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Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Reynolds Connection

First, I must apologize for the lack of credit on the Mulley’s Cove photo in my last post. I didn’t realize the credit wasn’t attached to the photo until AFTER I’d posted the blog. So to correct that, the photo was taken by Ron Thistle in 2002. There is a site for Thistle family members to check out if they wish.

Cecil Reynolds wrote a series of letters in the 1990s, while he was in his 90’s, concerning the families of Mulley’s Cove and many of the marriages and intermarriages that took place. These letters are a wealth of information, much of it about the life and times of growing up in Newfoundland. He had researched the Reynolds (also recorded as Rennolls) family and what he wrote about astounded me. This is what I learned.

James Reynolds (1749-1834) was born in Rockbeare, Devon, the 2nd son of the churchwarden. His older brother inherited the Devon lands and James was in need of an occupation. He became a bootmaker apprentice of the Lacey’s of Mulley’s Cove, in 1769. It is said that the Lacey’s made boots for the fishermen, boots similar to the type worn by the fishermen of the West Country, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. James’ apprenticeship was to last for seven years and during this time he was to live with the family and had to remain unmarried. By the time his term was over, the American Revolution had begun.

Boats were hauled in and out of Mulley's Cove from this old wench. Photo provided by Jim and Glenda Thistle

Newfoundland did not have a sustainable agricultural economy. They depended on the colonies to supplies them with foods they couldn’t grow. With the War came the British blockades of the American ports, so very few supplies were reaching Newfoundland. James found that the Lacey’s were well supplied with items from Devon, so he signed on for another seven years. The fact that the Lacey’s were well connected in Devon and made boots similar to those of that region, suggests, but doesn’t prove that they may have originated in Devon.

So it was that James, finally a man on his own at the age of 33/34, was finally able to marry and settle down. Cecil Reynolds in his letters, says he found that James married a teenager named Elizabeth Kennedy and they had at least 4 children: Elizabeth who married John Slade; James Jr., who married an Elizabeth; Lot, who married a Hannah and John, no wife found yet.

James Jr. was the father of Esther Reynolds who married John Lacy/Lacey. This James, a fisherman, had 4 daughters and one son, but he doesn’t appear in records after his son was born. There seems to be no death record or grave, so it seems he might have been lost at sea. The children were Elizabeth, who married William King; Esther (above); Sarah Ann married James Thistle; Mary who may have died young; and James 3rd who married Jane King.

‘So now we have all these additional names to tackle: Kennedy, Slade, Thistle and King.  There’s Devon, Dorset and Cornwall to check out to see who might be connected to where. Then there’s always the interesting family tale that there were two branches of the Pye family who settled in Newfoundland – one from Herefordshire and the other from  - you guessed it – Devon and Cornwall.

And I thought my gt. grandmother was a brick wall. Well, knocking down that wall has opened up many more avenues that need to be pursued.  Have my pick, have my shovel – off I go!

Friday, December 20, 2013

One Brick Wall Down

A few months ago, I posted several names that were solid brick walls in my research. One of them was Elizabeth Rachel Lacy, my gt. grandmother. I had been unable to find any documentation for her for many years. I finally decided to go back to what my cousin, Pete, had originally said about her. My reasoning was that he had been the first born grandson of Jesse Pye, who was the son of my elusive Elizabeth. He had spent many years listening to Jesse talk about his relatives and life in Newfoundland and Labrador. Just because I couldn’t find anything to prove what he had written didn’t mean some or all of it was not true.

So, I started off at square one, as they say. Elizabeth, who went by her middle name, as seems to be the way in NFLD, which was Rachel. It was always a given that her name was Lacy and not Lacey. But for my search purposes, I looked at every, Elizabeth and/or Rachel who had a Lacy/Lacey last name. Now the next thing Pete had recorded was that her parents were known as John Lacy and his wife Esther Reynolds. Off I went to connect the dots or so I hoped.

To begin with, The Grand Banks site for NFLD has added quite a few more searchable records. This was an enormous help. I was able to extend my search to places I hadn’t been able to check on before. I was looking for a Murray Cove near Carbonear. But with more records, I stumbled upon Mulley’s Cove and hit the jackpot. Over the years, the location’s name had become corrupted in our family’s version of the story, so my searching was in the wrong place. As Dick Eastman suggested in a recent newsletter, family history can be lost in just three generations. In this case, thankfully, it wasn’t lost, but some definite distortions had occurred.  But here I found that John Lacey had married Esther Reynolds on Nov 13 1839. Then I went into the census and found my gt. grandmother, Elizabeth Rachel Lacey, b. Jul 27 1843 in Mulley’s Cove. Finally I had validation of who her parents were and that she had 10 siblings. I also discovered that her name was spelled Lacey in all the records, contrary to every thing our family tale reported. Long ago I had discovered that one needed to look for every variation of the spelling, so this didn’t surprise me much. The Lacy ‘tale’ was based on John Lacy having been born in Belfast and that he was of the Irish Lacy family.

Now I realized that earlier records were also on line and to my surprise and delight, I found John Lacey was actually born in St. John’s, NFLD on Nov 13 1812, not in Ireland. His father was Robert Lacey and his mother was Rachel Thistle (nee) who married at St. John’s Congregational Church, May 6 1809. In 1817 Robert was a shoemaker but in later documents he became a fisherman. Robert’s father was John Lacey, also a shoemaker. So far I’ve found four children for Robert and Rachel: Daniel, John, William and Mary Ann. But now a new mystery presents itself, where was John Lacy/Lacey born?

I have discovered that, my Newfoundland ancestors were the hardiest, toughest people. They had large families and many of the children died young. As Darwin suggested in his Origin of the Species, these folks were “better designed for an immediate, local environment.”

Interestingly, while following some history on the Reynolds family, I discovered that this Lacy/Lacey family may have come from Devon, England and not from Ireland at all. The Reynolds history also suggested that the Thistle family came from the Channel Islands.

I was very satisfied with this session of research. Not only did I find my gt. grandmother, but I found her parents and her grandparents as well.

Reminder to self – do not shelve family history stories until they can be proven wrong!!