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

pier sunrise day 3

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

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

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

deal map

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

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

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

We did, however, find some local color.

hairy dog mother

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

pink english car

England is not boring.

orange pants deal

By any stretch of the imagination.

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Is this a mutant gene?

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

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

posh girls on tour

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

posh girl

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

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

Anyone who enjoys people watching will love the British Isles.

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

pink door  blue door

Seems so simple – what a good idea.

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

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

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

dover 1596 map

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

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

St Nicholas Sholden

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

shoulden

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

shoulden door

 

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

shoulden back

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

St Nicholas Sholden interior

The church is beautiful, inside and out.

shoulden cemetery

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

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

shoulden cemetery2

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

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

shoulden window

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

shoulden oak

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

St. Leonard’s Church in Deal

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

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

st leonard roundabout

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

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

st leonard's 1

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

st leonard's 2

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

st leonard's 3

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

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

st leonard oldest sketch

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

st leonard wall

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

st leonard front

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

st leonard front door crop

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

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

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

st leonard rear

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

st leonard aerial

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

st leonard aerial church path

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

st leonard south door

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

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

symonson 1596 map kent crop

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

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

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

st leonard north wing looking south

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

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

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

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

st leonard entryway

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

st leonard bellringer stairs

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

st leonard pano1

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

st leonard pano2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

st leonard moses estes

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

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

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

st leonard north door crop

Visiting the Church

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

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

st leonard north door close

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

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

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

st leonard clockface

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

st leonard inner door

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

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

st leonard bell ringer stairs

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

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

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

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

st leonard nave view2

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

st leonard nave windows

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

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

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

st leonard organ

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

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

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

example box pew

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

st leonard 1618 seating

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

st leonard 1618 seating1

st leonard 1618 seating2

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

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

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

st leonard anne's seat

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

st leonard anne's pano

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

st leonard estes widow seat

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

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

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

st leonard painting bapistry

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

st leonard screen and gallery

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

st leonard neighborhood painting

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

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

st leonard ascension2

The Crucifixion.

st leonard ascension window

The Ascension

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

st leonard north window

These windows are in the north wall.

st leonard nave window crop

This window is in the nave.

st leonard piscina window

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

st leonard sheep window

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

st leonard sheep window2

Every church loves their stained glass.

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

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

Here’s an example of one.

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

st leonard norman piscina

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

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

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

st leonard sedilia

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

st leonard richard

st leonard richard2

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

richard effigy

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

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

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

st leonard icon

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

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

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

st leonard floor burials

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

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

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

st leonard 1703 painting

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

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

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

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

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

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

st leonard lady chapel piscina

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

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

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

st leonard needlework

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

Deal and Deal Castle, Kent, England

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

pier sunrise

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

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

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

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

deal boats

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

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

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

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

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

anne of cleves

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

deal castle aerial

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

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

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

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

castle moat

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

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

castle from distance

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

castle from beach

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

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

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

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

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

deal castle 1649

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

deal castle 1735

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

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

deal castle entrance

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

deal castle bridge

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

deal castle drawbridge holes

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

murder holes

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

deal castle doors

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

deal castle door me

deal castle single door

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

deal castle entranceway

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

deal castle carved stones

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

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

deal castle flint morter

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

deal castle small door

The guns were located on the inner and outer bastions.

deal castle guns

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

deal castle shot furnace

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

deal castle from courtyard

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

deal castle keep entrance

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

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

deal castle fireplace

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

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

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

deal castle ovens

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

deal castle oven

deal castle forge

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

deal castle privy

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

deal castle privy chute

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

deal castle privy window

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

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

deal castle double stairs

View from the other side.

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The stairs were very tight and steep.

deal castle rounds access

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

deal castle window

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

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

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

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deal castle pump

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

deal castle well

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

deal castle well2

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

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

deal castle dead ends

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

deal castle doorway to stairs

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

deal castle jim in doorway

deal castle doorway and hallway

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

deal castle unsealed door

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

deal castle copper door

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

deal castle sea over wall

We walked back to the gatehouse through the courtyard.

deal castle courtyard

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

deal castle courtyard2

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

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

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

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

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

spanish armada

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

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

signal station

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

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

Deal and the Maritime Museum

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

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

deal sidewalk garden

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

deal mariners compass

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

deal boutique

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

deal primrose hill

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

deal market street

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

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

deal tile

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

deal tile entryway

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

deal bakery2

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

bath bun

We wandered from shop to shop.

deal shops

I love the local color.

deal last pub

Yes, we walked to the end of the village.

deal the rose

We knew because this sign told us so!

deal rose hotel

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

deal yellow door

I can’t imagine a lovelier place.

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

deal maritime museum

After all, Deal is synonymous with maritime.

deal maritime museum2

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

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

deal st georges church

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

deal st george stones

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

deal spires cafe

High and Middle Street

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

deal stitches

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

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

deal deli

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

deal dna

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

deal pano from coffee shop

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

deal odd fellows alley

deal odd fellows alley2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

deal middle street the paragon

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

deal middle street5

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

middle street skateboarder

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

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

deal pier

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

deal pier pano

deal pier pano2

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

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

deal beach

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

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

Visiting Deal, Kent, UK – The Estes Homelands

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

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

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

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

Is an East an Estes?

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

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

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

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

The wait was interminable.

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

It was a red letter day in Estes genealogy!

Preparing to Go Home

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

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

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

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

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

My direct Estes line, in England is as follows:

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

Day 1 in Kent – Dover, Ringwould and OMG

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

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

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

england roads

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

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

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

st margaret church

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

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

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

st margaret inside

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

guston church

guston inside

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

St Peters at Westcliffe

Regardless, I love this photo of the cemetery.

We headed towards Deal to find lunch.

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

st nicholas ringwould

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

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

forest ringwould

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

forest ringwould2

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

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

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

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

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

All Saints Waldershare

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

St Marys Nonington cropped

St Marys Nonington interior

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

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

St Nicholas Ringwould bapistry

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

St Nicholas Ringwould door

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

ringwould st nicholas yew

ringwould st nicholas yew2

One of these ancient yews is now hollow.

ringwould st nicholas hollow yew

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

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

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

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

ringwould 5 bells

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

ringwould front street

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

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

St Nicholas at Ringwould

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

ringwould forge

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

ringwould forge window

ringwould forge door

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

ringwould church from forge

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

ringwould house

Notice that the wall is built partly of flint.

ringwould wall

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

ringwould garden

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

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

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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.

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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

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

deal meat market

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The British version of a dollar store.

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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.

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

deal costa

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

deal bakery

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

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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.

Acknowledgements

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!!!

Paris and a Trip Down the Seine

I lived in Europe in 1970 for a few months. During that time, I visited Paris for an extended stay, and as a student, loved it. I was so looking forward to going back an visiting, with an adult perspective, and maybe seeing some of my old haunts along the Seine River.

Since then, I have also discovered that one of my ancestors was born in Paris as well – Jacques “dit Beaumont” de Bonnevie. You’ll meet him in a future article. I was connected to Paris ancestrally and couldn’t wait to revisit with that in mind. I had been looking forward to this port since we first booked the trip.

lehavre

The day finally arrived and began before sunrise in the quaint Port of LeHavre, above, the closest port location to Paris for big ships like the Carnival Legend.

paris modern art

Hmmm, not really sure what this is.  A warning to invaders maybe?

Some areas were extremely foggy, creating some very interesting early-morning effects. Perhaps something like this is what my ancestors saw in the French countryside. Difficult to photograph from a moving bus though.

misty french countryside

The ride to Paris was a long one, several hours, so I decided I was going to enjoy the beautiful French countryside.  Except, it wasn’t remarkable.  It looked much like the Midwest in the US – just kind of nondescript.  We didn’t pass through any villages because we were of course on the major road that bypassed villages.  Eventually, I fell asleep, looking forward to arriving in Paris.  And in fact, when I woke up, we were greeted with a view of the iconic Eiffel Tower.  How’s that for a wake-up call!

eiffel tower

Our first stop was not at the Eiffel Tower, per se, but at a location where you could get a photo of the tower. The tower is so large that you can’t take a photo of the tower at the tower. Unfortunately, we only had 15 minutes and no opportunity to visit the tower itself. Disappointing.

From there we went on a driving tour of Paris.

paris street

Having visited Paris for some time in 1970, many of the places looked familiar, but a lot has been updated as well.

One thing unique to Paris is the marquis type of structures on the streets. Movies, plays and sometimes just local or neighborhood events or signs are posted here.  In 1970 – lost dog, need a guitar player on Friday night for a pickup band and beer on sale from 4-7 in the local beer gardens.  On a good day, in 1970, the band and the beers on sale were in the same place and some handsome young man was flirting….but I digress.  Ah, I loved Paris in 1970.  For that matter, I loved all of Europe in 1970, but that’s a story for another time.  And, in case you’re wondering, I was STUDYING there.  Yes, studying.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

marquis

Here’s a more contemporary marquis.

marquis 2

Photos were difficult due to the glass and glare in the bus windows.  The good news is that we did have sun, not rain, but the down side is that it created glare.

arc de troimphe

The Arc de Triomphe celebrates French victories and honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

french fountain

The Fountain of River Commerce in La Place de la Concorde, a plaza rich with French history, and the Obelisk of Luxor in the distance.

the louvre

The Louvre, with its contemporary pyramid, which wasn’t built yet in 1970. I understand that the entry line for the palace is hours long. It is a fantastic art museum and I would highly recommend a visit if at all possible.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stop at any of these locations.

paris traffic

And the traffic, did I mention the traffic??

The Eiffel Tower is ever-present in Paris. The city’s tallest structure, you can orient yourself if you can find this structure on the skyline. We did that a lot in 1970. Paris’s streets are not laid out in a grid, and it’s easy to get lost.

For example, here is a satellite view of the streets radiating from the Arc de Triomphe.

arc de triomphe streets

Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

We were told the story of one Parisian man who disliked the tower, felt that it was not warm and charming but cold and ugly. He went and had coffee underneath the tower every day. When asked why he did that, since he hated the tower, he replied that when sitting under it, you can’t see it, but everyplace else in Paris, it’s on the horizon someplace.

eiffel tower 2

One of the things I didn’t get to do as a student in 1970 was to take one of the Seine River boat rides.  It was just out of my financial reach at that time.  But this tour included a river cruise and lunch.  You can see one of the cruise boats plying the waters of the Seine below.  This photo is just so quintessentially Paris – the river which is the heartbeat of Paris, bridges and church spires in the distance.

river cruise 1

We boarded the boat and we were fortunate enough to actually get a seat for the lunch where we had access to a window.  Unfortunately, this boat wasn’t one that you could go upstairs where there was no glass between you and the sights. I couldn’t escape glare on the glass.

When I was in Paris before, I loved Notre Dame – just loved it.  May of the students hung out on the rather bohemian left bank, La Rive Gauche, with its artists, cafes and booksellers, just across from Notre Dame.  The cathedral was open all the time and welcoming of visitors, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.  I suspect it still is, but seeing it again was like seeing an old friend.  I so longed to walk over the bridge to the cathedral and visit again.  But time ashore wasn’t included in the day’s itinerary.

river cruise 2

Above, Notre Dame from the river just below the cathedral. It’s quite in imposing structure and considering that it was built beginning in 1163, amazing indeed.

One thing of note is that the French were extremely, exceedingly rude. We had been warned about this, but I hadn’t experienced it in 1970 and I figured it was probably exaggerated. It wasn’t exaggerated and it was very pronounced.  I was very surprised. This is not something we have experienced on our side trips before and I suspect Carnival strives to avoid anything like that.  But on the boat, the waiters couldn’t be described as anything else.

So basically, we ignored them and had fun anyway.  We were fortunate enough to have a lunch partner couple who were also camera bugs and he took a good photo of Jim and I.  Jim enjoyed the wine.  I didn’t so he sacrificed and drank mine for me!

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Paris is a city known for her bridges.  It’s a city bisected by the Seine river so bridges every few blocks are a must.

river cruise 4 cropped

Each bridge is unique and beautiful, and a good photo catches a nesting effect of 3 or 4 on down the river.

river cruise 5 cropped

Art is everyplace, even beneath contemporary bridges. Paris is an incredibly interesting eclectic mixture of old and new with exciting morsels hidden in the most unlikely places – all yours for being observant.

river cruise 6

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river cruise 8

river cruise 9

This bridge is quite interesting. Look at the railings.

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Some of the bridges in Paris have mesh type railings and they have become iconic locations for lovers to visit and then add a padlock as a type of “forever” symbol of their love. You can see the couples above. The lock is often inscribed with their initials and the key thrown away, symbolizing unbreakable love. The river bottom is probably lined with lock keys.

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Here’s a closeup of the Pont des Arts bridge, above, compliments of Wiki.

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Unfortunately, the combined weight of these locks on a structure that wasn’t intended to support it has caused the collapse of part of the structure in some places.

The Seine in Paris has a very social element. There are walkways and stairs all along, and they are regularly used. In 1970, we sat, drank coffee and tea, talked and read by the river.  We strolled and chatted, visiting merchant shops and stalls.  Sometimes we walked alone and people-watched.  Paris is and was extremely cosmopolitan. It looks like people are doing much the same things today.

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You just never know who you’re going to see riding by…maybe an ancestor…

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The perspective from the river is certainly different than anyplace on land. This is much more authentic to what our ancestors would have seen – minus the cars and hubbub that the walls block.

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As we return down the Seine, we see Notre Dame in the distance again.

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In the center of Paris is an island, Île de la Cité, the heart and origin of Paris. You can see the islands on the right and the location of the Eiffel Tower, at left, as well.

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A this point, the river splits and flows on either side of the island. Of course, Notre Dame is on the left.

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I have no idea about the orange building…but it was very interesting and creative, and you can’t miss it.  No question about directions either – “go to the orange building and turn left.”

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Coming full circle now.

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Back to the Eiffel tower.

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France is culturally different than any of the other countries in Europe.  It feels different.  The people are different. One aspect that stands out, other than their obvious dislike of tourists, are their laws about DNA testing.

Any paternity testing without a court order is banned, due to the official desire to “preserve the peace” within French families, with the French government citing psychologists who state that fatherhood is determined by society rather than biology. French men apparently don’t agree and often circumvent these laws by sending samples of DNA to foreign laboratories, but risk prosecution if caught. The maximum penalty for carrying out secret paternity testing is a whopping one year in prison and a €15,000 fine.

This argument for preserving the peace is in direct conflict with why people undertake paternity testing elsewhere. And not to be undone by the law, there has been a boom in DNA testing on kits from France in adjacent countries.

Of course, DNA testing for genealogy (as does medical testing) certainly has the potential to indicate, quickly and easily, if a father and son are not related, both utilizing the Y tests and the autosomal tests – even if that’s not the intended purpose. Therefore today, in genetic genealogy, we rely on those who have moved away from France or are the descendants of a group like the Acadians to represent French families. For people having French heritage, this is a very frustrating situation.

So if your matches map at Family Tree DNA has a big blank spot with no or few balloons in France – don’t presume that there’s a message about your ancestors. The message could well be a modern one having to do with French laws and not ancestral migrations.

ftdna france map

Stavanger, Norway, Land of Misty Fjords

We’re nearing the end of our DNA trip, only a couple more stops to make.  Today, we find ourselves in Stavanger Norway, enjoying her misty fjords.

Today is our only day in Norway, and we were determined to have fun regardless of the rain.  The harbor is right in the town and is a beautiful mixture of old and new.  Very clean, and Norway is a very wealthy country.  Prices in the one open shop (it’s Sunday) attest to that.  I know this is a first, and rather unbelievable, especially to my husband, but I bought nothing.

stavanger port

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One of the first things that struck me is how different the houses and city looks as compared to the rest of Europe.  The houses are almost entirely white, are not connected, and are kind of scattered about in a quaint mixture of haphazard and planned.

stavanger city

It was raining of course.  Rain seemed to be the theme of the DNA trip.

When selecting “side trips,” in advance, you, of course, have no idea if it’s going to be raining on a given day.  We had selected a boat trip into the fjords.  I know, I know, another boat trip for someone who gets motion sick.  However, they have drugs for that, AND, this is the opportunity of a lifetime and I wasn’t about to miss it.

Having said that, upon arrival, I had some serious doubts about the choice, but we discovered that they get rain here about 150 days a year, so it seems authentic and fitting.

Norway is confusing to me.  I don’t know whether this is an ancient homeland to me or not.

scandinavian mtdna

Looking at my mitochondrial DNA matches, you can see that my closest full sequence matches are indeed in Norway.  One, in fact, is located right on a fjord.

mtdna fjord

Given that my closest matches are Scandinavian, in Norway and Sweden, does this mean that my maternal line is ancestral TO that location, meaning my line came FROM there, or does it mean that the Scandinavian matches are descended from a common ancestor with my ancestor, Elisabetha Mehlheimer who lived in Goppsmannbuhl, Germany?  In other words, did the Scandinavian matches come FROM Germany, originally?  I don’t know the answer to this, hence, my confusion.  But rest assured, I’m working on this.

So, for today, I’m going to make the assumption that indeed, my line does descend from this beautiful country – and I’m making the journey into the fjords as if they hold my family history.  I don’t know whether my ancestors saw these fjords or not, of if it’s only my cousins, descendants of a common ancestor who saw and see these – but one thing is for sure – my family, maybe distant, but family all the same, is here today.

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This land speaks of contrasts and conflicts.  People versus the elements – both the land, the rocky mountainous land, and the sea.  It also speaks not of conquest, but of compromise – finding the soft spots and making a life there – not in conflict with nature – but in harmony.  There seems to be a place for everyone in this tiny village nestled snugly on the edge of the sea, but always in the shadow of the mountain.

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Sheltered, or trapped here?  I guess that would be a matter of perspective relative to the time in history.  And whether or not you had a boat.

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All along the fjord are summer homes nestled wherever they can find any flat or semi-flat place to put them.

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In addition, they have boat garages which are often stone combined with some bright paint, and partly underwater because the fjords, of course, are tidal.

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The red one, above, is actually on an island.  In the photo below, you can barely see it, but it’s there.

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This is assuredly the land of rocks and islands, some inhabited, some not.

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All stunning in their misty beauty.

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Can you see the boat garage nestled in the photo below?

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Some islands have no trees, some just one lone tree, growing either in peril or triumphantly, one or the other.

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I particularly like the photo below, even if it is a bit tilted – so was the boat.  (I had to wedge myself between things and in corners to be “steady” enough take photos.)  You can clearly see the layers of bedrock as it has been pushed up from the sea over millennia.  The forces of earth at work.

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As we moved on down or up the Lysefjord, named for the Norse word for light, further from the sea, we began to see much taller walls and waterfalls  Now had it not been raining, these falls probably wouldn’t have been carrying water – so the rain was a gift in this way.

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Each set of falls was different.

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It was difficult to get photos of these.  First of all, I was on the very top of the boat where it was extremely wet.  My lens kept getting water spots and I was running out of dry spots on my clothes to wipe the lens.  Finally the woman beside me and I came up with an innovative compromise.  We couldn’t reach the dry backs of our own t-shirts, so we traded off and used each other’s.  In addition, the boat was rocking of course, and there were a few other diehards up there too.  Plus, we were actually too close to get much of a composite photo.  These falls are a couple thousand feet and in many ways, remind me of the tropics, well, except for how cold it is.

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This is what I call the definition of opportunity, and perhaps optimism as well.

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At one location, the crew hand jumped onto land and put some food into a feeding trough for the mountain goats  Here’s a photo of the goats beside the falls.

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One entire massive wall was a series of bridal veils falls, the tops entirely hidden in the mists, gives the entire scene an unreal, ghostly, ethereal quality.

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The tops of the mountains seems lost in the clouds.  By afternoon, the sun may peek through in some places.

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The boat was extremely close to the wall as we neared the end of the fjord where we approached the granddaddy of fjord waterfalls.

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This was no small falls – the closer we got – the more we realized just how massive this falls was.  And the noise was almost deafening.  It reminded me of the awe I felt at Niagara Falls when I was 12 years old.

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But wait until we get even closer.

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And closer…

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At this point, the boat passed so close that we got a fjord shower.

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Most of the sane people had gone downstairs between the driving rain and the temperature, but there were a few diehards upstairs, me and 2 or 3 other women.  Jim and the other man, below went below.  You can see the waterfalls in the photo, at right.

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We shot pictures until we couldn’t and as the water hit us, we all screamed Woo-Hoo together.  Jim said they could hear us downstairs even above the roar of the water.  It was definitely a “living life to the fullest,” “once in a lifetime” moment.  What an unforgettable opportunity.  Laughing and freezing with my sisters of heart.  Makes me wonder, are they connected there too?  Do these ancestral places speak to our spirits in ways we don’t understand?

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My husband stuck his head out from below deck and got this great shot leaving the falls.  My camera was too wet and my hands were too slippery and numb.  But I was exceptionally happy and joyful!  I hated to see the falls disappear into the distance. What an unexpected gift!

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We sailed back to Stavanger and stopped on the way to have hot coffee, waffles, “cream,” which is like a very thick whipped cream and jam.  It’s a Norwegian thing.  If you’d like to give it a try, here’s a great recipe.  They taste just as good as they look, too.

Back to the ship and to dry clothes.  I had on a raincoat and hat, but they can only do so much and I was soaked to the skin.  I was grateful for warm, dry clothes, but certainly wouldn’t have traded the experience!

No towel guy picture today, because we didn’t buy one thing today and towel guy doesn’t want wet clothes:)

What an adventure today – but I’m STILL hoping for sunshine and dry weather for our last port – the gateway to Paris, in two days.

Edinburgh Castle and a Penannular

Queensferry

This morning we awoke to a sunrise over the sea outside of Queensferry which is where the port for Edinburgh is located.

sunrise queensferry

Oh yes, and Edinburgh is not pronounced Edinborough, it’s pronounced Edinburg, or at least similarly with the Scottish brogue.  The Scottish brogue is comforting, homey.  It feels like the language of the people.

Today began with tendering into the port.  That means that the ship can’t get close enough to actually dock.  So they took 3 or 4 lifeboats and lowered them, amongst much swearing in languages I don’t understand, but it was still quite recognizable as such.  When they had trouble getting the flag raised on those boats, it didn’t do much to instill confidence.  In any case, we did get to port, eventually, but we were an hour late for our tour to begin.  Here’s our Carnival cruise ship, anchored beyond the bridge and we are standing in port

queensferry bridge

We were greeted one final time in port by bagpipers.  I’ve enjoyed those greetings so much.  Music touches the soul in ways nothing else can.  This ancestral music is ingrained in the lives of my ancestors, and therefore, in me.

The earliest known human habitation in the Edinburgh area is from Cramond where evidence was found of a Mesolithic camp-site dated to circa 8500 BC. Traces of later Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been found on Castle Rock, Arthur’s Seat, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentland Hills. People have been here for a very long time.

By the time the Romans arrived in Lothian at the end of the 1st century AD, they discovered a Celtic Britonnic tribe whose name they recorded as the Votadini. At some point before the 7th century AD, the Gododdin, who were presumably descendants of the Votadini, built the hill fort of Din Eidyn or Etin. Although its exact location has not been identified, it seems more than likely they would have chosen a commanding position.

“Edin”, the root of the city’s name, is most likely of Brittonic Celtic origin, from the Cumbric language or a variation of it that would have been spoken by the earliest known people of the area. It appears to derive from the place name Eidyn mentioned in the Old Welsh epic poem Y Gododdin.

In 1603, King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne, uniting the crowns of Scotland and England in a personal union known as the Union of the Crowns, though Scotland remained, in all other respects, a separate kingdom. In 1638, King Charles I’s attempt to introduce Anglican church forms in Scotland encountered stiff Presbyterian opposition culminating in the conflicts of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Subsequent Scottish support for Charles Stuart’s restoration to the throne of England resulted in Edinburgh’s occupation by Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth of England forces – the New Model Army – in 1650.

Edinburgh old map

In the 17th century, the boundaries of Edinburgh were still defined by the city’s defensive town walls, which you can see, along with the castle, in the drawing from 1670 by Wenceslas Hollar, above. As a result, expansion took the form of the houses increasing in height to accommodate a growing population. Buildings of 11 stories or more were common, and have been described as forerunners of the modern-day skyscraper. Most of these old structures were later replaced by the predominantly Victorian buildings seen in today’s Old Town.

By the first half of the 1700s, despite rising prosperity evidenced by its growing importance as a banking centre, Edinburgh was being described as one of the most densely populated, overcrowded and unsanitary towns in Europe. Visitors were struck by the fact that the various social classes shared the same urban space, even inhabiting the same tenement buildings; although here a form of social segregation did prevail, whereby shopkeepers and tradesmen tended to occupy the cheaper-to-rent cellars and garrets, while the more well-to-do professional classes occupied the more expensive middle storeys.

A census conducted by the Edinburgh presbytery in 1592 recorded a population of 8,003 adults spread equally north and south of the High Street which runs along the spine of the ridge sloping down from the Castle. The population rose rapidly, from 49,000 in 1751 to 136,000 in 1831, primarily due to migration from rural areas.

In the second half of the 1700s, Edinburgh was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, and had become a major intellectual center, earning it the nickname “Athens of the North” because of its many classical buildings and reputation for learning, similar to Ancient Athens. The University of Edinburgh was established by royal charter in 1583 preceded by the Royal College of Physicians in 1506.

My ancestor, George McNiel and his two brothers were supposed to have studied at the University of Edinburgh for the ministry before sailing for America where they arrived about 1750. He was born about 1720, so if this is true, he would have been in Edinburgh between about 1735 and 1750, or so. Below is an engraving from about 1753, so this would have been what George McNiel would have seen, if he was in Edinburgh.

edinburgh castle

We arrived in Edinburgh about half an hour after leaving the port and drove through the city to the old town to visit the castle.  Edinburgh castle was a heavily fortified castle built on a massive granite hill in the center of the city.

Edinburgh city

Surrounding the city are actually 3 volcanoes, dormant now, but giving great height and character to the city itself.  One rises in the middle of the city.

In this photo of old town from above, you can see one of the volcanoes as well.

Edinburgh volcano

The castle itself holds, among other things, the Scottish crown jewels. I love mysteries, and there is a good one that goes along with the crown jewels.  In 1707, the crown jewels were sealed in a box.  I don’t remember the political problem at hand, but in 1818, Scotland’s sovereignty was restored and the box was opened.  When it was opened, there was the crown of course, and the sword and the scepter, but there was also another scepter that they have absolutely no idea why was included.  Personally, I think it was Merlin’s!

The oldest part of the castle and indeed, the oldest building in Edinburgh is St. Margaret’s chapel at the very top built by one of the earliest monarchs to honor his mother who died in 1097.  Very old and very small but so very full of history.

edinburgh st margarets

This is probably where Alexander Campbell said his final prayers in this lifetime. I don’t know if he was my direct ancestor, but I do know that he was my relative.

edinburgh castle chapel

The Kings were Celtic, but some of the wives became Christian and started bestowing names like Richard, James and Alexander on the sons instead of traditional Celtic, pagan, names.

Mary Queen of Scots gave birth here to the eventual King James I of England in the room known as the Mary Room or the Birth Chamber in June of 1566, which caused me to wonder about the DNA of the royal family and royal houses.

As I’ve traveled throughout the British Isles and learned about the history of the monarchy, it has become apparent that while the British monarchy was considered well, British, “the monarchy” as a whole was much more. In fact, the monarchs of the various countries and regions made it a point to marry strategically so that politics and power would come and go with spouses. So, I had to wonder, has anyone actually looked at and identified the DNA of the various “houses” of European royalty? How closely related are they? I’ll make it a point to do some research on this when I return home.

This castle was extremely well fortified.  It had 6 different gates at different levels, draw and drop bridges, a mote of course and it sat on top of a huge granite mountain, to begin with.  Here’s the castle from another angle.

edinburgh castle on hill

And a view across all of Edinburgh, from the castle compound.

edinburgh from castle

All of the heads of the clans would come here to meet.  I know my ancestors were here. The Campbells would assuredly have been included. They would have arrived for important meetings and walked on these very cobblestones where we step today.

edinburgh castle grounds

It’s easy to see through their eyes in a place like this as I walk in their footsteps.

Edinburgh castle argyll tower

We know, beyond a doubt that the Campbells were here, because the portcullis gate, the main entrance, above, is situated beneath the state prison, better known as Argyll’s Tower, as the 9th Earl of Argyll, Archibald Campbell, the Marquis of Argyll, was imprisoned there prior to his execution in 1685 by “the maiden.” I didn’t know this until after my visit when I was doing research on the history of Edinburgh castle. Amazing that I was in the right place and literally walked where my ancestors had been, and didn’t even know it.

Below, the Earl and his second wife, Lady Anne Mackenzie. His first wife was Lady Mary Stuart who was the mother of his 7 children, including son, Archibald, the 10th Earl and first Duke of Argyll.  You can see the Campbell pedigree chart here.

Campbell, Archibald

The Earl was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, ironically, within view of the Castle (in the background, below) where he met his demise.

Edinburgh greyfriars kirkyard

From the castle, we walked down High Street, the old town, now known as the “miracle mile” which is where all of the shopping is located.

Edinburgh high street

Jim and I found a Starbucks and had a nice coffee and then did some shopping. I bought myself something very Scottish, a penannular. This brooch or pin is used to pin and hold wool scarves. Mine is antique and beautiful. This one is from the National Museum of Scotland.

penannular

Below, a contemporary penannular at CeltArts (which is available to purchase) shows how a penannular is used. By the way, these aren’t just for women. Men wear them with the scarves slung over their shoulders.

Penannular tartan

One of my favorite things in old cities is the little alleyways between buildings that are connected above the alleyway.  They weren’t alleyways originally, but now they are both too narrow and too steep for anything but foot traffic.  I took pictures of several. Many are just wide enough for a person.

edinburgh alley

advocates close

In Edinburgh, there are several private schools for children and there is a lot of academic competition to be admitted.  There are two from which it’s believed that the inspiration for Hogwarts was derived.

Hogwartz

It’s a beautiful city and the ultimate in what it means to be Scottish. It’s not unusual to see men walking around in kilts as a business suit, complete with kilt, coat and tie, or sometimes kilts and sweatshirts.  Kilts, here, are the ultimate in manly. For those who want to see what I mean, here’s a link for you. Yes, it’s family friendly, but word of warning, you’ll change your mind about kilts forever.

Edinburgh kilt

I had to laugh, because in Scotland, I’m reminded of this cartoon about restroom confusion.

On the return trip, our guide talked about history and then we were back at the docks.  The bridges here are very interesting and artful.  One, the suspension bridge at left below, reminds me of the bridge connecting the lower peninsula of Michigan with the upper peninsula at Mackinaw City and could be its twin.

Edinburgh bridges panorama

Our towel guy tonight wears a celtic tartan scarf with the beautiful penannular I purchased in the wonderful little antique shop below Edinburgh castle as we wandered.  I don’t know why these penannulars enchanted me so, but they did.  Probably because these reach back in time, probably to the beginning of Celts and shawls, to hold them in place.  They aren’t contemporary and they have character already.  They are quintessentially Scottish as well, and are heirlooms.  The shop had a few new ones too, and they are shinier and unscathed, but the antique ones had character. My ancestors wore penannulars, certainly, and now, so will I.

Our towel guy also has a little book from Edinburgh Castle chapel and a small contemporary watercolor painting of the castle.

Edinburgh towel guy

British Monarchy’s DNA

After I returned home, I set out to see if anyone had done any genetic work on the DNA of the British monarchy.

The answer, it turns out, is yes. In August 2013, Bradley Larkin published a paper about the Y DNA of the British Monarchy in honor of the birth of the Prince of Cambridge.

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

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

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

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

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

Invergordon, Braveheart, Urquhart Castle and my Birthday

Today, we’re in Invergordon, Scotland and we began the day by being greeted by oil rigs.  They “put” them here in this frith (fjord) for repair and refurbishing when they aren’t needed in the North Sea.  So they, the oil rigs, move around this frith all the time.  Quite interesting. You know, if you tended to drink a bit too much and you woke up to find that the oil rig had “moved,” well, let’s just say the results could be quite funny!

oil rigs

It’s raining, again, or more accurately, still, but hopefully, I broke the rain chain because I just gave up and bought a rain hat today.  Actually, it’s pretty cool and very Scottish with the Campbell tartan inside for a lining, so I’m really good with it – but I was also desperate so it could have been Mickey Mouse and I would have been OK.  So, I bought myself a birthday present!

Do not underestimate the importance of a rain hat here!  The umbrella is OK and sometimes necessary when it’s pouring, but it has its own set of challenges, especially with a bunch of other people with umbrellas in a small space.

I wasn’t going to share this photo, because, it’s, well, ummm, not terribly flattering, but then I had a change of heart. I think retaining the ability to laugh at one’s self is quite important – and truly – I love this hat!

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Besides that, somewhat outrageous hats are a distinctly British thing.  When in Rome…

Kate’s got nothing on me now:)

kate hat

Our first stop was Cawdor Castle, another Campbell Castle, where I found the rain hat in the gift shop.

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The Campbells were extremely influential in the Highlands for hundreds of years.  Some say they were the most influential family, others say it was their archrivals, the McDonalds.  In any case, we’re about at the waist of Scotland, looking at a map, not terribly far as the crow flies from Inverary, the Campbell seat, but it’s across the mountain Highlands.  Not a problem for a Campbell, but a big problem for a bus, which is why we sailed around the upper part of Scotland of course.  These trees outside of Cawdor Castle were old and beautiful.  I loved them.  Just think of the history they have witnessed.  It’s certainly possible that some of my ancestors may have stood here while visiting this castle, among these trees, when they were much smaller.  If they could only speak.

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Cawdor Castle was a self-guided tour and it was interesting in that it was a Campbell castle, but it was one of the newer lines and not mine.  It was raining so the gardens weren’t really easily viewable, but I did venture into the side garden and found a very interesting ‘gazing ball’ for lack of anything else to call it. It’s not small – at least a foot taller than I am.

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This is very cool and I’m sure, very expensive as well.

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The story of the Cawdor thorn tree is also quite interesting.  It’s said that the man who build Cawdor Castle in the 1300s, who was not a Campbell (the Campbell line acquired this castle by marriage sometime later), tied a package of some sort to an ox and let it wander around.  Wherever is lay down is where he was going to build his castle and the ox lay down under a thorn tree.  The castle was built around the tree and it was venerated for decades until it died. Now it’s enclosed and you can walk around it inside.  However, the myth grew with time and became that this was the tree that St. Columba planted.  That’s believed not to be true.  In any case, the “tree” is still there. This photo is from the official Cawdor Castle Tour site as it’s quite dark in that part of the castle and my photos didn’t come out well.

cawdor thorn tree

After leaving Cawdor Castle, we traveled across the Highlands and Moors. I can’t say they were stunningly beautiful, but they were rich with vegetation and somewhat “purple,” a very distinctive color.

scottish moors

We arrived at Loch Ness, famous of course for Nessie, and visited Urquhart Castle, a very old castle, now in ruins, on the shores of Loch Ness.  And no, we didn’t see Nessie, but of course, we looked!

Loch ness

Urquhart castle’s beautiful ruins stand guard over Loch Ness.

urquhart

You can easily see parts of the rest of the distant highlands from Urquhart castle across Loch Ness.

urquhart loch ness

The name Urquhart derives from the 7th-century form Airdchartdan, itself a mix of Gaelic air (by) and Old Welsh cardden (thicket or wood). Speculation that Urquhart may have been the fortress of Bridei son of Maelchon, king of the northern Picts, led Professor Leslie Alcock to undertake excavations in 1983. Adomnán’s Life of Columba records that St. Columba visited Bridei some time between 562 and 586, though little geographical detail is given. Adomnán also relates that during the visit, Columba converted a Pictish nobleman named Emchath, who was on his deathbed, his son Virolec, and their household, at a place called Airdchartdan. The excavations, supported by radiocarbon dating, indicate that the rocky knoll at the south-west corner of the castle had been the site of an extensive fort between the 5th and 11th centuries

It wasn’t until another several hundred years had passed until we hear of Urquhart again, now a castle or fort defending Loch Ness.  It’s believed that the current castle was built about 1200. It’s first documented in 1296 when it was captured.

urquhart map

Urquhart Castle stands just about dead center in the upper portion of Scotland, which would have been the center of the Picts kingdom based on this map from Wiki.

pict kingdom map

For the next 500+ years, Urquhart was a very important castle, and saw action many times, in particular, with the McDonald clan who attacked from the west of Scotland as well as a defense against the Vikings.  Finally, in 1690, the castle could not be held and was abandoned, but not wanting it to fall into enemy hands, they loaded the gatehouse with kegs of gunpowder, lit it, and left Urquhart castle to her fiery fate.

Today, the majestic and picturesque ruins stand guard at Loch Ness, silent sentry, never replaced or rebuilt.

urquhart ruins

Here are Jim and I at the top of the existing turret.

urquhart jim and me

While I felt only a minor connection to Cawdor Castle, I felt very close to Inverary and also to the ruins of Urquhart Castle.  I know that my ancestors were here, fought here, maybe died here, either attacking or defending it, or maybe just visiting at other times.  Of course, this stands to reason, logically, as I had many Scottish ancestors, so that they were here would come as no surprise.  It felt good to stand where they stood and look at what they saw.  It connects me to them, whoever they were.  They may be nameless, but they are not forgotten.

Our ancestors are our own personal version of Braveheart. Randall Wallace, the writer of the screenplay, has acknowledged Blind Harry‘s 15th century epic poem, The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie as a primary inspiration for the film. So, whether it’s entirely historically accurate or not, it is based on the history of this timeframe. Here’s the trailer. One thing is for sure, this region was constantly embroiled in a fight of some sort – between tribes – between rulers – between countries. And every able-bodied man fought. So warfare is the legacy of every family from Scotland.

Who were my Scottish ancestral families and what do we know about their roots, genetically? All of these families who have tested are members of haplogroup R.

  • The Campbells descend from ancient Scots, perhaps Picts, and carry the SNP, L1335, which may be Pictist.
  • The McDowell’s are subgroup L21 which provides general but not specific information about lineage and location.
  • My Andrew McKee/Mackie line out of Gloucester and Washington County, Virginia has Not been tested, but I will provide a scholarship to any direct male (who carries the surname, and therefore the Y chromosome) from this line.
  • My Hugh McMahon line found in York Co., PA by 1745 also has not been tested. He is alleged to have been christened on March 2, 1699 in Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland, but I don’t know that this is the same Hugh McMahon. In any case, I will provide a scholarship to any direct male descendant of Hugh McMahon. In the McMahon project, there is a County Monaghan cluster which is DF21, a subset of L21. If this is the correct McMahon line, then they are of the Three Collas lineage. The McMahon DNA project administrators have written a wonderful article about how the McMahon line ties into the Colla lineage and what it all means to genetic genealogists….now if I only knew if this was my line!
  • The McNiel line is descended from Niall of the 9 Hostages and carries SNP L222 which identifies that line.
  • My Thomas McSpadden line has not been tested, but I will provide a scholarship for any direct male McSpadden descendant of the Thomas McSpadden line found in Washington County, Virginia.
  • My Younger line of Halifax, Essex and King and Queen County of Virginia is L21, with no subset indicated.

The Highland men were extremely hardy.  It’s no wonder that they welcomed the remoteness of the American frontier and often found a connection with the Native people who were their neighbors.  I bet the warrior gene is found is higher proportion in both populations than in the rest of the people. It would be an interesting study.

For days now, we’ve been seeing sheep.  I didn’t know until today that sheep weren’t native to the Scottish Highlands, but a special kind of highlands cattle were.  However, in the 1700s, sheep were introduced, but were very controversial because sheep require about 4 times the space as cattle.  The landowners forced the tenants to have sheep and forced may tenants out entirely.  There was no more land to be had – so many immigrated to America, especially those not the first son, meaning the inheriting son.  So perhaps it was sheep who drove my ancestors to America, although several of my Scottish ancestors clearly came through the Irish plantations on their way.

Interestingly enough, today I found a field of sheep who I’m sure represent my entire family.  Most sheep here are white.  Very occasionally, you see one black one in the field.  I found the black sheep jackpot today.

All black sheep. Yep, my family, I’m sure of it.

black sheep

From there, our bus wound its way back to the ship across the mountains and across the moors.  It seems impossible that we had been gone for more than 8 hours.  Scotland is simply enchanting.

Our towel animal tonight had my rain hat, of course, and two birthday cards, one from Jim and one from Carnival.

urquhart towel animal

This was a great birthday, feeling the presence of Braveheart and my ancestral families at Urquhart Castle – and of course, my Campbell rainhat.