Thomas Sharp Hope: My Emigrant Ancestor

Last time I wrote about the Beales of  Biddenden.  My Beale ancestor was not a Richard, but John Beale, the ninth of Rich Richard's ten children.  Though not as wayward as his brother Crusty Richard, John also provided his share of headaches to the Beales.  John's mother's (Frances Beale, nee Witherden) letters are kept by the Biddenden History Society, and according to a Beale cousin who has seen them, she was in frequent dismay at John's behaviour, which included gambling and sending his washing back to River Hall.  Frances also expressed disapproval at John's choice of wife, Elizabeth Hope, so much so that she apparently forbade the marriage.  John seems to have paid lip service only to her wishes and had four children with Elizabeth out of wedlock, giving them the surname "Beale Hope", before finally marrying her in 1850, four years before his mother's death but long after his father's.  They went on to have another ten children after the wedding! Why did the Beales disapprove of Elizabeth so much?

The Beales of River Hall

Rich Richard came from a long line of successful Beales in Biddenden.  They owned a beautiful country house called River Hall, which is still in existence now.  Built in the 1400s and refurbished in the 1700s.  It is now a listed building, probably worth several million pounds.  River Hall was not only the Beales' home but the seat of their cloth-making business.  It had been passed down through nine generations of Beales before this story begins.  Said Beales had massive altar tombs in the churchyard at All Saints Church, Biddenden, and plaques in their memory within the church.  They were clearly very rich and highly respected. How did they come to end up with nothing?

The Small World of Genealogy

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from one of my matches on GEDmatch.com (a DNA genealogy website).  I was particularly pleased to hear from Duncan because unlike most of my matches, he was English with a tree full of English people and possible connections. But there was a shock in store...

Nigel and Trevor Brent: My Forgotten Brothers

Genealogy really is the art of uncovering secrets, in most cases, the secrets of people who are long dead.  Most of these secrets are far enough detached from your real life to be truly upsetting, but when you start delving into the past, you must be prepared for the possibility of finding something quite upsetting. Read more...

What I Learned From My DNA

When I started researching my family mysteries, DNA was just for Little Mix and Jeremy Kyle.  The first time I really encountered DNA testing for genealogy was when I contacted my believed 3rd cousin twice removed, David Allen, for his thoughts on my great grandfather's paternity.  David Allen had done a test which showed that he had a rare paternal haplogroup (the Y chromosome, which is passed intact from father to son) and as he was (hypothetically) related to my uncle, David Downing, via an all male line, if my uncle shared the same haplogroup, then it was almost certain that my hypothesis was correct.  I got lucky here - if there had a female in the line, if I hadn't had a willing male relative, or if David Allen had belonged to a common haplogroup, we wouldn't have been able to do this.  I could have done a standard DNA test and compared it with David Allen but as our relationship is quite distant, the chances of our relationship being detectable were about 50/50.  The tests did match, and the Allens now have pride of place in my tree. Read more...

Samuel Downing: Man Overboard!

For a long time I believed that Samuel Downing, the first son of Southminster patriach Joseph Downing, had died in infancy.  It seemed the logical conclusion - there was no sign of him in any of the Southminster records or anywhere else in England for that matter and the parish register from the relevant years that would show his burial had been destroyed.  His mother and sister had also disappeared in this period, and his mother was clearly dead, as Joseph had remarried and described himself as a widower.Read more...