Here is a fascinating story, of tracing the family tree of a lady who was the descendant of a clockmaker. If you think your ancestor may have been in the clock and watchmaking trade and you would like to research more about your ancestor, please do get in touch with me.
A few years ago I was very pleased to receive a letter from a lady, living in the U.S.A., who was a descendant of the finest watchmaker who ever worked in the North East of England. While visiting the Texas State Archives she had come across a copy of my book “Clockmakers of Northumberland and Durham” in the state library and was anxious to obtain a copy. She is a descendant of Deodatus Threlkeld who was born in 1657, youngest son of William Threlkeld, parish priest for Brancepeth and Startforth, Durham. Deodatus was apprenticed in Newcastle to the London-trained clockmaker Abraham Fromanteel, from about 1671-1678. When Fromanteel was recalled to London by his father in 1680 to take over the family clockmaking business in the City, Threlkeld started his own business, taking over his master’s former customers.
Deodatus Threlkeld married three times, firstly to Hannah Anderson in 1684 by whom he had three children; William baptised in 1685, who died in infancy; Deodatus(2) baptised in 1687 who was trained as a watchmaker by his father; and Hannah baptised in 1689 who married a tinsmith, Samuel Milburn.
Deodatus then married Margaret Ilderton, daughter of George Ilderton of Ilderton in 1698/9, and sister of Robert Ilderton, one of Threlkeld’s apprentices. Margaret unfortunately died while giving birth to their son George, who died shortly after his mother.
In 1700 Threlkeld married for a third time, to Margaret Moor of Newburn, by whom he had sons John and Thomas, and daughters Mary, Jane, Margaret and Elizabeth who all survived to adulthood.
Deodatus (2) was first apprenticed to his father from 1701-8 but as soon as he was out of his apprenticeship and old enough to decide for himself what he wanted to do with his life; he decided to become a seaman and bound himself to a master mariner, Thomas Brown, from 1708-1715, who was a freeman of Newcastle who sailed from that port. Deodatus (2) was freed again in 1716.
My American correspondent is descended from Deodatus (2). Apparently by 1721 Deodatus (2) was captain of a ship called the Corbruiser, trading from Bermuda, in rum and most probably slaves from Africa, as the two ran hand in hand. He was living in Bermuda and owned land there by 1723. There is a record of him having served on a jury there and also his default of a loan of £17 for which he had listed a black boy, named Anthony, as security. Deodatus (2) died at Norfolk, Virginia in 1729.
Besides his legal wife, Sibell, whom he married about 1718 and who is the mother of Deodatus (3), Deodatus (2) had a mistress, Jermima Burrows, to whom he was never married. Her son John Threlkeld was born about 1717, before he married Sibell. At the time Deodatus was in Bermuda, there was a family called Burrows who were plantation owners, but there were no records for a Jermima Burrows. We must assume that she was either a slave or an illegitimate white child of the Burrows family. Since her son John voted and owned land in Virginia in 1768, we must conclude that he was white. This John Threlkeld took the surname Threadgill when he went to Virginia about 1734 from Bermuda. He died in Virginia in 1772 after having married Anabel and fathering at least 7 children. He and Anabel were the great, great, great, great, grandparents of my correspondent. Their son John (2) from whom she is descended, was the owner of a family prayer book which contained much of the family history.
John Threadgill (2) and his wife Mary Cobb moved down to Anson County, North Carolina and had 12 children. John died there on 22 Sept 1835. Their son Howell and his wife Mary Slaughter were the lady’s great, great, grandparents and they moved to Macon County, Alabama sometime before 1850. Howell had served in the War of 1812. He also lived in Georgia before going to Alabama. Howell and Mary had 11 children, the first 6 being born in North Carolina and the last 5 were born in Georgia.
My American correspondent is descended from the fourth child of Howell and Mary. His name was Noah Baxter Threadgill and he was born in 1818 in Anson, North Carolina. Noah Baxter married Mary Emily after moving to Autauga County, Alabama. They had 6 children, the last of whom was the lady’s father’s mother, Elizabeth Pastor Threadgill and she married William Charles Bates. Her father Albert Jefferson Bates, was the last of their 8 children. All of these people had been landowners and farmers. When she wrote to me, she said:
“When you see that my maiden name was Katie Bates. You can imagine the strange feeling I had when I saw that the book with so much information about my ancestor, Deodatus Threlkeld, was written by K. Bates.”
With regards to Deodatus Threlkeld (3) there is no record of his date of birth but he must have been born about 1719. His father Deodatus (2) was living in Bermuda until 1728, at the time he defaulted on the loan, mentioned earlier, when he was described as “now being in foreign parts” The first record of him being in Virginia was the filing of his will on 28 August 1728.
In 1728 a number of Bermudan families, dissatisfied with the governorship of the island, sought and were refused permission to leave and settle in the American colonies. They found a wrecked and abandoned ship on a coral reef which the
y repaired in secret, working only at night. They made a jury mast from a spar, a sail from bedclothes, and a rudder from a wide board. They reached the coast of America and sailed up the Elizabeth River to what is now Norfolk.
Although Deodatus (2) does not appear on the incomplete passenger list, it seems more than likely that Deodatus was the navigator on the ship. Deodatus (2) died in 1729 at Norfolk and his will was proved on May 16 1729, when he left half of his estate to his widow Sibell and half to his son Deodatus (3). There was a reference in the will to John Threlkeld, (son of Jermima Burrows, his mistress), and Elizabeth, daughter of Sibell from a former marriage.
In her own will dated January 3 1731/2 Sibell was using the name Threadgall and she refers to her son Deodatus as being under the age of 21. Sibell left one third of her Burmudan estate to her daughter Elizabeth, however, according to the law of the day, if the land had belonged to Deodatus (2) when she married him, Deodatus (3) would have received all of it. It therefore seems that Sibell owned land in Bermuda and money before she married Deodatus (2).
The last we hear of Deodatus (3) is on February 14 1731/2 in Bermuda, being a minor, he was described as the son of Deodatus Threlkeld, mariner, late of Virginia, deceased, when he appeared before the Lieutenant Governor of Bermuda and chose Captain William Richardson of Pembroke as his guardian.
We do not know if Deodatus (3) ever came to England to claim his “rightful inheritance” but we do know that his father’s letter did, or rather a copy of it did.
Following is the letter Deodatus (2) sent to his son Deodatus (3) in 1728 :-
“Directions for my son Deods Threlkeld to find his Grandfather in case of my death. August 26 1728.
You have two cousins in London, ye one Wm. Threlkeld, living in ye Strand, near ye new Exchange, Watchmaker, London; ye other Ralph Threlkeld at the sign of ye oyll jar in ye Strand, London; you may direct your letters to them for news of your Grandfather, or coppy of his will. I hope they will give you a true account, and which way to proceed. There is in Newcastle your cousin Francis Batty, Goldsmith living in the Side, in N.C. upon Tyne. I desire you to make the most use of him, he being your Attorney to take care of your Grandfather’s Estate; but take the advice of Mr. Scott or Mr. John Tucker, or some of our friends in Virginia before you proceed; likewise you may make a friend of Mr Robert Ilderton in N. Castle [Deodatus (1)’s first apprentice and his brother-in-law].
In case you should go for England, ye nearest way is to London, and then inquire for the relations as above written and take their directions; from London to N. Castle you may go in a Collier she to Sheels, which is seven miles by water to Newcastle and there inquire for your friends as directed above; from N.C. to Morpeth is twelve miles by land; from Morpeth, in Northumberland, to Tritlington house, which is your Grandfather’s Estate, is three miles, but I do not question but (you) will have good encouragement before you come to Tritlington, that you may proceed with courage, and heir to the Estate of your Grandfather, which is your undoubted right, is the prayer of your affectionate father. Deods. Threlkeld.
The Estate of Tritlington is worth one Hundred Pounds per Annum, and one Annuity of about Forty Pounds per Annum. Likewise my father sold a farm of land and house at Newburn, five miles from N. Castle, which was my mother’s for two Hundred Pounds, that was properly mine. My mothers maiden name was Hannah Anderson.
When you direct a letter to your Grandfather, direct to Mr Deods. Threlkeld, to be left at Mr. Thomas Shipley’s Mercht., in Morpeth, Northumberland.
There is an old will of mine, made to my sister Hannah Milburn when I was Batchelor, and now in the possession of Samuel Milburn, Tinman in N. Castle. I desire you to go to him with cousin Francis Batty and cancell ye same will by order of me. Deods. Threlkeld. Virginia. August ye 26 1728.”
When Deodatus (1) died on 26 Feb 1732/3 in his will he left £20 annum to his son John, a lump sum of £400 to his daughter Elizabeth. To his wife Margaret he left his land at Tritlington for her lifetime and the remainder of his Estate he left to his third son Thomas; his son Deodatus was not even mentioned in the will. Thomas eventually sold Tritlington on 24 Aug 1784 for a total of £6,100.
I would like to hear from anyone who had a clock or watchmaker as an ancestor and particularly those who might be related to Deodatus Threlkeld. I would also welcome hearing from anyone who owns a North East clock and would like to know more about its maker. Please contact me here.
Keith Bates is an amateur horologist who has been researching clocks, watches and chronometers and their makers for over 30 years.