Breaking Down Brickwalls

John EAYRS (1744-1812)

As part of the lockdown, I have been sorting through all those scraps of paper. One piece of paper was an extract of possible leads for one of my brickwalls. So rather than keeping a scrap of paper, I transferred the information onto a log for the brickwall (my 4x great grandfather William BRAYBROOK). I then added what I do know about William BRAYBROOK.

I recorded his marriage information including the witnesses. I recorded his death and burial and then looked at his will. I had copied it at Huntingdonshire Archives many years ago. I clearly had not reviewed it with a full critical eye before. I have learnt lots of skills and techniques more recently and this is paying off as I revisit old information. The will was pretty standard; his possessions were left to his wife or his children if she had died before him. The interesting thing was the witnesses of the will. The first one was John FRANKLIN of Elton (the parish William BRAYBROOK lived in). The second witness was Helen COOPER of Gt Russell St London1. I had never analysed this before. Why was someone from London witnessing a will in Huntingdonshire?

Working out who Helen COOPER was may be the lead to solving where William BRAYBROOK came from. The will was dated 2 August 18391. A search of the 1841 census identified a Helen COOPER living at 118 Great Russell Street, London. She was in a household which included Charles COOPER (aged 45, a Clark C C, born in Middlesex), Ruth COOPER (aged 45, not born in Middlesex) and Eliza COOPER (aged 75, not born in Middlesex)2. Tracing Ruth COOPER (as it is the more unusual name), she was living in Peterborough as recorded by the 1851 census. The household at 29 Westgate was Charles COOPER (aged 54, Retired Law Stationer, born St Martin in the Fields, Westminster, Middlesex), Ruth COOPER (aged 56, born Stanground, Huntingdonshire) and Charlotte VENTERS (Servant, aged 22, House Maid, born Werrington, Northamptonshire)3. Given that Stanground is only about 8 miles away from Elton where William BRAYBROOK lived, finding out more about Ruth was the more likely to be the connection than Charles.

The next step was finding the marriage between Charles COOPER and Ruth. They were married at St Pancras Parish Chapel, Middlesex on 15 October 1818. Ruth’s maiden name was EYRE4. Now, although this did not help for William BRAYBROOK, his wife’s name was Martha EAYRS. This meant that it was likely that Helen (if she was indeed related) would be on Martha’s line not William’s.

Huntingdonshire baptisms are not yet online however I had luckily purchased a copy of the Huntingdonshire Family History Society Baptism Index. There was only one Ruth EYRE baptised in Huntingdonshire around 1794-1795. She was the daughter of Jos’h [Joseph] and Ruth EYRE and was baptised in 1794 in Stanground5. To fully confirm this information, I will view the original copy however until lockdown is over this is not possible. I keep a spreadsheet of records I need to look at so it is added to that. Her parents Joseph EYRE and Ruth SPENCER married on 19 October 1789 at Peterborough St John, Northamptonshire6. The next step was to find out more about Joseph EYRE.

Joseph EYRE was buried on 15 August 1839 aged 78 at Stanground7. This points to him being born about 1760/61. Unfortunately his death was prior to the censuses which started in detail from 1841 so his place of birth is unknown. A search in the Huntingdonshire baptisms index did not identify any Josephs (looking at all the variant spellings of EYRE, EYRES, AYRES, EAYRS, etc) baptised in this time period. This meant he was either not baptised in the Church of England, the index missed it or he was born in a different county. A search on Ancestry brought up a possible baptism along with a number of family trees. The baptism was on 9 August 1761 in Sudborough, Northamptonshire to Nathanael and Sarah AYRE8. The associated family trees however made me look closer.

Going back to Martha EAYRS, William BRAYBROOK’s wife, I had details of her life. She was baptised on 25 December 1782 in Elton, Huntingdonshire to John EAYRS and Mary BUNYAN9. She had eight siblings called Mary (who died young), Sarah, Mary, Elizabeth (who died young), John, Nathaniel Bell, Elizabeth and Thomas Bunyan. The Ancestry family tree for Joseph AYRE was interesting because his mother’s name was given as BELL. Nathanael AYRE and Sarah BELL was a couple who combined the names of the second son of John and Mary EAYRS who was Nathaniel Bell EAYRS. The only information I had about John EAYRS’ birth was that he was aged 72 at his burial (where his surname was given as AYRES) in Elton in 181210. This would make him born about 1740. So was he related to Nathanael and Sarah AYRE of Sudborough?

Looking through the parish registers of Sudborough (available on Ancestry), Nathanael and Sarah’s oldest child was John baptised on 18 April 174411. This is out by about 4 years however, given his age, the time he was living in and the fact his age at burial would most likely have been stated by one of his children, it was not unusual for ages to be remembered incorrectly. However there was a slight spanner in the works. All the Ancestry family trees that list this family have John of Sudborough dying in 1822. However my John was buried in 1812 in Elton. A review of the Ancestry trees led back to the source of information just being another Ancestry family tree. I gave up after about ten layers of family trees and tried to work out why they thought he was buried in 1822. The most likely cause was a burial in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire of John AYERS. However when looking at the original, John was just an infant so could not have been the John baptised in 174412. I suspect the death in 1822 on the Ancestry family trees is a case of a shaky green leaf being incorrectly accepted and then copied to many other family trees.

To give myself further confidence that the John AYRE baptised in Sudborough was my John AYRES buried in Elton, I did searches across Ancestry which has the Northamptonshire parish registers and within the Huntingdonshire indexes at Findmypast as well as some other websites such as FamilySearch. Within the book ‘A Village on the Nene’, it was stated ‘John Eayrs (1740-1812), tinker/blacksmith, first of that family to settle in the village’ which supports that John was from another village13. I could not find any contradictory information that would make me doubt that these two people were one and the same. The family tree was likely to look like this:

However, further information was still required. Was Nathanael AYRES wife Sarah actually called BELL? This information was currently from the Ancestry Family Trees and I had carried out many searches in the past looking for EAYRS (and variants) and BELL marriages as I always suspected that their son Nathaniel Bell EAYRS was a clue. The marriage for Nathanael AYRES and Sarah BELL was on 18 September 1743 at Stoke Albany, Northamptonshire with both being given as ‘of Stanyon’ (now Stanion, Northamptonshire)14. Stanion is a short distance away from Sudborough. The reason I had never found it was that AYRES was transcribed on Ancestry as AGRES and I clearly had not done enough wildcard variants in my searches. I did further checks to confirm that Nathanael and Sarah of Stanion/Stoke Albany did not have children in those parishes after their marriage to confirm they could have moved to Sudborough before their son John was baptised. At this point, the evidence is strong however was it exhaustive?

There is still work to be done. There is no evidence of probate records for the family however there are some collateral wills of siblings of John and Joseph. When possible, the parish chest records of Sudborough and Elton need to be examined for any further clues or information. However most of these will need to wait until after lockdown.

There are also other AYRES in Elton which fit with the family from Sudborough. William AYRES married Susannah CLIFF on 31 January 174815 and had a number of children. William was buried on 22 July 1810 in Elton aged 8416. This indicates he was born in about 1726. Nathanael AYRES of Sudborough had a brother William AYRES who was baptised on 8 December 1823 in Sudborough17. Noting that there is no evidence of this William AYRES staying in Sudborough or surrounding area, it is likely that this brother moved to Elton and his nephew John may well have followed him there. It may never be possible to find out for certain.

A further link between Elton and Sudborough is that in 1779 Thomas and Mary ROLLESTON had a son called James EYRE ROLLESTON baptised in Sudborough18. The year before Thomas ROLLISON married Mary AYRES in Elton19. There are no other records of the ROLLISON/ROLLESTON family in Sudborough however they went on to have a number of children in Elton (with surname RAWLINSON) from 1781 onwards. Mary RAWLINSON (nee AYRES) was buried on 28 August 1811 at Elton aged 6420. This meant that she was born in about 1746. Nathanael and Sarah AYRES had a daughter Mary baptised on 6 November 174821. This would support their daughter returning to her home parish for the baptism of her first child.

So from tidying up a small piece of paper, a long standing brickwall has come crashing down. However it continues to give clues. In writing up this blog, I reviewed the catalogue entry for William BRAYBROOK’s will that started this off. In the description it states ‘Includes related paper. Wrapper: 1843 Bond from John Richardson and Kingscliffe Northamps to Thomas Horn of Mursley Bucks’1 which could provide a new clue for William BRAYBROOK. One to investigate another day.


  1. Will. England, Archdeaconry of Huntingdon. 2 August 1839 (date written); 2 August 1847 (date proven). BRAYBROOK, William – Shopkeeper of Elton. Huntingdonshire Archives; Calm Ref Number KAH/16/2/185/2; Reference Number AH16:dated 1847/2.
  2. Census return. England. 6 June 1841. COOPER, Helen. St Giles North, St Giles in the Field, Middlesex Enumeration District 05. HO107; Folio 11; Page 15; Line 1. Image 9 of 52.
  3. Census return. England. 30 March 1851. COOPER, Ruth. Peterborough St John the Baptist, Northamptonshire Enumeration District 5e. HO107; Piece 1747; Folio 413; Page 37. Image 38 of 53.
  4. Marriage. England, Camden, St Pancras Parish Chapel. 15 October 1818. COOPER, Charles & EYRE, Ruth.; London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932; 1816-1822; Image 179 of 481. London Metropolitan Archives Reference Number p90/pan1/059.
  5. Transcript of Baptism. England, Huntingdonshire, Stanground. 1794. EYRE, Ruth. Huntingdonshire Baptism Index 1538-1900; Huntingdonshire Family History Society 2017.
  6. Marriage. England, Peterborough St John. 19 October 1789. EYRES, Joseph and SPENCER, Ruth.; Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912; 1784-1799; Imaged 143 of 235. Northamptonshire Record Office reference 261p/64.
  7. Transcript of Burial. England, Huntingdonshire, Stanground. 15 August 1839. EYRE, Joseph.; Huntingdonshire Burials; transcript provided by Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Family History Society.
  8. Baptism. England, Northamptonshire, Sudborough. 9 August 1761. AYRE, Joseph.; Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1532-1812; 1704-1812; Image 24 of 151. Northamptonshire Record Office reference 308P/2.
  9. Baptism. England, Huntingdonshire, Elton. 25 December 1782. EAYRS, Martha. Parish registers for Elton, 1560-1878; General register 1688-1812; FamilySearch Microfilm 1040982.
  10. Burial. England, Huntingdonshire, Elton. 13 July 1812. AYRES, John. Parish registers for Elton, 1560-1878; General register 1688-1812; FamilySearch Microfilm 1040982.
  11. Baptism. England, Northamptonshire, Sudborough. 18 April 1744. AYRE, John.; Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1532-1812; 1704-1812; Image 17 of 151. Northamptonshire Record Office reference 308P/2.
  12. Burial. England, Northamptonshire, Cosgrove. 16 May 1822. AYERS, John.; Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1912; 1813-1877; Image 15 of 105. Northamptonshire Record Office reference 81P/7.
  13. Book. A Village by the Nene. Volume 1 or 2 – to be confirmed when next at Society of Genealogists library. Alan G. Clark. Page 287.
  14. Marriage. England, Northamptonshire, Stoke Albany. 18 September 1743. AYRES, Nathaniel & BELL, Sarah.; Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1532-1812; 1742-1772; Image 5 of 33. Northamptonshire Record Office reference 302p/3.
  15. Transcript of Marriage. England, Huntingdonshire, Elton. 31 January 1748. AYERS, William & CLIFF, Susanah. Index to Elton Parish Registers 1560-1860; Huntingdonshire Family History Society 2007.
  16. Transcript of Burial. England, Huntingdonshire, Elton. 22 July 1810. AYRES, William. Index to Elton Parish Registers 1560-1860; Huntingdonshire Family History Society 2007.
  17. Baptism. England, Northamptonshire, Sudborough. 8 December 1723. AYRES, William.; Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1532-1812; 1704-1812; Image 12 of 151. Northamptonshire Record Office reference 308P/2.
  18. Baptism. England, Northamptonshire, Sudborough. 14 March 1779. ROLLESTON, James Eyre.; Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1532-1812; 1704-1812; Image 31 of 151. Northamptonshire Record Office reference 308P/2.
  19. Transcript of Marriage. England, Huntingdonshire, Elton. 1 June 1778. ROLLISON, Thomas & AYRES, Mary. Index to Elton Parish Registers 1560-1860; Huntingdonshire Family History Society 2007.
  20. Transcript of Burial. England, Huntingdonshire, Elton. 28 August 1811. RAWLINSON, Mary. Index to Elton Parish Registers 1560-1860; Huntingdonshire Family History Society 2007.
  21. Baptism. England, Northamptonshire, Sudborough. 6 November 1748. AYRES, Mary.; Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1532-1812; 1704-1812; Image 18 of 151. Northamptonshire Record Office reference 308P/2.

One Comment on “Breaking Down Brickwalls

  1. Hi Amelia
    I saw your surname on an email from QFHS and have been perusing your family genealogy site to see is your BENNETTs might lead me to my great grandmother, Mary Ann Bennett b. c1871 (supposedly born in New South Wales, Australia). She is said to have married John Orchard b. c1867 (in Australia?). I have not been able to find any information on them apart from their names found on my grandmother’s marriage & death certificates. No birth certificate was found for my grandmother on BDMs, so I struck a brick wall right there. A number of researchers have John Orchard & Mary Ann Bennett listed but I do know that a lot of the information they give is incorrect.
    I do also have a number of BENJAMINs in my Family Tree also but cannot line any up with yours at present. I do not have any LEGGATTs but I do have two (2) LEGGETTs and wondered if the spelling of these surnames could have been interchangeable, according to what the “Scribe” was hearing when the name was spoken.
    I wonder if you could give me any further ideas on how to break down this brick wall? Is there any way I can find information on possible Foster/Adoption records for people back in the 1800s ?

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