Finding Shephards Among the Sheep

September 30, October. 1 & 2, 2019 – Ironbridge, Corsham, & Avebury, England.

When this posts we will headed to Florida, but still catching up on the UK & Ireland trip.

Written by Diana

September 30, 2019

We visited Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. This is a group of ten sites within a six square mile area. These museums focus on the Industrial Revolution in England. Turns out this was the first phase of the Industrial Revolution. The one I’m most familiar with growing up in Michigan was actually the second phase. Boy do I have a lot to learn! We had time to see the Bridge and Blisshill Victorian Town. The bridge was built over the River Severn at Coalbrookdale in 1779 when advances in iron smelting allowed for such a feat.

I loved the sign with the rates for crossing the bridge. Even the Royal Family had to pay to pass over it.

We enjoyed talking with the young man who is college educated as a blacksmith, and has recently taken over the shop at the Blisshill Victorian Town.

October 1, 2019

My maternal grandmother was born Jessie Shephard. Although she proudly took the name O’Morrow when she married my grandfather, I believe she always remained a Shephard in her heart. She lived close to us after my grandfather’s death, and I was lucky to spend a lot of time with her. She loved to tell stories of her father and Grandfather Shephard. Our family is fortunate in that she also wrote down many of her memories of growing up on a dairy farm in the thumb area of Michigan. The farm is still in the family and the road in front of it is named Shephard Road, as they were one of the first settlers in the county. My grandmother wrote about her grandfather being born in Wiltshire, England in 1821. Her grandmother was actually born at sea in August of 1831, while her family was immigrating from England to Canada. My Grandma O’Morrow would be amazed and pleased to know that Jim and I visited her ancestral home. This is a photo of my mother and grandmother that was taken at our wedding. I love how their strength and confidence shows in this picture.

In addition to the information my grandmother provided, I learned from that my ancestors were from the Parish of Corsham, Wiltshire County, England. Jim looked at an aerial view of Corsham on Google Maps and found an old church with a graveyard. This is how we decided to head to St. Bartholomew’s. We have seen lots of sheep on this trip, today is the day we find some Shephards!

St. Bartholomew’s was locked, but we wandered around looking for Shephard graves. Part of the cemetery was mowed and kept up pretty well.

Keeping with our Halloween theme, further away from the church the graveyard was very overgrown. This time complete with a black cat! Maybe he is trying to point out a Shephard grave, but time has erased any engravings.

This is one of my favorite stones that I found. Not a relative, but great genes and teeth!

As we walked through the cute town, we stopped at Corsham Area Historical Heritage & Information Center. There a nice lady suggested that we should also try the gravestones outside of the old Methodist Abby, which is now a restaurant called Grounded. She told us that Aust is still a well known and respected name in the area. My 3rd Great Grandfather married Sarah Aust on June 6, 1821 in the Parish of Corsham. We also saw Aust graves at St Bartholomew’s.

We decided to treat ourselves to dinner at a pub called, “The Salutation Inn”, in Castle Combe, Chippenham. It was a bit of a trick to park the motorhome, but Jim did a great job. An authentic pub that has been there since the 17th century, and a gluten free bun for Jim. What’s not to love!

October 2, 2019

We went to St. Bartholomew’s Church first thing in the morning because it wasn’t open yesterday, and they had a service today.

It’s amazing what a difference sunshine and blue sky make. This is the same building we visited yesterday, just viewed from the other side.

We got there a half hour early, so we could talk to the clergy. He made us feel welcome to look around. It was beautiful and very moving. The font is from the 15th century, so it would have been the same baptismal font that was there when several generations of my ancestors were baptized in this church.

Next we went to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Center, in the town of Chipppenham. They were very nice and very helpful. Since we knew the parish, they were able to bring us three books that had been transcribed from the Parish of Corsham. One book had the births and baptisms, the second book was marriage records, and the third book contained death records.

Jim and I traded off books and had fun, as for the first time we were able to get lots of information. We were indeed finding some Shephards! He even had to go and put more money in the meter as we ended up staying longer than we planned. Each time we had a question, I would ask the genealogist and she would answer my question and add something else to consider. This made me feel comfortable to ask the next question that arose. They get great reviews for being the friendliest and most helpful of these centers. I certainly agree.

The genealogist told us to ignore differences in spelling. Since many people did not read or write, the person recording the information just spelled names the way they thought was correct.

This is the marriage record for my 4th Great Grandfather Matthew Shepherd and his first wife Sarah (Greenland) Shepherd. They were married April 9, 1792. I learned “tp” after Sarah’s name means “of this parish”, which in this case was Westbury, Wiltshire, England (found in an additional book). “Ban” after their information means rather than getting a marriage license, they announced their intention to be married in church three weeks in a row. The “banns of marriage” gave notice to anyone who might wish to object. And I thought the slight pause for an objection in our wedding service was nerve wracking enough!

Before we arrived I had gotten back as far as my 5th Great Grandfather, William Shephard. There was some confusion, as the year of his birth was listed as 42/43. I learned that at that time in history, the new year did not start until March 25th. At the time of his birth William was born in 1742, but according to today’s calendar he was born in 1743.

Notice that John and Betty Shepherd also had a son John that was born on the 9th and baptized on the 10th. The genealogist confirmed that this would have been William’s twin, and suggested that I look to see if the mother or John died at or near the birth date. Luckily that was not the case. My grandmother was proud to have twin brothers that married sisters. She took full credit when one of my cousins had twins. She would have been thrilled to know how far back twins occur in her family tree.

Next we looked for a marriage record for John and Betty, as their name on William’s birth and baptism record advanced my knowledge by another generation. This is the first I had seen the names of my 6th Great Grandparents. Betty (Holberah) and John Shepherd were married July 2, 1741 in the Parish of Corsham. Thrilling! I did double check with the genealogist that St. Bartholomew’s, which we had visited that morning, was indeed the Parish of Corsham at the time. She assured us that it was.

We searched, but were unable to find further information on Betty and John. We did confirm several other birth, baptism, and marriage records for several of my ancestors. We also found possible leads for other family members that I need to further research.

We decided to complete this awesome day with a visit to Avebury Henge. This is the largest stone circle in the world. It was a wonderful place to get out and walk after being inside for much of the day. The stones were buried at one point and millionaire Alexander Keillor, excavated them in the 1930’s.

Of course we walked among the grazing sheep, as we have done on much of our trip. I loved looking out at the countryside and knowing that it still looks much the same as when my Shephard relatives were in this area.

So glad we found some Shepards among the sheep!

Next up, we head to Oxford to educate ourselves on that beautiful city. We also button down our trip to the UK with a nice surprise. Be sure to stay tuned for that. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

12 thoughts on “Finding Shephards Among the Sheep”

    1. It made me wonder what the technology for the new teeth would have been at that time, Pam. They say George Washington’s teeth were made of hippopotamus ivory, brass, gold, and human teeth. Yes, the History Center was definitely a score.


  1. The information you’ve been able to track down about your family is amazing. I wouldn’t know where to begin!
    Love the photo of your mother and your grandmother at your wedding.
    Oh, and that gravestone that proclaims ‘fresh teeth’…LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Laurel! Can you imagine if people today listed all of the body parts they had replaced on their gravestone? Knees, hips, heart valves, teeth implants, artificial lenses; the list goes on. 😀 I definitely had strong women as role models.


    1. The calendar was new information to me, Jim. During the 1570’s Pope Gregory instituted the Gregorian calendar (with Jan. 1 as New Year’s Day), but Britain and the American Colonies didn’t adopt it until 1752. My grandmother had told me about her grandmother being born at sea. Can you imagine my great great grandmother, Elizabeth Cocks, getting on the ship knowing she is days from giving birth? She married at age 24 on July 26, 1830, and gave birth at sea August 12, 1831. I still need to do more research, but I’m guessing this would have been her first child.


  2. LOL at the fresh teeth. Having any at 107 years old is pretty amazing – which is probably why the family thought it worth preserving on her stone 🙂 How wonderful to add to what you had already learned, and getting to see and touch your own history has to be an amazing experience! The number of men named John had to be so confusing – not a lot of creativity in those days. Beautiful church!

    I’m slowly getting caught up again!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sue! We also enjoyed seeing the sheep. One of my few souvenirs was a small stuffed sheep, as they were such a big part of the trip. Glad you liked the play on words. After my “Halstead History” post failed to get much attention, I was reminded of the importance of a good title.

      Liked by 1 person

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