Robert Eastes (1555-1616), Householder in Ringwould, 52 Ancestors #30

Robert Eastes, reported by family researchers as a mariner, was born about 1555, probably at Deal, Kent, and died about 1616, at age 61 in Ringwould, Kent. He married Anne Woodward on December 2, 1591 at St. Nicholas Church in Sholden, Kent, just a quarter mile or so up the road from St. Leonard’s Church of Deal where the Estes family was a long-time member.

St Nicholas Sholden interior

Robert Eastes and Anne Woodward were married in St. Nicholas church at Shoulden, in this chancel, minus the carpet of course.  Anne would have walked up this aisle 423 years ago.

Anne Woodward was born about 1570/1574.  Baptism records began to be kept in 1569, so hopefully a record for her still exists in some location and has simply yet to be found.  It’s likely that her family attended the church at Sholden as well and she may well have been born there and baptized in this very font that still exists in the church today.

St Nicholas Sholden bapistry crop

Anne made her will on April 21,1630. She was buried on May 18, 1630 at Ringwould, less than a month later. Her will was probated on June 9, 1630, and listed nine children.  Unfortunately, the archives cannot locate Anne’s will and now claims that it doesn’t exist.  Perhaps it is filed under a different surname spelling.

Robert and Anne spent the first few years of their married life at Sholden, moving to Ringwould by September, 1595, according to baptismal records of their children.

Robert’s parents were Sylvester, a fisherman, who died in 1579 when Robert would have been 24 years old, and Jone, his mother, who was buried at St. Leonard’s Church in Deal in 1661, when Robert would have been about 6.  Eighteen years later, Sylvester died, but would be buried in Ringwould for some unknown reason.  There is no record of Sylvester remarrying.  So when Robert Eastes married Anne Woodward in 1591, neither of his parents could attend his wedding.

If Robert was born in 1555, he waited quite some time before marrying.  In 1591, he would have been 36 years old.  I have to wonder, especially if he was a mariner, if the English war with Spain might have had something to do with his delayed marriage.  During this war, the coastline of Kent was on high alert.  The Spanish Armada was expected to attack at any minute, and indeed, in 1588, they did move up the English Channel in an arc preparing to attack England.

armada 1588

However, between the weather and the English “Navy” such as it was with few warships and mostly conscripted merchant and fishing boats, the Spanish were defeated off of the coast of France.

Nonetheless, the watch for the Armada had been underway in Kent, between Dover and Deal, night and day in specially constructed watchhouses, along the Kent coastline that was preparing to take the brunt of the battle.

signal station

Deal and the rest of the coast prepared, as best they could.  Deal is reported to have had six vessels ready, along with the men to man them.  Robert, at his age, 33 at the time, had to be involved in some capacity.

The English fleet may have been victorious, but they weren’t out of harm’s way yet.  The English fleet anchored in the Downs to allow their victorious crews to be paid off before they were demobilised and dispersed.  However, a gale wind blew for several days, stranding the entire fleet.  An infection caused by “sour beer” disabled the crews.  The gale, still blowing, made the transportation of supplies, food and medicine to the stranded ships impossible.  The crew, without pay, turned mutinous.  Slowly, boats managed to land thousands of sick and wounded seamen who then lined the beaches, “dying where they lay,” at Deal, Sandwich, Margate and Dover.  Sir John Hawkins, pirate, treasurer of the Navy, hardened seaman, slave trader and adventurer wrote that, “It would grieve any man’s heart to see them that have served so valiantly to die so miserably.”  Anything that could touch his heart must have truly been horrible.

If Robert were a mariner, he was understandably busy, not to mention that warfare disrupts commerce.  Maybe he couldn’t afford to marry until 1591.  Or maybe, he just hadn’t met the right young woman.  But he did marry and he and Anne had a family.

It’s interesting, because Anne, based on the marriage and birth date of her first child was three months pregnant then they married, which may have been why they married when they did.  I noticed in Ringwould that church records were pretty unforgiving and very direct about illegitimacy if the parents remained unmarried at the time of the child’s birth.  However, Robert and Ellen married and there is nothing in the child’s baptism record that indicates anything “odd.”

While today, we think of a wedding as a definite legal dividing line between married and unmarried, in the past, marriage was more of a process. In fact, the betrothal was the beginning of the marriage process and that is when sexual relations, referred to as spousals, began as well.  Children conceived while betrothed but before marriage were considered legitimate as long as the couple married.[1]

The term “processual marriage” is sometimes used to describe these arrangements, that is, “where the formation of marriage was regarded as a process rather than a clearly defined rite of passage” (S. Parker Informal Marriage, Cohabitation and the Law, 1750-1989).

It is no longer generally recognized that the Anglican marriage service was an attempt to combine elements of two separate occasions into a single liturgical event. Alan Macfarlane develops the point in detail: “In Anglo-Saxon England the ‘wedding’ was the occasion when the betrothal or pledging of the couple to each other in words of the present tense took place. This was in effect the legally binding act: It was, combined with consummation, the marriage. Later, a public celebration and announcement of the wedding might take place — the ‘gift’, the ‘bridal’, or ‘nuptials’, as it became known. This was the occasion when friends and relatives assembled to feast and to hear the financial details. These two stages remained separate in essence until they were united into one occasion after the Reformation. Thus the modern Anglican wedding service includes both spousals and nuptials (Macfarlane).

This pre-modern distinction between spousals and nuptials has been largely forgotten; indeed, its very recollection is likely to be resisted because it shows a cherished assumption about the entry into marriage — that it necessarily begins with a wedding — to be historically dubious. Betrothal, says Gillis, “constituted the recognized rite of transition from friends to lovers, conferring on the couple the right to sexual as well as social intimacy.” Betrothal “granted them freedom to explore any personal faults or incompatibilities that had remained hidden during the earlier, more inhibited phases of courtship and could be disastrous if carried into the indissoluble status of marriage.”

It has also been forgotten that about half of all brides in Britain and North America were pregnant at their weddings in the 18th century (L. Stone, “Passionate Attachments in the West in Historical Perspective,” in K. Scott and Mr. Warren [eds.], Perspectives on Marriage: A Reader). According to Stone, “this tells us more about sexual customs than about passionate attachments: Sex began at the moment of engagement, and marriage in church came later, often triggered by the pregnancy.”  This certainly could have been the case with Robert Eastes and Anne Woodward.

The children of Robert Eastes, and Anne Woodward are:

1. Matthew Eastes, baptized 11 June 1592 at Sholden, Kent, died as infant.  He is likely buried in the church yard at Sholden.

sholden roadside

It’s also likely that they lost a second child, between Matthew and Sylvester, given the 4 year birth span.  Alternatively, another child could have been born but the birth record no longer in existence or baptized elsewhere.

2.  Sylvester Eastes, baptized 26 September 1596 at Ringwould, Kent.

3. Alice Eastes, baptized 26 March 1597 at Ringwould, Kent.  She married Thomas Beane, 28 October 1628 at Ringwould, Kent, and had children: Christopher (1628); Richard (1632) of St. Mary the Virgin, Dover, Kent; Mary (1636) of Great Mongeham, Kent; Sarah (1638) of Westminster, London; Judith (1642); and, Thomas (1643) of All Hallows Staining, London.  Notably, her children were all baptized in different locations.

4. Matthew Eastes, mariner, born 1601, Ringwould, Kent, died 1621, buried 4 June 1621, St Leonard’s, Deal, Kent, he married Margaret Johnson, 23 November 1620, Deal, Kent. Margaret died and was buried 15 October 1622, St Leonard’s, Deal, Kent. Children: Martha (1621) of Deal, Kent, and William (1621-1687) of Ringwould, Kent.

5. Robert Eastes, Jr. was baptized 29 May 1603, Ringwould, Kent, he married Dorothy Wilson, 31 January 1634, Ringwould, Kent. Children: Robert (1635), Thomas (1636), Sylvester (1638), Sarah (1640), infant (1643) of Ringwould, Kent, Matthew (1645-1723) and Richard (1647-1737), both born at Dover, Kent and died in America.  Matthew and Richard constitute the “Northern Estes” line in America.  They settled in Strafford Co., NH and then moved on to Essex Co., MA.  David Powell details this line on his website.

6. Thomas Eastes, baptized 2 June 1605 at Ringwould, Kent, died in 1671, at Ringwould, Kent.  He married Joan Wilson, 21 November 1636, at Ringwould, Kent. Joan died 1672, at Walmer, Kent. Children: John (1642), John (1645), Joan (1645) and Robert (1647) of Ringwould, Kent.

7. Susan Eastes, baptized 30 October 1608 at Ringwould, Kent.

8. John Eastes, baptized 3 March 1610 at Ringwould, Kent, he spent the latter years of his life in poverty, living on parish assistance. John died in 1684, at Ripple, Kent. He married unknown, and had son John, born 1642 of Eastry, Kent.

9. Female Infant Eastes, born in 1616 at Ringwould, Kent, died at birth.

In 1601, when James I ascended the throne, he declared the war with Spain officially over and the people of Kent could relax a bit.  However, the long years of  tensions along the coast might have encouraged some folks to move a ways inland.  Robert was reported to be a mariner, but the only record I have been able to find indicating his occupation was at his death and lists him only as a householder, meaning one who heads a house.  However, given that Robert’s mother died when he was young, and his father was assuredly a fisherman, as well as his son Matthew, it’s likely that Robert was too.

From 1595 until their deaths in 1616 and 1630, respectively, Robert and Anne would count Ringwould as their home church.  It’s very likely that they lived in very close proximity as well, as the various churches in the villages were only a couple of miles apart.  Ringwould was less than a mile from the sea and a couple miles from Deal where the fishing fleet was centered.  If Robert were fishing, it would not make much sense for him to move away from the area where fishing occurred.  Ringwould was a farming area.

If you drew a circle half way between Ringwould and all of the other adjacent churches, that circle would certainly include Robert and Anne’s home and wouldn’t be more than a mile distant from Ringwould at any point.

ringwould aerial crop

In the satellite photo, above, St. Nicholas church is located by the C in Church Lane and the cemetery takes up the rest of the churchyard.  The photo below is the church from the main road, take from about the location of the blue dot to the right of “A258” and looking over the field to the church and churchyard.

st nicholas ringwould main road

The small village of Ringwould lies on the A258, known as Dover Road, the main road between Dover and Deal, it has a population of about 350, this has remained roughly the same for the last 200 years, although the number of houses in the village has doubled in that period. Today Ringwould is a quiet village with a Pub, a Church and a village hall. The school moved to Kingsdown in about 1980 and the Post Office closed not long after.  Today, there isn’t even a convenience store.

The village was first recorded more than 200 years before the Domesday survey, in an Anglo-Saxon Charter dated 861 AD under the name of Roedligwealda (the forest of Hredel’s people). The site of a Roman period farm has been identified close to the present Ripple windmill; which is in the parish, although metal detector finds and other relics which have been found, suggest that the area was populated well before the Roman invasion. The oldest coin ever found in England was discovered by a metal detectorist working close to Ringwould. It seems probable that the village was established sometime during the Anglo-Saxon period, probably in the 6th century AD, a thousand years before the Norman Conquest of 1066.  In 1326, King Edward II granted a charter giving permission for a weekly market and an annual fair in Ringwould on the feast of St. Nicholas celebrated on December 6th each year.

By the late Norman period the timber Anglo-Saxon Church had been replaced by the present parish church which is thought to have been built about 1130. It has grown with the settlement and still contains a record of the alterations made through the centuries in its fabric.

The church originally had a wooden spire, but in 1627, the villagers petitioned the archdeacon to demolish the spire and replace it with a flint and brick tower.  The villagers requested that they be allowed to keep the lead worth 28 pounds which would help offset the expenses anticipated to be 100 pounds to build the new tower.  The new tower was to have pinnaces or ornaments, but today only the cupola remains.  For many years, the year 1628, in iron figures, probably created in the forge just down the path, was affixed to the tower.  There were originally 5 bells in the new tower, one original bell from the 1300s, 4 added in 1628, and a 6th added in 1957.  Hence, the name of the local pub, Five Bells.

Anne Woodward Eastes would have been involved with the petition, although, being a woman, she may not have been allowed to sign.  She would have watched the new tower being built, as it was three years before her death.   During the construction, services went on as normal.  There is an Estes marriage and christening during this time.

As late as the 1940’s Ringwould was still very much a manor village, with the squire, the Monins family, living in Ringwould House and a fair proportion of the village residents working on the manor property and living in houses owned by the manor.  The Monins family is the historical manorial patron family beginning with Richard Monins in 1727, but it’s unclear who the earlier manorial family would have been.  This is very interesting as it suggests that the Estes family in the 1600s would have likely been doing the same thing and very likely worked for the manorial family.

The following church records provide us with a glimpse of the events in the church most assuredly attended faithfully by our Estes family.  Note that the transcribed records that I photographed at the church do not agree entirely with the records extracted by Estes researchers from original documents earlier, as reflected in the list of children given above.  Roy Eastes in his book The Eastes-Estes Families of America – Our English Roots, stated that Donald Bowler utilized the Bishop’s returns.  The records in the Ringwould church are from their own books, not duplicate copies sent to the Bishop.  either set of records could certainly have omissions for various reasons.

September 26, 1596 – Silvester Estey, son of Robert, christened

Silvester is the son of Robert Estes who married Ann Woodward at Shoulden on December 2, 1591.  Their first child, Matthew, was baptized at Shoulden in 1592.  Silvester is their second child and the first record of an Estes in Ringwould except for the burial of Robert’s father, Sylvester, in 1579.

March 28, 1598 – Allice Estey daughter of Robert christened.

It looks like they lost two children here or the births aren’t recorded.

June 2, 1605 – Thomas Estis, son of Robert christened.

They may have lost a child here.

Oct 30, 1608 – Susas Estis, daughter of Robert christened.

March 3, 1610 – John Eastis, son of Robert christened.

And perhaps lost another child here.

Nov. 4, 1616 – Robert Eustace, householder buried.

Dec. 22, 1616 – daughter of Robert Eustace, not baptized, buried.

These two records, of Robert’s death and then just 6 weeks later, of Anne losing the child she was pregnant with when Robert died, are simply profoundly sad.  I can see the grieving woman, with her children, ranging in age from 6 to 20, and heavily pregnant, standing in the churchyard beside the casket as they lowered it into the ground, burying her husband.  A few weeks later, she would return to the same cemetery to bury her youngest child, just like she buried her oldest child years before.  Life then was not easy, nor was it fair.  My heart still breaks for her, almost 400 years later.

Anne did, however, live to see two of her children married and she would have certainly attended those weddings.

November 24, 1625 – Silvester Esties and Ellen Martin married

Silvester and Ellen would name their first child after Silvester’s deceased father, Robert.

Sept. 10, 1626 – Robert Esties, son of Selvester christened.

Silvester and Ellen’s second child was a daughter that they named after Silvester’s mother.  She was, assuredly at the baptism of those children and it was most certainly a joyful day.

Nov. 25, 1627 – Anne Esties, daughter of Selvester christened.

October 20, 1628 – Thomas Beane and Alice Esties married.

Anne’s second child married, another joyful day of celebration.

May 31, 1629 – Selvester Esties, daughter of Selvester christened.

Note that Selvester is now a female in this generation.  This is not the only female Sylvester in the Estes family.

March 20, 1630 – Susan Esties, daughter of Selvester christened.

May 18, 1630 – Anne Esties, widdowe, buried.

watercolourSt. Nicholas Church at Ringwould, more than 800 years old, dating from about 1130, is near and dear to my heart.  It is a smaller church than beautiful and majestic St. Leonard’s in Deal.  It’s a country or manorial church in the vernacular of that day and time, meaning is was supported by the manorial family who owned the land.  It reminds me in many ways of the simpler country church where I grew up.  Of course, it was a very different time and place, but the cohesive bond formed by church members in a small church probably wasn’t any different then than now.  St Nicholas, even today reflects a feeling of warmth and intimacy.  You know that everyone knew everyone else and probably everything about everyone too.  In 1578, the year before Sylvester Estes was buried in the churchyard, the church was recorded as having 60 communicants, meaning those taking Communion.  By 1640, 60 years later and 10 years after Anne died, they had 170 communicants – so it was a growing community.

The church then was the center and focal point of the community.  Important events occurred there, transactions took place on the porch of the church, and it was the center of the lives of the people, both religiously and socially.  The church was expanded at least three times, as shown below.


Church in 1807 by F.PetrieThe Victorian renovation in 1867-1869 was extensive and swept away much of the original interior of the church, including the box pews, pulpit, choir stalls and sadly, the original baptismal font.  They also removed the “rendering” on the outside of the church and replaced it with flint facing.  This drawing is before the renovations to the exterior.

The church in Ringwould was also physically at the center of the original village.  Church Lane curves around the church and cemetery, the main road abutted the church lands and a path approached the church, just wide enough for a coffin carried by 2 men on either side.

st nicholas ringwould church lane

This approach is from Church Lane.

In front of the church is one of two giant yew trees, remnants from Anglo-Saxon pagan days of worship, the hollow one being dated as 1300 years old, so a seedling in about the year 700, and a second one, below, 1000 years old.  A Bronze age village is known to have existed here and Saxon graves were recorded nearby.

st nicholas ringwould yew2

Two doors welcome visitors today.  This looks to be the older door.

st nicholas ringwould front

The green door is the second entryway and the one utilized today with a porch.

st nicholas ringwould side

The old footpath, below, passes the forge before arriving at the church “gate.”  This, of course, would have been the original way that the villagers arrived at the church.

st nicholas ringwould cart path

This gate wasn’t present at that time, but it’s likely that some gate was to prevent the livestock from grazing in the churchyard.

st nicholas ringwould cart path entrance

They walked up this walkway, carrying gifts, children and sometimes, caskets.  We are walking in the footsteps of generations.

The porch was added in the 1300s and was likely a very welcome addition.  Some of the rites, such as baptism, started outside the church and had been open to the weather.

st nicholas ringwould porch

Walking around the end of the church to the side with the porch provides a beautiful view of the hand carved crosses on the roof.

st nicholas ringwould carved cross

The porch also includes a 12th century Mass Dial, used like a sun dial, before the advent of clocks so that the priest and others could tell the times of the several daily services.

Mass Dial







There are several “Crusaders Crosses” well cut into the stonework fo the original main door frame.  Legend has it that the Crusaders returning from the Holy Land would blunt their swords on the doors of the first church they saw.  The last of the Crusades ended in 1291.

Entering the church through the porch, we see the very unique atmosphere found only in the seafaring communities near the waterfront in Kent.

st nicholas ringwould porch window

st nicholas ringwould porch window2

Flint was used routinely for churches in this part of England.  In fact, there is a sign at the Five Bells Pub on the corner that says they have the “Oldest Flint in Kent.”

five bells flint

I’m not quite sure how they determined that this was older than the rest, but it’s just a block away from St. Nicholas Church.  This would imply that this building is perhaps older than the church, or maybe simply reflects that the flint on the church was added in the 1800s.  But, back to the church.

st nicholas ringwould nave windows crop

Entering the church, we see the stained glass windows in the chancel, where our ancestors would have watched the Catholic priests, then later the Protestant ministers, deliver the message, be it inspirational, damning or comforting.

Today, the pulpit is just outside of the chancel in the nave.  These are not the original pews, but this is where our ancestors sat.

st nicholas ringwould interior

Looking to the left, we see the alcove where the organ is found today, but would have been originally a place where candles were lit in the Catholic church to saints.

st nicholas ringwould interior left

Beautiful stained glass windows in Norman arches.  This church was built in the 1300s, with renovations in 1638 when the tower was built.

st nicholas ringwould windows crop

And of course, the sedilia, the seats for the priests, carved into the walls.  I looked for a piscina nearby but did not see one.  It could have been behind something or removed during the Victorian renovations.

st nicholas ringwould sedilia

St. Nicholas has lots of small beautiful stained glass windows tucked into arches

st nicholas ringwould windows2

st nicholas ringwould windows3

st nicholas ringwould windows4

st nicholas ringwould windows5

Of course, a window and statue for St. Nicholas, the church’s patron Saint.

st nicholas ringwould windows6

st nicholas ringwould windows7

st nicholas ringwould windows8

st nicholas ringwould windows9

st nicholas ringwould windows10

st nicholas ringwould tapestry

This beautiful tapestry hung in the church.  The message of Madonna and child is universal in the Christian world.  This is the church where Anne Woodward Estes raised her children after Robert’s passing in 1616, so the message of the Holy Mother would certainly have resonated with her.

st nicholas ringwould bapistry2 crop2

The bapistry where our ancestor, Silvester, would have been baptized, as well as some of his children.  Unfortunately, this bapistry is from the late 1800s.

St Nicholas Ringwould bapistry

Anne was buried in in the churchyard in 1630, preceded by her husband and unbaptized daughter in 1616.  The fact that her daughter was unbaptized meant that the child was either stillborn or died very quickly after birth and was therefore not named.  Later, there were at least three more Estes burials reflected in the records, none with stones that survive today.

Yes, we know that Anne, Robert and their unnamed daughter are here, in addition to Robert’s father, Sylvester, so let’s take a walk around the churchyard in the cemetery.

st nicholas ringwould yew3

Many of the stones are quite aged, from the 1700s, and this church does not appear to have removed older stones.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard

The cemetery, or churchyard, is beautiful, it’s ancient trees speaking to the age of the bones and dust that lie here as well.  There are likely burials here from at least the 1200s.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard2

Tombstones weren’t utilized until the late 1600s, but I do wonder if people took mementos and left them when visiting the graves of their loved ones.  Did Robert have an anchor on his grave or something from his line of work?  Did Robert visit his father, Sylvester, the fisherman’s grave?  Did Anne take flowers to put on her daughter’s grave that assuredly lay beside her husband?  Were all of the Estes family buried together, or scattered about the churchyard?

This yew, as well as the second one, would both have been old trees by the time that Robert and Anne died.  Did they stand in their shade.  Did Sylvester play among these trees as he grew to adulthood?  Did he court Ellen Martin here?  Kiss her maybe?

st nicholas ringwould churchyard3

These are the three windows in the chancel of the church with the yew in the side yard.


The beautiful stone cross visible above.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard5

Graves not arranged, but scattered everyplace.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard6

st nicholas ringwould churchyard7

Most of these stones are illegible today.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard8

I wonder if the vacant spots were known burial locations of ancestors and were intentionally avoided, or if they just haven’t been reused.

st nicholas ringwould hollow yew

The oldest, hollow, yew.

st nicholas ringwould hollow yew2

I find this starkly beautiful and wonder if it was hollow when our ancestors lived here.  If so, you can count on the fact that the kids played here.  A hollow tree would have been unavoidably attractive to little boys!

st nicholas ringwould churchyard11

A door bricked in and no longer in use on the back side.

I don’t know what the orange bubble on the photo is beside the yew tree, above.  Some say dust on the camera lens, but others suggest that bubbles like this are spirits manifesting themselves.  If that could possibly be true, we know whose spirit is here.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard9

st nicholas ringwould churchyard10

st nicholas ringwould churchyard12

There are newer graves here, but they are off to the side.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard13

View from the second yew.  A woman we met at the church said that when she was a child, the men used the wood from the yew for arrows for archery practice.  I’m guessing that was a very old tradition.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard14

And of course, with all of these old English churches, there is always someone buried just outside the door.

We may not know where, but we know that the family rests here someplace, and we have visited them.

Anne was buried here in May 1630 after writing her will a month earlier.  She would have been about 60 years old.  Not old by today’s standards, but then the average life expectancy was about 37, although that was likely partly because of infant mortality.  In other words, if you survived childhood, you might have lived beyond 37.  For women, childbirth was extremely risky as well, but she survived all of those risks.  She clearly had some warning that the grim reaper was about to visit because she had the opportunity to make a will.  I wish the burial records told us why or how people died.

What record we do have of Anne’s will, reported by Donald Bowler who did the original research, says her will referred to 9 children. In the records above, we show 5 children living and “room” for four more.  Were those children’s baptisms simply not recorded, or were they baptized in a different church?  Perhaps the transcriptions are incomplete.  We know one set of records is from the bishop’s copies and one is from the actual church records.  Or, were the 9 children in her will actually 9 individuals, perhaps a combination of children and grandchildren?  Without her will, we’ll never know.

Obtaining Robert’s DNA Without Digging Him Up

What we do know is that Robert and Ellen Woodward Eastes’ son, Silvester, from whom I descend, married Ellen Martin in this same church.  Silvester had two sons, Abraham and Richard, and descendants of both lines have DNA tested.

Robert and Ellen also had son Matthew, who had two sons, William and John, who founded the Northern US Estes line.  We have DNA results from both of these sons’ lines as well.

This means that Robert Estes is our oldest ancestor we can confirm genetically in the Estes line.  If a male Estes, a direct descendant of one of the sons of Robert’s father, Sylvester, or grandfather, Nicholas, were to test, then we could confirm yet another generation or two up the tree – but today, we’re lucky to have Robert confirmed.  That’s 12 generations for some of our DNA participants.

When a man has descendants who test through at least two different sons, we are able to “reconstruct” his Y DNA, for the most part, based on his descendants’ values.

In our case, we aren’t limited to two descendants, we have 25 proven descendants through 2 sons and 4 different grandsons.

What does this tell us about Robert’s DNA?

It gives us the ability to reconstruct Robert’s DNA values through a process called triangulation.

When the men from Robert’s 2 sons lines all match, we know, easily, the value of Robert’s DNA at those markers. It’s the same as both sons’ lines.

When it doesn’t match, then we have to look and see if we can figure out where the mutation took place in the various lines in question, and from that, if we can usually determine the oldest ancestral value of the marker in question.

The genealogy of Robert’s descendants looks roughly like the chart below.

robert eastes gen

*See footnote 2

This chart means that Robert and Anne Woodward Eastes had two sons who are represented in our testing, Sylvester and Matthew.  Matthew had two sons, William and John, and today, several generations later, 10 to 12 to be exact, we have one proven descendant from each of those two sons whose DNA kit numbers are shown.  Robert and Anne’s son Sylvester had two sons, Abraham and Richard, noted in green on the chart below.  Richard’s descendant who DNA tested still lives in England, but Abraham was the immigrant to Virginia, and he has 22 kits with solidly proven descent to six of his eight sons.  The other two sons have tentative (unproven) links, but I did not use their information in this study because they are unproven.

robert eastes dna

You can see on the chart above that of the first 18 markers, all except three match exactly, so we can easily fill in the values for all of those markers for Robert.  Note that you can double click on the image to see a larger version.

Now, let’s look at the other three markers where mutations have occurred.

In Abraham’s case, I’m using a composite value created by using this same triangulation method.  For the other’s we have only one kit from a descending line, so we are using that value.

The first marker with a discrepancy is 391.

robert eastes marker 391

Unfortunately, determining Robert’s original value of this marker, 10, or 12, or even possibly 11 if each line mutated in opposite directions, is impossible.  Why? Because both of Sylvester’s descendants have a value of 12 and both of Matthew’s descendants have a value of 10.  This means that we have confirmation back to those men, and the mutation likely took place in the generation between Robert and his sons, Sylvester and Matthew.  To make things even more complex, some of Abraham’s descendants have a value of 11, but there are more values of 12 than of 11 in his son’s lines, so his composite has a value of 12.  This marker may simply be very prone to mutation in the Estes family.  If another of Robert’s sons’ descendants were to test, they could break the tie, but until then, we simply won’t know.

The second marker with a discrepancy is 439.

robert eastes marker 439

In this case, determining the value is possible, because even though there are three different values showing, 11, 12 and 13, one each of Sylvester’s and Matthew’s descendants have a value of 12, so Robert’s value is most likely 12 as well.  Checking Abraham’s composite, it’s clearly a 12, so no issue there.

The third marker with a mutation is 447.

robert eastes marker 447

This call is easy, because three of the 4 descendants, including both sons Sylvester and Matthew have a value of 26, so the 25 is clearly the mutation.  Therefore, Robert’s value has to be 26.

So Robert, who has been dead and buried in an unmarked grave since 1616, 398 years, can have his DNA values determined, and without digging him up!  Not that we could do that anyway.  His values are as shown below, except for marker 391 which could be either 10, 11 or 12.

Robert Eastes triang markers

Now, if I could just find someone who carries Anne Woodward’s mitochondrial DNA, I’d be ecstatic!  Of course, that would have to be descended from her through all females to the current generation where it could be a man – and yes, in case you were wondering, there is a scholarship for anyone fitting that bill!


[1] Before or After the Wedding by Adrian Thatcher at

2. Since this article was written, a third son of Robert and Anne Woodward Eastes has been documented, through son Robert Eastye and Dorothy Wilson, their son Richard born 1647who married Elizabeth Beck and subsequently immigrated to the US.  Richard died in 1737.  The descendant’s results can be viewed as kit number 264340 in the Estes DNA project.



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WDYTYA – How DNA Might Have Been Used – Cynthia Nixon

I do love these Who Do You Think Your Are (WDYTYA) and similar shows, because like most everyone, I love a good mystery, especially a true story – and a good genealogy mystery tops them all.

And, of course, you never know what tidbit might be lurking for your own situation.

We had a hiatus of several months since last season, so I remembered what I liked and forgot what I didn’t.  As a long-time genealogist, I find myself talking to the TV – saying things like, “You can’t assume that,” and other similar comments to rather gargantuan leaps of faith.

I have to remind myself that it IS, after all, a TV show, and a lot of research (I hope and pray) is done behind the scenes but not shown to the audience.  After all,, marketing king of easy-peasy “just enter your ancestor’s name” and it will all just be here waiting for you is sponsoring this series….so it has to look quite simple and doable for the viewing audience.  I mean, who wants to know that there could be two people in the census with the same name, in the same county….yes…really.

But my real frustration last season came with the knowledge that in many cases, DNA could have been reasonably and successfully used, and wasn’t.  So, this season, I’d like to talk about how DNA might have been used.

Ancestry provides a recap of the Cynthia Nixon episode as does TLC, and it really was a good one with lots of cliffhangers, of course.  For future episodes, GeneaBloggers published a WDYTYA bingo card.  What fun!

This episode begins as a professional genealogist puts together Cynthia’s first several generations via the census and presents her with a scroll of that information.  If you’re playing WDYTYA Bingo, I think you get two points for this.  The rest of the show focuses on Cynthia’s 3X great grandmother, Martha Curnutt.

Marriage records on show a Martha Curnutt marrying Noah Casto on 15 August 1839 in Missouri. But no Martha and Noah Casto appear in the 1850 census. There’s only Martha, Mary (10), Noah (7), and Sarah (6)—all under the name Curnutt. A quick count shows Noah could have served in the Civil War. And a search of military records yields pay dirt: Noah’s mother Martha applied for a pension in 1881.

That pension record shows that Noah, the father, died in 1842, and further research shows that in 1843, Martha was indicted for murder and then found guilty of manslaughter for killing her husband, Noah Casto, with an ax “between the eyes” while he slept, after he threatened her life.  If you’d like to read a discussion about murder vs. manslaughter, Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, who watched the show with a group of genealogists, wrote a wonderful article about manslaughter and murder and this case.  Be sure to read the comments too.

Cynthia discovered that Martha had apparently been severely abused, based on a newspaper article.  At that time, there was no protection nor recourse for abused women.

More awful still is an unnamed informant’s account that the victim “had been in the habit of treating his wife in a manner too brutal and shocking to think of.” Cynthia is devastated to learn her 3x great-grandmother endured such horrible treatment.

But Martha fared little better in prison. Convicted of manslaughter, she was the only female inmate, was abused by people she was hired out to work for, was subjected to inhumane conditions, and in the fall of 1844 gave birth to a daughter (Sarah) fathered by someone associated with the prison. It was most likely the scandal that would accompany the story of her treatment in a state facility that led to her pardon in 1845.

An article written by a former inmate details Martha’s treatment, including the fact that she was originally allowed to work for the warden at his home, but his wife, Mrs. Brown, abused her so terribly that she ran away, was returned to prison and kept in her cell being given nothing for days, which I presume means no food or water.  That was followed by the fact that “in the fall” she delivered a child.  Knowing the dates of the trial in 1843 and that the child was born in the fall of 1844, it became evident that the child was not her deceased husband’s child, and was conceived in prison.

When Martha was in labor, Mrs. Brown would not help her, nor allow anyone else to do so.  Finally, one (male) inmate was allowed to “attend her,” but nothing, not even clothing or heat in her cell was provided for the baby.  Obviously, the warden’s wife was hoping the child would die, but Sarah didn’t, nor did Martha.  The next month, Martha was pardoned by the governor over the signatures of a long list of politicians and very influential men.  Obviously, since the mother and child didn’t die, there was a scandal brewing.

So, the question is, and certainly the scandal revolves around the identity of the Sarah’s father, the child born in prison in the fall of 1844.

We know Sarah lived at least until the 1850 census, and assuming she lived to marry and have children of her own, let’s talk about DNA options.

If Sarah were a male and had male descendants to the current generation, this would be a relatively easy case to solve….but she is a female and carries no Y chromosome, which would have been passed from the father to a male child, so we can’t test that.

Therefore, our other testing alternative would be to test the autosomal DNA of a descendant of Sarah and see if any portion of the her autosomal DNA matches with descendants of the warden’s family.  This assumes, of course, that Martha was not otherwise related to Warden Brown.

If in fact, Sarah’s descendants do match the DNA of the warden’s descendants, that would be highly suggestive that Warden Brown was Sarah’s father, especially if the amount of shared DNA would be the right percentage to be about 4 generations removed, or roughly third cousins who could be expected to share about 1% of the DNA of their common ancestor.

Not all third cousins will share DNA, or not in large enough segments to be above the matching threshold of the DNA testing companies, but many will, and all we would need would be enough and proof that the DNA in question is indeed descended from the same Brown family.

Here’s my own third cousin match at Ancestry.  He and I tested intentionally, knowing we are cousins, to map our DNA to specific ancestors (at Family Tree DNA) and to see if we match other cousins (at Ancestry.)

ancestry third cousins

Of course, Sarah is not Cynthia’s direct ancestor, the older daughter, Mary is – so finding out who Sarah’s father was does not further Cynthia’s own genealogy.  Plus, testing Cynthia’s DNA would not have been beneficial other than to have a basis for comparison on Martha’s side.  But testing a descendant of Sarah would certainly have answered a burning question about Martha’s time spent in prison – and might very likely have answered the question about why Mrs. Brown obviously hated Martha enough to try to kill her in various inhumane ways; by withholding assistance while Martha was in childbirth, not to mention essentials like food and heat.

Had Sarah’s descendants taken the DNA test, especially if they had entered the warden’s name as a potential ancestor in their tree, they might well have discovered that they had “shakey leaf” hints that connected them with other people who descend from Warden Brown’s family.  If they were lucky, an actual descendant of Warden Brown himself would have tested and they would match.  In fact, maybe the producers could have found a direct descendant of Warden Brown who was interested in revealing the truth, whatever it was.

However, without a chromosome browser or any other type of comparison tools, they would be unable to prove that the match to that individual was indeed Brown family DNA – and they would have simply have to infer, allow you to believe, that the genetic match was the same as the shakey leaf match.  You can see, above, that Ancestry skates on this issue by saying “it looks like you have a shared ancestor.”  Indeed it does, but that doesn’t mean the shaky leaf ancestor is the one that you share genetically.  However, given the other leaps of faith in the series, I doubt that this “little detail” would have deterred the storyline much.  And indeed, it would have been very interesting.

In order to prove the genetic connection, one could have the people who tested, and matched on the Brown line, download their results to and compare their actual DNA segments there.  They could also transfer their DNA to Family Tree DNA who does have comparison tools.  Of course, that opens the door to DISPROVING the shakey leaf “tree” match as well as proving it, and it’s certainly not in the same spirit or as easy as just accepting, on faith, the “shakey leaf” hint as fact.  DNA Genealogy wrote a nice summary of vs GedMatch here and why those “shakey leaf” first impressions are sometimes not correct.

Am I the only one who thinks Warden Brown is the most likely candidate to be Sarah’s father?????  Whoever the father was, he was certainly important enough to warrant a pardon for Martha.  That is the one good thing in the landslide of evil that haunted Martha Curnutt.  I hope the rest of her life was much easier.



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Finding Your Inner Neanderthal with Evolutionary Geneticist Svante Paabo

Svante Paabo is the father of ancient DNA extraction, beginning many years ago with Egyptian mummies. His lecture style is wonderful and understandable. I would love to attend one of his lectures. Today, he is one of two tenured professors in Evolutionary Genetics at Max Planck in Germany.

His speech if in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition of “Genome, Unlocking Life’s Code” at the National Institute of Health.

Archaic Genomics – this video is very similar to the one above although the Q and A at the end is different.  So if you watch the first one, then in the second one, just skip to the end of his lecture.  There Q&A is very worthwhile in both of these videos.

neanderthal manSvante Paabo documented his path to the Neanderthal genome in his marvelous book, Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes recently published. It’s an amazing book, written in a very personal and approachable manner and easily understood by the non-scientist. It’s an amazing story and we’re lucky to have Dr. Paabo to share it with us.

If you carry Asian or European DNA, you have Neanderthal ancestors, and you’ll want to watch these videos and read this book.



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Sylvester Estes (c1522-1579), Fisherman of Deal, 52 Ancestors #29

Sylvester Estes was born probably in or near Deal, Kent, England about 1522, well before baptismal records were kept, beginning in 1559.  He would have married before that time as well, so we don’t know his wife’s maiden name, only that her name was Jone.  Their marriage date of 1545 is estimated based on the birth year of their first known child in 1547 and his birth date estimate is based on that as well, so he could have been born earlier.  Jone Eustes, Sylvester’s wife, was buried on May 15, 1561 at St. Leonard’s Church in Deal, Kent.  Her grave is not marked.  Tombstones were not being used at that time in history.

st Leonard sylvester

Sylvester, described as “emeritus fisherman,” died and was buried on June 7, 1579 in the churchyard at Ringwould, his last name spelled Eastye.  His grave is unmarked as well.

st nicholas ringwould sylvester

What little we do know about Sylvester, aside from his death and burial, comes from a court record.

On December 10, 1549, Sylvester, along with John Lamond, appeared before the Consistory Court of Canterbury (approximately 20 miles from Deal), charged by the Rector of Deal for not paying their tithes from their herring catch.  Lamond asserted that “in the time of his rememberance … he paid no tithe.” Sylvester responded that in the past two years he and his colleagues had taken two or three “last” (a dozen 6-9 pound barrels) and that “the school of herring hath always comined there away but they had not netteth there to take them well before that time.” It has been suggested that the failure to pay the tithe was a political gesture, rather than just oversight, church tithes becoming increasingly unpopular at that time.

Stewart Estes provides the following information about tithes, especially upon fish:

From the above history of Sylvester Eastes, it appears that he may have been an early tax protester. A tithe (from Old English teogoþa “tenth”) is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a usually voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a church. Historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products. Farmers had to offer a tenth of their harvest, while craftsmen had to offer a tenth of their production.

In the Middle Ages the tithe from the Old Testament was expanded, through a differentiation between a Great Tithe and a Little Tithe. The Great Tithe was analogous to the tithe in the Bible where one had to tithe on grain and large farm animals. The Little Tithe added fruits of the field: kitchen herbs, fruit, vegetables and small farm animals.

After the Reformation the tithe was increasingly taken over from the church by the state. In England, church tithes remained until the 19th century. The right to receive tithes was granted to the English churches by King Ethelwulf in 855. The Saladin tithe was a royal tax, but assessed using ecclesiastical boundaries, in 1188. Tithes were given legal force by the Statute of Westminster of 1285. The Dissolution of the Monasteries led to the transfer of many tithe rights from the Church to secular landowners, and then in the 1530s to the Crown.

Tithes of fish (and mills) were the last survivors of what were referred to as personal tithes. Traditionally, fish taken from the sea or common rivers were not titheable under the principal that they were ferae naturae or wild animals. The only exception was if a local custom existed.

A 1549 statute made a tithe of fish payable only in parishes where it had customarily been paid within the past 40 years, such as those on the sea coast. This would likely include Kent. The system ended with the Tithe Commutation Act 1836, which replaced tithes with a rent charge decided by a Tithe Commission.

Based on church records, we know that Sylvester and Jone had 3 children.  It’s likely that they had several more who may have died or not been reflected in the records.  If they were married about 1545 and Jone died in 1561, according to the burial record, they would have had 16 years as a married couple to produce offspring, so they could have been expected to have had approximately 8 children.  The births of those children would only have been recorded in church records after 1559.  This suggests that there are several children born, and probably buried, as children.  However, given that daughter Jone was married in Ripple in 1563, it wouldn’t hurt to check the Ripple church records to see if Sylvester and Jone’s children were baptized there.  Marriages traditionally took place in the bride’s church, although just two years earlier, Jone’s mother, Jone, was buried at St. Leonard’s in Deal.

Jone’s untimely death in her 30s would have left Sylvester, a fisherman, with 3 young children and no wife.  His children, at the time of Jone’s death would have been 14, 12 and 6.  It’s likely that his mother, Anny, if she was still living, would have raised his children while he provided for the entire family by fishing.

The three known children of Sylvester Eastes and Jone are as follows:

1. Jone Eastye, born 1547, probably at Deal, Kent, married on 9 July 1563, at Ripple, Kent, located between Ringwould and Deal, to Henrye Baker, born in 1546, they had a daughter, Jone, who married her first cousin Henry Estes, the son of Jone’s brother.

2. Henry Eastye, a fisherman and master-owner of a pinasse (two masted vessel), the Mynion, born in 1549, at Deal, Kent. He married Mary Rand on July 3, 1574, in Deal. “Henry Eastice of the parish of Deale in the County of Kent fisherman,” made his will on April 30, 1590 at Deal. Mary was buried June 19, 1601 at St Leonard’s, Kent.

3. Robert Eastye, mariner, born about 1555 at Deal, Kent, died about 1616 at age 61 in Ringwould, Kent. He married Anne Woodward on December 2, 1591 at Sholden, Kent. Anne was born about 1574 (or in 1570), died between the making of her will on April 21, 1630 and when she was buried on May 18, 1630 at Ringwould. Robert and Anne spent the first few years of their married life at Sholden, moving to Ringwould about 1595.

Due to the change in the English religion from Catholic to Protestant, these children would have been baptized as Protestants, while Sylvester and Jone would have been baptized at Catholics.

In the Ringwould church records, Sylvester’s burial is the very first Estes record, recorded thus:

Jan. 7, 1579 – Silvester Eastye buried

This begs the question of why, with his wife buried at St.Leonard’s 18 years earlier, was Silvester buried at Ringwould?

The second Estes record at Ringwould doesn’t follow for another 17 years, and it’s the christening of Silvester, the son of Robert, who is the son of Silvester buried in January of 1579.  Between 1579 and 1596, Robert has married Anne Woodward at Shoulden in 1591, with their first child, Matthew being baptized there in 1592.

Sept. 26, 1596 – Silvester Estey, son of Robert, christened

Robert Estes and Anne Woodward continued to be members of St. Nicholas of Ringwould until Robert’s death about 1616.

Between 1561 when Jone was buried in Ringwould, to 1591 when Robert was married at Sholden, we have church records of this family involved with four different churches, albeit in close geographic proximity of a mile and a half range.  As you can see, below, the entire circle between all 4 locations, using today’s roads which are not the most direct routes, is only a total of 7 miles.

kent 4 villages


Sylvester saw a lot of changes in his lifetime.  His father died when he was 11 or 12, leaving his mother a widow.  Sylvester may well have been apprenticed to the mariners to learn a trade in order to be able to support himself, and possibly his widowed mother and younger siblings as well.

Changes were afoot in England itself as well.  England was in the process of politically becoming a Protestant nation with the King at the head of the church, instead of a Catholic nation with the Pope at the head of the church.  In the 1530s, Henry VIII wanted to remarry because his wife did not produce a male heir, and his Catholicism prevented that, especially when the Pope refused to annul his marriage.  As a result Henry renounced Catholicism and became Protestant, ordered the destruction of all things Catholic, such as monasteries and abbeys.  The churches “became” Protestant overnight, along with their parishioners.  In some places, of course, there was strong resistance and the resisters were called ‘recussants.’  That did not seem to be a problem in Kent.

In addition to the national issues, there were local and regional problems to contend with as well.

In October 1536, when Sylvester would have been about 14, four Flemish ships entered the Downs, landed and plundered the local boats of their “herrings, hogbushes, arrows and beer.”  A few days later, those same ships robbed a Deal fishing boat of its entire catch and then sent a pinnace ashore on St. Leonard’s Day (November 6  and feast day at Deal’s St. Leonard’s church) to cut the cable of Captain Rychardson’s boat and tow it away.  Rychardson’s inventory of his losses reflects a typical fishing boat of the time – two long bows, sheaves of arrows, barrels of beer, bread, candles, boots and bonnets.  Sylvester’s ship probably was provisioned with the same things.

Piracy, especially in the Downs was very troublesome during this time.  In 1536 Henry VII made it an offense punishable by death in some cases.

Queen Elizabeth, after coming to reign in 1558 did not take kindly to pirates either.  In one month alone, sometime after 1573, William Holstock, commander of the Queen’s Navy, captured pirates of several nationalities from 35 rogue ships and sent about 1000 captives ashore at Deal.  But then, he too turned rogue and captured 15 merchant ships.

In the 1539, Henry VIII ordered the construction of three castles to defend the Downs which were heavily exposed, faced Europe and were the most likely places for a Catholic army to make landfall in England.  Deal Castle was one of the castles, and still stands majestically today.  It was built, along with Sandown and Walmer Castle, in about 18 months in 1539 and 1540 utilizing 1400 men along with local laborers.

This was a very important, high profile project.  In fact, King Henry himself visited the Downs to “inspect his defences” on Easter Sunday in 1539.  He fully expected an invasion from Catholic Europe.

Sylvester would have been 17 or 18 at the time, a very impressionable age, and if he weren’t fishing already, he was surely involved in the castle construction.  If he was fishing, the influx of workers certainly created an unending market for their fish and probably just about anything else you could create to sell to the workers.  It would certainly have been an economic boon for the region around Deal.  It would have been an exciting time to be a young man as well – an era full of adventure.

After the castles’ construction, garrisons were assigned.  King Henry’s policy was to make any defense the responsibility of the local district and that garrisons were drawn from the area and officers were drawn from the local gentry.  Soldiers were expected to provide their own weapons – a dagger, sword, halberd and at their own expense.

The expected attack from Catholic Europe did not materialize in 1540, probably causing everyone along the Kent coastline to heave a collective sigh of relief.  Piracy and smuggling continued in the Downs, but the next threat from another nation would be Spain in 1588, nine years after Sylvester’s death.

Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII, ascended the throne in 1558 and inspected the castles in Kent in 1573.  After leaving Dover, the Queen journeyed through Walmer and Deal before being carried on a litter along the Ancient Highway to Sandwich.  You can rest assured that every person who was able lined the roads to catch a glimpse of the Queen.

queen eliz litter

Perhaps Sylvester Estes, then 51 years old, was among them with his son Robert, just 18.  Did they see the Queen?


I expected that we would find the Estes family in one church and that the family members would remain within that church for generations.  This also implies that they lived in the same location.  That’s not what we’ve found.  In the 5 known generations beginning with Nicholas and ending with Abraham Estes who immigrated to the US in 1673, we know that the Estes family participated in services in at least 8 churches, not including Sandwich where one can rest assured that Abraham attended church when he was an apprentice there.  That’s a lot of mobility for an early family whose main avenue for transportation would have been on foot.

It’s also somewhat unusual in that early vassalage arrangements would have precluded mobility between farms, let along between towns, and in essence kept the vassals tied to the lands of the monarchy or their lords in perpetuity.  Given that history, finding this much movement, even within a region, just a few years later is quite surprising.  Feudalism, meaning feudal land tenure, began to decline with the War of the Roses in the mid-1400s (1455-1485), effectively ended when the country became Protestant in 1536, but wasn’t abolished in England until 1660.  Under the feudal system, tenants, or vassals, would not have been allowed to move around from place to place.

So, why did they move?  Well, knowing the Estes family, perhaps because they couldn’t, then they could, and did, because they could.

This pattern of movement tells us that the Estes family was likely not tied to land, per se, at least not by the 1500s – so maybe tenant farmers working the lands of others, or craftsmen – or eventually, as we know, mariners.  Mariners are tied to the sea, not the land, so they would have lived relatively close to the shore.  Most of these churches and communities certainly fit that criteria.

The movement of people is more the norm, over time, than not, unless there is a constraining factor.  We do sometimes find families in villages nestled in the mountains of some remote location that haven’t left since the beginning of written records, which is often reflected in the very unusual markers in their Y DNA, suggesting a population bottleneck of sorts.  In other words, mutations happened but no one left to spread them around, so they are only found in a particular region.  For genealogists, these are blessings in disguise, because they can help us pinpoint locations where our ancestor lived, if enough people test.  They will, of course, carry different surnames today, but their DNA will match, especially on unusual markers that have mutated in that region.

We find that often people migrated in groups – probably family units – increasing their chances of survival if there are others available who have a vested interest in helping out if trouble loomed.  Someone else who wouldn’t hesitate to paint themselves blue and hurl projectiles at Caesar’s ships, if the need arose.

So, if we look at the more ancient aspect of the Estes DNA, what does it tell us?  Where did the Estes family come from, before the advent of surnames?  And does it tell us anything about the d’Este family myth?

Who Settled Near Deal?

Let’s start by looking at who settled in the Deal area.  We know that Ceasar said that in the year 55 this area was inhabited by “Belgic and Celtic” tribes, a mixture of Germanic and Celtic stock who had arrived on “these shores a generation before but had continued to trade with their counterparts on the continent.”  He says specifically that:

“The coast (was populated) by Belgic immigrants who came to plunder and make war – nearly all of them retaining the names of tribes from which they originated – and later settled to till the soil. They think it is wrong to eat hares or chickens or geese but they breed them as pets. As the cold is less severe, the climate is more temperate than in Gaul.”

Caesar tells us that his fleet encountered Celts hurling missiles from the soaring cliffs at Dover.  The fleet then sailed 8 miles, hugging the coast until they came to ‘low lying land’ (Saxon, ‘dylle’).

white cliffs map

Warring Britons, their naked bodies daubed with woad and their wild hair stiffened with lime relentlessly rode their sleek chariots into battle and drove the Romans from the shore.

celtic 2 wheel chariot

An Ancient Briton from Barnard’s New Complete & Authentic History of England, 1783, below.ancient briton

I can’t tell you how I wish someone had made a painting of that!  Naked men painted blue with spikey hair in a chariot.  Is that legal?

Caesar tells us more, and it’s complimentary in spite of the naked blue spikey factor.

“The most civilised people are those in Kent which is entirely a coastal area; they have much the same customs as the Gauls. Most of those living further inland do not sow corn but live on milk and flesh and wear clothes of animal skins. All the Britons, though, dye their skins with woad which produces a blue colour and thereby look all the more terrifying in battle.

By far the most civilized inhabitants are those living in Kent.  The population is large, the ground thickly studded with homesteads…and the cattle numerous.

They do not cut their hair but shave all the rest of the body except the head and upper lip. Wives are shared between groups of ten or twelve men, usually made up of brothers or fathers and sons. The children are reckoned as belonging to the man each girl marries first.”

Now, that would play havoc with the DNA is more ways than one.  So, you could wind up being the father to your own brother, or nephew….so you really could be your own grandpa.  Don’t ponder this too long – it will only make you crazy.

We know that the word Deal itself is derived from the Saxon word “dylle” meaning low lying land or “del” referring to a dale or valley.

A Druid shrine was found on the eastern slope of Mill Hill, just a few blocks from St. Leonard’s Church in Deal, rich in Celtic art from the second century BC.

In fact, the “Deal Warrior” was found here with his armour, wearing what looks to be a crown with a LaTene style of incised pattern.

deal warrior

The Celtic LaTene culture followed the Hallstatt in Iron Age Europe about 450BCE.

Halstatt latene 2

Above, an overview of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultural regions. The core Hallstatt territory (800 BCE) is shown in solid yellow, the area of influence by 500 BCE (HaD) in light yellow. The core territory of the La Tène culture (450 BCE) is shown in solid green, the eventual area of La Tène influence by 50 BCE in light green. The territories of some major Celtic tribes are labelled. Map drawn after Atlas of the Celtic World, by John Haywood (2001: 30–37).

celtic europe expansion

This map shows the Celtic expansion in Europe, including the British Isles, and Italy.

Ok, so are the Estes men Celtic?


The good news is that the Estes STR markers are quite unique.  The bad news is that the Estes STR markers are quite unique.  The STR markers, or short tandem repeats, are the marker results that you receive when you order the 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker tests from Family Tree DNA.

The Estes men don’t match men with other surnames at 111, 67 or 37 markers.  In fact, their marker values at that level are very unique.  The good news is that this means that it’s very easy to tell when someone matches the group, or doesn’t.  The bad news is that there are no breadcrumbs left by matching other people.

Breadcrumbs?  What do I mean by breadcrumbs?

A DNA breadcrumb, in this instance, could be one of two things.  First, it could be an extended haplogroup SNP test that would tell me by virtue of who I match closely on STR markers that my ancestor’s haplogroup is likely to be the same as the other person who took the extended testing.  In other words, a poor man’s pseudo SNP test.  No such luck, in my case.

The second DNA breadcrumb would be the matches maps – where are the oldest ancestors of my closest matches found?  This can be important in locating on origin in continental Europe.  In my case, the closest not-Estes matches with locations are 12 and 25 markers.  It’s not that I can’t use these, it’s that they are far back in time, quite far sometimes, so far that the common ancestor may not be on the same twig of the Y tree, especially with haplogroup R, old R1b1a2.

And yes, of course, the Estes men are smack dab in the middle of haplogroup R – in fact, L21.

Estes Y hap

On the first map, below, the locations of the oldest known European ancestors of the Estes matches are shown.  There aren’t many in continental Europe.  Most are in the British Isles.  Keep in mind that none of these hold up (or perhaps didn’t test) above 25 markers, so the common ancestors with these individuals would be far back in time, hundreds to thousands of years – which is exactly what we are looking for – sometime around Caesar’s arrival in the year 55 when the woad covered Celts were pummeling his ships from the white cliffs of Dover.

estes matches map 25

The red balloons below show the oldest ancestors of 12 marker matches.

estes matches map 12

Hey, what are those two in Italy?

Turns out one is in Rome and other shows it’s in France, but it’s still in the right general location to perhaps be an indication that some of the Estes DNA is living in the region.  That doesn’t do anything to put to bed the oral history of the d’Este family.  In fact, it fans those flames a bit.  If those matches held above 12 markers, it would fan those flames a lot…..but they don’t.

However, the general distribution pattern indeed looks like the traditional “Celtic” L21 migration into the British Isles, shown below.

Eupedia L21

It is believed that subgroup L21 was born about 4000 years ago in the Celtic region of Europe, perhaps in Southwest Germany.

A few days ago, Britain’s DNA released information about L21 which equates to their SNP S145.

The map below, for S145 shows their Pretani distribution.  The best definition I could find for Pretani was that the earliest known reference to the people of the British Isles, made by the Greeks between 330 and 300 BC describes them as the Isles of the Pretani, the ‘Pretani’ thus becoming the most ancient inhabitants of Britain and Ireland to whom a definite name can be given. In Ireland these ancient British Pretani (or Britanni) were later to become known as the Cruthin, while in Scotland they became known as the Picts.


While their map does not include any downstream variants, it still meshes with the Eupedia L21 map.  It looks like the Celts stepped ashore in England and started moving north and west and didn’t stop until they had to.  Of course, they were followed by Angles and Saxons and Romans and Normans so they did have some pressure to keep moving.  Apparently not all moved on, because there are still between 13% and 15% in the east and southeast of England, as determined by DNA testing of people whose 4 grandparents lived in that location – implying that they are not recent immigrants to the region.

So, what next?

Ok, so the Estes men are descended from Celts.  Now we at least know that much.

But I’d still like to know if my ancestors were d’Este Kings in Italy wearing crowns, Druid priests in England wearing crowns, or blue woad painted Celts with spiked hair driving chariots while defending the white cliffs of Dover.  Can’t you just see them here?

white cliffs of dover 2

I mean, it does make quite a bit of difference in the telling of the family story.

I want to know more.  I’d like to test for more SNPs to see if I can refine what we know, but which SNPs to test?

The Estes men have joined the R-L21 project and the British Isles by County project, and I’ve asked the administrator for haplogroup L21 for suggestions about how to test further.  Part of the decision about how to test will be financially based.  If he can tell me, based on his experience that what I really need to do is test one or two SNPs based on what he sees in terms of matching within other L21 subgroups, I’ll happily do that.  If he tells me that I need to do the Geno 2.0 or Big Y, I’ll probably do that as well, but I’ll be eating hotdogs and mac and cheese for a few weeks.  But hey, it’s grilling season and genealogy is way more important that eating!

In the L21 project, the Estes men, along with a few thousands of our closest friends are in the group titled “1. L21+ (L11>P312>L21; If you can, test for DF13 status).”  This means, in plain English – you need more testing, so that’s the answer I’m expecting.

What this means is that the testing results are too vanilla to narrow the location origin.  Below are the locations of the oldest ancestors of the “you need more testing” group.

l21 cluster

And for comparison, here’s a subclade of L21 – a group of people who share a terminal SNP further down the tree – and the locations of their most distant ancestors.  If what I’m looking for is a source on continental Europe – this is much more useful than the map above which shows the distribution of L21 over the past 4000 years or so.

l21 subgroup cluster

I did receive a recommendation from the haplogroup L21 project administrator.  Just what I was afraid of – the L21 project administrator wants 2 Big Yfull Y sequence tests from the Estes line – from hopefully our two most divergent men who are definitely from the same family.  This will show which of the SNPs or Novel Variants (personal or family SNPs) they share are actually haplotree branch SNPs and which are family only, meaning much more recent in time.  Makes sense.  I expected this advice, I was just hoping for a less expensive option, but as the administrator says, we are, indeed, the explorers in this new field.  Well, good thing we are Celts now isn’t it!

Now, all I have to find the appropriate Estes male candidates and the funds.  If you have an Estes in your family tree, you can contribute directly to the Estes DNA project towards the tests, which will be about $1200 in total.  Any amount is appreciated and it all helps.

To put this in perspective, raising these funds has to be easier than getting naked, shaving my body, painting myself blue and liming my hair while driving a chariot and throwing projectiles off of the white cliffs of Dover!!!



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Who Do You Think You Are? Returns


It’s back. I really like this series for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s real and I think these search stories are universally appealing to lots of people. These stories encourage people to become curious, begin searching, asking questions, to take up the gauntlet – in other words, it recruits new genealogists, which is good for all of us!

Watch Who Do You Think You Are? Wednesdays, 9/8c on TLC, starting July 23.

You can see past episodes here:

The first episode on July 23rd will feature Cynthia Nixon, but lots of celebrities are on tap in future segments.  Episodes will be available to see in summary on Ancestry, below, after they air.

Later this fall, more genealogy shows will be available, including Finding Your Roots and Genealogy Road Show.

July 23rd…..put it on the calendar!  I hope to see a lot of the various kinds of DNA testing, used appropriately, in these upcoming episodes!



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Genealogy Research

Nycholas Ewstas (c1495-1533), English Progenitor, 52 Ancestors #28

Nycholas, or Nicholas, was the first Estes we can document, even though the name then was spelled as Ewstas.  At that time, the U and W in the English language were synonymous and spelling was not yet standardized.  Most people were illiterate, so spelling didn’t matter one bit.  Clerks spelled names as they heard them.

Nicholas was born about 1495, possibly in Deal, Kent, England.  We just don’t know.  We haven’t found his christening in any of the local churches because baptismal records weren’t kept until nearly 65 years later.  Baptism, marriage and death records were not kept in England until Queen Elizabeth ordered that records be maintained by the churches beginning in 1559.  Fortunately, St. Leonard’s Church in Deal has individual records from that date and historical records from earlier.  But that doesn’t help us with Nicholas’ birth date.

All was not peaceful in Deal and surrounding area in 1495, about the time Nicholas would have been born.  According to Gregory Holyoake in his book, Deal, All in the Downs, a war was taking place in 1495.

Perkins Warbeck, the personator of Richard, younger son of Edward IV, one of the two princes presumed murdered in the Tower of London, arrived with his army in the Small Downs on July 3, 1495.  The Pretender, promoted as “The White Rose of England” intended rousing the support of the Kentishmen in his claim to the throne as Richard IV.  Warbeck had sailed from Vlissingen on July 2, confident that the men of Kent – Yorkish in their inclination – would support him against the Lancastrian King, Henry VII.  Instead, the Kentishmen hotly defended their country from these presumptuous invaders.

Trained bands from Sandwich ambushed Warbeck’s army in the Sandhills and captured most of the leaders who were then tried in London.  Afterwards they were executed and hung in chains “for seamarks or lighthouses” along the coast.  Henry VII commended his loyal subjects and commanded beacons to be built in celebration across Kent.

Perhaps Nicholas’ parents, especially a very pregnant wife, sought refuge in another location and Nicholas was baptized in a church elsewhere.  Every village had a church.

If it weren’t for his will, in 1533, we wouldn’t even know Nicholas’ name, or the first name of his wife, Anny.

Nicholas’ will was dated January 1, 1533/34.  This year is written in the old style/new style date.

From 1087 to 1155 the English year began on 1 January, and from 1155 to 1751 on 25 March.  In 1752 it was moved back to 1 January.  Even before 1752, 1 January was sometimes treated as the start of the new year – for example by Pepys – while the “year starting 25th March was called the Civil or Legal Year.”  To reduce misunderstandings on the date, it was not uncommon in parish registers for a new year heading after 24 March, for example 1661, to have another heading at the end of the following December indicating “1661/62”. This was to explain to the reader that the year was 1661 Old Style and 1662 New Style.

But back to Nicholas.  He left his estate to his wife, Anny, one child, Sylvester and to an unknown person, Felyx Beane.

The Beane name is interesting.  I found it in the records of at least 4 early Estes families in Kent, some of whom can be tied together and some who cannot.  I suspect that the Bean family is related to the Estes family and possibly before Nicholas’ generation.

We may not know where Nicholas was born, or when, but we know when and where he died, because his will called for him to be buried in the churchyard of “Saynt Leonard in the parisshe of Deale.”

We don’t know if Sylvester was actually Nicholas’ only child, or the only child he mentioned in the will.  We know that Sylvester was born in 1522, so Nicholas’s marriage date is estimated in 1520 and his birth then estimated as 1495. Of course, Sylvester might not have been the first child born. And if Sylvester was their only living child, their lives must have been full of heartache, burying baby after baby, at least half a dozen.

All of the Estes descendants today who can track their genealogy back to Kent, descend from Nicholas in some way, excepting adoptions and such.  This has been confirmed by DNA testing.

In 1495, surnames were established, but hadn’t been established for a long time.  They began to be used by the wealthy after the Norman invasion in 1066, were in common use by the 1200s, and by the middle of the 1400s, pretty much everyone, rich and poor, had a surname.  It’s likely that Nicholas wasn’t the first Estes man to carry that surname, but we don’t know.  Thankfully, he did leave a will.

nicholas estes will

Roy Eastes has this will transcribed and translated.  It is written in a medieval script called secretarial script.  To me, it simply looks like scribbles.  In fact, it could be my own handwriting!

Will of Nicholas Ewstas

In dei no’ie Amen, the xviith day of June the yere of our Lorde mlcccccxxxiiith, I Nycholas Ewstas beyng of hole mynd and remembraunce ordeyne and make this my last Wyll and Testament in manner and form folowyng

Fyrst I bequethe my soule to Almyghty God, our Lady Siynte Mary and all the holy company of Hevyn and my body to be buryed in the church yerde of Saynte Leonarde in the parisshe of Deale.

Also I bequethe to the hygh aulter for my tythes undelygently forgotten viiid.

Item I wyll that my wyffe cause to be dun at the day of my buryall v mases with placebs and dirige and as many at my monthes mynde.

Item I bequethe to Sylvester my sone one ewe and a yong horsse.

Item I bequethe to Felyx Beans one ewe.

The resydue of all my goodes, moveables and unmoveables I wyll and bequethe to Anny Ewstas my wyff whom I make sole Executrix of this my last Wyll and Testament the yere and day above rehersyd.

Wytnessys beyng present and requyred Robert Whyte, John Myselson


In the name of God, Amen, the 17 day of June the year of our Lord 1533 I, NYCHOLAS EWSTAS, being of whole mind and remembrance ordain and make this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following,

First, I bequeath my soul to Almighty God, our Lady Saint Mary and all the holy company of heaven and my body to be buried in the church yard of Saint Leonard in the parish of Deal.

Also I bequeath to the high alter for my tithes undiligently forgotten 8 pence.

Item, I will that my wife cause to be done at the day of my burial five masses with placebos and dirige and as many at my month’s mind.

Item I bequeath to Sylvester, my son, one ewe and a young horse.

Item I bequeath to Felix Beans one ewe.

The residue of all my goods, moveables and unmoveables I will and bequeath to Anny Ewstas my wife whom I make sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament the year and day above rehersed.

Witnesses being present and required

Robert Whyte, John Myselson

We need to remember that Nicholas and family were Catholic, because the Protestant reformation and associated political difficulties had not yet taken place in England.  They were yet to occur in the Reign of Henry VIII in the 1530s.

The Catholic faith of that time placed a lot of importance on leaving money to the church, the more the better, for special prayers that were meant to pray one’s soul out of purgatory and into Heaven, more quickly.

Later generations of Estes men were mariners, including Nicholas’ son, Sylvester, but it doesn’t appear that Nicholas was a mariner.  He left nothing nautical, just sheep and a horse.

I do have to laugh though at his commentary about his tythes (taxes) being “undiligently forgotten.”  He must not have expected he would die, or he wouldn’t have been so forgetful.  His conscience must have been plaguing him.  The health and afterlife location of one’s soul depended in that time and place upon enough prayers being said on your behalf…and no one in the church was going to pray for a man who forgot to pay his tythes.  This also tells us that he must have had some money – he wasn’t destitute because he had money to pay his back tithes and to leave additional funds to the church.

It’s ironic that one of the only records we have of his son is from the Court of Canterbury.  Want to guess the subject?  A case was brought against him for not paying his tithes for 2 or 3 years.  Apparently “forgetting” tithes runs in the family.

It’s interesting that another very early record is of a Richard Eustace buried in the church in Dover in 1506, leaving a wife, Alice, and unborn child.  His will was witnessed by a Thomas Eustace.  Richard appeared to be a wealthy man, probably a merchant.  Not only was he buried inside the church, but he left quite a bit of money for special prayers.  We have no idea what happened to his wife, or child, if it survived, but we know that he wasn’t in our direct line because Nicholas was born about 1495, too late to be his father and too early to be his son.  Richard could have been a brother, nephew, uncle or cousin to our Nicholas – or maybe entirely unrelated.  However, Dover is just 6 miles or so from Deal.

However, it does tell us that there were other Estes in the region before Nicholas, or at least contemporaneous with him.

Estes Trails editor and family researcher Larry Duke explained some of the more unusual provisions in Nicholas’ will as follows:

His reference to his monthemynde (monthmade) is the same as our birthday. The saying of a mass for the deceased, in their memory, on their birthday, is still a common practice in the Catholic Church. The only other observation that could be made about Nicholas’ will, is that it was uncommon to name ones wife as executor. Normally, this duty was left to ones oldest brother or oldest son. His naming Anny could mean that he had no living brothers or none nearby. [His son] Sylvester was too young, being only about 11 years old.

We know that Nicholas was buried in the cemetery at St. Leonard’s Church in Deal, although his grave has probably been recycled.  We can say with certainly that there is no stone today, if there ever was one.  Gravestones in England were not welcomes in churchyards until about 1650.  The stone for Moses Estes in 1708 is the oldest Estes stone, although we could speculate that Nicholas is probably buried fairly close to the church itself, based on Moses burial location in 1708, some 175 years later.

Come on, let’s take a walk around the churchyard.  Nicholas has to be here someplace!

It’s difficult to photograph the church because you can’t really get far enough away without obstructions.  Jim and I walked back from the church at Shoulden and this is St. Leonard’s Church from the round-about in front.

st leonard roundabout

We enter the churchyard, which is the cemetery, through the wall.

st leonard's wall

Tombstones are scattered throughout the property.

st leonard's front

It’s interesting that for the most part, strangers weren’t buried here.  There are records of a “Stranger’s Burial Ground” where the bodies of drowned sailors thrown up on the foreshore were buried.  It had been used since 1668, at the far end of St. Patrick’s road, but has since been used for building modern homes.  I have to wonder if they are haunted and if the residents know their homes are literally on the graves.

st leonard's south

Half of the walkway through and around the cemetery is paved, and the other half has stones, at least part way.  The path is to the right of the church, on the south side, and the paved walkway is to the left, if facing the front door, or on the North side.  Note that the walkway crosses several graves.

st leonard's north

Every nook and cranny has burials.

st leonard's stone path

Church records show that the church purchased the walled area called Church Path at the end of the 1700s, once called Stone Lane, which served as the parish cemetery until Deal Cemetery was opened.  Church Path is today a road that leads directly from Lower Deal to the St. Leonard’s Church north doorway, right where Moses Estes’ stone lies.

st leonard's north addition

You know that the vacant spots aren’t vacant – just unmarked.  Our Nicholas lies in one of them, or his grave has been reused.  Still, his remains are here someplace.  The cemetery has been used for hundreds of years.  The earliest marked burial is dated 1675.  In 1690, the skull and crossbones appears for the first time.

st leonard's north yard

There are even burials inside the church, in the aisle ways – which was an honor reserved for only the most wealthy and important church members.

st leonard's floor burial

In fact, this entire church aisle is graves – right down the middle.  This is typical in English churches of this age.


We know our family isn’t inside, so let’s go back outside and walk around the church.  We’re going out the side door that was added when the North wing was expanded in 1819.  This was after Moses Estes was buried in 1708, and the walk to the “new door” lays right across his grave.  I guess if you can’t afford to be buried inside, then being buried in the walkway on the way to the door is probably second best.  Everyone walks by your grave and visits you every Sunday!

st leonard's moses estes

The tombstone of Moses Estes, complete with skull and crossbones, above, rests in the side yard of the church.  You can see the north door close to his grave.

st leonard's north door

Some burials are fenced and in crypts.  You can see behind this one that an old door has been bricked in.

st leonard's crypts

st leonard's towards back

Rounding the side of the church to the back, above.

st leonard's rear

At the back of the church, we can see the nave with the 3 windows.  This is the original part of the church, covered with flint.

st leonard's wall stones

Here, as in most old churches in England, many stones have been “rearranged” along the outer wall for ease of maintenance, especially when they are no longer legible.

st leonard's outside nave

It’s a stunningly beautiful church.  The wing to the right is where Moses is buried.  You can see the “seam” of the addition.  I wonder if Nicholas is actually buried under the church afterall, by virtue of the extension.

st leonard's rear burials

It’s certain that the ashes of Nicholas rest someplace in these photos.

The House of Este

There has been a great deal of speculation that the Estes family descended from the House of Este in Italy.  Part of this is due to the fact that the Estes family in England firmly believed this, in part, because the monarchy believed it.  King James I of England and Scotland was convinced that a gentleman in his service by the name of East was in fact a descendent of the d’Este family and suggested he change his name to Este.  One didn’t argue with the King, and I have to wonder if the King thought that for a reason.  In other words, he may have been right.

este castle ferrara

Painting of Este Castle in Ferrara, Italy.

David Powell reports that even earlier, one Thomas Estes (1540-1608), an Englishman who published Italian music, used the names of East, Est, Este and Easte and hinted at a connection with the famous Italian d-Este family.  Of course, it might have been beneficial to his career.

The Estes family has spent decades trying to figure out if there is any truth to this story or if it is just a wishful myth.  Frankly, it seems unlikely given that the Estes men were primarily mariners in Kent, after Nicholas, and there is no firm trail from Italy to Kent, from the d’Este line to the Estes line.  But still, we can’t prove a negative, at least in this case, not without DNA testing.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to find any Estes male from the d’Este family.  They apparently daughtered out, except for one possible line, that no longer carries the Estes or d’Este surname.

Roy Eastes, in his book, “Estes Families of America,” did a fine job of distilling the rumors and various stories into something cohesive.

One of the most popular theories is that Nicholas descended from of the House of Estes of northern Italy. The House of Este was very famous during the Renaissance and the evidence of their history can be seen yet today in the splendor of their famous Palaces and Gardens.

castelo estence ferrara

The Castello Estense in Ferrara, Italy

The surname Este came from a small town by that name in the Providence of Ventia in northern Italy. In ancient times, before the birth of Christ, it was known as Ateste.

History shows that the town was a Roman stronghold and military base. However, in este castle closeup589 AD after a severe flooding of the Adigo River, the town was abandoned and re-inhabited at a later time. In this town, Albert Azzo II was born in the year 996. This great Roman adopted the name of the town and started the House of Este. This line has been passed down through the years to modern days.

este castle este

The House of Este held the city Este until 1240 when they moved their capital to Ferrara.

Probably the most contributing factor that has led to the belief in the Este/Estes connection was a book published in 1894. This book, “Estes Genealogies” – was written by Charles Estes, of Warren, Rhode Island.

The following is an extract from that book:

“Upon looking back at the early days of our ancestry, we find unlike other tribal histories in their incipiency, so little in the Este that is condemnatory and so much that is worthy of praise. We have no reason to be otherwise than proud. “

“We here present the letter of Richard Taylor, M.D., to Rev. Charles F. Deems, which will give some idea of the history of the Este family in what shall follow:”

 “From The New York Watchman”

 “Rev Deems: In reading your paper some times since, I noticed some verses written by Mr. Alston Bacon Estes. The name recalled some recollections of researches undertaken by my father many years ago, when becoming interested in the family, he sought to trace its history, which is both curious and interesting. Thinking you might be pleased to know it, I give it to you in as few of words as possible.                                                                Richard Taylor, M.D.”

“About the year 1097, Albert Azzo II, Marquis of Liquria was born (actually 996- 1097) and his history is commensurate with the lapse of the 11th century. He was the acknowledged founder of the houses of both Este and Brunswick the former were conspicuous in Italy as late as the middle of the 18th century when their direct line failed with the death of Hercules III, he being the twenty-second generation from Azzo II; the latter (House of Brunswick) after centuries of time, emerge from their quiet stations as Dukes of Brunswick and Hanover, and occupy the most prominent positions in Europe as British Kings.”

“One branch however, of the Italian family exists in America. The Marquis Aldobrandino, about the middle of the 14th century, in order to procure means for prosecuting a war against the Auconites, hypothecated (pledged) his younger brother to the usurers (money lenders) of Florence. The untimely death of the Marquis put an end to the war but left his brother unredeemed. These were the sons of Azzo VI. The younger brother did not return to his ancestral home on the accession of the seventh Azzo (another older brother) but proceeded to France, thence to England, where he became acquainted with the family of Lord Bacon, then moved from England to Wales, always maintaining a position of influence and respectability, inheriting the distinguishing traits of character and talents possessed by their ancestors. From Wales they immigrated to Virginia. “

“The name Este is derived from a colony planted in the seventh century of Rome, about fifteen miles to the south of the City of Pudau, and called Ateste, or Este a name known in history 136 years B.C. This is the surname the Marquises of Liquria assumed in the beginning of the fourteenth century, namely Marquises of Este, and their descendants, have ever since assumed the surname, Este. The name written Estes is plural, and was used to represent the whole family; thus Byron, in his Parisina speaks of the Estes:

“And if she sets in Este’s bower,
“Tis not for the sake of its full bloom flower:”

 – or is meant to convey, belonging to the family. The name is more frequently written Estes than as it should be, Este.”


“You will see by the above that the Estes name represents a family, one of the oldest and also one of the most illustrious, living in the world; though short, this will give you an inkling of the American Estes’ and show you that the antique brood of Este is still in existence.”

<<<<<   End of Extract   >>>>>

 ducal palace modena

Ducal Palace in Modena built in 1634 by Francesco d’Este.

David Powell provides another glimpse at that favorite family rumor in his paper, “Origins of the Estes/Eastes Family Name.”

“…The Marquis Aldobrandino, about the beginning of the 14th century, in order to procure means for prosecuting a war against the Anconites, hypothecated his youngest brother to the usurers of Florence. The untimely death of the Marquis put an end to the war and left his brother unredeemed. These were the sons of Azo VI (of d’Este). The younger brother did not return to his ancestral home on the accession of the seventh Azo, but proceeded to France, thence to England where he became acquainted and connected with the family of Lord Bacon. The family then moved from England to Wales, always maintaining a position of influence and respectability … From Wales they emigrated to Virginia.”

We know for sure that part of this is incorrect – the sailing for Virginia from Wales portion.  We have that information and will be discussing Abraham Estes and his embarkation for America in a future article.

However, there’s more:

“…Francesco of Este, who was the son of Marquis Leonello [1407-1450], left Ferrara [1471] to go and live in Burgundy, by the will of Duke Ercole [Francesco’s uncle, who succeeded Leonello] .. and, in order that he should go at once, he gave him horses and clothes and 500 ducats more; and this was done because His Excellency had some suspicions of him .. ‘Francesco .. went to Burgundy and afterward to England’. These were the words written on the back of the picture of Francesco found in a collection of paintings near Ferrara.”

Many of the details are similar to the earlier story. But why would Francesco flee Italy? In 1471 Francesco’s brother, Ericolo, led a revolt in an attempt to overthrow Duke Ercole. The attempt was unsuccessful and in typical royal tradition, Ericolo lost his head and Francesco exiled, if only because he was Ericolo’s brother. Did Francesco really travel to England? The only evidence for this is the writing in the back of the painting, the existence of which is unconfirmed. Essentially the same story is told by Charles Estes in his book:

“.. Francesco Esteuse (born c.1440), the illegitimate son of Leonnello d’Este. Francesco was living in Burgundy. In the time of Duke Borso he came to Ferrara, and at Borso’s death was declared rebellious by Ercole because of efforts made by his brother, Ericolo, to seize power. Francesco returned to Burgundy and was heard of no more from that time (1471). As the time coincided with that when Edward conquered [sic] England with the aid of Burgundy, it was possible that Francesco followed Edward and after Edward’s victory made England his home.”

 David goes on to say:

If Francesco did travel to England, it would have been around 1480, leaving sufficient time for him to have fathered Nicholas and possibly also Richard and Thomas Eustace of Dover. Indeed, Francesco’s father was Niccola, or, in English, Nicholas.

In the end, David concludes that the myth is probably just that.  However, that opinion is not shared by all Estes researchers.

Kitty Estes Savage, in her article, “Saints and Sinners’ in the December 1998 edition of Estes Trails tells us a little more about the alleged painting:

Duke Ercole’s next goal was to get rid of Francesco, Niccolo’s half-brother, so he bribed him because he was suspicious of him and “because he was much loved by the people because of his courtesy and liberality and also because he was a handsome well-disposed young man”. He gave him a monthly stipend, and “in order that he go at once, he gave him horses and clothes, and five hundred ducats more”.

Francesco left Ferrara on 15 September 1471. No more is known about him except that his portrait hangs in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City with this inscription on the back: “Francesco, natural son of Leonello went to Burgundy and afterwards England.”

francesco d'este

I checked with the Metropolitan Museum of Art about the portrait of Francesco d’Este, which they do own, shown above, and here is the information provided about the portrait.

The sitter for this striking portrait is Francesco d’Este, illegitimate son of Leonello d’Este, ruler of Ferrara. In 1444, Francesco was sent to the Netherlands, where he received his education and military training at the court of Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy. He was educated with Philip’s son, Charles de Charlerois (later Charles the Bold), and became a permanent chamberlain to the duke, acting frequently as an envoy to Italy. This portrait was painted in the Netherlands about 1460, when Francesco was around thirty years old. The hammer and ring he holds may be prizes won for a jousting victory, or symbols of his office and power. On the verso of the panel are painted the splendid coat of arms and crest of the Este family, quartered with the honor bestowed on the house of Este in 1432 by Charles VII of France. Above and below the armorials is the inscription, which reads, in part: “entirely yours, marquis of Este, Francesco.” This apparent dedication suggests that the portrait was not kept by the sitter but was presented by him to a close acquaintance or member of the court as a gift of friendship. The portrait was painted by Rogier van der Weyden, who undertook a number of portrait commissions for members of the Burgundian court, while the verso was probably painted by a workshop assistant.

There is no mention of the inscription reported, but there is an inscription which is included in their documentation.

There is another hint, also provided by the museum, that suggests that Francesco may have died in Burgundy.

The Este family coat of arms and crest on the reverse of the panel emphasize the heraldic quality of the portrait. The inscription, “v[ot]re tout…francisque” (entirely yours, Francesco), forms a dedication to the portrait’s recipient, perhaps a friend or member of Philip the Good’s court. The “m” and “e,” stand for “marchio estensis,” the title extended to Francesco. The enigmatic scratched inscription in the upper left, “non plus / courcelles,” may refer to the village in Burgundy where Francesco died.

este coat of arms

Wikipedia tells us even more:

The crest emblazen on the reverse of the panel shows a coat of arms consisting of two quarters of the family crest along representations of the honours bestowed to the family by Charles VII of France by letters patent in January 1431. The coat of arms is held up by two lynxes-a pun on the word Leonello, his father’s first name. Another lynx sits blindfolded on the coat of arms. On either side of the animal are the letters M E – assumed to be abbreviations for Marchio Estenis (Marquis of Este), although they could stand for “Marchio Estenses” a title know to have been used by Leonello. On both sides, these letters are bound by tasseled chord. Lettering resembling inscription in the later gothic style above these reads VOIR TOUT (to see all) and is reminiscent of Leonello’s motto Quade Vides ne Vide (Shut your eyes to what you see), the latter described by art historian Robert Fry as indicative of the “idea of astuteness, the most necessary virtue for a ruler of Leonello’s type.

The crest contains Francesco’s name in French, the Burgundian court language, and at the top left hand corner the words non plus courcelles (no longer courcelles). This phrase is established as a later addition but has not been satisfactorily interpreted. It may be a reference to the then French village of Courcelles, in today’s Belgium. The village is located near the site of the Battle of Grandson, a major defeat for Charles the Bold, where the sitter may been killed in 1476 (he is last mentioned in records in 1475). Giving the similarity of the crest to that of his father’s, awell as the significance of various letterings, many art historians see it as indicative of the illegitimate sitter’s aspiration to be recognised as Leonello’s son, with all the entitlements and historical recognition such acceptance would entail.

It looks as if we have pretty well debunked the myth of the inscription on the reverse of this portrait at the Metropolitan Museum indicating Francesco went to England, and we know that Francesco was in the Netherlands in 1475, possibly deceased, 20 years before Nicholas Ewstas was born in Deal.  On the other hand, it is possible that he disappeared from the records in the Netherlands because he went to England, although I find this highly unlikely that he, a member of a royal house, would simply disappear and live a very different kind of life on the coast of Kent, his grandson becoming a mariner.  We have also not addressed the story that a painting in Italy holds an inscription that indicated that Francesco went to England.

Where are the Descendants?

One of our original goals of the Estes DNA project was to see if we could find an Este descendant from Italy to determine whether or not we truly do descend from the d’Este family.  So far, we have found only 1 family of presumed direct line descendants, and that family is relatively unapproachable.

Ernst august prince of hanover

The gentleman is Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, etc., husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, direct paternal descendant of Albert Azzo I d’Este, born about 970.  He has 2 sons.

I wouldn’t even begin to know how to approach this man, although, according to Wiki he seems inclined to urinate in public, so maybe there’s an avenue – a urinal.  (Just kidding – well – about the urinal part – not the urinating part.)

I mean, how exactly does one approach this?  A little curtsey perhaps, then “Excuse me sir, I mean Prince, er, your Highness, but would you mind swabbing the inside of your cheek for this DNA test as I’d like to see if my Estes line is related to you???  Or, you could just pee in the bottle if you’d prefer.”  Pretty please.

Followed by:

“No officer, I swear, I meant the man no harm.  I’m not harassing him.  No, I’m not taking any medications….”

I spoke with a physician in England who has tested in our project by the last name of East, hoping he might feel like he could approach the Prince, but we speculated that there is no “up side” for royalty to test. Plus, I’m thinking that the Prince’s phone number isn’t just listed in the phone book, and if it were, I’m doubting his calls are unscreened.

I suspect that royalty might be concerned about DNA testing showing a break in the line between them and whatever royal houses they descend from, or are supposed to descend from, or about us peasants wanting to gold-dig.  Of course, this does not imply that there is a break, just that royalty might feel they have lots to lose and nothing to gain, except for several American cousins whose acquaintance they just might not be  interested in making.  After all, they know they’re descended from the d’Este line, it’s the rest of us who are having the problem.  You can view the Prince’s genealogy at this link as well as in the footnotes.[i]

If in fact the Prince would match our Estes line, the common ancestor, Alberta Azzo I d’Este would be some 29 or 30 generation in the past.

You’ll notice that some of these lines extend into the 1900s, and probably several more would with appropriate research.  The author of the Genealogics site, Leo van de Pas, is primarily interested in the famous people in this line, while we’re interested in folks who would probably welcome the opportunity to prove descendancy from these royal houses.   Many of these lines have not been fully explored.  Just because no males are listed doesn’t mean there aren’t any.  Furthermore, we’d be most interested in any illegitimate lines, as they would probably be far more interested in proving descendancy from royal lineage via DNA testing.

So, if you just happen to run into Prince Ernst, or any other d’Este descendant, you know, at the market or the yacht club or some royal function that you happen to be attending in Monaco, would you do me the favor of broaching the subject of DNA testing for genealogy?  And in case that goes bad, your American Express card is good for bail money:)

[i] Prince Ernst’s Este genealogy:.

His lineage is as follows beginning with his father:

To follow just the male descendancy of  Alberto Azzo born in 970, click here.



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St. Nicholas’ Church at Shoulden and St. Leonard’s at Deal

pier sunrise day 3

Day three in Deal turned out to be a great day.  It began with another beautiful sunrise over the pier.  I could get used to this and the sound of the ocean.  Unfortunately, it makes me sleepy – not the sun, the ocean rhythmically lapping on the shore.  I think this means I’ve finally relaxed.


Each morning, we had breakfast in the pub.  The Clarendon is sort of a B&B above a pub.  Most of the hotels here are just that.  There are no chain hotels, so it’s all local, waterfront and quaint.  Most people eat dinner in the pub – but not us – breakfast.  We’ve learned a lot – like egg sandwiches do not come on toast, but cold buttered bread.  But everything can be made right with a latte.

We didn’t need to be anyplace until noon when St. Nicholas’ church in Shoulden opens. Jim and I decided to walk back to town a slightly different way and explore a bit.  These beautiful old streets are very inviting.  We noticed that at the end of the street there was a visitor information location that had a walking tour map of the historical signs, so we set out to find that map.

deal map

I wish we had found this map two days ago.  It’s available at the Dover Visitor Information Center, and there is a branch in Deal too, in case you ever need one!  Our hotel was on Beach Street, just to the right of the pier.

On the way, Jim found the solution to the driving challenge.


Actually, Jim and I designed a dual navigation plan.  I give Jim numbers for the left side, like “a foot” or “6 inches” and Jim is going to go very slow and stop if he feels uncomfortable. While that’s not a good plan at home, it is here because people actually park into the street making 2 lanes impossible and impassible, so people stop in the road all of the time here.  It’s very disconcerting actually.  The dual navigation plan actually worked very well and we had no incidents today.  Thankfully.

We did, however, find some local color.

hairy dog mother

You just never know what you’re going to see.

pink english car

England is not boring.

orange pants deal

By any stretch of the imagination.


Is this a mutant gene?

I keep requesting purple from my hair stylist and she keeps refusing…mutters something about acting my age….

This next photo was actually in London on our way back home the following day.

posh girls on tour

Can you see the back of her outfit?  It says “POSH GIRLS ON TOUR.”

posh girl

We were told earlier in the trip that posh, as it’s used today to mean swanky or rich was derived from the following:

The much-repeated tale is that ‘Posh’ derives from the ‘port out, starboard home’ legend supposedly printed on tickets of passengers on P&O (Peninsula and Orient) passenger vessels that travelled between UK and India in the days of the Raj. Another version has it that PO and SH were scrawled on the steamer trunks used on the voyages, by seamen when allocating cabins.

Anyone who enjoys people watching will love the British Isles.

We found a Subway sandwich shop and bought lunch so we could have a picnic later.  We found out the hard way the other day that many locations have no resources whatsoever, not even a convenience store or a gas station (which means no bath rooms.)  Many of the churches have no heat or toilets, for example.  However, those places that do have public restrooms avoid that confusing Scotland issue where the men’s restrooms have figures with kilts and the women’s have figures with skirts and you can’t tell the difference.

pink door  blue door

Seems so simple – what a good idea.

We still had quite a bit of time after Subway, before we had to be at the churches, so we took a walk along High Street in Deal which was by now becoming quite familiar.

As luck would have it, I found a bookstore.  I’m drawn to these in local places like a moth to a flame, so I had to go in and take a look.  I needed a map anyway, just in case we decided to try to go to Nonington, about 10 miles away.  After looking at the map, we decided not to because the roads aren’t marked and the only way to get there included a lot of back roads.  Our track record wasn’t so good and we decided to stay and enjoy Deal and not play automobile roulette anymore than was absolutely necessary.

In any event, while in the bookstore, I discovered, quite by accident while perusing a history book, the reason why we could not find Richard Estes’s tomb in St. Peters at Westcliffe.  We were in the wrong church, AGAIN, but the name was right.  However, the church being referred to in Richard’s 1506 will was St. Peter’s in Dover which no longer exists.  The original St. Peter’s in Dover church was mentioned in the 1200s, but they know nothing more of it until in 1827 when the church needed to be either remodeled or expanded.  Someone needs to show them the 1596 Symonson map where Dover very clearly has a church, shows the location and a drawing of the church itself, albeit small.

dover 1596 map

In 1895, St. Peter’s was destroyed and a new, larger church built either beside or on top of the old one.  It’s unknown whether any part of the old church was utilized in the new one.  The church was rededicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, so the name changed.  That church was again destroyed during WW2, so it has been rebuilt yet a third time.  So if indeed Richard Eustace was buried in the floor, that floor no longer exists.  While we’ll never have a photo of that tombstone, we now know why we won’t, and why there is no St. Peter’s church today in Dover.  At least that mystery is now solved!

At noon, we drove to St. Leonards, parked, and picnicked in the car, then walked to Shoulden about a quarter mile away, shown below.  That explains why our ancestor, Robert Eastye, might have been married there – it’s so close to his home church and Anne Woodward would have been a local gal.  St. Nicholas Shoulden was probably her church.

St Nicholas Sholden

I’d love to peruse those Shoulden records for the Woodward family line.  Take a look at this beautiful church in the article about Anne Woodward.


The bride would have come in from the rear of the church, through these doors, and walked down this aisle.

shoulden door


This door, dating from 1795, is not in use today except for special occasions.  The original, pre-1795, door was on the other side of the church, today, the back, because the original road was routed on the other side of the church, where the cemetery is today.  The original doorway has now been enclosed and is the vicar’s vestry, shows as the little add-on with a chimney in the photo below.

shoulden back

Regardless of how one entered the church, the inside, especially the nave, probably looks much the same now as it did then, except for carpet, of course.  This church dates from the 1200s with one portion in the north wall believed to be from the 1100s.

St Nicholas Sholden interior

The church is beautiful, inside and out.

shoulden cemetery

It’s very likely that the ashes of Anne Woodward’s ancestors lie in this churchyard.

In Europe, I often think about the discussions in the US about exhumation and DNA testing of forensic remains for genealogy.  While I only know of one instance where this was actually done for genealogical purposes, and it was couched as an archaeology/history project because it involved a famous historical figure, Jesse James, it could never be done in Europe with graves that have been shared, not once or twice, but for centuries, and with unknown persons.  The only way exhumation would be viable is if a crypt was involved, protecting the remains from contamination from those who had come, or gone, before.  Either that, or exhumation would have to occur within a timeframe that would involve the decomposition of tissue, but not the decomposition of bone.  Still, there would be enough doubt that it would call into question the validity of non-confirming results.

shoulden cemetery2

Robert Estes married Anne Woodward here at Shoulden on December 2, 1591.  Their first child, Matthew, born in June of 1692 would be baptized in this church, but subsequent children born 1596-1616 were baptized in Ringwould.

Did they look out these same windows, daydreaming, or perhaps thinking about things that needed to be done after church?

shoulden window

This ancient oak in the churchyard, struck by lightning and half burned speaks to the age of this church. It’s possible that this oak was here when the original church, probably celtic and pagan, first met outside under an oak on a hilltop.

shoulden oak

We told the ladies at St. Nicholas Shoulden goodbye and walked back to St. Leonard’s along the ancient Sandwich Road, the same pathway, then road, our ancestors undoubtedly trod for generations.

St. Leonard’s Church in Deal


We are so fortunate that Ruth Doughty, the archivist, historian and verger of St. Leonard’s was not only available but spent the afternoon with us at the church.  What a font of knowledge.  I’m guessing that Ruth is in her mid-80s as she was christened in 1930 in St. Leonard’s.  She is a fixture, loves the church and absolutely belongs there.  She made this an incredibly amazing day!  I hope you’ll come along, because even if this isn’t your family church, an awful lot of the history pertains to churches throughout England.  Besides, you never know when you’ll discover an Estes in your tree or in your DNA matches!!

St. Leonard’s, shown below, is extremely difficult to photograph from a distance due to its location on a busy round-about.

st leonard roundabout

I have always felt like St. Leonard’s was the home church of the Estes family.  I know that my ancestors migrated down the road to St. Nicholas at Ringwould and Robert was married at Shoulden, but the first Estes records are here, and the heart of the Estes family seems to be in Deal.  Some family straggled a few miles away but many returned and there is Estes history at St. Leonard’s for generations.

From the Friends of St. Leonard’s website, here are a couple of drawings of St. Leonard’s in earlier times.

st leonard's 1

This is probably close to the church the Estes ancestors knew.  We know it’s before the 1819 addition.

st leonard's 2

This last drawing, with the color, looks more modern and is similar to a black and white print dated about 1820.  We can also see the 1819 addition.

st leonard's 3

St. Leonard’s is on a high mound, possibly originally a pagan moot hill, or meeting place.  The sides of the hill are walled, so you enter by either ascending stairs or walking around the wall to the front or side door.  You can easily see the wall in the 1800s print above.

Ruth Doughty, before her retirement, was a printer.  She graced us with copies of her prints of St. Leonard’s.  Below, thanks to Ruth, the oldest known image of St. Leonard’s, clearly before the north addition in 1819.

st leonard oldest sketch

The church is surrounded on the 2 street sides with a wall.

st leonard wall

Inside the wall, a walkway is paved about half way around the church, the other half being cemetery. However, gravestones are interspersed everyplace and one can rest assured that there are graves in every possible location, given that this church has been in existence since at least 1180.  Some historians believe that some form of worship has occurred here since Saxon times.

st leonard front

The front door of the church is shown below, original to the rebuilding of the church tower in 1686.

st leonard front door crop

We were meeting Ruth at the church at an appointed time, and we were a few minutes early.   I spent the time perusing the cemetery.  In a few days, we’ll meet Nicholas Ewstas, the first documented Estes ancestor in Deal, and we’ll take a tour of cemetery in his article.

Because the church is so old, it has been constructed, and reconstructed, many times over the centuries.  This shows in its eclectic layout, which I think gives it an extremely unique character and very interesting historical perspective.

It’s easiest to see the original outline of the church and the additions from the back outside.  The entrance is under the cupola in the tower at the west end of the church.  The nave is to the east with the cross above the triple windows.  The south addition from the 1200s and the original north addition, also from the 1200s, can be seen easily as they are not finished with flint.  The second north addition, at right, with more modern white lattice windows can also easily be discerned.

st leonard rear

You can also see the layout on this Google Map satellite view.

st leonard aerial

Directly across the street from the north entrance is the beginning, or end, depending on your perspective, of Church Path, a mile long path from Lower Deal directly to the north church door at St. Leonard’s.

st leonard aerial church path

The nave and chancel is original to the 1100s.  A hundred years later, the chancel was remodeled, enlarging the north and south aisles and adding doors, which are now gone but can be seen on the outside walls.

st leonard south door

The current tower was completed in 1686 after the original tower fell in 1658, after years of neglect prior to the Reformation, causing immeasurable damage including the destruction of the pilot’s gallery.  The cupola on the tower, which held a lantern, was and continues to be an important landmark to ships on the Goodwin Sands.

Originally, the tower apparently also had a steeple.  The Philip Symonson 1596 map of Kent shows both Sholdon and Deale churches, along with all three castles.  Ringwould, as Kyngewold is visible at the bottom.

symonson 1596 map kent crop

Normally, the main alter of a church is in the east.  In this case, you enter St. Leonard’s church via the west door and the nave is directly opposite in the east end of the church, but to your left, north, a significant extension was added in the 1200s and again in the 1819.  There is a small aisle, or wing, to the south, your right, original to the 1200s, but the largest “wing” is the one to the North which means that the majority of the congregation cannot see what is going on in the Nave.  Because of this, a new alter was installed forward of its normal position in a church, where the chancel, north and south aisles intersect, between the arches, in front of the nave.  Note that these original arch pillars are beautifully carved by a master mason.


This photo is looking east, into the original nave.  The South extension (to the right) can be partially seen and the portion visible in the photo is the Lady’s Chapel.

The photo below is taken near the door of the North extension, looking completely across the center aisle into the South extension.  Notice all of the plaques and commemorations on the walls, along with the three hatchments at the top.  Also, note the floor burials.  Gregory Holyoake in his book, Deal, Sad Smuggling Town, states that before 1668 anyone who could afford to do so was buried in the church itself.  However, based on the fact that the north extension wasn’t added until 1819, that practice obviously did not cease.

st leonard north wing looking south

Below, the long northern wing is shown with Ruth and I chatting.


Here’s a direct shot down the North aisle.  That arched door exits to find Moses Estes headstone directly on the right outside.  You can also see one of three galleries above the seating to extend the church’s seating capacity. There are two other galleries as well, one being the Pilot’s Gallery and the other beside the pilot’s gallery, over the entrance to the vestry, above the rood screen’s home.


In essence, the church started out as a rectangle with the long part east to west.  Small chapels or aisleways were added in the 1200s on the left and right which made it into a cross.  Later the North arm of the cross was extended to be longer than the original triangle, so it’s somewhat misshapen today.  In fact, one of the Bishops said, “This is the most cockeyed church in Christendom.”

Standing inside the church in the area where the original church and the extensions cross, I looked back and took this photograph of the entrance area, which includes the “modern” organ and mariner’s gallery that was rebuilt in 1705 after the 1686 rebuild of the tower, the original tower having fallen in 1658.  The organ was later moved to this location.

st leonard entryway

The next photo is of the entryway, standing in the doorway from the entryway to the chancel.  You can see the doorway arch in the upper left hand corner.

st leonard bellringer stairs

Jim took these lovely panoramic photos inside the church while Ruth and I were talking.

st leonard pano1

You can see that the nave with the three arched stained glass windows is the centerpoint of these pictures where they would be “glued” together.

st leonard pano2

Ruth told us that there are no church records prior to Queen Elizabeth the First’s reign because Elizabeth was the one who gave the directive for the churches to keep track of the births, deaths and marriages.  Queen Elizabeth was born in 1533, ascended the throne in 1558 and died in 1603.  I believe church records began in 1559.

Our earliest proven Estes ancestor who lived in Deal was reportedly born in 1495.  Actually, the present town of Deal itself, on the waterfront, or Lower Deal, wasn’t there then.  It built up after the construction of Deal Castle in the late 1630s, so they probably lived in the little village by St. Leonard’s, if not in Ringwould where they would be found for the next several generations, or maybe someplace between the two locations which are only a couple miles distant from each other.

St. Leonard’s Church, a mile distant from Lower Deal on the waterfront, existed originally to serve the tiny hamlet of Addelam.  Addelam Road is directly behind the church.  The Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, renders the phrase “at Deal” as “ad Delam” which is possibly a latinized version of the Saxon word “aet del ham” meaning “at the valley settlement.”

Even though St. Leonard’s is known as a maritime church today, original inhabitants were concerned with farming, not fishing.  The first written records from 1327 reveal that the rector, a nonresident, offended his parishioners by causing corn to be winnowed in the churchyard and a local farmer, Robert Byng, allowed his sheep to graze in the grounds and was “flogged thrice.”[i]

We do know for sure that in the 1600s the Estes family attended St. Leonard’s.  The early St. Leonard parish registers are reported to be complete from 1559.

One of our best pieces of evidence of our family’s association with this church, is the seating chart from 1618 and the Moses Estes burial from 1708.  There is a 1621 church record that shows the burial of Hugh Estie of Harwitch who was bound from Germinie (Netherlands) in a ship called the Sion of London, according to Neil Gunson in the 1992 Spring issue of Estes Trails.  Additionally, we find earlier mentions of Eastes (1581) Este (1601), Estis (1618) and Eastis (1726).  In 1590, a Henry Eastice, fisherman at Deal, made his will and his widow, Mary was buried at St Leonard’s in 1601, although the burial location is unknown.  Their children were baptized at St. Leonard’s between 1581 and 1589.

Moses’s stone, the oldest Estes gravestone known, is shown below.  It’s not easily readable today, but from earlier transcriptions, he died in March of 1707/1708.  His wife, Ellen, the sister of Abraham the immigrant, was buried in here in 1729, but there is no known headstone for her unless she is buried here, along with Moses.

st leonard moses estes

“Here lyeth interred ye body of Moses Estes who departed this life 19 of March 1708 age 65 years.  Also ye body of Constance Estes his daughter who departed this life November 1708 aged 36 years.”

This Moses is not my ancestor, Moses, son of Abraham the immigrant, but either my Moses was named after this Moses, or they were both named after the same ancestor.  I’d surely love to know who that was.  This Moses Estes married the sister, Ellen, of our Abraham Estes, the immigrant. Ellen and Moses would have been second cousins, both great-grandchildren of Sylvester, “fisherman of Deal” (in 1549) who died in Ringwould in 1579.

In this side view of the church where the Moses stone is found, the sidewalk has been changed.  Today, it crosses Moses’s grave, but initially, before the church wing expansion in 1819, the door was to the right further and smaller, so the grave would not have been in the sidewalk at that time.  Moses stone is directly behind the left hand railing at the top.  At the time of the addition, walking on graves was very common as there are many burials inside the church with the stone flat on top in the aisle.  It was considered an honor to be buried inside the church and only the wealthy or perhaps ministers in the church were buried inside.  This is the side, north, door, not the main entryway.

st leonard north door crop

Visiting the Church

Let’s go inside, just like our ancestors would have done, through the main doorway under the tower.

The doors on the tower entrance are original to the rebuilding of the tower in 1686, including the ironwork and fittings.

st leonard north door close

The outside of the entrance doors and the inside look a bit different.  The door is original with hand wrought hinges, bolts, studs and a lock consisting of a latch and bolt.


The Estes ancestors would have known the doors just prior to these.  Born in 1647, Abraham Estes immigrated to Virginia in 1673, after the tower fell in 1658, but before the 1686 reconstruction.  When he knew this church, it was in a terrible state of disrepair.  He would probably have been surprised, had he heard that it still existed after his immigration.  I can imagine that everyone went to see the church after the tower fell, and it obviously fell through the roof if it destroyed the pilot’s gallery.  Abraham would have been an orphan of 11, and a fallen church tower, probably after a storm, was assuredly the talk of the town.

In 1715, several years after Abraham immigrated, a clock was added to the side of the tower.  That was probably the primary method that the residents had to know what time it was, except for sundials.

st leonard clockface

The outer doors lead into a very small entryway at the base of the tower where an inner door opens into the church chancel itself.

st leonard inner door

This paneled entry door dates from the second half of the 1500s or the first quarter of the 1600s, so my ancestors very likely touched this very door, pushing its creaking hinges open to enter.

Inside the small entryway of the church, between the 2 sets of doors, is a room the size of the tower base.  It holds the stairs that lead to the bells in the top of the tower.

st leonard bell ringer stairs

Just inside the outer door, are found the bell ringer’s stairs – metal stairs forming a spiral – or a helix – depending on your perspective.  These are about a foot side-to-side, each – and according to Ruth who used to ring the bells from the time she was a child, into her 60s, this climb isn’t even the frightening part.  At the next level, at the clock face, is a ladder followed by walking across lattice type wood, probably joists, above that.


By 1638, the church had bells because there is a record entry for the purchase of a rope, and three bells are mentioned.  The bells would have also fallen in 1658 when the tower fell.  It’s no wonder the tower went through the roof.  Five bells were cast for the tower in 1686 and in 1866, a sixth was added.

Interestingly enough, there is a sign right by the steps that they are recruiting bell-ringers.  As a kid, I’d think this would have been great fun.  Maybe not so much now.  I wonder, did my ancestors ring the original St. Leonard’s bells?


Entering the church body or chancel through the next set of doors was quite moving.  I knew I was literally walking where my ancestors trod so many times, in joy and in sorrow, with newborn babies to baptize and the bodies of loved ones to bury – and sometimes the baby baptized today was the loved one buried tomorrow.  This was the church of hopes and dreams, of tears, both happy and sad.  As I opened the door, I was greeted by the stunning stained glass windows, the Ascension, at the other end of the church in the nave.

st leonard nave view2

For me, in my heart, it was like stepping back in time and actually being with my ancestors in a place that I know was dear to their hearts.  The church was cool, slightly moist, and silent.  It was timeless.

st leonard nave windows

These stained glass windows in the nave were not there when my Estes ancestors lived, but they are stunningly beautiful and bathe the area in a serene blue light.  I wonder what the windows were like when my ancestors attended this church.  Did they bathe the nave in color or were they clear?

Knowing that my ancestors worshipped here is just so overwhelming.  I wanted to internalize it and breathe it all into my soul.  I cannot come any closer to touching my ancestors, unless it’s through their DNA that I carry in my own body.

While Ruth and I talked, Jim went upstairs to where the organ is located today, but which was the mariner’s (pilot’s) balcony before the organ was installed.  That balcony had a rear exit so when those men heard the horn from the sea which meant an emergency, they could leave without disrupting the service.  I bet they ran that mile down Church Path to Lower Deal in record time.  The original pilot’s gallery was destroyed when the original tower and steeple fell in 1658, but it was eventually rebuilt in 1705 among much political controversy.

st leonard organ

The pilot’s gallery might explain why Richard Estes’s wife has a seat below, but he does not.  He could well have been in the balcony or having been born in 1578, age 40, he could have been deceased, but it does not say “widow Estes” like the second Estes seating assignment says.

The seating chart from 1618 shows two Estes family members who had assigned seats.  One, “Widow Estes,” we believe is our direct ancestor, Anne Woodward Estes who would, having married in 1591, been about age 50.  We know she died in 1630, because she had a will.  She was the bride who was married at St. Nicholas Shoulden, just up the street, in 1591.  It’s believed that Robert, her husband, died about 1616, so this would make sense.  If she is not the widow mentioned in the seating chart, then it’s her nephews’ wives, but there are no other records to rely on and no hint that those nephews who were orphaned young (by Robert’s brother Henry in 1590), other than Richard, even survived to adulthood.  This is most likely Anne’s seat, so we can see the church through her eyes.

Judging from the arrangement of the “pews” and the history of the timeframe, these were likely what was known as horsepen or box pews.  St. Leonard’s were removed long ago, in 1860, but we saw several examples in other churches in England.  In essence you bought your “pew” for the family and built an enclosure, example shown below.  Of course, the extravagance of your pew said a lot about your social status.  We also know that at St. Leonard’s, poor people sat along the west wall on “formes,” or stood.  In 1718, there were about 20 poor households.

example box pew

St Leonard’s seating roster from 1618 is shown below.

st leonard 1618 seating

I look at these names and wonder how many of them I’m related to, if I only knew.  Donald Bowler provided this seating chart oiginally to Estes Trails, along with some of the genealogical history of the folks involved.  People below marked with a red X are Estes or related to the Estes family.  In the front, Henry Baker’s wife is shown.  Jone Estes, daughter of Sylvester and Jone Estes, married a Henry Baker in 1763.

st leonard 1618 seating1

st leonard 1618 seating2

The two individuals on the second half of the chart marked with a red X are “Richard Estes wife” on the left and “Estes Widdow” on the right.

This seating information was extracted from Roy Eastes’s book, “The Estes/Eastes Family” and he in turn extracted the seating diagram from the Estes Trails periodical, the March 2001 issue.  Ruth graciously provided a seating chart when we visited St. Leonard’s as well.

The pews are arranged differently today, and the location where widow Estes, probably Anne Woodward Estes, sat, is an aisle way today, as the original pews have been replaced.  But here is the view of the front of the church that she would have seen from that location.  The pews may have changed, but the pillars did not, so it was easy to locate her “seat.”  We are truly looking through her eyes.

st leonard anne's seat

Jim took a panoramic shot of what she would have seen as she looked around.  Of course, the second north wing extension had not yet been built at that time, so the north wing would have ended about halfway down its length.  That’s OK, she couldn’t see much of that wing past the pillar anyway!  She had a perfect view of the Lady’s Chapel though.  Originally, it would have likely been Mary Magdalene’s chapel.  In the Catholic church, Mary Magdalene was always THE Lady.

st leonard anne's pano

Richard’s wife sat on the other side of the church.  Here’s the view, below, from her seat.  Richard, born in 1578, would have been the nephew of Robert through Robert’s brother Henry, a fisherman, who died and left a will in 1590, naming his children.

st leonard estes widow seat

This church has so many amazing details, but there was one disappointment.  The baptismal font currently in use was dedicated in 1851, and it’s beautiful, but the whereabouts of the older one are unknown.  The old font, the one with so much history, would have been the one to baptize our ancestors.


Ok, so it may not be “my” baptismal font, but this photo is still quite spiritual and inspirational to me.


However, maybe all is not lost.  I also took pictures of the pictures and paintings in the church, and you’ll note in the painting below, the baptismal font does not appear to be the one shown above, but an earlier one.  So, while we can’t see the original font today, we at least know what it looked like.

st leonard painting bapistry

You can also see the rood screen that would have been in front of the nave, between the chancel and the nave.  This tells us that this painting was certainly before 1851, when the new baptistery was dedicated.  The pulpit was moved forward in 1979 and the screens removed from the nave/chancel and reinstalled near the vestry in the rear of the church beneath the pilot’s gallery.

st leonard screen and gallery

Another painting shows the church before the modern roads, the roundabout and the walls. Just a lovely village scene showing the beauty of the church.

st leonard neighborhood painting

This painting would likely have been from before the end of the 1700s when the walled burial ground, once called Stone Lane, was purchased.  I see no stone wall in front of the church in this painting.

The church has several stained glass windows and they don’t know much about them.  There are two rather contemporary windows, the Crucifixion in the Lady’s Chapel and the Ascension in the chancel.

st leonard ascension2

The Crucifixion.

st leonard ascension window

The Ascension


The Good Samaritan window is in the middle of the south wall, in the part that was expanded in the 1200s.

st leonard north window

These windows are in the north wall.

st leonard nave window crop

This window is in the nave.

st leonard piscina window

These two windows are in the nave immediately above the Norman piscina.

st leonard sheep window

This sheep is above the Ascension window and looks possibly to be the oldest window in the church.  This could well have been there when our ancestors sat in these pews and listened to the Catholic priests, before the Reformation.

st leonard sheep window2

Every church loves their stained glass.

St. Leonard’s also has several hatchments.  I had no idea what a hatchment was, but the history is fascinating.  Hatchments came into use in the early 17th century and originated in the Low countries. They started as a replacement for the medieval achievement (the carrying of the shield, helm and other accoutrements) at funerals of knights and other nobles. It was customary in this country for the hatchment to be carried in front of the funeral procession, hung outside the home during mourning and then to be placed in the church.

St. Leonard’s has 16 hatchments, dating from 1673, in various stages of restoration.

Here’s an example of one.


The nave, is, of course, original to the church.  One of the items in the nave is the Norman piscina.  It is at least as old as the church, and the archway looks to have been carved to hold this piscina.  It’s possible that the piscina is actually older than the church.

st leonard norman piscina

A piscina was used to dispose of holy items, such as holy water and sacramental wines.  They were returned directly to the earth through a hole in the basin that drained into the wall of the church which led, of course, directly into the earth.  This was to assure that black magic could not be performed utilizing the power of the sacred and blessed liquids.


Most of the piscinas were destroyed during the Reformation and its extremely unusual for this one to remain, and for it to be so ornate.  Often piscinas were simply bowl shapes carved into stone with a hole in the bottom in a tiny nook in the wall of the church.

Prior to the Reformation, there were several side alters in which candles to various saints were kept burning.  People often left bequests for the candles of their saint to be lit.  Today, sometimes, we see the remnants of these areas in churches that were originally Catholic.

st leonard sedilia

At the far right of the right arched sedilia, or carved stone seats, dating from the 1100s, a carved head is found at the base.  This is easy to miss, but it may be one of the most historically important items in the church.

st leonard richard

st leonard richard2

This crowned figure is believed to be King Richard, Richard the Lionheart, possibly in chain-mail, or maybe simply bearded, who is said to have spent the night on his way back from the Crusades in 1194.  This is certainly possible, given Deal’s location and Richard’s piety.

richard effigy

You can see the resemblance with King Richard’s effigy, at Frontevraud Abbey, in Anjou, France, above.

Across the nave from the piscina and sedilia are two inset areas.  One, the square, only partly visible above Ruth, would likely have held a statue of St. Leonard to whom the church is dedicated.  St. Leonard is the patron saint of political prisoners, imprisoned people, captives, prisoners of war, women in labor and horses.  He died in 559 and his feast day is November 6 .

This icon, below, of St. Leonard is from St. Leonard’s Church in Streatham and shows St. Leonard, St. Laura and a prisoner.

st leonard icon

The arched inset where Ruth is sitting would have been where sacred vessels were kept.


The floor in the original portion of the church, is, of course, Deal tile.


There are several floor burials and memorial plaques throughout the church.

st leonard floor burials

One of the most noted is that of Thomas Baker, sometimes called Barbor.  He was the first known deputy appointed by the Mayor of Sandwich to act for him in Deal.  When he died in 1508, he left money for the maintenance of the church steeple which was apparently already in disrepair, although it didn’t fall for another 150 years.

In 1598, a petition was submitted to Parliament to grant Deal the status of a “borough and market town.” In 1599, the petition, signed by Parliament, was triumphantly posted on St. Leonard’s church porch by Joshua Coppin, who then became Deal’s first mayor.  The new mayor and corporation attended St. Leonard’s with great pomp and dignity every Sunday until St. George’s in Lower Deal was built sometime between 1706 and 1716.

Another notable historical item is the painting commemorating the Great Storm of 1703, hanging on the front of the Pilot’s Gallery, in which 13 ships of Her Majesty’s Navy were wrecked on the Goodwin Sands and 1200 lives were lost.  The ship looks curved, so you can see both the bow and the stern.

st leonard 1703 painting

This model of the Man ‘O War ship is also patterned after this painting.  The model was made in 1949 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the granting of the Deal charter.  Our ancestors would have been very familiar with these ships, as would all people living along this shoreline.


Every old church has it’s mystery and this one is no different.  This rock, obviously with a Christian, perhaps Celtic, cross of some sort, looking very medieval, was found here, but nothing is known about its provenance.


One very special area of the church is the Lady’s Chapel.


It harkens back to the days of Catholicism when this would have been Mary’s Chapel.  This was part of the southern aisle extension in the 1200s.


The Crucifixion window was added just over 100 years ago, in the early 1900s, and that, of course, makes this area simply stunning.

This Chapel also has its own piscina, to the right of Ruth, above, although nothing like the Norman piscina in the nave.

st leonard lady chapel piscina

I found one particular photo, taken in the Lady’s Chapel, incredibly compelling.  Ruth paused for a moment of reflection and the picture simply speaks for itself.


At the day’s end, the light was disappearing in the church and it was getting quite chilly.  We said goodbye to Ruth, after she gifted me with several prints of the church and area.  She is a retired printer and rode a bike to work every day.  She doesn’t now, and never has driven a car.  Smart lady!  She is certainly an amazing woman.  St. Leonard’s is very fortunate to have such a caring steward among their flock and we felt incredibly blessed that she spent the afternoon with us.  It made all of the difference in the world.

As a final goodbye, St. Leonard’s gave me a gift too.  I don’t quite know how this happened, but it did.  I decided to take a photograph of this beautiful piece of needlework.  I was worried about the glare on the glass, but little did I realize, until I got home, that the “glare” is really the Lady’s Chapel and the Ascension windows.  Indeed, the only way this could be more perfect would be to discover that it was my ancestor who stitched this lovely Madonna and Child.

st leonard needlework

[i] Deal, A Sad Smuggling Town by Gregory Holyoake, page 24



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Deal and Deal Castle, Kent, England

Our second day in Deal was a much better day.  For starters, we only moved the car once from one parking place to another in a different lot.  The lots are hourly and you can’t just purchase more time.  You have to move.  The good news is that we only ran over the curb at low speed.

pier sunrise

This morning began with a sunrise over the pier outside our window.  Later in the day, we actually did see France about 20 miles across the channel and also a windmill farm north of Deal in the sea as well.  The local fishermen are convinced that the wind farm has driven the fish elsewhere.  It was quite enlightening to visit with the locals.  They fish off of the pier all day long.

Breakfast is included in our room here, so I opted for the “full English breakfast.”  Yes, that is blood pudding on my plate, and yes, I did try it.  Blood pudding is neither red nor pudding.  It’s black and it’s a sausage kind of remnant roll, sliced and fried, and it’s full of unsavory scrap body parts and blood.  However, our ancestors wasted nothing and the English think blood pudding is just wonderful.  Also, notice the beans, mushrooms and a cooked tomato.  These things are also part of English breakfast.  There is sausage as well, plus what they call bacon which is more like our Canadian bacon.  You can see it beside the egg.  Their toast is also fried and extremely greasy.  No wonder our ancestors died when they were in their 30s!!!


I’ll spare you the next photo of me tasting the blood pudding, but it’s akin to the faces my kids used to make when I fed them something they didn’t like.  Like liver.  They are probably making that face now, just thinking about that!

After breakfast, we set out for a walk along the waterfront.

deal boats

These are the contemporary fishermen, doing very much what our Estes ancestors would have been doing in the 1400s and 1500s, mending nets, on the same beach.

We decided to do local things today.  Let me translate – there is no way in hell I’m getting in that car.

So, come along for the adventure.  We’re going to a castle!

We walked down to Deal Castle at the end of the boardwalk area.  This castle was never a royal residence castle, but an actual working garrison.  It was built beginning in April 1539 and Nicholas Ewstes/Eustes who was born in 1495 and died in 1533 would never have seen this castle.  It didn’t exist. However, his son, Sylvester, a fisherman of Deal, born in 1522 surely watched this castle being built by the 1400 men brought in to do so.  They must have been an economic boon to this area.  Sylvester may even have participated in the building of the castle after his father’s death if he was helping to support his widowed mother.  It was finished in September 1540 and Sylvester would have been 17 and 18 at the time.  Both skilled and unskilled laborers were needed by the hundreds.

In December of 1539, Anne of Cleves visited Deal on her way to become the 4th wife of Henry VIII, a marriage that would never be consummated and eventually annulled, on those grounds.  Did Sylvester see the future Queen?

anne of cleves

Deal Castle is beautifully symmetrical.  Designed as a defensives structure and not as a residence, it was optimized for fortification.

deal castle aerial

This aerial shows the “flower” shape of the castle.  The Keep in in the center and provided living quarters for the garrison and captain.  Food and ammunition was stored in the basement.  Talk about sitting on a powder keg.

The inside flower petals are the Inner Bastions designed to defend the courtyard and the rear of the main bastions.  The outer flower petals are the main or Outer Bastions which were designed to mount the castle’s heaviest and largest guns.  Originally, there were guns at two levels here.  The castle was built to support  66 large guns and 53 ports for handguns.  There were a total of 145 openings through which the castle could be defended.  In addition, in 1548, an inventory shows 77 bows and 468 arrows, so this older method of defense was still in use and probably more accurate than close range weaponry.

The moat was never designed to hold water, but was to prevent approach of enemies to the castle.  The gatehouse was, of course, in the front and is connected to the land across the moat by a drawbridge.

The courtyard is the area outside of the Inner Bastions and before the Outer Bastions that provide a walkway area around the top portion of the castle.

castle moat

Not visible in the aerial photo, but quite obvious in the photo above are “The Rounds,” a narrow passageway that runs around the inner face of the moat just above ground level allowing defenders to fire at attackers.

Here, from the south, a photo of Deal castle in its entirety. Unfortunately, there is no good shot of the castle without modern buildings in the photo, except from the air.

castle from distance

Below is a photo of Deal Castle from the rear on the current beach.  The sea at that time would have been closer to the rear castle wall.

castle from beach

I’m beside the guns at the castle here on top of one of the round turrets with the ocean in the background.


The Castle is an important part of the history of this region.  At times, it was defensive, and at other times, a safety net – just in case it was needed.  It was the largest of the three castles in the “Downs.”

Henry VIII built this castle, along with Sandown and Walmer, immediately after he renounced Catholicism.  He fully expected to be attacked by his old friends, and now enemies, the Catholic countries of Europe – namely, France and Spain.  The coastline of Deal was especially vulnerable, being the closest point to Europe across the English Channel, and its long beach promotes easy landing.  Dover harbor was too small and reasonably defended.  Deal had no defense.

The Castle design was revolutionary, short, flat, rounded buildings exposing as little as possible to provide a target, with rounded walls to deflect most cannonballs without damage.  Walls were 14 feet thick.

Our Estes ancestors would certainly have been very familiar with the castle and would have probably been inside from time to time.  Let’s take a tour to see what our ancestors saw.

deal castle 1649

This 1649 etching by Hollar shows the castle as it looked shortly after it was built.

deal castle 1735

This later etching, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, shows the castle in 1735.

The entrance to the castle is on the side away from the ocean.

deal castle entrance

Today, the moat is lush and green.  Above the drawbridge, which is simply a bridge today, were two holes, likely how the drawbridge was drawn up to the castle.

deal castle bridge

The area between the two holes likely held a coat-of-arms at one time.

deal castle drawbridge holes

In the archway between the outside of the castle and the door, we find these holes.  In other castles, they are called “murder holes” and allowed you to drop nice things on the heads of your unwelcome guests like burning pitch, hot oil and quicklime, a substance that when mixed with water generates enough heat to combust materials and blinds people.

murder holes

The doors are original and massive, heavily studded for protection with over 1200 bolts designed to deflect the axes of invaders.

deal castle doors

To give you an idea of size, I’m “at the door,” below.

deal castle door me

deal castle single door

After entering the castle, you immediately see another door into the inner area, intentionally offset from the outer door.  This was to deter anyone who did manage to breach the first door.  Notice the spikes.

deal castle entranceway

The castle was built with three types of material.  Bricks, which you can see here, made locally, Kentish ragstone from the quarries near Maidstone, and, surprisingly, cream colored Caen stone from the quarries in Normandy.  These likely came from the destruction of a local monastery and were reused in this castle.  Henry VIII had ordered the disbandment and destruction of monasteries in 1536 and the timing would have been perfect to use those stones in this structure.  Some stones are carved, such as the ones in the photo below leading into the contemporary gift shop.

deal castle carved stones

So it’s also possible that our ancestor, Sylvester Estes, willingly, or unwillingly, had a part in the destruction of local monasteries.  This also means that he likely “became” Protestant during this time, whether he wanted to or not, as did the local churches, upon orders of the King.  If you recall, Henry the VIII was married several times and he could not do that as a Catholic King, so the Prostestant religion became the religion of the land and he became the head of the Anglican Church.  Needless to say, this was a highly controversial event, or series of events and would have been a very volatile time politically to have lived.

Flint is a very common building material in this region because of its ready availability.  Even the mortar here is reinforced with flint.

deal castle flint morter

People, and doors, were smaller then.  This door was maybe 5 feet tall.  Even the small doors on the inside rounds of the castle were studded and reinforced, and the stone archway was carved.

deal castle small door

The guns were located on the inner and outer bastions.

deal castle guns

We walked around the courtyard area.  This castle is massive, even from inside and could clearly be defended even if your foes gained partial access.

deal castle shot furnace

This strange looking structure is what is left of the shot furnace which was used for heating cannon balls before loading them into the cannons.  While very dangerous, the results of a white hot cannon ball penetrating the sides and wooden hulls of warships approaching this vulnerable stretch of coast were worth the risks.  The ships fired upon went up in blazes.  This was particularly effective in the 1782 siege of Gibraltar when 13 ships were set ablaze in one memorable night.  Apparently their aim with these guns was pretty good.

deal castle from courtyard

The entrance to the Keep, below, from the courtyard, shown above.

deal castle keep entrance

The Keep was where the 34 garrison soldiers lived, along with their captain, a trumpeter and a drummer.  Some soldiers may have had wives and children accompanying them.  In peacetime, they guarded the fort and helped with shipwrecks and other things as needed.  Some took side jobs in town.  In wartime, their ranks were increased by local recruits.  The men of both Deal and Sandown Castle, now gone, both worshipped at St. Leonard’s church in Deal as neither castle had a chapel.

This fireplace was where much of the food would have been cooked as well as heat generated.

deal castle fireplace

We do know something about what they ate.  In 1648, when the castle surrendered to Parliamentary forces, the following items were found within the castle:

  • 5 barrels gunpowder
  • 10 hogsheads and a half of wheat
  • 10 Holland cheeses
  • 10 Suffold cheeses
  • 12 firkins of butter
  • 2 hogsheads of beef
  • 20 pieces of salted pork
  • 100 pieces of pork in water
  • 17 Norsea Codd in water
  • 8 pieces beef in water
  • 2 pieces pork rady to dresse
  • 1 barrell of pease
  • 100 loaves of bread, baked, beside Beare, etc.

This is probably very similar to what the townspeople ate as well, especially when vegetables weren’t available or in season.  Before refrigeration, the only ways to preserve meats were drying, salting and packing the foods in barrels.  I’m amazed they didn’t die of food poisoning.

deal castle ovens

The ovens, above, and possibly a forge as well.

deal castle oven

deal castle forge

In the photo above, the fireplace through the door and the area beneath the fireplace is believed to have been a forge, or possibly the garrison’s armourer’s workshop.

deal castle privy

This is the all-important bathroom.  Did you wonder how that need was accommodated?  It was here, over this hole, now blocked off so you don’t fall in.

deal castle privy chute

Looking down into the “toilet” and then looking up to the one ventilation window.  I’m thinking this window was very important and one didn’t spend any unnecessary time in this “bathroom.”

deal castle privy window

And I shudder to think who had to clean this out.

Moving on, there is an upper level to the keep where the captain would have quartered and where he would have received guests.  The stair leading to that level is quite unique and equally as difficult to photograph.  There is, or was, a double stairs, one under the other.  You can see in the photo below one is intact today and the other is still partially visible.

deal castle double stairs

View from the other side.

deal castle double stairs2

The stairs were very tight and steep.

deal castle rounds access

The inside looks something like a maze with areas for defending the castle available from every location.

deal castle window

Originally, many of the windows were holes for guns, not cannons.  By the time your enemy was this close, you were going to be engaged in hand-to-hand combat.  To use this porthole for defense, you would have had to crawl up the “tunnel” to the opening on your belly.  You are looking at the courtyard outside these windows.

deal castle window2

I can’t help it, I just love these and the way they look today.

deal castle window3

deal castle window4

deal castle window5

deal castle window6

This area with the windows circles the entire castle and each window porthole is different.

deal castle window7

deal castle pump

There was fresh water within the castle via a well, below, modernized with this pump.

deal castle well

Today, guests use this as a wishing well and it is full of coins and unfortunately, trash.

deal castle well2

The length of a siege was most often determined by the amount of fresh water and food inside the castle.

This entire basement area is marked by short hallways that only go to a window which was a gunnery station.  These appear to be “The Rounds” outside.

deal castle dead ends

I got quite lost in this area, but thankfully it is circular and you can’t really get entirely lost.

deal castle doorway to stairs

Every doorway leads to another door which leads to another door.  Most of these were about 5 feet in height.  You can see my husband here as an example getting ready to enter one of these little maze areas.

deal castle jim in doorway

deal castle doorway and hallway

In the basement area, you can see that the doors didn’t fit very well and that drafts were obviously abundant.  Water could run out under the doors.

deal castle unsealed door

The basement also held the gunpowder.  Every effort was taken to reduce the possibility of a spark making this castle England’s biggest impromptu fireworks display.  The door to the room containing the gunpowder was copper.

deal castle copper door

You know, it was wonderful to visit this castle, but it felt really good to emerge from the basement type humidity and darkness into the sunlight and see the ocean over the castle walls.

deal castle sea over wall

We walked back to the gatehouse through the courtyard.

deal castle courtyard

You might recognize the window shapes from the photos from inside.

deal castle courtyard2

I have to wonder about the purpose of the tiny little window or door in the outer wall.  It’s beautiful this lovely day, nonetheless.

The expected invasion by Catholic Europe in 1539/1540 never happened, to the great relief of both Henry VIII and the people of Deal and the Kent coastline, I’m sure.  However, in 1588, the country was once again scurrying to get ready for warfare with Spain.

Queen Elizabeth has less than three dozen of her own warships and therefore relied up on the Cinque Ports to supplement her own Navy.  The Lord Warden of Cinque Ports, at Dover, of which Deal was one, issued a proclamation that “no ship, bark or other vessel should pass the seas, whose voyage or absence may be above 6 weeks out of England.”  In other words, every ship was now military.

At that time, Sandwich had 43 vessels, Deal six and Walmer, five.  As the threat continued, the local people increased their ship count by six.  Cinque Port sailors were ready to defend England.

The Spanish Armada approached, moving up the English Channel in a half-moon shape.

spanish armada

Deal Castle prepared, expecting to be in the middle of the fray, but the majority of the fighting took place in the English Channel off of Calais, France, resulting in an English victory over the Spanish Armada.  Deal was spared.

Signal houses were built along the coastline, this one above Deal, to provide watches to notify the people when the Spanish were sighted approaching the coastline.  Did our ancestors watch for the Armada’s arrival?  Did their children play in these no-longer-needed signal houses?

signal station

By 1588, Sylvester Estes had died and his son Robert, also a mariner, would have been about 33 years old and wouldn’t marry for another 3 years.  All mariners and their ships had been pressed into service to defend England by Queen Elizabeth, so the fact that Spain was defeated at Calais and not at Deal could well be the difference between whether we are here today, as descendants, or not.

The current waterfront town of Deal built up around the castle, but the older part of town that existed before the castle is near St. Leonard’s church and is today referenced as “Upper Deal.”  Lower Deal, at the waterfront, as it is known, tends to flood at high tide especially in bad storms in the spring.

Deal and the Maritime Museum

After spending the morning at the castle, we set off to find lunch.

I love to walk through these towns.  The British will tuck a garden in anyplace and it’s always just lovely.

deal sidewalk garden

This “Mariner’s Compass” quilt pattern, in tiny tiles, is just so appropriate on the waterfront in Deal.  The beach is just across the street to the right and this is embedded in the sidewalk.  Of course, there is also a car parked on the sidewalk, well, because it fits!

deal mariners compass

A very interesting Boutique sign, but unfortunately the boutique was closed.

deal boutique

Like many old towns, the little alleyways slip between buildings, are wide enough for one person, and have names.

deal primrose hill

I love the Deal tile and now wish I had brought some home.

deal market street

Every village has a “Market Street.”  You can tell this is the “old” area because the streets aren’t large enough for 2 lanes, and in some cases, not even one lane.

Deal is famous for its ceramic tile and you can see it embedded in many of the buildings.

deal tile

Walking is a lovely way to see the local architecture, in this case, Bute House, now a dentist’s office.

deal tile entryway

Tell me, how can you resist this?  We discovered at the bakery that each village has its own signature “bun” too, and of course we had to try and compare each one.

deal bakery2

We bought a Bath bun and a Chelsea bun.  The Bath bun had candied cherries and fruit in bread. I thought it might taste similar to panetonne, but it didn’t. The Chelsea bun had raisins, sugar and cinnamon.  How can that be anything but good?  Regional differences in foods exist just a few miles apart here.  And I guess everyone has their own style of bun.  Ok, no bun jokes….

bath bun

We wandered from shop to shop.

deal shops

I love the local color.

deal last pub

Yes, we walked to the end of the village.

deal the rose

We knew because this sign told us so!

deal rose hotel

I do believe this is one of my favorite pictures of all time – not the one above – the one below.

deal yellow door

I can’t imagine a lovelier place.

We decided to visit the Deal Maritime Museum.  We didn’t know what to expect.  Turns out it’s a quaint little museum staffed and run by volunteers.  I’m glad they are preserving this heritage.

deal maritime museum

After all, Deal is synonymous with maritime.

deal maritime museum2

They also salvaged a few tombstones that St. George’s Church across the street was “getting rid of.”  Burial space in England is at a premium and older graves not cared for by relatives, read, paid for yearly, are reused.  The grave stones are simply disposed of in most cases, certainly when, if not before, they are illegible.

St. George’s Church is on High Street in the main part of Lower Deal.  While none of the American Estes ancestors attended this church, there are Estes records associated with this church from the 1820s, although none of the tombstones in the museum from St. George’s were Estes.  Yes, I checked every one.

deal st georges church

Note the skull and crossbones on the stone below.  This is often found on the stones in Deal and does not necessarily mean pirates as we think of it today.  They told us that it was associated with the maritime trades.  Moses Estes, buried in St. Leonard’s in 1707 also carries this same insignia, a skull, crossbones and hourglass, on his stone.

deal st george stones

The old church is now “Spires” café.  And yes, the remaining tombstones are leaning up against the wall and the former cemetery is now the outside café and garden area.

deal spires cafe

High and Middle Street

To visit the museum, we had to walk down High Street, which is the modern shopping area.  Yesterday we found a coffee shop and a couple bakeries, so we knew where to go today.  We got coffee and sampled things from the bakeries and delis along the way.

deal stitches

More important however, is the Stitch shop.  Yep, I finally found a fabric shop and it had some lovely English prints, mostly florals, which is, of course, extremely appropriate for here – the land of lovely gardens.  In this photo, Jim is stuffing my fabric purchases into the backpack.

After that, we seemed to be walking slower and slower.  We wandered through the shops sampling the cuisine – kind of the tourist version of grazing.

deal deli

deal deli2

You knew that DNA has to be in this article someplace, and here it is, but not at all like you would have expected.

deal dna

deal dna2

We stopped by the coffee shop and found the bookshop – that would be W.H. Smith in the panoramic view from the coffee shop below.

deal pano from coffee shop

Then we took the tiny one-person-wide alleys back to the hotel.

deal odd fellows alley

deal odd fellows alley2

We were becoming familiar with the streets and the shortcuts and feeling quite at home.  Who needs a car?

Our hotel faces the water.  There are buildings all along this waterfront area, Beach Street, attached to each other, and there are alleys called closes between the buildings to “Middle Street.”  Middle Street was the land of slaughter houses, brothels, pubs and smuggling.  It had a terrible reputation and was quite baudy and rough – then and right up until WW2 when it was heavily damaged by bombs.  Deal decided not to rebuild the part destroyed but instead to build a much needed car park (parking lot, located right behind our hotel) instead.

While I was in Deal, I joked about the fact that Middle Street would be where my ancestors would be found, land of pubs and smugglers.  In 1710, Deal was described as, “An impious and remorseless town.  Fraud, oppression, theft and rapine reign.”  In 1703, the mayor walked through the town every Sunday, carrying a large stick, “as a severe scouge to all manner of vice, profaneness and immoraility.”  Without benefit of trial, he put swearers in the stocks and once gave ‘a common prostitute’ 12 lashes.  It apparently did little good.

After returning home, I found records in the Summer 1992 edition of Estes Trails that had to do with where the Estes family lived in “Lower Deal,” near the waterfront.

1663 – Deal Tenents – Richard Estes, Widow Priscilla Estes very poor

1673 – Richard Eastes, pilot, left to his son Moses his two messuages in Deal known as Sea Valley and the capstan standing.  To my son-in-law Jeffrey Caffrey and Mary his wife my daughter, the messuage in which they live in Lower Deal.

1674 – Will of Stephen Pearce who left to his wife the rents and profits of the tenements where Sam Clarke and Priscilla Estis were living on the beach and waste aforesaid.

1680 – William Archbishop of Canterbury to Moses Estes of Deal, pilot, on surrender of former lease to Richard Estes deceased dated 1662…tenement in Lower Deal abutting Beach Street east.  Note – Beach Street is the seafront street where the Clarendon, our hotel, is located.

Also, tenement or dwelling house in Lower Deal abutting Middle Street east to land demised to John Estis west to land demised to Elizabeth Estes north to buildings demised to William Hargrave…now in the tenure of Nicholas Estes…formerly demised to Richard Estes for 21 years.

Uh oh – our Estes folks really were on Middle Street, which really doesn’t surprise me one bit.  Well, that just makes our family quite colorful!!!  Indeed, where is my pirate hat???


Further up Middle Street, in some of the “worst areas,” quaint, historic cottages exist today and it a lovely place to visit and live.  Each cottage here is named and the name generally has something to do with what it was, or is.



deal middle street3

deal middle street4

The building below, the Paragon, was once the heart of the rough area of Middle Street, being the local pub.

deal middle street the paragon

The Paragon was originally an old pub called the “Star Inn” before becoming a music hall in about 1876.  The hall, like Middle Street itself, was very rough.  Beatings, stabbings, landlords robbing clients, drunks and half-naked women in the streets were all quite common in the area.  While this was recorded in the 1700s and 1800s, there is no reason to believe it was any different earlier.

deal middle street5

Here’s a lady skateboarding up Middle Street today.  Vastly different from what Middle Street used to be in the days of Deal Castle.

middle street skateboarder

So we followed the alleys from High Street, across the car park that used to be Middle Street to our hotel on what is now Beach Street, literally across Estes family land or at least lands that were quite familiar to our ancestors.

After that, we decided to walk out on the pier again because it was much less foggy today.  You can see the shelter areas on the pier for fishermen.

deal pier

Jim’s camera takes panoramic pictures and here is the waterfront on the left and right of the pier.

deal pier pano

deal pier pano2

I’m sure my ancestors saw this same view.  The buildings looked different of course, and my ancestors weren’t standing on a pier but in their boats instead.  Still, if you squint a bit and listen to the gulls and the surf, it isn’t much different.

As I walked back, I stopped and looked at the beach and realized just how long my ancestors would have looked at this same beach.

deal beach

Julius Ceasar recorded in the year 55 when he invaded England and landed on the beach between Deal and Dover, that this part of southern Britain was inhabited by Belgic and Celtic tribes.  Was my family among them?  From the year 55 to the year 1495 is 1450 years, or 48-58 generations.  Was my family living on this soil that long?

Maybe the Estes DNA will tell the story.  Join me once a week for the next five weeks in the 52 Ancestors series where we’ll discover what the DNA does say about our five Estes ancestors who lived in Deal and surrounding area in the 1400s, 1500s and 1600s.  It’s an exciting tale to tell!



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Visiting Deal, Kent, UK – The Estes Homelands

The trip to the British Isles in the fall of 2013 began with a few days in London, then progressed to the Ribble Valley in Lancashire to follow find our Speak family roots.  After that, my husband and I boarded a cruise ship to circle the British Isles and visit Norway and Paris, all locations where I have ancestral connections of some sort.

When I realized this trip was going to take place, and that we were doing to be within spitting distance, literally, from Deal, in Kent, where my Estes ancestors hailed from, well…..I couldn’t NOT go – although by far this was the most difficult part of the journey.

How, might you ask, do I know that this IS the Estes stomping grounds?

There’s nothing like a dose of synchronicity in genealogy.

Is an East an Estes?

Back in 2003, not long after I started the Estes DNA project, I was contacted by a man by the last name of East that lived in the UK.  He wondered if East and Estes were really derivations of the same name.  I wondered too – as many had over the years.

I told him that we could certainly find out.  He took a DNA test, and confirmed that, indeed, his East line is not the same as the Estes line, although he lived in the same area.  I mentioned to him that I was extremely disappointed, because I very much wanted a confirming test out of England to confirm that the Estes line was ancestral, and where it was from.  He mentioned that his son was marrying an Estes gal, and did I want him to talk to the father about testing.  The father was the very last male in his line.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  What are the chances of that happening?

Indeed, I was leaping for joy.  I figured if I could get the test, I’d find a way to do the accompanying genealogy….but as it turns out, I didn’t have to do that either.  That particular Estes family was not on the internet at that time, but they did have their genealogy and indeed, they did descend from the Estes family of Kent.  Their ancestor was a brother to my ancestor who immigrated to the US in the 1600s.  Oh happy day!!!

The Estes father agreed to DNA test.  I wrote an old-fashioned letter, and he wrote back in an envelope too, authorizing me to order a test kit for him.

The wait was interminable.

Finally, the long awaited day arrived.  I opened his results, and yes, indeed, his Estes line was the same as our Estes line, confirming a common ancestor and confirming, beyond any doubt that our Abraham Estes was the Abraham Estes of the records in various locations in Kent, England.

It was a red letter day in Estes genealogy!

Preparing to Go Home

So, when I realized I was going to be only 8 miles from Deal, from where my ancestors lived and worked for at least 5 proven generations before Abraham Estes immigrated in 1673, I had to visit.  I had to find a way.

I spent weeks gathering all of the facts that I could from the documentation of several Estes genealogists over the years.  Many have since passed on, and I hope they know their work has now been proven.

I contacted the churches in Kent that were related to my ancestors.  I sorted records into geographic groups and did a lot of footwork before leaving, as our time there was going to be very precious and I wanted to be as prepared as possible.

One thing I’ve learned over the years – you can’t be prepared for everything and there is a gift even in disaster.  You might just have to hunt for it.

In the rest of this article, I’m going to tell you about the trip to Deal, but then in following 52 Ancestors articles about each of the 5 men who were my Estes ancestors about whom we have records in Kent, I’ll be providing details on each one, in every location we have and in as much detail as I can find, including genetics.

My direct Estes line, in England is as follows:

  • Nicholas Ewstes born 1495, probably Deal, died 1533 Deal, with a will, wife Anny or Amy.
  • Sylvester Eastye, a “fisherman of Deal” (according to a 1649 court record for not paying his taxes), born circa 1522 probably Deal, died June 7,1579 Ringwould, wife Jone, maiden name unknown, died May 16, 1561, Deal. He is probably buried at St. Nicholas Church in Ringwould.
  • Robert Eastye, a mariner, born circa 1555 Ringwould, died about 1616 in Ringwould. Married in 1591 to Anne Woodward in Sholden, she died in 1630 with a will. (We do not have Ann’s will as the archives said it was not listed some years ago.) They moved in 1595 to Ringwould and are both buried there.       Names listed as Eastye, Estes and Eastes.
  • Sylvester Eastye born September 26, 1596 in Ringwould, died before 1649 when his wife died with a will, married in 1625 in Ringwould to Ellen Martin who was born around 1600, possibly in Great Hardres (Hadres), and died in 1649 in Waldershare, Kent with a will.
  • Abraham Estes born 1647, Nonington, Kent, married December 29, 1672 (according to the parish register) to Ann Burton (widow) in Worth, Kent. He is listed in that record as “Abraham Estes of Sandwich, linen weaver.” Ann probably died the next year because he immigrated alone to America (at least there was no wife on the passenger’s list) in 1673. He remarried in America to a woman named Barbara, surname unknown.

Day 1 in Kent – Dover, Ringwould and OMG

What a day.  Getting off the cruise ship went smoothly.  We went to the Avis location where we waited for almost an hour for 2 Australians to get their driver’s license issues straightened out with the consulate.  Patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue….patience is a virtue….

We finally got our rental car.  Did you know it’s possible for a car to have a transmission that is both manual and automatic, depending on where you put the lever?  Well, it is and we had one.  And I wouldn’t have mentioned it if it wasn’t a bit of a problem.

So off we went, Jim driving, and on the left or “wrong” side of the road from our American perspective.  You see, he told me he had done this before.  No problem.  Easy peasy.  Yea, right!

england roads

Oh, and have I mentioned that people park here wherever they want to, including into the driving lane of the road and on both sides in both directions?  Well, they do that too and it’s very disconcerting.  Part of the problem is that this is a very old country and there are no “places” to park, so they just park wherever and everyone else drives outside of their lane to get around them, into oncoming traffic…whatever.  Its normal here. Bloody hell.

Oh yes, and the very first thing we encountered was a detour which put all of the traffic for Deal onto one small road.  Wrong side of road, car with mystery transmission and now a detour too.

So we decided to stop and see Dover Castle, except it wasn’t open, so we got to turn around in the driveway and go on.  We weren’t sure “going on” to where, exactly, but we drove North.  I must say, it’s a bit frightening to ride in a missile with someone trying to learn how to drive it.  It reminded me of the terror of riding with teenagers learning to drive.  I’m very glad that’s over in my lifetime. Well, I thought it was anyway.

st margaret church

A mile or two down the road, we stopped to see a small church in the village of St. Margaret, above.  We discovered we were in the wrong small church.  Every hamlet has one.  However, we made lemonade.

While this is not the church for my line, it does contain Estes history.  Thomas Estes, grandson of Silvester Estes and Ellen Martin, bricklayer and farmer at Guston near Dover, born in 1676 married Mary Bouls in this church, noted as “St. Margarets at Cliff” in 1706.  Two generations later, Thomas’s grandson, Silvester Eastes, moved to Deal about 1770 and established a brick making business.  The 1992 Estes Trails summer edition notea that many houses in Deal were built by this man.  By 1814, his son would marry in St. Leonard’s church in Deal.

Inside St. Margarets is a vault containing the Matson and Youden family plus “in this vault lieth interred the body of John Eastes died 20/10/1797, age 65 also Catherine Eastes relict of the above who died 1/11/1808 aged 69.”  Another says “In memory of John Eastes who died 17/1/1769 aged 64” and “Here lieth the body of Edith Eastes wife of John Eastes of this parish.  She died 13.12.1755 aged 52.”  John is noted in 1767 marrying and in 1784 being paid for 2 windows.  A carved screen in the church shows that in 1773, J. Eastes was the churchwarden.  In 1794, Richard Eastes is paid for 6 windows.  I wonder if they were any of the windows in the photo below.

st margaret inside

Just two miles away, in another church, in Guston, beginning in the 1790s, we also find records of the Estes family.  This line had a bit more money, because according to the records, they are buried in a vault in the church itself, probably in the floor.  One of the records on the wall inside the church honors John Estes, grandson of Thomas, the bricklayer and farmer at Guston.  Thomas himself who died in 1743, along with wife Mary, has a tombstone in the churchyard that includes the arms of the “Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers.”  We did not visit St. Martin of Tours Church in Guston, but it’s quite old and shown below, exterior and interior.

guston church

guston inside

Jim and I headed for a second church just a mile down the road from St. Margaret, St. Peters at Westcliffe – the right church, so we thought.  So far, so good.  Peter Estes was buried there in 1506, or at least I thought it was there.  In any case, although not my direct relative, I was hopeful we could find his stone inside the church, but no cigar.  We discovered later that this was not the correct church EITHER, but given how close it is to St. Margarets and Guston, there is surely some Estes history here too.

St Peters at Westcliffe

Regardless, I love this photo of the cemetery.

We headed towards Deal to find lunch.

I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that Jim hit a curb, at full highway speed, on my side.  He also hit some bushes…a few times, but those at least are soft, well, softer than the curb.  He scared the living daylights out of me – and that’s putting it as mildly and nicely as I can.  I saw the little village of Ringwould, a crossroads really, approaching, and told him to turn off.  We weren’t planning to go there just then, but it was on the list and we desperately needed a break.  Mind you, we had only driven about 5 or 6 miles, had hit 3 things, and it’s only 8 miles total to Deal.  What I really needed was a drink, some food and a Zanax but unfortunately, none of the three of those things were available in Ringwould.

st nicholas ringwould

So, instead, we found the local church which isn’t difficult to do here.  The villages are small and the churches have bell towers or steeples, one or the other and sometimes both.  You can see them over all of the other buildings.  St. Nicholas seemed like a fitting respite since several generations of my Estes ancestors were baptized, married or buried here.

Just beyond the church begins “the forest” which is what is left of a massive, dense forest that used to stretch from this point almost all the way to Canterbury.

forest ringwould

By now, steeped in and surrounded by the history of this ancient forest where I expected to see Robin Hood any minute, I was feeling much better.

forest ringwould2

This forest was surely here when my Estes ancestors were as well.  Our earliest known Estes ancestor was Nicholas, born in or about 1495, probably in or near Deal.  His son Sylvester was probably born in Deal as well, but he died in 1579 and was buried in the church cemetery here in Ringwould, just a few hundred yards from this forest, but the grave is unmarked.  It’s only a couple miles between Ringwould and Deal, on the same road, so this isn’t a surprising situation.  His son, Robert was born in 1655 in Ringwould.  Both these men were mariners.  Robert’s son Sylvester was born in Ringwould in 1696.  He died before 1667 and is probably buried in Ringwould as well.  I did copy the early church records while at this church by taking photos of each page of the transcribed book.  It was very kind of the church to make these available to visitors.

Robert’s son, the American immigrant, Abraham, was reportedly born in Nonington, so we’ll yet visit that church.  Or we thought we would.

I did notice Martin family records at Ringwould, so it’s likely that the parents of Ellen Martin “of Great Hardres” who married Sylvester Estes November 24, 1625, “sometimes church warden,” born in 1596, were members of the church as well.

Ellen had a will and died in Waldershare, just down the road, in 1649.  Their eldest son, Robert, born in 1626, would found the Waldershare Estes line.  Interestingly, Robert in 1670 and again in 1680 donated money towards the redemption of English captives “out of ye Turkish slavery.

We were not able to visit All Saints Church in Waldershare, but the church is shown below and is likely where Anne is buried, unless her family took her down the road to Ringwould to be buried with her husband.  It would be interesting to check the Waldershare church burial records to see if she is listed.

All Saints Waldershare

Sylvester and Ellen’s children born between 1626 and 1636 were baptized in Ringwould, but the ones born between 1638 and 1644 were baptized in Nonington.  There is no baptismal record for Anne born in 1637 or for our Abraham born in 1647, but based on his brother’s 1644 baptismal record in Nonington, it’s presumed Abraham was born there was well.  St. Mary’s church in Nonington is shown below, although we were unable to visit.

St Marys Nonington cropped

St Marys Nonington interior

Nonington is about half way between Ellen Martin’s birth location in Great Hardres (Hadres) and the Ringwould area where the rest of the Estes family was located, although there are no further Estes records and no Martin records in the church records there.

Suffice it to say that indeed, St. Nicholas church in Ringwould, below, and the churchyard is steeped and bathed in the history of the Estes family as well as that of their wives.  Many Estes children, my ancestors, were baptized in this very baptismal font.  Well, we thought it was this font, but later discovered that the original font was disposed on in the 1870s when a renovation of the church was completed.

St Nicholas Ringwould bapistry

They entered through this door to pray, baptize their children, to marry and to bury their dead.  The church provided not only spiritual but social comfort, help and companionship as well through other members.  Today, I felt like the church welcomed me back, with open arms, and provided me a desperately needed respite.

St Nicholas Ringwould door

These 2 yew trees in the yard were already old by the time my ancestors walked in this churchyard.  They are 1100 and 1300 years old, respectively, probably planted when the Anglo Saxon church was originally in this location.

ringwould st nicholas yew

ringwould st nicholas yew2

One of these ancient yews is now hollow.

ringwould st nicholas hollow yew

A woman we met at the church said she was a child raised here and the men used to take branches from the yews to make arrows for archery practice in “the butts” which was located “below” the church and is overgrown now.  A butt was a practice range.

We had a lovely visit in this beautiful and quiet church and had been able to regroup and gather our thoughts.  However, all was not to be so rosy.  Jim went to the car while I finished taking photos and just basking, alone, in the silence, in the history of the place, like the two massive yews.

When I went to the car, I noticed the tire Jim had hit on the curb was flat, so we pulled to the bottom of the hill and called the emergency number.  This was about noon.  Several phone calls and nearly 3 hours later, a man appeared and removed the tire and replaced it, in his truck built for such things.  Not only was there a puncture, there was also a slice in the sidewall.  I’m surprised the wheel itself wasn’t bent.

We of course managed to have the flat in front of the pub – which unfortunately for us, was closed.  No lunch for us.  Ringwould is a very small village.  Not even a gas station or convenience store.

ringwould 5 bells

However, while we waited, I walked up Front Street, which was the oldest street in the village.  In fact, I walked the entire village.  That was the gift in this crisis.  The village, especially the oldest portion, was quiet and much like it was in the days when my ancestors walked these very same streets, if you ignore the pavement.

ringwould front street

This is the end of Front Street, just beyond the church.  The forest is right around the curve.

The church itself is the oldest building in the little village.

St Nicholas at Ringwould

A footpath, formerly a cart path wide enough for 2 men and a casket, now connects across both Front and Back street to the church.  The Forge, below, and the Bakehouse, both extremely old buildings, still exist within sight of the church along with an old barn.

ringwould forge

Houses here don’t have screens and The Forge is extremely close to the footpath.  One window that was open showed the old forge hearth if you look inside the window.

ringwould forge window

ringwould forge door

Here, you can see up the path from The Forge to the church.  This is how people would have gone to church, but of course the path wasn’t paved then, although it could well have had cobblestones.

ringwould church from forge

The quaint houses called cottages, each with a name and a garden, were beautiful. Some had no yard.  This one does.

ringwould house

Notice that the wall is built partly of flint.

ringwould wall

The churches here are built of flint as well as are many of the houses – and the walls.  There are many walkways that are old paths that go between houses.  This is a lovely garden from one of the walkways, viewed over the wall, of course.

ringwould garden

The tire changed, off we went again to Deal to find our hotel, and hopefully a very late lunch.  That seemed the safest thing to do.  Deal isn’t a tiny village, but a town with several blocks of streets and a surprising amount of traffic.  Like I said, people park everyplace whenever they feel like it.  Jim clipped the mirror on my side against the mirror on a car parked on my side.  I knew he was awfully close, but I was trying not to say anything because he was not taking it well, to put it mildly.  I think this rental car was a bad idea and I wish I had never had it, but now we’re in Deal, in a rental car that Jim has scraped twice for sure and 5 or 6 times if you count only grazing the curb or the bushes.  My new goal is to stay out of the car as much as possible.  It’s going to be a long ride back to Dover.  Thankfully, most of these churches are out in the country and Deal castle is walkable from our hotel.

I was feeling a bit trapped in Deal at this point, but that too, would wind up being a blessing.  I really got to know where my ancestors lived, worked, and well, ahem….where they got into trouble.


We are staying on the waterfront in the Clarendon Inn in Deal.  My mariner ancestors would have had their boats on this rocky beach.  If they were indeed smugglers, they would have engaged in that activity from here too.  Given the history of the area and their propensity to not want to pay taxes, it’s likely that they were.  Pretty much everyone was.  It’s foggy today, but we can hear the surf from our room which is the one with the open window directly above the sign.  The sound of the surf connects me, over the centuries, to them.  And it’s calming.


We never had lunch, so we ate an early dinner.  Restaurants here close after “tea,” about 2 or 3, until dinner, and reopen about 5 or 6.  I had Deal cod, line caught, and mushy peas.  Never mind the London fish and chips – this is by far the best I’ve ever had.

Mushy peas are a quintessentially English dish.  I think they are just wonderful.  We only found them in two pubs along with Spotted Dick.  I’ll leave that one up to you to google.   No Spotted Dick at this pub thoughL


The old, original, main street in town is the block behind us – High Street and we walked up and down and found several shops of interest.  There are several open air market stores that include produce and a couple of butcher/seafood markets too.  It seems odd to see the meats and seafood exposed in the open air.

deal meat market


The British version of a dollar store.



Police in the UK don’t wear guns.  We saw this gal several times, mostly helping people who were lost or visiting with the locals.


My daughter would love Shoe Zone.  This part of town is where the “normal people” shop.  There are upscale shops in London and other locations, but not here.  High Street is too small for cars so it’s pedestrian only which gives it a lovely medieval market feeling.  We, thankfully, also found a coffee shop which I’m sure we’ll be frequenting for the next several days.  We also discovered that the bartender at our hotel, the bar being staffed 24X7, made a wonderful vanilla latte.

deal costa

There are several lovely bakeries as well, all with tempting delicious creations to taste and savor, which we did!

deal bakery

We also walked up the pier, which was not here when my ancestors were fishing.  I’m standing with the statue in front of the pier.


So, it could be worse.  Thankfully, we’re not hurt, we haven’t met the police in person yet and tomorrow just has to be a better day.  Both our nerves are pretty frazzled.  But I did get a self-guided walking tour of both Front Street and Back Street in Ringwould and got to be right in the heart of the village where so many of my ancestors lived.  I guess you might say that my ancestors made sure I got there, by hook or by crook.  I’d love to know where they lived, but that’s too much to ask for a time of few records.  Isn’t it???

Join me soon for day 2 in Deal where we’ll visit Deal Castle.


I would like to thank the research of many Estes family members who came before me whose work I’ve utilized and have attempted to build upon in this series of articles, specifically Roy Eastes, Niel Gunson, Donald Bowler, David Powell, Stewart Estes, Kitty Estes Savage and Larry Duke who, among other things, encouraged me to visit Deal, and without whose recommendation, I would never have rented that car and had that marvelous afternoon among my ancestors in Ringwould, thanks to a few minor accidents and a flat tire.  Thanks a lot Larry!!!



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Identifying Possible Common Ancestors Utilizing Multiple Tests

There is a significant amount of confusion about DNA matching and which ancestors and ancestral lines can match in which way.

To review, there are 4 different kinds of DNA that we can utilize for genealogy, the Y DNA for males, mitochondrial, X chromosome and autosomal DNA for both males and females.  You can read an intro article about how these different types of DNA are utilized here.

Clearly, the mitochondrial DNA addresses only one line – your mother’s matrilineal line, shown in red below – and the mitochondrial DNA is never divided or mixed with that of the father.  So you share the mitochondrial DNA with thousands of generations of your matrilineal ancestors.  You’ve accumulated a few mutations over those generations, which serve to show us who you are most closely related to.

Y and mito

The Y chromosome is passed only from father to son, shown in blue above.

If you haven’t read this article I wrote about X matching, please do.  Males and females have a different inheritance path for the X chromosome because males don’t inherit an X from their father’s, but females do.

Even better, if you utilize software that can interface with Progeny Software’s Charting Companion, by all means, purchase this add-on program because it shows you on your own tree which of your ancestors X chromosome you have the potential of carrying.  I wrote about how to utilize this great tool here.

x fan

The X chromosome acts like autosomal DNA, the DNA we receive from all of our ancestral lines, including red and blue lines above, and all of the blank ones in-between, meaning that the X chromosome is a candidate to be recombined and divided in each generation.  I say a candidate, because sometimes the X is passed in very large pieces. Not quite what or how we might expect.  I wrote about that here.

But we can’t and don’t know whose X we carry, or which pieces of which ancestors’ Xs we carry – but we do know, based on how DNA is passed generation to generation, whose X DNA we MIGHT carry – and whose we cannot carry.

Because women inherit an X from both parents, and men only inherit the X from their mother, the inheritance pattern through the generations is different for males and females, so each person needs to plot out their potential X ancestors.

A female could carry some part of the X chromosome of any of the ancestors whose names would fall into the pink or blue boxes of this fan chart.  You can NOT inherit any X from someone whose box is blank (no color).

female x chart

These blank charts are courtesy of Blaine Bettinger.  He originally published them on his blog, The Genetic Genealogist, in December 2008 and January 2009 in his articles about how to use the X chromosome for genealogy.

A male’s fan chart for the X chromosome looks a bit different because the male doesn’t inherit an X from his father.  Instead, he inherits the Y chromosome which makes him a male.

x chart male

So let’s see if we can approach this combination of information and DNA test types in a bit of a different way.  A female can inherit the following kinds of DNA from the ancestors listed at the left in the chart below.  This chart compiles information from all of the 4 different types of DNA that we can use for genealogical purposes. Generation number is in parenthesis.

Female’s Ancestor Inheritance Chart

Here’s how to read this chart.

Does a female inherit Y DNA from her mother?  No

Does a female inherit mtDNA from her mother?  Yes

Does a female inherit the X chromosome from her mother?  Yes

Does a female inherit autosomal DNA from her mother?  Yes

­Ancestor Y DNA mtDNA X Chr Autosomal
Mother (1) No – she doesn’t have one Yes Yes Yes
Father (1) No – you’re a female No – only passed from mother Yes Yes
Mother’s mother (2) No Yes Yes Yes
Mother’s father (2) No No Yes Yes
Father’s father (2) No No No – your father didn’t get an X from his father Yes
Father’s mother (2) No No – father’s don’t contribute mtDNA to children Yes Yes
Mother’s mother’s mother (3) No Yes Yes Yes
Mother’s mother’s father (3) No No Yes Yes
Mother’ father’s mother (3) No No Yes Yes
Mother’s father’sFather (3) No No No Yes
Father’s father’s father (3) No No No Yes
Father’s father’s mother (3) No No No Yes
Father’s mother’s mother (3) No No Yes Yes
Father’s mother’s father (3) No No Yes Yes

You can personalize this chart by inserting your own ancestor’s names and complete additional generations by:

  • First following the Y chromosome, which women don’t have to be concerned with, but men certainly do
  • Second, following the mitochondrial DNA inheritance path through the matrilineal line
  • Third, charting your X chromosome potential ancestor into the X Chr column
  • Fourth, simply put yes in the column for everyone for autosomal

This same chart for a male would look somewhat different, but only in the X and Y columns.

Males’ Ancestor Inheritance Chart

Ancestor Y DNA mtDNA X Chr Autosomal
Mother (1) No – she doesn’t have one Yes Yes Yes
Father (1) Yes, you received your father’s No – only passed from mother No – You received the Y instead Yes
Mother’s mother (2) No Yes Yes Yes
Mother’s father (2) No No Yes Yes
Father’s father (2) Yes, your father received his Y No No – your father didn’t get an X from his father Yes
Father’s mother (2) No No – father’s don’t contribute mtDNA to children No – you received no X from your father Yes
Mother’s mother’s mother (3) No Yes Yes Yes
Mother’s mother’s father (3) No No Yes Yes
Mother’ father’s mother (3) No No Yes Yes
Mother’s father’sFather (3) No No No Yes
Father’s father’s father (3) Yes No No Yes
Father’s father’s mother (3) No No No Yes
Father’s mother’s mother (3) No No No Yes
Father’s mother’s father (3) No No No Yes

So, how could this help you with your genealogy?  Let’s say that you match someone on the X chromosome, but you know that you are not a mitochondrial match.  You can look on this chart and eliminate any line that includes a mtDNA match.  You know your X match is not from that line.  You can also eliminate any ancestral line that does not include a potential X match.  The ancestors you are left with are your possible match ancestors.

Let’s use the female chart below as an example.  The greyed out ancestors are those removed by virtue of no mitochondrial DNA match, so anyone with a Yes in that box.  It also eliminates anyone who could not contribute an X chromosome, so with a No in that box.  Any greyed out box eliminated that specific ancestor from consideration.

Please note that by eliminating your mother, it does not eliminate her entire line.  It only means, in this case, that if your mitochondrial DNA doesn’t match, then you and your match don’t share a common mother.  Your mother’s father is still a possibility.  And you can still match on just the X but not through the dual mito line.

Female Example of X Match Ancestor Elimination

female X match ancestor elimination crop

Therefore, only the ancestors left unshaded are candidates for matches.

Male Example of Ancestor Elimination

Of course, on a male’s chart, the X becomes much more restricted due to the fact that men inherit the Y chromosome and not the X from their fathers.  You’ll notice that if a specific ancestor carries a matching Y chromosome, they cannot carry the matching X – they are mutually exclusive.

male x match ancestor elimination2

As you can see, by the time we’re done eliminating possibilities, there are only three possible ancestral lines to pursue for the X match who doesn’t match on the Y or the mitochondrial DNA.

Conversely, if you have someone who matches on the X AND on a mitochondrial line, that is a huge hint and that line would be the first one I would pursue.

You can expand this chart to any number of generations.  I stopped at 3 for illustration purposes.

While this methodology doesn’t exactly tell you who your common X matching ancestor is, it certainly narrows the playing field substantially.  Finding an X chromosome match can be a real bonus, especially when combined with other types of DNA testing.



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