Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Another Man With the Name Shepheard

I am often asked whether I am related to the man who owned and operated the Shepheard Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. The answer is, as far as I can determine and from records as far back as I can go, “No!” But it has been interesting to learn about the man. Maybe somewhere back in the Middle Ages we might find a connection.

In the meantime, I am happy to collect references and information about all the famous, and possibly infamous people with the same last name. As I am embarking – slowly – on a one-name study of  Shepheard, I am curious to find out about all the people with whom I share that surname.

Of course I have known about the Shepheard Hotel for many years and often wondered whether our family had any connection to it. Our name is not a usual spelling so you never know where or when you might find a connection. I finally obtained a book written by Michael Bird, a great-grandson of Samuel Shepheard. It is simply titled, Samuel Shepheard of Cairo and was published by Michael Joseph Ltd., of London, in 1957. The author uses original documents from the Shepheard Hotels as well as a great deal of family correspondence saved by Samuel’s descendants and other relatives. He wrote to his family in England often and we are lucky to have the letters preserved so that people like Michael Bird could reconstruct his story.

One can search the Internet, of course, and find all manner of articles and pictures about Samuel and the hotels. I say hotels because there was more than one building with that name. The latest one was built in 1957 replacing one that burned down in the anti-British riots of 1952.

Samuel Shepheard was born at Little Preston manor in Preston Capes Parish, Northamptonshire, on 21 January 1816. His parents were Richard Shepheard (1785-1820) and Jane Berwick (1788-1817). His mother died the following year from consumption; his father’s death came not long afterward, in 1820, also from the same disease. With the loss of both parents, Samuel’s care was taken over by his father’s oldest sister, Esther Stanley and her husband, Joseph, who lived in Leamington. Joseph was the landlord of the Crown Inn which undoubtedly is where Samuel learned the victualling and catering businesses.

A brother, Richard Shepheard went to live with a great-uncle, Benjamin Shepheard, apprenticing as a butcher but spending most of his life as a farmer in Hunningham, Warwickshire. Michael Bird indicated there was also a sister however nothing is known about her.

Samuel’s education was limited. He laboured at farming and apprenticed for a while as a pastry chef, under three different masters before leaving that behind. From country life, Samuel eventually found himself at sea, quite possibly as a cook to start with. His marine career did not last long either. In 1842 he found himself in Cairo, Egypt, having just been put ashore for having taken part in insubordinate activities against the captain. The date was 30 January 1842, Samuel had just past his 26th birthday and he had one shilling in his pocket.

Samuel’s first job was in a Greek café. So began his sojourn in a foreign land as well as in the hospitality business. He made many new friends and cultivated new business associates in Cairo, including a man named Hill, a manager at the British Hotel, with whom he eventually worked. It was not long before circumstances and opportunity allowed Samuel to become part owner of the hotel. By 1845 he was the sole proprietor.

Samuel Shepheard owned and operated the Shepheard Hotel for the next 16 years. The hotel was moved to a new location at Ezbekier Square in 1848 and renamed the Shepheard Hotel. Over the next decade it was renovated, refurbished and expanded. He sold the establishment in 1861 and retired to Warwickshire, England. The history of the hotel itself can be found in many sources and I won’t dwell on it here.
1848 British Hotel renamed as Shepheard Hotel
1850 newly opened Shepheard Hotel at Exbekier Square
Samuel met his wife, Mary Rangecroft when she and her family were travelling through Cairo on their way to India. They married in 1844 in Alexandria, Egypt. Mary divided her time between Egypt and England over the years. They had eight children, six of whom were born in Egypt. Sadly four died in infancy or as toddlers in Cairo. One died in Warwickshire at the age of 10 years. Only one, Jane Mary, eventually married (to Arthur Bird) and had children. Two daughters, Sarah and Mable lived together in Devon as spinsters until the 1930s.

Samuel Shepheard spent only 19 years in Egypt but in that time he built an impressive reputation as an hotelier and acquired a substantial fortune. His name continues to live on one of the world’s premier hotels. He was a notable character, strong of will and of exceptional ability in dealing with others.
2014 Shepheard Hotel today
Edwin de Leon, the American consul in Cairo during period Samuel live there, wrote of the man, “Shepheard himself, who founded and gave his name to this hotel in the early days of Waghorn [influential in the development of Egypt business and infrastructure] and Mehemet Ali [ruler of Egypt], was a character and an original. He was a short, sturdy, strongly-built John Bull of the old type, both in looks and manner, independent and brusque to the very verge of rudeness and often beyond, no respecter of position or of person, yet full of geniality and generous impulses, concealing a heart of gold under a round husk.”

Samuel died at his home at Eathorpe Hall, Parish of Wappenbury, Warwickshire, on 12 June 1866, at the age of 50. He is buried in the parish church cemetery. Samuel left an estate valued in 1868 at £8,000.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is the Editor of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Why would we care about 4th cousins? Or even more distant relatives?

I read a lot about people, especially with their DNA tests, finding cousins that rank 4th or greater. That’s a long ways apart – somehow sharing at least 3rd great-grandparents or further back.

I know genealogists like to study families in the past. And most of us really got involved because we wanted to know more about our direct ancestors. Finding their siblings was interesting, and sometimes helped with discovering more information about those in our direct lines. But chasing children of children of children of those siblings of our ancestors seems a bit too much for me.

Now I have to plead guilty for having a lot of people in my database, even quite a large number that are not connected by blood to either my wife or me. They are generally the families of people who married into ours, through nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, etc. I mean, it’s interesting and all that, but they really don’t have anything do to with how I got here. Or how my wife got here (which means how my children or grandchildren got here).

It is bragging rights people are looking for – to see how many notable people – famous or royalty – we can add to our tree that fascinates people. You read many reports of someone being related to a President, a move star or royalty through some very distant cousin. Or just to see how many names we can assemble that have some distant, if not inconsequential connections.

Ancestors of my grandchildren who come from lines totally different than my own are important, only because they are blood relatives of my grandchildren. Someday perhaps these grandchildren, or their children – if my data survives that long – might be as interested in their pedigree as I have been, so I collect information about and for them.

But even those who are distantly related by blood – the 4th cousins and more, really don’t have a lot to do with me.

On 23andme, where both my wife and I had out autosomal DNA tested, I have been given the names (well, at least the notification of files) of:
·         one 1st cousin
·         two 1st to 2nd cousins
·         five 2nd cousins
·         four 2nd to 3rd cousins
·         14 3rd to 4th cousins
·         45 3rd to 5th cousins and
·         819 people more distant.
I don’t even know what that really means. By the time you get way out there, you are sharing 0.5% of your DNA or much less and not the same 0.5% among all of them. For me, those very distant cousins are people could have been born in the 1970s or much later and aren’t part of my family history.

Many of the 2nd and 3rd cousins on the 23andme list are people I can relate to – figuratively as well as literally. We happen to all be interested in family history which is why we got tested. Some I found through the DNA testing, so that made it worth doing the tests. I have corresponded with a few of them and we found out which grandparents we shared. It was kind of interesting how we traced back our common ancestors and each of us learned a bit about the family from the others’ work. Many others who apparently share 1% to 3% of their DNA don’t have names attached to the profiles shown and have not responded to any messages sent to them. Some people whose profile shows they share some minute quantities of DNA have asked to share information but we have not been able to see any connection at all between us and wonder really, how far back do we have to go to find a common ancestor, if there is one to be found, or whether it would even be important.

There are a few people on 23andme who are very proud of how many people they share some amount of DNA with. I wonder if they are the same kinds of people who love to just add names to their family trees without any idea of whether or how they are, indeed, related. One person who was tested has 47,000 people in her tree. She surely can’t possibly know much about most of them. Interestingly, even with that many names, she only had 39 confirmed matches.

On Genea-Musings the other day, Randy Seaver posted about doing Descendancy (Is that even a word?) research on each of his 3rd great-grandparents, so he might be able to match up common ancestors with anyone who shows up as a 4th cousin or less. Man, does that sound like a lot of work! It’s tough enough to try to get your 1st cousins to tell you about their families. And finding people living today is, in many respects, more difficult than finding those who lived over a century ago.

If you have to do that kind of analyses to trace your history I have to ask what have you really achieved? You probably already know who many of your 3rd great-grandparents are or you wouldn’t be able to do the Descendancy research. Randy admitted he had the names of his 32 3rd great-grandparents. From a strictly academic view it sounds interesting but will it really add anything to the historical knowledge of Randy’s ancestral families. I will be watching with interest for his posts down the road to see what all he learned.

I persuaded a first cousin to have his Y-DNA tested as he is the only man I know who could link back genetically to our 2nd great-grandfather who emigrated from Germany in the early 1800s. This grandfather is on my maternal side so my Y-DNA test won’t work. Autosomal DNA would be useless for the task. My cousin descends through all males. We have no other avenues right now to be able to trace that line as the man had a very common name, probably came over with a large group of other Germans and died quite young. He does not appear on many records; there are no documents that list any of his family members; and we also already know all of his descendants for a few generations. So far we have not had any matches that make sense which tells us that not enough people directly related to the man have been tested. We don’t really care how many cousins there are. We just want to learn about our German roots so if anyone out there is related to a sibling of our zweiten Urgroßvater or to his parents, then we might find out something important about where they originated.

To get back to my point, what is the fascination for knowing you have thousands of cousins out there, of 4th rank or greater? (I cannot even get my head around what a 9th cousin is!) Maybe for some people, finding some 1st, 2nd or 3rd cousins helped them trace back some of their ancestors. That’s a good reason for DNA testing. But for 4th or greater levels, you would have to track an awful lot of lines backward to find that one common ancestor. I doubt many of us have time for that.

I am more interested in my family’s history, not on how many relatives might be living today that share a grandparent that lived 200 or more years ago. I am willing to contact cousins that might be able to help but beyond the 3rd level I suspect I am chasing shadows.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is the Editor of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Checking out Families From the Past

It is often difficult to determine whether individuals from centuries ago are related. Sometimes we can assume relationships because succeeding families have children of the same forenames. In many countries there were, and are patterns of naming of children. So when we see a name that never appears again, we tend to think they are not part of our family.

The way in which genealogists tend to work is from the present day to the past – taking information about the people we know and working backwards. That is not so easy when we have no information about people we find on very old records. Chasing them forward is guesswork, especially if they were born and lived most of their lives before censuses were taken.

I have such a problem with my 3rd great-grandparents’ families – Thomas Mayfield and Eleanor Tunstall. They were married in Saint Clement Danes parish, in London, in 1804. Their first two children were baptized in St. James, Clerkenwell parish, also in London, in 1806.

For my 3rd great-grandfather, I was reasonably sure (from the work of many people and the documents we have assembled) he was born in England in the late 1700s, although the 1850 US census said Ireland. That census records he was 74 years old which puts his birth year around 1776. How do we know all that for sure, since that is the only census he has been found in, and the first in the US that has any details as to the origin of individuals.

Well, there was a biography written for one of his sons which said so. It stated Thomas Mayfield “was born in London, and was graduated from the London Medical College. He began practice in that city when thirty-two years old, but shortly afterward came to America, locating in Maryland. . .” He apparently sided with the Americans in the War of 1812. The biography went on to say Thomas’ father was a watchmaker in London by the name of William Mayfield and it also said Thomas died in 1869 at the age of 84. Those statements narrow down both Thomas’ birth and immigration years. 

No one has yet found a death certificate or grave marker to confirm any of the details. We do know his wife, Eleanor died in Baltimore before 1834 (I have to get someone to see if they can find details of this event in the Maryland records.) when Thomas and at least some of his children moved to Indiana. Census records for his children, beginning in 1880 show his birth place as England.

Two men named Mayfield, who were watchmakers in London in the late 1700s, are shown on a published directory – John and Edward. But no one named William, at least on any index I have seen.

I went looking for a birth or baptism record for Thomas dated in the mid- to late-1770s and found some information that seemed to fit. Three Mayfield children were baptized in 1785, in London, including a Thomas, born in 1778. The father was named John and he was a watchmaker. The occupation is right. The date of birth is close. The mother’s name – Sarah – does not appear in any future generations, which is curious, but the name John does, as do the names of the other children baptized to these parents – Benjamin, William and Mary. We might at least be on the right track. One of Thomas’ sons was named John William, so it is possible the watchmaker named John had a second name, William, by which he was called. More supposition than fact, though!

Can we accept all this information as indicating a familial connection? For now I have!

But I am afraid I may have to look over every Mayfield record for the time period, in London and possibly elsewhere to eventually confirm who my ancestors were. Unfortunately there is no one studying the name at the Guild of One Name Studies so I might be on my own here.

The Tunstall line is a different and even more difficult story, one that I will comment on in a later post.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is the Editor of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.