by Roger Chalk
This article was originally published in the August 2009 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
I wonder if other members of the Sole Society have found that sometimes it is difficult to go back further than say 1800 with any degree of certainty. When I joined the Society in 2006 I sent my Sewell family tree file to Diana Kennedy and she kept it for our records.
I can now confirm that my earliest Sewell ancestor was indeed John who married Ann Webb in 1661. But I always had a nagging doubt about my 4 times great-grandfather John’s origin. He married Elizabeth Wapshare in 1789, in Salisbury St Edmunds, and was ‘from this parish’. But even with a good deal of professional help searching all of the many Salisbury parishes for John’s baptisms, nothing was found.
I turned to the I.G.I. and found a John Sewell born in Middlesex in 1760. In 1744 a John Sewell was removed from Wilton, near Salisbury, to Whitechapel, Middlesex by a Settlement Order after examination. It seemed just possible that my John was his grandson, so I asked the Metropolitan Archive Service to search for any John Sewells born about 1760. They found a very promising family of John and Ann Sewell who baptised their son John in 1760 at St George in the East, Whitechapel, Stepney. They sent me a copy of their marriage entry which gave the groom’s signature and a John Sewell as witness.
Back in Salisbury I had been able to piece together, from parish and apprenticeship records, all Sewells recorded there. This included the John Sewell removed to Whitechapel in 1744, and his brother William Sewell.
Now William’s grandson, William, died very young at 27 but left a will in 1796, having just married Ann Mould in 1790 at Salisbury Fisherton Delamere. To my surprise I noticed the similarity between “John Sewell”, my John’s supposed father, and “J Sewell” who witnessed the will.
At this point I stuck my neck out and declared “this confirmed the link between my London and Salisbury Sewells.” However, soon afterwards I discovered some Salisbury baptisms of children of a John and Mary Sewell in 1790. Was this one the real John Sewell baptised in London? There was certainly no record of it taking place in the Salisbury area. Would that I could have resurrected my 3x great grandfather William to ask him where his father came from – he is buried only a mile from where I live!
It only recently struck me that the record of William Sewell’s wedding in 1790 might show something because he was linked to London by the signature on the will. My John of course married Elizabeth Wapshare a year before in Salisbury St Edmunds. I had ordered the microfiche copy over the phone from Wiltshire Archives, and opened it yesterday. There it was: as luck would have it my John had witnessed William’s marriage and William had witnessed his.
At last I have established my Sewell family tree and the connection with London beyond all reasonable doubt. I should sleep better now!
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