Searching for Symons

This week we have had Alex with us on work experience. While he was here he took the opportunity to do some research into his family tree using many of the resources we have available in our own collections as well as some of the resources of our partner departments of the North Devon Record Office and the Local Studies Library. Here are just a few of the things he discovered and how he went about it…Barum Athena

This past week I have been taking an in-depth look into my family’s past and have managed to trace my Grandmother’s maiden family ‘The Symons’ back to 1795 to one Abel Simmonds who was baptised on 11th January that year, in Alverdiscott. Through my study of the 221 years that followed I have learned a great deal as to some of the scandal, and character of my distant ancestors.

052-07 Alverdiscott Church
Alverdiscott Church [North Devon Journal Collection Bx052-07]

The illegitimacy of my great grandfather’s father William Symons who was baptised on the 26th October 1862 sparked my curiosity as he appears to be the only illegitimate member of my family documented between 1795 and the present day. As it is well known, illegitimacy was greatly frowned upon during the time of William’s birth, much more so than it is today but what really strikes me as interesting is how the family seemingly reacted to the shameful news. By following William’s life through web sites such as Ancestry, DustyDocs and Find My Past I found him in the 1871 Census, being looked after by his grandfather Ambrose Symons, a valued Yeoman and Farmer at Luppingcott in Alverdiscott, baptised on the 5th October 1806, until he was taken up in an apprenticeship by uncle Richard Symons who was a Blacksmith some time before the 1881 Census.

Southdown map
Southdown, Alverdiscott, where Sarah was living at the time of William’s baptism [1st ed OS 6″]

William’s uncle Richard is believed not to have had children, and as William was without a father and little is known as to the whereabouts of his mother Sarah after William’s birth, it would be nice to think that a fatherly bond formed between the two. In fact William named his 6th and final child Richard Claude who was possibly named in remembrance of who taught him a trade. Little else is known about William aside from his marriage to Ada Henrietta Holmes on April 6th 1896 in The Parish Church in Newton Tracey. Ada’s father George Holmes was an Innkeeper in Newton Tracey.

Richard Claude Symons was born the 26th January 1909 to William and Ada and moved to Step’s Cottage in Horwood with his wife Maude E King both of whom appear in the newly released 1939 Register. Richard is one of the first Symons’ to be listed as an Agricultural and Heavy Worker rather than just a Labourer.

Parsonage Farm
Parsonage Farm, Horwood where Step’s Cottage was located [1st ed OS 1:2500]

With the help of Sandi and Naomi I managed to locate an advertisement on letting possibilities at Luppingcott Farm from one Ambrose Symons on 4th March 1852 in The North Devon Journal. (Page 4 column C) Coincidentally, the advert was published 149 years before my birth to the day. Through the advert I inferred that Ambrose must have been of great importance to Luppingcott Farm as he was in the position to advertise its facilities. It was then that Sandi told me that farmers would have been rich in comparison to many other occupations and that Ambrose would have been considerably well-off as he seems to be an important and therefore highly paid member of the farm.

NDJ 1852.jpg
North Devon Journal 4th March 1852 page 4 column c


Techniques I Used To Gather The Information:

To find the Newspaper article I began by looking for the surname Symons in the index drawer, which then directed me to the main index folder marked for 1852.

The folder gave extra information on what Ambrose was advertising and what page it could be found in the original newspaper. In order to find the advertisement I had to search in the North Devon Journal newspaper microfilm archive in the 1824-1888.

I then looked through the film on The Self Service Printers and found the correct page and printed it off.

Using the many maps I managed to locate the places my family had lived and where major events had taken place in their respective lives such as marriages and places of birth. Here is a map of Southdown in Alverdiscott, the birthplace of William Symons.

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