Dad’s DNA: The Mother Lode

When I was a child I used to have this odd … not fantasy … belief? … that I was adopted. (Or maybe actually an android. Or maybe a dragon. You get the point.) 8 year old me can rest easy knowing that my dad is definitely my dad and my mother is definitely my mother. (And I am definitely human.)

As I thought, my dad’s DNA results from Ancestry were delivered about a week after my mum’s.

And holy moly …



Everett & Nellie Payne: or, The Folly Of Believing Everything You Read On The Internet

I mentioned my paternal great-grandparents Everett & Nellie Payne way back in September 2013 in this post, but have never come back to talk about this family in more detail. But this post is less an exploration of them, and more a warning about the ever-present danger of trusting other people’s data – even when sourced – and not eyeballing that evidence for yourself …


More Australian Shenanigans!

In my previous post about Australian migration, I mentioned a lady who had (possibly/probably) married her (possibly/probably) deceased first husband’s (half) uncle. I don’t want to leave you thinking that this kind of thing was present in only one side of my family. Oh no. My father’s side has an interesting tale to tell too …

William Fisher and Hannah Perry were married in Collingbourne Kingston on 10 March 1806. They already had one son together before the marriage, but would go on to have another 10 children. I am descended from Jacob (3 x great-grandfather), born in 1813, but amongst his 3 younger sisters was Jemima, born c.1815 – she was christened on 24 March of that year in the parish church, St. Mary’s.

St. Mary's church, Collingbourne Kingston. © Graeme Harvey

St. Mary’s church, Collingbourne Kingston. © Graeme Harvey

On 05 October 1833, Jemima married William Smith in Collingbourne Kingston church. The couple had a daughter, Emma, born out of wedlock, and then another 10 (much like her own parents).:

  • Emma Fisher
  • George Smith
  • Jane Mary Smith
  • William Smith
  • Henry Smith
  • Louisa Smith
  • Thomas Smith
  • Martha Smith
  • Jemima Smith
  • Daniel Smith
  • John Smith

In early 1855, Jemima and William left England aboard the  Asiatic, bound for Australia – perhaps prompted by the gold rushes of the 1850s – as “assisted immigrants” (that is, people whose passage was subsidised or paid for through one of the several assisted immigration schemes which operated to New South Wales from the United Kingdom and other countries). They arrived in Sydney (or possibly Newcastle) on 25 May 1855.


They had travelled with a number of their children, but not Emma or Jane who were by this time married with families of their own. Emma married George Romans in Hounslow (then Middlesex) on 23 September 1860. Emma’s sister Jane married William Annetts on 29 May 1855 in Collingbourne Ducis.

It was Jane and William who were the next to travel to Australia. On 24 February 1857 the pair – and their two children, Mary Jane and Charles – left England. Approximately 90 days later the Herefordshire arrived in New South Wales.


Around this time a number of William Annetts’ siblings made the journey, including his brother Thomas. Thomas married Martha Smith, Jane’s sister, on Boxing Day 1864 in Gundagai, and they had 8 children before his death in October 1886.

LA HOGUE - From a painting by Jack Spurling illustrated in "SAIL: The Romance of the Clipper Ships"

LA HOGUE – From a painting by Jack Spurling illustrated in “SAIL: The Romance of the Clipper Ships”

By this time Emma, Martha’s eldest sister, and her husband George Romans and their children had arrived in Australia (on 21 October 1878 aboard the La Hogue). As you will see, 18 year old William Romans is present.


Three years after the death of her first husband, 42 year old Martha Annetts nee Smith, married her 24 year old nephew, William.

I feel that I need to reiterate that this is not a nephew-by-marriage. William was the son of Martha’s elder (half) sister, Emma. I am a firm believer in that we, sat here today, cannot truly judge the actions of our ancestors as we do not know them, their lives or their struggles. However, occasionally you come across something that truly makes you sit and wonder.

And I have to say, this is one of them. How did that happen? How was it received in the family? In the wider community? How did they overcome any ‘opposition’? Its one of the down sides of family history – especially when its half a world away! – that you’ll  never know all the answers (unless you’re incredibly lucky) … which in this instance is a crying shame.

They went on to have two daughters (bringing Martha’s total number of births up to 10 – in league with her mother and grandmother!), Albertha Muriel and Letha Marion.

Martha Smith with husband/nephew William Romans

Martha Smith with husband/nephew William Romans

John Norris

I was having a wander through my family tree, trying to find an ancestor or family to share with you. I was reminded, on my father’s mother’s side of the Norris family of Collingbourne Kingston, Wiltshire, and after reacquainting myself with the line found a rather surprising association.

Emily Alice Palmer has been mentioned before – and her less than ‘traditional’ life that she lived. Her maternal grandmother was named Priscilla Brine. Her great-grandmother was Mary Norris. Her great-great-grandfather was John Norris. (Are you still with me, generation fans? We’re back to my 10 x great-grandfather now!) He had been made vicar of Collingbourne Kingston in 1647 and in August 1660 moved to Aldbourne in Wiltshire. It was here that he died on 18 March 1682, and was survived by his wife, Elizabeth.

Searching the Clergy of the Church of England Database (CCEd), John obtained his BA from Pembroke College, Cambridge on 17 June 1636 and his MA on 2 May 1639. What little evidence there is seems to show that he was a Calvinist (that is, a form of Protestantism based on the Reformation-era teachings of John Calvin). He and his wife Elizabeth had 5 children, 3 of whom survived into adulthood.

I am descended from his son Henry, who seems to have remained in Collingbourne Ducis, marrying Catherine Hellyard on 16 October 1674 and having at least five children.

Henry’s brother John – born on 2 January 1657 in Collingbourne Kingston – seems to have taken a quite different turn with his life. Educated first at Winchester College, he entered Exeter College, Oxford in 1676. He read classical literature widely, but was drawn to the writings of Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle and was drawn to various metaphysical and mystical teachings. He obtained his BA in 1680 and became an elected fellow of All Souls. He also discovered the works of the rationalist philosopher Nicolas Malebranche and his work Search after Truth (aka ‘Concerning the Search after Truth. In which is treated the nature of the human mind and the use that must be made of it to avoid error in the sciences’ – which I think we can agree is a most snappy title …). In 1684 he took his MA and was ordained.

St Andrew's Old Church, Bemerton in 1994. © Copyright Nick Macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

St Andrew’s Old Church, Bemerton in 1994. © Copyright Nick Macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In 1689 he left Oxford and married his wife, Elizabeth. They moved to Newton St Loe near Bath in Somerset where he was the vicar. It was here that he wrote a critique to John Locke’s An Essay on Human Understanding. In 1692 the Norris family moved to Bemerton, Wiltshire (just outside Salisbury) – a position that Locke had recommended him for. The two Johns (as it were) had a mutual friend in Lady Damaris Cudworth Masham, a philosopher and feminist in her own right. She argued that mothers were essential to the well-being of political society and also advocated women’s participation in disciplines long dominated by men: sciences and philosophy.

Although the friendship between John Norris and John Locke and Lady Masham didn’t last (and Locke dismissed him from serious consideration, describing him as “an obscure, enthusiastic man”), he was a close friend and supporter of other learned ladies, such as Elizabeth Thomas and Lady Mary Chudleigh. His closest friendship here was, however, with Mary Astell.

Title page from the third edition of A Serious Proposal

Title page from the third edition of A Serious Proposal

Mary had received an informal education from her uncle, who had left the clergy due to bouts of alcoholism, but introduced her to the works of Plato and Aristotle. Following the death of her father, mother and aunt, she moved to London and came under the patronage of various women, including Lady Elizabeth Hastings, the daughter of the 7th Earl of Huntingdon (Elizabeth and Mary would both die after having a mastectomy following breast cancer). It was under their aegis that she was able to develop and publish her works on the importance of marriage equality and education for women – so much so that she presented an idea of women having the same religious and secular education as men, ideally in a protected environment. Jonathan Swift (he of Gulliver’s Travels fame) mocked her, and Daniel Defoe (yes, Robinson Crusoe) called them “impracticable” – but this didn’t stop him from using almost the exact same idea in a later essay of his.

The more I read about Mary Astell, what she overcame and how she managed to debate freely with some of the most learned men and women of her age, the more I wonder why more isn’t known about her, and other like her. (The answer is, I feel, somewhat obvious.)

One of her key quotes is the following, from her book Some Reflections Upon Marriage:

If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?

She had a great many good things to say about John Norris, including the following:

…though some morose Gentleman wou’d perhaps remit me to the Distaff or the Kitchin … yet expecting better things from the more Equitable and ingenious Mr. Norris, who is not so narrow-Soul’d as to confine Learning to his own Sex, or to envy it in ours, I presume to beg his Attention a little to the Impertinencies of a Woman’s Pen.

She wrote in 1694: “Women are from their very Infancy debar’d those Advantages, with the want of which they are afterwards reproached …They are] nursed up in those Vices which will hereafter be upbraided to them. So partial are Men as to expect Brick where they afford no Straw. … How can you be content to be in the World like Tulips in a Garden, to make a fine shew and be good for nothing?”

She urged women to be scholars and poets and to strive for excellence, arguing that the life of the mind was “a Matter infinitely more worthy your Debates, than what Colours are most agreeable, or what’s the Dress becomes you best”. She encouraged women to aspire to higher things than “to attract the Eyes of Men. We value them too much, and ourselves too little, if we place any part of our desert in their Opinion; and don’t think our selves capable of Nobler Things than the pitiful Conquest of some worthless heart.”

#YesAllWomen indeed.

For my own part, and as non-religious as I am, I have to say that I am proud of John and his cultivation of not only his own education but also the support of the notion that women are – shock, horror – just as capable of rational thought as men. In their correspondence, he and Mary agree that as bodies have motion, so minds have love.

I’m not sure I can add anything to that.

 “How fading are the joys we dote upon!

Like apparitions seen and gone.

But those which soonest take their flight

Are the most exquisite and strong—

Like angels’ visits, short and bright;

Mortality’s too weak to bear them long.”

John Norris, The Parting (1678)

For more on John Norris:

Encyclopaedia Londinensis entry

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry


For more on Mary Astell:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry


Witchy Witchness

Its always good when you have an ancestor – or at least family – involved in one of history’s Great Events. Not that you wish them harm, but it increases the likelihood of there being records regarding their life – or at the minimum proves that they were there. Its one of the reasons military-minded ancestors are such a boon: not only do you get a shot at some personal info (height, weight, hair/eye colour, etc) but also – if you’re lucky – you get a sense of the kind of person they were.

During my investigations into my American families, its only my paternal side that has given me any long roots in America (not that the maternal side has none – I just haven’t been able to find it yet!), and there is a frisson when you get back as far as the 1600s and can count the ‘Founding Fathers’ of certain townships in your ancestry. But leading back to New Hampshire in the late 17th century there is also another event that looms at the back of your mind: the Salem witch trials.


“The Witch, No. 1”, c.1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker.

Continue reading

Grampy Eddie Taplin

It struck me a moment ago that I hadn’t ever got around to publishing a post regarding my fourth grandfather – Eddie Taplin. I’ve written about Ellis, Otto and Bob, but not Eddie.

As mentioned in my first post regarding grandfathers, I have no memory of Eddie, yet I was named (in part) after him. So what do I know about him?

Continue reading

Emily Alice Palmer

When does a member of the family become a ‘black sheep’? When they commit a serious crime? Adultery? Murder? A simple elopement? Somehow rebelling against the standards the family has set or the morals they live by? When does not behaving within the bounds of society turn into becoming a black sheep? Its a tough one to call – and not a label that I can easily tag onto one of my paternal great-grandmothers, Emily Alice Palmer, pictured below at the wedding of her daughter, Norah (my paternal grandmother).

Norah & Eddie's Wedding, 1949

Norah & Eddie’s Wedding, 1949

Emily was born on 26 June 1876 in the Wiltshire parish of Collingbourne Kingston, probably within the village of Brunton (now considered part of Collingbourne Kingston as a whole, Brunton, Aughton and Sunton were all separate villages alongside the village of Collingbourne Kingston). Her parents, Frederick Palmer and Mary Jane Fisher had married in October 1875, and she had an older sister, Sarah Ann Fisher, who had been born in 1874. Frederick and Mary Jane went on to have a further 8 children, all of whom survived to adulthood.

Frosty Collingbourne Kingston (by Anguskirk on Flickr)

Frosty Collingbourne Kingston (by Anguskirk on Flickr)

The majority of Emily’s siblings remained in Collingbourne Kingston, with a few scattering to other areas of the UK. The youngest, Dulcima Lillian May, emigrated to Australia with her husband, John Bagot Percival, and son, John Sydney Percival, in 1921.

Map of Collingbourne Kingston parish (

Map of Collingbourne Kingston parish (

Emily first crops up in the 1881 UK census, living at Tinkerbarn, Brunton, with her parents and 3 siblings. Frederick is listed as an agricultural labourer and no doubt worked on the Tinkerbarn farmstead.

1881 Census

1881 Census

In 1891, Emily is still living with her parents and siblings in Brunton:

1891 Census

1891 Census

The next year, 1892, sees the birth of Emily Alice’s first child – Edward Sidney Palmer – on 23 May. (In some later records he is referenced as Sidney Edward, and his family knew him as Sid, but his birth and baptism were both registered as Edward Sidney.) Three years later, Emily has another child, this time a daughter called Kate.

On October 22, 1898, Emily married Arthur Tom Bowley in Collingbourne Kingston. He was a carter on a nearby farm, although born in the village of Ham in the nearby parish of Shalbourne. Between 1900 and 1904 Emily and Arthur would have three daughters – Avaline Ada, Hilda Violet and Winifred Jessie.

On the 1901 census Arthur, Emily, her first two children Edward and Kate (interestingly, although Edward was enumerated with the surname Palmer, Kate was entered with the surname Bowley – was Kate, in fact, Arthur’s daughter despite her birth being registered as Kate Palmer?), and their daughter Avaline are living in the hamlet of Gallowood in Shalbourne.

1901 Census

1901 Census

It is after this point that things get a bit … complicated.

I knew at some point Emily Alice must have married somebody with the surname Murray – but could never find a marriage between a Murray and a Bowley (or a Palmer). Searching for my grandmother in the 1911 census I tracked down the family living in Marnhull, Dorset – and there was Emily Alice living with Joshua Murray.

1911 Census

1911 Census

Immediately, several things leapt out at me:

  • they stated they were married and had been for 18 years – Emily Alice’s eldest son, Edward, would have been roughly 18 at this time, but in no way had Joshua and her been together this long
  • various children with the Murray surname – Kate was a Palmer (possibly Bowley, as mentioned above), Hilda & Winifred were both Bowley
  • Avaline was missing – although the return states Emily had lost two children, and one may have been Avaline
  • Joshua’s occupation (threshing machine driver) fit with family lore

Using the FreeBMD website, I was able to find 7 children in addition to my grandmother born to Joshua and Emily, and the family settled in the Parkstone area of Poole, Dorset. Norah had actually been born in Collingbourne Kingston, and it was here where she made her home, having her children and then marrying Edward William Taplin in 1949.

Whilst I will come back to the Murray/Morey family in a later post, I should point out here that Joshua Locke Morey (as the name was spelled when he was baptised) was married at the time of … taking up with Emily Alice. He had married Mary Adela Blackmore in 1885, and they had seven children together – the youngest born in 1903. His eldest child with Emily was born in 1906 (her youngest child with Arthur Bowley was born in 1904).

The 1911 census for Mary clearly states she is married (i.e. not ‘Widowed’ or anything similar). I have not made contact with any descendants of Joshua’s ‘first’ family – something that I’ve put off for many years.

Descendant Chart for Emily Alice Palmer

Descendant Chart for Emily Alice Palmer

That wasn’t the end for Emily Alice, however. Following Joshua’s death in 1933, she married again in the same year to a naturalised Italian. Camillo Antonio Ciotti changed his name to Camillo Antonio Collins in 1941, the following announcement appearing in The London Gazette:

The London Gazette, 24 October 1941.

I, Camillo Antonio Collins of No. 182 Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, Poole in the county of Dorset, Labourer, formerly a head waiter, a naturalised British subject, heretofore called and known by Camillo Antonio Ciotti and that I have assumed and intend henceforth on all occasions whatsoever and at all times to sign and use and to be called and known by the name of Camillo Antonio Collins in lieu of and in substitution for my former name of Camillo Antonio Ciotti. And I also hereby give notice that such change of name is formally declared and evidenced by a deed poll under my hand and seal dated the 8th day of October 1941 duly executed and attested, and that such Deed Poll was enrolled in the Central Office of the Supreme Court of Judicature on the 21st day of October, 1941.

They had no children together and, following Emily’s death in 1949, Camillo married for his third time in 1952 to Winifred Dixon.

(But what of Arthur Tom Bowley? What happened to him? Research suggests that he married again in 1920 and had a further six children with his second wife, dying in Salisbury in 1940.)

Family Group ...

Family Group …

Grandfather Stanfield … er, Payne … er, Tisdale …

So now I’ll turn my attention to the search for my father’s father, which in a lot of ways was easier than looking into my other grandfather’s family.

My mother had for a long time kept a letter that had belonged to my father’s mother, Norah, and had been written by a lady called Geneva. The letter talked about “Bob” wanting to keep in contact with his son. From this letter I learned a couple of important things – that my father’s father was Robert Stanfield, that he’d married after the war to a lady called Geneva, and also a geographic area of the USA in which to concentrate any searches – Battle Creek, Michigan.

Upon researching this town, I emailed the town library to ask if they could help in locating Robert or Geneva. I initially received a response stating that a search had been conducted and there was information from the 1930 census, that Robert was drafted in 1941, and that in the 1949 city directory he was listed with his wife Geneva. No obituaries could be found for either Robert or Geneva.

Four days later I received another email from the librarian, stating that he’d managed to find an obituary for Robert in the Battle Creek Enquirer from 1969. This confirmed he was a veteran of WWII, and had been a self-employed truck operator, hauling mobile home trailers. It also stated that he’d been a life member of the Disabled American Veterans, and went on to list details of his family. A final email then arrived with the address of someone with the same surname living in the same town.

After some careful thought, I sent a letter to this person, explaining who I was and who I was looking for. I didn’t know if I’d get a positive reply, if any at all.

It was a surprise, therefore, when roughly a month later I received a letter from Geneva, the lady mentioned in the librarian’s first email and in the obituary. Reading the letter, I was immediately struck by the sincerity and warmth of this lady in sharing memories of her husband. Geneva wrote that she’d known about Bob’s English son, and there were also a number of photos included with the letter.

It turns out that the gentleman I had sent the letter to originally had been a cousin of Bob’s who had passed away some years before. His widow had worked with the Kellogg factory in Battle Creek with Geneva, and passed along the letter.

Following Geneva’s words was a section written by one of Bob’s daughters, who added:

I’m curious about your father, my half-brother. I learned of him when I was 15 years old and saw a picture of him in uniform that your grandmother had sent my Father.

Geneva had included a little information about Bob’s military service:

Robert joined the Army before WWII started. He wanted to see the United States. Well, he was sent to Fort Custer, about 10 miles from Battle Creek. When the war started he was sent to Iceland, then to England where he met your grandmother. He came home in 1945. This was all before I knew him.

Insignia of 19th Field Artillery

Insignia of 19th Field Artillery

One of the photos shows Bob’s grave marker, on which it states that he was a Private in Battery C, 19th Field Artillery. I am currently investigating what 19 Field Artillery did during WWII.

I also managed to locate a copy of his WW2 Army Enlistment record. This states that he enlisted on 27 January 1941 in Kalamazoo, Michigan and had one year of high school. He gave his occupation as “Semiskilled construction occupations, n.e.c.”, was single with no dependents and weighed 127lbs.

Everett & Nellie Payne

Everett & Nellie Payne

Geneva’s letter also made mention of Bob’s parents. He was born 15 November 1917 to Everett and Nellie Payne, but was adopted by his aunt and uncle – Robert Taylor & Nina Stanfield (Nina and Nellie were sisters). According to family lore, Everett and Nellie separated and Everett returned to Oklahoma where he was from. This left Nellie raising their three daughters – Mildred, Hazel and Arlene. (In fact, in 1930 the three girls are listed as “inmates” of House of the Good Shepherd in Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

This adoption explains the shift of name from Payne to Stanfield (Bob’s American family still use Stanfield to this day). Researching the Payne family further back, we reach Everett’s grandfather, John Sanford Payne, and his parents Hannah Dehaven and John Tisdale. Again, according to family legend John senior “disappeared”. John junior was adopted by his mother’s sister, Sarah, and her husband Baylor Payne. John’s sister Jennie remained with their mother.

So my surname? I guess it should be Tisdale …

A bit of a whistle-stop tour of available records and learnings, but this family has some interesting twists and turns – something I will undoubtedly be returning to in later posts!

I would also like to point out that in the 10 years since first receiving that letter from Geneva, I have remained in contact with my American aunts, uncles and cousins … and for the last 10 years I’ve been promising myself that I’ll get over there and visit them all. And I will … I will …

Grandfathers & Other Animals

Everybody has their own route into things. Different inputs leading to similar outputs – or at least travelling down similar roads.

In the case of my journey into genealogy – family history – the inspiration was my grandfathers. All four of them. Yep. You read that right.

Growing up, every Friday we would visit my mother’s parents – Eva and Otto Frysol – and have tea with them after school. I suppose at some point I might’ve asked why Grampy spoke with a funny accent. I suppose at some point my mother (or possibly one of my brothers) told me that he was German and had married my grandmother after the war. I think this blew my mind somewhat as I knew that, well, the Germans were the enemy during WWII. At some other point I was told, or found out, that my mother’s maiden name was not the same as Otto’s. This was due to the fact that her father was not Grampy, but an American soldier, named Ellis Howard Adams, who Eva had met and fallen in love with and then married. Parental forces had stopped my young grandmother and her daughter from crossing the ocean to be with him (or so I have been told – although the picture of Eva below was taken to be her passport photo).

I can’t say that my mother’s parentage was ever an issue – it certainly wasn’t for Otto. He was her father. End of story. He was my Grampy. End of story. But what of Ellis? My mother remembers playing with his two Purple Heart medals as a child, and also of receiving birthday cards upon occasion, and there were letters to Eva. Apparently two of my grandmother’s sisters attempted to trace him in America through The Red Cross – unfortunately the response was that he had remarried and didn’t want any contact. Which seemed to be enough for my mother. She had her ‘dad’. She didn’t need anybody else. But curious? Perhaps.


My father’s parents were a different story. His mother, Norah, was older than Eva, and I only ever remember her as an old woman – shrunken and papery. Which is a shame. I only saw her a few times a year … maybe my birthday and Christmas when we’d deliver her Just Brazils and Simple soap. Consequently she didn’t play a large part in my childhood mind. She had been widowed the year I was born. I can’t recall meeting Grampy Eddie, but he met me nonetheless. The story has it that he was severely ill in hospital whilst my mother was pregnant, but wanted desperately to see his youngest grandson. He held on until I arrived and was presented to him. To honour him, I was given his name – Edward – as my middle name.

But, as is obvious, there is another twist in this story. Eddie wasn’t my father’s biological father. That lay with a man named Robert Leslie Payne (although – to complicate matters further – he’d been adopted by his maternal aunt and her husband so was known by the name Robert Leslie Stanfield for the vast majority of his life). He had also been a soldier in WWII, and also American. Unlike Eva and Ellis, Bob and Norah weren’t married. And unlike Ellis, Bob wanted to know my father – even going so far as offering to adopt him, something Norah was against.

Again, my father was raised by his stepfather and considered him ‘dad’, and that was as far as it went. There were a few phonecalls as a teenager and even when he was engaged to my mother, but no true contact. Almost 15 years ago, in a restaurant, I asked my parents’ permission to try and trace their fathers and any related family. They agreed, with certain caveats.

And that was how I developed my obsession interest in genealogy. What I found and where it took me? That’s for another post. But these four men – Ellis, Otto, Eddie & Bob – all contributed to my life, either through nature or nurture, and their presence is felt in everything I do.