Do I own my family tree? Well, looking at my tree, it consists of my parents, my sibling, and me, and, yes, personally, I do own my family tree, along with my sibling. It is unique to me and my sibling. I can never patent it or claim copyright or stop other people finding out the information, so at the same time I don’t own it. 

A change happens as I add direct line ancestors, because the tree is then no longer mine personally, but shared. All that extra information is found in the public domain. The further I go back the more shared the tree becomes, and cousins get introduced. My direct line becomes their direct line, but only partially.  

My mother has a very different family tree to that of my father, in fact his family tree doesn’t show up in hers at all. So no one on her side of the family will be linked to my dad’s and my dad’s tree will have nothing of my mother’s tree. The children from my father’s siblings’ marriages will get my dad’s tree and the addition of a new branch. And this happens with every child born to every marriage in every generation in every one of my direct lines, until the amount of my tree they get is diluted in the same way as DNA. So it halves and halves again until the cousins become so removed there is little blood relationship left. 

I could create my family tree on the computer, but as it only contains 4 names, and I and they know each other, it is a bit pointless. The huge family tree made up of direct bloodlines, their siblings and children etc., I could put it on my computer where no one other than me can see it, or a website where only I have access to it. This is great if I don’t want input or mistakes done by other people appearing on it, whether done by distant family or not. But if I am looking at other people’s trees and using what they have discovered to add to my tree, after checking, am I being completely honest with myself or with them? Am I being fair to use their hard earned effort and sometimes money to shortcut the system and not give anything back in return? Now, I am not a secretive person, but like to share the new things I find with those that have unknowingly helped me.  

I have chosen to take the risk of interference and put up front what I have researched, giving all the sources and reasons why I have made a particular decision on a person. Now I am not perfect at getting the research correct for family members that I have never heard of, yet alone met and know anything about. I do sometimes make mistakes, and I rely on those who are in the direct line of this extended tree in putting me right. But my mistakes allow living cousins to find and contact me, and in some cases keep in contact. I thank  them for doing it, and it makes me very aware just how many in my family are doing the same as me, to track down all the family members, back as far as we can go. 

However, this is not categorised as a world tree, although many of my very extended family do live in other parts of the world. Less than 15 years ago, a decision was made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to get members to research and build the  trees of what we would call ‘in-laws’. This had come about because many families who had been in the church for generations, had basically run out of names to research. As such the ‘in-laws’ were family even if not bloodline family. Also the finding of people in towns and villages had become a lot easier by the amount of indexing done, especially through the pandemic, by the church and other organisations. It did raise the anomaly of people showing up in unexpected places and with no background to speak of and little in the way forward either. They were recorded on paper in one place only, but lost to their families and unless a person was going to spend a lifetime looking for them, they would never be found. 

The world tree is finding a way to link people who are not directly connected through bloodlines or ‘in-laws’, together. A tree that stretches out across villages, towns, counties and eventually countries, was conceived around 4 years ago. A tree that is so large that personal ownership cannot happen. It takes many people to help build such a tree, working away diligently on their own trees and linking them to trees other people are building. It also takes an element of trust that those building their trees are doing so correctly, and asking them to explain themselves if they cross the line into people I have been researching. It is an exciting project, and everyone taking part does it by choice. The  only website that I know that is building such a tree is Family Tree, in FamilySearch, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and is free to join and search. 

My Taylor bloodline appears to have moved once in each generation. Fortunately, it had been an easy search until my 3x great-grandfather, Richard, died in 1846 in Brimpton, Berkshire, his wife dying a year before him. With no birth place given on the 1841 census for either of them, other than Berkshire. The civil records for marriages had not started, along with a gap in the parish records for the time, it looks like my search has stopped there for a while at least.  

My 2x great-grandfather, Dennis, was born in Brimpton and moved to Beenham when he got married and that was where my great-grandfather, Thomas, was born, in 1859 along with several siblings. So Beenham seemed a good place to do a bigger study to find out if there was a reason why my 2x great-grandfather moved from Brimpton to Beenham, other than marriage. 

Beenham is in the registration district of Bradfield, which is not to be confused with the village of Bradfield. As part of the complete study, I used the 1851 census as the basis. The census covers the whole of Beenham Vallance Parish; including the village, Beenham House and Park, Hare and Hounds Inn, Railway Station and Beenham Lodge. It doesn’t give the date of the census or who the enumerator was. The first page starts in Bourn Lane in the village. Google Maps doesn’t have a Bourn Lane, but has a Webbs Lane, where there is a Bourne Grange farm with a number of houses of the right age built around the edge of it. There is also a green road down the side of it, which could have been Bourn Lane at one time. Google Maps can often show where a house once stood, and no longer exists. 

The first people mentioned are – 

  • George Chapman, head, widower, 24, Ag Labour, born in East Garston, Berkshire about 1827 
  • Sarah Chapman, daughter, 4, born in Beenham, Berkshire about 1847 

My first action was to try and find them both on the 1861 census, but not only did they not show up in Beenham, they had completely disappeared from anywhere. George Chapman did not show up in East Garston on the 1841 census, and I never found a christening for him in East Garston, which is in the Hungerford area.

On the face of it, this has nothing to do with my Taylor family. And at this point I gave up on them for a few weeks, while the little grey cells could work. But I had a gut feeling there was more to this than I was seeing, and then sprang into action. 

A check of the parish register for Beenham showed that Sarah was actually Sarah Ann Chapman and christened on 29 Nov 1846. I did find deaths for a Sarah Ann Chapman and a George Chapman, separately, later in the 1850s in Berkshire, but with others of the same name it was impossible to say if it was a correct match. This is when the purchase of certificates comes in handy and other names might show up, but doing that for someone outside the family is taking things a bit far. 

Next I looked for the death of his wife, and found Elizabeth Chapman had died in the civil  registration district of Bradfield, Berkshire in Q1 1851 Vol 6 Page 112. Using the registration district of Bradfield, I looked for a marriage and found George Chapman had got married in 1846 in Bradfield. Using the volume and page information I then matched Elizabeth Potenger to George Chapman. Q4 1846 Bradfield village Vol 6 Page 25 (the spelling of Potenger comes in many formats). Elizabeth Potenger was christened on the 2 Jan 1825 in Bradfield village church, and her parents were William and Sarah. It turns out that Elizabeth, aged 15, was living with Hannah Wigmore, a widow, and her children Henry, Jane and Rostennah in Bradfield on the 1841 census. There was something about the last name Potenger that I recognised, but couldn’t put my finger on it at that time.  

Sharing the house with the Chapmans were  

  • Chas Wigman, head, lodger, 23, Ag Labour, born in Beenham about 1828. 
  • Ann Wigman, wife, 21, born in Bradfield, Berkshire about 1830. 

As they were both so young, I looked for a recent marriage. It turned out to be a strange mixture of information, least of all that no one of the name Wigman showed up. As expected it appears the name was badly written and then mis-transcribed and should have been Wigmor, which is often spelt Wigmore. This is what I found – 

  • Charles Wigmore Q3 1850 Bradfield Vol 6 Page 220, with no matching bride Charles Wigmore Q3 1850 Bradfield Vol 6 Page 229, to Kezia Snell 
  • Charles Wigmore and David Barrington Q4 1850 Bradfield Vol 6 Page 227, Ann Bince and Anne Pottenger 

David Barrington stayed in Bradfield and I matched him to Ann Bince, because the name Bince has never come up in my family research. The thought also occurred to me that Anne Pottenger could have been the sister of Elizabeth and nursing her through her last days. I did some investigation work into the Potenger family. 

Anne Pottenger was christened on 17 Oct 1830 in Bradfield to the same parents, proving that the 2 girls were sisters. Interestingly one of the witnesses to the marriage of William Potenger and his wife Sarah Marshall in 1815, was a John Chapman. This was a second marriage for William as he was listed as a widower, but I have not looked for his first wife yet. Anne was living with her parents William and Sarah in Bradfield in the 1841 census. Sharing the same house in 1841, was James Potenger and his family. He is aged 30 and could well be a son from William’s first marriage, but not confirmed. 

Looking for the christening for Charles Wigmore in Beenham, it was done on 10 June 1827 and his parents were William Wigmore and Sophia. The 1841 census indicates he has already left home and moved to Bucklebury, where there is another section of the Wigmore family. However, this is not part of my research family. He is an ag lab on a farm. Looking up his parents on the 1841 census, they are living in Beenham. The copy of the original document is so unclear, that the transcriber has read the name as Wymore and not Wigmore. There are a number of siblings but the only one whose age would be  correct is Mary Wigmore. This makes Mary the sister to Charles and she was christened on 9 Jan 1825. Mary married Dennis Taylor on 25 March 1843 in Beenham. He was  christened on 25 Oct 1818 in Brimpton church. The birth certificate of my great-grandfather  Thomas also gives his mother’s name to be Mary Wigmore. Dennis is my 2x great- grandfather, and Mary Wigmore is my 2x great-grandmother.  

The link of George Chapman has now been completed, although he has nothing to do with my family in a direct way, as shown below. There is a chance he would have come up in an ‘in-law’ search, but not guaranteed. 

A small family tree of three generations
This is how the world family tree works. A name or in this case father and daughter, of no  significance and untraceable family, appear on a piece of paper. They could have stayed in that position for the rest of time. But a little investigation brings them to life, and turns them into people who were part of a village community. They are part of a family that has nothing to do with mine, but a sibling of the one is then linked to the sibling of another by marriage. Joining all the dots together brings them together, and a small part of a very extended tree is created. But, the link of the Potenger sisters, to the Wigmore brother and sister, then revealed that they were in-laws to my 2x great-grandparents, Mary Wigmore and Dennis Taylor. Going beyond that it has linked Brimpton, where Dennis came from to Beenham village, to the village of Bradfield and to the village of East Garston, all in Berkshire. Already the tree is expanding in families and in distance. This is  not about ownership of a tree, but being part of the tree humankind makes up.  

All the sources used were the standard ones found on FreeBMD, FamilySearch and Ancestry and Google Maps.

Berkshire Family History Society

Berkshire Family History Society