John Robinson Chapman
In 1973 I started to trace my family tree. I went about it all the
wrong way - I started by looking through graveyards in areas where
I suspected my family may have lived. By blind chance I stumbled across
the gravestone of my ancestor John Chapman (1767 - 1849) at Gainford
Churchyard in Durham, England. The gravestone gave me just enough information
to prompt me to go back to my relatives and begin asking questions.
This led to searching bishop's transcript records (I found out about
parish registers later) and further discoveries.
Within a few years I had learnt enough to begin teaching evening classes
on genealogy. I was approached by others and founded with them the
Cleveland Family History Society and became it's first secretary
and journal editor, writing a series of articles 'Beginners Start Here'.
These articles formed the basis of the web site 'Genlinks'
The years 1980 - 1997 marked the doldrums in my researches. Family History
took a low priority to career and family. But in 1998 I started a new
life. I quit job, separated from family and moved 4000 miles to first
the USA and later Canada. I started a new career developing web pages
with my new wife, Shelia, and together we rekindled our interest in family
This web site is a work in progress. It will never be finished! As I
can I will add further pages and revise and update others. The bulk of
this site was originaly auto-created by Personal Ancestral File - the
free software available from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints but as a web developer, I can't stop there and used Dreamweaver
to improve it a little.
Whats in a name?
I was named after my father, also John Robinson Chapman. He was named
after his grandfather and he was named after his grandfather who took his
name from his father John Chapman who married Mary Robinson. All in all
there has been a John Robinson Chapman in every generation since 1796 -
the eldest male child. Where a John Robinson has died without male issue
then the name was carried on with the children of other sons. And my eldest
son? - he's Matthew (John Robinson). That's probably enough!
So why did I start?
Simple - it was family tradition. As a child I talked to my grandfather
and heard from him the tale of the family fortune locked away 'in chancery'.
He showed me an ancient will of an ancestor - The Rev. Thomas Taylor Wilson
and told me of the family estate at 'Olwin'. He said we once as a family
ran a school at Headlam Hall and showed me a treasure from there - a carriage
clock. Of course I was too young to write down what he told me and didn't
know enough to do any real digging. In 1973, I was a teacher and spent
some of my summer holidays trying to find out more.
then my grandfather was dead, so looking at a map, I couldn't find the
'Olwin' estate but found Headlam
Hall and went to see the place. An impressive building, now used
as a Country House Hotel, Spa, Restaurant and Golf Course. It didn't
give me any clues so I went looking for the local graveyard.
That tuned out to be Gainford churchyard. I started at the entrance
and worked my way through it. Right by the church entrance I struck gold.
The gravestone I found read:
'Sacred to the memory of John Chapman of Alwent, late of Headlam
in the county of Durham, Who died the 20th day of February 1849 Aged
Beneath this stone are interred the mortal remains of Joseph Chapman
the 4th and youngest son of John & Mary Chapman of Headlam. He
departed this life on the 6th day of October 1828 aged 27 years.
And of the above named Mary Chapman who deceased on the 1st day of
November 1830, in the 68th year of her life. And, also of George, the
son of the above named John & Mary Chapman He died on the 29th
day of May 1836, aged 36 years.
On the rear -
This inscription is in memory of Margaret, youngest child of John
and Mary Chapman. She departed this life at Kilburn Priory, on the
4th day of August 1836, aged almost 32 years and was interred in the
cemetary at Kensal Green, both in the county of Middlesex.
Here was a John Chapman who lived at Headlam and a place 'Alwent'. Coud
that be the 'Olwin' estate? A little research in the Department of Paleography
of Durham University (which no longer seems to exist) found some answers...
but then you can go look that up on my GGGG grandfather page.