Select Page

For decades these two lines of people’s trees were stuck in the late 18th century. With very little time spent I was able to take two lines of matrilineal ancestors back to the 17th century.

I’m not normally a fan of researching my ancestors as far back as possible. So far, when doing my own genealogical research, I’ve concentrated on the closest missing ancestors. For me, it’s tended to be a few 3rd great-grandfathers whose parentage has given me trouble. To date, there are only three of them whose parents I don’t have much certainty about.

But patrilineal and matrilineal ancestors are different in that you can sometimes find evidence for or disprove a pedigree based on Y-DNA or mtDNA testing. That makes these lines a little more interesting to me.

I recently began working more on the matrilineal ancestors of my father and those of my mother and myself a few days later. And I finished this work the day the 1921 census of England and Wales was released, giving me plenty more work to do.

My father’s matrilineal ancestors

I’ve written quite a bit already about my father’s recent matrilineal ancestors. This was my genealogical origin story.

Father back, I knew that my father’s 5th great-grandmother was Marie Anne Roger of Crépy, France. She lived from about 1778 to 1814. She was my 6th great-grandmother.

When searching French records online, you have to know the commune you want to search and it’d also be very hard if you don’t know the time period. One first goes to the website for the department that they’re searching, in this case Aisne. What to do next can vary a bit, but in this department you then click on Archives Numérisées and then État Civil. You can also look out for the phrase “Archives en Ligne.” Now I could enter a commune and a date. There’s also the option to select births, marriages, deaths, etc., but they were all lumped together in my case.

I was looking for information about Marie Anne Roger of Crépy. I knew that she was born about 1778, but I didn’t go straight back to that year to find this information. I already had her death date, so I went to her death record from 1814. If I didn’t have the exact year, I would’ve checked the ten-year table of indexes first, but in this case I went straight to the records. These ones were grouped from 1811 to 1817.

When searching the images, it’s pretty easy to see from the thumbnails which ones contain the alphabetical lists at the end of the year. The text just looks different than the long form handwriting in the actual records. So I scanned through until I found the year 1814. The easiest way to find the deaths is actually to go to births for 1815 and then go back a page. The index for 1814 death records will be right there. I looked through the index for “Roger.” Once I found that, it gave me the date and the record number, which will just be back a few pages.

This is Marie Ann Roger’s death record:

The death record for Marie Ann Roger in Crépy in 1814

Usually French records are very informative, i.e. death records list a person’s age the the names of their parents, but Marie Anne Roger’s only listed the witnesses who reported the event: the names of her widower and her brother.

Since I didn’t have any other dates for Marie Anne Roger, my preference is to look for the most recent civil status events that occurred. It’s easy when a family stays in the same commune for awhile. I had the exact dates for the births of her two known (to me) children, and these usually list the parents’ ages, but I thought I would take a shortcut. What I really wanted was the names of Marie Anne Roger’s parents, and those would almost certainly be found on her marriage record. So, assuming that she was married shortly before the birth of her oldest child in the same commune.

Her marriage occurred on 25 Nivôse Year 3 of the French Revolutionary calendar. I used to do these calculations myself because for some reason I couldn’t find anything else, but this time I quite easily found an online date converter. The marriage was on 14 January 1795 then. It not only listed their parents, but also a bunch of uncles as a bonus. I kept using the same methods to take this line progressively further.

Within a day of searching the French archives, which were very poorly written in the village of Crépy, I was able to take that maternal line back to a woman born about 1630 who lived nearby in Ribemont. The only city that this family appeared to live in during the interim was Macquigny, also nearby. Fortunately, the records became much more legible in the latter two villages.

Occasionally, after filling in part of my tree, I would find another tree that already had the parents of one of my ancestors listed. No one tree ever had more than one generation, so it was back to the records after each one. I was able to verify the majority of the information I found by reading civil status documents on my own. There is always more verification work to do, but I’ve been satisfied with what I’ve found so far.

The woman born around 1630 was named Marie Bardeau. I know that she and her husband have been correctly added to the tree because they’re listed in her daughter’s marriage record in 1688. She is my 11th great-grandmother, the 10th matrilineal great-grandmother of my father. Aren’t French records so amazing that they go back this far?

There is couple for whom I’ve found information that I’ve been unable to verify. Those are the parents of Marie Bardeau: Clément Bardeau and Marguerite Du Corroye. There’s a good chance that I’ll never know whether or not this couple is correct, but if they were, they would be my 12th great-grandparents. And, considering that it’s harder to hide a misattributed maternal parentage than a paternal one, there might actually be a good chance that there are no errors in the line connecting me to Marguerite Du Corroye.

The archives for Ribement only go back to 1675, so it’s impossible to verify some information before that. However, other villages in Aisne have records from the 1500s, so I could search those in hopes that the families had moved from elsewhere to Ribemont. That would be very time consuming, but I may try it at some point.

My mother’s matrilineal ancestors

I also took a look into my mother’s matrilineal line, my own for that matter. For as long as I’ve been working on my family tree, I could see that this maternal line stopped at Elizabeth Hill, my 5th great-grandmother who was born in Yorkshire in 1776 or earlier.

Her father’s name, Robert, was known because he was listed on her marriage record. That’s all that was in my tree or that for anyone else’s tree that I could see. Upon inspection of the records, it was also clear that Robert Hill was a yeoman. A little bit of Googling showed that this family was from a very small village and that there only appeared to be one Robert Hill, yeoman, at the time.

I found a record about a will that likely belonged to him. This wasn’t available to view from places like Ancestry, FamilySearch, and FindMyPast. But I found out that it was held at the UK National Archives. You can search the archives and find documents such as the will I was looking for. Once I found it, I was able to place an order for that document. You can order up to 10 documents per day for free, but you have to set up an account in order to do so. I received an email with a link to the document about 20 minutes later.

This is the will of Robert Hill:

The will of Robert HIll, Yeoman, 1810

The will of Robert Hill was exceedingly informative. It gave the names of six children and their spouses for all but the two who weren’t married. Four of these children weren’t in my tree before this. Most importantly for my search, the will gave the name of Robert Hill’s widow: Jane.

It didn’t take long at all to find the only Jane who married a Robert Hill near this small village. Elizabeth Hill’s mother was Jane Ware, born in 1754. I soon found some detached trees that had the same children with their parents listed, providing evidence that I had the right couple.

Jane Ware’s mother was named Elizabeth Atlay—the same surname that one of Elizabeth Hill’s sisters later married into. I still need to do some confirmation of the trees I’ve found, but it appears that Elizabeth Atlay’s parents were John and Bridget Atlay. If Bridget Atlay is correctly in the trees I’ve found, she’s my 8th great-grandmother, born about 1690.

Within a few hours of searching, I was able to get the parents of a woman that many people may have considered to be a brick wall ancestor for many years.

I have now taken my father’s matrilineal ancestors potentially back to a woman born in the early 17th century or perhaps even late 16th century who would be my 12th great-grandmother. My own matrilineal ancestors now potentially go back to my 8th great-grandmother, who was probably born in the late 17th century. And there’s a good chance that I can go back farther than that.

I would say that the few hours that I spent on these searches were well worth it. It was quite nice to take a break from data analysis and developing genetic genealogy tools to get back to the reason I started all of this in the first place.

And that wasn’t the only genealogy work I did at the same time. I also solved a 27-year mystery for a man who never knew his father.

On to the 1921 census!

If you had access to the most accurate, free, relationship predictor, would you use it? Feel free to ask a question or leave a comment. And make sure to check out these ranges of shared DNA percentages or shared centiMorgans, which are the only published values that match peer-reviewed standard deviations. Or, try a tool that lets you find the amount of an ancestor’s DNA you cover when combining multiple kits. I also have some older articles that are only on Medium.