Friday, 27 September 2013

Ship Diaries Hidden in Wardrobes

I was at a party at the beginning of the year and talked to a friend of mine about my ship books (you have to be careful how you say that in a loud room!)

Anyway he said that his friend had a ship diary in her wardrobe which only her family and a couple of friends had seen.  My eyes popped out of my head!  Then he said that he was sure there were many people with ship diaries hidden in their houses that have never seen the light of day.  They have never been bequeathed to a museum or sent to the Alexander Turnbull Library.  After the Christchurch earthquakes we have all learnt how important it is to preserve our history as it can be lost in a second.  Diaries too can be lost in a second due to flooding, fire and various other tragic events. 

So anyway, I am putting out a request for any such diaries which could be turned into a super wee book.  In return for use of the diary I would give the family some free copies of the finished book and full credit and ownership of the information, (stated in the front of the book.)  The books would go into the National Library and other libraries around the country, to be preserved for another 100 years or more.

All my books are fully referenced in an academic manner so that every statement can be traced back to the original source.  I am writing them out of interest and to help others tracing their family's ancestral journey to New Zealand.

If you are interested in sharing your precious diaries, please email me using the email on the right hand side of this blog.  I promise you won't be disappointed in the final book I would produce for you.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Jemmett Family - From humble NZ colonists to royalty in 800 years!

This blog covers my family tree on my Mum's side of the family.  It doesn't cover the tree on my Dad's side. My Dad has written a whole book on his side of the family which was published in 2003.    He has done an amazing job on the Jemmett family tree!

The Jemmett family consisting of Daniel, Hannah and their children Nathan, George, Charles, Martha and William left London for Lyttelton, New Zealand in 1873 aboard the Edwin Fox.    They were incorrectly named as Gimmett.  

Why did they come to New Zealand?  Probably because they were dirt poor Agricultural labourers and thought there would be more opportunities in New Zealand.  Work was getting more scarce in England and New Zealand was a new hopeful place to go.  

Daniel Jemmett's father was named Griffin, of John, of John, of John, of Griffin, of John, of Griffin, of Walter. By the time you get back to Walter (born about 1583 in Shiplake - died before 1659) you are in the time of Queen Elizabeth I.  He even lived to hear about the execution of Charles I in 1649.  This puts the era into context.  We are now a long long way back to the time of ruffles around the neck!

Walter Jemmett was somewhat well off compared to his Jemmett descendants.  We know this because he actually had a will.  I am not sure of the exact words in the will.  My Dad has it somewhere.  Walter Jemmett wasn't the commonest name and it was easy to find that he married a woman named Mary Higgs.  

A few years back I didn't know what to get my Dad for Christmas so I started looking at the far back end of the family tree that my Dad had spent many years on.  I was trying to get back further, using mainly information on the web.  This can be somewhat dangerous and shouldn't really be attempted without good references and proof.  There are some genealogical nutcases out there, I'm sorry to say.  In some cases though it does work, as in this case!

Dad knew that Mary Higgs was probably born to Griffin Higgs and Sarah Payne.  We thought this was highly likely considering the amount of "Griffins" in the Jemmett family.  However we needed further proof as there was another Mary Higgs born around the same time in a similar area.  

Mary Higgs, daughter of Griffin Higgs had a brother Griffin Higgs.  I did a google search and found the following article on this man.  It turns out he was famous!  He was an academic, a churchman and the dean of Lichfield from 1638.  I had been to Lichfield Cathedral with my father in law and his partner, my husband and baby daughter at one point on a lovely family outing while visiting England in 2007.  At that stage I had no idea that my 10x great granduncle had been dean there.  

Griffin (sometimes known as Griffith) also had a lot to do with Merton College, Oxford.  He gave them one of the largest bequests that the College Library had every received.  Higgs was a Fellow there from 1611-26.  Afterwards he was Chaplain to Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia.  This was during her exile to the Netherlands.  He bought most of his books while overseas at auction sales.  There are over 650 of his book collection in the Merton College library.  Wow, he was educated and left a great donation to Merton College.  He seemed great but how could I connect him for sure to my Mary Jemmett nee Higgs!

It was this properly referenced academic article that helped me.  Click here

The article has a transcription of Griffin's will word for word, with the following sentence: 

"I do give and bequeath to my eldest sister, Mary Jemett of Shiplake in the county of Oxon, widow, a gold ring with a fair diamond in it, in forme of a heart given me by her Matie the Queene of Bohemia." 

This finally proved that the family relations were all correct.  After that the sky was the limit.   Griffin was the son of Nicholas Higges, son of Thomas Higges, son of John Higges who married Julianna de Sandford.  The de Sandford family are very connected but I couldn't prove who the father for Julianna de Sandford was.  I then looked at the Barton family.  One of Griffin Higgs' great grandfathers was Griffin Barton of South Stoke.  His father was Harrye Barton who married Alice Marten, and Harrye's father was Thomas A. Barton who married Catherine Mylbourne.

Thomas and Catherine Barton nee Mylbourne had a son Griffin (Griffith) Barton born about 1506.  So the name Griffin is still present in the tree!  How much further back did it go? 

Catharine Mylbourne was the daughter of Simon Mylbourne and Jane Baskerville.  This now leads us back to royalty.  Catherine was one of 12 sisters!  A huge family of girls!  One can see why our family never were that rich or titled.  Our family follows a mainly female line to get back to any kind of royalty.  

The Baskerville family were a very well to do and connected family.  There is a comment in the Baskerville family history (click here) that the Baskervilles of Eardsley (which is our line) lost their wealth.  Well that is probably another reason why we ended up as farm labourers.

To stop this story becoming very long winded I will summerise what happened next.  I found the Baskervilles were descended from many of the Welsh Kings and Queens, because of a marriage of Robert Baskerville born 1090  to Agnes Verch Rhys.  Agnes family tree includes all the very old Kings and Queens some of which were at Powys Castle (the newer version of which I have visited).  Her father was Rees App Griffiths (another Griffith!!)  Once you have one royal in the family you go back to just about every royal house you can think off.  The tree goes nuts!

So I put all the information together.  It cost me nothing and it was basically the best Christmas present my Dad had ever received.  He bounced off his chair with excitement. 

By the way, everyone who has some sort of English ancestry will have a similar connection to royalty, I'm sure.  But it is just finding that key ancestor which unlocks the rest of the tree for you.  For us, having a very uncommon surname, combined with a very uncommon yet repeatedly used Christian name (Griffin) as well as a lot of hard work from my Dad, reading old parish records and wills, has led us to this point.  I also must say that relations in England had already worked out the connection but hadn't told my Dad.  So when Dad told them, they weren't surprised.  So I can't claim to have been the first to have found this connection! Good luck with searching!!