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John Robinson Chapman

In 1973 I started to trace my family tree. I went about it all the wrong way - I started by looking through graveyards in areas where I suspected my family may have lived. By blind chance I stumbled across the gravestone of my ancestor John Chapman (1767 - 1849) at Gainford Churchyard in Durham, England. The gravestone gave me just enough information to prompt me to go back to my relatives and begin asking questions. This led to searching bishop's transcript records (I found out about parish registers later) and further discoveries.

Within a few years I had learnt enough to begin teaching evening classes on genealogy. I was approached by others and founded with them the Cleveland Family History Society and became it's first secretary and journal editor, writing a series of articles 'Beginners Start Here'. These articles formed the basis of the web site 'Genlinks' .

The years 1980 - 1997 marked the doldrums in my researches. Family History took a low priority to career and family. But in 1998 I started a new life. I quit job, separated from family and moved 4000 miles to first the USA and later Canada. I started a new career developing web pages with my new wife, Shelia, and together we rekindled our interest in family history.

This web site is a work in progress. It will never be finished! As I can I will add further pages and revise and update others. The bulk of this site was originaly auto-created by Personal Ancestral File - the free software available from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints but as a web developer, I can't stop there and used Dreamweaver to improve it a little.

Whats in a name?

I was named after my father, also John Robinson Chapman. He was named after his grandfather and he was named after his grandfather who took his name from his father John Chapman who married Mary Robinson. All in all there has been a John Robinson Chapman in every generation since 1796 - the eldest male child. Where a John Robinson has died without male issue then the name was carried on with the children of other sons. And my eldest son? - he's Matthew (John Robinson). That's probably enough!

So why did I start?

Simple - it was family tradition. As a child I talked to my grandfather and heard from him the tale of the family fortune locked away 'in chancery'. He showed me an ancient will of an ancestor - The Rev. Thomas Taylor Wilson and told me of the family estate at 'Olwin'. He said we once as a family ran a school at Headlam Hall and showed me a treasure from there - a carriage clock. Of course I was too young to write down what he told me and didn't know enough to do any real digging. In 1973, I was a teacher and spent some of my summer holidays trying to find out more.

Headlam HallBy then my grandfather was dead, so looking at a map, I couldn't find the 'Olwin' estate but found Headlam Hall and went to see the place. An impressive building, now used as a Country House Hotel, Spa, Restaurant and Golf Course. It didn't give me any clues so I went looking for the local graveyard.

That tuned out to be Gainford churchyard. I started at the entrance and worked my way through it. Right by the church entrance I struck gold.

The gravestone I found read:

'Sacred to the memory of John Chapman of Alwent, late of Headlam in the county of Durham, Who died the 20th day of February 1849 Aged 81 years
Beneath this stone are interred the mortal remains of Joseph Chapman the 4th and youngest son of John & Mary Chapman of Headlam. He departed this life on the 6th day of October 1828 aged 27 years.
And of the above named Mary Chapman who deceased on the 1st day of November 1830, in the 68th year of her life. And, also of George, the son of the above named John & Mary Chapman He died on the 29th day of May 1836, aged 36 years
On the rear -
This inscription is in memory of Margaret, youngest child of John and Mary Chapman. She departed this life at Kilburn Priory, on the 4th day of August 1836, aged almost 32 years and was interred in the cemetary at Kensal Green, both in the county of Middlesex.

Here was a John Chapman who lived at Headlam and a place 'Alwent'. Coud that be the 'Olwin' estate? A little research in the Department of Paleography of Durham University (which no longer seems to exist) found some answers... but then you can go look that up on my GGGG grandfather page.

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