In the autumn of 2004 my aunt, Barbara Joan, asked me to research the family history, saying that she would dearly love to find a photograph of her grandfather. Armed with a book which she sent me, about researching family history on the internet, I set off on my mission.
My grandfather was Frank Haines Jefferys. I had inherited from my father, John Anthony, a copy of Frank’s birth certificate which gave his place of birth as Wernham Farm, North Savernake, Wiltshire. His father was Thomas King Jefferys and his mother was Elizabeth Haines. Also in my father’s papers were copies of pages from the 1875 and 1885 Kelly’s Directory which confirmed Thomas King Jefferys as a farmer at Wernham, Savernake.
Was this the same Captain TK Jefferys whose name was inscribed on the silver tea service that my brother had inherited and which was now lurking deep within the cupboard under the stairs? Added to this tiny store of information was Barbara Joan’s memory that someone in the family had been the Mayor of Calne. It was a start.
I ordered a copy of Thomas King Jefferys birth certificate. It gave his father as Robert Stiles Jefferys.
There was little available online in 2004 and I had to send away for a copy of the 1851 Wiltshire census on disc. From the information, I began to make the connection between Robert Stiles Jefferys who farmed at Maiden Bradley and some other Jefferys, who also farmed there. There also appeared to be a draper at Calne. They had all been born at Hilmarton. Perhaps they were brothers or cousins.
Whilst entering details on the Genes Reunited web site I saw an entry that seemed to refer to Thomas King Jefferys. The contact was somebody called Elisabeth. I sent a message straight away. Back came a reply from her husband Malcolm Lee. He confirmed a family connection and emailed me a copy of his family history file.
I was totally unprepared for the emotion I felt as twenty-five pages covering seven generations of Jefferys appeared on my screen. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I wished that my father was still alive to enjoy the moment. He would have been utterly fascinated and delighted by the way in which his sadness at the prospect of the name Jefferys dying out (since my brother refused to do his duty and produce heirs) appeared to be unfounded.
Nor had I expected such emotion whenever I came across evidence that so many of our ancestral family had died as babies, children or young people. We know academically that the death rate amongst such age groups was high but when we find that it was our own kin, it brings it closer to home.
Conversely, it was heartening to find that, although farming was a hard and difficult occupation, provided they avoided accidents our ancestors were evidently quite fit and lived to a good age.
Malcolm introduced me to Robert Stephen Jefferys and his wife Joan. Joan provided me with many nuggets of family history and with several photographs. Through Genes Reunited I contacted Richard Bolter, another descendant of the Jefferys. He sent me copies of the relevant pages from his family history.
Genes Reunited also enabled contact with a relative of the family of my 4x great grandmother and through a web site for Wiltshire family historians I contacted a descendant of one of my 3x great grandfather’s sisters who has also sent me useful information.
I am indebted to Malcolm and Elisabeth, Robert and Joan and to Richard and others for sharing their histories. Malcolm and Elisabeth’s hard work have formed the skeleton on which I have hung the flesh. I’ve added the results of my own research and we now have a history covering thirteen generations of the Jefferys family.
It’s in the blood
My grandfather’s career had taken him to India, where he met and married my grandmother who was the daughter of a British army officer. My father and his sisters were born in India. Although they went to boarding school in England, they had little contact with their Jefferys family apart from their Aunt Marge (Margery) who married Walter Dew, a farmer.
I have memories of staying on their farm near Redditch over half term in October 1961. I was terrified of the turkeys which strutted through the farm yard, gobbling at me through the kitchen window though I enjoyed hunting for eggs in the hay bales in the barn.
However, my brother John, then aged 10, took to the life on Park Farm as though he was born to it, donning his little Wellington boots and striding out to fetch the cows in for milking, smacking them on the rump with a stick (even though they were much bigger than him) and ordering them to ‘get along there’.
I’m not sure which year it was but when John was still at primary school, at the time of his confirmation my father and I had stood at the back of the church and watched as all the children walked sedately out of the pew and up the aisle towards the altar and the bishop: head down, hands piously clasped together, looking sweet and innocent. All, that is, except my brother. He strode up the aisle, swinging his arms, head up and looking about him; his image was that of a farmer out inspecting his land. My father and I looked at each other and smiled weakly. Yep, that was my brother!
These two memories of John in ‘farmer mode’ have stayed with me over fifty years and I’ve often puzzled about them. Now I understand. You can take a branch of the family out of farming but it is still in the blood, in the genes.
Next: In the beginning….