2: Ancestry
                         William Warner Major

Jill C. Major, Author 

 Map of Cornwall, Devon, Bristol

 St. Ives - Historical Pictures

 Map of England Counties



William Warner (c1750-c1811) and Mary Eaton (widow c1750-1794), maternal grandparents of William Warner Major

William Warner Major was named after his maternal grandfather. William Warner, a well-to-do butcher, and Mary (last name unknown) who lived in London. That William Warner’s business flourished is proved by the fact that after his wife died, he obtained a "A Licence from the Arch Bishop of Canterbury," moved to Bristol, and married a widow, Ann Williams. A license gave the right for the bearer to marry any time, anywhere he chose. It was only granted at the archbishop’s discretion and it cost a "whacking great sum…and would probably only be available to the well connected." 

Marriage record of "William Warner of St. Giles Cripple Gate London widower and Ann Williams of this Parish Widow.  Married in this Church (St. James) by Licence from the ArchBishop of Canterbury this Twenty second Day of April in the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Five" Notice the unusual trademark of William Warner by his signature.


The Widow Andrews was likely associated in some way to the book trades, because the same year William Warner married her, 1795, he opened up a book store in Bristol. Unlike many other trades, such as printing, which required a seven-year apprenticeship, a bookseller could set up a shop if he had connections or the capital. W.W. Major’s maternal grandfather was an ambitious, upward mobile man and he picked a time and a place that was gaining a modicum of fame. Concerning the city of Bristol in 1796, the writer and poet, Robert Southey said, "I know of no mercantile place so literary." Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Southey and other poets gathered there for several years. Some discussed politics, while others wrote, published, and lectured. The Warners were certainly aware and perhaps even acquainted with these contemporaries in their city since Wordsworth and Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads in Bristol in 1798.


Henry Major (1739-1821) and Elizabeth Coniam (1742-1809) were the great grand parents of William Warner Major.



St Ives, printed by Thomas Dugdale in "The Curiosities of Great Britain" or "England Delineated" abt 1830.  Owned by Jill C. Major


The Major family ancestry dwelt in the little town of St. Ives, Cornwall for 250 years.  They were moderately prosperous yeomen (farmers) and tin miners. In the 18th century, the more financially solid the family, the wider the search for a suitable bride or groom and the greater the chance a marriage would be contracted out of the local area.8 Henry Major III(1739-1821) and Elizabeth Coniam (1742-1809) were the great grand parents of William Warner Major. A decision was delayed until Henry Major III was thirty-one years old. A bride was found in the parish of Newton, St. Cyres, Devon County, ninety-two miles northeast of St. Ives. Henry wed twenty-eight year old Elizabeth Coniam. The marriage entry read:

Henery MAJOR of this parish Gentleman and

Elixabeth CONIAM of this parish Spinster were

Married in this church by Licence

This Eighteenth day of December in the Year one Thousand

Seven Hundred and Seventy by me Nicholas GAY Vicar

This Marriage was solemnised by us Henry MAJOR

Elixabeth CONIAM

The inclusion of the title "gentleman" is an indication of the rising mobility of this family which enabled William Warner Major to chose art as an occupation. In earlier times a gentleman was "...entitled to bear arms, though not ranking among nobility."  In Henry Major’s case, we know his forefathers were of solid middle class stock; thus, he was not born a "gentleman," but claimed the title himself. Henry’s father-in-law, William Coniam, butcher, held title to lands called Whitmore and Wissen in Devon County. Since no male children in the Coniam family survived past childhood (a fact that Henry Major III knew before the marriage was contracted), he inherited the Coniam property.


Richard Major (1771-1821) and Frances Constance Warner (1780-?), parents of William Warner Major

The move to Devon improved the social status of the Major family, which impacted W. W. Major’s future greatly. There was more leisure time, more culture, and education. This generation of Major children learned to read and write, or at least sign their names, and they studied music. Richard, the oldest son of Henry Major III and Elizabeth Coniam, grew up in what is known as the Hanoverian Age (1714-1837) since King George I, George II, George III, all descended from the House of Hanover, Germany. During this time period, women of the higher social classes learned to play a keyboard instrument, such as a harpsichord or spinet, and to sing. Men played the violin, cello, oboe, and flute. Richard probably played several instruments and also learned to inscribe the musical notes on paper. As the son of a gentleman, Richard Major followed tradition and delayed his marriage until he was thirty years old. A suitable bride was discovered in the City of Bristol, a busy port city sixty-six miles northeast of Newton St. Cyres. On 19 April 1801, twenty-one year old Frances Constance Warner donned a white muslin wedding dress. An empire waist dress which dropped in a straight, smooth line to her feet, was the style of the era.  She walked down the aisle of the old Bedminster Parish in Bristol. (see marriage record) William Warner and Mary, dubbed their daughter, who was London born and christened in St. Leonards Shoreditch, August 6, 1780, with the solid English name, Frances Constance Warner.  On the marriage record Frances had conspicuously altered her middle name to "Constantia" which she used thereafter. (see illustration)  Perhaps it had more flare, more social prominence than her more ordinary name of "Constance" given at birth. No doubt both families considered the marriage a good match; Richard Major’s education and musical talents served to aid in expanding the Warner family’s bookselling business.

 Richard Major & Frances Contantia Warner of the Same were Married in the Church by Banns this 19th Day of April in the Year One Thousand Eight Hundred and one...In the Presence of Wm Warner Jr,  William Room.  (Wm Warner Jr. is Frances Constantia Warner's brother).


Music and Bookselling

From 1801 to 1806 Richard Major likely worked with his father-in-law in the bookselling business.  Bookshops vied with coffee houses as social centers in a town. Often they were large and situated on the main thoroughfares. Talk of local news and gossip must have filled the ears of young W. W. Major. His education would have been enhanced by discussions about the newest books, favorite authors, poetry, politics and a myriad of other spoken and published topics. Letters written by W. W. Major show an educated flowing writing style, strong vocabulary, and remarkably correct spelling for the mid 19th century. (see appendix.)

The Major family's involvement with printed material provided a rich cultural environment for the development of William's natural art talent. England led Europe in printing around 1800. Engravers, many of whom were fine artists, produced illustrations for books and other printed materials from the 1780's to the 1820's. Laborers, usually emigrants, women, and children, were hired to color the pictures by hand in workshops.  William could easily pull a book off the shelf of his father’s or grandfather’s shop, such as William Barrett’s History and Antiquities of Bristol, published about 1789. As he flipped through the pages, he could examine portraits, and engraved scenery, art forms W.W. Major would later employ to record Mormon pioneer history.

W.W. Major was presented with a baby brother Henry, named after Richard’s father, in 1807. Richard and Frances Major opened up a music and bookselling shop on Bridewell Bridge, not far from the Warner’s shop in 1807 and Father-in-law, William Warner expanded his shop to include music selling that same year. Two years later, William’s grandmother, Elizabeth Coniam Major, died while visiting London.  A month after her passing another son was born: Richard Major, Jr.. Business continued to flourish and Richard Major Sr. relocated his music and bookselling shop to a prominent location on 10 Broad Street, a main thoroughfare through Bristol. (see map) There, on April 8, 1811 R. Major engraved, printed, published and sold his first known music. "Eight Anthems, in four parts, with an Accompaniment for the Organ or Piano Forte…by William Holmes, of Ideford Devon."   Since the musical composer was a Devonshire man, he was likely a friend or acquaintance of Richard Major’s family.