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Annie Powys died in 1912 aged 86; while she was born Ann Phillis Greenwood, for at least the second half of her life she was Annie Phyllis Powys. She had had five children, three sons and two daughters but only one of these five survived her, a daughter. One son and both daughters had issue and issue certainly survives to this day for two of these; descendants of the third went to Canada and records there have to stand for 100 years before they are open to the public, so I am not sure what happened to them. Annie herself was deserted by her husband after a bullying problem for their son at Eton, which her husband then raised in the press and could not handle the ensuing onslaught (’trolling‘ to us). Annie it seems remained devoted to him and when he had become old and senile, she moved to live near to where he lived with his secomd family.

Uncovering all that was a bit of a trial, so I was delighted to find a full and frank account of Annie’s Greenwood ancestry produced by one of her cousins and published privately around 1990. Eventually I found the author in west Canada and we corresponded briefly, by then he was in his nineties. Fortunately, his family put the results of his research on the internet and updated it a bit as he added information. Currently these Greenwoods of Haddenham, Bucks are catalogued at https://tree.michaeltgreenwood.com/g/. Perhaps I should add that while these Greenwoods came from Bucks, many of them lived and died as farmers and ironmongers in Berkshire, notably around Wallingford in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is now over 25 years since I first heard of this family history and I have not previously reviewed it. Over the years my standards have had to rise in terms of what information I will accept so I decided to see what evidence there was to be found for all these ancestors. There are 1,500 people on the Greenwood files. I have dwelt primarily on our ancestors of the 18th century and subsequently, some 31 people, who I thought I might be able to locate information for. These initial 31 are in Chart 1, below, though careful observers will note that there are only 29 different people as there was a marriage of cousins, bringing in the same parents twice.

Chart 1 – The Start: The Asserted Ancestry of Annie Phyllis Greenwood

Before the verifications were started (with relationships to TFPL)

Tim Powys-Lybbe April 2020

After a week I had made a list of what I could find from the comfort of Covid-19 lockdown at home and from the internet resources of Findmypast and FamilySearch with the addition of the wills found in The National Archive.

Here’s the results so far:

Total No. of people 31 (29 different people)
No. of baptisms found 4
No. of marriages found 19
No. of burials found 12
No. of wills found 18

The most remarkable of these was that the number of wills found in the PCC (Prerogative Court of Canterbury) was 18. I know some families lend themselves to genealogy by will, but this was the first time I have clearly defined how superior wills are as a research tool for people with at least rather modest possessions. I have yet to explore the deanery will records which may have been more used by the earlier generations of Greenwoods.

I have used these documents to answer the questions of whether proof can be found that the parents are related to the stated offspring. But does a baptism of a John with parents Peter and Mary prove that this John is the son of this Peter? The answer to me is that more information makes this more certain. Do the same parents have other children? Do all these children feature in the wills of the parents? Do the parents get a mention in the marriages of the children? Is the burial shortly before the time of proving the parents’ wills?

In a crude manner the number of different documents supporting a relationship is the guide to the veracity of that relationship. My scale is from “good” where many documents survive and confirm one another , to “weak”, or even “very weak”, where just one document survives to establish a relationship between named individuals. “No evidence” means just that and I have now deleted from my chart the parents of any child with no evidence of their parentage. This left some 23 verified-so-far ancestors and below is a family tree of these including my appraisals of the asserted descents from the asserted parents.

Chart 2 – The Verified Ancestors of Ann Phyllis Greenwood

(Gt-Gt-Grandmother of TFPL)

Notes on this verification

By 1990 or so Alex Greenwood had completed a magnum opus on his family “Greenwoods of Haddenham”. Eventually I acquired a copy of the relevant parts (thanks to all the later Greenwoods who provided me with that information) as this book included the ancestry of my gt-gt-grandmother who had been born Ann Phillis Greenwood.

At that time I was a tyro in genealogy and was grateful to have had this served up on a plate so entered it up, unquestioned, in my record of our ancestors and relations. It took me until 2020 to decide that this was not good enough and that I must make some attempt to verify this genealogy. By then more documents and abstracts of documents than ever were available on

 

the internet so I could do the verifiying by the records of the births, marriages, burials and wills that I could access from the comfort of my armchair.so I could do the verifiying by the records of the births, marriages, burials and wills that I could access from the comfort of my armchair.

From the documentation that I found I made an assessment of how good a confirmation that it provided that the child of the parents indeed had those people as their parents. To some extent that assessment depended on volume, the number of different documents that corroborated that parentage.

I managed to find, and be told of, a few more ancestors of these Greenwoods, so I’ve included appraisals of their parentage as well.

Tim Powys-Lybbe March 2020

To make the assessments I made two lists, first of the documents that I had found to date for each person, including the documents that I still could search for. The second list was of how well the documents proved that each person had the asserted parents. While both charts have Annie at the bottom, both tables have Annie at the top; the top of each table therefore has the best evidence as it is closer to us in time.

In Table 1 (below), the facts for each person were taken from my genealogy program (Reunion on a Mac, my trusty program for over 25 years):

  • Last name
  • First name
  • Relationship
  • Birthplace (this was only non-zero if I had found a record)
  • Marriage place (ditto)
  • Burial place (ditto)
  • Birth – Death years
  • Marriage date
  • Will data first sentence (ditto)

This was saved as a CSV (Comma Separated Variable) file and transferred into a spreadsheet where I added in a final column of ‘Missing documents’ where I listed which of birth, marriage, burial and will (if any) that I still needed to look for. In fact, of the original 31 people only three had the complete set of these four documents. The illustration only shows the first three of the 31 rows. This table did not include any assessment of the viability of the relationship of an ancestor to their stated parents. This table solely gathered together the list of factual sources already found and thise needing to be found. You can see I still have quite a bit of work to do and it will take a long time, particularly now that the libraries have closed.

Table 1: Documents needed for ancestors of Annie, neé Greenwood, Powys

Last NameForenamesRelationshipBirth PlaceMarriage PlaceBurial PlaceBirth - DeathMarriage DateWillMissing Records
GreenwoodAnn PhillisGG GrandmotherWallingford, BerksTilehurst, BerksHayward's Heath1822 - 191211 Jun 1844The Probate Index has: Powys Ann Phyllis
GreenwoodThomasGGG GrandfatherSt Mary the More church, Wallingford, Berks1795 - 184612 Jun 1823St Mary the More church, Wallingford, BerksBaptism
SheenAnn ElizabethGGG GrandmotherDorchester, OxfordshireSt Mary the More church, Wallingford, BerksSt Mary the More church, Wallingford, Berks1800 - 188012 Jun 1823Her probate index: Greenwood Anne

For Table 2, its design had to reflect what I was looking for. What I was looking for was the viability of the facts in confirming that each person on the first list was the child of their parents. This was complicated by the fact that Annie had been adopted by her childless Aunt at the age of six, so she had four parents, her natural ones and her adopted ones.

Annie’s grandparents occupy eight rows of Table 2. The list continues listing each ancestor to each of their parents and currently occupies 39 rows. I did not include people for whose parents no records had been found, though they may have been included as parents themselves. The columns for each person were, with the column letters of the spreadsheet:

A: Relationship to TFPL,

B: Name with death date of each ancestor,

C: Sex of the parent of this ancestor in B,

D: Name of the parent of this ancestor in B,

E: Did the birth record of this ancestor in B

F: Did the marriage records of these ancestors in B include the name of their parents in D?

G: Did the will of the parents in D include the name of this child in B?

H: Any other relevant relationship information,

I: Assessment of the validity of the asserted parents in D of this ancestor in B.

Table 2: Greenwood Ancestry Viability

What evidence is there that the Name ancestor is the child of the Parent listed in Alex Greenwood’s Pedigree of the Greenwoods of Haddenham?

Relationship to TFPLNameM/F parent of NameParent Named by AAGIs the Parent on the baptism of the Name?Is the Parent on the marriage of the Name?Is the Name on the will of the Parent?Other info and remarksOther info and remarks
ABCDEFGHI
GG GrandmotherAnnie Phillis Greenwood, d. 1912MThomas GreenwoodThomas Greenwood named as father in bapt transcriptNamed as father in transcriptHe listed his daughter Ann PhyllisFactual fatherGood
doMWm Stephens. adopterNANamed as witness in transcriptListed Ann P in his willAdoptive fatherGood
doFAnn Elizabeth, neé SheenAnn named as Annie’s mother in bapt transcriptShe listed her daughter Annie Powys in her willFactual motherGood
doFPhillis Stephens, adopterNAListed as caring for Ann P Greenwood, in will of Thos GreenwoodAdoptive mother of her nieceFair to weak
GGG GrandfatherThomas Greenwood, d. 1846MCharles Greenwood, d. 1835Thomas’ baptism record not found (yet)Thomas and Ann named, witnesses were his mother plus three Sheens, so right familyThomas and Ann named, witnesses were his mother plus three Sheens, so right familyFair, with two corroborating evidences
m.doFMary Ann, neé JaquesdoShe was a witness at Thomas’ marriageNo will found for Mary A GreenwoodWeak

Table 2 was all entered by hand, unlike Table 1 for which only the right-hand column was manually entered, the rest of Table 1 coming direct from my genealogy program.

Several times I found myself getting confused and assessing whether the records proved the existence of the ancestor in B instead of whether they proved the parentage of the ancestors in D to their children in B. You may not have this difficulty, but my warning is “Be very careful to assess only the viability of the asserted parents."

At the moment Alex Greenwood cannot be criticised. So far, all the documents I have found at least corroborate what he wrote. One or two, even, extend it. So, I have every anticipation that I will slowly find earlier and more documents to corroborate his findings. After al l, I only spent a week on this and he must have spent over thirty years on his quest. Though Alex did set a bad example by virtually never mentioning any of his evidence.

In conclusion, I would remark that this sort of review is something you, or a relation, can usefully do for any asserted genealogy.

Berkshire Family History Society

Berkshire Family History Society

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