Tuesday, 20 October 2015

How could I tell which Amy was which?

As we go further back into English records we have to depend largely on parish baptism, marriage and burial registers to tell us who is who. But, of course, because of traditional naming patterns, children in related families often had the same forenames. So how do you tell which one is which in later documents.

I recently ran across this case in reviewing a cousin’s family tree on Ancestry. We don’t yet know what our exact relationship is but know we are related through an Amy Shepheard born in the late 18th century in Cornwood, Devon. She was his 4th great-grandmother and my 4th great-grandaunt.

Cousin Douglas has his Amy as the daughter of Nicholas and Mary (Barratt) Shepheard, baptized on 10 July 1767. I have her as the daughter of Richard and Mary (Collins) Shepheard, baptized on 29 December 1765. Both were baptized in Cornwood. Both Nicholas and Richard were brothers, and named their daughters after their mother, Amy (Prideaux) Shepheard.

Sons of Nicholas Shepheard & Amy Prideaux
Children of Nicholas Shepheard & Mary Barratt
Children of Richard Shepheard & Mary Collins
Nicholas (1761-1820)
Richard (1762-1794)
William (1763-1796
Amy (1765-1826)
Mary (1765-1766)
John (1768-1845)
Amy (1767-1788)
Priscilla (1770-1850)
Jane Treby (1769-1851)
Thomas (1771-1834)
Sampson (1771-1856)
Elizabeth (1774-1851)
Arthur (1773-1834)
James (1776-1841)
Thomasine (1775-1846)


Douglas descends from the Amy Shepheard that married Phillip Chapple in Cornwood in 1789. She would have been 24, arguably a bit old for marriage at the time. The other Amy married Joseph Hillson, also in Cornwood, in 1787 at the age of 20. It would be easy to confuse the two, being so close in age and given their respective ages in regard to the marriage dates. Both would have been 22 if the marriages happened the other way around.

Anyway, I believe it was Richard's daughter that married Phillip Chapple, not Nicholas’. One reason I thought that is because one of the witnesses to that marriage was John Shepheard. A witness to the marriage of Amy Shepheard to Joseph Hillson was William Shepheard. The first Amy had a brother named John, but no brother named William; the second one had a brother named William, but no John. I think the names of the witnesses give us a solid clue as to their relationships. It would not be unreasonable for immediate family members to be witnesses to marriages. It is interesting that all of the individuals named in both marriages signed their names in the marriage register confirming the spelling of our surname. I wrote about that in a post on May 13, 2014.



The clincher for me, though, was a series of property documents signed in 1813 concerning a piece of land in a nearby parish. One of the sons of Nicholas and Mary, Sampson, was to receive some land through his mother, following her death. His older brother, Nicholas, inherited the main estate of the family. In order for Sampson to take possession of the minor property, he had to pay his other, older living siblings 20 pounds each. Three sisters were named in the mother's final instructions that would receive the monies: Amy, Jane Treby and Thomasine. One older brother, William, and one sister, Mary, had died before their mother, so were not named in the document. As the older male, William would have been the one to get the lands if he had lived. Daughters, of course, could not inherit real property at the time but were generally compensated in some other way.

By the time the property was transferred, only two sisters were still living, Jane Treby and Thomasine. Each received 20 pounds in 1813. What defined Amy in this particular document was she was named as “afterwards Amy Hilson”. That proved that she was the one that married Joseph Hillson. The Amy that married Phillip Chapple was still alive at the time the document was executed, so she was not the daughter of Nicholas and Mary (Barratt) Shepheard. Amy Chapple died in Cornwood in 1826.


As an additional discovery in the whole process, the land documents also described how Mary Barratt had come to own the property. It was through a transfer of land from her step-father, Arthur Jefferys, to her mother, Thomasine. From learning Thomasine’s first name on this document, I was then able to find:
·         her marriage to William Barratt (in Newton Ferrers, Devon in 1736);
·         her second marriage to Arthur Jefferys (in Newton Ferrers, in 1754);
·         her maiden name (Goad);
·         the deaths of all three individuals (William in Yealmpton, Devon in 1740; Arthur in Ermington, Devon in 1765; Thomasine in Erminton in 1771); and
·         the baptism dates and places of her two daughters, Mary and Jane (both in Newton Ferrers).

Unfortunately, Cousin Douglas also has the parentage of Mary Barratt wrong on his Ancestry tree, showing them as John and Elizabeth Barrett of Cornwood. I actually had the same idea until I found the property document.  It was quite by serendipity that I found the property record that contained a great deal of family history information, which just shows one always needs to keep reviewing every kind of record possible.


All images used here courtesy of the Plymouth and West Devon Record OfficeWayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is the Editor of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

2 comments:

  1. I found your blog though the Best of on Genea-Musings. I enjoyed reading your analysis and so heartily agree that seeking out all kinds of records help identify people of same name.

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    1. Thanks Lisa. It is nice when several pieces of data come together to confirm an idea.

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