Was my house built by my ancestor?!

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15 June 2020
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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....


Reading Family Tree mag

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

4 ways you can you learn more about your street & house history?

1. To join in with the StoryOfOurStreet challenge - simply search for #StoryOfOurStreet on social media, and be sure to sign up to the free enewsletter to get your free house history check list.

2. To get ideas on how to research the history of a road, check out the July issue of Family Tree, on sale from 10 June. Order your copy for £5.25 (incl UK p&p).

3. Explore the Society of Genealogists' online catalogue at http://www.sog.org.uk/

4. Tune into #HouseHistoryHr - 7pm on Thursday evenings on Twitter