The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

Who Were Betsey and Emmer?

By Diana Kennedy

This article was originally published in the August 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

Cynthia Cheney who researches the name Hairfield, and variants, approached me in 2004 saying that she had copies of two letters, one from 1854 and the second written in 1868 both mentioned the name Sewell and was I interested. Naturally I asked for copies and you can imagine my delight when it became clear that the letters concerned my own ancestors. The first was a reply from the Suffolk Wills Office to Joseph Hearfield believed to be Cynthia’s great grandfather, telling him that if he sends 18shillings (approx. 90p) they will send a copy of a Sewell Will. No other details given.


The second letter also mentions a Will. This I have identified as the Will of my x5 great grandfather Dan Sewell who died in 1853. Cynthia’s family couldn’t understand why or how there was any connection with her own family. I also did not know of a link between the Hairfield’s and the Sewell’s or why John Harefield, the receiver of the letter, was interested in the Will of Dan Sewell.


The following is a copy of the second letter, punctuation as you can see was not important! I have added numbers in brackets with a key to their identity at the end of the letter.


Chestnut Grove

New Malden


March 3 – 68

John Harefield

                We received two papers last week conclude they come from you. I am sorry to say my dear Husband has been nearly layed up the last six months, we very seldom go to London now, that we have lost sight of all those we knew in business, we went to Woking this last summer to see Dan Sewell (see1) poor Betseys Brother, to hear if he had received his money from Brown his Fathers executor, (see2) he had settled with all, except Emmer’s and that he should not pay unless she come over for it, or send over a Power of Attorney for it now I was thinking you had better get a Lawyer to do it, and send it to Richard Lee Mayhew Esq. Saxmundham, to get it from Mr Brown for you, for if not done soon there will be no one living that could speak to its being correct. I have wondered Emmer have never written about it, and I have not heard from her since she was going into business for herself she said. Poor Sister (see3) has been dead rather more then twelvemonths. Brother and Sister on East Green (see4) are as usual, but I have not been down since poor sisters death, give Mr Mayhew your proper address- should he be for per note to get it he could send it direct to you, as we are quite out of the way of all business now, but it will be a great shame if she do not get it, as no other part of the family will be better for it, if she do not have it. I shall leave this for Mrs Lamprell (see5) then to finish for me, with best wishes

I remain yours A Ely (see6)


(1) Dan Sewell born in Suffolk was the second son of Dan Sewell, a farmer and Mary neé Hammond. Dan jnr moved from Suffolk to Surrey in the late 1830’s. Living around the Leatherhead, Woking area of Surrey.

(2) John Brown was an executor of Dan Sewell’s Will written in November 1848. He also was a Suffolk farmer.

(3) The sister was Phoebe, eldest child of John and Elizabeth neé Kent. Phoebe had died in February 1867. Phoebe was a sister of Dan Sewell snr.

(4) The brother and sister at East Green are Joseph, and his wife Letitia, who farmed at East Green, Kelsale in Suffolk.  Joseph was a brother of Dan, Phoebe and Amy Sewell

(5) Mrs Lamprell is possibly Elizabeth the daughter of Amy and John Ely.  Elizabeth had married an Edmund Lamprell.

(6) Amy Ely neé Sewell married John Ely in 1833. Amy is Dan Sewell’s youngest sister, daughter of John Sewell and Elizabeth neé Kent.


But who were ‘poor Betsey’ and Emmer? My first thought was that Betsey and Emmer were daughters of Dan and Mary Sewell. I knew that Dan and Mary had three sons. John born in 1808 followed by Dan born 1812, both were baptised in Snape, Suffolk. I am descended from their third son, Jonathan born 1824. However I have never been able to find a baptismal record for Jonathan, although I know he was born in Snape, Suffolk. Because of the long gaps between children, it is possible that Dan and Mary had more children, but again I have never found any records to confirm this, in or around the Snape area. Dan’s Will only refers to John and Jonathan who he had already given some money and then talks about the rest being divided between his ‘other children’ rather than to his other son. So it seemed likely that either or both Elizabeth and Emmer were daughters of Dan and Mary, but there was no real evidence.


And of course who were the Harefields/Hairfield’s and why were they so interested in the Will of Dan Sewell? Cynthia could find no link between the Hairfield’s and Sewell and did not know why the letters had turned up in Australia and found by a cousin in Adelaide amongst some papers.


Then this year Cynthia wrote to say she had found the Sewell/Hairfield link. Elizabeth Sewell had married Joseph Hairfield in November 1842 in Poplar, Middlesex. Her father was given as Dan Sewell, a farmer. This makes it more than likely that Elizabeth was the daughter of my Dan and Mary. Poplar was also the area that I knew Jonathan, her brother came to live in the 1840’s. Amy and John Ely were also in the area. John Ely a Licensed Victualler was at the Eagle Tavern, Mile End Rd, not far away, in 1851 PO Directory.


Elizabeth and Joseph Hairfield had a daughter Elizabeth Emma born January 1843. Cynthia and I then found two more sons born at Fore St, Limehouse, where Joseph Hairfield was a Coffee House Keeper. Joseph Daniel born October 1845, died March 1846 and Joseph Jonathan born February 1848, it is not yet certain what happened to baby Joseph. Elizabeth died in November 1848 in Limehouse. Joseph Hairfield then took his surviving daughter, Elizabeth Emma, together with Sarah Venters, his housekeeper to Australia in 1854. It is from Joseph’s second marriage to Sarah Venters that Cynthia is descended. Efforts to find what happened to Elizabeth Emma in Australia have been fruitless so far after 1870.


Going back to the letter, it now seems very likely that the Elizabeth Sewell who married Joseph Hairfield and who died in 1848, was the ‘poor Betsey’ referred to in the letter by her aunt Amy. I also think it is likely that Emmer was Elizabeth and John’s daughter Elizabeth Emma? The Will of Dan Sewell states ‘the four parts aforesaid (of his property) I direct shall be equally divided between all my children only I direct that  such sums shall be deducted as have been in value already given namely from my son John’s part five pounds and from Jonathan part three pounds that is to say they are to have so much less then the rest of my children and the lawful children of any deceased child as servant in common and not as joint Tenant such children to take their parents share only of and in my said property’. Therefore Elizabeth Emma would have inherited from her grandfather, in place of her mother and should have received the money when she became twenty one, in 1864. Hence the interest by the Hairfield’s in the Will of Dan Sewell. It is interesting to note that in 1853 after his death the sum left was under £500.


It now seems more than likely that Elizabeth was the daughter of Dan and Mary Sewell and was born in Suffolk and that Emmer was Elizabeth’s daughter and Dan and Mary’s granddaughter. Hopefully one day I will find the evidence to confirm it.


My thanks to Cynthia Cheney for the letters and the help and information she has provided.

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