I have been researching my Bell ancestors since childhood when my maternal grandmother told me stories of bushrangers, gold miners and colourful family characters. I must admit it is still my favourite family when it comes to research.
It is now more than fifty years since I bought my first certificate, which was the death certificate of George Bell, my grandmothers paternal grandfather, who died in 1894 at Picton in New South Wales.
Since that time I have traced these ancestors back to the Middle Ages in Kent, England. I have also traced many twigs and branches of the Bell Family Tree’. Some of these I have published in book form.
For twenty years I also published a Bell Family Newsletter in which I kept the family members up to date with the family research. Family members also sent details of their ‘twigs’ and ‘branches’ which was also shared through these newsletters.
Although I no longer publish the newsletter I’m always interested in the research of these families and from time to time I solve long standing puzzles and make wonderful break-throughs.
I now intend to share these with family members through my blog and articles on my website. This blog is about the family of Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox), who immigrated from Mereworth, Kent,on board the Woodbridge, which arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838. These were the uncle and Aunt of my fore mentioned George Bell. Much of the story of this family and their descendants is told in ‘The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell’, which is available through this website.
I have continued to research this family line to try and solve mysteries and find information not available when the book was printed. I found some of the missing information at a later date and shared it with interested family members in the Bell Family Newsletters Nos 41 and 42. Now I have been able to find more on this family, particularly the women, before the family immigrated.
Mercy Cox was born about 1782, probably in Staplehurst, Kent, the seventh child and youngest daughter of Uriah and Anne Cox (nee Poole). Her baptism has not been found, but it is possibly in the Congregational Church records, as were her older brothers and sisters.
Mercy Cox married James Cheeseman on 8 November 1800 at Smarden in Kent. James was the eldest son of Solomon and Sarah Cheeseman (nee Cornwall) and had been born at Marden Kent in 1767.
Ann Pool, the eldest daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman was born at Staplehurst, and was baptised on 4 July 1802.
In late 1803 James Cheeseman went away to the Napoleonic Wars, and never returned. In the Staplehurst Overseers Account Books we find that the parish paid Mercy Cheeseman a weekly allowance from parish funds for nearly three years. On the 18 December 1803 the infant daughter of Mercy and James Cheeseman died and was buried in the churchyard at Staplehurst.
On the 22 April 1804 another daughter was born to Mercy and she was baptised in the Staplehurst church on 22 April. She was named Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman for James’ mother.
Mercy’s parish allowance payments stop on 14 April 1806. Lady Day, the 25 March is the first day of the Church year, and it would appear these payments stopped soon afterwards. After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, there was a break in hostilities with France, so one would expect James Cheeseman to return home to his family. Obviously not having put in an appearance by the end of the church year in March 1806, the parish may not have been willing to continue to support his family, and may have tried to resettle them in the husband’s parish of birth, Marden, Kent.
Sometime in 1806 another daughter was born to Mercy Cheeseman, possibly at Marden. She was baptised at Marden on 31 January 1808 and is recorded at the daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman. I will write more about these three daughters of Mercy Cheeseman in my next blog.
It was about this time that Mercy Cheeseman formed a relationship with Robin Bell of East Farleigh, Kent. Robin, the fourth child and third son of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence) was born at Mereworth, Kent, and baptised there on 15 March 1785.
Jane Bell the eldest daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 28 February 1808. She died at Maidstone the following year and was buried in All Saints churchyard on 25 November.
It had been over seven years since Mercy Cheeseman’s husband, James had gone off to war, and the general conclusion was that he had perished, as he had not returned home to his family. Robin Bell and Mercy Cheeseman were married at East Farleigh on 10 October 1811.
On the 10 November 1811, Ann Bell, the daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh. She later married her cousin Josiah Bell and remained in England when her parents and siblings emigrated.
Mary Bell, the third daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 16 January 1814. On 4 August 1834 there was a Removal Order for her to be removed from East Farleigh and returned to Mereworth her father’s parish of birth because she was expecting a child. At her examination on 18 August 1834 she named John Saunders, a labourer of Brenchley as the father. She remained at East Farleigh with Mereworth Parish Overseers paying parish relief to East Farleigh for her keep. In the following month a son was born to Mary and she named him Robert in honour of her father. He was baptised at East Farleigh on 7 October 1834. He died just before his third birthday and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, East Farleigh on 26 September 1837.At this stage nothing further is known of Mary Bell. She may have been the Mary Ann Bell who married George Terry at Maidstone in 1836.
Further children were born to Robin and Mercy Bell including the following:
Robert Bell baptised 28 April 1816 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.
Henry Stirling Bell baptised 16 August 1818 at St Mary’s East Farleigh. Died and was buried there on 5 March 1820.
John Bell, baptised 28 May 1820 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.
Thomas Bell, baptised 7 June 1822, at All Saints Maidstone.
James Bell, baptised 7 November 1824, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.
Jethro Bell, baptised 18 March 1827, at All Saints, Maidstone.
Charlotte Bell, baptised 15 November 1829, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.
All these children emigrated with their parents on board the Woodbridge in 1838. Much of their life and descendants can be found in my book, The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell.
I am descended through Robin Bell Palmer and would love to purchase a copy of your book. Is it available and if so please advise where to purchase it from.
I’m very sorry for the long delay in replying to your comment on my post Sometimes life does not go to plan. This book on the Bell family history now out of print. I’m working on the story of our ancestry from medieval times to their emigration. I had hoped to finish it this year. When I get it done I will let everyone know.
Our common ancestors are Thomas Bell and Ann Laurence. I am descended through their daughter, Mary–sister of your Robin. I, too have been attempting to piece the Bell family together. It’s a struggle! Do you have a maiden name for Elizabeth Purve, who was Thomas Bell’s mother? I am stuck and can’t find anything for her, other than her marriage to Thomas Bell in 1749 and her burial date in 1807.
I would absolutely be interested in purchasing anything you have on the Bell family! Any information you would share with me would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
hi Annette, ! this is incredibly exciting, as I have just found out my connection and I am a descendant! I would be very pleased if you would stay in touch and also advise me when your book is available to purchase. it is so amazing to learn about our ancestors ! I was just a day or so ago, beginning to think there was so little information about my maternal grandfathers family, until I found this online!
My grandfather, Clifford Albert Newling’s mother was Mary Bell, daughter of Jethro and Priscilla Bell (nee Barwick). Jethro was the son of Robin (Robert) and Mercy Bell (nee Cox). Robin/Robert was the son of Thomas and Ann Bell.
That is amazing. Here we thought you were connected to us only through the Hodgetts Line!
Reading all you have written, about all your research, I can find no reference to Elizabeth Ann Cheeseman Bell, whose daughter Rebecca Bell came to Australia with Robin and Mercy on the “Woodbridge” in 1838. Elizabeth Cheeseman Bell, married George Woods and emigrated to New Zealand, where they had a large family. In the later years, Elizabeth and George with some of their children came to Australia, some stayed in NZ. Unfortunatly, Elizabeth did not arrive to see her mother Mercy, who died in 1850 and was the first burial at Thornthwaite cemetery, but from my research, there seems to be evidence that Elizabeth did have connections with her daughter Rebecca, who had married a convict, John Ashford and raised a large family. My adopted daughter, born 1970, connected to the Avard, Barwick, Newling and Palmer families is a descendant. Writing up all these families has turned out to be a mammoth task, I am in my 80s now and spend a great deal of time with the research, and have had to limit my research to the ancestors of those who were the parents of the first Australian families.
I have 3 adopted children and some time back, decided to search their spouses and have a final count of 32 proven convicts, it is just as well we stopped at 3 adoptions, I am just hoping that I will be given time to finish what I have started!
It is wonderful you are writing up the family history for your children. A special gift I’m sure they will appreciate. Have you read some of the other blogs I have written on the Bell family connections. Have you seen ‘The Daughters of Mercy Cheeseman in Kent, England’ posted on 1 September 2012? Quite a bit of information on Elizabeth Cheeseman Bell there.Or were you looking for other information?
Actually I am more interested in Photographs, to illustrate later descendants’ biogs The descendants these days are more interested in being able to put a face to a name, especially my grandchildren. Sometimes I just have to rely on clippings from newspapers, or inquiries from Family History Groups, and sometimes the regional library come up with family photographs.
.Even a photo of the house or farm and/or headstone is all that is available, or even where they died if not at home, just anything that I can find.
Photographs are wonderful to have for family history.Sorry I can not help you there. As our common ancestor is at least six generations back, I only have photographs for the more modern generations of my direct line.Wishing you great success with it all.
Hi Nola, I do have a copy of your book the descendants of Adam and Mercy Bell.
I am related there too. My maiden name is Palmer. I can fill in more recent info if you ever need it. My fathers generation is where the book stops along that line. My father is Ernest William Palmer born Merriwa 1922. Now deceased. He was the son of Arthur and Pearl Palmer.
Hi Linda, Thank you for getting in touch. It is good to have the more modern information and I love to add it all to my private database, but with the privacy laws I can no longer up date the family material and pass it on to other family members.I know we all get very excited when we can find where we fit into the ‘big’ family tree.