Was my house built by my ancestor?!


15 June 2020
Yew Tree Farm #StoryOfOurStreet John Titford uncovered clues in the archives that made him realise that his home may have been built by one of his ancestors
John Titford is a Londoner born and bred, but when he bought a house in Derbyshire in the early 1970s he was in for a possible surprise....

I was particularly intrigued to read one of the Family Tree Academy document challenges (set in April 2020, answered in May 2020), which concerned a man named Edward Parkes of the parish of Shirland in Derbyshire, who was buried there in 1783. 

I have a story of my own which features another Edward Parkes, also of Shirland and almost certainly an ancestor of Edward Parkes of the document challenge, whose will was proved in 1683, a hundred years before the burial of the later Edward. 
I have an ancestor called Ebenezer Parkes, born in the 1790s – an ancestor twice over, in the event, as I am descended from one of his daughters and also from one of his sons, a cousin marriage having taken place in later generations. 

My move to Derbyshire for work

I am a Londoner born and bred; having studied and worked at home and abroad for a number of years, I finally settled down as a school teacher and a college lecturer in Derbyshire – a county with which I had no ancestral connexion that I knew of – in the early 1970s. 
So it was that in late 1988 I bought a house named Yew Tree Farm in Hallfieldgate, in the parish of Shirland.

Stumbling on a clue in the archives

A couple of months after I’d moved in, I was giving a lecture at the Society of Genealogists in London; thinking that it was about time I checked the society’s document collection for the surname ‘Parkes’. I did so – and various pieces of paper tumbled out. The first of these was a transcript of a will, donated by a researcher in the early 1900s. Did it relate to my London Parkes ancestors? No, it featured the will, proved at Lichfield in 1683, of a man named Edward Parkes of Hallfieldgate in the parish of Shirland. This was the man who, in 1650, had built the very house I had purchased a few months previously. 

In a family history world where serendipity and coincidence are so often the order of the day, I was convinced that this took the cake! 
A footnote: the Edward Parkes who lived in Shirland in the 17th century had come originally from further north – from Norton, a Derbyshire parish which some time ago was swallowed up by the great metropolis of Sheffield. And when my ancestor Ebenezer Parkes finally deigned to give a census enumerator his place of birth, it was Sheffield.

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Am I now living in a house built by an ancestor?

2 ways you can you learn more about your street & house history...

1. Explore the Society of Genealogists' online catalogue 

2 Tune into #HouseHistoryHr - 7pm on Thursday evenings on Twitter