An exciting e-mail from Josephine Morris-Turner
From: Josephine Morris-Turner [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, October 08, 2012 7:22 AM
Subject: Brereton Excitement!
I am writing to you after 4 amazing days during which I have not only discovered more about my Brereton ancestry, but also 'hooked up' with two distant relatives from the same line.
2 years ago, a friend who was 'into' genealogy kindly offered to research the family tree on my maternal grandfather's side (Albert Edward Brereton of Rustington, Sussex) and she duly provided me with two massive binders crammed full of research going back to the early 1700's. To be honest, not being a genealogist, it overwhelmed me and I put off sitting down to make head and tail of it. For some unfathomable reason I decided to 'Google' the name 4 evenings ago and stumbled upon your site. I sat until 4am, completely riveted as I read the enquiries and emails, and waded through my tomes to see if I could match any names - I was thrilled to find a definite link to Joan in Ontario, who had written to you a few years ago. Well, I then sat until 6am, writing to Joan, who replied to me just a few hours later! She, in turn, put her 4th cousin in England on to me and he and I have shared lengthy, fascinating emails over the weekend. It is simply marvellous and my mother (85) and aunt (88), maiden names Brereton of course, are amazed and most interested..
To put you in the picture, my Grandfather, Albert Edward, 1892-1985, had 3 sisters and a brother - Dorothy, Vera, Elsie and John, aka Jack. Grandpa married Muriel Maud Browning, a descendant of the Robert Browning poet family. Looking at the noble lineage of the Breretons, it seems that I'm rather well dragged up, yes?! Grandpa and Grandma had 4 daughters, Daphne, Ailsa, Sheila and Dorothy Elizabeth (my mother). Because of the fame of the poet and his wife, there is a lot of information freely available on the Brownings, and the husband of one of my cousins has also done a family tree for that side. However, until my foray, nobody had bothered to 'do' the Breretons who, frankly, I find to be far, far more interesting, scandalous and compelling. Grandpa comes down from the line of the somewhat wayward Reverend Henry Brereton, 1783-1867, who married twice, firstly to Theresa Elizabeth Cowdrey, producing one daughter, Theresa Eliza who died at the age of 27. However, whilst still married to Theresa, Rev. Henry began, whilst Rector of Haslebury in Wiltshire and at the age of 51 or so, an affair with the 20 year old daughter, Ann Willis, of a farmer from Urchfont, a village a few miles away. This relationship continued for the rest of his life, Ann producing no less than 11 children with Henry, out of wedlock! Theresa and Henry divorced (we think, as there is some paperwork about an indenture of settlement) in 1834; Henry and Ann's first child Alfred Henry, was born in 1834, the day after the indenture (!); Henry and Ann went on to have another 10 children; Theresa died in 1858 and in 1859 Henry married Ann, 3 years after the birth of their 11th child James, finally making an honest woman of her when he was 72 and she was 42 or so!
There is a puzzlement now. Two census records show that, for many years, Ann lived with her children under a false surname, Edwards. Henry was at the very least separated but it seems that he was actually divorced. He wasn't living with Ann, either, from my records, so why did Ann therefore start to use the name Edwards rather than Willis, her maiden name? I then remembered that I had seen the name Edwards elsewhere in my tomes and finally found a bizarre connection. For a period of time, Henry was living with one of his brothers, the Reverend John, and was apart from Theresa, from whom, as I say, he was either separated or still married. He was obviously still travelling to see his Ann Edwards in the neighbouring county (ie Ann Willis), but looking at his ecumenical 'tours of duty' throughout all the years, he must have spent a lot of time travelling to see her and his children, not easy in those days of minimal transport.
Now, here it gets v-e-r-y interesting to say nothing of complex: Rev. Henry's brother, Rev. John, 1782-1862, married Elizabeth Humphries and then Laura Harris Abbot. By Elizabeth Humphries he had a son, also called John. (By the way, the eternal repeating of names, as either first or middle, makes things extremely exhausting, doesn't it?). Son John married an Emily Edwards; he lived with her and his mother-in-law Charlotte and brother-in-law Edward Edwards (groan!) in the next county. It seems bizarre to me that Ann should have used the surname Edwards when it was her illegitimate children's cousin's wife's name (still with me?) so I can only conclude that there would have been discussions and an arrangement made between them all which suited some sort of purpose. What that purpose was we may never know. Was it to protect Henry, a 'man of the cloth'? Was it to save Ann from being vilified by her neighbours and local community? Was she in trouble with the Willis family who had tired of her producing so many children whilst unmarried and told her to use a different name? Suffice it to say that my over-imaginative brain has come up with all sorts of scenarios, not all of them a picture of romantic love, so if anyone is able to illuminate me and my 'relatives' it would be good to unravel the real situation. Frankly, the convoluted activities of this branch of the Breretons, is more interesting than a riveting novel and I'm sure that other branches are equally as charismatic.
Of the 11 children Rev Henry had with Ann Willis/Edwards/Brereton, the first was the Rev. Alfred Henry, 1834-1872, and it is from he who I and my newly-found English relative are descended: Alfred married Mary Beets, nee Dent, from Kings Lynn, who had been widowed by her husband Sheldon after only 2 years of marriage. From that marriage, 5 children were produced: Henry; John Francis, my Great Grandfather; Emily; Alfred William, my English 'cousin's Great Grandfather, and Lucy. Joan Pearce from Ontario, who wrote to this site in 2009 and sparked my amazing weekend off right royally, is descended from Thomas Arthur, one of the brothers of John Francis and Alfred William's surgeon father, Alfred Henry, i(e their uncle) Thomas Arthur. I have a lot of information on the other siblings and this can be supplemented by Joan Pearce, I believe/hope.
We are heavily connected to the Breretons in the Bedford area, including the Headmaster (?) of the Bedford School at which, coincidentally, my 'cousin' (who comes from the line which settled in South Africa) was a young pupil. Even more coincidental is the fact that my genealogist friend, who I only met a few years ago, actually worked at the school in the bursars office when she had a placement there and well remembers the Brereton name and, indeed, the nearby street of the same name. She found my Brereton family tree the most interesting she had ever undertaken and even wrote about it in the parish magazine! What an amazing coincidence. (Also, her mother had a connection, through employment at Forty Hall, Enfield, in the 1930's when she worked for the Parker Bowles (as in Camilla, wife of Prince our Prince Charles). I need to go a little off track here as it is more distant to most people: In the 1841 census, a Fanny Mitchell, aged 14, lived at Goat Lane, Forty Hill, which is on the corner of the Forty Hall estate and, I believe, now incorporated into it. Fanny later married one Edward Mitchell and gave birth to Emma. Emma grew up and married John Francis Brereton, my Great Grandfather. Tenuous but just plain interesting. I noticed that in 1734 the property passed to an Eliab Breton, who refurbished the ground floor, but he appears, in spite of the corrupted spelling, to have nothing to do with Breretons.)
I do not know whether I have a lot of information compared with others, but I' coming to the conclusion that it is detailed and useful. The beauty about all of this is that linking with other distant relatives with different information means that we can fill out what we know, piece together the jigsaw and come to a better understanding of what made our ancestors tick and how we all ended up where we are. I have a lot of information on Breretons who emigrated to Canada, Iowa, Virginia, New York, Kansas, plus other locations too, including Trinidad and South Africa - there may be more but I am currently overwhelmed! We do, of course, go back to the famous John Brereton, mercer, Nantwich, and, by definition, to his lines prior to that date. During my 18 years as an officer in the WRAF, as an Air Traffic Controller. I was a radar instructor. air traffic control instructor of new students, for 3 years on the base which is really close to Wem, Malpas, Nantwich and Chester, but at the time had no idea of the family connection, albeit a very long time previously.
If anyone would like to contact me to see if we are connected and can therefore put even more meat on the bones of this fascinating family, I would be delighted. Names which appear in this morass of paperwork before me include Lancelot Andrews, Greening, Picknell, Fagan, Hawkins, Tinker, Willoughby, Streeter, Johanna Ernestine Schuwow, Dulcibella Brereton - Petman?, St John, Snook, Hill, Leeder, Miles, Beets/Dent, TO NAME BUT A FEW!
I look forward to hearing of another reunion, when I may be able to attend and, hopefully, encourage my mother, Dorothy Brereton Turner, now 85, to join me. Her remaining sister, Sheila, is alive and living in south London. Also, we are planning to hold a party for my parents, having missed doing it this year after they turned 90 and 85. I plan to give a presentation at the party about the Breretons and I just know that it will not only be interesting to all my cousins, but it will also be really entertaining. I need to keep plugging away at this as there is much more to discover yet. In the meantime, if you will permit it, I would be thrilled to be incorporated into this fascinating site.
I will conclude with a word of caution, as a newbie to all of this: Be careful of hissing at someone in front of you in the supermarket or store, who has 11 items in their basket rather than the maximum of 10!! They might turn out to be a distant relative!
Lenton, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England