray, and Peronne to near Tincourt, just back of the celebrated Hindenburg Line.  The Thirtieth and Twenty-seventh Divisions, which were the only American division left with the British, were assigned now to the British Fourth Army, General Rawlinson commanding, for the great attack which was soon to be launched at this most vital and highly fortified part of the whole line.  They were fresh, they had shown their mettle in the defensive operations in Belgium, and so they were chosen for the spearhead of the attack.

 They had earned the honor.

The 59th Brigade went into the line first, relieving the Australians on the night of September 26.  The 118th Infantry took over the front line, with the 117th Infantry in close support.  The casualties of the latter were rather heavy from gas shells in making the relief, one company losing 62 men to the hospital.

The celebrated Hindenburg Line, which the German commander-in-chief, General von Hindenburg, built as a great defensive system to hold against capture of France and Belgium east of it, extended from the English Channel to the Swiss border.  It was not a local defensive system at all.  Yet at various parts of the line there were key positions, dominating a large area, the fortifications of which had been made much stronger.  The area between St. Quentin and Cambrai held the key to the German defenses on the northern end of the line.  It was fortified accordingly with all the ingenuity and deviltry of the Hun mind.

bellicourt tunnel

View of Bellicourt, above:  In lower left hand corner is entrance to the formidable Hindenburg Tunnel.

road beside tunnel

Soldiers on the road beside the Hindenburg Tunnel, protected by barbed wire, on October 4, 1918.

In front of Bellicourt, near the center of the American sector of attack, the Hindenburg Line, which curved west of the St. Quentin Canal, consisted of three main trench systems, each protected by row after row of barbed wire entanglements.  These trench systems were on high ground and gave the Germans the advantage of being able to sweep the whole area in front of them with machine guns.  Along the canal were concrete machine gun emplacements.  Back of this formidable system of defenses was the canal tunnel, built by Napoleon in 1802-10 and running underground for a distance of three miles.  From this tunnel there were thirty-eight exits, each carefully camouflaged.

The tunnel was lighted by electricity, a narrow gauge railroad brought in supplies from the outside, while canal boats provided quarters for a large number of men.  Thus there was complete shelter for a large garrison of the enemy against heavy shelling, and in case of a real attack, an almost impregnable defense.

The attack upon this part of the line was set for the morning of September 29, 1918.  The 27th American Division was on the left, the 46th British on the right of the 30th American Division.  The American sector passed across the tunnel, but the British on the right and left were prepared to swim the canal in case no bridges were found to afford them passage.  The assault of the infantry upon these fortifications was to be preceded by a bombardment of 72 hours — with gas shells for 24 hours and with shell and shrapnel from light and heavy artillery for 48 hours.

In the Thirtieth Division sector, the 119th and 120th Infantry were assigned to make the opening attack, with the 117th Infantry following in close support, and prepared to exploit their advance after the canal had been crossed.  The 118th Infantry was held in reserve.  The 119th Infantry had the left half of the sector, while the 120th, strengthened by Company H, of the 117th, covered the right half.  In addition to his regimental strength, Colonel Spence, of the 117th, had under his command for the attack 92 guns of Australian artillery, 24 British tanks, and two extra machine gun companies.  The plan of battle was that the regiment, following the 120th, should cross the canal between Bellicourt on the left and the entrance to the canal on the right, then turn at right angles, and proceed southeasterly down the main Hindenburg Line trench, mopping up this territory of the enemy for about a mile.  Connection was to be made with the British on the right, if they succeeded in crossing the canal.

The facts of the case are that this paper plan of battle worked out somewhat differently under battle conditions.  Most of the assaulting companies became badly confused in the deep fog and smoke, strayed off somewhat from their objectives, and their attack swung to the left of the sector.  The 117th, which followed, went off in the opposite direction fortunately and cleaned out a territory which otherwise would have been left undisturbed.  While it caused endless confusion and the temporary intermingling of platoons, companies, and even regiments, this pall of mist and smoke on the morning of the attack undoubtedly contributed to the success of the battle.  The Germans did not know how to shoot accurately, for no targets were visible.  During the morning hours it was impossible for a man to see his hand more than a few inches in front of him.  Men in the combat groups joined hands to avoid being lost from each other.  Officers were compelled, in orienting their maps, to lay them on the ground, as it was impossible to read them while standing in the dense cloud of smoke and mist.  The atmosphere did not clear up completely until after the canal had been crossed.

The barrage for the attack went down at 5:50 a.m.  The First Battalion, under Major Dyer, jumped off promptly on time, with C and D Companies in the line, A and B Companies in support.  The Second Battalion followed at about 500 yards, while the Third Battalion, with a company of engineers, was held in reserve on the crest of a hill.  The tanks, for the most part, became separated from the infantry, but their work was invaluable in plowing through the barbed wire, which had been cut up very little by the barrage.  Like nearly everyone else, the tanks lost sense of direction in the smoke and fog cloud, while the majority of them were disabled before noon of the 29th.

hindenburg line

Past the Hindenburg Line, members of Co.”K,” 117th Infantry, digging themselves in for the night after an advance which started in the morning at Molain, France.

The taking of the Hindenburg Tunnel was a turning point in the war.  The Australians who had units present as well document the events, with maps, here. Fallen American soldiers on the 29th, shown below.  I wonder if placing crosses on the bodies was a symbolic tradition or was simply a signal that “this one needs to be buried.”

Fallen Americans

Most of the morning was consumed by the 117th in clearing out the area south and west of the tunnel entrance.  Some units, mistaking one of the trench systems for the canal, turned southward before actually reaching the genuine canal.  They cleaned out thoroughly the Germans, who were in this pocket, but toward 10 o’clock turned northward and began to pass over the tunnel, the left flank skimming Bellicourt and the right crossing near the tunnel entrance.

The casualties of the 117th on September 29 were 26 officers and 366 men.  Seven field pieces, 99 machine guns, 7 anti-tank rifles, many small arms and 592 German prisoners were the trophies of the day.  Though the casualties were rather heavy, in view of the machine gun and artillery resistance which the Germans offered from powerfully held positions, they should be regarded as rather light.  With a clear day, without fog or smoke, they would have been double or treble this number.

hindenburg tunnel

American and Australian soldiers at the entrance to the breached Hindenburg Tunnel, October 4, 1918.

The 117th was relieved from the line about noon of October 1, and before night the regiment was on its way back to the Herbicourt area on the Somme River for rest and reorganization.  This period, however, was very brief, for on October 5 orders were issued to relieve an Australian brigade.

The offensive of the division, with the 59th Brigade making the attack, was scheduled for the morning of October 8.

This is the day Samuel Bolton would die.

The 59th Brigade offensive was launched the morning of October 8, the 117th on the left, the 118th on the right.  The British were on the flanks.  The jumping off line was northeast of Wiancourt, while the objective was slightly beyond Premont.  The First Battalion of the 117th launched the attack for the regiment, the Second Battalion was in close support, while the Third Battalion, which had been cut up badly the day before, was in reserve.  The attack got off on time in spite of the difficulties that were encountered the previous night in getting into position under fire and in the dark.

The attack started before six o’clock in the morning, after a heavy barrage had been laid down by the accompanying artillery.  In spite of heavy shelling by German machine guns and artillery on both flanks, especially from the towns of Ponchaux and Geneve, the companies made fairly good gains during the day, fighting almost every foot of the way.

oct 8 1914 map

In the face of furious German resistance with all kinds of machine gun nests and an abundance of light artillery, the battalions advanced very rapidly, skillfully knocking out machine guns and maneuvering to the best advantage over the broken ground.  The Second Battalion suffered heavy losses during the morning and two companies of the brigade reserve were ordered to its support.  Before noon Major Hathaway, who commanded it, announced the capture of Premont and his arrival at the prescribed objective.  Positions were consolidated during the afternoon and preparations made for a possible counter-attack.

Today, the scene n the road between Wiancourt and Premont, near Ponchaux, looks idyllic, but on October 8th, 1914, it was pure and utter hell.

oct 8 1914 countryside

This operation was a very costly one, perhaps the most bloody of the whole division in proportion to the number of men engaged, for out of the battalion, 12 officers and about 400 men were either killed or wounded.  The casualties of the 117th on October 8 were the heaviest of any day of fighting in which it was engaged on the front.

For Samuel Bolton, the war ended on October 8th, but for the rest of the 117th, it continued the next day beginning at daybreak.

During these three days of fighting, October 7, 8, and 9, the regiment lost 34 officers and 1051 men as casualties.  A count of the spoils taken included 113 machine guns, 28 field pieces, 907 small arms and about 800 prisoners.  The great majority of the latter, 703, were captured on October 8, showing that on the final day the men, enraged by the losses of their comrades the day previous, killed most of the Germans they took.  This became not an uncommon practice in the latter days of fighting, especially against the German machine gunners, who would kill or wound from their place of concealment a half platoon or more of men before their gun was located and put out of action.  This custom of taking no prisoners was confined to no single regiment, but became common practice throughout the division.

Samuel’s trip home began on October 8th.  I don’t know how long it took in those days to notify family of a death, but it certainly wasn’t by telephone.

Cousin Dillis indicated that at that time, officers would have visited the family to deliver the news in person.  This regiment was out of Knoxville, so the men who would have made that sad trip would have had to have gotten as far as Springdale in Claiborne County, where Little Sycamore Road turns to the east to enter the labyrinth of backroads into the mountains.

claiborne map

They probably had to stop at the store or the gas station at Springdale and ask directions.  That means, of course, that everyone at the store knew where they were going, and could easily surmise why, if the men didn’t tell them outright.  Many of the Bolton cousins lived down Little Sycamore, on the side roads, up the mountains and in the valleys, between Springdale and Hoop Creek where Joseph and Margaret lived, assuming they had moved from Back Valley Road since the 1910 census.  In fact, the men would pass by the Plank Cemetery, on Little Sycamore Road, where Samuel’s remains would rest, under these trees, and just a few months later, those of his parents as well.  Samuel’s grandfather, Joseph Bolton, Sr., who died in 1887 was already waiting there.

Plank cem

As they neared the intersection of Back Valley Road and Mulberry Gap Road, they would have had to ask again, at least once – as houses didn’t have numbers at that time and these men weren’t familiar with local roads that were often more like 2 tracks..

back valley at mulberry

If Joseph and Margaret had moved to Hoop Creek between the 1910 census and 1918, then they would have had to ask directions at Hoop Creek Road.  Back Valley, Hoop Creek and Rebel Holler roads all interconnect is a mountaintop and mountainside interwoven maze that is impossible for anyone but locals to navigate, even today.

When the car pulled up in front of the house, if Joseph and Margaret were home, they would have likely known immediately that someone had arrived.  The chickens in the yard scattered and the dogs began to bark.  They would have looked outside to see who, in a car, had arrived, and when they saw the uniforms, they would have known.  Margaret would have begun to cry.  Their son Estel, age 30, a machinist, lived at home in the 1920 census, so he likely lived at home in 1918 as well.  Perhaps he was in the barn that day, and came to the house when he saw the car as well.  The neighbors, of course, already knew because they had given directions to the gentlemen in uniform to find Joseph Bolton’s house.  They were already preparing to come to the house to comfort the family as soon as the car left.  The grapevine already had the news.

Sometime later, Samuel’s body would have arrived home, in a coffin, with a flag draped over it.  The brothers and sisters who lived distant, like my grandmother who was living in Chicago by then, would have been summoned home, and the Bolton family would have gathered to say their goodbyes in the Plank Cemetery. My father, William Sterling Estes and his brother, Joseph “Dode” Estes were also serving in the war, so it’s unlikely that either of them were able to attend Samuel’s funeral.  Ironically, Ollie Bolton Estes, my grandmother, had named one of her children Samuel, and that Samuel had died as well.

Just one month and 3 days after Samuel’s death, the armistice was signed, signaling the end of WWI.  Was that bittersweet for his parents?  While Samuel Bolton didn’t survive to return home, the heavy fighting and breach and taking of the Hindenburg Tunnel were certainly part and parcel in turning the tide of the war, defeating Germany, so his death was certainly not in vain.  If anything, Joseph and Margaret Bolton could take pride that their son had played a critical role in changing the world, and the tide of world affairs, for the better.  But that’s awfully hard to convey to grieving parents.

Samuel’s unit spent the winter in Europe, just in case they were needed, returning home to celebrate their return with parades in Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga and throughout Eastern Tennessee in April of 1919.  Sadly, Samuel wasn’t among them.  I wonder if Joseph and Margaret attended any of the celebratory events or if it was just too painful for them.

117th homecoming

The 177th lost a total of 2184 officers and men in September and October of 1918.  The regiment’s total advance into hostile territory was 11-2/3 miles and the towns captured by it were Premont, Busigny and Molaine.

In a sense, Joseph and Margaret were one of the lucky ones – their son’s body was returned, or I presume that it was because he does have a grave marker.  I guess one should never assume.  If a local newspaper could be found, articles would likely answer that question.  A surprising number of dead were never sent home – many were simply buried where they fell or nearby.  The number of WWI dead was unprecedented, especially in what came to be known as the “100 Days Offensive” that preceded the end of the war.  Remains continue to be found today.

This page discusses the WWI war dead, battlefields and burials.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, yes, that’s her real name, is a professional genealogist who specialized in repatriating remains of soldiers.  She is probably best known for finding the Irish roots of Barack Obama, but her love and calling into this profession was through using DNA to identify the families of soldiers’ remains from the various wars, so that the bodies of the soldiers can be returned to their families and given a burial at home.

I asked Megan if she works on many WWI cases.  After all, it has been 96 years since that war, the “War to End All Wars,” ended.

Megan said, “Most of my cases (over 1,000) have been WWII & Korean War.  In the early days, I had a fair number of Southeast Asia ones, and very rarely, I’ve had WWI cases. I’ve been to one funeral for a WWI case – a fellow originally from Ireland. So it happens, but not terribly often.”

As the child of an Army family, it’s somehow fitting that repatriation was her calling into genetic genealogy.

“It was the Army’s repatriation efforts that first got me into DNA – 15 years ago now! I knew I wanted to write “Trace Your Roots with DNA” in 2001, but disciplined myself to wait because I knew folks weren’t ready for it yet. Spent 2 years getting articles and talks on DNA rejected even though I was already established. Ah, memories! But as an Army brat myself, I’ve always loved the application that first drew me to DNA. Still love it when any of my fellows get identified after all these years.”

Trace Your Roots with DNA was the first of Megan’s books, and the first genetic genealogy DNA basics book published in 2004.  You can read more about Megan’s work here.

I find it fitting though, that the DNA of the families, of the mothers, or the sisters, in particular is used to identify and return these soldiers.  There is never much question about maternal parentage, so the mother’s mitochondrial DNA is utilized.  Furthermore, mitochondrial DNA is much more easily extracted from decomposed remains – and the most likely DNA to survive intact.  So, fittingly, it’s the mother who ultimately brings her son home.

Rest in peace Samuel, and thank you.

Poppies in a Meadow

Acknowledgements to Pam Bolton for providing the Descendants of Henry Bolton Facebook page and Dillis Bolton for information provided in this article.

Surname Projects

This is the second in a series about DNA projects, how they work and how they can benefit testers and others.  DNA projects aren’t just for those who test.  There are other benefactors too – like those who descend from your paternal line and can’t test because they are females – for example.

Most people don’t utilize all of the project features nor the features they do use, fully.

The first article in this series discussed finding autosomal DNA matches in any project, whether it’s a surname project, a haplogroup project or a geographic project.

Today’s article about surname projects discusses the projects from both the administrator’s perspective as well as that of the participant.  I administer several surname projects and I work with them on behalf of my clients when I’m writing their Personalized DNA Reports every day.  So, I see them routinely from every angle. All of the projects that I’m discussing are found at Family Tree DNA and are for their clients.  Joining projects is free and you can join as many as you want.

Surname projects were the first type of project to be defined by Family Tree DNA.  These are the most straightforward of project types, at least on the surface, because it’s inherently obvious if you are a male, and if you carry a particular surname.  Only males can test their Y DNA, because women don’t carry a Y chromosome – and the Y DNA follows the surname path – so long as that surname path does not include any nonparental events or adoptions.

So, if you’re a Smith male, you would test and join the Smith project, an Estes male joins the Estes project, and so forth.

Finding a Surname Project

If you don’t know whether a project exists for your surname, there are two ways to find out.

If you’re not yet a client of Family Tree DNA, click here, and on their main page scroll all the way to the bottom.  In the Community column, all the way to the right, click on Projects.


This takes you to the project search page where you can enter the surname you are searching for in the Project Search box in the upper right corner, or you can browse through the various surname and geographic projects using the alphabetic options on the left.


Entering a surname and searching will take you to the page with relevant information for that surname, in this case, Estes.


It tells you how many people with the surname of Estes have tested.  The 157 shown will include both males and females.

It shows you if there is an Estes surname project.  There is, and there are 170 members.  We’ll talk about what that means in a minute.

Then, other projects are shown were the project administrators have listed Estes as a surname of interest.  This does not automatically mean that these projects are relevant to your Estes line, but that the surname is of interest to that project for some reason.

To order a kit and join the Estes project, click on the Estes project link.

The next page allows you to join the Estes project and purchase DNA testing of various types.  Purchasing a kit through this page automatically joins you to the project.

surname estes

The project administrator is automatically notified and you will receive a welcome e-mail if the project administrator has implemented that feature.  Many administrators include a request for your genealogy in their welcome e-mail.  After all, a surname project can and does pertain to all instances of that surname, and the administrator has no way of knowing how you are connected to which line without your genealogy info.  This also helps them group your results appropriately.

An Alternative Project List

If you don’t want to look at the projects by category, and you want to simply scroll through a list alphabetically, this link at provides you with exactly that service.  Keep in mind that haplogroup, geographic and surname projects will all be intermingled, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  They also provide a surname search.


The links that show “project site” indicate there is also a project for that surname as well.

Joining Projects After Testing

If you have already tested, and I’m referring to Y DNA testing here, you’ll want to join your surname project, and possibly others, after your results are back.  In some cases, you won’t know what projects you qualify to join until your results are back, such as haplogroup projects.  DNA testing determines your haplogroup.

To join a project, on your personal page, on the top left, you’ll see My Projects.  Click on Join.


You will see a list of projects where the surname administrator has entered Estes as a surname of interest.

What does this mean to you and how do you decide which projects to join?

Read the project descriptions.

Some of these projects are clearly NOT relevant for you.

Myth – Many people think that the projects they see on these lists are “being recommended” by Family Tree DNA.  Not true.  The fact that the project appears on the list is the sole function of the administrator entering that surname in the project surname list of their project profile.

Let’s take a look at this list for our Estes participant.


In this case, the Estes ancestor in question is a descendant of Abraham Estes, so the Estes project would be appropriate.  Reading the description of the Estis Jewish Ukraine project, that one doesn’t fit, and neither does the Jester project.  Why are these listed under the surname Estes?  Because the project administrators entered Estes as a surname of interest – because clearly Estis is misspelled Estes and Estes may be a found when looking for Jester as well.

That leaves three other projects to look at.

By clicking on the I-L161 (I2a2b-Isles) Project, you can read the description, as follows:


It’s rather unusual for a haplogroup project to include surnames, but it’s entirely up to the administrator.  Apparently, at least one of the Estes lines is I-L161 and this project administrator wants to be sure to catch any others.  So, if your Estes haplogroup does not match the project description, then this project is not for you either.

The last two projects are the Cumberland Gap Y and mtDNA projects.  Why is Estes listed here?


The description tells us that the project is for those families whose ancestors settled in or passed through the Cumberland Gap region that is associated with Claiborne, Hancock and Hawkins Co., in Tn., Lee, Russell or Scott Counties in Virginia, or Bell or Harlan Counties in Kentucky.  If this fits your paternal line, the Estes family line, then this project is a good fit for you.  In this case, it is.  If not, then this isn’t the project for you.

The last project is the Cumberland Gap mitochondrial DNA project.  Since we’re discussing Y DNA testing, a mtDNA project is not relevant to you, so this isn’t the project for you either.

Of the 6 projects listed as possibilities, only 2 are relevant to the Estes line in question.

Myth – All projects listed are relevant to you.

The only projects that appear as a result of a surname search are projects where the administrator knows that the surname is relevant and goes to the effort to enter relevant surnames when they define their project.


Myth – All projects relevant to you will be listed.  Not true – neither Family Tree DNA nor the other project administrators have the ability to determine what is relevant to your family line.

It may behoove you to browse through the projects in the Y Geographic and Dual Geographic categories.  For example, my Estes family is from Kent in England.  Is there a Kent geographic project?  No, but there is a British Isles by County project.


Maybe this would be interesting.  Based on their description, the Estes family qualifies because we have a proven geographic connection to Kent.

Dual projects apply to both Y DNA and mtDNA.  We’ll talk about special challenges for these types of projects when we discuss Geographic Projects.


Administrators of all projects are volunteers and receive no compensation for their services.  Most are somehow connected to the projects they manage.  For example, I administer the Estes surname project, my maiden name, the Bolton project, my paternal grandmother’s maiden name, and so forth.

The knowledge and dedication of administrators varies as much as individual people do.  Some administrators spend an inordinate amount of time on their projects, and some barely any.  If you have problems contacting a project administrator, notify Family Tree DNA.  Something may have happened and a new administrator may need to be found.  If you have expertise in the specific surname line, consider becoming a co-administrator.  Nearly unanimously administrators are looking for help and for a backup, just in case something does happen.

Unless the administrator does something unethical or outside of the administrator guidelines, they have the freedom to group and run the project in the manner they see fit.  If you would like to see something done differently, make that suggestion, nicely, or volunteer to help.

You might be surprised how much criticism administrators receive from  people who disappear entirely the minute the suggestion is made that they do something besides criticize.


There are three main challenges faced by surname projects.

  1. Women
  2. Nonparental Events
  3. Autosomal DNA


One of the challenges every surname administrator faces sooner or later is how to handle women who descend from these lines, or carry the surname, and want to join the project.

Often, this request stems more from a desire to belong than a scientific basis.  Let me explain.

My maiden name is Estes and that is the surname I identify with most strongly.  I would like to join the Estes project because I “belong” there.  As a female, I can test my mitochondrial DNA and my autosomal DNA, neither of which are relevant to a Y DNA project.

Many administrators simply don’t allow females in this situation to join – and that is their prerogative.  I always have included females, and not just because I am one.  Why?  Because it doesn’t hurt the project or cause me as an administrator any problems or extra work.  It makes them feel included, and often, women are the “keepers” of the family history.  With the advent of autosomal testing, I’m glad that I have included females because now I have a group of Estes descended people already gathered.

Each project admin can enable or disable Y DNA results and mtDNA from showing on their public project page.


A Y DNA project should have mtDNA disabled, so the mtDNA of the women and men who join are not showing in this project, because they are not relevant to the Estes surname project.

Nonparental  or Nonpaternal Events (NPEs)

What do surname administrators do in two awkward instances?

The first is when someone thinks they will match an ancestral name, like the descendants of Abraham Estes, the US immigrant, but they don’t match any Estes line?

I refer to these situations as undocumented adoptions even through they are generally referred to at NonPaternal events, or NPEs.  This means that somewhere, somehow, an “adoption” has occurred.  It could be in the current generation as a legal adoption.  It could be in the 1800s as a step-child taking the surname of his step-father.  It could be in the 1700s as an unwed mother gave her child her surname, but the child carried the Y DNA of his unnamed father.  Or, it could have been due to an infidelity or a relationship that was unwelcome.  Regardless of why, or how, or when, I tell people that they ARE an Estes, that this is their line, and it’s simply a newly documented Estes line.  I go to every effort to make them feel welcome and included and I try very hard to avoid any words that have negative connotations or could be hurtful or make them uncomfortable, like, for example, illegitimate.  Generally, the information alone is quite a shock and I try to position it in the best, most positive, light possible.  Of the undocumented adoptions I’ve been able to identify, most of the time it has to do with a step-father giving a child his surname.  Certainly, an act of love.  Every surname will have these circumstances, given enough time and testers.

Administrators have a variety of ways to deal with this, depending on the cirumstances at hand and how the participant feels about the situation.


In some cases, I give them their own category based on what is known.  Hershel Estis from the Ukraine is a good example.  So is Moses of Pendleton District, SC.  When I don’t have a lot of information, I may simply group them in the “New Estes Line” category.

And then there’s the opposite situation.  Someone with a non-Estes surname matches an Estes – and I mean exactly including all the rare marker values.  They are obviously genetically an Estes, but they don’t know when that Estes line got genetically inserted into their surname line.  Taking a look at their genealogy and where an Estes might have lived in close proximity might lend an important clue about where the change might have occurred.

I welcome these folks into the project too.  It can’t hurt and it gives them a sense of belonging.  They are clearly related.  I group them with the line they most closely match.

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA testing is wonderful and it has caused so many walls to fall.  However, it’s difficult to work with in a project because there are few good tools.  Part of the problem is that, unlike Y DNA results where you have a few hundred people at most, who match on 111 markers at max – with autosomal you have thousands who match you, but may or may not match each other on millions of locations.  How do you effectively display this kind of information and make it relevant to projects?

Because I want to know more about the Estes autosomal DNA, I encourage people who do not carry the Estes surname, but do descend from an Estes ancestor to join the project.  This applies to all of my surname projects.  Why?

It does cause me more work, which is why many admins don’t encourage or allow it.  And the level of work differs for males and females.  Females won’t show in the Y part of the projects, so if mtDNA display is disabled, they don’t show publicly at all – so no problem.  But males are different.  They will each show in the Y part of the project, even though they aren’t Estes males unless I disable the display for each of them individually, and then they want to know why they aren’t in the project – when they are.

What I do is to create a category called “Autosomal Estes.”

surname autosomal

This means that they descend autosomally from an Estes, even though they are showing on the Y page.  I realize this isn’t the ideal solution, but until Family Tree DNA implements a third tab that says “autosomal” in projects, it’s about the best I can do.  Other suggestions from admins about how they handle this situation are certainly welcome.

Autosomal Matching

In the first Projects article, we talked about autosomal matching from the perspective of the participant.  By utilizing the Advanced Matching feature, any participant can see who they match autosomally within any project they have joined.

My own advanced matching example in the Estes project is shown below.


However, administrators have a second tool that they can use, but the results are not publicly displayed.  I almost hate to mention this, because I don’t want admins to be overwhelmed with requests.  Keep in mind that you can see your own individual match results utilizing the technique above, for every project you have joined.  Of course, you can always see your matches in all projects from your personal page.

Administrators have a group of genetic reports available to them and among those is the Illumina OnmiExpress Matrix.  It looks and functions like the regular Matrix that we all use to see which of our matches that match us also match each other.


This matrix gives the administrator the ability to see who, within the project, who matches whom.  However, with a large project, the administrator would have to do these matches in “shifts” or the sheer number overwhelms the size of the screen, etc.

As an administrator, it’s easier to view a members results individually to see who they match.  For example, if I want to see if Tommy Moore, my Moore cousin, matches anyone within the project, it’s much easier just to look at Tommy Moore’s results.  That’s why Tommy is in the Estes project, so that I can do just that since I’m the one responsible for Tommy’s kit.

As an administrator, what I’d really like is the ability to simply generate a file that downloads to a spreadsheet with a match matrix for everyone in the project.

And by way of reminder, just because people match autosomally within a project, it’s not proof positive that their common ancestor is that surname, although it is indeed, a good hint and a good starting point.  The ancestor from which the DNA originated can only be proven through triangulation and the matrix tool.  Now, the good news is that indeed, you have lots of opportunities for triangulation within a surname project.

Other DNA

Sometimes in projects, you’ll find “other DNA.”  In my case, in the Estes project, there are three Moores, a Lentz and two Campbells, etc.  This is because these are tests that I have sponsored and I have them in my project where I can access them easily as an admin.  In the case of the Moore line, they are also “Estes related” autosomally in that John R. Estes married Nancy Ann Moore in 1811, and these Moore folks are from that family line.  The same holds true for the Campbell line.

Does this get a little blurry and a bit messy?  Yes, but that’s also why it’s important, really important, to read the project description and what the admin has to say.  It’s also why each project has a contact for the project administrator.  If in doubt, ask, but AFTER reading, please:)  You would be amazed how may requests admins receive that have been already answered if the person would have read the project information.

About the Group

Each project, at the top of the page, has an “About this Group” tab.


Those tabs include the project background, goals which will often include information about specific lines being sought, news and results.  I should be a better administrator and keep mine more up to date.

In the Younger project, one of the early goals was to determine if the Halifax County, Virginia group of Youngers was related to the notorious Younger Gang Youngers.  If you take a look at the results section, you will see that the administrators have written about the question and the answers, as well.

As administrators, we collected the genealogy of each participant and before publishing this information, by kit number, we sent each of the participants the document and obtained their approval.  Yes, it was a pain, but it was necessary, as we didn’t want to divulge information that was not acceptable to the participants.  Only one participant declined to participate.  Having gathered and published this information has been a godsend repeatedly.

The corresponding Younger Y DNA project page is color coded to match the results description.

Every project is managed differently.

One of the weaknesses of the Family Tree DNA projects is that there is no avenue for the administrators, other than documenting the genealogy/pedigrees in the “About the Group” section like we did in the Younger project, to provide genealogical information about the lines being tested.  Several years ago, stepped up to the plate to work with Family Tree DNA to provide an alternative display for project administrators.


In some ways, I think the enhanced pedigrees are wonderful because they connect with the kit number from their WorldFamilies Y DNA page.


However, the down side is that the results are not automatically updated from Family Tree DNA and there is no Match Mapping.  Now you may be thinking to yourself, “how important can match mapping be?”  The answer is that it can actually provide the brick wall breakthrough for some people.  For example, just yesterday, one of my clients found on their match mapping that the oldest ancestor of one of their low level matches was located very close to their own ancestral line.  You can see their white balloon almost on top of a red match balloon underneath.


While they might not have bothered to contact this person, because there were a low level match, not having tested at a higher level – now they definitely will contact that person.

For someone whose surname is stuck in the US, an ancestral match to someone of the same surname and matching DNA in the old country can be the cannonball that breaks through the brick wall of “where are we from?”  That’s exactly what happened with my McDowell line in Ireland.

Mapping is an extremely important tool, and one that’s often not utilized to its full potential.

Some WorldFamilies projects also maintain their project page at Family Tree DNA as well, so you can have the best of both worlds.

How to Help Yourself

Projects form the framework for DNA matching and solving long-standing problems, but they can only do so much.  There are many things that participants can do that will help projects solve those mysteries.

1. Update the most distant ancestor field. This is important because anyone perusing the project will be able to tell if your line is potentially their line too. Remember, your DNA represents the paternal line DNA for thousands of us who care a great deal about it but can’t test for your surname’s Y chromosome.  You never know what we might have in terms of research that might be useful to you, if we can find you through our common ancestor.


See all of those blank Paternal Ancestor Names?  That’s because no one entered the most distant ancestor information.  We can’t find you if your oldest ancestor information isn’t there.

Conversely, admins need to enable the “oldest ancestor” field to show.  It helps recruit new members and disabling it has no benefit that I’ve ever been able to discern.  I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to find no oldest ancestors listed and then be unable to contact the administrator to find out if any represent your family line.  In this case, project mapping isn’t enabled either, so the public website project is virtually useless.

2. Upload a GEDCOM file. Every individual’s results have a location for a GEDCOM file. Uploading a file prevents people from writing to you and asking questions that could easily be answered. With autosomal testing, uploading a GEDCOM has become even more important.

Currently, your personal and genealogical information is managed from the “Manage Personal Information” link on the left hand side of your personal page.  I’m hoping Family Tree DNA will put link this back on the top of the page with the other list of links.


Click on Manage Personal Information.


Of the above options, Most Distant Ancestors, Surnames and the GEDCOM file need to be addressed.

3. Enter your matching map geographic information. This is done from the Matching Map which can be found on your Y DNA list at the top of your personal page.


Click on Matches Maps, and then on the bottom of the map of matches, you’ll see “Update Ancestor’s Location.”  Your most distant ancestor’s location will be defaulted to the equator if you don’t enter this information.


Clicking on “Update Paternal Location” steps you through the process.


Enter the location, then click on search.


The location will be returned to you.


If this is correct, click on “select.”


Click on next is this is correct.


Then click on save and exit.


Now your white balloon shows up where your most distant ancestor in this line is known to have lived.  Hey, who are those other purple people living nearly and who match my ancestor?  Are they Estes folks?  Well, just click on their balloons to see.

See why entering most distant ancestor and their location is so important?


Surname projects are very powerful tools.  They are most powerful when we, as participants, provide full information, and administrators enable as much information as possible to be displayed which includes the fields for “most distant ancestor” and the mapping function.

For many genealogists, the only way they will ever be able to determine the Y DNA of their 5th great grandfather is through finding their line in a surname project.  If you’re interested in ways to do that, take a look at the article, “The DNA Pedigree Chart – Mining for Ancestors.”  You never know who is waiting for you!!!

Please join me for the next article in this series about Haplogroup Projects.

Sylvester Estes (1596-c1647), Sometimes Churchwarden, 52 Ancestors #31

Sylvester Estes was baptized on September 26, 1596, in Ringwould, Kent, England, in St. Nicholas Church.  His parents were Robert Eastes and Anne Woodward.

Sylvester died sometime after 1646 when son, Abraham, born about 1647, was conceived, and before 1649 when his wife Ellin (also spelled Ellen) died, with a will that states she was a widow.  In case there is any question, based on Y DNA testing, Abraham, the last child born to this couple, did belong to Sylvester and this was not a case of a widow having a child after her husband’s death and the child taking the deceased husband’s surname.  That has happened in the Estes line in the US, but not in this case.  The Y DNA of Abraham’s male Estes descendants clearly matches that of the English Estes line.

Sylvester likely spent the first 40 years of his life in the Ringwould area.  We know he was active in St. Nicholas Church in Ringwould, because the parish records note him as “sometimes churchwarden.”

st nicholas ringwould entry

What does a churchwarden do?  They are a volunteer or lay official with responsibilities of maintaining the church and churchyard, making or paying to have repairs made, keeping the peace, caring for the poor and setting a good example for the rest of the flock.  Some churchwardens also collected taxes from anyone who owned or rented property and were responsible for coordinating the maintenance of roads within the parish.  Two church wardens were selected each year, one by the minister and the second by the people.  The vestry, typically made up of the wealthy landowners in each parish, determined the responsibilities of the churchwarden in their parish.  The churchwarden and the overseer of the poor, if they were separate people, were typically amongst the prominent men of the parish.  In towns, churchwardens were generally of the merchant class, and in rural areas, of the yeoman class.

In the late 14th to 18th centuries, yeomen were farmers who owned land (freehold, leasehold or copyhold). Their wealth and the size of their landholding varied. Often it was hard to distinguish minor landed gentry from the wealthier yeomen, and wealthier husbandmen from the poorer yeomen.

Yeomen were often constables of their parish, and sometimes chief constables of the district, shire or hundred. Many yeomen held the positions of bailiffs for the High Sheriff or for the shire or hundred. Other civic duties would include churchwarden, bridge warden, and other warden duties. It was also common for a yeoman to be an overseer for his parish. Yeomen, whether working for a lord, king, shire, knight, district or parish served in localised or municipal police forces raised by or led by the landed gentry.

If this was true for Sylvester, it might provide us with a clue as to the possible cause of his death.

Stewart Estes, on his web page, refers to Sylvester as a “husbandman and yeoman,” but doesn’t mention his source.

Churchwardens were responsible for dealing with charitable causes.  Many churchwarden account books remain.  Aside from maintenance, the charitable causes to which churchwardens allocated the parish funds were manifold, ranging from bounties paid for hedgehogs, ravens, foxes, help to their own poor, donations to less well-off parishes and ransoms for Christian captives of Algerian pirates.  The fact that Sylvester was a churchwarden at some time(s) in his life indicates that he was a trusted and well-respected member of the community.

Sylvester Eastes married a local girl, Ellin Martin, on November 24, 1625, in the church in Ringwould.

estes martin marriage

They married in their home church, where they had been raised, in this lovely chancel, at the altar.

ringwould altar

Sylvester and Ellin had several children, the first 7 or 8 of which were baptized in Ringwould, but beginning in 1638, they apparently moved up the road to Nonington.   Of course, Google maps today routes you on main roads, but you can see that utilizing the local roads, Waldershare was only a couple miles from Ringwould and about the same distance from Nonington.  Great Hardres is another matter and it’s probably another 3 or 4 miles west of Nonington.

hardres map

Sylvester’s wife, Ellin Martin, was reported to have been born about 1600 in Great Hadres, also spelled Great Hardres.  With her last child born in 1647, she certainly would have not been born any earlier than 1600 and quite possibly, later.

Great Hadres is an area not terribly far removed from Ringwould, but also not extremely close.  Furthermore, I cannot find any actual source for that location of her birth.  The church records in Ringwould show several Martin christenings, marriages and burials, but not Ellin’s.  Unfortunately, the Great Hardres records don’t begin until 1764 although the Bishops transcripts reportedly begin in 1563.  They are not transcribed.

If Ellin was born in Great Hardres, the local church and cemetery are probably full of Martin ancestors. The church below is St. Peter and St. Paul at Upper Hardres Court.  Parts of this church date from the 1200s.  A newer church was built 3 miles away in the twin village of Lower Hardres in the 1800s, but this earlier would have been the church in which Ellen Martin was baptized in about 1600.  I would surely love to see these church records.

hardres church

Sylvester and Ellin’s children born from 1638 on, who are reflected in records, were born in Nonington and baptized at St. Mary’s Church, shown below.

nonington church crop

Regardless of whether Abraham was baptized here or not, Sylvester and Ellin and their family attended this church, walked these grounds and sat inside this building for a decade of their lives, the last decade of their marriage

nonington church interior

Unfortunately, no baptismal record for their last child, Abraham, my direct ancestor, has been found.  It’s very likely that he too was born in Nonington.  These are the only Estes members of the Nonington church in this timeframe.

The children of Sylvester Eastes and Ellin Martin are:

1. Robert Eastes, baptized 10 September 1626, Ringwould, Kent, died 1692 and buried 23 June 1692, Waldershire, Kent, married Elizabeth, who died in 1676 at Waldershire, Kent, and was buried 8 August 1676. Married second Margaret Coachman, 26 June 1688, Hadres, Kent. Children: Robert (1652), Elizabeth (1653), Susan (1655), Silvester (1657-1692) of Waldershare, Kent;

2. Anne Eastes, baptized 25 November 1627 at Ringwould, Kent, died young;

3. Silvester Eastes, baptized 31 May 1629 at Ringwould, Kent, married — Nash.

4. Susan Eastes, baptized 30 March 1631 at Ringwould, Kent.

5. Thomas Eastes, baptized 20 January 1633, Ringwould, Kent, died 15 April 1682, Pelham, Kent, married Sarah and had children: John (1665) of Waldershare, Kent, and lattr of Acrise, Kent.

6. Richard Eastes, baptized 5 October 1634, at Ringwould, Kent.

7. Mary Eastes, baptized 2 October 1636 at Ringwould, Kent.

8. Anne Eastes, born 1637 at Ringwould, Kent.

9. Nicholas Eastes, yeoman, baptized 9 December 1638 at Nonington, Kent, married Jane Birch, died 1665, Sutton, Kent. Children: John (?-1715) of Sutton.

10. Elizabeth Eastes, born 1639/40 at Nonington, Kent.

11. Ellen Eastes, baptized 11 December 1642, Nonington, Kent, died 1729 and buried 26 December 1729 at St Leonard’s, Kent. Ellen married Moses Eastes, 23 December 1667, at Deal, Kent. Moses was baptized 12 November 1643 at St Leonard’s, Kent and died at Deal, 19 March 1707/8 & buried 23 March, at St Leonard’s, Kent. Children: Richard (1667/8-1668), Constant (1669-1708), Aaron (1671) & Samuel (1674/5), of St Leonard’s, Kent.

12. John Eastes, baptized 29 December 1644 at Nonington, Kent.

13. Abraham5 Eastes, born 1647 at Nonington, Kent, married Anne Burton (widow), 29 December 1672, at Worth, Kent. Abraham immigrated to Virginia and remarried there, having several children. Abraham died in 1720, leaving widow Barbara, who was the mother of at least his younger children, if not all of his children.  Although Barbara’s last name is widely reported to be Brock, there is absolutely no documentation of such.  If you find original source documentation for Barbara’s last name, meaning not unsourced or recopied Ancestry trees, please, PLEASE send it to me.  You can be the hero of the Abraham Estes family!!!

All of this leaves me with questions.  What happened to Sylvester?  Why is there no baptism record for Abraham, nor a burial record for Sylvester in Nonington or in Ringwould?  Did they move someplace else where Abraham was born and Sylvester died?  Did Sylvester die before Abraham was born, perhaps forcing Ellin to move?

The records for Nonington are existant and transcribed, but there are no burials recorded for the years 1646-1648, so if Sylvester died in Nonington, those records are lost.  Christening records for that time period are recorded, but Abraham is absent and there are no Estes records from 1644 (John’s birth) forward.

And finally, who were Ellin Martin’s parents?  The Martin records from the Ringwould church records are as follows:


March 5, 1575 – Roger Howell and Beatrix Martyn, married

Nov. 19, 1576 – William Martin and Margaret Clarke, married

April 16, 1677 – Thomas Martyn, son of William christened

Nov. 1, 1579 – Nicholas Martyn, son of William christened

Nov. 8, 1579 – Nicholas Martin, son of William buried

Jan. 22, 1580 – Emlin, daughter of William christened

April 23, 1584 – John Martyn, son of William christened

May 24, 1584 – Margaret Martyn, daughter of William buried

June 24, 1584 – William Martyn and Elizabeth Harte married

July 25, 1584 – John, son of William buried

April 21, 1597 – Elizabeth Martyn, wife of William buried

January 10, 1607 – Margaret Martin, daughter of Thomas christened

April 13, 1614 – William Martin, an aged man, buried

April 28, 1614 – Margaret Martin, daughter of Thomas buried

May 29, 1621 – Nicolas Martin and Elizabeth Whitten married

July 23, 1622 – Margaret Martin, daughter of Nicolas christened

November 24, 1625 – Silvester Esties and Ellen Martin married

July 29, 1627 – Thomas Martin, son of Nicholas christened

Aug. 6, 1627 – Thomas Martin, son of Nicholas buried

July 27, 1628 – Jane Martin, daughter of Nicholas christened

Jan. 9, 1630 – Thomas Martin, son of Nicholas christened

Sept. 15, 1633 – Ellenor Martin, daughter of Nicholas christened

April 12, 1635 – Nicholas Martin, son of Thomas and Elizabeth

January 21, 1637 – John Martin, son of Nicholas and Elizabeth

September 13, 1640 – Elizabeth Martin, daughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth christened

April 4, 1643 – Mary Martin, daughter of Nicholas christened

Nov. 14, 1644 – Wilman Martin, wife of Thomas, buried

Dec. 29, 1647 – John Martin, son of Nicholas buried

March 24, 1664 –William Martin buried

April 16, 1688 – Daniel Martin and Margaret Bradly married

Feb. 28, 1699 – Nicholas Martin, buried

April 16, 1716 – Mary Martin buried

It’s possible that Ellin was the daughter of William Martin, the old man who died in 1614.  It’s unclear whether the William that marries in 1584 to Elizabeth Harte is the same William who has been having children, or if this is a second William.  Elizabeth, the wife of the William who marries in 1584 is buried in 1597.  This could be Ellin’s mother, if Ellin was born a few years before 1600, but that would put Abraham’s birth when Ellin was age 50 or older, which is unlikely.

Ellin might be Thomas’s child.  The first record of Thomas is in 1607 when one of his children is baptized.  One thing is for certain, whoever her parents were, it’s likely they were church members in 1625 when Ellin married Sylvester Estes, assuming they were still living.  Young women didn’t simply run off and join a church of their choosing in a location where their family was not located.

Ellin died in 1649, leaving Abraham, only 2 years old, on orphan.  Ellin had a total of 13 children, 11 living at that time, with Robert, the oldest at age 23.  At the time she made her will, she was living at Waldershare.  Did she move there after Sylvester died to live with Robert, perhaps, if he was able to find work?  Or had the family perhaps already moved there and both Abraham’s baptismal and Sylvester’s burial record would be found in the Waldershare church records?  Find My Past claims to have indexed the records for Waldershare, and I found no burial record for Ellin Eastes in 1649.  I also found no birth or baptism for Abraham no death or burial for his father, Sylvester.

Thankfully Ellin left a will.

ellin martin will

Translation of Ellin’s Will:

In the name of God, Amen, the fifth day of April 1649, I, ELIN ESTES [sic] of the parish of Waldershire [sic] in the County of Kent widow, being sick in body but in perfect memory thanks be given to God, do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following,

First, I bequeath my soul to Almighty God hoping by the mercy and merits of Jesus Christ to enjoy Everlasting life and my body to the Earth to be buried at the discretion of my Executor hereafter named.

First, I give to my son, THOMAS ESTES, twenty pounds of current money of England to be paid to him as followeth, that is to say, ten pounds at his age of twenty and one years of age and ten pounds when my youngest child shall come to the age of twenty and one years.

Item, I give to my son, RICHARD ESTES, the sum of five pounds when he shall attain to the age of twenty and one years.

Item, I give to my son, NICHOLAS ESTES, fifteen pounds to be paid to him when he shall attain the age of twenty and one years.

Item, I give to my son, JOHN ESTES, twelve pounds to be paid to him when he shall attain the age of one and twenty years.

Item, I give to my son, ABRAHAM ESTES, the sum of twelve pounds to be paid to him when he shall attain to the age of one and twenty years.

Item, I give to my daughter, ANNE ESTES, twelve pounds to be paid to her at her age of four and twenty years or day of marriage which shall first happen.

Item, I give to my daughter, SILVESTER NASH, five pounds when my youngest child cometh to the age of twenty and one years.

Item, I give to my daughter, SUSAN ESTES, the sum of twelve pounds to be paid to her when she shall attain to the age of one and twenty years or day of marriage which shall first happen.

Item, I give to my daughter, MARY ESTES, ten pounds to be paid to her when she shall attain to the age of one and twenty years or day of marriage which shall first happen.

Item, I give to my daughter, ELIZABETH ESTES, ten pounds to be paid to her [next few words crossed through but said: "when she shall attain"] at her age of one and twenty years or day of marriage which shall first happen.

Item, I give to ELLIN ESTES, my daughter, ten pounds to be paid to her when she shall attain to the age of one and twenty years or day of marriage which shall first happen.

And I do nominate and appoint ROBERT ESTES, my son, whole and sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament and I give to my said son, ROBERT ESTES, all my goods, chattels and household stuff paying my debts and legacies and funeral expenses.

In witness that this is my last Will, I do hereby publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament in the presence of those whose names are hereunder written:

Thomas Jenkin, John Peers

Ellin Estes, her mark

Ellin’s will was proved at London before Sir Nathaniel Brent, Knight, doctor of laws and Master or keeper of the Prerogative Court the sixth day of December in the year of our Lord God one thousand six hundred fifty one by the oath of Robert Estes, the son of the deceased and Executor therein named to whom administration of all and singular the goods, chattels and debts of the said deceased which any manner of ways sworn the same will was granted and committed, he being first legally sworn by virtue of a commission in that behalf issued forth well and truly to administer the same.

Why did Ellin’s will have to be proven in London?  Was this standard for the time?

And why did Annie have to wait until she was 24 instead of 21, like her sisters?  Was Annie the “wild-child” of the group, or was she somehow otherwise challenged?

Given that two of Ellin’s children, son Thomas and daughter Silvester Nash, who was obviously married by this time, were to receive 10# when Ellin’s youngest child turned 21, this might imply that there was an assumption or perhaps an arrangement that these two oldest, adult, siblings would raise the younger children after Ellin’s death – and withholding their inheritance share helped to assure that the children received attention and didn’t die of neglect.  Now there’s a morbid thought.

I have often wondered who raised Abraham, given that he is my direct ancestor.  There might be a clue in the fact that Ellin’s daughter, Ellen, born in 1642, married Moses Estes, born in 1643.  They married December 23, 1667 at St. Leonard’s church in Deal, implying that this was Ellen’s home church at that time.

Moses Eastes was Ellen’s 2nd cousin once removed.  Robert Eastes (who married Anne Woodward) was the brother of Henry Eastes, a mariner, who had married Mary Rand.  Robert was Henry’s executor in 1590.  Henry had son Richard (who married Agnes Dove) and they had son Richard born in 1578 (who married Sarah Norman) and they had son Moses born in 1643 who married Ellen Estes.  This Moses Estes was buried in March of 1707 in St. Leonard’s churchyard in Deal, stone shown below, so the Estes family had gone full circle, with Sylvester and Ellin’s daughter, Ellen returning to the same church that her great-great-grandfather, Nicholas, attended.  Ellen’s grandfather, Robert Eastes, was Moses’s great-grandfather, Henry’s brother.

sylvester and jone sons

Ellen made 6 recorded generations of Estes at St. Leonard’s and her children’s baptisms and burials make 7.

moses eastes stone

Moses’s stone is the oldest known Estes tombstone.  He was followed in death by Ellen in December of 1729, although we don’t know where in the churchyard she is buried.

Moses and Ellen had four children: Richard, January 1667 who died as an infant, Constant, born December 1669, died November 1708, Aaron, born February 1671 and Samuel, born February 1674.

Unfortunately, there are no females to continue the line since daughter Constant died unmarried and without issue at age 36 and is buried beside Moses, so we are unable to obtain the mitochondrial DNA of Ellin Woodward Estes through her daughter Ellin.  Hopefully, Ellin’s daughters Silvester Nash, Susan, Mary, Annie or Elizabeth had daughters who have descendants through all daughters, back to Ellin.  If this describes you, I have a DNA scholarship for you and we can discover what secrets Ellin Martin’s mitochondrial DNA might hold.

The fact that these two families, both descended from sons of Sylvester Eastes and Jone, obviously kept in touch and lived in relatively close proximity might suggest that Richard Estes and Sarah Norman Estes might have helped raise Sylvester and Ellin’s orphaned children.  Abraham, their youngest child, who would have had no memory of his parents, named his youngest son Moses Estes.  He would have been age 20 when his sister married Moses, so he was obviously close to Moses, probably before Moses married his sister.  The fact that Ellen’s home church was St. Leonard’s in Deal and not the church in Waldershare where her oldest brother lived is also suggestive that Abraham’s children were living in Deal, perhaps with their Estes cousins.


There is something to be said for reading all of the records of an institution, like a church.  You can note things like large gaps in records and other, more subtle, changes that could signify important historical events.

For some reason, in the early-mid 1640s, something changed either in the Ringwould church or the surrounding area.  There are no more Martin or Estes christenings, and only burials until the old guard is gone.  There are a few Estes entries over the next hundred years but not many.  The old names disappear from the register and new ones take their places.  The English Civil War took place about this time, 1642-1651 and there was significant military action in this region.  I don’t know if that had something to do with this, or perhaps church politics were at play, or both.  In 1643, the castle at Deal was under a 5 month long siege, so the Dover, Walmer and Deal area might not have been the best place to live.  Ringwould, of course, was on the main road connecting those locations.  Moving inland some might have been considered safer.  And fishing with all of the military activity surrounding the local castles along the coastline was probably highly disrupted, although it seems very unlikely that Sylvester was a fisherman.  This might explain the move to Nonington in the 1640s, but it doesn’t explain why they moved in 1638 or why Ellin was in Waldershare in 1649.

Let’s take a look at what was happening in Kent during this timeframe.

King Charles

Charles I, born in 1600, was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649.

Charles was the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the English, Irish and Scottish thrones on the death of his elder brother in 1612. An unsuccessful and unpopular attempt to marry him to a Spanish Habsburg princess culminated in an eight-month visit to Spain in 1623 that demonstrated the futility of the marriage negotiations. Two years later he married the Bourbon princess Henrietta Maria of France instead.

After his succession, Charles quarreled with the Parliament of England, which sought to curb his royal prerogative. Charles believed in the divine right of kings and thought he could govern according to his own conscience. Many of his subjects opposed his policies, in particular the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, and perceived his actions as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch. His religious policies, coupled with his marriage to a Roman Catholic, generated the antipathy and mistrust of reformed groups such as the Puritans and Calvinists, who thought his views too Catholic. He supported high church ecclesiastics, such as Richard Montagu and William Laud, and failed to successfully aid Protestant forces during the Thirty Years’ War. His attempts to force the Church of Scotland to adopt high Anglican practices led to the Bishops’ Wars, strengthened the position of the English and Scottish parliaments and helped precipitate his own downfall.

From 1642, Charles fought the armies of the English and Scottish parliaments in the English Civil War. After his defeat in 1645, he surrendered to a Scottish force that eventually handed him over to the English Parliament. Charles refused to accept his captors’ demands for a constitutional monarchy, and temporarily escaped captivity in November 1647.

Re-imprisoned on the Isle of Wight, Charles forged an alliance with Scotland, but by the end of 1648 Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army had consolidated its control over England. Charles was tried, convicted, and executed for high treason in January 1649. The monarchy was abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England was declared. In 1660, the English Interregnum ended when the monarchy was restored to Charles’s son, Charles II, who was greatly loved for his easy-going ways, and partly because the populace was weary of the 10 years of Cromwellian and Puritan rule.

The downfall of Charles I took many Kentish men right along.

The Kentish Uprising of 1648

Civil disturbances broke out in London and Canterbury during December 1647 over Parliament’s attempt to suppress traditional Christmas celebrations. In London, the lord mayor personally intervened to calm the situation, but at Canterbury the mayor was driven out of the city, along with several magistrates and clergymen. The Kent county committee was obliged to mobilize the Trained Bands to restore order.

At the commencement of the Civil War Parliament held all 3 castles.  When Parliament declared that Christmas Day should henceforth only be observed by a fast, it spurred an uprising in Kent, along with a mutiny.

A Royalist rebellion broke out in Kent after the county committee at Canterbury had attempted to suppress a petition calling for the return of the King and the disbandment of the New Model Army. Canterbury, Rochester, Sittingbourne, Faversham and Sandwich were seized by Royalist insurgents on May 21, 1648.

The following day, at a meeting in Rochester attended by many of the local gentry, an armed gathering of Kent Royalists was scheduled to be held at Blackheath on May 30th in support of the petition. On  May 26th, Dartford and Deptford were seized by insurgents. A naval revolt broke out on May 27th when ships of the Parliamentarian fleet declared for the King.

General Fairfax had been preparing to march north against the threat of invasion from Scotland. With rebellion so close to London and the danger that the Kent insurgents would be joined by Royalists from Essex and Surrey, Parliament ordered Fairfax to deal with the immediate threat. On May 27th, Fairfax mustered his troops on Hounslow Heath. Colonel Barkstead secured Southwark to the south of London, while the Trained Bands under Major-General Skippon were mobilized to defend the city itself. By May 30th, Fairfax had advanced to Blackheath. On rumours of his approach, the Royalists at Deptford and Dartford dispersed. Leaving a detachment at Croydon to act as a rearguard against any threat from Surrey, Fairfax bypassed the insurgents’ stronghold of Rochester and marched for Maidstone where an army of Kent Royalists was assembling on Penenden Heath.  The main body of Kentish rebels was decisively defeated by Fairfax in the bloody Battle of Maidstone on June 1st.

fairfax march through kent

Sandown Castle declared for King Charles, who was at that time imprisoned on the Isle of Wight.  Deal and Walmer Castles then changed their allegiance from Parliament to the deposed monarch as well.  These were the last three fortified posts to hold out for King Charles.

In June, Colonel Rich focused on the castles, one by one.  Dover was recovered on June 5th.  Then Rich turned to Deal, Walmer and Sandowne.  He first laid siege to Walmer about June 15th.  Conditions were terribly cold, wet and appalling.  The Governor of Walmer Castle taunted his oppressors by hoisting a flag painted with a coffin to remind them of their inevitable fate. Another time, soldiers faked an explosion and threw a dummy of the governor over the ramparts and pretended to surrender in order to tempt the Roundheads into the gatehouse where they could attack.  It didn’t work.  On July 12th Walmer fell.

The Parliamentary forces then focused on Deal, an altogether more protracted and bloody affair.  Rich didn’t have enough forces to surround both Deal and Sandown castles, so the castles were able to come to each other’s aid.  There were several attempts to raise the siege, the most deadly being on the night of August 13th when 800 soldiers and sailors landed under cover of darkness to aid Deal Castle.  The marshaled inland, preparing to attack the Parliamentary camp from the rear.  However, a deserter raised the alarm and in the ensuing fight, many were killed, 300 fled to Sandown castle and another 100 or so made it back to the fleet.  Another attempt on August 18th failed as well.

On August 17th, Cromwell decisively defeated the Scottish forces at Preston in Lancashire, effectively ending all Royalist hopes of victory.  Garrisons in the castles were discouraged by news of Cromwell’s victories in the north which was conveyed by notes attached to arrows fired into the castles on August 23rd.  Two days later, on August 25th, Deal surrendered followed by Sandown on September 5th, ending the Kentish Rebellion or Kentish Uprising of 1648.

Colonel Rich surveyed the damage at Deal Castle, saying, “The castle is much torn and spoiled with grenadoes, as Walmer was, or rather more.”  Parliament ordered the renovation of all 3 castles.

In January, 1649, Charles, King of England, was executed by beheading before a vast crowd who rushed forward to soak their handkerchiefs in his royal blood.  England was yet in turmoil and would remain so until the death of Cromwell in 1658 when King Charles I’s son, Charles II was invited to return to England as King.

We don’t know how Sylvester felt about the Uprising.  Did he support the deposed King Charles or Parliament?  Did his position within the community dictate that he was in the militia which was fought and was brutally defeated at Maidstone?  We do know, from later records, that this was a tough time for the people of Deal, literally caught in the crossfire.  Had Sylvester already died by this time?  Was Ellin trying to raise those children alone?  We know that Abraham was born about 1647 and Sylvester died before his wife in 1649.  Did Sylvester lose his life in the Kentish Uprising of 1648?