The Sedbergh connection

For a year or so now, I’ve thought the Armer family migrated to Lancashire from Sedbergh, but the evidence hasn’t felt very reliable. But at New Year 2019 I was put in touch with a Canadian genealogist and Armer descendant John Dempsey, whose grandmother Maria Agnes Armer married William Dempsey in Ulverston in 1907, a year before they emigrated to Canada.

John’s tree totals 185 pages, so too long to share fully. I posted him my Descendants of William Armer/Ann Huntington tree, and each of us are now checking out the inevitable discrepancies and omissions between the two trees. For instance, I was excited to find out that an older brother of my grandfather hadn’t died as a baby, but married and had 5 children.

John’s tree does link the Lancashire Armers to those in Sedbergh and the Lakes, notably the branch of, the agricultural engineers. Here is my summary of the connection (note I’ve laid it out vertically, unlike my other trees).

summary armer tree

John includes the original marriage record for Matthew Armor and Alice Grayson.

mta alice grayson marriage

Then in the next generation, there are two Armor marriages in Sedbergh that are three years apart, so quite likely to be marriages of two brothers. The first is in 1705:

Anthony 1705 marriage

I think that Anthony and Agnes are the parents of Thomas Armer, born 1720, my 5x great-grandfather who married Ellin Williamson at Christ Church, Bolton le Sands on 18 February 1744.

The second marriage, in 1708, establishes a connection between Skerton (part of Lancaster) and Sedbergh:

Thomas 1708 marriage

If both parties in the marriage lived in Skerton, the only reason for them to marry in Sedbergh (26 miles away) is that there was a family connection. The excerpts above are from a searchable e-book of the Sedbergh Parish Registers 1594–1800, facsimile of a 1911 two-volume work. Volume 2 contains the marriage and burial records, and can be accessed here.

So Anthony and Agnes were the ancestors of the Lancashire branch of the family while Thomas and Mary were ancestors to the Sedbergh and Lakes branches, though obviously there’s a lot of other mixing as people moved away for marriage and work.

Descendants of Thomas and Mary Armer

Thomas and Mary’s son Matthew 1709–61 is ancestor to Henry Armer who founded Henry Armer & Son, John Dempsey tree compiler in Canada, and another branch of Lakes Armers that includes Mark Benson Armer who died of wounds during World War I. I’ll give a very brief summary of each line.

Henry Armer & Son

Many of you will have driven past the Henry Armer depots at Leece and Greenodd, idly wondering if we are related. I know that I have! Henry Armer 1895–1960 was a ggg grandson of Matthew. Paraphrasing John Dempsey’s research, Henry was born in Stainton near Kendal, and in 1901 is listed with his mother and sister:

henry armer in 1901

At the time of the census, Henry’s father Robert was working on his parents’ farm at “Reservoir, Killington” but died in February 1902 aged just 35. In the 1911 Census, Henry was listed as a blacksmith’s apprentice in Brigsteer:

henry armer in 1911

Henry opened a blacksmith’s shop in 1914 and became a supplier of various products and repairs to the farming community. He married Florence Amelia Simpson in September 1924 at Ulverston. The couple had one child, Alan, born 1929. On Henry’s death in 1960, Alan took over the business, and in 1967 Henry Armer & Son became distributors of the now-iconic John Deere range.

henry family photo

Today, Henry Armer and Son are a major family business with Elizabeth and brother Harry succeeding their grandfather and father at the helm.

Maria Agnes Armer: from Ulverston to Toronto

I always like a good emigration story, so it was great to read this one that Maria’s grandson John has put together. Maria was born in Ulverston in 1878, daughter of Richard Armer Shoe and Boot Maker.

maria armer family photo

Family photo taken around 1900 judging by the age of the youngest child, Elizabeth Isobel, who was born in November 1894


Richard Armer’s shop in Ulverston. Matthew Armer 1877–1925 was Richard’s son

Known as Ria, she was organist at the Anglican church on Church Lane, and married William Arthur Dempsey at St Mary’s Parish Church, also in Ulverston in February 1907. The couple emigrated 14 months later, sailing on the Tunisian from Liverpool to St John, New Brunswick on 2 April 1908.

maria agnes marriage cert

The couple had six children. The first, Arthur Tinsley Dempsey, died aged 5 months from enteritis. This must have been just days after the young family arrived in Canada. Their address at the time of Arthur’s death was 83 Jackson Street West, Hamilton, Ontario.

arthur dempsey who died as a baby

William and Maria Agnes Dempsey (née Armer) with their young son Arthur Tinsley Dempsey who died from enteritis shortly after arriving in Canada

Their second son, Richard Armer Dempsey was born in Hamilton 1909, followed by Roland Trelfall Dempsey in 1912, now in Toronto. Two daughters Winifred and Patricia came along in 1914 and 1916, followed by a stillborn son Raul in 1921. John Dempsey who compiled the Armer tree (and several others) is the son of Roland Trelfall Dempsey.

Mark Benson Armer’s branch

I’ve been in touch with Andrew and Hazel from this branch for a year or so now, but only after seeing John Dempsey’s work have I felt confident enough to claim we are related. A good entry point is Mark Benson Armer, a brewers’ labourer in Kendal who died of wounds he received in the Battle of the Somme. Mark’s granddaughter Hazel travelled to Kendal to find his grave in 2016, her story in the Westmorland Gazette gives more details.

lily and children

Lily Armer and her children Reginald, twins Stanley and Horace, and Joyce – the family of Mark Benson Armer. Believed to have been taken shortly after his death in World War I.

Reginald moved to Liverpool, where he had 6 children including Hazel.

There is an intriguing story about Mark Benson Armer’s parents. His mother was Mary Maria Coldbeck 1852–1944 who married William Armer on Christmas Day 1880. They had four children: Mark Benson 1881, John Henry 1883, and twins Martha and Daisy 1890. At some point in the 1890s, William Armer stowed away on a ship to Australia and died in Queensland 19 June 1919. Hazel told me that Maria married her lodger John Henry McNamara who had lodged with the family for many years before William’s disappearance.

William’s parents were Thomas Armer born 1817 at Cartmel who married Agnes Benson 12 November 1850 at Ambleside. Thomas was great-grandson of Matthew Armer. The tree is below:

Sedbergh tree

Thinking about the implications of this tree

There will inevitably be mistakes in John’s tree, but it certainly shows we are all connected somehow. It doesn’t include the Armers who had the Drunken Duck Inn between Hawkshead and Ambleside in the 1910s, and there will be more omissions. I hope to share some more of John Dempsey’s stories soon and am enormously grateful to him for all his hard work! It’s always very sad reading about deaths of infants – and anyone who dies young –  but John has crafted a document with hundreds of photos that keep the memories of these people alive. I hope it soon becomes available in book form.

If any Armer descendants are thinking of having their DNA tested, it would be really great if they used the same testing company that I went with, called 23&me after the number of chromosomes in the human genome. You can upload DNA data to other sites, but I’ve not got round to doing that just yet.

The 23&me test costs £79 (cheaper around Black Friday, and there may be offers at other times of year). The great thing about it is that it gives you a list of over 1000 DNA relatives and your predicted relationship with them. I was surprised mine hasn’t yielded any Armers yet, but I did find a 5th cousin on my dad’s side (the Brockbanks) who could share lots of family information with me. It took quite a lot of piecing together, and here is how 5th cousin Beth and I worked out our exact relationship. Our common ancestor was born in 1746 and we share 0.22% of our DNA. I was impressed that the test was so sensitive!

Matthew Thomas Armer at the head of the tree was born in 1672, just 24 years after the Battle of Preston. Was he a son of one of the two brothers who were rumoured to have came down from Scotland as armourers? We are tantalisingly close to finding out …




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