The trip to the British Isles in the fall of 2013 began with a few days in London, then progressed to the Ribble Valley in Lancashire to follow find our Speak family roots. After that, my husband and I boarded a cruise ship to circle the British Isles and visit Norway and Paris, all locations where I have ancestral connections of some sort.
When I realized this trip was going to take place, and that we were doing to be within spitting distance, literally, from Deal, in Kent, where my Estes ancestors hailed from, well…..I couldn’t NOT go – although by far this was the most difficult part of the journey.
How, might you ask, do I know that this IS the Estes stomping grounds?
There’s nothing like a dose of synchronicity in genealogy.
Is an East an Estes?
Back in 2003, not long after I started the Estes DNA project, I was contacted by a man by the last name of East that lived in the UK. He wondered if East and Estes were really derivations of the same name. I wondered too – as many had over the years.
I told him that we could certainly find out. He took a DNA test, and confirmed that, indeed, his East line is not the same as the Estes line, although he lived in the same area. I mentioned to him that I was extremely disappointed, because I very much wanted a confirming test out of England to confirm that the Estes line was ancestral, and where it was from. He mentioned that his son was marrying an Estes gal, and did I want him to talk to the father about testing. The father was the very last male in his line. I couldn’t believe my ears. What are the chances of that happening?
Indeed, I was leaping for joy. I figured if I could get the test, I’d find a way to do the accompanying genealogy….but as it turns out, I didn’t have to do that either. That particular Estes family was not on the internet at that time, but they did have their genealogy and indeed, they did descend from the Estes family of Kent. Their ancestor was a brother to my ancestor who immigrated to the US in the 1600s. Oh happy day!!!
The Estes father agreed to DNA test. I wrote an old-fashioned letter, and he wrote back in an envelope too, authorizing me to order a test kit for him.
The wait was interminable.
Finally, the long awaited day arrived. I opened his results, and yes, indeed, his Estes line was the same as our Estes line, confirming a common ancestor and confirming, beyond any doubt that our Abraham Estes was the Abraham Estes of the records in various locations in Kent, England.
It was a red letter day in Estes genealogy!
Preparing to Go Home
So, when I realized I was going to be only 8 miles from Deal, from where my ancestors lived and worked for at least 5 proven generations before Abraham Estes immigrated in 1673, I had to visit. I had to find a way.
I spent weeks gathering all of the facts that I could from the documentation of several Estes genealogists over the years. Many have since passed on, and I hope they know their work has now been proven.
I contacted the churches in Kent that were related to my ancestors. I sorted records into geographic groups and did a lot of footwork before leaving, as our time there was going to be very precious and I wanted to be as prepared as possible.
One thing I’ve learned over the years – you can’t be prepared for everything and there is a gift even in disaster. You might just have to hunt for it.
In the rest of this article, I’m going to tell you about the trip to Deal, but then in following 52 Ancestors articles about each of the 5 men who were my Estes ancestors about whom we have records in Kent, I’ll be providing details on each one, in every location we have and in as much detail as I can find, including genetics.
My direct Estes line, in England is as follows:
- Nicholas Ewstes born 1495, probably Deal, died 1533 Deal, with a will, wife Anny or Amy.
- Sylvester Eastye, a “fisherman of Deal” (according to a 1649 court record for not paying his taxes), born circa 1522 probably Deal, died June 7,1579 Ringwould, wife Jone, maiden name unknown, died May 16, 1561, Deal. He is probably buried at St. Nicholas Church in Ringwould.
- Robert Eastye, a mariner, born circa 1555 Ringwould, died about 1616 in Ringwould. Married in 1591 to Anne Woodward in Sholden, she died in 1630 with a will. (We do not have Ann’s will as the archives said it was not listed some years ago.) They moved in 1595 to Ringwould and are both buried there. Names listed as Eastye, Estes and Eastes.
- Sylvester Eastye born September 26, 1596 in Ringwould, died before 1649 when his wife died with a will, married in 1625 in Ringwould to Ellen Martin who was born around 1600, possibly in Great Hardres (Hadres), and died in 1649 in Waldershare, Kent with a will.
- Abraham Estes born 1647, Nonington, Kent, married December 29, 1672 (according to the parish register) to Ann Burton (widow) in Worth, Kent. He is listed in that record as “Abraham Estes of Sandwich, linen weaver.” Ann probably died the next year because he immigrated alone to America (at least there was no wife on the passenger’s list) in 1673. He remarried in America to a woman named Barbara, surname unknown.
Day 1 in Kent – Dover, Ringwould and OMG
What a day. Getting off the cruise ship went smoothly. We went to the Avis location where we waited for almost an hour for 2 Australians to get their driver’s license issues straightened out with the consulate. Patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue….patience is a virtue….
We finally got our rental car. Did you know it’s possible for a car to have a transmission that is both manual and automatic, depending on where you put the lever? Well, it is and we had one. And I wouldn’t have mentioned it if it wasn’t a bit of a problem.
So off we went, Jim driving, and on the left or “wrong” side of the road from our American perspective. You see, he told me he had done this before. No problem. Easy peasy. Yea, right!
Oh, and have I mentioned that people park here wherever they want to, including into the driving lane of the road and on both sides in both directions? Well, they do that too and it’s very disconcerting. Part of the problem is that this is a very old country and there are no “places” to park, so they just park wherever and everyone else drives outside of their lane to get around them, into oncoming traffic…whatever. Its normal here. Bloody hell.
Oh yes, and the very first thing we encountered was a detour which put all of the traffic for Deal onto one small road. Wrong side of road, car with mystery transmission and now a detour too.
So we decided to stop and see Dover Castle, except it wasn’t open, so we got to turn around in the driveway and go on. We weren’t sure “going on” to where, exactly, but we drove North. I must say, it’s a bit frightening to ride in a missile with someone trying to learn how to drive it. It reminded me of the terror of riding with teenagers learning to drive. I’m very glad that’s over in my lifetime. Well, I thought it was anyway.
A mile or two down the road, we stopped to see a small church in the village of St. Margaret, above. We discovered we were in the wrong small church. Every hamlet has one. However, we made lemonade.
While this is not the church for my line, it does contain Estes history. Thomas Estes, grandson of Silvester Estes and Ellen Martin, bricklayer and farmer at Guston near Dover, born in 1676 married Mary Bouls in this church, noted as “St. Margarets at Cliff” in 1706. Two generations later, Thomas’s grandson, Silvester Eastes, moved to Deal about 1770 and established a brick making business. The 1992 Estes Trails summer edition notea that many houses in Deal were built by this man. By 1814, his son would marry in St. Leonard’s church in Deal.
Inside St. Margarets is a vault containing the Matson and Youden family plus “in this vault lieth interred the body of John Eastes died 20/10/1797, age 65 also Catherine Eastes relict of the above who died 1/11/1808 aged 69.” Another says “In memory of John Eastes who died 17/1/1769 aged 64” and “Here lieth the body of Edith Eastes wife of John Eastes of this parish. She died 13.12.1755 aged 52.” John is noted in 1767 marrying and in 1784 being paid for 2 windows. A carved screen in the church shows that in 1773, J. Eastes was the churchwarden. In 1794, Richard Eastes is paid for 6 windows. I wonder if they were any of the windows in the photo below.
Just two miles away, in another church, in Guston, beginning in the 1790s, we also find records of the Estes family. This line had a bit more money, because according to the records, they are buried in a vault in the church itself, probably in the floor. One of the records on the wall inside the church honors John Estes, grandson of Thomas, the bricklayer and farmer at Guston. Thomas himself who died in 1743, along with wife Mary, has a tombstone in the churchyard that includes the arms of the “Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers.” We did not visit St. Martin of Tours Church in Guston, but it’s quite old and shown below, exterior and interior.
Jim and I headed for a second church just a mile down the road from St. Margaret, St. Peters at Westcliffe – the right church, so we thought. So far, so good. Peter Estes was buried there in 1506, or at least I thought it was there. In any case, although not my direct relative, I was hopeful we could find his stone inside the church, but no cigar. We discovered later that this was not the correct church EITHER, but given how close it is to St. Margarets and Guston, there is surely some Estes history here too.
Regardless, I love this photo of the cemetery.
We headed towards Deal to find lunch.
I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that Jim hit a curb, at full highway speed, on my side. He also hit some bushes…a few times, but those at least are soft, well, softer than the curb. He scared the living daylights out of me – and that’s putting it as mildly and nicely as I can. I saw the little village of Ringwould, a crossroads really, approaching, and told him to turn off. We weren’t planning to go there just then, but it was on the list and we desperately needed a break. Mind you, we had only driven about 5 or 6 miles, had hit 3 things, and it’s only 8 miles total to Deal. What I really needed was a drink, some food and a Zanax but unfortunately, none of the three of those things were available in Ringwould.
So, instead, we found the local church which isn’t difficult to do here. The villages are small and the churches have bell towers or steeples, one or the other and sometimes both. You can see them over all of the other buildings. St. Nicholas seemed like a fitting respite since several generations of my Estes ancestors were baptized, married or buried here.
Just beyond the church begins “the forest” which is what is left of a massive, dense forest that used to stretch from this point almost all the way to Canterbury.
By now, steeped in and surrounded by the history of this ancient forest where I expected to see Robin Hood any minute, I was feeling much better.
This forest was surely here when my Estes ancestors were as well. Our earliest known Estes ancestor was Nicholas, born in or about 1495, probably in or near Deal. His son Sylvester was probably born in Deal as well, but he died in 1579 and was buried in the church cemetery here in Ringwould, just a few hundred yards from this forest, but the grave is unmarked. It’s only a couple miles between Ringwould and Deal, on the same road, so this isn’t a surprising situation. His son, Robert was born in 1655 in Ringwould. Both these men were mariners. Robert’s son Sylvester was born in Ringwould in 1696. He died before 1667 and is probably buried in Ringwould as well. I did copy the early church records while at this church by taking photos of each page of the transcribed book. It was very kind of the church to make these available to visitors.
Robert’s son, the American immigrant, Abraham, was reportedly born in Nonington, so we’ll yet visit that church. Or we thought we would.
I did notice Martin family records at Ringwould, so it’s likely that the parents of Ellen Martin “of Great Hardres” who married Sylvester Estes November 24, 1625, “sometimes church warden,” born in 1596, were members of the church as well.
Ellen had a will and died in Waldershare, just down the road, in 1649. Their eldest son, Robert, born in 1626, would found the Waldershare Estes line. Interestingly, Robert in 1670 and again in 1680 donated money towards the redemption of English captives “out of ye Turkish slavery.
We were not able to visit All Saints Church in Waldershare, but the church is shown below and is likely where Anne is buried, unless her family took her down the road to Ringwould to be buried with her husband. It would be interesting to check the Waldershare church burial records to see if she is listed.
Sylvester and Ellen’s children born between 1626 and 1636 were baptized in Ringwould, but the ones born between 1638 and 1644 were baptized in Nonington. There is no baptismal record for Anne born in 1637 or for our Abraham born in 1647, but based on his brother’s 1644 baptismal record in Nonington, it’s presumed Abraham was born there was well. St. Mary’s church in Nonington is shown below, although we were unable to visit.
Nonington is about half way between Ellen Martin’s birth location in Great Hardres (Hadres) and the Ringwould area where the rest of the Estes family was located, although there are no further Estes records and no Martin records in the church records there.
Suffice it to say that indeed, St. Nicholas church in Ringwould, below, and the churchyard is steeped and bathed in the history of the Estes family as well as that of their wives. Many Estes children, my ancestors, were baptized in this very baptismal font. Well, we thought it was this font, but later discovered that the original font was disposed on in the 1870s when a renovation of the church was completed.
They entered through this door to pray, baptize their children, to marry and to bury their dead. The church provided not only spiritual but social comfort, help and companionship as well through other members. Today, I felt like the church welcomed me back, with open arms, and provided me a desperately needed respite.
These 2 yew trees in the yard were already old by the time my ancestors walked in this churchyard. They are 1100 and 1300 years old, respectively, probably planted when the Anglo Saxon church was originally in this location.
One of these ancient yews is now hollow.
A woman we met at the church said she was a child raised here and the men used to take branches from the yews to make arrows for archery practice in “the butts” which was located “below” the church and is overgrown now. A butt was a practice range.
We had a lovely visit in this beautiful and quiet church and had been able to regroup and gather our thoughts. However, all was not to be so rosy. Jim went to the car while I finished taking photos and just basking, alone, in the silence, in the history of the place, like the two massive yews.
When I went to the car, I noticed the tire Jim had hit on the curb was flat, so we pulled to the bottom of the hill and called the emergency number. This was about noon. Several phone calls and nearly 3 hours later, a man appeared and removed the tire and replaced it, in his truck built for such things. Not only was there a puncture, there was also a slice in the sidewall. I’m surprised the wheel itself wasn’t bent.
We of course managed to have the flat in front of the pub – which unfortunately for us, was closed. No lunch for us. Ringwould is a very small village. Not even a gas station or convenience store.
However, while we waited, I walked up Front Street, which was the oldest street in the village. In fact, I walked the entire village. That was the gift in this crisis. The village, especially the oldest portion, was quiet and much like it was in the days when my ancestors walked these very same streets, if you ignore the pavement.
This is the end of Front Street, just beyond the church. The forest is right around the curve.
The church itself is the oldest building in the little village.
A footpath, formerly a cart path wide enough for 2 men and a casket, now connects across both Front and Back street to the church. The Forge, below, and the Bakehouse, both extremely old buildings, still exist within sight of the church along with an old barn.
Houses here don’t have screens and The Forge is extremely close to the footpath. One window that was open showed the old forge hearth if you look inside the window.
Here, you can see up the path from The Forge to the church. This is how people would have gone to church, but of course the path wasn’t paved then, although it could well have had cobblestones.
The quaint houses called cottages, each with a name and a garden, were beautiful. Some had no yard. This one does.
Notice that the wall is built partly of flint.
The churches here are built of flint as well as are many of the houses – and the walls. There are many walkways that are old paths that go between houses. This is a lovely garden from one of the walkways, viewed over the wall, of course.
The tire changed, off we went again to Deal to find our hotel, and hopefully a very late lunch. That seemed the safest thing to do. Deal isn’t a tiny village, but a town with several blocks of streets and a surprising amount of traffic. Like I said, people park everyplace whenever they feel like it. Jim clipped the mirror on my side against the mirror on a car parked on my side. I knew he was awfully close, but I was trying not to say anything because he was not taking it well, to put it mildly. I think this rental car was a bad idea and I wish I had never had it, but now we’re in Deal, in a rental car that Jim has scraped twice for sure and 5 or 6 times if you count only grazing the curb or the bushes. My new goal is to stay out of the car as much as possible. It’s going to be a long ride back to Dover. Thankfully, most of these churches are out in the country and Deal castle is walkable from our hotel.
I was feeling a bit trapped in Deal at this point, but that too, would wind up being a blessing. I really got to know where my ancestors lived, worked, and well, ahem….where they got into trouble.
We are staying on the waterfront in the Clarendon Inn in Deal. My mariner ancestors would have had their boats on this rocky beach. If they were indeed smugglers, they would have engaged in that activity from here too. Given the history of the area and their propensity to not want to pay taxes, it’s likely that they were. Pretty much everyone was. It’s foggy today, but we can hear the surf from our room which is the one with the open window directly above the sign. The sound of the surf connects me, over the centuries, to them. And it’s calming.
We never had lunch, so we ate an early dinner. Restaurants here close after “tea,” about 2 or 3, until dinner, and reopen about 5 or 6. I had Deal cod, line caught, and mushy peas. Never mind the London fish and chips – this is by far the best I’ve ever had.
Mushy peas are a quintessentially English dish. I think they are just wonderful. We only found them in two pubs along with Spotted Dick. I’ll leave that one up to you to google. No Spotted Dick at this pub thoughL
The old, original, main street in town is the block behind us – High Street and we walked up and down and found several shops of interest. There are several open air market stores that include produce and a couple of butcher/seafood markets too. It seems odd to see the meats and seafood exposed in the open air.
The British version of a dollar store.
Police in the UK don’t wear guns. We saw this gal several times, mostly helping people who were lost or visiting with the locals.
My daughter would love Shoe Zone. This part of town is where the “normal people” shop. There are upscale shops in London and other locations, but not here. High Street is too small for cars so it’s pedestrian only which gives it a lovely medieval market feeling. We, thankfully, also found a coffee shop which I’m sure we’ll be frequenting for the next several days. We also discovered that the bartender at our hotel, the bar being staffed 24X7, made a wonderful vanilla latte.
There are several lovely bakeries as well, all with tempting delicious creations to taste and savor, which we did!
We also walked up the pier, which was not here when my ancestors were fishing. I’m standing with the statue in front of the pier.
So, it could be worse. Thankfully, we’re not hurt, we haven’t met the police in person yet and tomorrow just has to be a better day. Both our nerves are pretty frazzled. But I did get a self-guided walking tour of both Front Street and Back Street in Ringwould and got to be right in the heart of the village where so many of my ancestors lived. I guess you might say that my ancestors made sure I got there, by hook or by crook. I’d love to know where they lived, but that’s too much to ask for a time of few records. Isn’t it???
Join me soon for day 2 in Deal where we’ll visit Deal Castle.
I would like to thank the research of many Estes family members who came before me whose work I’ve utilized and have attempted to build upon in this series of articles, specifically Roy Eastes, Niel Gunson, Donald Bowler, David Powell, Stewart Estes, Kitty Estes Savage and Larry Duke who, among other things, encouraged me to visit Deal, and without whose recommendation, I would never have rented that car and had that marvelous afternoon among my ancestors in Ringwould, thanks to a few minor accidents and a flat tire. Thanks a lot Larry!!!