The Ambrose Austen, Sr. Family of Kent, UK

from a draft by
Brian Austen, Austen families historian and researcher*
with credits to
Caroline Pinkers, Susan Lee, Marjory Austen, and Lynn Austin
[Annotations by Larry Pearce]

[As our investigations into the origins of the Richard and Susan Austen Pearce family of Bourne, England (married in 1813), continue, it only seems appropriate to look at the family that produced our Great-great-grandmother Susan and Great-great-uncle Charles Austen, Sr., both of whom we have come to know quite well from the Original Family Narrative and associated commentaries. We have permission from Australian Brian Austen, government statistician, family researcher, and writer, to cite from a draft that he is working on for the descendants of Ambrose Austen, Sr. (1757-1843). While Brian insists that he is not directly related to us, we have been in touch with others in the US who are, and they have contributed greatly to this project (see their brief biographies in the back of this paper). This writing provides partial answers to several questions that have troubled us since the beginning: Where did Susan Austen Pearce come from? What happened to her family after she married? Who wrote the Original Family Narrative? Let us begin with Brian’s words outside the brackets.]

Ambrose Austen was born in Kent [County, England], according to the International Genealogical Index (IGI), in Marden on 17 June 1757. It is possible his father may have been Thomas and that he was born on the Heresfield Farm. According to an early document on the family history, Ambrose may have had a brother Charles who served in the navy (It is however possible that this reference was mistakenly referring to Charles, the brother of Jane Austen and later Admiral of the fleet. Could it be that Charles’ name was known or in the news or family discussions and it came to be assumed that he was related to the family?) [The writer of the Original Narrative only refers to our Uncle Charles’ “Uncle,” also Charles.]

On 18 November 1779, at age 22, Ambrose married Susannah Beard. She was the daughter of Nathaniel Beard and Mary Weller of Rottingdean in Sussex, the fifth of nine children: Thomas, John, Nathaniel, Maria, Susannah, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Barbara and Eleanor. No one knows when, where, or how they met. The witnesses included Charlotte Beard, Sarah ?, John Farncombe, Mary Oridge, William Knight and John Hamahar. [WWW.ANCESTRY.COM suggests that a Francis Beard (1733/4- ?) and Joan Pitman may have been the parents, but Austen family research is probably more reliable.]

Just under six years later, on 7 August 1785, Charles was born and christened [later] at Headcorn Baptist Church, not far from Marden [about 20 miles southwest of the famous Canterbury. See WWW.STREETMAP.CO.UK]. Then came Nathaniel, Henry, Susannah [Susan to the modern Pearce family], Mary and John, all thought to have been born in the Marden-Headcorn area. Between about 1795 and 1802 the family was living in Dorsetshire (on the southern coast of England west of Hampshire and Sussex) where Charlotte and Ambrose, Jr. were born. It is not known precisely where in Dorset they lived, nor why. The nineth, and last child Joseph, was born on 7 April 1802 on Panthurst Farm near Sevenoakes where Ambrose grew hops [Now a suburb of south-southeast London just off the M25 beltway]. The farm was owned by a relative, John Austen.

According to the family story, Ambrose purchased a commission in the army and/or navy for Charles. Charles would have been 18 in 1803 when England was at war with Napoleonic France. The story suggests that Charles was in the army and navy for eight and a half years, which provides ample time before his marriage in 1813.

At some point, date unknown, Ambrose moved from the Sevenoakes area to Bulls Cross Farm in Middlesex about 12 miles north of London [part of the city and surrounding counties since 1974] on the Theobald’s estate at a rent of 100 pounds. According to University of Nottingham Library, “Theobald’s was the first property to be granted by William III to his follower, Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland (in 1689) and the first to be sold by the 3rd Duke in the 1760’s (for about 75,000 pounds) to the banker George Prescott, the sitting tenant.”

On 21 June 1813, Charles married Sarah Pearce in a double wedding ceremony with his sister Susan marrying Sarah Pearce’s brother Richard at St. Marylebone Church in London (near to the now famous Lord’s Cricket Ground). His marriage record describes him as a “gentleman,” which suggests that he had left the army/navy by this time. His Marriage Allegation stated that he was “of this parish,” or St. Marylebone, while Susan’s is listed as Enfield [also now part of London but north between center city and the St. Albans and Hemel Hemstead area. Was one or both living on their own or with other family members?].

[After the wedding] the family story has Charles living at Castle Gate Manor, a large sheep range, after he left the army. [But,] in fact, Charles and Sarah lived at Cattlegate Farm [it’s easy to see how one could mistake “Castle Gate” for “Cattlegate], a part of Theobald’s estate in Middlesex in 1814 where Susan, their eldest child was born on 11 March. [She is credited with the Original Family Narrative in the Tice account presented earlier.] His father Ambrose lived on the same estate, on Bulls Cross Farm. [The estate was sold about 1910. Apparently records from the 1950’s only went back 60 years, fires having burnt any further proofs.]

Apparently Charles didn’t stay long. The story says four years, after which he sold his large sheep herd and went to live at St. Albans in Herfordshire, (but not far from Cattlegate Farm). [Nearby is the Enfield/Hemel Hemstead area, listed as Sarah Pearce’s home parish in church wedding records, which brings into question whether the Pearce twins were actually from either Bourne, Lincolnshire or Cambridgeshire, mentioned in earlier articles. There is a Bulbourne River in the Hemel Hemstead area. Was that the source of the reference to their Bourne origination? Or did the Pearces live elsewhere? According to Caroline Pinkers, IGI entries for Wiltshire County, which is between Oxford and Salisbury and some distance from any of the counties mentioned so far, list christenings for both Sarah and Richard Pearce on the same day, January 2, 1787. They were probably twins, as the Original Narrative says. But, we have located a small town there called Aldbourne (WWW.WILTSHIRE-WEB.CO.UK). Could that have been the Bourne referred to in the family narrative?] Anyway, the Hertfordshire County Record Office shows Charles Austen paying rent of 7 pounds [at rate of 7 shillings] for property in Holywell Ward, St. Albans, from 10 April 1818 to 24 September 1818. [That differs greatly from the Original Narrative, which says the family lived there four years, not four months.]

Charles then moved to Litchborough, about 40 miles northwest of St Albans [for reasons unknown], and two years later [1820?] started for America. Meanwhile, an A. Austin [Ambrose?] is listed as arriving at Philadelphia in 1818 [month not given]. According to land records, Ambrose bought a parcel of land, lot 63, “SW quarter of section five in Township twenty-one and Range fifteen in Wayne County and State of Ohio which said lot is distinguished on the map of said town and so recorded in the Registrar’s Office for the County of Wayne by the number sixty-three,” from Christian & Margaret Deardorff at Jeromesville on Feb 9 1818 [Others have 6 Dec 1818] for $11. This was almost certainly Ambrose Senior, even though he would have been 61 at the time; his son Ambrose was only 16.

[According to Susan Lee,] brothers Ambrose Jr. and John Austen [and there is a hint that Richard Pearce was also in on the deal] bought land in Ohio in 1819. Ambrose [Sr?] and John then returned to England. [We wonder, if the hint is true and the young men had come to America by themselves first as the original narrative says, whether Charles and Richard hadn’t been headed for this Ohio property, but were tempted and side-tracked by the Davis-Cochran-Butler deal north of Pittsburgh on Pine Creek.]

[But, according to Caroline Pinkers, no records have been found to suggest that the brother-in-laws ever entered America before 1921. She says she located a “land deed between William Cochran, Robert Davis and their wives and Richard Pearce, Charles Austen and their wives dated 7 July 1821 for 101 acres and 40 perches at a cost of $350. A second deed dated 10 August 1821 was made between Richard Pearce and wife and Charles Austen and wife – for the sum of $175.” Here, she believes, Charles purchased 50 acres or less from Richard. If the brothers-in-law had come earlier, could they have been residing and fixing at Pine Creek on a simple “gentlemen’s agreement” – a handshake and word of honor – for the first year? Records show that Charles and family arrived in New York on the Criterion on May 10, 1821, which had departed from Gravesend, southeast of London on the Thames River. It had set sail 14 March 1821 with Charles and Sarah Pearce Austen and children Susan (7), Thomas (6), and Charles, Jr. (3). The Toogood family, who shared the ride and the expense of the Conestoga wagon to Pittsburgh, were also on the boat, but no passenger list from any ship containing the Pearce family has ever been found.]

In 1821 Ambrose Senior brought all his family out to Ohio. The Wayne County, OH, Journal No. 3, Application for Citizenship, lists: “Austin, Ambrose: 63, native County of Kent, England, embarked Liverpool Feb 1821, arrived Philadelphia, PA 7 Apr
1821, resident US since, resident Wooster and Austin, Joseph, 20, born Seven Oaks, County of Kent, England, embarked Liverpool Feb. 1821, arrived Philadelphia PA, 7 Apr 1821, Resident US since, resident Wooster.”

According to Land Entries in Mohican Twp, now Ashland Co., then Wayne Co., Ambrose Austin bought 80 acres in 1821 from James Arnold, in addition to the land he had bought in 1818. According to The Ashland County Research Guide for Mohican Twp., Ambrose Austen obtained an original US Patent on 80 acres 9 Jun 1821.

If Henry and Nathaniel emigrated with their father Ambrose, they returned to England almost straight away as Nathaniel died in England in 1823 leaving a wife Mary; children unknown.
Until 1817, the area selected by the Austens [and Richard Pearce?] was still in Indian Territory [the Mohicans presumably, about whom the famous novel was written] and not a very safe place to be. It was open farmland, a “melting pot” for many nationalities – Germans, Scots, Irish, English, French and American Indians- as the “Gateway to the West” [so was Pittsburgh and St Louis]. All road, river and lake traffic went through Ohio to land made available for sale [by state and federal governments].

Ambrose Senior built a house and established a farm. Joseph was a hops grower and lived on a farm until 1832; he then engaged as a salesman in a store at Ashland, where he remained about one year, when he went back and took charge of his father’s farm, where he has since lived. His father died in 1843, and his mother in 1849. March 11, 1850, he went with a wagon train the overland route to California, (arriving on the 8th of July) where he remained a little more than a year, when he returned, via San Francisco, by water, and bought his brother’s share in the old homestead.” He married Catharine Heichel in 1854.

Ambrose Jr. is listed in the 1850 Census and is recorded as having sold a property in 1855 to Joseph Austen [presumably his brother]. Nothing is known of two children, Mary born in 1837 and Lucy born in 1841.

There is no further mention of Mary Austen after her marriage to a Mr. Graham in 1820. She was not mentioned in Ambrose’s will, which suggests that she had died by 1843. Henry was living in Liverpool according to Ambrose’s will. He had four children, Susan, Helena, Joseph and Charles. Charles married Hannah Jones and had two children, Joseph Henry and Ethel Serevis. According to the 1881 British Census the family was living in St. Asaph, North Wales. Charles’ older sister Susan may also have lived with the family for a time. Nothing is known of Nathaniel apart from the date of his death.

[Descendants of Ambrose Austen, Sr. have been recorded in New York, Cleveland, Manitoba, Oregon, and other parts of North America. As Brian and other Austens discover more family history, we’ll report the findings, especially concerning the famous Austens.]

[In a previous article the question was raised over the authorship of the Original Family Narrative. Apparently, an early version was simply signed with the initials “SAG.”
Was that Susan Austen Grubbs (1814- ?) as credited in the Fred Tice account? Or, as Caroline Pinkers believes, was it Sarah Austen Gorden, daughter of Thomas P. Austen, Susan’s sister, who was referred to in the story? She was married in 1884, so her initialed account had to have been recorded after that. Surely, the answer is that many in the family contributed to the narrative, correctly and incorrectly. That’s the nature of the human mind when it comes to remembering history.]

*Brian Austen is author of The Austens of Shalford, a “400 year family (and social) history” released at a family gathering in Colorado Springs. He says he “stumbled on Ambrose,” and though not part of his near family, he hopes to publish a genealogical account that will provide a “useful record to complement the previous contributions.” He is a member of both the Austin Families Association of America and the Austins of America Genealogical Society. He recently retired from the Australian Bureau of Statistics where he edited the Year Book, a newsletter, and a webpage.

Caroline Pinkers, of Seattle, is the neice of the late Dr. Willard Austen of New York who was an ear, nose, and throat specialist and avid amateur genealogist. Much of his research was done in London. We referred to him as part of the Tice account earlier.

Susan Lee was born in Ashland, OH, and now lives in Chapin, SC. She has been doing family research for 30 years. She was in England in 1980, but was concentrating on several of her family’s other branches.

Marjory Austen is married to Tom Austen, but she loves doing research into his family history. They live in Ohio but spend time in Florida. She will be attending an Austen gathering in Dayton later this year.

Lynn Austen lives in the Cleveland area near a brother and sister. Her line is Ambrose, Sr.-John-Joseph-Daniel-and her father Ellsworth, who is deceased. Her Great-grandfather Joseph moved the family to Cleveland in the 1880’s.

2 Responses to The Ambrose Austen, Sr. Family of Kent, UK

  1. Christine signoracci says:

    Joseph Austen was my ggggrandfather; I have a drawing of the homestead in jeromesville, Ohio.

    • admin says:

      Hi, Christine. Could you e-mail me a scan of that drawing along with permission to post it on this site? Also, anything you can add to this Vitals page would be appreciated:
      I hope you’ll be able to share some of your Austen family memories with our readers. Thanks for contacting me,

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