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Family trees are fascinating, complicated, informative, sometimes beautiful, and often wrong!

Click on tree to enlarge >>

It’s always exciting to discover a new family tree that has been handed down through the generations, but I have learned the hard way not to take them at face value. When a fifth cousin once removed sends you a family tree that was written by who-knows-who, just be careful not to take it as the” whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. Then there’s the possibility that the author’s “truth” was just plain wrong. That goes for records kept in a family bible, as well as dates on tombstones.

But family trees are so essential to confirming your own research, which makes them very valuable.

Fifth cousin, Alfhard Kowallek [deceased] sent me this lovely hand-written tree that began with Thomas Pickering, who was alive in 1695. Not much help because we don’t know his age in 1695, but we can place him in Norley a tiny village charmingly set near the river Weaver in Cheshire, England. This snippet of information is the oldest written date we have in our genealogy – so now I was faced with the challenge of identifying which Thomas this was.



About 1744 in Weaverham several Pickering families were having children at the same time – in the same parish. The five families below were also having children – all in the same few years.

There lived:
Thomas, who had Mary [1743]
Bernard who had Margaret [1744]
James who had Elizabeth [1742]
James who had Catherine [1742] and Joseph [1744]
Samuel who had Samuel [1741] and Jane
John who had Joseph [1742], Mary [1743], and John [1744]

I was following Bernard’s family for a long time thinking there was a direct relationship – and I still think there is a connection. However, it was John who should have been my target.

You can see the challenges!

Following the clues …

A document held at Cheshire and Chester Archives and Local Studies Service reads …

1682, 20. May : LEASE, (unexecuted) for 3 lives, by Rt. Hon. Thomas Earl Rivers to William Barker of Norley, husbandman — a messuage or tenement in NORLEY late in the tenure of John Foster deceased and now of the said William Barker, with appurts. in NORLEY, CROWTON and CUDDINGTON; for lives of the said William Barker, Jonathan Pickering and Thomas Pickeringsons of Richard Pickering late of Crowton, decd., at annual rent of 18/4. Cons. £140.
Unsealed. Parchment.


There is a record of Jonathan, son of Richard, who had died before 1682:

Jonathan Pickering of Crowton, yeoman – Will dated 10 Aug 1730
“ …. that betwixt Eight or nine of the Clock, or thereabouts, one Evening …. in four Days he is sure after ye last Frodsham Fair …… was on the tenth of August last, this deponent went to the House of William Barker the younger, in Norley, to be a witness ….. Will of Jonathan Pickering”.

I researched by using the dates from the handwritten family tree (above) as a guide to our earliest Pickerings.

In 1693, in Weaverham Parish there were two John Pickerings baptised.

Christenings Weaverham, Crowton:
John Pickering — 25 Jul 1693, father: John.
John Pickering — 27 Nov 1693, father: Peter

Burials Weaverham:
Peter Pickering son of Peter Pickering of Crowton — 11 Nov 1719


John born of Peter

However, if we are to believe that same handwritten family tree, then John’s father’s name should be Thomas. I could not find any John Pickering baptised in 1693 from the right parish with that father’s name. Next, I looked at 1694 and 1695. There was a father from Mobberley named Ralph Pickering, and in Grappenhall was a father of a son named John and his name was Jo. Pickering. There were no records of John Pickering baptised in 1692.


Since the family tree is has a very specific date of 14 Nov 1693 then we might be lead to believe that date is exactly accurate for a John Pickering. But is it OUR John Pickering? And could the date be wrong or belong to another John?

Thomas Pickering and Mary Broadhurst
Bishop’s Transcripts, Frodsham Marriages: Thomas Pickering and Mary Broadhurst, Frodsham.


I continued to look for a Thomas to match the names on the family tree.

There was a Thomas born of Richard of Crowton and baptized on 10 Oct 1674 in Weaverham and he fits the possible age and location to be the father of John [1693].