52 ancestors in 52 weeks .... 1st post of 2022
The theme for this week is “Foundations“, thus I have chosen my oldest Watson ancestor, William Watson, as it was his great grandson, Joseph Watson that first got me interested in genealogy.
The pic above is of his gravestone in St Bridgets Churchyard in Bridekirk, Cumbria.
When I started researching Joseph Watson, I believed the family originated from Holy Island in Northumberland on the east coast of England, just south of the Scottish border. However, once I started researching, I found that Joseph’s father, Anthony Watson was actually born in Bridekirk in Cumbria, on the West coast. Anthony Watson was ordained as a priest, and was posted to Holy Island as a vicar of the parish church of St Mary the virgin in 1822 until his death in 1867. His children settled in Holy Island and Lowick on the mainland, however from what I have found so far, his Watson descendants have daughtered out, and this branch of the Watson line will become extinct.
Watson's from Cumbria
As we are now researching the period prior to civil registration in Britain in 1837 and prior to the first census in 1841, we have to rely on other sources such as parish records, headstones or more inaccessible material to in order to find out about our early ancestors. My visit to Bridekirk along with my niece, Justine Wall in 2015, where we visited a few graveyards, (along with many old country pubs) in villages where records indicated our family had been including Bridekirk, Papcastle and Cockermouth in Cumbria proved to be hugely beneficial for this research, as we found a headstone which clearly established the link between William Watson, a Yeoman from Bridekirk (my 5X great grandfather, his son, Anthony Watson Snr, and Anthony Watson, my 3X great-grandfather, the vicar of Holy Island.
The baptismal font in St Bridget’s Church, Bridekirk, which is thought to date from the mid-twelfth century and includes inscriptions of Scandinavian / Viking runes, which probably originate from early Viking settlements in Cumbria. My DNA test results show about 10% Norway and 3% Sweden and Denmark, so this was doubly interesting for me. Also humbling to think many of my ancestors were probably baptised here.
Viking settlement in Cumbria
This was a description of the the baptismal font in St Bridget’s Church in Bridekirk, evidence of Viking settlement from the 10th century.
As Watson is a pretty common surname in the North of England, it is not easy to verify which of the various Watson records relate to my 5x great-grandfather. I did however find a probate register entry from the Prerogative Court of York for William Watson of Papcastle, in the parish of Bridekirk from February 1796, which is a few months after his death, so was reasonably confident this referred to him.
Using this information, I was able to locate a copy of his last will and testament,which was really interesting as he did not name an executor in the will, thus the Prerogative Court of York appointed his son Anthony Watson (my 4X great grandfather) as administrator. What was a bit weird, that he did not leave anything to Anthony, neither did he name him in the will. The court however clearly identified him as the next of kin, and son of William Watson.
Apart from excluding Anthony Watson from his will, he left his estate to his two ‘sons’ named Pearson Morrison and John Strickett! I didnt understand this at first, but then thought, maybe he was referring to his sons-in-law. As these are fairly uncommon names, a quick search of marriage records confirmed this, and identified 2 more Watson sisters from the 1700’s that I had not been aware of. Based on this information, I was able to locate baptism records for their children and grandchildren and follow the family lines into the period after 1837 when civil registration was introduced , and into the period where census record are available.
Collecting the information about the siblings of ancestors and their descendants is incredibly useful as it enables one to identify overlaps in DNA matches’ family trees. In my own research, I have a cluster of DNA matches, who I suspect originate from an early Watson ancestor, and am hoping that these new family lines will help confirm that.
Marriage records of the two “sons” of William Watson mentioned in his will, confirming that Jane and Frances Watson were his daughters, and sisters to my 4X great grandfather, Anthony Watson.
This doesnt resolve the mystery of why Anthony Watson was not mentioned in his father’s will however. Perhaps he had already received his inheritance prior to the death of his father, or perhaps there was an incident which caused him to be disinherited? Not sure I’ll be able to find that out, but certainly something to bear in mind when conducting further research on this family line.
The main benefit of this work however is that it can serve as the foundation to identifying the connections between my present day DNA matched cousins!