The one about finding George Henry Roane’s father

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the ladies in my family tree have provided some jaw dropping discoveries. One such lady unveiled my missing 4x Scots-Irish Roane grandfather. As if that wasn’t good enough, her family’s lineage has left me scarcely able to breathe.

So, I’ve written about how I’m descended from Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane (681 – 1751), born in Argyllshire, who was granted an estate in Grenshaw, Antrim Northern Ireland. He was the ancestor of my 3 x great grandfather, George Henry Roane. The question was, who connected these two men?

Using some lateral thinking and steely determination worthy of a CSI detective, I decided to revisit Archibald Gilbert Roane’s line in search of my dear old 4x great granddad. This would be the father of George Henry Roane. I decided to refine the technique I used that uncovered the identity of my missing 4x Sheffey great-grandfather…by looking at the family lines of the women who married into the family.

This is the blessing of autosomal DNA. This type of DNA is like a cocktail. It mixes and mashes DNA from your maternal and paternal lines. It does so generation after generation after generation. Autosomal DNA down the male Roane lines wouldn’t reveal anything other than I was indeed a descendant of Archibald Gilbert Roane. I would match all of his male descendants. I needed a match on a woman who married into the family – a woman whose autosomal DNA couldn’t be in any other Roane line of descent. And trying to find this match really is like looking for a needle in a haystack; especially for a family as large as the Roanes.

Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, his wife Jennet, and their sons

Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, his wife Jeannet, and their sons

I worked up preliminary lines of the women who married Archibald Gilbert’s sons. After careful research, and comparing my DNA results to these ladies’ ancestral trees, there was only one who provided a match: Sarah Upshaw, the wife of William Roane, Sr (1701-1757). The Upshaws weren’t the best autosomal match to have – there have been a few marriages between Upshaws and Roanes. This means more than one Roane line would have Upshaw autosomal DNA. What clinched it was Sarah’s maternal Gardener line. This is where the necessary unique DNA match confirmed and narrowed the Roane line I needed to investigate.

Next up was researching all the wives who married Sarah And William’s sons.

William Roane, Sr, his wife Sarah Upshaw and their children

William Roane, Sr, his wife Sarah Upshaw and their children

Discarding Upshaw marriages further back in the female lines, one by one, no DNA matches resulted. Except for one woman whose family provided a DNA match: Elizabeth Judith Ball 91740-1767), wife of Colonel William Roane (1740-1785). Elizabeth’s maternal Mottrom line and her father’s maternal Spencer line were two of her lines where I had a DNA match.

Now I was beginning to get excited. I started to ask myself, “Could I really do it? Could I actually, finally find the final piece of the puzzle that was frustrating the heck out of me?”

Colonel William Roane, his wife Elizabeth Judith Ball and their children

Colonel William Roane, his wife Elizabeth Judith Ball and their children

I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and got stuck into researching the women who married Sarah and William’s sons. Thankfully, with only two sons, the research at this level took a fraction of the time it had taken so far.

It soon became apparent that I only had a DNA match with one of the wives: Anne Henry (1767 – 1799), wife of Judge Spencer Ball Roane (1762-1822) – and daughter of the American Revolutionary hero, Patrick Henry. My DNA matched on her paternal Henry, Winston, Roberston and Pitcairn lines. I also matched on her maternal Sheldon line.

The Pitcairn name jumped out at me immediately. Let’s just say nearly 30 years living in the UK spent in the company of a number of friends from a certain sphere – you learn something about the really old English families. I noted the Pitcairn name, put a question mark against it, and proceeded to look at Anne and Spencer’s sons. Or, more accurately, I researched the families of the women they married.

Spencer Ball Roane, his wife Anne Henry and their children

Spencer Ball Roane, his wife Anne Henry and their children

William Henry Harrison RoaneAfter weeks tracing the descendants of Spencer Roane, there was only one line that produced matches on the maternal and paternal side that were closest to me in terms of generations than all the others: the descendants of William Henry Harrison Roane (1787-1822). I finally had him, my 4x great grandfather…the father of George Henry Roane.

I had a feeling about Spencer Roane years ago, when I first started this journey. My direct Roane line is the only line to make heavy use of the name ‘Henry’ as a middle name. I’d always felt this to be a clue. George Henry Roane also named his first born Patrick Henry Roane – allowable if the mulatto George was a family member. I couldn’t imagine the Roane family ever allowing a slave, not related to the family, to name a child after so venerated a Roane family member. And there it was in the DNA, the reason why he was allowed to do so. Patrick Henry was George Henry Roane’s great-grandfather.

Having searched for so long, I can’t even begin to describe the elation of finally having a name. And, with that name, I hope to find either personal or estate, deeds or personal papers from William Henry Harrison Roane that will reveal who George Henry Roane’s enslaved mother was. Discovering her story is going to be one of my top priorities.

It so happens that the Virginia Historical Society has quite a stash of personal papers and plantation records for Spencer Roane and William Henry Harrison Roane.

I basked in the afterglow of this discovery for about half the day. The name Pitcairn popped into my head while I sat sipping on a celebratory latte. I knew that name.

So I hit Burkes Peerage. In a matter of a few hours I had gone from the Pitcairn family to the Sinclair family and there I was in 8th Century Norway and Scotland, in the form of Thebotaw (Theobotan), Duke of Sleswick and Stermace. I was firmly in Viking territory. On that journey back into time, names such as Robert Bruce, Edward I Olaus, Charles the Fat, Thorfin “Skullcleaver” Hussakliffer, Brian Biorn and Kiaval appeared along the way. And then, with further work, there I was in the 7th Century Kingdom of the Franks. I couldn’t – and still can’t – quite wrap my head around it. Never, not once, did I suspect that Patrick Henry came from a line anything like this one.

When you add my Scottish Josey/Jowsie line, the autosomal map below, from AncestryDNA, begins to finally make sense:

autosomal dna countries

The European thumbprint if my autosomal DNA. The areas with purple circles (southern Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland & Western Russia) represent trace DNAmarkers between 3% – 5% – basically, Viking territory

I sent one of my oldest British friends (I’ll call him Lord B) an email outlining my discovery. He rang within 10 minutes, barely able to speak for laughing. Turns out we’re distant cousins – both descended from Robert Bruce. He confirmed what Burke’s and an old book about Scottish peerages already had …the research leading from Robert Bruce to Patrick Henry was indeed correct. Turns out, more than a few of my dear old British chums are my distant cousins. We’ve shared some chuckles over the weekend about that. This certainly explains quite a bit about my love of certain British country pursuits and my sense of ‘home’ when I lived there. And probably explains why certain British and Irish places resonated with me while many did not: The Highlands and the Scottish Isles; Mayo, Cork and Clare in Ireland; and the West Country, Yorkshire and Northumberland in England.

As I’ve shared with my own family, the irony of all of this is not lost on me. Not one iota of it. I am a descendant of Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry…through a slave. That is one tough nut to try and wrap your noggin around. I’m a descendant of a man who, in that speech, also said:

“For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country.


“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”

I am elated to finally have an answer to a fundamental familial question. Have no doubt about that. Although that answer is not without a twist.





In search of: The British Roane family

Most of the time I share a completed family history story. You know, it has all the wrapping, bows ribbons and finishing touches. This isn’t one of those posts. It’s a good thing, really. It’s the perfect illustration for what we all have to go through when researching our ancestors.

Some background to this tale…

Right. So, in previous posts I’ve explained how two different Roane families arrived in the American colonies around the same time in the early 1700s. One Roane family is English and is connected to Charles ‘The Immigrant’ Roane from Surrey, England. Dear old Charles settled in Virginia. This is the chap I thought I was directly descended from. A DNA test has proven otherwise.

The second Roane family is Scots-Irish. This Roane family is connected to Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, who lived in Argyllsire, Scotland. He was granted an estate in County Antrim due to his service to William III of England. His sons settled in Lebanon County, PA and Essex County, VA. It is from him that I am descended.

Too many trees mis-represent that Archibald Roane is the son of Robert Roane (Charles’s father) and/or Charles ‘The Immigrant’ Roane. He is the son of neither.

A Coat of Arms answers one question

Interestingly, the Scot-Irish Roane family and the English Roane family share the same coat of arms. So there is a link between them somewhere in the mist of Medieval British history. Their common ancestor remains elusive.

Roane Coat of Arms

There is a variation with eagle’s head online, however, I haven’t actually seen that variant associated with the Roane family.  In crypts and in the houses associated with the British Roanes, I have only ever seen the Coat of Arms given above.

At this point, I’m going to quash the fabled link to the ancient Norman noble house of Ruan. The clue that there isn’t a connection between these two families is in their coat of arms. The main de Rouen coat of arms is below:


The coat of arms for la Maison de Rouen (senior branch)

Typically, a ‘cousin branch’ or junior/minor branch of a noble house will share at least one element with the senior branch. There are no such common or shared elements between the two coat of arms. For instance, there is no doubt of the relationship between the senior house of de Rouen and the junior branches of the family in France through the motifs used in the families’ crests.

While the Roanes more than likely did come from Normandy (as suggested by DNA test results), this is about all I can find that they share in common with the noble house of de Rouen.

Coats of Arms can answer important questions

Having a coat of arms opens up some interesting research opportunities. The fact that a Yeoman, or ‘gentleman’, was granted a coat of arms says something about his progress in English society (I’ll get to the Yeoman thing in a bit). When a coat of arms is granted, all manner of information is recorded with that grant. This information will be held at the College of Arms in England and perhaps the Heraldry Society of Sctland

Please do not email either of these organization asking for information. You must make an appointment with them and visit in person. I can’t stress that enough. Really. It doesn’t matter that you don’t live in the UK or anywhere near their respective offices. You must, must make an appointment and visit them in person.

These organizations will have information about who the coat of arms was granted to, the date it was granted, where he was living – and perhaps why it was granted.

The Roanes of Northumberland and York – and being Yeomans

Now, as far as I can see, the oldest known British areas of residence for the Roanes are Northumberland and York. Which, given Norman English history, doesn’t come as a surprise. Land, probate and parish records show Roanes in these two counties as early as the mid-1300s. These Roanes, however, were of the Yeoman class. Yeomans were a kind of ancient prototype for the Middle Classes, without the power or prestige. Yeomans manoeuvred a kind of netherworld, they weren’t peasants owned by the local lord – but they weren’t knights or nobility either. They owned land and/or business and paid taxes which gave them a measure of respectability.

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a minor noble in the family in the early Norman period of English history.  I just haven’t found one. What I’m finding may either be junior branches; descendants of a minor noble who became commoners. Or, Yeoman was all they ever were.

Tracking this family from Northumberland and Yorkshire, I can see where they branched out and came to reside in southern England, notably in Sussex and Surrey.

I haven’t found a trail that shows them going further north. That isn’t to say one doesn’t exist, I just haven’t found it. Scotland is, after all, really only a hop skip and a jump from both York and Northumberland. They are actually closer to Scotland than they are to London.

Roanes in Scotland

Now what is interesting are some factoids that I’ve found about the Scottish Roane family.

I came across the first snippet when I was searching the Scotland’s People website

Margaret Roane record on the Scotland’s People website

Margaret Roane record on the Scotland’s People website

So there was a definite Roane presence in Scotland as of 1583, approximately 2 generations previous to that of Archibald Gilbert Roane. Sadly, the Scotland’s Peoples website isn’t very generous with free previews, so I was unable to find out more about this Margaret Roane. Surprisingly, there are very few Roanes or Roans cited in its records. But this, at least, gave me something to go on.

The second snippet was this little gem I found on a site about Crogo and Holm of Dalquahairn in Scotland ( ):

[55] James Milligane in Nether Holm of Dalquhairn

April 14, 1698: Obligation by James and Roger McTurke in Upper Holm of Dalquhairn as principal and Robert Grierson, now in Glenshimmeroch, as cautioner, to pay to James Roane in Manquhill the sum of 300 merks and £50, with a terms annual rent, at Lammas 1698, with the ordinary annual rent and £50 of penalty. Dated at Glenshimmeroch and witnessed by James Milligane of Nether Holm of Dalquhairn and John McTurke in Little Auchrae, brother to the granters. Obligation registered Kirkcudbright August 16, 1698.

[Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1676-1700, no. 3132]

Naturally, I was curious about the correlation between Glencairn (for Margaret) and Moniaive (the closest place name Google Maps had for James Roane) – and generated the map below:


click for larger image

 As you can see, Margaret and James are within the same region of Scotland. So this, it would seem, is another area associated with the Roane family in Scotland. It gives me a specific casement area to do further research.

Now the other area of Scotland is Argyllshire for Archibald Roane. I plotted the distance from Moniaive to Argyll, and, as you’ll see below, there is a bit of distance between the two.


click for larger image

It gives a rather large search area to investigate.

I’ve begun concentrating on the Argyllshire area. Now whether it has to do with the scarcity of Roanes in the county, or from Archibald’s family’s status, I haven’t found anything about the family through the records for this county. Posterity was definitely the preserve of the Upper Classes.  However, I am surprised that I haven’t been able to find any mention of King William III’s warrant granting Archibald 1) the title of Sir (which is typically associated with a knighthood and garter of some sort) or 2) the landed estate King William III provided Archibald. It’s not unheard of – not finding a digitized record for either…but it is unusual. There’s no question that both of these things happened, I’ve seen it referenced in a Northern Irish account.  However, what I’m after is the holy grail – the actual records.

I feel tempted to apologize for the random snippets of information, But I’m not going to. It’s on honest reflection of an active family history research project. Sometimes all we have to go on are seemingly random threads which may or may not have anything to do with each other. It’s what I love about the process – the quiet little thrill of the chase…and the victory dance (yes, I do have one) when everything finally falls into place.

If you’re going to research this family…

My thoughts on research both the English and the Scots-Irish Roanes are this:

If you’re planning to research the Scots-Irish Roanes, there are a few places to physically go to for research:

  1. Glasgow’s Central Records Office. This should have records and documents pertaining to the family in the area.
  2. Visit Edinburgh: National Records of Scotland
  3. Visit Argyll:  with luck, this will have information about Archibald Gilbert Roane.
  4. Visit Belfast: The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland
  5. Visit Antrim, NI: The records office will definitely have information about Archibald Roane, his estate and, hopefully, his daughters and their descendants as well as any extended family members.
  6. Parish records in the towns and villages where they lived will have records of baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Truly, with the staggering amount of misinformation for this family, physically going through the original records is what’s required to stitch together the history of this family.

If you’re planning on researching the English Roanes:

My thoughts are along the same line as the Scots-Irish Roanes – physically going through the original records. .

  1. London: National records Office and the College of Arms
  2. Visit York: Central Records Office
  3. Visit Ashington, Northumberland: Northumberland Archives Office
  4. The above, in turn, will provide information about the towns and villages the Roanes of Northumberland and York lived in and/or owned property in. The local parish church will have records covering baptisms, marriages and deaths.

I’ve been thinking about using one of those online fundraising services to raise funds to spend a month ding all that I’ve outlined above. Having lived in England for nearly 30 years, I more than understand the British bureaucratic system. And it’s something I would love to do. Who knows!

With this family, I have the feeling that the truth will be far better, and more interesting, than the fiction.

So you think you’ve seen bad handwriting? Here’s Secretary Hand…

I’ll readily admit I don’t always have the most legible handwriting. I also know I’ve seen some downright undecipherable handwriting over the years. And then I came across Secretary Hand.  “What’s that?” I can hear you asking.  I don’t blame you. I had no idea what this was myself until I bought and downloaded digital copies of some Last Wills and Testaments for some 17th Century English Roane from the UK’s National Archives (

Secretary Hand was a style of writing predominantly used throughout Europe from the 15th Century to the 17th Century. This style of writing was invented to create a more legible form of writing – and writing that would be recognizable throughout Europe.  This may have been a truly legible form of writing in the time it was used…the irony is not lost on me in the modern era. As the name would suggest, it was largely used by clerical secretaries and scriveners (a scribe by any other definition).

In short, Secretary Hand was used for official documents.

Considering the amount of research I was able to achieve with Thomas ( , I hoped accessing his will would fill in some remaining gaps. I have a list of contemporary 17th Century English Roane family members that I can’t place on the family tree. Two of them are mentioned in this will. However, as my luck would have it, I can’t quite decipher the sentences in which their names appear.

These documents didn’t come with any transcriptions. What I have are digital copies of the originals. To me, that makes these documents even more precious. Each and every annotation, ink scratch and blot and all of the imperfections puts me in touch with a precise moments in time; the times when these documents were written, and then read.

Thomas Roane, Sergeant of the Poultry’s Last Will and Testament is a perfect example:

The last Will and Testament of Thomas Roane, Sr, Sergeant of the Scullery

The last Will and Testament of Thomas Roane, Sr, Sergeant of the Scullery – click for larger image

Thankfully, there are some pretty good online resources to help decipher Secretary Hand.

FamilySearch has a handy interactive online video tutorial that I highly recommend:

FamilySearch also has a handy Secretary Hand alphabet printout:

In and amongst the handful of English Roane wills I bought, there was one for a Bartholomew Roane. Bartholomew Roane is a name I have seen time and time again. He is associated with the Roane heartland of Northampton as well as London. Yet, I have come no closer to establishing how he’s related to the lines of English Roanes I’ve traced so far. All I can say with any certainty is that he belongs to an even earlier generation of the family. His Last Will and Testament threw up an extra surprise in addition to Secretary Hand:

Last Will and Testament of Bartholomew Roane

Last Will and Testament of Bartholomew Roane – click for larger image

Yes, that’s right, it’s in Latin…a language I haven’t seen, much less read, since I was in Year 10! It’s not surprising given that his will was written in either 1572 or 1573. I really ought to have expected it.

So while I make slow progress transcribing Thomas’s will, and the other wills written in English… Bartholomew’s will have to wait.

So bear this mind: if you’re seeking to add to your late medieval European ancestral knowledge by accessing their wills, expect to grapple with Secretary Hand 🙂

For me, it’s worth the struggle. These documents truly are unique windows into a past age. These aren’t wills as we know them today. They are in as much as they deal with the disposition of property and inheritance. But they also contain so much more – things our modern wills don’t.

Once I’ve successfully and fully finished transcribing the wills I have, I’ll start to post them.

In the meantime, I won’t complain about other people’s indecipherable handwriting again!

Researching archaic royal English appointments: John Roane: Yeoman of the Harriers to Charles I

This post is the last in the series of posts about the group of 17th Century Roanes who held various English royal court appointments. As I mentioned in the previous post about Thomas Roane, Jr., it has been an interesting experiencing connecting with ancestors through their careers in the English court. There’s been an unexpected wealth of publicly available digital versions of ancient documents to allow that journey to happen.

Things don’t get any more English than hunting. It’s certainly is (or rather was, as it’s now been banned) iconically British and aristocratic. Just look at all those paintings by Turner, Gainsborough and other luminaries which have depicted a throng of hounds chasing some hapless creature through hedge, thicket and across the fields. This was grand stuff. It was also the preserve of the very rich, the exceedingly privileged…and, of course, royalty. To the English aristocratic mind, few things said manliness more than a combination of guns, hounds and prey.

An English harrier

An English harrier

And this is where John Roane, Yeoman to the Harriers comes in. So what is a harrier? This royal warrant granted him the right “to take up and carry away hounds, greyhounds, dogs, guns, bows etc., destructive to his Majesty’s game.” In other words, a hunting hound. However, in this context, it meant hunting dogs in general.

Charles I, like many a monarch before and after him, had a passion for hunting. Which meant that John would have been kept fairly busy. John would have also been in close company with the king during such hunts. It was a proximity and closeness to the king which would place John Roane in some sticky situations and rather hot water later on. And leave a curious but lasting legacy, the effect of which can be seen to the present day.

St Alfege church, Greenwich, London, England

St Alfege church, Greenwich, London, England – click for larger image

John Roan was born in about 1602 in a house known as the Mansion House. The property adjoined the south side of St Alfege’s churchyard, in East Greenwich, his family church. The house would later become the site of the Mitre Tavern.

Upon his father’s death, he inherited substantial wealth and a number of rich properties. John, like his father and younger brother Robert  Roane (the father of Charles “The Immigrant” Roane of Virginia), probably began  his career of royal service in the King’s Palace of Placentia in Greenwich. Later he bought and sold properties, adding to the portfolio of real estate inherited from his father.

On Dec 19 1640 he was awarded the Warrant of succession to the post of Yeoman of his Majesty’s Harriers. The Patent warranted for John’s appointment as Yeoman of His Majesty’s Harriers by Thomas Potts (also known as Pott), Master of His Majesty’s Privy Harriers.

John also seems to have held other Royal posts connected to hunting, including Yeoman of his Majesty’s Greyhounds and according to another source, Yeoman Pricker to his Majesty, a kind of officer of the hunt.

You can read more about the art of 17th Century Harriers and hunting with this free eBook:   Hare-hunting and Harriers: With Notices of Beagles and Basset Hounds. Henry Anderson Bryden G. Richards, 1903

The English Civil War

Upon the advent of civil war between the King and Parliament, John offered his services to the King. This demonstrates the nature of the bond between the two men.  By August, the king appointed him as a Lieutenant in the royal regiment then being raised in Staffordshire by Lord William Paget.  John was arrested in Walsall, attempting to recruit men for the King, and was sent as a prisoner to Northampton jail. This was not without a sense of irony for Northampton was one of the Roane family’s ancient seats. So there he was right in the thick of things from the earliest days of unrest. He was examined there on 19 September 1642 where he answered to the charges set against him: That he was employed by Lieutenant-Colonel D’Ewes in a regiment assigned by Lord Paget to Colonel Bolls with a commission under the King’s own hand to raise volunteers, which he “showed to the Mayor of Walsall, who refused to let him beat up his drum and apprehended him.”

It was noted that John complained of having been “stripped and left destitute by the magistrates”.

The Earl of Essex ordered him to be dispatched to London, where he was to “remain in safe custody.” John was a prisoner in London for the remainder of 1642; “being stripped of all he had and in great necessity and want, ready to starve in prison.” I don’t doubt it. Imprisonment in 17th Century London was a grim business.

John sent for his brother Robert, a resident of Westminster at the time, to aid him. And, depending upon the close filial ties which had always bound the family together, he was much surprised when Robert refused to come anywhere near him.  Close to despair, John sent a message to a friend, Richard Wakeman, who “immediately came to him and relieved his wants both for money and clothes”.

Johns will

John determined that if his brother would not help him in life, then he would not benefit by his death, and he changed his will. In his original will John had left the bulk of his property to Robert.  John’s new will, dated 19 March 1643, was written when he was probably still in prison.  I actually have a copy of the will. Sadly, it’s difficult for me to decipher as it is written in that style of 17th Century script/cursive writing which I find nearly impossible to read.

After making provision for his wife, Elizabeth, during her lifetime, he blotted out all relatives in favour of Wakeman , his wife and their children, Elizabeth and Mary, for whom he also made provision during their lifetimes. The blotting out of more than one name suggests that more family members, in addition to Robert, also did not come to John’s aide. I have found no information about why his kinsmen refused to come to his aide. I have found no records, mention or hints of any Roanes supporting the Parliamentarian side during the civil war. That aside, there can only be conjecture.

John Roane's plaque at St  Alfege church plaque

John Roane’s plaque at St Alfege church – click for larger image

John was released from imprisonment after about a year’s interment but his health was broken and he had died by 4 March 1645, the date on which his will was proved. He was buried in the family vault at St Alfege’s Church Greenwich. For trivia buffs, this is the same church where the Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis is buried as well as the English-born explorer of Canada, Henry Kelsey.

The John Roan(e) School

The other provision of John Roan’s second will was the establishment of a school to educate boys of poor families from East Greenwich, up to the age of 15, “to bring upp soe many poore towne-born children of East Greenwich aforesaid at schoole that is to reading, writing and cyphering, and each of them fortie shillings per annum towards their clothing until each of them shall accomplish the age of fifteene yeares… And my will and mind is that the said poor children shall wear on their upper garment the cognisance or crest of me, John Roan.”

He gave his house for this endeavour, which is still in use to this day as he had intended.

John Roan's house in Greenwich, London; site of the original John Roan School

John Roan’s house in Greenwich, London; site of the original John Roan School –          click for larger image

John Roan's crest

John Roan’s crest

A crest with three stags facing to left with right foreleg raised, and stars on a dark green background or more properly ‘three bucks or stags trippant  proper with a crest, a buck’s head proper holding in its mouth an oak branch vert, acorn.”

It was not until 1677, after the death of his wife, that the founding of the school proceeded. The school is located quite close to Roan Street, Greenwich, London where John had owned land and a number of properties, the rents of which would be used to fund the school.

The Charities Commissioners agreed in 1677 that funds from the Roan Estate (including the leasing of property) would be used to maintain the new School and that the Vicar, the Churchwardens and the Overseers of the poor of Saint Alfege, Greenwich as the Trustees of John Roan’s will were to manage the Estate. They formed part of the Feoffees of the Roan Charity who were later renamed the Governors of the Roan Schools Foundation.  However it was not until 1686 that the first schoolmaster was appointed and the John Roan School officially opened.

Known as “Mr. Roan’s Charity”, its full name was the ‘Greycoat School of the Foundation of John Roan.  This first school, situated near the corner of King William Walk and Romney Road, Greenwich, educated some 16 boys, rising to 20 over the next century. During all this time the boys wore grey cloaks, round hats, leather knee breeches and buckle shoes, (they wore Roan’s crest in the form of an oval badge. This was in copper and depicted a stag’s head facing to the left with a leafy twig in its mouth). They must have been well know as they walked with their teacher to St Alfege’s Church every Sunday. The same badge is still in use at the school to this day.

During the 18th century revenues of the Roan Estate rose dramatically. In the thirty years after 1775, the rentals trebled. By 1814, the revenue of the Roan estate enabled it to educate and clothe a hundred boys. The old school became part of Greenwich Hospital, and new premises were built on land behind St Alfege’s. After much discussion it was further decided to establish the first John Roan School for girls. By 1853 some 630 boys and girls were on roll, while the Education Acts of the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries saw a huge expansion in education facilitating the school’s move to Maze Hill in 1928.

The John Roan Foundation Trust still flourishes and supports the school in a number of ways from providing extra resources to the annual “Roan Exhibition Scholarship” which each year gives financial support for the two students with the best A-level results. Archives of the school’s history are kept and Founders Day celebrated annually.

You can read more about the Roan School here:

I’d recommend this part of Greenwich for Roane descendants to explore. Little survives of the Roane family holdings in England. This really is one of the few ways to directly connect with them – and it’s both a moving and powerful one at that.

Researching archaic royal English appointments: Thomas Roane, Jr.: Sergeant of the Poultry to Charles II.

Thomas Roane - Sergeant of the Poultry

Thomas Roane – Sergeant of the Poultry – click for larger image

When I first saw this title, I thought the word ‘poultry’ pretty much nailed it. I thought “ah ha – a glorified chicken herder’.  Or at the very least, a protector of the royal chickens. Then I hit good old trusty Google to do some research and was in for a few surprises.

I kind of chuckled to myself over this job title because it seemed like there was a job title for every little thing in a royal household. I asked myself if it was really all that necessary.  I guess, for life in the 17th century, it was. The Poultry was actually an area of a palace, much like the kitchens. So that’s one thing I got for being glib and more than a little dismissive about it.

The Poultry was primarily concerned with the lamb, fowl, butter, and eggs for the monarch’s table. It also had a staff of purveyors, who supplied “fowl of every kind imaginable, not merely the barnyard varieties known to the modern palate, but peacocks, sparrows and larks as well. They also brought in butter, rabbits, and kid young goats to you and me).” The Scalding house, which dressed poultry and “prepared the meat before it was issued to the larder”, came under the Poultry’s jurisdiction. So there was more going on than merely chasing and managing chickens.

The poultry also provided fruit, greens, and other dairy products for the royal table.  In 1660 the establishment of the poultry consisted of a clerk and a sergeant, appointed by royal warrant, and yeomen and grooms, appointed by lord steward’s warrant. In 1662 the remuneration of the sergeant was fixed at wages of £11 8s 1½d and board wages of £44 15s. Between 1664 and 1668 the holder of the office was designated sergeant of the poultry and scalding house. The board wages were increased to £54 15s in the former year but reduced to £38 11s 10½d in 1680. In 1673 a supernumerary (a temporary or redundant position, depending on the source you read) sergeant was appointed who succeeded to the office shortly afterwards but was reduced to supernumerary status in 1686. The office was abolished in 1689.

During the early years of Charles II, the number of yeomen fluctuated between the two named in 1660 and the one finally established in 1668. After numerous variations the remuneration was settled at wages of £5 and board wages of £45 in 1689. Three grooms were appointed in 1660. After some fluctuations the number was fixed at two in 1680. Wages were set at £2, but board wages fluctuated between £27 6s 8d and £40 under Charles II. Supernumerary grooms were appointed in 1662, 1664 and 1685.

It was the duty of the Sergeant of the Poultry to assure that enough poultry was in stock. He (sorry ladies, such posts were handled by men in those days), had to restrain his staff from making off with birds that were of fit quality for the king or queen’s table. The theft of a hen, which cost 2d., would require the Kitchen to use mutton in its place, which cost 8 to 10d. He was also required to “see that the said Poultry shall be put into the Scalder’s (the person and kitchen area responsible for scalding the carcasses of animals) hands daily, at such hours, both morning and after dinner, that they may have convenient time to dress the same,” a duty that required constant attention, since the scalding house had to have enough time to prepare the birds for the kitchen before they were needed for the various meals.

At least this placed Thomas Roane, Jr in an overall “below the stairs” context. He continued a Roane presence in the larger kitchen area of the palace established by his father, Thomas Roane, Sr. and uncle, John Roane. Again, quite the family affair.

And then Google threw up some rather gruesome details, which also impacted on the duties of his father and his uncle.

The reigning monarch was god at court. They had the power of life or death and meted out punishments however they saw fit. Courtiers who drew blood at court were liable to face a monarch’s wrath. I thought this would be a mere ticking off, a slap on the wrist and told not to be a naughty boy in the future. Perhaps a fine levied for a more serious altercation. Wrong. The Tudors and the Stuarts had some rather macabre punishments which involved all manner of mutilations for those who engaged in fracases at Court. The Sergeant of the Scullery, his Yeoman and the Sergeant of the Poultry had roles to perform as part of the punishment process.

In Henry VIII’s reign:

Punishments meted out by Henry VIII at Court

Sergeant of the Poultry’s role in court punishments – click for larger image


Henry VIII pt2[Taken from: The Punishment and Prevention of Crime:]

So how did they ‘relieve the suffering’? If I’m reading the excerpts below correctly, by cauterising the wound with hot metal. And, more gruesomely, the application of dead poultry. I’m not sure what that was supposed to do – and I haven’t found any answers.

Sergeant of the Poultry's role in Court punishments

Sergeant of the Poultry’s role in Court punishments – click for larger image

[Taken from The statutes at large, of England and of Great Britain: from Magna Carta to the union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 3. Sir Thomas Edlyne Tomlins and John Raithby:]

An actual first-hand account is given here:

An actual Court punishment involving the Sergeant of the Poultry

An actual Court punishment involving the Sergeant of the Poultry – click for larger image

[Taken from Things not generally known: familiarly explained. Jon Timbs. ]

The job description for this royal Court post must have made for some interesting reading. And Thomas, Jr. must have been made of tough stuff. He was definitely more than just a chicken herder!

Thomas Roane, Jr served a succession of monarchs following Charles II. He survived one royal upheaval after another following the death of Charles II: the abdication of James II, the uncertainty that followed the deaths of William and Mary (who came to the throne after “The Glorious Revolution”) and the uncertainty which followed the death of Queen Anne, who left no surviving heirs to succeed her. I’m glossing over it, but these decades were anything but safe and secure for any courtier. Thomas witnessed it all, entering his retirement as the German House of Hanover came to the English throne. He is yet another Roane family survivor.

It’s been an interesting journey connecting with some of the ancestors through the duties they performed. The last in this series will be John Roane, Yeoman of His Majesty’s Harriers. His was an appointment I wouldn’t have minded for myself.

Researching archaic royal English appointments: Thomas Roane, Sr.: Yeoman of the Scullery

This post follows on from the story of John Roane, Sergeant of the Scullery for the English King, James I which will give you a picture of how royal kitchens were organised and managed in 17th Century England.

Thomas Roane Sr, Yeoman of the Scullery

Thomas Roane Sr, Yeoman of the Scullery – click for a larger image

This post covers the story of Thomas Roane, Yeoman of the Scullery to James I. Thomas was the brother of John Roane, the Sergeant of the Scullery.  As a Yeoman, Thomas would have been subordinate to his brother. All the same, it’s interesting to see two brothers in charge of the kitchen operation at James I’s palace at the same time. What may seem odd to us in modern times was nothing exceptional in those times. As I mentioned in previous posts, nepotism was the norm in 17th Century royal courts. It was one way for a family to consolidate its prestige. All the same, it must have made for an interesting family dynamic. Or, at the very least, a demonstration of close familial ties. 

The reason why I’ve given Thomas his own post, instead of including him on the post of his brother John has to do with the term ‘Yeoman’. I was surprised to see this term being actively used in the mid to late 17th Century. It’s a term typically associated with men from the early medieval period, as in no later than the 1400’s. So what’s the big deal? It just goes to show how resilient language is.  Yeoman was a term historically used to differentiate between free men and serfs, that class of peasants who were the property of the local lord under the English feudal system. Peasants were slaves and there was no two ways about it. As property that was owned, the local lord could do as he wished with his peasants. Sound familiar?  The practice was entrenched throughout Europe during this period, stretching from Scotland all the way to the Russian steppes and everywhere in between. So you can kind of see why being a Yeoman was a big deal.  Yeoman owned land. They were property owners. In short, they had some measure of control over their lives while still remaining subservient to the nobility.

When the already ancient Feudal system died out in England, more or less after the plagues of the 14th Century (, the term Yeoman remained in use to distinguish a class of servants. The English were nothing if not economical when it came to recycling the meanings behind historical words. Instead of designating freedom, it designated a rank between aristocratic knights and ‘common’ soldiers. The English were (and remain) a class-orientated society. Rank meant everything. More information about the history of the Yeoman class can be found here:

The image below gives an insight into this rank in Cardinal Wolsey’s household (the chap who organised Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, paved the way for Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, the break with the Church of Rome and the builder of Hampton Court Palace):

Yeoman of the Scullery in the time of Cardinal Wolsey of England

Description of the Yeoman of the Scullery position in the time of Cardinal Wolsey of England – click for a larger image

[image taken from:

By the time of Elizabeth I, the rank of Yeoman had risen somewhat; meaning that Thomas was a sort of entry-level or junior manager in James I’s court.

Surprisingly, I even found a record with his annual income. Thomas earned the sum of what looks to be £10 per annum as shown below:

Thomas Roane's remuneration

Thomas Roane’s remuneration – click for a larger image

Taken from:,+thomas+roane&source=bl&ots=2T_w8X3ox6&sig=DOuIXxiUvdGFhYZBECAyFxUQOmc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=An-bUrrPGvLMsASOk4HgAw&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=thomas%20roane&f=false

Unfortunately, I can’t gauge what 100 shillings would have been worth, in adjusted modern money, during the time of James I.  So it’s hard for me to gauge whether his pay was in line with his responsibilities.  It’s only a simple single line. For me, on a personal level, it’s priceless. While I can’t find details of the birth parents for some ancestors who lived three or so generations ago…I can see the details of an ancestor who lived centuries ago…even if it is only in a sentence in an old bit of manuscript.

So there we have it, the story of two brothers who contributed to the lavish spectacle that was dinning at James I court.

Next up will be Thomas Roane’s son, Thomas Roane, Jr., Sergeant of the Poultry to King Charles I. He’s a man who lived through some of the most turbulent decades in English history, after the War of the Roses. His is an interesting tale of political survival – all illustrated through a succession of court appointments.

Researching archaic royal English appointments: John Roane: Sergeant of the Scullery

Following on from yesterday’s post about Anthony Roane, the Under Auditor of the Exchequer to Elizabeth I…today we have Anthony Roane’s cousin, John Roane, Sergeant of the Scullery to King James I.

It’s worth reading the post about Anthony Roane to better understand the importance of royal appointments and how these appointments fit into the overall context of life as courtier at the English Court.

I wasn’t always a history buff. My interest in history, particularly European history, didn’t happen until I started my European literature degree at University. Historical events and memes influence literature of any given period. Understanding history allows a reader to better grasp the nuances of an author’s thoughts, beliefs, opinions and perspective. That’s where my interest in history began and it’s been that way ever since. So as soon as I saw the word ‘scullery’, I immediately knew this royal court posting had something to do with palace life below the stairs in the kitchens.

It’s worth briefly pointing out that kitchens for the rich – and what we’d think of as the upper middle classes – weren’t anything like what we think of today. Kitchens were dangerous places as they were prone to fires and explosions. As a result, kitchens were contained in a separate building or series of buildings physically set apart from the main domestic building.

Typically, a kitchen would would consist of a series of  separate rooms within a stand-alone building to house various foods (and even some of these would have been housed within separate rooms), cooking, baking (flour dust was a real fire and explosion risk), stores for all manner of plate, utensils, serving dishes, etc. Have a look at just how far away from the main living quarters the kitchen block was at Hampton Court Palace:

An overview of Hampton Court Palace in the Tudor period

An overview of Hampton Court Palace in the Tudor period – click for larger image

It makes sense. You’re a monarch and you have all manner of riches, art treasures and the like. You really don’t want it all going up in smoke. So you put the biggest fire risk as far away from your possessions as humanly possible. In a royal household, what we think of as a kitchen would have been a complex of various rooms and annexes. The number of people working within them would have seemed like a small village.

It’s also worth remembering that a 17th Century monarch was still believed to be directly appointed by god. And as such, one had to put on a show to impress, well, everybody – from courtiers to diplomats to important royal visitors. Food, and everything surrounding food, had to be impressive. Bling, even when it came to food preparation, was everything in the 17th Century. Your tableware couldn’t just be tableware…it had to be a ‘statement’.

The image below shows just how many separate rooms formed what we think of as a kitchen:

Hampton Court Palace layout

Hampton Court Palace layout – click for larger image

Casting an eye over these images made me realise the scale of what John Roane would have been responsible for managing. When I initially saw the word ‘scullery’ I have to admit I did slightly dismiss it.  I didn’t think it would be as impressive as Anthony Roane’s appointment in the Exchequer. The image above made me realise just how wrong I was. While their duties may have been vastly different and required different skills, John Roane’s duties would have been every bit as demanding as his cousin’s from the previous generation. The kitchens John would have overseen were on an enormous scale. I’d love to see how Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver would have coped 😉

As with anything English, royal and 17th Century, there was a distinct hierarchy and pecking order even within the scullery. Thankfully, there are contemporary writings which provide a glimpse into the nature of John’s appointment.

So what was going on in the scullery?

In 1660 the establishment of the palace scullery consisted of a clerk and a sergeant appointed by royal warrant and yeomen, grooms, pages and children appointed by lord steward’s warrant. The fixed remuneration of the clerk, was set at wages of £6 13s 4d and board wages of £54 15s in 1662, rising 1674–80 to £80. In addition, he was allowed poundage on the plate passing into the office.

Between 1685 and 1689 the office was combined with that of clerk of the bakehouse, pastry, poultry and woodyard with a salary of £91 13s 4d. In 1689 the remuneration was fixed at wages of £6 13s 3d and board wages of £73 6s 8d. The office was combined with that of clerk of the pastry and woodyard between 1702 and 1761 and was abolished in the latter year [from] I have no idea how this equates to modern money, but I’m willing to bet these posts were well paid.

The remuneration of the sergeant was fixed at wages of £11 8s 1½d and board wages of £54 15s in 1662. The board wages fell to £38 11s 10½d in 1680. The office was reduced to supernumerary status in 1685.

In John’s time, there were three yeomen, six grooms, two pages, three children, who would have reported to him. While it’s difficult to put a definite number to the more menial workers, budget records indicate there were a significant number of more menial workers in the scullery: polishers, washers, preparers, etc. Putting this picture into a modern perspective, a picture of senior middle management begins to emerge. John would have reported directly to the Lord Steward.

Overall, some of his duties included managing: [the summaries below are taken from:]


The presentation of meals on rows and rows of gleaming trays and serving platters made quite a show, but the business of keeping them clean and polished fell to the Scullery. The Scullery “washed up the various trays, platters and other utensils,” and tended the fires in the kitchen departments. They purchased and were responsible for large amounts of coal probably to heat the water they used to clean the dishes. The Scullery also bought “Brass potts, pannes, broches, iron, rocks, standerdes, gardevianch, and other necessaries” and would have stored all of these utensils, in addition to cleaning and acquiring them.

The sergeant of the Scullery and his staff had to “see his vessells, as well silver as pewter, to be well and truly kept, and saved from losses and stealing.” Because the officers of the Scullery received all the damaged pots, except the silver ones, as part of their fee, keeping them safe must have been very difficult. The Scullery and Woodyard shared one Sergeant between them, which indicates that they may have been separate entities only on paper. This is reasonable, since the two departments were so closely connected in function.


The Woodyard bought the wood and rushes needed to heat and light a household, as well as wood needed for other uses. It was responsible for “plancks, boards, quarters, tressets, forms, and carpenters, hired in time of progresses”, and it collected and issued wood and coal to the kitchen departments. It employed two woodbearers, six porters and “scourers”, in addition to the eight yeomen and grooms. This large staff can only be explained when one considers the huge number of rooms in the majority of Elizabeth’s palaces, each with its own fireplace, and the fact that England in the sixteenth century was not a warm place, a warm day being fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit.


The Spicery was another major department, it bought wax and fruit in addition to the obvious rare and expensive spices. The clerk of the Spicery was responsible for “the Spicery, Chaundry, Confectionery, the Ewery, Wafry, and Laundry.” They used the wax to seal bottles of spices to keep them from going stale.  The Spicery also transfered goods into the Chaundry. The Chaundry was responsible for the candles and tapers used within the court. They dealt in wax and tallow, making their own candles and tallow candles, even to the point of having a “purveyor of the waxe”, and three clerks to keep accounts of the raw materials that they needed. ”

As a sub-department of the Spicery, the Chaundry did not account directly to the counting house,” rather it reported to the Clerk of the Spicery who then included its totals in his report to the Board of Greencloth. The Confectionery made sweetmeats out of the “fruit, sugar and spices” available to it from the Spicery. Elizabeth’s funeral procession lists Grooms and Yeomen, as is appropriate for a small department. The sweetmeats were a luxury item, and the assignment of an entire department to their production could only emphasize the brilliance of Elizabeth’s household.

All in all, John Roane was responsible for overseeing a vast enterprise.  When I think about how busy a restaurant or hotel kitchen can be, I can’t even begin to imagine the day-to-day experience John was probably faced with.  When it came to the extravagant court dining festivities James I was famed for, I can barely comprehend it. He must have been one very level-headed, talented and very cool customer to have held this appointment for as long as he did.

I know I for one will never complain about cleaning my kitchen again. 😉

Researching archaic royal English appointments: Anthony Roane: Under Auditor of the Exchequer

In yesterday’s post, I cited some archaic and, let’s face it, unusual sounding job titles for some of my ancient Roane ancestors who served various English Tudor and Stuart monarchs. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to spend some time researching some of these royal court appointments. I had a hunch that this would add some meat to the meagre bones of these ancestors’ stories. It was a great hunch to follow.

Over the next couple of days I will select one Roane from the Tudor and Stuart period of English history and describe what they did. What I won’t be doing is giving a dry history lesson 😉  For those who want to delve more deeply into the nature of the royal appointments granted to these men, I’ll provide links to additional sources.

First up is Anthony Roane, Under Auditor of the Exchequer to Elizabeth I.

Before I can really describe what he did, I’ll need to cover two things first: 1) cover the nature and important of royal court appointments; and 2) give a brief overview of what the English Exchequer office (which still exists today, by the way. George Osborne is the current Chancellor of the Exchequer).

Royal Court Appointments in England

Much like royal courts around the world, English ruling monarchs had the power to grant court appointments, as did their senior aides. Senior aides could be family members from the monarch’s extended family, powerful noble houses which the monarch wanted to keep ‘on side’ or useful and/or rich commoners the monarch chose to ennoble. Court appointments were like gold dust – bringing prestige, influence, power and, of course, wealth.

I’ll explain this in a minute but the next bit is worth remembering: the closer the court appointment was to the physical person of the monarch, the more powerful and influential that appointment was. This remains true to this day. If your appointment placed you within a king or queen’s bedchamber, which meant you could actually touch the monarch and/or his or her personal belongings, you were in a very powerful position indeed. Let’s face it, if you’re emptying a king or queen’s chamber pot, you were on fairly intimate terms with them! The further your appointment took you way from the physical proximity of the monarch, the lower down the courtier (those who attended a king or queen’s court) scale you were. However, even the lowliest of court appointments was better than not having one at all. There was always the opportunity of advancement depending on how ambitious or ruthless you were or how useful you made yourself to the monarch or his/her senior aides. A Lord or Lady of the Bedchamber would outrank a Sargent of the Scullery in the court hierarchy.

Always remember that England, like other European countries, was (and remains) a rigidly fixed class-ruled society. This replicated itself within the royal court patronage and appointment system. It’s a system that was so effective that remains in place to this very day.

The Office of the Exchequer

For a history of the Office of the Exchequer in England, Wikipedia is as good a place as any to find out more about the history and the development of this ancient English system of government budgeting and accounting: .

Put simply, the Exchequer is a government department of the United Kingdom responsible for the management and collection of taxation and other government revenues under a system which stretches back to the mid-12th Century. Just like today, anything to do with taxation and government revenues had a high level of importance attached to it. So anyone with a responsibility for overseeing these activities was going to be fairly influential and important. They would also have to be acutely politically astute. Like anything to do with taxes, it was a political minefield. Just think about the politics surrounding modern day government budget and taxation issues – as it is now it was back then. I’d even wager that the political hurly burly was much more severe centuries ago.  Modern day politicians don’t have to worry about being tortured and/or beheaded should they fall out of favour. This was a very real threat centuries ago.

Anthony Roane

Anthony Roane

While I haven’t found a year of birth for Anthony, I can only presume he must have been born during the reign of Henry VIII. Which means he was lived during a particularly violent and topsy turvy period of English history.  He witnessed the Dissolution of the Abbeys, the break with the Roman Catholic Church, the establishment of the Church of England (Edward VI), the Restoration of Catholicism (Mary I), the Re-establishment of the Anglican faith (Elizabeth I) with all of the burning at the stake, beheadings and intrigues which occurred during this time period (

Anthony Roane was appointed Under Auditor of the Exchequer in 1558 and served Queen Elizabeth I. His appointment came at an interesting time. The Exchequer had previously been controlled by the powerful Dukes of Norfolk.  Rival noble houses successfully diminished the power of the Exchequer in order to diminish the power and influence of this ductal family.

However, Robert Cecil (Lord Burghley, immortalised in the Hollywood movie Elizabeth), and William Paulet (Lord High Treasurer) changed this. There was a notable change in the Exchequers’ influence and power from 1556 onwards. Anthony Roane was in the right place at the right time.

I haven’t found any anecdotal evidence as to how Anthony Roane secured his royal appointment. Presumably other Roane kin also in service at the Tudor court in various royal appointments helped to secure this. This is the way it traditionally worked at court: first one family member receives a royal appointment and then they set about securing additional appointments for other family members.  Nepotism was the norm and not the exception.

When reading the following, I gained a better understanding of what an Auditor of the Exchequer actually did, and how this Office was actually arranged:

As an Under Auditor, he would have been part of the Upper Exchequer, also known as the Exchequer of Audit. No surprises there then! Key to Anthony’s appointment is the word “under” in his court title. This means he wouldn’t have been calling the shots. He had what we would think of as senior managers and executives he had to answer to. Nonetheless, he would have been tasked with handling sensitive fiscal matters, often-times with legal implications. While I haven’t found him in Cambridge University’s alumni rolls, as I have done with some of his contemporary Roane kinsmen, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had completed legal training. Legal knowledge seems to have been part of the role.

For example, In January 1576 he was summoned before the Privy Council in London, possibly to give information about the finances of the Savoy, and later in the same year he was asked to investigate complaints of unlawful enclosure of common land by Sir Thomas Gresham in Osterley Park. This must have been a delicate task, as he was on very friendly terms with Sir Thomas’s family. Lady Anne Gresham, a relative of Roane’s second wife, was godmother to his daughter, who was named after her. He was also tasked with providing a report on queen Elizabeth I’s land holdings in Yorkshire and in and around the City of York (

Interesting, Anthony is associated with two regions of England: Middlesex to the south and Yorkshire in the north. These are two very different regions at polar opposite ends of England. It would seem that the family’s original seat was in the north of England, near Ripon. So how he came to be in the south remains a mystery.  The southern counties of England, however, is where the family would come to flourish even further, especially under Robert Roane of Surrey born some 130+ years after Anthony.

Roane had a little land in the West Riding of Yorkshire at Adel, Cottingham and Wooderson. He owned the site of Middlesbrough priory, which he sold in 1572. He held a crown lease in Carmarthenshire too. The rest of his estate was in the south. At his death he left land in Hatton and Heston, Middlesex, as well as his house at Hounslow and the New Inn and a ‘brewing-house’ there.

More information about Anthony Roane and his parliamentary career and estates can be found here:

So what were my ‘take-aways’ for Anthony Roane based on researching his royal appointment? He was held in good esteem by his contemporaries. He certainly seems to have profited by it with his various land holdings and estates. He had a degree of influence and seems to have acquitted himself ‘well’ within his remit. In short, he seems a perfect example of an Elizabethan court Gentleman, surviving the hurly burly of court life and the Tudor period…by no means an easy task. Which leads me to believe he was politically astute – which is something of a Roane family virtue, given the political careers of Roanes in the US in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.

Hitting the brick wall: Peter Schultheiss Scheffe (Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)

It’s inevitable.  When you’re researching your family you are going to hit a brick wall. Peter Schultheiss Scheffe is one of those walls.

Peter Scheffe family

Peter Scheffe family

For a man who became mayor of a town in 18th Century Germany, owned a milling business and is thought to have been a judge, precious little is known about this man. I’ve been throwing every trick I know to smash this wall down…to no avail.  If there is comfort to be taken, I am not the only one experiencing a sense of frustration where this man is concerned. A quick scan of family trees in shows a staggering number of family trees which stop at Peter Schultheiss Scheffe. Whether it’s an American descendant or descendants in Germany, France or The Netherlands – no one has been able to crack this mystery.

Why is he important?

He’s a keystone ancestor which links a number of families in Europe and the US together. It’s only natural to want to know more about him.  He is also the person who connects the Scheffe and Sheffey families in the US together as well as the Scheffey and Scheffe families in Germany.  In the aftermath of the religious wars which ragged across the region in the 17th and 18th Centuries, and Napoleon’s invasion, a number of his children, grand children and great grandchildren emigrated to the American colonies (PA initially and then MD and VA), Canada, England and the Netherlands.

So what do we know?

The paragraph below is one that appears over and over again in online searches:

Die Mühle wurde im Jahre 1725 durch Peter Scheffe, Schultheiß von Herschberg und Werschhausen, wieder aufgebaut. Besitzer wurde damals Peter Angne, dessen Nachkommen bis zum Jahre 1842 Müller dieser Mühle waren. Angne war wahrscheinlich Schweizer Einwanderer, der zu einer Hugenottenfamilie gehörte und nach dem Dreißigjährigen Krieg in das entvölkerte Gebiet kam. Er hatte sich 1726 mit Maria Margaretha, der Tochter des Schultheißen Peter Scheffe, verheiratet. Die Mühle war vier Generationen im Besitz der Familie Angne. Die Witwe des Peter Angne, Philippine, heiratete in zweiter Ehen den Müller zu Rieschweiler, Adam Bayer. Deren Sohn starb 1885. Dann war die Mühle 10 Jahre an Albert Lenhard von Schauerberg verpachtet. Der neue Besitzer Karl Ludwig Ziegler aus Schönenberg heiratete 1895 Bertha Bayer und hinterließ die Söhne Ludwig und Hermann.

The most reliable translation reads as follows:

The mill was built in 1725 by Peter Scheffe, mayor of Herschberg and Werschhausen. The next owner was Peter Angne, whose descendants owned it until 1842. Agne was probably  a Swiss immigrant and belonged to a Huguenot family, arriving after the Thirty Years War in the depopulated area. He had been married to Maria Margaretha in 1726, the daughter of the mayor Peter Scheffe. The mill was owned by four generations of the family Angne. The widow of Peter Angne, Philippine, married a second time to the Müller Rieschweiler, Adam Bayer. His son died in the 1885. Then the mill was leased 10 years to Albert Lenhard of Schauerberg. The new owner Karl Ludwig Ziegler from Schoenberg married Bertha Bayer in 1895 and left the mill to his sons Ludwig and Hermann.

Peter’s highlights are:

  • He was born around 1669.  There is some conflicting information about where he was born.  Some say he was born in Permasens in present day Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz (see the German map below, it’s the ‘state’ highlighted in dark green). Some say he was born in France and others that he came from Switzerland. German map. Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz is highlighted in dark green.
    German map. Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz is highlighted in dark green.
  • He married Anna Elizabetha from the influential Kiefer family.  No marriage certificate has been found so the date and place of this marriage is unknown. While little is currently known about this marriage, Anna Elisabetha was the mother of his children.
  • He married for a second time.  In 1779 he married Maria Elisabetha Margaretha Wagner in Thaleischweiler which is also in Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz.  This second union doesn’t seem to have produced any further children.
  • All of the digital information available illustrates the same story. He arrives in Herschberg, Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz at an unknown date.  In 1725 he either built or re-built the town’s flour mill, which he owned.
Scheffe family mill, Herschberg, Germany

Scheffe family mill, Herschberg, Germany

  • He was the Mayor of both Herschberg and  Würschhausermühle
  • He died in 1749 in Thaleischweiler, Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz,which where he is buried.

There is a conflicting account of his origins, as I’ve mentioned above. What we do know is that he practiced Lutheranism. If it is true that he was born in France, he would have been born within living memory of divisive and controversial historical figures like Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1530–1569, French Huguenot figurehead),_prince_de_Cond%C3%A9 and  Catherine de Medici, Queen Regent of France during a period of great religious upheavals. Like many French Huguenot families, his may have very well escaped to either neighbouring Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany or Switzerland.

It’s also worth remembering that Rheinland-Pfalz, like Alsace-Lorraine, passed back and forth between France and Germany like a football as succession of various kings won and lost territorial wars. So it is plausible that his family may have had to swap back and forth between French and German nationalities as control of this region changed hands.

Some online inquiries

In a pique of frustration, I contacted two professional genealogists who specialize in this region of Germany as well as the Herschberg municipal offices to see if any more information could be found. The municipal office knew the name but knew nothing of Peter’s origins. It was a complete mystery to them.  The genealogists took a punt.  The deal was that if they found anything after a week’s preliminary investigation, that I’d hire them to pursue this line of inquiry. They found very little that I didn’t already know.

What they did find made me laugh, in a good way. Peter Scheffe began his working life as…a Schuhmacher – or shoe maker. He was engaged in the same profession as his son Johann Adam Scheffe (later Adam Sheffey of Fredericksburg, MD) and Adam Sheffey’s son Daniel Henry Sheffey (who would go on to become a celebrated lawyer and congressman).  Peter then went on to become a Mühlenbeständer – miller (auf der Mühlhauser Mühle und Schultheiß) and then mayor of  Herschberg and Wörschhausen…and then a Schultheiss, or judge. So shoe making and public office were in the family’s blood as far back as the mid to late 17th century. Traits the family brought to the New World.

The genealogists went on to offer some other interesting insights.  These are around the family’s name itself. They suggested that Peter’s father perhaps had the surname Schoffe, Schoeffe = Gerichtsmann or Schaefer = shepherd. I have to admit I’m still getting my head around 17th Century German naming conventions, which I’m finding confusing.  Added to this, family names changed radically during this period and the preceding centuries, just as they did elsewhere in Europe.  This is based on phonetic spelling variations of names as well as spellings which were considered ‘fashionable’ at different periods in time. Added to the variations given above, we can also add Shaff and Sheaff to the mix. It makes finding the ancestors of Peter Scheffe a Herculean challenge. One that’s just too expensive for me to hire a professional genealogist to sort out (not that they aren’t worth every penny).

The genealogists then went on to say that the 30 Years War’_War was an important consideration. During the war, and immediately afterwards, people from many parts of Germany, the Tirol and Switzerland emigrated to the Palatinate.

Then came the kicker that I wasn’t expecting: it’s really interesting that he was a mayor and Schultheiss, a judge, in early 18th Century Germany. Neither of these professions were taken lightly and only men of standing could hold them. Normally, an immigrant could never be considered for this level of public office. Which makes it all the more intriguing, mysterious and surprising that nothing is known of Peter’s origins.

Will this mystery ever be solved?  I hope so.  I have the feeling that there’s a compelling story behind this man which has remained hidden for centuries.

A new update on Peter Scheffe can be found here: