I’ve always been interested in genealogy. Both sides of my family have done considerable research, and have documented lines going back to about 1600. Not too shabby.
A few years back, when speaking to my maternal grandmother about her family tree, she told me she knew there was something notable about her ancestors, but didn’t know (or remember) what it was. She was the baby of the family by several years, and by the time she and I discussed it, her siblings had long past.
She asked me to try and find out. She said whatever it was might have been on her mother’s side of the family. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything beyond her mother’s name (Anna English) and dates of birth and death (1873 and 1955, respectively). Grandmother also said she thought her mother was born in the far southwest of England, but she wasn’t sure.
I dug into things as best I could as an amateur genealogist, but I came up empty. As you can imagine, researching the last name “English” within England is difficult. “Anna” isn’t exactly an rare name either. The signal to noise ratio is low, to say the least.
On October 1, 2009, about six months shy of her 100th birthday, my grandmother passed. She spent the last few months with her son Ross and his wife in Port Townsend, Washington. It’s a beautiful place, and I think she was happy there.
Naturally, after she passed, I found new motivation to return to my genealogy research. And I found what Grandmother was asking for. Only it was on her father’s side, not her mothers.
My 6G Grandfather was Sir Thomas Conyers, the 9th and last Baronet Conyers of Hordon.
A baronet is sort of a hereditary knighthood (although technically not a knighthood). So, while commoners, there were of some importance. Very minor importance, but importance none the less.
I knew all this. I had my line tied back to Sir John Conyers, to whom the Conyers Baronetcy was established on July 14, 1628 in Horden, County Durham.
What I didn’t understand was the true implications of this connection.
The English do love their record keeping, so I thought further research on the Conyers line might bear fruit. Boy did it!
I began by searching on Google, and eventually made my way to Google Books, where I came across The Baronetage of England. Starting on Page 334 is a section on the Conyers of Horden, Durham.
It traces the line all the way back to Roger de Coigniers, a Norman who came over sometime around the invasion. Some sources say he came over with William; others (like this one) say he came over late in William’s reign.
This source, and further sources I found made clear just how prominent the Conyers line was in County Durham. Of particular note is Sockburn, in the far south of County Durham. It became the family seat of the de Coigniers family soon after the invasion.
On the site of Sockburn is a mansion, Sockburn Hall, which was built after my family had left the area. There is also the ruins of the Church of All Saints, which was built before my ancestors were there, and includes an extensive collection of Viking sculpture.
The Conyers influences are strong throughout the Durham area, with a legend of a dragon slayer and his famous sword still on display at Durham Cathedral.
The Wife and I are visiting Durham in July and will definitely be bringing back stories and pictures. I’ll post more of what I know of this famous family in the coming weeks.
I just wish I had made this connection in time to tell my Grandmother.