If you live in these United States, your ancestors had to immigrate from somewhere else. Even native Americans originally came from Asia about 15,000 years ago. My great grandfather came here from England in the late 1860s and my grandfather married a Scots-
I became seriously interested in my genealogy just after my retirement in 2014. I quickly found myself engulfed in the research and details of birth, death, marriage and census records. Having spent my career in researching and solving engineering problems, I found this but an extension of the skills I had acquired over those 43 years. Unfortunately, by the time I discovered interest in my ancestors, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were all deceased. And to compound the problem, my mother was adopted at age 5. Fortunately, my sister had become interested in our heritage and had acquired a considerable amount of information on the Flew side of the family. And my mother, after finding that she was adopted, found an aunt living in Nashville. Again, my sister compiled some detailed information regarding my mother’s family.
The Flew Family
I have traced my Flew ancestors back to my 3rd great grandfather, William Flew, who was born about 1752 in Long Ashton, Somerset, England. I have good documentation on William including his birth, death and marriage. He married a local girl, Ann Davies on December 21, 1795. I cannot definitively identify William’s father. However, I have evidence that another William Flew was involved in an incident involving conjuring in the mid 18th century and this might have been my 4th great grandfather. To read more of the ancestor we call William “the Conjuror”, click here.
My 2nd great grandfather, William, was born in January of 1790 in Long Ashton. You may see a pattern in the naming of male children. It was quite common for the first male child to be named after the father. (This is good to know when doing research.) In fact, William’s first born son, my 2nd great uncle, was also named William. William was a very popular name, probably dating back to William the Conqueror who became King of England after his Normans won the Battle of Hastings back in 1066. While the first born son rule helps in research, the prevalence of the name William compounded my problem. In addition, our family was not the only Flews in the neighborhood and several of them were also named William. William was a gardener for Lord Ashton and married Sarah Watkins of Treleck, Monmouthshire, Wales.
The number of William Flews in the area left me stymied for a while in determining exactly who William had married. However, after discovering that two of his first three children were baptized in Treleck, Wales, I made the connection between my William and Sarah Watkins. One of those baptized in Treleck was my grandfather, George who was born in Long Ashton in 1830. In the 1851 English census, George was shown living in Monmothshire, Wales, working as a steel miner. In 1856 he married Mary Ann Martin in Brighton, Sussex, England.
Brighton is on the southern coast of England, due south of London, approximately 200 miles from Monmouthsire. So how did George find Mary Ann, who was born in Arundel, about 20 miles from Brighton? I found the answer in the 1861 census that showed George living in Bromley, Middlesex (south of London) with an occupation as stoker and driver for the railroad. It was common in those days to draw railroad stokers (what we would call fireman) from the mining profession. It’s quite possible that he met Mary Ann on the railroad run to Arundel. It also appears that she had family in the London area.
On January 4, 1859, my grandfather, Frank Francis Flew, was born in Poplar, London, England. He had three siblings, Ellen, born 1860, Lawrence, born 1861 and William George, born in October, 1863, in Brighton. This last is important in tracing their future.
The 1870 US census found George Flew living with his wife, Mary Ann, and children Frank Francis, Lawrence and William George in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was employed as a locomotive engineer. Family legend has it that Ellen had passed away along the way, possibly near St. Louis. As to when they arrived, they could not have migrated before William George’s birth in October, 1863. And, since there is no record of George having been inducted into the Union Army in the Civil War, it is a very good guess that they arrived after the war ended in 1865. Unfortunately, we can find no records of either their departure from England or their arrival in the US. However, I believe it is safe to assume that they came to America looking for the opportunities in the railroad boom following the war. George died in Jackson, TN, in 1897. His son, Frank Francis, also lived in Jackson at the time.
Frank Francis was listed with the occupation of railroad fireman in the 1881 Indianapolis city directory. We know that he was living in Jackson in 1897 and was employed by the M&O railroad as either a fireman or engineer. Records show that he married Sarah Jane “Sallie” Stuart of Jackson, MS in 1898. In 1900 he was listed as a railroad engineer living in Jackson, TN. And in 1908, my father, Frank Francis Flew, was born in Jackson, TN.
Let me take a moment to comment on the name Frank Francis. My grandfather was listed in the 1861 English census and the 1870 and 1880 US censuses with the name Francis. He was still living with his parents and I am sure that they were dictating the information for the census taker. In the 1910 and subsequent US censuses, he listed himself as Frank and his son, my father, as Frank or Frank Jr. While Frank is a often a nickname for Francis, family history has it that my father and grandfather were actually named Frank Francis. Unfortunately, we have no official records showing their full names. However, my sister overheard a conversation between our father and older his sister, Frances, in which she told him “…you were born Frank Francis!”
Sallie’s father was John Thomas Stuart who, at the age of 16, had immigrated from County Armagh, Ireland about 1847 at the beginning of the Potato Famine. At age 19, John Thomas was apprenticed to Thomas Rogers of Thomas Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works in Passaic, New Jersey. In the 1880 census, he was listed as a brass and iron worker in Jackson, MS. His son, John Thomas Jr, was listed as an iron machinist in Jackson, MS, in the 1880 census and in 1900 as a railroad engineer. From this, I have concluded that Frank Francis while on the regular run from Jackson, TN, to Jackson, MS, became friends with John Thomas Jr. One evening after a days works, as they quaffed a few beers at the local establishment, it is easy to see John turning to Frank and saying, to the effect, “Come home with me for dinner and I’ll introduce you to me lovely sister.” After all, matchmaking was somewhat of a national sport back in Ireland.
In 1830, George Flew was born in Long Ashton, England and in 1831 John Thomas Stuart was born in Armagh, Ireland. As the crow flies, the distance from Long Ashton to Armagh is about 250 miles. They migrated to America and landed in Jackson, TN, and Jackson, MS, respectively. The distance from Jackson, TN, to Jackson, MS, is about 250 miles. In 1898, George’s son, Frank Francis, and John’s daughter, Sallie, were introduced by John’s son, John Jr, were married and 10 years later in 1908, my father, Frank Francis Flew Jr was born in Jackson, TN. My great grandfather, grandfather and great uncle Flews along with my grandfather and great uncle Stuarts were all engineers. And I spent my 43 year career as an engineer (though not on the railroad). I believe that our lives are filled with connections waiting to be discovered. These are just a few of mine.
Along with my sister, Cissy, and brother John, I will soon embark on a journey to see just where our family came from. We will spend a week in the Long Ashton/Bristol area along with Monmouthshire, Wales. I don’t know what we will find, if anything, but it should be fun.