Vol.1 No 2                                   SPRING 2008

The Devon newsletter written by and for Devon family researchers. 

From the book, Glorious Devon
The Guildhall, Exeter.  It still stands today, though the streetscape is different. And it is still just as impressive!

The downtown section , or town centre as they call it in Exeter, is largely new construction since WW2.  The Guildhall, and a handful of other buildings survived, but most did not.  Miraculously, two blocks away from the Guildhall is Exeter Cathedral with its park-like grounds, and it was not damaged.


Putting Flesh On The Bones Of Your Devon and Cornwall Ancestors, by Sherrell Branton Leetooze.

This is a source book for family researchers and helps you find resources such as:

County and District offices

Registration District offices

County Records offices

Family History Societies

Genealogical Societies

Historical Societies

Publications from various societies

Publishers and book sellers

Map publishers

Libraries with Archives and research facilities



National Associations and Archives

Canadian associations and archives (for those in Devon and Cornwall who are researching related family groups who emigrated)

click here for order form


Do you have photos of old places in Devon?  Do you need old photos of Devon places?

Send Sher an e-mail with your donations or requests.  If it is out there I'll try to find it!


Where did your Devon family come from?  Are they still there?  Did they emigrate?  Let us know.

Are you in need of some assistance?  Advice?  A few new cousins (live ones, preferably)?  Let us know that too!  

This is YOUR newsletter - take part in its creation!

Send your requests, submissions to Sher for the next edition.




Ryan Taylor's Devon

A Newsletter For Those Researching in Devon

VOL. 1 NO. 2                                                                                         SPRING 2008
Genealogy 101

When you first start out looking for ancestors it is difficult to know where to start. I started by asking my Grandmother some questions about the family, but she never liked the family she married into so she wouldn't tell me anything. "You don't want to know about those people!", she'd say to me. Nothing I could do or say would convince her otherwise, and so I had to find out on my own how to tackle this project.

That was 30 years ago before the search for family and roots became a worldwide obsession. Obsession you say???? Yes, yes, I mean it! You can't go anywhere without tripping over genealogists and family researchers on the prowl for family! Back then when I started there were no people to tell you how to go about it. There were books about going to St. Catherine's House, London or Trinity College, Dublin or other national repositories to look up their records, but that didn't help the majority of us who did not have the travel resources needed to go gallivanting all over the world looking for Great Granddad! Armchair researchers were not heard of. But I must add, at that time parish clerks were more than willing to copy out the parish register entries for your family if they were asked to do so in a letter, especially if it contained a donation to the church's 'new roof' fund.

Now things have changed. Many old records have been microfilmed. Government bodies are having old records transcribed and made available to the public at a cost, and therefore, for a fee. Private companies are also transcribing old records by the hundreds and selling them for profit. It can get pretty expensive. So how does an armchair researcher get things done?

More and more we are relying on the internet to supply us with data - well, I guess that's all well and good - it could possibly give you an outline to follow. But the meat and potatoes of your research will still have to be 'real' records - that is, certificates with names and dates recorded at the time of the event, not somebody's transcription of what a document says.

Because it is so hard to follow a family, I wondered how hard it would be to follow a whole community. I went to Hugh Wallis' 'Batch Number' pages and to Devon, and took one of the first parishes listed : Ashwater Baptist Congregation. It was small and covered only 9 years but it gave me nine families to research. Armed with these 15 entries from 1828 through 1837 I went to the Disc version of the 1851 Devon census. Here I found five of the people mentioned - most still at home with their families.

Next I went to the BVRI #1 and found no one - Devon and Cornwall are not well represented on that set of discs.

Then I visited the FreeCEN site - 1841 and 1851 census are not done. The 1861 census gave me only a brother and father to one of the people on my list.

My last stop was to FreeBMD site. Here I found the marriage and death of only one of my people.

So far, my search was coming up nearly empty handed, and you can see that searching 15 people should not be that difficult, but it is, even with all the transcriptions available. I know it's costly to do your family history, but unfortunately if you want the real facts you have to dig deep into your pockets and resources. I suggest that you set up a genealogy fund. All the change in your pockets at night ought to go into a jar, and at the end of the month whatever you have you spend on one or two certificates. In between times do your best to pinpoint the person you are looking for - no sense buying a dozen useless certificates. Never order a certificate unless you are absolutely certain you have found your person - the certificate will do a few things for you:

a) confirm your suspicions

b) take you back one more generation, hopefully - both birth and marriage certs will likely have parents' names.

c) in the case of death certs, the person reporting the death may be a relative of whom you previously had no knowledge.

The bottom line is this - rely on primary sources for your information - in other words original documentation. Use all others as a guideline only, to build a framework to which you will attach the proof - the original documentation.

Now on to other things Devonian...

My Own Devon Family:

My family came from the agricultural area of Welcombe, on and off at various times part of the large and sparsely populated Hartland Parish. They lived in and around Welcombe for hundreds of years, the earliest of whom (that I have been able to find) were sheep farmers. They were also Yeomen, in other words, they owned their own land. How this came about I do not know, for it was not a common thing, even 400 years ago, to own your own land. The family must have been important at one time.

Land holdings were small at that time, at least we here in Canada see those holdings as small compared to the size of the average farm here - 200 acres usually here in Ontario - larger in the Western provinces! Those small 10 acre parcels were important to the families who owned them, small though they were by our standards. Our family, besides their own land, rented from neighbours, some of them widows who could not work the land, but needed the income the letting of the land provided.

As the sons came of age the land had to be divided between them and it got smaller and smaller until other families owned it all. The sons who moved away to make a life of their own became agricultural labourers, and that is what they did for a living when my branch of the family moved to Cornwall sometime shortly after 1805 when my 3X Great Grandfather was born.

But Cornwall, and the parish of Morwenstow where they went, is not far from the ancestral home - down one side of the coombe and up the other! If you know exactly where to stand in Welcombe, Devon you can see the tower of the parish church in Morwenstow, Cornwall.

By 1861 the state of agriculture was such that there was little work for anyone, and so, like most others in the parish my ancestors picked up and moved to Canada. It was a gruelling trip across the North Atlantic, one I don't think I'd make easily. And even though I will never meet them, I certainly admire my 3X and 2X great grandmothers for their courage in making that voyage with small children in tow! We ARE made of good stuff, aren't we!