Researching the ROWBERRY Family

Once I had started on the trail of my ancestors it proved impossible to stop. The momentum of the search has gone quickly at times, only to come to a halt at others, sometimes for years at a stretch. Each time so far I have eventually managed to pick up the scent again, but in the meanwhile I have been able to apply my efforts to someone else's ROWBERRY line. This is one of the great advantages of a One-Name Study! I was born in Bristol and I quickly took my line back to my great-great-great-grandfather, George RUBERY, who died there in 1845. Much information was gathered from my father and uncles, who were then all still alive. They all recounted the identical family legend. This said that George had been a member of the same RUBERY family as the founders of the engineering firm of Rubery, Owen & Co; that he had been the youngest of seven children and the "black sheep" of the family. He had therefore been "cut-off" by the rest of his family and had left Birmingham to settle in Bristol.

All the Birmingham RUBERYs
Several years passed whilst I followed up the founders of the Rubery, Owen & Co firm and then all the other RUBERYs that I could find in the Birmingham area. But not one of these families held a suitable George. At last I decided to buy his death certificate. This revealed that at the time of his death he was a Chelsea Pensioner, which meant that he had been in the Army. My next port of call was the Public Record Office (now The National Archives) at Kew, where I found his Army records. From these I was able to discover what he was doing (and where!) for nearly every day between his enlistment, at the age of 20 years, in 1793 (when large numbers were being recruited to serve in the Napoleonic Wars) and his discharge in 1817 (due to a "reduction in the establishment"). But more importantly it gave his place of birth as the parish of St Philip, Hereford. But it was interesting to note that he enlisted in Birmingham!

Born in Hereford
On the next chance I had I visited the Herefordshire County Record Office at Hereford. After a morning's searching (there are quite a few parishes in Hereford, but none called St Philip's!) I discovered a baptism of a George in 1773 in Hereford St Martin. His parents were given as Thomas and Mary ROWBERRY. But this lead did little to further my research, for on that and subsequent visits to the Herefordshire CRO I was unable to find out anything further about Thomas and Mary. A search of both the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Marriage Indexes failed to find their marriage, and nowhere could I find any other children for them. However in 1770 there was a baptism of a child called Kate at Hereford St Martin to Thomas and Ann, and in 1767 John and 1768 James to the same parents at Hereford All Saints. George called his first child Catherine and as this was a fairly unusual name at the time, I am certain that George was actually the son of Thomas and Ann, and that Mary was a mistake on the part of the person who recorded the baptism. But even this assumption did not help much as I then failed to find a marriage for Thomas and Ann.

An Army Family settles in Bath
Failure to get backwards any further at this point meant that I directed my energies to trying to fill out George's family. Because he was travelling all over the country during his service his marriage took place, and his children were born, wherever he happened to be stationed at the time. I had in fact discovered his marriage quite by chance when searching at the Berkshire CRO for another researcher. It took place in 1799 at Caversham, and in 1800 Catherine was baptised at Reading St Mary. Later children were baptised at Richmond (Surrey), and Sheffield (Yorkshire). In 1816 my ancestor Charles was baptised in Lyminster, Sussex and in 1817 the youngest child was baptised in Bath, where the family appear to have remained until around the late 1830s. By the time of the 1841 census they had moved to Bristol. Why did they settle in Bath? At the moment that question is unresolved, but when George had applied for his Army pension he was accompanied by a fellow solider from his regiment, whose birthplace was given as Stoke, Wiltshire. His surname was NEWBURY, which was also the maiden name of George's wife, Sarah. Was she his sister? Was the Stoke near Bath? Sarah did not die until 1859, but she eluded all my searches of the 1851 census (including the index prepared by the Bristol & Avon FHS, to which I had looked with hope!), so I was not able to ascertain her birthplace, and resolve this problem.

Help from the IGI
In 1992 a new edition of the IGI was published containing many more extracts from Herefordshire parish registers. Would it help me I wondered? The simple answer was yes. It gave me six more children for Thomas and Ann, all born at Eaton Bishop, a parish to the south-west of Hereford. All the entries were ROBERY, ROBRY or ROBREY, as had been those in Hereford (except George's baptism). Thomas ROBERY himself appeared to have been baptised at Thruxton, son of John and Elizabeth, with earlier siblings having been born at Kingstone. There still appeared to be no marriage for Thomas and Ann, nor for John and Elizabeth, although there was a vague possibility for the latter in Worcestershire. And what about George being the youngest of seven children? This seemed to be incorrect as I had by now accumulated a total of ten children for his parents. On my next visit to the Herefordshire CRO I was able to resolve two of these problems. Three of the children had died young, in all cases before the birth of George. He was therefore the youngest of an actual family of seven children known to him as he grew up. And his parents had been married in Eaton Bishop, but Thomas was recorded as ROBEY. This was why I had failed to find the entry in either the Marriage Index or the IGI. John and Elizabeth's marriage still proved elusive. I discovered the baptism of an earlier child, who had not appeared in the IGI, which seemed to rule out the Worcestershire possibility, but nothing else.

The GOMERY link
When I visited the Hereford CRO in 1997 I still was unable to get back any further, but I discovered that they had introduced a noticeboard on which you were able to advertise your research interests. (This useful facility has been withdrawn at the moment, because of the Data Protection Act!) Naturally enough I posted details of my One-Name Study of ROWBERRY. The only reply came from Linda Hansen living in Switzerland, but born in New Zealand. She told me that she was descended from a family in Woolhope, which is recorded as "ROWBERRY alias GOMBERRY" in the parish registers until 1729 and after that date the two names appear to be interchangeable. My reply to this was that as most of them had apparently settled on the name GOMERY I had not persued the matter. That afternoon I went to the local library to have a look at the IGI. To my utter amazement I found John and Elizabeth's marriage recorded under GUMRY and the baptism of the missing first child as GOMERY! Their marriage had taken place at Holmer, but John was said to be "of Bridge Sollers" and his bride "of Madley", adjacent to Kingstone. My next visit to Hereford confirmed that although the entry in the parish register of Kingstone had been clearly altered to read ROBERY the entry in the BTs still read GOMERY.

Origins of the GOMERYs
Further research has indicated that in the seventeenth century the GOMERY family is mainly concentrated in a parish called Rochford in Worcestershire, with links back to the adjoining parish of Tenbury, the "ancestral home" of the ROWBERRYs. Although there is a possible baptism for Thomas at Tenbury, again we have the problem of the poor parish registers for Tenbury to contend with. How or why the alias arose has yet to be discovered, but maybe Manorial records will help, if any survive. It gave me quite a funny feeling when I found a GUMMERY grave in the Cemetery at Ledbury and realised that these people were my distant cousins. At this point I began to wonder if perhaps I should really be doing a GOMERY One-Name Study! However this is not necessary as I managed to persuade Linda Hansen to undertake one instead. Visit her GOMERY One-Name Study Page.

My Family Tree
If you follow the link at the foot of this page you will be able to find out what I know so far about my own family, back to John GOMERY/ROBERY. The GOMERYs, GUMMERYs and a few GUMERYs (you see that they also have trouble with spelling variants!) appear on a separate tree, please follow the link. This tree has been updated to include information from the 1911 census; the events registered at the GRO up to 2009 and many new spouses' names found with the help of FreeBMD and the various census indexes. It also includes several baptisms and marriages which appear on the Second Edition of the LDS Vital Records Index for the British Isles on CD-ROM. These are mainly events occuring in Bristol during the nineteenth century, but the baptism of George son of George and Sarah ROWBREY at St John the Baptist, Hereford in 1803 is particulary useful. This is because it ties the George RUBERY found in the 1881 Bristol census, born circa 1803 Hereford conclusively to this family. It also adds a further proof to the change of surname variant used. A surname index for the St Olave 1851 census showed George junior and his wife Ann living there, and thus tied in her burial found at Abney Park Cemetery in 1860. Another interesting find in the BVRI was the marriage of Sarah Robrey GUMRY at Bristol St James in 1761. Is this the Sarah baptised at Thruxton, Herefordshire in 1736? If so was George already in touch with members of his family before settling in Bristol?

Just before Christmas 2003 I was told that there was a new member of the Bristol & Avon FHS researching "RUBERY, Bristol, 1800 to present day". Needless to say I sent off an email fairly quickly. The reply I received said:
"Apart from my own family research I am dealing with my husbands! His query regarding RUBERY is not as far as I know a family relation. My husband's great grandfather's family on his mother's side were PARKERs who lived mainly in the St Michael's and St James's area of Bristol (they were originally a Bath family). His great grandfather was Frederick Robert PARKER who in 1849 at the age of 16 was apprenticed as a cordwainer to William WEBBER of Bristol. One of the witnesses to the indenture was a Sarah RUBERY.
"My husband remembers his mother telling him of a visit to her by his grandmother who said 'I have just returned from Birmingham from the burial of the last the Ruberys'. I have no idea of the date of this conversation. His mother went on to say that Rubery was a district in Birmingham, that there was a Rubery Hospital and in the boardroom of the hospital a ceremonial sword hanging on the wall given to the hospital by the Ruberys. Our quest is to try and find out more about Sarah and the RUBERY family, where did they live in the 1800s, was there any family connection or were they just close friends?"
As I knew that Sarah RUBERY's eldest daughter had married a PARKER, it was tempting to speculate that Frederick Robert was her son, and hence Sarah's grandson. To try and find out if this was true I sent a query to the Bristol & Somerset List asking if anyone had any information about the PARKERs. Back came a reply giving me not only conclusive proof, but also solving a mystery which had been plaguing me for over 20 years - where was Sarah RUBERY in the 1851 census? Answer: she was living with her daughter Catherine, and her children (including Frederick) and her surname had mistakenly also been given as PARKER. Although Catherine was already a widow by 1851, the reply also gave Frederick's baptism in Bath, his father being William PARKER an Ivory & Hard Wood Turner. The lady I had contacted soon tracked down Catherine's marriage to William PARKER, it had taken place at Bristol St Paul on 25 June 1827.

But the best thing about finding Sarah in the 1851 census was I at last knew where she was born - Reading, Berkshire. How ironical is this, when I lived in Berkshire from 1968 to 1999 and never knew that I had any Berkshire ancestors (although of course most of Francis' roots were local)? But I had at least made some good friends in the area and an email to them soon put me in touch with Ron NEWBERY, who was researching the same family. He promised to send me a printout of his tree and all the details that he had. When he sent them he asked if I knew a couple who lived in Edwyn Ralph. Well not only did I know them but they are my next-door neighbours. Why did he ask? His son is married to their daughter! So when they had very generously asked me to share their Christmas dinner with them not only was I sharing it with some very good friends, but also some cousins!! To say that I (and they!) were surprised by this news is the understatement of the year!
So take heart - brick-walls can and do crumble, sometimes with the strangest of results!

Y DNA Links
When I set up the ROWBERRY Y DNA Project the first test kit submitted was for my cousin Peter RUBERY, but the next few test kits, all from ROWBERRY Tree One, showed completely different results. So I began to wonder if we were really part of the family at all! Confirmation came in a very strange way as the result of a volunteer testee at the ROWBERRY Family Gathering in April 2008. This was Francis John ROWBERRY, a distant cousin of the ROWBERRY Family which kept the butcher's shop on Commercial Square in Hereford until recently, and whose family also contained builders and other tradesmen in 19th century Hereford. Although I hoped a link would be shown with one of the other Herefordshire trees, I was amazed when it proved to be a match to my cousin. However I have had little time since to visit the Record Office, but when I have I have been on the trail of a documented link - so far elusive.
On the strength of this I have brought the two trees together as ROWBERRY Tree Five, and you will see this reflected in the updated trees on the website, together with the addition of the Lugwardine branch, although I don't have an exact link yet.
Finally in the early part of 2009 a GUMMERY from Hereford took a test, and his too was a match to my cousin's, proving that we are indeed ROWBERRYs, or GUMMERYs, or perhaps "ROWBERRY alias GOMBERRYs"! The real coincidence here is that his girlfriend is the grand-daughter of the present owner of Rowberry Court!

Click here to see Polly's Family Tree

Visiting the roots of our family tree Click here to follow a day trip in which Polly Rubery and her cousin Sheila visit the roots of their family tree.

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Last revised: 31st July 2010
© Polly Rubery 1998-2010