Somerset County Herald 14 Nov 1959 Somerset Notes and Queries Appeal to HARTNELLs includes Elizabeth OATEN the Pitminster Centenarian

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Somerset County Herald and Taunton Courier Saturday 14 Nov 1959

Page 4 Column 4 & 5

Somerset Notes and Queries



ON 2nd April, 1893, at Old Combe, Corfe, Somerset, an aged farmer named John HARTNELL died. According to his Somerset House certificate of death, he was 82 years of age. Information of the death was given to the Registrar by his grandson, J. H. WADDON, who was present at the death.

This death would be of merely private importance, were it not for the fact that this John HARTNELL was apparently assumed, by a contributor to Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries in 1895, to be a grandson of the Pitminster centenarian, Elizabeth OATEN, whose eldest daughter, Hannah, married William HARTNELL about 1804. He contributed a note to that journal on the subject of Elizabeth and her family, in which there were some inaccuracies, and I am anxious, if there was an inaccuracy here also, to correct it.

Abundance of HARTNELLS

It is not an easy task, HARTNELL families abounded in or near Pitminster in the early nineteenth century. At Combe, Pitminster, James and Mary HARTNELL (née CARPENTER) were rearing their family, 1806-1824. At the same period John and Sarah HARTNELL were rearing seven children at Knight's Cross. From the third decade onward, James and Susanna HARTNELL were farming 400 acres near Churchstanton, land at Trickey Warren, which is now largely occupied by the radio station there. At the same time, 1820 onward, there were John and Ann HARTNELL at Woodram, who hailed from the Churchstanton district. He was a dairy farmer. There were Robert and Ann HARTNELL in Pitminster village itself, and very soon there were HARTNELLS at Adcombe and on Blagdon Hill.

I do not think these various HARTNELLs were indigenous Ptiminster <sic> folk, their origins, I thin, went back to Wellington, Clayhidon, and perhaps Honiton. But they were numerous, and the truth is all the harder to come by.

What is clear is this. If the centenarian's grandson is the John HARTNELL mentioned above, the age is wrong. The John HARTNELL who was the grandson of the old lady was born in 1809, and would have been 84 in 1893. This is, of course, not conclusive, mistakes about old people's ages were once common, but the discrepancy puts one on inquiry.

Which John HARTNELL?

I have tried to determine who else the John HARTNELL of the death certificate could have been, if he were not the grandson of the centenarian. Sarah and John HARTNELL, of Knight's Cross, had a son, John, born in October, 1811, who would have been 82 if he lived to 1893. Could he have been the John HARTNELL of the certificate?

I have looked for other John HARTNELLs who might have been the centenarian's grandson. I have before me a Somerset House death certificate of a John HARTNELL, who died in 1895 on the 17th July, at Lydeard St. Lawrence. Information of the death was given by his brother-in-law, James POOLE. His age was given as 84. If this John HARTNELL was the centenarian's grandson, his age should have been given as 86, but James POOLE, the informant, may have made a mistake. I have selected this case from other possibilities for mention, because I was once given to understand that one of the HARTNELLs descended from the old lady migrated migrated to Bishops Lydeard.

Assistance Required

The problem is probably insoluble without family help. This may possibly be forth-coming. J. H. WADDON, the grandson, who notified the Old Combe death in 1893 may have had sons or grandsons who could shed some light on the matter, and he himself could conceivably still be alive. And there should be many HARTNELL descendants who know some or other part of the facts, which, pieced together, would reveal the truth.

The problem is: When and where did John HARTNELL, the grandson of the centenarian, die? I am sure that there are many HARTNELLs and descendants of HARTNELLs who know. I should be very grateful for help.


7, Amyand Park Gardens,

Twickenham, Middlesex.

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