It's time to get to know another one of our wonderful WikiTreers. This week's member is Frances Piercy-Reins.
Frances became a Wiki Genealogist in July of 2020. She's active in our England Project and also leads the Chamberlayne Name Study.
What are some of the surnames you are researching?
Some of the surnames I’m researching at the moment are Bates, Brooks, Chamberlayne, Cheyney, Piercy, Plowman, and Thompson.
What are some of the locations you are researching?
Present locations – all of them in England: Halifax and Kingston-upon-Hull in Yorkshire, Stourbridge in Staffordshire, Princethorpe and Southam in Warwickshire, Hatfield Broad Oak in Essex, Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, Romsey and Beaulieu in Hampshire, Teffont Evias in Wiltshire, Crewkerne in Somerset, and Fakenham and Reepham in Norfolk.
When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?
I’ve been interested in genealogy for about 37 years. It wasn’t until the internet became available that I was really able to tentatively start researching my family history. 50 years ago, my grandfather used to say that his ancestors descended from the Percy family, which we always used to pooh-pooh. It is possible, of course, but it’s unlikely that I’ll ever find out if it is true. My father’s mother’s sister, who was a scientist at heart, had collated a lot of family documents and photographs and had written her family’s story as much as she could remember and research. I love collecting items associated with the family. For example, I discovered that two ancestors were brewers. Eventually I was able to find some old Victorian bottles produced in their breweries, which now grace a shelf in our bathroom.
My mother’s grandmother, Mabel Alicia Chamberlayne, had passed her family tree down to her children and grandchildren, and it was this which really sparked my interest, because it goes all the way back to 1066 at least. What blew my mind last year was when my husband discovered that because of several marriages into the Chamberlayne family, I was directly descended from the Plantagenets, William the Conqueror, Alfred the Great and Charlemagne. Of course, many people are, but it was amazing to be able to prove it. Funnily enough, it turned out that because of this, my mother’s family definitely is connected to the Percys.
Who's your favorite ancestor and why?
My favourite ancestor, at least the one I have found out the most about so far, and who seems to have been a really great man, is a 4x great grandfather, Thomas Thompson, Alderman and twice Mayor of Kingston-upon-Hull. He was called the ‘Dick Whittington of Hull’ and ‘Salt Tom’ because he came from a farm labouring background in rural Northumberland, near the Scottish Border, walked 160 miles down to Hull at the age of 12, and worked his way up from being a penniless nobody to a wealthy ship-owner, Alderman, Justice of the Peace, Mayor, simply by hard work, integrity and compassion for the poor of his adopted town. He was outspoken, honest, the bane of wealthy hypocrites, and had a hilarious sense of humour.
Tell us about a brick wall you hope to bust through.
My father’s family – the furthest I’ve got back is 1718 with William Percy. I still have to write his biography and those of his son Richard and grandson Jeremiah, who was a farm and brewer’s labourer. William lived in Norfolk, and I haven’t managed to identify his parents yet, or work out where they lived. That would be a great breakthrough. Another tricky one on my mother’s side is my 8th great grandfather, William Chamberlayne. Burke’s Peerage says he was born in 1628, but so far I have found no source to confirm this. I think he was the father of Edward Chamberlayne. It would be great if I were able to corroborate this one day.
(Interview continues in comments)