21 July 2019

How I Found Sarah Sheppard's Parents

Over the years I've worked long and hard to trace descendants of my direct ancestors' siblings, and my efforts have been richly rewarded. On five occasions those descendants had very old family documents that have smashed through 'brick walls' in my family history.

My most recent success was the result of a DNA test. Because I'd traced side branches of the family from about 1800 right down to the 1980s, I could see that one of my DNA matches is a third cousin once removed. I contacted John and offered to exchange information. (I'd written to his mother thirty-six years ago, but she didn't reply, and I'd lost track of that line.)

I knew that my ancestor Sarah SHEPPARD, born in 1762, married Richard GIBLETT in Frome, Somerset, England. Imagine my excitement when John sent me photos of a bible (published in 1736) in which are written SHEPPARD family names and dates, mainly from the 1700s! The bible entries show (among other things) that Sarah's father was Benjamin SHEPPARD, and that he was married on 1st October 1746.

In the magnificent London Metropolitan Archives collection, I found an image of a parish register that says Benjamin SHEPPARD married Elizabeth BEEX on 1st October 1746. [London Metropolitan Archives ref. P91/LEN/A/008/MS07498/001, Saint Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex.]

Screenshot showing ancestors of Elizabeth Beck Webster
Ancestors whose surnames were used as middle names
I suspect that Elizabeth's surname may actually have been BECKS or BECK. My family has a document written in the late 1800s that says, 'Our maternal ancestor's maiden name was BECK.'

The family also had a habit of using ancestral surnames as middle names; and great-grandchildren of Benjamin SHEPPARD and Elizabeth BEEX include Elizabeth Beck WEBSTER, Elizabeth Sheppard WEBSTER, Richard Giblett WEBSTER, James Porter WEBSTER and George Harley WEBSTER. I had previously identified the origin of middle names Sheppard, Giblett, Porter and Harley. Perhaps this latest discovery explains Beck.

The family bible includes Benjamin's death date, and I found a burial register entry for him in Frome, Somerset.

Without the names and dates in the SHEPPARD family bible, I may never have identified the correct family. Tracing descendants of all of your direct ancestors' siblings, and contacting those descendants, is a research strategy that I highly recommend. It has worked well for me on many occasions. Give it a try!

(This post first appeared on https://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2019/07/how-i-found-sarah-sheppards-parents.html.)

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