Big Y Price Reduction and New Matching Feature

It has been a busy week in the world of the Y chromosome.  Today, Family Tree DNA announced a new feature for their Big Y matching product, as well as a permanent price reduction to $595.

Their new feature makes it easier to determine how far up or down the haplotree your matches reside.  This used to be intuitive, based on the old-style haplogroup names like R1b1a2, when compared against R1b, for example – which was obviously three branches upstream.  Now that R1b1a2 is known as R-M269 and R1b is known as R-M343, there is nothing intuitive about this – which is why Family Tree DNA introduced this helpful tool.

ftdna 7-28 announce

You can see how  Big Y matching works at this link.

There are two parts of the Big Y test, the results themselves, of course, and matching to others.  The power in all of DNA testing is in who you match, and how, and the Big Y is a research tool to more fully define the Y tree, and your family branches too.  Of course, to do that, you’ll need members of those branches to test.

Competition seems to be a good thing.  Earlier this week, Full Genomes Corporation (FGC) introduced a competing product in the same financial space as the Big Y.  Debbie Kennett reported on their new Y Prime offering which is priced at an introductory special of $599.  One of the benefits of the Y Prime over FGC’s previous Y Elite test, aside from price, is the fact that the DNA is no longer being sent to China, but is being tested here in the US.  Of course, Family Tree DNA tests have always been processed in the US and are currently performed in their Gene by Gene lab in Houston, TX.

There are other differences between Family Tree DNA’s Big Y and FGC’s Y Prime, aside from the increased coverage that Debbie reported in her blog.  One difference is that your results from FGC are not online.  There is no matching either, with any other customers.  You receive your FGC report personally, via e-mail, as a file, and you cannot integrate the results with the people who are testing at, and matching at, Family Tree DNA.  In fact, Family Tree DNA is the only DNA testing company providing Y testing, online results, matching, projects and integration.

Competition seems to be a good thing for the consumer, though, because Family Tree DNA has reduced their Big Y price to just under the FGC price, by $4.  So, in essence, it’s no longer a financial decision.

I’ve been wanting to test several of the men in my Estes surname project, and we’re almost to the price point where I can do so.  Regardless of the increased coverage at FGC, I will be testing through Family Tree DNA.  I feel that the online results, matching capability, the surname and haplogroup projects, and having the ability to maintain the STR marker matches and the SNP matches in the same data base provides a service that is unequaled.  From my perspective, DNA testing without matching and analysis tools would be pretty much pointless.

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.

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.

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.






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!!!

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!

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:

vPrince Ernst August Georg Wilhelm Christian Ludwig Franz Josef Nikolaus von Hannover, Duke von Braunschweig und Lüneburg, b. 18 Mar 1914, Braunschweig

vErnst August Christian Georg, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Prince of Hannover, b. 17 Nov 1887, Penzing nr Wien, Austria

vErnst August Wilhelm Adolf Georg Friedrich, Crown Prince of Hannover, Duke of Cumberland, b. 21 Sep 1845, Hannover

vGeorg Friedrich Alexander Karl Ernest August, King of Hannover 1851-1866, Duke of Cumberland, b. 27 May 1819, Berlin

vErnst August, King of Hannover 1837-1851, Duke of Cumberland, b. 5 Jun 1771, Buckingham House

vGeorge III, King of Great Britain and Ireland 1760-1820, b. 4 Jun 1738, Norfolk House

vFrederick Lewis, Prince of Wales, b. 20 Jan 1707, Hannover

vGeorge II, King of Great Britain and Ireland 1727-1760, b. 30 Oct 1683, Hannover

vGeorge Ludwig, King of Great Britain and Ireland 1714-1727, b. 28 May 1660/7 June 1660 Hannover (above)

vErnst August, Kurfürst von Hannover 1692-1698, b. 20 Nov 1629, Herzberg

vGeorg, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg zu Kalenberg 1636-1641, b. 17 Feb 1582, Celle

vWilhelm, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg 1559-1592, b. 4 Jul 1535, (Celle?)

vErnst ‘the Confessor’, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg 1521-1546, b. 26 Jun 1497, Velzen

vHeinrich, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg 1471-1486-1520, b. 1468

vOtto II ‘The Magnanimous’, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg 1464-1471, b. 1439

vFriedrich ‘the Pious’, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg 1445-1457, 1471-1478, b. est 1390

vBernhard I, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg 1388-1434

vMagnus II Torquatus, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, b. Abt 1328

vMagnus I ‘the Pious’, Duke of Brunswick, b. Abt 1304

vAlbrecht II ‘the Fat’, Duke of Brunswick-Göttingen 1286-1318, b. 1268

vAlbrecht I ‘the Great’, Duke of Brunswick, b. 1236

vOtto I ‘das Kind’, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg 1235-1252, b. 1204

vWilhelm ‘Longsword’, Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, b. 11 Apr 1184, Winchester

vHeinrich ‘the Lion’, Duke of Saxony 1142-1195 and Bavaria 1154-1195, b. 1129

vHeinrich ‘the Proud’, Duke of Bavaria 1126-1139 & Saxony 1136-1139, b. Abt 1100

vHeinrich ‘the Black’, Duke of Bavaria 1120-1126, b. Abt 1074

vWelf IV, Duke of Bavaria 1070-1101, b. Abt 1036

vAlberto Azzo II, Marchese d’Este, b. 997

vAlberto Azzo I d’Este, Marchese in Liguria, b. Abt 970

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