A few days ago I finished my morning blog post for Olive Tree Genealogy blog and sat back, feeling at loose ends. Okay I admit, even though I hate the word, I was bored.
"What next" I thought. Work didn't appeal to me. My almost daily trips to Ancestry.com had pretty much exhausted those databases for my personal genealogy research for the time being. Yes, I still had mom's English ancestry to explore but I wasn't in the mood for census records. Ever felt that way? It's kind of like wanting an ice cream cone so you turn your nose up at a donut.
With a bit of a ho-hum attitude, I began googling some of my English ancestor names. I've done that before and there's not usually anything terribly exciting. But this time I found an archived Geocities website that contained "Draft Wills and Indentures, Kent". One of the many pages was called "Draft Abstract of title of Mr. john Sandwell Stead & Others to 1,2,3 & 4 William's Cottages near Ramsgate"
John Sandwell Stead of Ramsgate Kent England was my great-great-great grandfather! The 3-page draft abstract contained details on John's wife's family. Her name was Emma Sutton and I knew very little about her except that her parents were William and Ann, she was born in 1812 in Ramsgate and according to her death certificate, a sister Charlotte was with her when she died.
By the time I finished reading the papers and analyzing the information contained, I knew much more - that she had brothers William Sutton (a blacksmith) born ca 1816 married to Fanny; Robert Sutton born ca 1819 married to Charlotte Elizabeth and Samuel Cowley Sutton born ca 1820 married twice, the second time to Elizabeth Petts. Emma also had two sisters - Phoebe married to a Mr. Little and Mary Ann married to a Mr. Crunden or Crumden.
Exact dates and locations of marriages of Emma's siblings was given. So were locations. This draft document was quite a find! Naturally I rushed back to Ancestry.com to start searching the census and other English genealogy records.
Four hours later I took a break. In my few hours of research I found quite a bit on Emma's siblings in the 1851 and 1861 census records. I didn't get to 1871 or later yet but I will. I was able to verify that Emma didn't have a sister Charlotte (the one mentioned as being with her at the time of her death in 1875) but she did have a sister-in-law Charlotte. That is likely who was with Emma and that's an interesting cautionary note - to be careful assuming modern-day meanings for relationships.
I knew from my 17th century Dutch research that often the term "Brother" could mean brother-in-law and "Sister" could mean sister-in-law, but I hadn't thought to apply that to my English ancestry.
Other interesting (and possibly important) finds were that two of Emma's brothers were blacksmiths. Often such occupations in England were passed from father to son and that meant there was a very good chance that Emma's father William was also a blacksmith. No guarantees of course but a viable working theory.
I also found many church records for Emma's sister Phoebe who left Kent and settled in Yorkhire. Thanks to her move, I was able to find her marriage entry in a parish church (the actual image) and learn that father William Sutton was a blacksmith.
Aha! That helped confirm that a couple named William and Ann Sutton I'd previously found living in 1851 in Ramsgate were almost certainly my 4th great-grandparents. William was recorded as a blacksmith (and a pauper) but I had no proof that my Emma's father was a blacksmith. This find added more weight to my assigning this couple as my 4th great-grandparents.
I actually learned many details that day - such as realizing that the name of one of John Stead and Emma Sutton's daughters (Phoebe Little Stead) almost certainly was in honour of Emma's sister Phoebe (Sutton) Little. Little things perhaps but all helping to build a more complete family history.
Summing up I know now that my Sutton ancestry is:
Gen1: William Sutton born ca 1775 in Barking Essex married Ann (surname uknown) born ca 1777 in Tilmanstone, Kent
Gen 2: Emma Sutton born 1812 Ramsgate Kent died 1875 Ramsgate Kent married 1831 Ramsgate John Sandwell Stead
Today if I have time I am going to hunt for William Sutton and his wife Ann. I'm also going to find out about the four cottages that my ancestor John Sandwell Stead had title to. Also on my list is to find out about Barking Essex and Tilmanstone Kent. All these details add to my family history and I'm excited to get started.