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Two Devonshire Papists in the Time of Queen Elizabeth

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Floyer Family Reunion 2002

August 25th, 2002

Wadham College, Oxford

talk by Tim Sandberg


First of all, I'd like to dedicate my remarks today to my late mother, Cynthia Edith Floyer, who would have been 79 today, had she not died unexpectedly in 1998. Her death was the starting point for my genealogical studies. My brother Nick and I grew up rather isolated in Vancouver. My Uncle David and cousins Mark, James and Cecile would pass through once every few years, but that was about it as far as contact with the Floyers went. For reasons that are beyond the scope of this talk, I had very little contact with my father's family either. When my mother died, I suddenly realized that I had hardly any family to speak of. So in part, my genealogical studies have been a quest to find my family. Besides, I had a whole box of my mother's family photographs, and no idea who most of the people were, and it was too late to ask my mother!

I'd grown up with stories about the ancient Floyer family, but at that point, I didn't even know my grandfather's name. Among my mother's papers I found a copy of J. K. Floyer's Annals of the Family of Floyer and some other genealogical notes, so I began to study them and enter it into the Family Tree Maker software that my wife, Sandy, had purchased a couple of years previously. In October of 1998, Sandy and I got an Internet connection and one of the first things I did was start typing surnames into search engines. I was amazed and overwhelmed by the amount of genealogical information on the Internet.

As I researched various websites and began to establish contact with other researchers, my database grew. I met Jocelyn Floyer in Victoria in the spring of 1999; she is the one that provided me with a copy of J. K. Floyer's Pedigree of the family. I met up online with Nigel Batty-Smith, who runs the UK website I drew large amounts of information from Nigel's database, and was able to correct some errors in the Floyer genealogy that he had online. Nigel and I have had a couple of collaborations since then. By the late spring of 1999 I had about 1500 individuals in my database. I learned how to upload a gedcom to a web server and my database went online at Dave Wilks'

My database now comprises over 28,000 individuals, and reaches back over a thousand years. It still resides at, but my main database is located at Rootsweb WorldConnect but the easiest portal to use is my Floyer pages at Rootsweb Freepages, Family of Floyer These pages are also accessible via, which is Nick Floyer's domain, and, which is James Cornish Floyer's domain. Both Nick and James have kindly redirected their domain names to my website. There is a search engine at that site which will allow you to search the database.


For those wishing to start their own online genealogical studies, one of the best places to start is Cyndi's List. Cindy Howells does not provide genealogical data as such, but she has the most comprehensive collection of links to sources of genealogical data on the Internet. Cyndi claims 148,225 links, but I haven't checked them all, so I can't verify that. The site has a great search engine, so whatever category you're looking for, you'll probably find it at Cyndi's List

Another good collection of genealogical links concentrating on British genealogy is Genuki Like Cyndi's List, Genuki does not provide genealogical data, but contains links to reference sites, general information on genealogical research, surname lists and maps, archives and databases relevant to each county. The site is too large to discuss here in detail, but I'm sure you'll find it a valuable research site.

My favourite genealogical site is Rootsweb which bills itself as "The oldest and largest free genealogy site." My time today is too brief to fully discuss the vast amounts of data at Rootsweb. Rootsweb hosts various genealogy forums and discussion boards where one can post queries and carry on exchanges with other researchers. Each board is arranged around a theme, such as a particular surname and/or variants thereof, particular regions such as English counties, US States or Canadian provinces, or themes such as North American Native and Metis genealogy or the genealogy of the Jewish diaspora. There are databases such as passenger lists, cemetery indexes, obituaries, tombstone inscriptions, the US Social Security Death Index Online and the British Birth Death and Marriage Index

Through the Rootsweb WorldConnect Project, Rootsweb hosts genealogy databases such as mine, which now contains over 28,000 individuals. Overall, the WorldConnect Project claims 209 million surnames on line. Rootsweb also offers unlimited free webspace for sites such as the various GenWeb projects; county, state and provincial historical societies; and user homepages such as my Floyer pages.

Another very useful genealogical database is Brian Tompsett's Directory of Royal Genealogical Data Brian has done a lot of research and has the genealogies of most of the European Royal families online. This database is also accessible via, which uses Tompsett for Royal genealogy. Brian Tompsett is one of the pioneers of online genealogy.

One of the greatest benefits to online genealogists occurred a couple of years ago, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put their database online at This is the largest online genealogy database in the world, although it contains many errors and is not to be taken totally at face value. Most of the information has been contributed by individual researchers and is sometimes not all that well edited by the administrators of the database. There are a lot of duplicate and often contradictory entries and sometimes outright erroneous entries, so be careful.

One of my favourites has always been Nigel-Batty-Smith's site which I mentioned previously, but I'll mention it again because it is good. Nigel has really done his research and if the data is the slightest bit questionable, he won't include it.

Gene Stark's GENDEX is a searchable database of databases, many of them hosted on Dave Wilk's In fact, Gene Stark's site is the best portal to the databases on Dave Wilks' server. Gene Stark also offers the popular GED2HTML program that can convert gedcoms to HTML pages suitable for uploading.

Another great site for research is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Many people have an "Uncle Freddy" that died at Vimy Ridge or some such place. If he fought with the Commonwealth Forces, you'll probably find information on him at

A useful site for general information on the Royal Family is, the official website of the British Monarchy.

I don't often use sites such as and These sites are commercial in intent and only provide enough free information to tease you into paying for a subscription. Genealogy is big business these days, so there are many people looking to cash in. I don't really have a problem with this, since most libraries, newspapers and government offices will charge a fee for searching their records. There are costs involved in operating a server and hiring staff to collect and maintain records, so it is legitimate to recover those costs. There is useful information to be obtained at these sites, such as census and military records, obituaries and newspaper records, but much of it is American data, and not much use to those of us researching British families. is the largest genealogy business in the world and has owned Rootsweb for a year or so now, although they have not so far interfered with Rootsweb's policy of free genealogy. Every once in a while, particularly around Christmas, and offer 14-day free trials, so I wait for that and take the opportunity do a bit of research on their servers. A useful free service hosted by is Genforum This site is dedicated to genealogical queries and, like the query boards at Rootsweb, it is divided into categories by surname, region or ethnicity.


However, I must offer a word of caution before you start genealogical studies on the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful instrument for sharing information and bringing people in contact, but some of the information is suspect or not well documented. Literally anybody with a rudimentary knowledge of web servers can upload his or her genealogy to the Internet. Many genealogy databases contain information obtained from other online databases and any errors therein continue to compound.

The best online databases draw their material from sources as near to the original sources as possible. Original sources include such things as birth, death and marriage data from government records, church and parish records, wills and land title documents and government censuses. Other sources such as obituaries, newspaper articles and family announcements are considered reliable, although one step removed from original sources.

In many cases, however, the original documents are not available. Maybe the parish church burned down in 1610, destroying all records, or the distances are too great. Most of us don't have the time or money to travel to the places where the records are held, or can't afford pay someone to do the research for us. For many families, genealogical data has been compiled and published as secondary sources. Many public libraries contain extensive collections of genealogical data, such as Cokayne's Complete Peerage, the various Burke's publications, the Visitations of the Heralds, Westcote's Devonshire Families and so forth. Libraries also have extensive collections of newspaper archives and magazines. It's usually not possible for us to visit distant cities to do our own research, but many libraries and newspapers have indexes to the available data online and will do research for a fee. In addition, many government records are now available on the Internet, such as the US Social Security Death Index, the British BMD or the British Columbia Government Archives.

As you gain experience in Internet research, you will learn how to judge the quality of a site and the validity of the information contained therein. If you are confident that the sources are adequately documented, it's fine to include it in your research, although sometimes you might want to flag it with a question mark. The best policy is to rigorously document your sources, then you can go back and check the source when you find conflicting data. If you think you'll always remember where a particular piece of information came from, think again. You'll soon find a conflicting date, a different spouse or a child you hadn't heard of previously, and you'll have no recollection where the original data came from, so no way to go back and check the sources and decide which is the most reliable.


Although I started out studying the Floyers, my database quickly turned into a general study of the English Westcountry Landed Gentry and the links to the Royal Family. Significant names in my database, other than Floyer, include Carew, Courtenay, Martyn, Wadham, Pole of Shute, Cornish, Houssemayne du Boulay, Kestell, Vivian, Tregarthen, Popham and the Royal Family up to about Henry VII. We have several lines of descent from Edward I, as you will see from Chart I included in the handout. I've found that many of these genealogies weave in and out generation after generation. People didn't travel then the way we do now, so the pool of potential mates was limited. It was further limited by the social strictures of the time, whereby one couldn't marry more than a couple of steps above or below one's station. When your family has lived in Devonshire for generations, you're related to everybody, so no matter who you marry, you're most likely related to the person to one degree or another. In order to save space on the printouts I haven't shown the entire duplicate line each time, but you should be able to follow along. The duplicate individuals are numbered so you can jump over to the next line for the continuation. Some of my information on the Stradlings is only from Internet sources, but the other lines are documented from Visitations, Cokayne and other original sources.

Chart II shows our descent from Sir Hugh Courtenay of Haccombe, of the family of the Earls of Devon (Sir Hugh's older brother Edward was Earl of Devon). We're descended from Sir Hugh by two of his three wives. I've used myself as the example here, but you can imagine where your own lines branch off. Those of us that are Ayscoghe Floyer descendants (I believe all of us except Adrienne's family) have a double Floyer descent due to Ayscoghe's marriage to his third cousin, Louisa Sara Shore. We're descended from Capt. William Floyer of Reesby Hall as well as from William's sister Margaret, who married James Cornish of Totnes. We also have an additional line of Royal descent, because Sarah Kestell, who married Capt. George Cornish, was a descendant of Jane Trethurffe's brother, Thomas, and they were great grandchildren of Sir Hugh Courtenay.

I believe everybody here is from the Floyer of Horncastle branch. Chart III shows the descent of Frances Ayscoghe from the Royal Family. The Floyers of Northampton and New South Wales don't share this line because they branched off earlier. You will see that Frances Ayscoghe has several lines of descent from Henry II. I have a few other Royal connections in various stages of documentation, but these are some examples. If you have an Internet connection and the time to do some surfing, you can explore more of these connections in my database.


I'd like to particularly point out the Carew connection, one of our significant links to Royalty. John Floyer married Jane or Joan Carew (the first names are interchangeable) of the Carews of Antony House, Cornwall, in 1511. The Carews are an old Westcountry family, and another of the handful of families that can trace a direct male line back to the Conquest. The family surnames of Wadham, Martyn, Ayscoghe, du Boulay etc frequently appear among the Floyers, but the Carews are not similarly commemorated as they are among other lines. One often comes across names like Carew Courtenay, Carew Vivian, Carew Raleigh, but I've never come across, for example, a William Carew Floyer. However, I have noted that until 1511, the Floyers used to alternate Williams and Johns. After 1511, they alternated Williams and Anthonies, so I believe the name Anthony or Antony commemorates the relationship with the Carews of Antony.


In closing, the greatest thing about Internet genealogy is that it allows widely-separated researchers to contact each other. Somebody out there in cyberspace has the information you are looking for. Many people have compilations of their family history done by their Grandaunt Sally, and they are now out there on the Internet looking for cousins to exchange information with. If your name and research interests are posted at one of the many genealogy sites, you will eventually find each other. The best contact I've made online is John Herbert McDougall Young of Toronto, a distant cousin of ours in the Martyn and Carew lines. John and I met at a Carew family genealogy forum and quickly realized we shared much of our ancestry. John has been researching his ancestry for 30 years and has shared his research with me. John is the one who taught me the importance of original sources and introduced me to the wealth of information available in public libraries. I consider John Young my genealogical mentor.

Tim Sandberg

Calgary, Alberta


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