Some time ago I began researching all branches of my family tree on ancestry.co.uk
This blog is my attempt to describe what I’ve found out about my family history starting with the person whose ancestors and family are the most difficult to trace.
My mother’s grandfather was Edward Cavendish Yates and when I started this research my family believed him to be illegitimate and the son of a woman called Fanny. When I found Edward’s birth certificate, this information proved to be correct, but the circumstances leading up to his birth and his life before he married my great grandmother, Priscilla Jane Mecham, still remained a complete mystery.
The Birth Certificate of Edward Cavendish Yates (Snr.)
Some members of my family believed that Edward’s middle name, Cavendish, was given to him because he was the illegitimate son of one of the Dukes of Devonshire. I doubt this will ever be proved one way or the other, but what started to fascinate me more was the identity of his mother, Fanny Yates.
Fact or fiction ?
The story of Fanny Yates (Edward’s mother), dressed elegantly and traveling in a carriage to the races at Epsom, was passed from her son through the generations to her great grandchildren, one of them being my mother. Part of the same story has Edward Cavendish Yates attending Epsom College and watching this carriage go by the school gates.
Fact: There is a child recorded at Epsom College in the 1861 census called Ed Yates, but his birth is in 1850 and he has an older brother. Census records are notoriously inaccurate with regard to age, but a 5 year gap in 1861 would mean that the school recorded his age as 11 when he was in fact 16. This seems rather unlikely, coupled with the fact that this same Ed Yates seems to have a whole ‘other life’ with a Medical Doctor’ s family when you follow him through later census records.
A cousin of my mother’s knows another interesting, but rather different story about a carriage and Epsom College. Apparently Edward Cavendish Yates taught at Morden Hall boarding school for boys in Morden, Surrey and when it closed, he took up a post at Epsom College, traveling to work by carriage from his existing residence in the Morden area.
Fact: This is probably true and could be the real origins of the story above but unfortunately there seem to be no records of Edward teaching at either establishment. (Morden Hall boarding school for boys is supposed to have closed in 1869 but census records shows that boys were still attending in 1871).
“A great romantic novel”
Understandably, my first searches for Fanny Yates had in mind the possible connection with the Cavendish family and the story of an elegant woman going to the races in a carriage. Who I first came up with as a result was the very splendid Dame Frances Mary Musgrave (nee Yates), wife of Sir Richard Musgrave.
There are books written by this lady’s mother, Frances Mary Lovett Yates (aka Mrs Ashton Yates), and private correspondence written between herself and the 6th Duke of Devonshire in which both parties seem to make reference to Mrs. Ashton’s daughter Fanny. The two families, Yates and Cavendish, also share a connection with Lismore in Ireland. Having followed the two families back a few generations I discovered that the Yates line from Dame Frances goes back to Reverend John Yates 1755 – 1856 of Toxteth Park Chapel in Liverpool.
Books written by F. M. L. Yates include ‘A Winter in Italy, in a series of letters to a friend’ and ‘Letters Written During a Journey to Switzerland 1841 Volumes 1-2’.
You can read the former at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044012006961
“but no evidence!”
There were some well-known families and fascinating historical facts I found along the way and the Cavendish family history was easy to look up. The discovery of a ‘liason’ between these two would have made a great romantic novel, but happily for them and sadly for me, there is no real evidence to say that there would be any truth in it! Nor is there any evidence of either of them having a son named Edward Cavendish Yates.
Having said that, there is also no evidence as yet to say it is not true.
There are plenty of people researching these two families and no other member of ancestry.co.uk or any other genealogical research site has contacted me to either confirm or disprove the relationship.