Monday, September 11, 2017

The Butcher of Bearsted - Dispelling the Family Myth

The Butcher of Bearsted - Dispelling the Jeremiah Dunster Family Myth

Holy Cross, Bearsted, Kent Imahe Wikipedia ©©
Once upon a time, great great great grandpa Jeremiah Dunster, a butcher of Bearsted, Kent, married Mary Kedwell at St Margaret's Church, Canterbury. His ancestry went back to William the Conqueror. So the story goes...Or does it?

Many years ago when I was new to family history, a relative handed me the 'completed' genealogy of my husband's DUNSTER family (I'm sure alarms bells are sounding for many of you already). Cousin Bernice* (*not her real name) had years earlier, travelled from Australia to Kent in England, where, from her diligent gathering of parish records, she had compiled the Dunster family tree. Other family members had contributed to the tree also. New to researching family history, in the days before I wrote blogs about finding evidence and the necessity for genealogical proof, I assumed that every family tree was the result of thorough research. Way back then I made a huge mistake  - I accepted the Dunster tree without questioning the research that supported it. 

Nothing beats thorough genealogical research! Image Nick Youngson, The Blue Diamond Gallery  ©©
As time went on and I studied genealogy courses and progressed as a researcher, the Dunster ancestry troubled me more and more. As exciting as it would be to descend from Charlemagne and Alfred the Great, to to trace your lineage back through the Queen Mother's Bowes-Lyon family and to be a 23rd cousin to Prince William and Harry, and while there are Dunsters whose lineage does go back to famous names in history, I suspected that our Jeremiah Dunster had been attached to the wrong parents and so the wrong family tree. 

Image Pixaby ©©
Many years ago when I was training to be a teacher, my Early Childhood Education lecturer taught me to view children's mistakes as a learning tool. This is a lesson I have carried with me throughout my life. The mistake I made with this family tree was a huge learning curve for me as a researcher. It demonstrated to me the importance of finding evidence through thorough research. In this blog post I will show why my research conflicts with the royal version of the Dunster descendancy and in doing so, I must dispel the myth about the origins of Jeremiah Dunster, butcher of Bearsted. 

Image Pixabay ©©
My husband David descends on his mother's side of his family from Sophia Dunster, whose family of Dunsters emigrated from Kent to NSW, Australia in 1838. This family descends back through Joseph Dunster [1788] and James Dunster [1764] to Jeremiah Dunster born circa 1730 in Kent. Thus far in her research of the parish records in Stone in Oxney, Kent, cousin Bernice was very thorough. Somehow, Jeremiah's parentage and his ancestry has since become - as I recently saw it described on a genealogy chat site - a "car crash".  I can only assume that the writer of this comment has seen the number of incorrect Dunster family trees online. The simple mistake of giving Jeremiah the wrong parents has led to many family trees affording this Dunster family a royal heritage that is not its birthright.

"Oh dear... are we not Royal after all?" Image Wikipedia ©©
I do not know how the myth began that Jeremiah Dunster was the son of William Dunster Esquire and his wife Ann Vanderput (spelled Vandeporte on their marriage record). When I was given this tree in my novice days as a family historian, I accepted the information without questioning it and without researching the facts for myself. I added William Dunster and Ann Vandeput/ Vandeporte to the family tree as Jeremiah Dunster's parents - if so many people believed this then it must be right - yes? In those beginner days, I researched backwards from William Dunster and Ann Vanderporte and in doing so I contributed to the myth of my husband's 'royal' heritage. This mistake was possibly my best learning tool as a genealogist, since it taught me very quickly, the importance of finding evidence.

The person named incorrectly as Jeremiah Dunster's father is William Dunster (c 1669 London), the son of Henry Dunster and Mary GARDINER. This Dunster family hailed from Somerset. Mary Gardiner was the daughter of Henry Gardiner of Hertfordshire and through various marriages this family boasts surnames such as HOWARD, DE BEAUMONT, DE NEVILLE, BOWES and so on... lines of heritage connected to Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror - in short, a most royal ancestry. I have researched William Dunster's lineage and I am going to declare that William Dunster and Ann Vanderput or Vandeporte were NOT the parents of Jeremiah Dunster, butcher of Kent. (There is always the possibility of course that DNA might connect the Kent Dunsters to the Somerset Dunsters and even to royalty - but it would be somewhere further back in the Dunster ancestry than Jeremiah.) 

Bowes Lyon Crest. Image Wikipedia ©©

At the time of his marriage to Mary KEDWELL at St Margaret's Church Canterbury, in 1751, Jeremiah Dunster was working as a butcher in Bearsted, Kent. This fact, recorded on their marriage record, presented the first problem for me. Why would the son of William Dunster Esq, of Leytonstone, Essex, have been employed as a butcher in Bearsted, Kent? Of course, people did move around even in the 18th century, and I have learned during my years of researching family history to expect surprises. In addition to the problem I had with Jeremiah's occupation, was the name Jeremiah itself. In a family of Lords, Earls, Barons and Kings, I discovered long tradition of names such as Henry, William, Robert and Edward. Of course I realised it was not impossible that Jeremiah belonged to this royal family - in an also very long tradition of Scottish naming patterns in my own McDade family (John, James, Robert and Andrew), my grandfather, Colin Hamilton, was named after the doctor who delivered him when the family simply ran out of names!

Image Wikipedia ©©
Suspicion is a starting point to finding the truth, but thorough research and evidence is needed to support any theory. I knew that I could be wrong. Jeremiah, the butcher of Bearsted, may well have carried the bluest of bloodline and simply have had a passion for carving up and selling meat. His mother might have broken with family tradition and given her son a biblical name or even named him after the local doctor, as happened in my own family. I doubted this, and with the Dunster family's ancestry troubling me, I set off on a quest for evidence to prove once and for all, whether Jeremiah's parents were William Dunster Esq. and Ann Vanderput. 

I must say that cousin Bernice, did a splendid job of trekking around Kent years ago, collecting parish records, and as far back as Jeremiah Dunster the family tree was solidly researched. When she travelled to Kent many years ago to gather information, it was before the age of the internet and Bernice collected copies of original documents from parishes which she visited in person, To do this she had to know which parishes the family lived in. Although in my opinion, nothing beats seeing original old documents and transcribing them oneself, the internet does have the advantage of presenting a wider picture of more than just the parish records in the few parts of Kent that our Dunster cousin visited. I can search for records in Archives and Record Offices in Kent, and in fact all over England, for Jeremiah Dunster's birth and for records relating to William Dunster Esquire and Ann Vandeporte. But although it has benefits for research, the internet is also responsible for the explosion of car crash Dunster family trees copied from each other. On my family tree, Jeremiah Dunster has remained parentless while I searched for evidence, but still he remains perched on many incorrect royal family trees.

I will explain the evidence that I have found to show that William and Ann Dunster were not the parents of Jeremiah Dunster.

Image National Library of NZ, Wikipedia ©©
London born William Dunster Esq., an English politician, and Ann Vanderporte were married at St Olave, Hart Street, London on May 1, 1712. The couple's first child, a daughter Mary, was baptised at St Mary's, Leyton, Essex on *March 17, 1712. (*many thanks to my friend Jenny Joyce for reminding me that until 1750, new year's day was celebrated on 25 March. If this couple were married in May 1712 then the baptism in March 1712 would have been ten months later).  A second daughter named Jane, was  also baptised in St Mary's church in Essex in February 1713. 

In 1748, along with two other prominent Leytonestone residents William Dunster Esq. built a new chapel on the High Road (now the church of St John the Baptist). This chapel, was in part for the benefit of the local poor, and was needed because the increasing population in the area meant that the exisiting church of St Mary's  had become too small.

St Mary's Church, Leytonstone, Essex, Image Wikipedia ©©
William and Ann Dunster both died in Leytonstone in 1754 within several months of each other. Their daughter Jane had passed away before her parents. William and Ann's daughter Mary Dunster, married a wealthy Leyton merchant named Samuel Bosanquet in St Mary's Church, Leytonstone on November 6, 1733. She lived with her husband and children in Leytonestone until her death in 1765. The families of Dunsters and Bosanquets were active members of the Leyton community in Essex, for several generations, if not more.

There is no record of the birth or baptism of a son named Jeremiah, in Leytonstone, Essex or anywhere else in England to William Dunster Esq. and Ann Vanderporte. Lack of a birth or baptism record of course, does not prove or disprove parentage, but this negative evidence further supported my theory. I have created a timeline of events for the lives of William Dunster Esq. and Ann Vandeporte and their two daughters whose baptisms I found in Leytonstone, Essex.

1712 Baptism of Daughter Mary - March 1712, Leytonstone, Essex
1712 Marriage - 1 May 1712, St Olave, London
1713 Birth of Daughter Jane - 1713, Leytonstone Essex
1733 Marriage of Daughter Mary to Samuel BOSANQUET, 6 November 1733, Leytonstone, Essex
1748 Construction of a new Chapel in Leytonstone by William Dunster Esq.
1750 Opening of the Church built by William Dunster Esq.
1754  4 May Probate Granted for William Dunster of Leytonstone
1754 6 September Probate Granted for Will of Ann Dunster, Widow, of Leytonstone, Essex
1765 Death of Mary Bosanquet, daughter of Willam Dunster Esq. and Ann Vandeporte,
         Leytonestone, Essex   

Baptism of Jane Dunster, Leyton Image
In May and August of 1754 probate was granted for William and Ann Dunster's Wills. They were both living in Leyton, Essex at the time of their deaths. These documents are now available to read on, but years ago I paid to have them copied and posted to me by 'snail' mail in Australia from the National Archives in Kew, England.  

Will of William Dunster 2 May 1754
The Wills made by William and Ann Dunster were of great importance in my search since it was here that I finally found  evidence that Jeremiah was not their son. Both Wills are extremely detailed and are many pages long. Both Wills name their ONLY HEIR as MARY BOSANQUET, married to Samuel Bosanquet of Leyton, Essex. Jane assumedly had died prior to these Wills being written.  Ann Dunster's Will is particularly detailed and names nieces, nephews, many family members, friends and even her servants. There is no mention of a son named Jeremiah in William or Ann Dunster's Wills in 1754.

There is further confirmation that the only surviving child of William Dunster Esq. and his wife Ann was a daughter named Mary (Bosanquet). St Mary's Church, Leytonstone has the following memorial on the west wall of the church. 


David Ian Chapman has written a fascinating guide to the memorials in this church in his book,  A Guide to the Interior Memorials in The Parish Church of St Mary's Leyton. A pdf version can be found online here.  The following memorial to the son of Mary Dunster and Samuel Bosanquet is located on the west wall of St Mary's church. I have highlighted the crucial wording in the memorial below -"Mary... sole daughter and heiress of William Dunster Esquire." 

On the north wall of St Mary's church is another memorial to Mary Dunster's husband, Samuel Bosanquet where again it states that Mary was the 'daughter and sole heir of William Dunster late of this Parish Esqr.'.

Samuel Bosanquet, of Forest House. Sacred to the Memories of SAMUEL BOSANQUET of Foreft Houfe in this County Efqr who Died the Fourteenth Day of January 1765 Aged 65 Years And of MARY his Wife (Daughter & Sole Heirefs of WILLIAM DUNSTER late of this Parifh Esqr ) who Died the Fourth Day of Sepr 1765 Aged 53 Years Leaving IfSUE Surviving them two Sons & two Daughters SAMUEL, WILLIAM, ANNA MARIA and MARY Let me Die the Death of the Righteous and Let my last End be like his. Numb XXIII. X

 St Mary’s Church. Grade II* Listed building. Leyton parish church dating back in parts to the mid 17th century although much altered. Domesday book records two priests in 1086, so the current church probably occupies the site of a much earlier building - 35 Church Road, Leyton, London E10 5JP Image ©©
William Dunster Esquire of Leytonstone Essex and Ann Vandeporte both stated in their 1754 Wills that Mary Bosanquet was their sole surviving child. This claim is supported by testimonies in the local church of St Mary's. The Dunsters and Bosanquets of Leyton were great benefactors of the poor. Ann Dunster (Vanderporte)left amounts of money to charitable causes and to her servants. William Dunster cared so much for those less fortunate than himself, that he built a church for the poor of Leyton in 1748. These Dunsters were not the kind of people to leave a son out of their estate when they died. Mary Bosanquet, their only surviving daughter and heiress to their estate, died in 1765 and her own Will made no mention of a brother.

St John the Baptist, Leytonstone, Essex Image Wikipedia

It is important to consider PLACE when searching for PEOPLE. 
William and Ann Dunster and their daughter Mary lived their entire married lives in Leyton, Essex. Jeremiah Dunster lived and worked in Kent. When Jeremiah Dunster married Mary Kedwell in 1751  he was working as a butcher in Bearsted in Kent. By 1756, he was living in Stone in Oxney also in Kent. Jeremiah Dunster and his wife Mary had five children in Stone in Oxney and remained there for their lifetime. Since males sometimes moved to the parish where their bride resided, and vice versa, this discrepancy alone was not sufficient evidence to dispute Jeremiah Dunster's parentage. Alongside other attestations, however, it produces a strong argument that Mary Bosanquet, daughter and heiress of William Dunster Esq. and Ann Vandeporte of Leyton, Essex, most likely did not even know of the existence of Jeremiah Dunster, the butcher in Kent. 

A search throughout all of England for the birth of a Jeremiah Dunster, shows that six people with this name were baptised between 1680 and 1740. Five of these baptisms took place in Kent.  No Jeremiah Dunster were baptised in Essex or was born to parents named William and Ann.

1683 Devizes, Wiltshire [Jeremiah and Susanna]
1701 Biddenden, Kent [John and Elizabeth]
1724 Hawkhursrt, Kent [James and Susannah]
1731 Tenderden, Kent [Jeremiah and Judith]
1738 Charing, Kent [Jeremiah and Mary]
1739 Charing, Kent [Jeremiah and Mary]

I have now researched the lives, marriages and families of each of these Jeremiah Dunsters. By a process of elimination and finding evidence, I have reached a conclusion as to which of the above parents should be on our Dunster family tree. In the near future I hope that DNA will confirm my theory. Out of a mistake will come the truthful ending (albeit less magical than the royal one) for the story of Jeremiah Dunster, the butcher of Bearsted. While writing this post, a song has been playing over and over in my mind. The song is an old favourite of mine called * "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog" . The story of my Jeremiah will not end, however, with a frog turning into a prince. Quite the reverse and who his parents are is a tale for another time...

* Originally written by Hoyt Axton and named "Joy to the World". Sung by the band, Three Dog Night. 


Baptism of Jane Dunster,, England Births & Baptisms 1538-    1975,

Baptism of mary Dunster,, England Births & Baptisms 1538- 

Baptism of Jeremiah Dunster, 1756, Stone in Oxney, England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,

Marriage of Jeremiah Dunster and Mary Kedwell, The National Archives; Kew,  England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate    Jurisdictions: Will Registers;  Class: PROB 11; Piece: 810, England & Wales,  Prerogative Court of Canterbury  Wills, 1384-1858 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:  Operations, Inc., 2013.

Will of William Dunster Esq.,The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of  Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11;  Piece: 808, England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384- 1858 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013/ accessed 2 September 2017

Will of Ann Dunster, The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 810, England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013/ accessed 1 September 2017

Chapman, David Ian, A Guide to the Interior Memorials in The Parish Church of St Mary's Leyton,