A'Bear Family History


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In 2001 the chance introduction of Mark A’Bear of Twyford, Berkshire, to his distant cousin and author David F A’Bear (who happened to be visiting Wargrave at the time) led to the comparison of Mark’s research and that of David’s father, Stanley George A’Bear. Stanley’s work in the 1980s, which involved many trips to the Public Records Office, resulted in the first known attempt to draw one family tree starting from the fourteenth century and going right through to present times. In conjunction with this he also wrote a book about the family history. Regrettably, Stanley did not indicate the exact source of his information, and seems to have discovered some records that have since not come to light. Mark on the other hand used internet facilities as an aid, and computer software to store his findings. His records included source references, often the Church of Latter Day Saints.

With eager anticipation the records were compared and, though there were some differences in their findings, agreement was soon reached.

Progress on the family tree soon led to the idea of planning a Family Gathering in May 2002 near to the home village, Wargrave. This involved seeking out as many cousins as possible, living not only in the United Kingdom but across the world. By bringing the family together we hoped to not only enjoy meeting our ‘long-lost cousins’ but also to display our interest in pooling information about the family history and to present what we had found by that time so that it could be verified. The project resulted in two foreign branches being discovered, and the weekend was a great success, with cousins attending from not only every branch in the UK, but also Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

My idea of writing a book about each branch of the family was a natural progression of meeting my distant relatives. The support for the weekend was a clear indication that there is much interest in the family surname, and it occurred to me that future generations may well share the same curiosity. Producing a family tree is a great step forward in this respect, but it does not consider social issues. Public records will doubtless be accessible for evermore, but information about people’s lives is generally passed on for only two or three generations and then forgotten. Just as we share an interest in what happened during our ancestors’ lives, so many of our descendants will look upon us in centuries to come and wonder how we lived. With generations passing all the time, what better time to start such work than straight away?

However, the work was not only carried out for the sake of future generations, but for us all to read now, in the hope that we might feel more like a family if we share what we know about our nearest relatives. I can certainly say that enquiring about my distant cousins has brought me closer to them and, judging by the contributions to the branch histories of this book, it seems they had plenty to say!

Compiling our earlier history in a similar fashion was an extension of this work, so although this book begins at the time of the Norman Invasion of 1066, they were largely written after the branch histories were completed in reverse order. In the early years, I have collected as many records as possible and tried to build up a picture of the various family groups in existence before the Wargrave years. This has helped to answer questions about our ancestral roots, the origin of our surname and how we came to live in Berkshire. In the middle years I have tried to tie in all the available family deeds and wills in order to investigate, amongst other issues, the building of Hill House, the donation of church bells and the enigma of John of the Porch. Piecing together all that we know about each person was a rewarding task, for it has helped to ratify the relationships shown in the earlier family tree, and at the same time paint a clearer picture of what was going on in our family during these centuries. In the more recent years, when further information was made available through census reports, the investigation moves on. “Where did people live?” “Why did they move?” “How were they employed?” “What impact did the industrial revolution have on our family?” and “What caused the demise of farming in  Wargrave, resulting in the family home “Hill House” being sold?” I have attempted to address all these questions in this section but, almost inevitably, insufficient evidence makes it difficult to be certain of facts, and one has to be a little speculative at times.

The more one asks, the more one wants to know, and so by its very nature such a book can never be complete. It does, however, clarify what we currently know, and is supported with references and reasons in the hope that it will aid and encourage further research in more specific areas of the family history in future.

David F A’Bear