Jan 162013
Richard Burke Family

Recent comments and inquiries about my Burke family research have reminded me that I do have a couple of additional pieces of information to add to the Burke family story.

Richard Burke Family

Richard Burke Family

In a previous post, I mentioned that I believed that I had found the brother of my g-g-g-grandfather David Burk.  I believe that David and his siblings came to Canada during the late 1840s at the time of the Irish potato famine.  David Burk settled in Mariposa Township in Victoria County, Ontario.  Oral family history has it that David had a brother Richard and a brother Joseph.  I believe that David’s brother Richard moved to Carievale, Saskatchewan.  I outline my reasons for making this connection in my previous post. I have yet to locate David’s brother Joseph.

In the meantime, however, I have some additional information about David Burk.  This new information adds more circumstantial evidence that David Burk and Richard Burke are brothers.

While in Ontario this summer, I made a trip to the Ontario Archives (love).  I pulled the tax assessment rolls for Mariposa Township (Fonds F 1761).  These aren’t on microfilm, so I had the pleasure of dealing with the beautiful old folders.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of them.  I found the following entries for David Burk:


David Burk; Con: 2 W 1/2; Lot: 20; Acres: 100; Value of each parcel or lot: 75; Value of horses: 30; No of neat cattle, 3 years or upwards: 2; Number of neat cattle: 6; Total value of taxable personal property: 36; Statute labour: 6.


Records weren’t available as they discovered mold on the folders.


David Burk; Age 28; Farmer; Householder; Con 2, Lot 20 W 1/2; Value of lot: 300. No other info.


Occupant: David Burke; Occupation: Yeoman; Householder; Age: 28; Concession 2; Lot 22 1/2 N; No. of Acres: 100; Value of each lot: 40; Total value of property: 40; Statute Labour, No of days: 2.

I also checked if David Burk was perhaps the original patent holder for the land on Con 2 Lot 20.  He wasn’t.  The original patent for Con 2 Lot 20 1/2 W for Mariposa Township, Victoria County went to John Ray in 1843, George Ray in 1844, and to John Naylor 1853 and 1854. This suggests that David Burk was renting this land — a fact which is confirmed by the fact that he has moved to Con 2, Lot 22 by 1854.  The 1861 census has him living on Con 2, Lot 21.



1873 Mary Ann Shouldice Burke Death Record

  1. If there were other Burk siblings living on this land and helping (and I suspect that there were), they were younger than David because he is listed as the head of the household.
  2. It gives us some pretty interesting information about the farm: 6 neat cattle!
  3. It gives us some additional information about David’s age.  The 1861 census puts his date of birth at 1824, but according to this new information, it could have been a couple years later in 1826.

Of course, none of this ties David Burk to Richard Burke.  What I also discovered, however, was that David Burk was living next to several Shouldice families in 1851-4: those of Jacob, William, John and Samuel.  Richard Burke’s wife was Mary Ann Shouldice.

Moreover, Mary Ann Shouldice is buried in North Valentia United Cemetery which is only one concession over from David Burk’s farm in Mariposa Township.  (Mary Ann died of puerperal peritonitis (infection after childbirth) three days after the birth of her son Frederick Whitlock Burke in 1873 – see the death record to the left).

It is seems probable that Mary Ann Shouldice was related to the Shouldice family who lived next to David Burk and that Richard had met Mary Ann through this connection. (I suspect that Richard was living on David’s farm).  Perhaps Mary Ann was the daughter of Jacob Shouldice who was born 1796 in Ireland and who died in 1882 in Lindsay in Victoria County.  This would fit as Jacob is the name of Richard and Mary Ann’s first son. Interestingly, Jacob Shouldice is listed as Bible Christian in his death record.  David Burk’s son Benjamin (my great-great grandfather) married into the Puley family who were also Bible Christians.

So again, this isn’t definite proof that Richard and David were brothers, but at this point I would be very surprised if they weren’t.

P.S. Someone named Frances left a comment on my previous post that she was a descendant of Richard Burke and knew that he had 12 siblings.  Frances — I tried to contact you at the e-mail you left, however, my e-mail bounced.  I’d love to hear more about what you know.  You can write me directly at!

Jul 042012
Clock by John Byard. Circa 1790

Brick by brick (or database by database) I am starting to dismantle the brick wall which has surrounded the origins of John Player and Patience Byard, my 4th great-grandparents who lived in London at the turn of the 19th century and who were the parents of a gaggle of Player watchmakers.

This family has been a difficult one to research, principally because it has been impossible to discover who John’s parents were. In the meantime, however, I have been able to uncover quite a bit more detail about the Byard family, thanks in large part to several new London-centred databases which have been published by

Revelation #1. The Byards were clockmakers

Clock by John Byard. Circa 1790

Clock by John Byard. Circa 1790

Patience Byard’s father John was a clockmaker. I found the marriage allegation for John Byard and Ann Lacy which lists John Byard’s occupation as a clockmaker. Records show that John Byard was apprenticed to John Tillier of St James Clerkenwell, a movement maker, in 1758 and to Steven Stokes of St James Westminster, a watchmaker, in 1759. Further research showed that John and Ann’s son Horatio Thomas Byard was also a watchmaker.

I had wondered why all of John Player and Patricia Byard’s sons were involved in the watchmaking trade, and this gives us an answer. John Byard does, however, seem to have been the first clockmaker in his family. His father Thomas was a barber and tallow chandler.

Was John Player also involved in the watch trade?

Revelation #2. There were Quakers in this family

Patience Byard was undoubtedly named after her grandmother Patience Parker. Patience was the daughter of a pastry cook and she was a Quaker. She married her first husband William Humphery in a Quaker meeting house in Horsley Down, and she had six children with him. These children and their descendants were remembered in the will of Thomas Byard, Patience’s second husband. The Humpherys were tallow chandlers, a detail which will become important below. Patience Parker would have likely had to give up her Quakerism when she married Thomas Byard.

Revelation #3: They were East Enders

Brook Street, Ratcliff, London

Brook Street, Ratcliff, London

John Byard’s will and that of his father Thomas also indicates that this family owned houses on Brook Street in Ratcliff, Middlesex, which is now a part of London. Ratcliff was a small hamlet on the banks of the Thames which was know in the 16th and 17th centuries for ship building.  In the 19th century, it is known for the serial murders of two families.

Interestingly enough, Ratcliff was also a centre for non-conformism — a rejection of the Church of England. This lines up with the fact that Patience Byard’s grandmother was a Quaker.

Patience’s father John Byard moved the family to Kentish Town in the northern part of the city sometime in the late 18th century. Many middle and upper class residents moved to the outer limits of London during this time period. For this reason, Patience and John were married in the Old Parish church of St. Pancras which is near Kentish Town.

Revelation #4: John and Patience Player were living in Ratcliff before John’s death in 1811

Thanks to the new database London, England, Land Tax Records, 1692-1932, I found quite a bit more information about John and Patience Player’s residences in London. For several years, they lived in the Craven Buildings on Craven Street in Shoreditch which were own by Humphrey Sturt and his son Charles. Around 1802, the family may have moved to Islington (Skinner’s Place) or may have gone to Birmingham which would possibly account for the birth of Thomas Player in Birmingham. By 1808, however, the Player family was back in London and guess where they were living: Brook Street in Ratcliff. An entry in the 1811 directory lists a Patience Player at 46 Brook Street, working as a tallow chandler (remember that her Humphery relatives and her grandfather were also tallow chandlers). Because Patience is listed and not John, we know that she must be a widow by this time. Indeed, all of the land tax records after 1811 list Patience Player as the primary occupant. Patience remained in Ratcliff until about 1818, and then she disappears from these records until her death in 1831.

What does this tell us?

Craven Street, Craven-Buildings, London, Drury Lane

Craven Street, Craven-Buildings, London, Drury Lane

All of these revelations help paint a picture of the lives of John Player and Patience Byard in Georgian London. Patience Byard’s family were clearly middle to upper class freemen who owned property. This suggests that the Player family may have also been of this class. There may have been some turmoil or economic difficulties in John and Patience’s lives as they did move from their residence on Craven Street to Islington or to Birmingham.

From these records, we can also be fairly certain that John Player died in 1811, although I was not able to find his burial in the St Dunstan parish records for either 1811 or 1812. After 1811, Patience is clearly on her own and working to support her family making candles. This suggests that the Byards no longer had enough money to support Patience or they didn’t want to. Or they may have chosen to support Patience by apprenticing her sons in the watch- and clockmaking trade, not a cheap prospect when the apprenticeship fees could cost as much as a year’s rent. Patience’s father and her brother would have been able to act as masters for these boys.

Remaining questions

While this didn’t get me any farther with my search for John’s parents, it did help to suggest that he might be related to the Player family who lived on Brook Street in Ratcliff. After all, if John and Patience end up living there in 1808, either one or both clearly had a connection to Ratcliff and to Brook Street. After Patience Player leaves Brook Street in 1818, there is an Elizabeth Player living on this street. Is this a relation?

Another possible clue to John’s family turned up in Shoreditch at the Sturt Estates. At the same time that John and Patience were living the Craven Buildings, so too was a Christopher Player. Who is Christopher? Any database that I tried has not revealed a single Christopher Player. Yet another Player mystery to be solved.

 Posted by at 12:04 am
Apr 192012
Plaque about Players on Craven Street
Craven Street, Coventry

Craven Street, Coventry

I have already written about the Player family of Coventry, England before (here and here). Recently, I have been trying to clean up my files and my research on this family, and I realized that I have much more to write about. As my academic husband always says: unpublished research is the same as research that was never done. I think that this adage can be applied to genealogy as well. I view these blog posts as steps towards the production of something longer about the Player family.

One of the enduring mysteries of the Player family research is the relationship between William and Thomas Player who lived at 9 and 6 Craven Street, Coventry for several decades. The families lived and worked together in this area of Coventry in the watch making trade and it seems very likely that they are related. But how?

William was born on 12 Oct 1794 in London, and his parents were John and Patience. Thomas was born in 1803 in Birmingham according to every census return. One of my fellow Player researchers, a descendant of Thomas, has looked long and hard for a birth or baptismal record for Thomas to no avail. Who were Thomas’ parents? Was he the youngest child of John and Patience or is he a cousin to the family?

There is some circumstantial evidence that Thomas was the child of John and Patience. First, a Daniel Player died in 1803 in Coventry. On his burial record, his parents are listed as John and Prudence and we know that John and Patience had a son Daniel James who was born in 1800. Close enough? That would put John and Patience in Birmingham at the time of Thomas’ birth. But why were they there? Although we don’t know what happened to John Player, we do know that Patience later died in London in 1831 and that her other children married there. So while the family might have been in Birmingham for a time, they returned to London at some point.

Thomas Player was the first Player to live in Coventry. In 1828, he married Margaret McGregor at the Holy Trinity Church in Coventry. Thomas and his family are the only Players living in Coventry in 1841. Thomas was a watch dial painter or an enameller. Birmingham was known for it watch dial painting, and it seems possible that this is where Thomas did his apprenticeship. This evidence, plus the fact that Thomas was the first in Coventry, would mean, however, that he did not live with the London Players for several years.

Thomas Player

Thomas Player

By 1851, Thomas had been joined in Coventry by William Player and his family. William was living at 6 Craven Street, just doors away from Thomas Player. (Thomas Player would later live in 6 Craven Street for several decades). William’s sons George and Ebenezer where also present in Coventry — both had married in the city in 1847. There is also evidence that William’s eldest son (also William) was in Coventry in 1846 as his infant son died in Coventry at that time. William Jr. and his family returned to London and were living there in 1851. William’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Joshua Willington joined her parents in Coventryand they were living on Craven Street in 1861.

Although William Player is listed as a watch dial painter on the 1851 census (when he is also living at 6 Craven Street where Thomas and his family would also live), William and his sons were more involved in mechnical aspects of the trade like engine turning. Presumably these two families worked together to make whole watches — each family contributed its special knowledge to the project.

These two families had something else in common: both were involved in non-conformist churches — churches that did not follow the Church of England. William’s children were baptized in the Providence Independent Chapel in London, and I have found records that Thomas’ two elder sons were baptized in the West Orchard Independent Chapel in Coventry. William’s son Joseph was also married in this chapel. Descendants of both families have heard rumours that the Players were either baptists or Quakers. (William’s son Joseph and his family were certainly baptists; but I have never been successful in connecting the family to the large number of Players who were Quakers.) This adds to the strong circumstantial evidence that there is a connection between these families.

I followed the Player families through the English censuses until 1911 and all of the Players in Coventry until that time were descendants of either Thomas or William. Of Thomas’ four sons, his son William seems to have been the most prosperous (living in a named house on Dover Street, Coventry), although his son Thomas developed a reputation as a talented watch dial painter.

Player Watchmaking Factory

Player Watchmaking Factory

Of William’s sons, his youngest Joseph was the most successful. (Joseph is my gg-grandfather, father of Richard Morgan Player). Joseph rode the industrial revolution to prosperity. He was a watch manufacturer (not a watch maker) and he had a factory where workers would construct the watches. By 1871, Joseph was employing 56 men and 23 boys in his factory and by 1881, he and his family were living in Allesley, a town outside of Coventry. The family was living in a large house and employed three servants. Living outside of Coventry meant it was necessary to ride to the factory in Coventry, a luxury for only the well-off. The family suffered a blow, however, when Joseph died in 1895 at the age of 61. His eldest son Joseph William took over the business, and it fell on hard times as cheaper watches were available from America, and after Joseph William attempted to make the world’s most complicated watch for JP Morgan. As far as I can tell, there are no descendants of Joseph Player left in Coventry.

None of this, however, solves the problem of determining the relationship between William Player and Thomas Player. I’m not sure how to proceed next. I think that our best bet will be to find the apprenticeship records for Thomas Player. Anyone have any other ideas?

Plaque about Players on Craven Street

Plaque about Players on Craven Street

A timeline of Players in Coventry

  • Thomas Player married Margaret McGregor in Coventry
1841 Census
1851 Census
1861 Census
1871 Census
1881 Census
1891 Census
1901 Census
1911 Census

Some good Coventry resources

 Posted by at 8:14 am
Mar 112012
Richard Burke

I was recently facing a painful deadline for a paper that I was writing. It was killing me, and in my desperation, I decided to distract myself (read: procrastinate) by trying to make some headway on one of my most difficult brickwalls: tracing the Burke family back to Ireland. My paternal grandmother was a Burke, and although she knew her ancestors were Protestant Irish (and Orangemen), she had little information about where the family had come from in Ireland. It had been easy to trace the family back to the Canadian patriarch: one David Burk (the ‘e’ in Burke got added in Canada) who had settled in Mariposa Township in Victoria County, Ontario about 1850. (The exact date of his settlement is difficult to determine and made harder by the fact that the 1852 census returns for this township have not survived.)

Finding David Burk also meant finding another branch of this family who had also done extensive research and had perserved some oral family history. These cousins added some important information to the search, information which they pulled together in this biography of David Burk. The key information in this piece was that David Burk had (at least) two brothers–Richard and Joseph–and that one of these brothers had married a Catholic woman, was estranged from the family and moved west; and the other had had lots of children and had moved to Australia. I thought that my best chance of finding out more about David Burk was to find his siblings.

The Burkes who moved west

Richard Burke

Richard Burke

First I had to do some grunt work. I wanted to make sure that I knew all I could about what happened to David Burk and Elizabeth Pogue’s children. I started tracing their lives through the Canadian censuses. In 1901, I found the three younger Burk siblings (Margaret, Cordelia and Joseph) all living close to each other in Carivale, Saskatchewan. They had clearly moved west when land on the Prairies became available. When I pulled up the original images of the census returns, I noticed something. Living close to David Burk’s children and their families were some other families named Burke, including one Richard Burke, born in 1836 in Ireland. Richard’s descendants had done a lot of work tracing their side of the familyand I very quickly learned that Richard and his family had also settled in Mariposa Township, Victoria County, Ontario before they moved west in 1885. Even though the details don’t quite match the oral family history in my side of the family, they are close enough. I was certain that this Richard Burke was David’s brother.

I was very quickly able to find descendants of Richard online (I love meeting new cousins), and I was very happy to hear that this branch of the family had been quite fastidious about keeping their family history. They knew, for instance, that Richard came from County Monaghan in Ireland. Richard’s grandson Delmer Smith Burke even wrote a lengthy year-by-year account of his life in Carievale. In this family history, he mentions that on the way west in 1881, his father Jacob George Burke stayed with his uncle David Graham and that David’s wife was his aunt, a sister to his father Richard Burke. This is music to a genealogist’s ear. Sure enough, I was able to find a marriage record for an Esther Burke and a David Graham. Esther was a resident of Mariposa Township when she married David Graham in Cobourg, Ontario in 1859. But the best news was that their marriage record named Esther’s parents: Benjamin and Jane Burk(e). I had not had these names before, but they do fit perfectly as both David and Richard had a son named Benjamin–not a common Irish name.

Evidence that this is the same family

Although I do not have birth records for David or Richard Burke, there is some powerful evidence that these families are related:

  1. Both families settled about the same time in Mariposa Township, Victoria County, Ontario. (In the absence of the 1852 census returns, I’ll have to check land records for the township, but I’m guessing that these families also lived close to each other in Mariposa).
  2. David’s descendants remembered a brother Richard and Richard’s descendants remembered a brother David.
  3. There were seven families living next to each other in Carievale in 1901: three children of David Burke, Richard Burke and four of his children. It is highly unlikely that this is a coincidence. (See the list below).
  4. The names Benjamin and Jane (the parents listed on Esther’s marriage certificate) are repeated in both families.

Burkes living in Carievale, Saskatchewan in 1901:

David Burk descendants

Richard Burke family and descendants
Richard Burke Family

Richard Burke Family

Remaining questions

There are still some things that I would like to figure out.

  • It seems likely that the Burke siblings came to Canada during the Irish potato famine between 1845 and 1852. About 100,000 immigrants came to Canada in 1847 alone; 60,000 of them were Irish.
  • Did the siblings come together or at different times?
  • Did the parents also perhaps come to Canada and die before 1867 when deaths were recorded regularly in Ontario?
  • There is a large age gap between David (b. 1824) and Richard (b. 1836) and Esther (b. 1839). This would suggest to me more than just one additional sibling. Did these siblings also come to Canada? Where are they? Were they also in Mariposa Township?
  • If Richard wasn’t the brother to move to Australia, was Joseph?

Tracing this family back to Ireland seems daunting, but I’d love to try….