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.