Ambrose Whibley Remington, 1762-1846
Gardener of Hunton, Kent, and my 4th grandfather
I will confess my sins now. When I was very new to genealogy, I committed one of the cardinal sins. Excitedly coming across some other people’s family trees that featured my ancestors, I copied names, dates and places to my own tree without a second thought, without looking for sources, just keen to go back as far as possible.
I know now that this is Bad Genealogy. There are hundreds of thousands of family trees on the internet (particularly on Ancestry) and a lot of them are complete rubbish. Although you’re looking at your direct ancestors, for the person who wrote the tree, they could be distant relatives, a tangent they spent fifteen minutes on and then left. Often there are glaring errors, like people giving birth years after their death, or simultaneously appearing on two censuses with different wives and children (ok, this probably happened occasionally, but more often it’s a namesake in the next town). Or perhaps the genealogist who wrote the tree is using it as a “sandbox” to test out ideas – if I have a feeling that John Downing died in Southend and I enter that in my tree, will Ancestry throw up a hint that confirms my suspicion? Don’t get me wrong, other people’s trees can be very useful – if you need a pointer, look at someone else’s conclusions and see if you can find evidence to back it up. They’re also a good source of family photos and connections to distant cousins. But as far as wholesale copying goes, it’s a no no.
But I didn’t know any of this at the time. As I got better at this stuff, I realised the error of my ways, and now the Downing and Beale parts of my tree are perfectly sourced, checked and double checked and annotated with any doubts I might have (and even then I occasionally find the odd mistake has crept in). The Whibley part, however, stayed untouched and unloved until my DNA test last year when they started to yield the most numerous and interesting results (not least the elusive “Ronan Quick”, and no, I still haven’t identified him). I started to take a closer look at my Whibley Tree.
The first thing that raised my suspicions was the parentage of my 4th great grandfather, Ambrose Whibley (b. 1761 in Horsmonden, Kent). Ambrose was the illegitimate son of Sarah Remington (b. 1736, also in Horsmonden). His baptism names him as “Ambrose Whibley Remington” but does not give his father’s name. At some point, though, he seems to have dropped “Remington” and taken his father’s name, though Sarah Remington never married him. And which Whibley was Ambrose’s father? All the trees give his father as Ambrose Whibley (b. Brenchley, 1745) which seems a logical conclusion based on the fact that illegitimate children often bore their father’s first names – until you consider that at the time of Ambrose Remington’s birth, Ambrose Whibley would have been sixteen and Sarah Remington twenty-four. Not impossible, of course, but it didn’t ring true to me. And then I found a more likely candidate – Ambrose’s older half brother, David, who was born in 1739 and lived in Horsmonden. I also have one good DNA match with a known descendent of David Whibley, who, if my theory is correct, is my 5th cousin once removed. (Of course, I could still match with her if Ambrose was the father and we were half sixth cousins once removed… but it’s unlikely). The final clue is that Ambrose Whibley Remington named his first child David, in a time where first children were typically named after their paternal grandfather.
So who is right? Do I trust my instincts and go with David Whibley, or do the authors of the previous trees know something I don’t? There is no proof either way online, so another trip to the Kent Record Office for glorious microfilm related fun lies in my not-too-distant future. Of course, anyone who comes across my family tree in the meantime would see that I have recorded David Whibley as the father of Ambrose Whibley Remington, while you and I know that I have no definitive proof this is true (yet). And this is why you should never copy other people’s family trees.