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!!!
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Thank you bizillions for this report. It brought back so many memories for me and I found myself laughing hysterically at your experience with your husband driving the car!! Been there, done that!! Only it was NOT humorous at the time. My father, John Redman Brown, was born in Sandwich in 1906 but his family also had a home in Deal. His family emigrated to Canada in 1912 when he was 6 years old. They sailed one month after the Titanic disaster and he could recall seeing the debris of that terrible tragedy in the water. We visited Deal in the late 1970’s and met an uncle who had remained in England due to very poor health. He was left in the care of 4 maiden aunts, one of whom was headmistress of a school for some 40 odd years. His is another story. Unfortunately, I had not been bitten by the genealogy bug at the time which is something I deeply regret today, as I would love to gather the documentation that my uncle failed to include in his 4 generational search of church records in Deal. It is quite possible that our families new each other, which makes your report even more special. Keep up the good work!!
I absolutely loved Deal, from the waterfront to the old churches to the castles. If our ancestors lived there at the same time, then you know they knew each other. It was smaller then than it is now:) Given that you’ve had a similar driving experience, I’m sure you realize I left out all of the colorful language:)
Thank you so much just love your articles but this one is a corker. If you ever need an australian driver you will have no problems finding one. Thank you for being so generous. Lyn Overton H2a1
hopefully you see this or someone you know sees it, I have a fairly comprehensive Brown Family Tree going back to Henry Brown 1660. I am descended from John Thomas Claris Brown 1831 Deal one of his brothers was a Redman Brown b.1822 Deal Kent wife Mary Laker. The name Redman came into the family by way of Ann Redman who married John Brown 7 May 1781.
Oh, my goodness!! I am sitting here in wonderment!! I have been working on this line, off and on, since the mid 1980’s. You are the second person to contact me in all that time. Please contact me at the address below. I recognize the names in your post. Redman Brown was my gr. grandfather.
Amazing what pops up out of the blue, I only came across this website by accident while browsing the internet, and you’ve surprised me today with your reply, I’m not sure if I ever expected one and definitely not so quickly. Happy Easter to you.
Now there is far too much to put in here, so a question for you, do you know is it acceptable for me to include my Email address as I have so much you might like to see and I can attach to Emails. But for now to tell you a bit more about me my grandmother was Florence Agnes Brown born Ramsgate 14 April 1885. and I have a fairly big tree going back to Henry Brown 1660 and Lydia Hidge 1664. Another question for you do know Enid Hardcastle, Enid is a direct descendant of Redman Brown. And lastly in this post I have given to me by Enid two photos of Redman Brown and family members taken in Deal about 1896.
Please let me know if you would like my Email address. Bob
This is a little different format, so hope it gets to you quickly. I am being blown away by all this. April 14 is also my birthdate and the gift of your messages is magnificent!! I am not crazy about putting my e-mail out and I know it will not show up in the reply you get (or at least, I don’t think it will) so I am crossing my fingers because I really want to talk to you. The photos Enid sent you might possibly be copies of a couple I sent her. Enid was the other contact I mentioned. I found her quite by accident through the generosity of a gentlemen in southern England (another Brown) who did not feel we were connected and suggested Enid. We have had a wonderful relationship all these years via snail mail and now Facebook, which I do not do a lot of, either. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I am assuming you also live in England. We live in southwest Washington State but I can expand on that later. Margaret
Margaret the E address you gave wouldn’t play with me, so can you Email me and in that way we’ll make contact with each other. email@example.com
I couldn’t quit laughing at the driving experiences, so far. Reminds me of our family trip to Scotland and the side mirror getting clipped, young daughter just kept driving! Myself driving in Cork County, Ireland and hitting curbs and starting to drive on the wrong side as grand daughters are either laughing or yelling wrong lane! Just think when it is all over it will be funny to your husband and you!!!! Happy ancestor hunting. Aloha
Awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing. Some of my ancestors are from where you traveled and I enjoyed the trip via computer.
It’s wonderful to get a glimpse of our ancestral homelands through your visit, thanks so much for sharing with a family research perspective. The lack of screens brings to mind a comment many years ago by a retired Texas Health Dept official. He commented that looking back he felt his single greatest contribution to public health in the state was the program to get screens put on the windows and doors of the rural homes which significantly reduced the spread of disease by flies and other such critters.
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I can relate to your travels here in Deal. My wife and I moved here 3 years ago from Vancouver Canada. Going from a huge city to a small town on the English Channel was quite a lifestyle change. We decided not to buy a car as we can walk everywhere here or use the excellent bus and train service. After watching the traffic for a few months I’m glad I don’t have to drive.
I always like to know the history of where I live so googling around I found your mention of St. Nicholas church in Sholden. I live only a few hindred feet from it. When you visited Deal did you go to the former St. Georges church on High Street? It’s now a community centre but in the back where the cemetery was all the tombstone have been put against the perimeter wall. I was walking along the public path there today and noticed a headstone of people with the surname Estes. Names mentioned were Thomas, Elizabeth, Thomas Benjamin and Sylvester. I wasn’t sure if you knew of it. It doesn’t photograph well but if you want I can return and trace the info.
cheers from Blighty
Hi Bruce. What a small world indeed. Yes, we did go to St. George’s too. I didn’t see that headstone, but I’m guessing it would be too late in time for my line – but then again – you never know. I have to tell you, I did love Deal – so charming. I miss it. I want to walk down to the coffee shop and get a coffee and then to the bakery and get something good and then for dinner, to the pub to get some fish and chips with mushy peas. Oh, I’m drooling. Please enjoy something for me:)
Thanks for sharing so much info. I am just getting started with family tree. I go back to Abraham , also. Virginia, North Carolina, then Northrrn Arkansas. Thanks again. I got a lot from this. I haven’t tested DNA. However, I plan to.
When you test, please join the Estes DNA project.
Hello Roberta and cousin to my husband who is descended from Nicholas. I was searching the web for Estes info and happened upon your article. You did such a wonderful job and pictures are all fantastic. Thank you for sharing this article. I enjoyed every minute of the trip with you.
Glad you found it. There are several other articles too. Just search for the word Estes on the blog.
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