Planning my Ancestral Investigations in Devon

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April 12th 2019
Published: April 12th 2019
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At the beginning of each year I look at my wish list of destinations and then decide, based upon circumstances, where to spend my two or three week vacation time abroad. Linda and I will take separate vacations for the fourth year in a row as one of us has to stay home to take care of our dog Bonnie. Linda will take her three weeks or more to visit family in PA and CT after I get back.

On 1 Feb I bought a ticket from Denver to London and return to JFK for $368.43...cheaper than flying R/T from Denver to the East Coast! This year I plan to take my vacation in three parts: starting on 30 April, the day after Linda's birthday, I will fly from Denver to London.

Once in England I planned to rent a car and drive to Devon for one week. I will spend the first day in the Devon Records Office and then on subsequent days drive to the surrounding towns of East Down, Umberleigh (where I will stay at the Northcote Manor), King's Nympton, Crediton, Newton St Cyres, Upton Pyne, Chagford, and Lympstone to visit the castles, manors, churches and graveyards where my ancestors lived and died from 1103 until my three times great grandfather Thomas moved from Devon to Newfoundland in about 1814.

For my second week I will then return to Heathrow to return the rental car and take a train to Ashford, Kent to join the Old Way pilgrimage route from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (the map of which was just discovered!) at Sandling. I will walk to Elham, Barham, and finish at Canterbury Cathedral. I return to London for a few days before flying from Gatwick to JFK, where Rosanna, Evan, Connor and Logan will pick me up for the last week.

However, circumstances put this plan in jeopardy. On Feb 13th I was diagnosed with the aggressive form of prostate cancer. I elected surgery over radiation, and was fortunate to be able to schedule surgery for 4 April. Today my surgeon advised that he was able to remove all the cancer. He gave me the clearance to implement my plan.

As mentioned above, the primary purpose of this trip is to research my ancestry. I have been a subscriber of since 2002, but not until recently has it been easy to use to find ancestors with all the hints and links to others' family trees. So in this last year I have been able to track down:

- my fathers' paternal Norwegian ancestors back to my 11 times great grandfather Rasmus Haukanes, wife not known, who was born in 1565.

- my father's maternal German ancestors back to my 10 times great grandfather Jostgen Thomas Weber and his wife Dilgen Kreinen, both born in 1550, and.

- my mother's maternal English ancestors only as far as my two times great grandfather, George Hayter, wife not known, who was born in 1835.

It is on my mother's paternal English ancestors side that I've made the most progress, as once I hit aristocracy I was able to trace the Northcote/Northcott family tree for her maiden name back to my 27 times great grandfather, the Norman knight Sir Galfridus FitzWalter de Northcote, who lived at Northcote Manor of East Down, Devon in 1103. Galfridus's descendants lived in Devon and were Sheriffs of Devon, Justices of the Peace and rich wool merchants until John Northcote (1599-1676) became the First Baronet of Hayne. His son Arthur Northcote (1627-1688) became the Second Baronet of Hayne. Their pedigree was confirmed by the Heralds in 1620. Back in the 1960's, prior to my Ancestry research, my Uncle Tom paid a genealogist to trace the Northcote/Northcott ancestry. His research took me up the chain all the way to Galfridus de Northcote, confirming what the Heralds had confirmed. Coincidentally, my Uncle Tom visited Linda and me in 1986, and we toured the south of England together. One of the nights we stayed at an inn in Midhurst. I wondered why he wanted to stay there. It turns out that some of his relatives, the de Bohuns, the Earls of Midhurst and Ballymadden, lived at the Midhurst Castle in the 13th and 14th centuries. Was this a coincidence, or was he tracing his ancestors without our knowing it? Anyway, I wanted to see for myself the family tree documentation.

This is where things got interesting! Sir Arthur Northcote Second Baronet of Hayne was married twice; first to Elizabeth Welsh with whom he had three children: John (who was next in line to be Third Baronet of Hayne), Arthur, and Elizabeth, all of whom were born about 1650. Secondly he married Elizabeth Godolphin, the eldest child of a very aristocratic family, with whom he had nine children starting in 1650; six of whom survived childhood. So what happened in 1650? I could not find any record in the 1650 time frame of Elizabeth Welsh's death or divorce prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Godolphin or the birth/baptism dates of John and Arthur (Elizabeth died young). So I will be looking for these records at the Devon Records Office. I will also be looking for the baptismal records of both sets of children. Curiously these sources show that John, his younger brother Arthur, and Arthur's wife Margaret Gay, all died in 1679 or 1680, and that Arthur and Margaret's son Mark was born in 1679 or 1680...all within a year of each other with the precise year in dispute. So in addition to 1650, the events of the years 1679 and 1680 raised a lot of questions. I wanted to know why there is a question about the year and how and why John, Arthur and his wife Margaret died so young, and why these deaths were so closely spaced as the odds of this happening are small.

The Devon Records Office confirms that Mark married Jane Hannar, who was a commoner and hence forbidden. They do not have a record of Mark's birth/baptism. They suggested that this record had not been digitized yet. I decided to go to Devon to do the research. My hypothesis is that when Mark Northcott married Jane Hannar, a commoner, on 3 May 1708 after they had a child out of wedlock the year before, his aristocratic family disinherited him, with Mark's birth/baptismal records expunged and with Mark having to change the spelling of his last name from Northcote to Northcott in all future records. I want to see the baptismal record, so will look at the original parish records from 1679 and 1680 at the Devon Records Office in Exeter, Devon.

The title baronet of Hayne passed to the sons of Elizabeth Godolphin; Francis who died without progeny, and then Henry, from whom the Baronet title passed down to Sir Henry Stafford Northcote (1818-1887), the Eighth Baronet of Hayne and First Earl of Iddesleigh, the most prominent Northcote (look him up on Wikipedia), to the present day.

Interestingly, I can trace my ancestry through both my Mom and Dad's trees to King Edward I and thus to William the Conqueror. Through my Mom's tree which includes the Courtenays and Bohuns, King Edward is my 21 times great grandfather. Through my Dad's tree, which includes the de Bohuns, King Edward is the father in law of my 3rd cousin 18 times removed. This seems to prove the theory of six degrees of separation...21 generations back quite a few people are related!

So in eighteen days I'm off to merry olde England!


12th April 2019

Wow, Bobby! So interesting! Glad you are doing well physically and hope you have a great time in England. Greg and I are planning to go this year, too. Have fun and God bless! Sharon
12th April 2019

Ancestorl visit
You have done exceptionally well in tracing the family back.Just in the last few days I have traced my Scottish side back to 1595 but records before that so far have been elusive.We too are planning atrip to Europe and the UK but not until 2020.First though in just under 6 weeks we are off on safari to South Africa,Botswana and Zimbabwe for 3 1/2.It will be a different fit for the BBA #4.Pleased to hear the surgery went well.Now make every post a winning post and enjoy the 'wallow' in your roots.Look forward to the ongoing blog.
12th April 2019

Fantastic recovery! I’m so glad you got the go ahead from the doctor after your scary diagnoses and treatment. I think Ancestry travel is fascinating, and tracking down your roots gives you a feeling of belonging. I’ve been waiting on retirement to do my own quest.
12th April 2019

"How I got to Here"
Denise's brother has spent the last few years researching his family tree from the birth of the first to set foot in Oz. And amazing history it is. He converted it to a hardcover book with his dissertations and all the historical documentation gracing the pages. He called it "How I got to Here." His book is 4cm thick and starts in 1801. Just think of the joyful hours you have ahead of you compiling like book if you can trace your ancestry to 1066! Ah...I can see the joy on your face just dreaming of it Bob.
13th April 2019

Ancestry research is like detective work...
I've got about 7000 ancestors in my tree thus far. I think the most interesting is Godgifu (Lady Godiva) (1010-1087) the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. I am also related to King Edward I, and up the chain to William the Conqueror. I've found Linda's Scottish ancestor (Robert Bruce, King of Scotland) who chopped in two the head my ancestor Henry de Bohun at the Battle of Bannockburn. I hope to learn even more when I visit Devon. As for producing a book, that would be very time consuming, so likely won't happen.
13th April 2019

Great news on getting the all clear. Looking foward to reading about your trip.
14th April 2019
Kent Countryside on the way to Canterbury

Stunning beauty abounds
Photos like this make me take pause.... amazing beauty.
14th April 2019

Searching family roots
We've been to Switzerland to visit the graveyard of Dave's ancestors. It looks like you have a great plan and we are excited for you. Congrats on the positive outcome from your surgery! Following your roots completes the circle and makes things make sense. I'm so glad you have the time to do this. Eager to hear more of what you find.
12th May 2019

Wow, very interesting - I'm impressed with how much you have learned about your family history! Wonderful news also on the recovery, lovely to hear. Wishing you an enjoyable and informative journey in merry Old England 😊
25th May 2019

Thanks. was very helpful in tracking my family tree. Being able to visit the places they lived was icing on the cake. I will be publishing a Travelblog in the near future, mostly from the FB posts. As you can read from those posts I had an amazing time in Merry Olde England!

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