I was told as a child that we can trace our family back to John and Mary Adams who married in Great Bardfield, Essex on 1st May, 1755 with claims being made that even earlier lines take the family back to the Norman conquest.

I have seen the pedigree of the Josselyn / Joscelyne family, prepared in 1945, and tracing its origin to the companions of William known as the Conqueror after his invasion of England in 1066. It is a well presented document with which I have no quarrel. What it does not do is establish any link whatsoever with the Smith’s of Essex whom we can trace with certainty into the late 1700’s.

My opinion is that the Conquest is a little fanciful but I am open to the proof if ever a link between the two families can be established.

I am more amenable to the Adams connection.

Indeed, had we become “The Ad(d)ams Family” not only would we have been TV stars but we would have been a lot easier to trace than the manifold Smith’s !

A tapestry exists within the family stating the marriage details above and their family. The tapestry says that there were twelve children of that marriage –

Elizabeth 27th March, 1756; Mary 16th January, 1758; Elizabeth 1st September, 1760; John 8th May, 1762; Benjamin 25th February, 1764; Ann 21st August, 1765; Jane 9th August, 1767; Isaac 21st December, 1768; William 21st March, 1770; Edward 22nd June, 1773; Henry 24th January, 1775; Joseph 21st January, 1777.

We need to link one of these people as a parent of James Smith (1), born in 1803, in High Roothing, Essex and who married Emma Willson (2) from White Roothing, Essex whom he married in the early 1830’s.

It cannot be any of the males because our line would then have been Adams and not Smith. It would not be Elizabeth born in 1756 as she probably died as a young child and was “replaced” by the Elizabeth born in 1760. So there is a choice of Elizabeth, 1760 – Ann, 1765 – Jane, 1767. Any of these three could have married a Smith and given birth to a son named James in 1803. But they did not.

The Adams connection is a fiction, unfortunately, and our family roots do not lie in that direction as tempting as it may be !

Before starting it is, perhaps, good to have a whiff of humour. The following recipe for making fish bait comes from the Church Records of White Roothing circa 1770 !

I cannot resist sharing some of the entries that have been made in the Church Registers over the centuries:

This one reads:

“Anno Dom 1691

Charity Smith ye daughter of married travellers. Baptised April 6th

The family in earlier times:

James the son of Thomas Smith and his wife Ann baptised 20th September 1674. Thomas and Ann also had a daughter, Sara, baptised 19th October 1670 and a son Thomas Smith, baptised 1st June 1668 - from the White Roding records.

An unfortunate birth in 1788

It seems to be catching 1792.

But back to the Smith’s:

I can find a series of historical links that point to a common parentage for the family comprising the siblings James (1), Benjamin (60), Ann (17), Maria (65) and Hester Smith (55) who were the progenitors of our lineage.

Their parents were James (721) and Ann Smith(722). They were born in the late C18th.

They would have married about 1802 and James was probably born in High Roothing, Essex.

James Smith (721) was the son of James Smith (715) born 25th June 1738.

He was one of five siblings born to James Smith (714) who married Dorothy (722). The others were John (717) Sarah (719), Dorothy (718) and Christopher (716)

But before them comes another James Smith (714) who died in 1762. He had married a lady named Dorothy (722)

The record in the Church Register for James Smith’s death in 1762

His Will was written in the year before his death.

I have attempted to decipher this Will and my best attempt is given below

The Will of James Smith dated 1761

‘ In the name of God Amen

I, James Smith the elder, of White Roothing in the County of Essex, Miller, being of sound and disposing mind and memory Thanks be to God for the same do make and put down this my last Will and Testament and in manner following, that is to say, I give and devise to my sons James Smith and Christopher Smith, and their heirs, all that my Freehold buildings and land outwith the appoints sometime since erected and built on a piece of ground which I purchased of John Holmsted and also all that my Freehold Windmill and the ground whereon the same now stands together with the Outhouses, Geers, Implements, Materials and things – ????????belonging or therewith usually held and enjoyed with appurtenances which I also purchased of the said John Holmsted all such premises are situate in White Roothing aforesaid and are now in my own Occupation To Hold All and every the said premises unto my said sons, James Smith and Christopher Smith their heirs and assigns for ever equally to be divided between them share and part alike as Tenants in Common and not as Joint Tenants Upon Condition nevertheless that my said sons James Smith and Christopher Smith their heirs and assigns respectively shall and do pay or cause to be paid the several Sisters hereinafter mentioned that is to say To each of my Two Daughters Dorothy the wife of John Dawkins and Sarah Smith the sum of Twenty pounds of lawful money of Great Britain and to be paid to them respectively within two years after my decease at the rate of Ten pounds apiece yearly from the time of my decease. And also upon condition That they also pay to Mr Edward Parris of White Rooding aforesaid Yeoman the sum of Fifteen pounds of like lawful money within Great Britain after my decease to be by him paid and applied for the use an benefit of my son John Smith in such manner and for such Occasion as the said Edward Parris shall think fit And my ???? gave in default shall be made in payment of the said ???? many of them ?????? part thereof to the said several persons herein before named or any of them Contrary to this my Will Then and from thenceforth it shall ????? may be ?? for my said two Daughters and the said Edward Parris or any of them being unpaid and their respective Executor ????? and ???? into the said ???? Windmill ???? herein before devised ????? there of to enter and the same to hold and enjoy and ???? profit thereof to receive and take until The same ???? so being behind and unpaid together with all reasonable charges to be ???? by any such default of payment

All the rest and Residue of any moneys credits Household Goods Chattels and personal Estate whatsoever (after my debts legacies funeral charges and the probate of this my will paid I give and bequeath the same unto my said two Sons James Smith and Christopher Smith to be equally divided between them part and share alike and Do make and appoint my said sons James Smith and Christopher Smith joint Executor of this my Will and Testament

In witness thereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Ninth day of June in the year of our Lord One Thousand and Seven Hundred and Sixty One

Signed sealed and published and Declared by the said James Smith the Testator ????last Will and Testament ???? who have subscribed ???? in the presence of each other

G Buxton

Daniel Davis

Geo Wm Robinson

A Codicil is added and witnessed by James Smith’s signature that:

“My son John is entirely paid off for ever: therefore nothing to be put into Mr Parris’s hand as mentioned above.”

From this will we can deduce that James was a widower as he made no provision for his wife, Dorothy (718) in this will.

We also know who his surviving family were, namely:

James Smith (715)

Christopher Smith (716)

John Smith (717)

Sarah Smith (719)

Dorothy Dawkins nee Smith (718)

This is evidence of Dorothy’s birth.

Whilst this extract from the Church records shows the birth and christening of their daughter, Sarah, in 1760

And this is the evidence of Dorothy's death in 1798

From the Church Record of St Martin, White Roothing

In passing we note that James (715) and Christopher (716) were executors of their father’s will, that John (717) appears to have been in need of support, physically and / or mentally, whilst Sarah (719) was probably a spinster as she had not married by the time of her father’s death.

Important to note is the freehold Windmill in White Roothing passed down in this Will.

The other item to note here is that we have evidence from the christening of Christopher Smith(716) in Essex on 6th July 1740 that his parents were James and Dorothy Smith - confirmed by his sibling Dorothy’s identical parentage above.

The Heading for the First Book of baptisms of St Martin, White Roding.

We have the Will of James Smith (1) who lived 1803 through to 1842.

The Last Will and Testament of James Smith Jnr Sealed on the 8th July 1842

“This is the last Will and Testament of me James Smith of High Roothing in the County of Essex Miller and Farmer. I nominate and appoint my brother Benjamin Smith of Abbots Roothing in the said County Farmer and Joseph Barker of Berwick Farm in Abbots Roothing aforesaid Farmer Executors of this my Will

I give and devise unto Emma my beloved wife All that my Copyhold Messuages or Tenement Bakehouse Shop Garden and piece of arable land thereto belonging containing about two acres more or less situate in High Roothing aforesaid and now in my own occupation To hold the same unto my said wife and her assigns for and during the term of her natural life And I do hereby authorize and empower the said Benjamin Smith and Joseph Barker and the survivor of them and the executors or Administrators of such survivor as soon as conveniently may be after the decease of my said wife or when the younger child for the time being shall attain the age of twenty one years whichever event shall last happen to sell and dispose of the said messuage or Tenements Bakehouse Shop Garden Land and Hereditaments either by Public Auction or Private Contract and either together or in parcels as they or he shall think fit and subject to such terms and conditions of Sale as they or he may deem expedient with liberty to buy in the premises or any part thereof at auction and to rescind any contract for sale thereof either by public auction or Private Contract and afterwards to resell the premises so bought in or comprised in any contracts without being answerable for any difference in price or other logs

And I do hereby also authorize and empower the said Benjamin Smith and Joseph Barker and the survivor of them and the Executors or Administrators of such last survivor as soon as conveniently may be after my younger child for the tome being shall attain the age of twenty one years to sell and dispose of All that my Post Windmill and the Gears and Fixtures therein with the Copyhold land on which the same is erected and the Mill Yard situate in High Roothing aforesaid and now in my occupation And also all that Cottage or tenement with the appurtenances situate in High Roothing aforesaid and now in the occupation of James Hartgrove and John Wood lately purchased by me of the Guardians of the Poor of the Dunmow Union And also all that my Copyhold Cottage or Tenement and Blacksmiths Shop with the Garden and Appurtenances thereto belonging situate in High Roothing aforesaid and now in the occupation of John Reed and which last mentioned premises descended to me on the death as the eldest son and heir of my late Mother in like manner as I have directed with respect to the Messuage and Premises hereinbefore devised to my said wife for her life and I will direct that the monies to be raised by the sale of the said Copyhold Hereditament after deducting all just and reasonable charges attending such sale or sales shall be taken as part of and go along with the residue of my personal estate as the same is hereinafter disposed of

And I will that the receipt or receipts of my said Executors or the survivor if them or the executors or administrators of such survivor under his or their respective hand or hands shall be from time to time a sufficient discharge to the Purchaser or Purchasers of the Hereditaments and Premises hereinbefore directed to be sold or any part or parts thereof and his her or their heirs executors administrators and assigns for so much of the said purchase money as in such receipt or receipts shall be expressed to be received and that after such receipt or receipts shall be given for any such purchase money such purchaser or purchasers shall be absolutely acquitted exonerated and discharged of and from the same and shall not be obliged to see to the Application thereof or be answerable for or chargeable with any non application or misapplication of the said purchase money or any part thereof

I give and bequeath to the said Emma my wife for her own use All my Household Goods and Furniture Plate Linen China Books Stock in Trade and Effects (except money and securities for money) which shall be in or about the Messuage or Tenement Shop and Premises where I now reside

Braintree Road, Felsted, Essex

And as to all my Farming stock and Implements of husbandry Cattle Corn Growing Crops and other effects up my Farm called Pennyfeathers situate in High Roothing aforesaid which I now hold as tenant to my said brother Benjamin Smith And also all my stock in trade and other effects in and about the said Mill and premises and also all my monies securities for money Book Debts and all the rest and residue of my Personal Estate and Effects whatsoever and wheresoever not hereinbefore by otherwise disposed of I give and bequeath the same to unto the said Benjamin Smith and Joseph Barker Upon Trust that they and the survivor of them and the Executors and Administrators of such survivor shall and do in the first place payout all my just debts, my funeral expenses, the charges of proving this my Will, and the Fine Fees and expenses on Admission of my said wife to the Copyhold Messuage and Premises hereinbefore devised to her for life as aforesaid and shall and do by and with the remainder of my said Personal Estate continue to hold on and occupy the said Farm called Pennyfeathers and the said Mill and carry on my said business of a Miller until the Michaelmas Day next after my youngest child for the time being shall attain the age of twenty one years and shall and do during such time pay and apply the clear profits arising therefrom and also the rents of my Copyhold cotages and Blacksmiths Shop in and towards the maintenance, education, support and bringing up of all my children And at the Michaelmas day next after my youngest child for the time being shall attain the age of twenty one years I direct my said Executors to put off the said farming business and also the business of the said Mill and to convert into money all such parts of my Personal Estate as shall not then consist of money and I do give and bequeath the same together with the produce of the sale of said copyhold hereditaments hereinbefore directed to be sold unto and equally between all my children who shall be then living and to the issue of such of them as may be then dead leaving issue, such issue to take the share or shares which his or their parent or parents would have been entitled to if living. And in case any one or more of my said children shall die under the age of twenty one years or before his her or their share or shares of and in the residue of my said personal estate shall become payable without leaving any issue lawfully begotten or being such and all such issue shall die under that age then I will that the part of the share of him or her or them so dying shall go and be paid to the survivors of them in equal shares when and as his her or their original share or shares shall become payable Provide Always and my mind and will is and I do hereby authorize my said Executors and the survivor of them and the Executors or Administrators of such survivor at any time before my youngest child attain the age of twenty one years in case they or he shall deem it advisable for the benefit of my family to put off either the business of my said Mill or my said farming business or both of them and to convert into money all my Stock in Trade in and about my said Mill and also all my farming stock and other effects upon the said farm and to lay out and invest the clear residue of my Personal Estate in or upon some one of the Public Stocks or Funds or upon any mortgage or mortgages and from time to time to alter and change such securities for other securities as he or they shall think fit and to any and apply the dividends interest and annual proceeds arising from my said Personal estate and also the rent of the said Mill and premises until sale thereof or a sufficient part of such rent dividends interest and annual proceeds in and towards the maintenance and support of my said wife and children in like manner as I have hereinbefore directed with respect to the application of the profits of my said farming business and the business of my said Mill

And I do here authorize my said Executors and the survivor of them and the Executors and Administrators of such a survivor if they or he shall think fit from time to time to apply such part or parts of my personal Estate as they or he in their or his discretion shall think fir in putting out all or any of my said children apprentices to any business or otherwise for their advancement or preferment in the world until the monies hereinbefore bequeathed to them shall become payable not exceeding in the whole one half of the expectant share of each such child.

And my Will and mind also is that my said executors or either of them their or either their executors or Administrators shall not be charged or chargeable with or accountable for any more of the said trust monies or premises than he or they shall actually receive or shall come to his or their respective hands by virtue of this my Will nor with or for any loss therein which shall happen without his or their wilful default nor one of them for the other of them or for the acts deeds receipts disbursements executors or administrators of the other of them but each only for his own acts deeds receipts and disbursements And also that it shall and be lawful for my said executors and their respective executors or administrators and every of them in the first place by and out of the aforesaid trust monies and premises which shall come to respective hands by virtue of this my Will to deduct and reimburse to and for himself and themselves respectively all such loss costs charges and expenses as he or they or either of them shall sustain expend or be put unto in or about the execution of this my Will or otherwise in relation thereto

In witness whereof I have to this my last will and Testament set my hand this twenty first day of January in the year of our Lord on thousand eight hundred and forty two.

Signed by the above James Smith in the presence of us, present at the same time,who have hereunto signed our names as witnesses thereto in the presence of the said James Smith and in the presence of each other

Hester Burrell

Benjamin Anderson”

From this Will we can see that the Windmill is still held within the family.

We can confirm that this is the James (1) we have already identified in the siblings of another James Smith (720) and we have further confirmation as we know that one of the Executors is Benjamin Smith (6), James’ brother and a witness to the signature of the will is Hesther Burrell nee Smith (55) who was a sister.

To try and show continuity in the family tree we need to link the James Smith who died in 1762 with this one who was born 1803.

Working backwards from James’ birth in 1802/3 we can find the marriage of James Smith (720) to Anne Brett (721) on 30th June, 1802

Below you will see an extract from the Parish Records of High Roothing and what it says is:

“James Smith of this Parish Bachelor and Ann Brett of this Parish Widow were married in this Church by Licence this thirtieth day of June in the year one thousand eight hundred and two by me Nicholas Toke Rector of Barnston.

In the presence of John Watson / Honour Wilson.”

Below is another extract confirming the existence of Nicholas Toke, the officiating Rector – this is his son’s alumni record from Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Noting that James married a widow it may be that the following entry in the burials records for High Roothing 17th September 1801 is that of Ann’s previous husband. I have noted that the Brett family have a long Essex history and they crop up frequently over the generations.

Their first-born son and daughter were named James (1) and Ann (17), which is a common convention through the ages and we know that the eldest sister of James born in 1803 was Ann.

With a little further research we can see James’ birth and baptismal record from the High Roothing Church records:

“James, son of James and Ann born April 16th, 1803 received into the congregation 16th September, 1804.”

I can find Ann’s birth in Takeley on15th June, 1806 as shown below:

Further research brings to light Maria’s birth in 1809 in the Register of Takeley Church showing that she was born on 10th December.

Having followed James and Ann Smith to a reasonable degree – I have not found the births of Benjamin and Hester, to match those of James, Maria and Ann - but can show that the links between uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces are sufficiently strong to prove that we are looking correctly at the same family.

So, I think I can state with confidence, that the Smith’s of Essex can trace their history back to James and Ann Smith previously Brett who were married in High Roothing, Essex in 1802.

I then began to wonder if we could go further back.

We know that James was born in 1803 and it is a reasonable assumption that his parents would be in their early twenties when he was born.

On March 25th, 1781 the High Roothing Church records record the birth of a James, son of Thomas and Mary Smith. No indication is given of their origins and I cannot locate their marriage in the Church Registers for High Roothing.

An entry from High Roding Church Records 1744

A Thomas Smith was buried on 29th March 1801.

As I cannot find “where” Thomas comes from I fear he maybe a red herring.

However, we do know about a widower James Smith - Died 1762 in White Roothing leaving

Children: James, Christopher, John, Dorothy, Sarah

I can find a James Smith baptised in Essex on 25th June 1738 to James and Dorothy Smith

I can find a Christopher Smith baptised in Essex on 6th July 1740 to James and Dorothy Smith - see entry above.

Those two births to a mother named Dorothy would explain where Dorothy, sister to James, Christopher and Sarah, got her name

Given that James died in 1762 and that we know our James was not born until 1803 there must be a generation between them.

However, we know from James’ will in 1762 that he left a son named James. I cannot locate his marriage but I believe that he was the father of James Smith born in 1773. He would have been about 35 at the time of the birth in 1738 - see above.

James Smith - Born 1773 Died 28th January 1837

Married Ann Brett in 1802

Ann Brett Born 1773 Died 26th December 1840

Both buried in Abbess Roding


“Buried headstone, bodystone and footstone.

(J)AM(—) SMITH / of Roo(——) in this parish / who departed this life / the 28th of January

18(3)7 / aged 64 years / also of / ANN SMITH / [widow of the above] / who departed this

life / the 26th of December 1840 / aged 67 years /

Footstone: J S / A S /“

James Smith - Born 1803 in White Roothing Died 12th February 1842

Buried in Abbess Roding.

Married Emma Willson.

Siblings: Ann, Benjamin, Maria, Hesther

For those of us of the Edwardian generation that means that we can see our pedigree back to about 1700 with reasonable certainty, After all James was well into adulthood when his Will was drawn up in 1761. He died the following year.

So, if your parent /grandparent / great grandparent is is shown below then you can use this collection of information to locate your own lineage:

Jessie Margaret Smith or

Cyril Grove Smith or

George Smith or

Ralph Dudley Smith or

Florence Marion Smith

Grandfather -

Joseph George Smith or

Walter Benjamin Smith

Great Grandfather -

George Smith

Great Great Grandfather -James Smith Born 1803

Great Great Great Grandfather – James Smith Born 1773

Great Great Great Great Grandfather – James Smith Born 1738

Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather - James Smith Died 1762

Andrew Dudley-Smith 2016