Empsonian Logic*

The Search for my Ancestors
Warwick Empson writes about the early stages of his family research

For many years, the consensus within my Empson family, was that my GGG/father was one Richard Empson. Due to this family myth, 1 could not take my researches beyond his son, Charles Empson. While 1 possessed a copy of Charles's Marriage Certificate, no parents were mentioned, although 1 had gathered a significant amount of data on Charles and his wife Louisa Howard.

Charles left England on the ship "London" on Dec. 29th. 1841 at the age of 22, bound for Nelson NZ. On his departure, he was given a Bible by his sister Mary Ann.

It was also known from family records that Charles ostensibly had brothers, or cousins, Frederick and Henry. Frederick, being an Architect of Birmingham, and Henry a Lawyer. It was also known from records that the mythical Richard was a lawyer who had a practice in Bath and also Leamington. Other than more rather vague information 1 could get no further.

However with Charles' future wife, Louisa Howard, 1 knew considerably more. She and her family left England also in 1841, on the ship "Prince Rupert" However their ship foundered at the Cape of Good Hope, and after some months delay in South Africa continued their trip to NZ, in the ship "Antilia". Louisa was six years old at the time. She was to marry Charles Empson when she was 18 and he 33.

Part of my quest was emailing various Empsons around the world. Many did not answer. Of the ones that did, only one was promising, and he was in the USA. He said his father was a historian and had undertaken extensive research on his family, and that he remembered something about a GGG/Father being a lawyer in Bath.

After contacting this person's father, who turned out to be Donald Empson, we found quite a few interesting coincidences, the first being, that his GG/Father Frederick was also given a Bible by his sister Mary Ann on the same date as my GG/Father Charles.

His Frederick was also an architect of Birmingham. But the sticking point was, that his GGG/Father was William Charles Empson.

Fortuitously, about that time I received a copy of an almost illegible hand-written document, which I immediately transcribed into my computer (with much effort and with many missing words.) The document thus became Reasonably readable.

To my amazement, the name of William Charles Empson, and his wife Mary Ann (nee) Featherston, plus Frederick of Birmingham, and last but not least my Charles emerged. The document was not signed, but I found by comparing the handwriting with a known signature, of Charles, on a Title Deed, to the writing on the document, I realised that it was in fact written by my Charles.

Thus, not only did I find my GGG/F, but also another generation further back and a host of relatives in the USA.

Without the contact with 3rd cousin Don Empson and with his snippets of information, I probably would not have bothered transcribing the old document, and thus being no further ahead in my search. Fate or dead luck? Which?

Tracing Our Family Tree on the Internet
David Empson shows how a family history can be expanded through use of the internet

I had gathered about 500 individuals in my Family Tree Maker genealogical program, through talking to relations, some of whom had conducted research. But I only had information about the Empson line back to my GGrandparents (John Empson & Phoebe Hadland of Oxfordshire in Southern England). To remedy this I tried two approaches, First, mass e-mailing and second Intemet searching.

Mass e-mailing. I identified about 125 Empson e-mail addresses from various web sites such as 'Yahoo! People Search' and automatically transferred these to my email address book. Clearly some of these were duplicates, and as I was to find out later (from 'postmaster delivery failures'), many were out of date. Finally, I was left with about 75 Empson e-mail addresses, which was about 4% of the estimated Empson population of 2000 (reference from extrapolated phone book and similar data from 'The World Book of Empsons' by Halbert's Family Heritage 1991). However not everyone with an e-mail address is traceable. For example, while I know my brother and I cannot be found on a people search, my sister under her maiden name is! (why is this?).

My e-mail requested anyone to make contact if they knew of my GGrandparents or other Empsons from Oxfordshire. I received ten replies, either just friendly notes or parts of other unrelated family trees, but one put me in paper mail contact with a distant cousin, whom I didn't know I had. She had undertaken extensive research into our family and with the help of others had traced the family back to a John Empson & Elizabeth Hucking, married in Stonesfield Oxfordshire 1602!

Internet searching

I searched the intemet search engines using the words 'Empson Family Tree' which took me to various genealogical sites, an (unrelated) Empson family tree on a home page in New Zealand and in particular to an Empson family home page in the US on gardening, with a guest book. Here there were some Empsons talking to other Empsons but one particular 'guest' mentioned that her father had a wealth of Empson data. So contacts were made first in Australia and then back to England to Dick Empson who sent me the first edition of 'Empsonian Logic', which I in turn e-mailed to my family. This kindled my sister's interest and she contacted Dick with our limited family tree knowledge and he immediately fitted us into his well documented family tree. The same tree that I found by mass e-mailing!

So our family was really excited to find our roots, and we thank everyone, especially Dick, Angie, Warwick, Rebecca and Stuart who helped. It was strange to think that, unknown to me, my father and his ancestors were recorded on someone else's computer. I just needed to make the link. With this new technology I got lucky through logical searching and e-mailing.

Editor's Note: Shortly after that initial contact was made with David I lost my entire family tree database in one of those disasters that curse computer users who are stupid enough not to make proper back-up copies. However so keen was he to plot the family tree that he and his son Sam laboriously re-entered the entire tree from a (very poor) photocopy of my original information. Eventually he was able to send me a replacement copy by means of a .ged com file and this provided the incentive to continue researches into the Oxfordshire Empsons. Between them these two lead articles point up both the advantages of sharing and the value of using the internet.
Did you know?

Empson wills from 1868 to 1948 are available on a database. But many much earlier ones are extant. In a will dated 1788 for example, William Empson, in addition to sums of money bequeathed his 'suite of black', his 'great coat', two silver spoons, a pair of sheets and a tea chest amongst other items to various of his relatives

Remembering Empsons

One major advantage of having a computer linked to the internet is the access it affords to a growing number of databases useful to the family historian. A comparatively new development is the 'Debt of Honour Register' maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at http://www.cwgc.org. David Empson has extracted all the Empsons from this listing and these are reproduced below. The database is primarily an aid to locating the grave or memorial site of those that were killed although by looking up each individual name, a little more detail about what their unit was doing on the day he fell can sometimes be found.
Name from Parents (+wife) Rank Regiment Date of Death (age)
EMPSON, Arthur Newark Notts Wife Kate Annie Lance Corporal The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 28th Mar 1918 (25yrs)
EMPSON, Arthur Charles Homerton London John James and Amelia Amy (wife Doris Lillian) Trooper Reconnaissance Corps, R.A.C. 23rd Mar 1944 (30yrs)
EMPSON,Albert Edward B.Norfolk, London William John and Anna Elizabeth Gunner Royal Field Artillery 16th Aug 1916 (26yrs)
EMPSON,Alan Howard Te Awamutu Auckland New Zealand Stanley Arnold and Charlotte nee Barton Major N.Z. Infantry 6th Apr 1946 (28)
EMPSON,Alan Walter Portadown Armagh NI Alfred Walter and Sarah Able Seaman Royal Navy 9th Jun 1940 (19yrs)
EMPSON,Claude John George Winterton Norfolk Sidney Ernest and Julia Trooper Royal Horse Guards 28th Jan 1947 (25yrs)
EMPSON, G A ?   Gunner Tank Corps 21st Nov 1917
EMPSON,Graham Clendon Te Awamutu Auckland New Zealand George Gordon and Hazel Private N.Z. Infantry 16th Jul 1942 (20yrs)
EMPSON,George Joseph ? ? Rifleman London Regt (The Rangers) 26th Apr 1915
EMPSON,Harry ? ? Lance Corporal Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regt.) 1st Mar 1917
EMPSON,Henry Leafield Witney Oxfordshire Frederick and Sarah Corporal Wiltshire Regiment 25th Aug 1916 (27yrs)
EMPSON, H Southrepps, Norwich. Henry Driver Royal Field Artillery 19th Aug 1917 (22)
EMPSON, Hugh A Letillier, Manitoba Can.   Private Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regt.) 28th Oct 1918 (34yrs)
EMPSON,Harold Henry Hull Hume and Mary (wife Rose E) Private East Yorkshire Regiment 6th Mar 1917
EMPSON,John James Victoria Park Hackney Wick, London Henry and Martha (wife Amelia Amy) Private London Regt (Royal Fusiliers) 4th Jul 1918 (40yrs)
EMPSON,Joshua Wright Castleford, Yorks. Tom (wife Mabel J) Serjeant Royal Dublin Fusiliers 13th Oct 1918 (23yrs)
EMPSON,Kenneth ?   Lance Corporal Royal Fusiliers 23rd May 1915
EMPSON,Kenneth Henry Bognor Regis, Sussex. James and Louisa Amy (wife Winnifred May) Lieutenant Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve 8th Nov 1940 (35)
EMPSON,Leslie Norman Slough Bucks William John and Ella Beatrice Flight Lieutenant Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 17th Oct 1946 (22yrs)
EMPSON,Lancelot William York Alfred and Louisa Lieutenant Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regt.) 1st Jan 1917 (28yrs)
EMPSON,Patrick Brian Wales Glam ?   Lieutenant Royal Artillery 9th Aug 1943 (23yrs)
EMPSON,Philip Tomas Madura India Arther Hugh Acland and Dorothy Caryon Pilot Officer Royal Air Force 15th Nov 1940 (23yrs)
EMPSON,Ralph Godfrey Duffryn Rhondda, Glamorgan Osborne and Ada (wife Monia Mary Corporal Middlesex Regiment 29th May 1940 (28) Duffryn Rhondda, Glamorgan
EMPSON, R W H M ? ? Lieutenant Royal Navy 1st May 1915
EMPSON,Sidney ? ? Private East Surrey Regiment 28th May 1915
EMPSON,Sidney Crowle Doncaster Henry and Annie Elizabeth Private North Staffordshire Regiment 31st May 1918 (19yrs)
EMPSON,Vernon Joseph Raylton, Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. Jerimiah John and Mary Ethel Lance Corporal Leicestershire Regiment 30th Jan 1941 (27yrs)
EMPSON, W E ? ? Private The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)* 2nd Nov 1918
EMPSON,Wilfred Gordon Westbrook Margate James and Alice (wife Edith Phyllis) Private Royal Army Ordnance Corps 2nd Nov 1914 (35yrs)
EMPSON,Walter Morris Middx England? ? Air Mechanic 2nd Class Royal Flying Corps 18th Oct 1916
The number of gaps that appear in the list is something of a surprise. These matters are of course sensitive but it should be possible for us to fill in some of these missing details so the main list can be updated. Other Empson researchers will be able to identify relatives from this list. The one closest to David and I is of course Henry (Harry) Empson of Leafield. It was finding his name recorded on a list of those who served in the great war in the church at Leafield and subsequently his name carved into the village war memorial \96 the lych gate to the church yard which was the original incentive for me to begin researching my family history.

The Empson Researchers

The following persons are all actively researching the Empson family or names closely associated with it. All are likely to be happy to answer queries from fellow researchers. I apologise if anybody has been omitted, but the list will be included in future issues so please notify errors or omissions. I have found it useful to divide the Empson family into two groups. First the 'Yorkshire Empsons' which emanate from Gregory Empson who is recorded in Goole in 1560. Second the 'Oxfordshire Empsons' which emanate from John Empson who was married in Stonesfield in 1602. However there is a third (and considerably larger) group of Empsons with roots in Lincolnshire, East Anglia and the South East of England. Thus far no researcher has been identified with detailed information about this branch of the family. The ultimate goal is however to find the means by which these disparate branches of the family can all be linked up. For reasons of space I have omitted postal addresses from the following list but I am happy to supply them to those without access to Email or to forward correspondence. The next stage could be to establish an Empson discussion group/mailing list to facilitate information sharing.

Linda de Frees Franks rfranks@cyberhighway.net
Tony Wages WWages1782@AOL.COM
Stuart & Kath Empson TheEmpsons@compuserve.com
Derek Howard dhoward@skynet.be
Ann & Michael Empson mempson@ihug.co.nz
Mark Empson empson@clear.net.nz
Web http://home.clear.net.nz/pages/empson
David Empson dc@empson1.freeserve.co.uk
Web http://www.empson.co.uk
Angie & Alan Empson k 23 Chilton Cres., Earley, Reading, Berks, RG6 1AL
Nancy Nutman Nancy@nnutman.freeserve.co.uk
To be located
Web http://www.angelfire.com/de/empson/family.html
Author of: 'The Empson Families in America'

The Next Issue

Having taken a great deal of time to commence work on this second edition I find that I had accumulated more material than could be used in one edition. By make (probably rash) statements about the potential content of the next or subsequent editions we might overcome some of the delay that crept in last time.

Sir Richard Empson

Scratch a family researcher and just beneath the surface you are likely to find a desire to link their research to some substantial historical figure. Ancestors who came over with William the Conqueror or with the Pilgrim Fathers are favourite targets and many can 'positively' link themselves to illegitimate children of one or other royal family. This is not all vanity. For the majority taking a line back beyond 1600 when recording of births marriages and deaths in parish records began, unless they were landowners, aristocrats or in some other way notorious, traces will be few and far between. Positively linking them together is all but impossible.

Our family is blessed with Sir Richard Empson, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Speaker of the House of Commons, and along with Robert Dudley, chief tax collector to Henry VII. History has not been kind to his memory although his execution in 1509 for treason is now generally acknowledged to be unjust. His family estate lay in Easton Neston, near Towcester, intriguingly only a short distance from the area upon which the Oxfordshire Empsons are first encountered.

An article will assess what is known about this individual and his descendants and pull together the work of those who have explored his background.

Commonwealth War Graves

A recent brief visit to France enabled me to visit the Thiepval memorial to the battle of the Somme. Recorded here is Harry Empson's name along with 67,000 of his comrades who have no known grave. I was also able to photograph the memorial in Arras on which two Empsons are recorded and the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge where another is to be found.

I hope it will be prove possible to publish this information together with any further details readers can add to the list of the fallen in this edition.

Empsons in the Church

I have been collecting information about Empsons in the Church mainly from the Clergy List and Crockford's Clerical Directory. This is less ready for publication but I hope to be able to do so shortly and possibly to illustrate it with pictures of the churches with which they were associated and of the many stained glass windows to be found which are memorials to Empsons.

Colonial Pioneers

Cornelius Empson was a Quaker who left Yorkshire for the American colonies in 1684. He was very successful owning substantial land holdings and becoming a JP and Judge in Newcastle Delaware. A great deal is known about him and his descendants.

Much later changes in English society (or very possibly the lack of them!) encouraged scores of people to leave to colonise first America, then Australia, New Zealand and Canada. As will be seen from the list of researchers (and not least from the list of the fallen) in this newsletter, there is much potential for information sharing about how they fared.

Data Sources

It would be useful if an assessment of specialist resources available to Empson researchers could be made. Information about how to access databases and who holds what records would also be useful. This might for example include information about censuses, civil registration and parish registers in England particularly for those researching from overseas. But information about data overseas would be no less valuable to those working here. The objective would not be to duplicate basic information which is available elsewhere but to disseminate material of particular relevance to our family and related lines.

An Empson First

The following report can be read on the notice board at the entrance to St Mary's Church, Eastoft. Yorkshire.

The two bells seen under the eaves on the south of the church were placed there by Mr J E Lister Empson, as a thank you offering after recovering from a serious accident at Nice in 1891. The bells were connected by electric wires to a clock in the south aisle of the church, and at certain times rang.

A records runs: - ''The following is a copy of a brass erected on the south east buttress of the chancel - 'Soli Deo Gloria' remember oh Lord thy God they servant who placed these bells here as a thank offering for a life preserved. I was glad when they said unto me we will go into the house of the Lord Anno Salutis 1891.''

We believe this is the first instance of a public chime clock striking the bells by electricity, the experiment having been successfully tried at Ousefleet Hall. Mr F H Walker of 5 Redness Street Scarboro, a friend of Mr J E Lister-Empson was constructor of both.

About Empsonian Logic*

Few families can be said to have coined a word. Ours is to be found in the Shorter English Dictionary - 'Adjective: Resembling or characteristic of the logic of Sir William Empson (1906-84) English poet & critic'. It quotes the Times Literary Supplement - 'Sonnets marked by a somewhat Empsonian logic'. So a title for this newsletter has suggested itself.

The first issue started life in an idle moment as a possible means to draw together the Empsons with whom I had come into contact. I am conscious that not everybody has access to Email and indeed that not everybody was passionately interested in detailed research into their family historyd, the newsletter is therefore aimed at satisfying all interests.

This issue concentrates on building up on the contacts that have so far been made and, because so many problems have been encountered both in producing a newsletter with photographs and in transmitting it electronically, they have been omitted from this issue. They are however a central feature of any lively newsletter and a way to overcome this needs to be found. We probably need to establish a web-site from which copies can be down-loaded for those without internet access.

Opinions as to how this newsletter should develop would of course, be most welcome by the self-appointed editor. Issue No. 1 was produced in February 1999

by Dick Empson
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