CHAPTER 1 – Parish Church Records – Introduction

PARISH REGISTERS 1584 – 1837

~ MY BROTHER HENRY MUST HEIR THE LAND ~
~ MY BROTHER FRANK MUST BE AT HIS COMMAND ~
~ WHILST I – POOR JACK – SHALL DO THAT ~
~ WHICH ALL THE WORLD WILL WONDER AT ~

The above quote was taken from “The Parish Registers of Saint Marys Church – page 54. It was told that John Bradshaw etched this verse onto a window pane at his home Marple Hall when still a lad circa 1615. John went on to become a Judge and was elected as President of Cromwell’s High Court of Judgment. He was the Chief Judge at the trial of King Charles I and sentenced him to death. In 1649 Judge Bradshaw was the first Judge to sign the warrant for the execution of the King.

The above verse so poetically describes the hierarchy of the typical British family until the late 1800’s. With the oldest brother always inheriting the estates and all of its attachments, the remaining brothers were designated to do other things. In this case (as in many others) the third child went to Grays’s Inn to study law and then moved to London.

This pattern became very apparent when researching the ancient Gees of Derbyshire. In most cases, the son who inherited the land was far easier to trace than the rest of the sons. The inheritor sent down roots and lived and died within a few miles of his birth. However, some of the sons, moved on, some only a few miles to places in England and some perhaps emigrated to America or Australia. I even found one Thomas GEE (7th child in this family) who died on 29th October 1827 in East India.

During the 1500’s and the 1600’s the population of the High Peak area was very sparse. The Gee family was very small in numbers then and probably came to the area from Manchester, which was only about 15 miles away. They would have heard that the foresters were dividing up their land holdings into smaller parcels and were attracted to the idea of being Freeholders rather than tenants. Perhaps Robert GEE knew Walter Marchington of Lydgate Farm or maybe married his daughter. I found the first record of Robert GEE in 1519 on Lydgate farm. One needs to keep in mind that he was there before 1519, how long however, is unknown. He however, is probably grandfather to the Thomas GEE who finally purchased Lydgate farm in 1606.

I have compiled the following registers taken from all of the parish churches from 1584 until 1837. The first census was about to begin in 1841 and so records became much easier to access. The church records, other than wills, are one of the best sources for records. However, not all parish records survived. There are gaps in the records for various reasons. Civil wars and plagues interrupted record keeping. Some clergymen were more meticulous than others. And then some records simply were damaged or lost.

The first set of records kept were from Saint Mary’s Church in Stockport. The first volume contains 118 pages, with approximately 3000 entries. Yet I found only 36 entries listing marriages, births and deaths of the GEES. So the family was very small in size. There will be some entries that I have missed.

The same concept applies to the next set of records (St Thomas A Beckett Church and All Saints Church – 1620 – 1837). The statistical records for the GEES double in number to about 80, but then so did the total entries, to over 6000 entries. So once again, the GEE family was relatively small in numbers as compared to the population of the entire area.

Although statistic numbers are boring, the following pages reflect a very true and reasonably accurate picture of the GEE family of Derbyshire for about three hundred years. The GEE family of Derbyshire were all inter related for most of these years.

The LYDGATE GEES were the founding fathers. They provided the backbone to this family tree for about 250 years. The tree then branched out. I called my branch the ASHES GEES, which originated in 1641. Another branch was the UPPER BOOTH Gee/Carrington union which originated in 1737 with Mary GEE. Another branch began in 1838 with Sarah GEE who married Thomas Drinkwater (this family were doubly related, with Thomas’ brother William marrying one of Mary GEE’s sons, a Carrington – GREEN HEAD COTTAGE).

The lives and history of the GEES of Derbyshire are as much about the farms, as they are the people. Their lives were so intertwined with the farms that quite often marriages were arranged more to keep the property in the family than to procreate. And many of the Wills show that not only did the Testator heir the land to his sons, but also made provisions for the same farm to his grand-children, should his children die without issue.

And so the history must begin.


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