This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.

I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)






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JOHN MAY. Since he married in 1792 the most likely baptism is the following:

Baptism. St Leonard’s Deal. (KFHS transcripts)

1765 6 Mar John son of John and Mary May

He was the son of John May and Mary Baker .

He had one younger sister.


John became a boatman and it is likely that his father was too. At the marriage of his daughter Sarah, he is described as a fisherman. Though there were many Deal boatmen, fishing was a minority occupation. Most boatmen were “hovellers”. They serviced the busy traffic of sailing ships passing through the Straits of Dover and salvaged ships – or items from them – which were wrecked on the notorious Goodwin Sands.

John would have witnessed the terrible burning of the Deal luggers on the beach, by order of William Pitt, in January 1784, in his efforts to put an end to smuggling.

‘Concerning the memorable raid on the Deal luggers, Clark Russell further writes: “it was an abominable outrage; a most wanton, most unnecessary piece of cruelty... They could burn the noble Deal luggers in 1784 because the poor devils who manned them employed them to run lace, and brandy, and tea, but at a later date they were willing that they should serve a better end than lighting up the beach as with bonfires.”

‘Four years later, when the patriotism of Englishmen found expression in raising voluntary contributions to aid the Government in maintaining the defence of their country, the boatman (to quote from Laker’s “History of Deal”) offered their boats, 42 in number, to the Government, to be fitted with 18-pounder cannonades, and to be manned by themselves in case of necessity.’



ELIZABETH LAMBERT was the daughter of Richard Lambert and his wife Mary . She was baptised in Deal in 1769.

1769 16 May Eliz. LAMBERT d. of Richd. & My.

She was the older of two children. Her mother probably died in Dec 1774, when Elizabeth was five. It seems that her father remarried eight years later. If this is correct, then there were five half-siblings.

We do not know her father’s occupation, but the family were apparently sufficiently well-off to have a family vault in St George’s churchyard.



The couple were married on Nov 1792.

Marriage. Deal.

1792 20 Nov John MAY and. Eliz. LAMBERT

They were bachelor and spinster of the parish and the banns had been called. Both signed their names. The witnesses were Zecharia Selth and Edward Foreman.


They were only just in time. Their first child was born the following month.

1792 9 Dec Richd Lambert MAY s. of John & Eliz.

It was not uncommon for a first child to be born less than 9 months from the marriage, but one month is very rare.

There is a possible explanation. In 1792, Britain was fighting the French Revolutionary War. Deal boatman helped to man the Navy’s ships, or used their own luggers to transport troops. John may have been on active service and returned to find Elizabeth heavily pregnant. She would have been greatly relieved to get to the church in time.

Twelve more children followed.

1794 22 Aug John (Lambert( MAY) s. of John & Eliz. priv. bap.

(on public admission at the Chapel the Child was named John Lambert)

This suggests that John junior was a sickly baby and not expected to live. He would have been baptised at home soon after the birth, and then brought to church for public admission when he looked likely to survive.

The mention of the Chapel means that the family were using St George’s rather than the parish church of St Leonard’s. St George’s was a chapel-of-ease near the beach, used by the seamen’s families. It was more convenient than St Leonard’s, which stood higher up and inland.

Having had more time to think about it, the couple decided to add the name Lambert when they renewed the baptismal promises in public.

In fact the child did not live long. On 2 April 1795 we find the burial of John May. The sexton’s notes record the position of his grave. “ John May. Child. S of the Grandmother May.” Lydia May had been buried the previous year.


Dolphin Street from Alfred Square

1796 19 Feb Eliz. MAY d. of John & Eliz.

1798 17 Jan My. Ann MAY d. of John & Eliz.

1799 18 Oct Wm. MAY s. of John & Eliz.

Another son was named John Lambert.

1801 28 Aug John Lambert MAY s. of John & Eliz.

1803 29 Apr Ann. MAY d. of John & Eliz.

1804 14 Dec Sus. MAY d. of John & Eliz.

1806 27 Jun Geo. Lambert MAY s. of John & Eliz.

1807 27 Nov Thos. MAY s. of John & Eliz.

1809 17 Sep Chas. MAY s. of John & Eliz.

1811 5 Jun Sara MAY d. of John & Eliz .

1813 3 Sep Reb. Lambert MAY d. of John & Eliz. Dolphin St. Mariner.

Rebecca was the only girl to be given the name Lambert.             

Dolphin Street leads from Alfred Square to the beach.


A John May owned property in Beach St in the 18 th and early 19 th century. The name is a common one in Deal, so it is hard to know whether this is connected to our own John May. My impression is that our John May was unlikely to own 2 messuages (a messuage is a house with land attached).


In 1823 William Cobbett wrote of Deal in his Rural Rides:

“Deal is a most villainous place. It is full of filthy-looking people. Great desolation of abomination has been going on here; tremendous barracks, partly pulled down and partly tumbling down, and partly occupied by soldiers. Everything seems upon the perish. I was glad to hurry along through it, and to leave its inns and public-houses to be occupied by the tarred, and trowsered, and blue and buff crew whose very vicinage I always detest.


John died before Elizabeth .

Burial. Deal.

1829 17 Jul John May Dolphin St. 65

Later that year, the family suffered another bereavement. A lugger was lost going to the aid of the brig Mountaineer. ‘ Boatman May succumbed to the bitter cold’. This was John and Elizabeth’s eldest son, Richard Lambert May.

Burial. Deal.         

1829 1 Dec Richard May Middle St. 37               

Middle Street is just round the corner from Dolphin Street.   


Without John’s income, and with advancing age, Elizabeth became a pauper.

We find her in the 1841 census. She is living in Alfred Square, at the end of Dolphin Street, with three of her children, her daughter-in-law and 5 grandchildren. Her daughter Sarah had an illegitimate child before marrying. It is likely that the younger Elizabeth is this child.

1841 Census. Alfred Square, Deal.

Elizabeth May   75   Pauper   Yes (born in Kent)

John May   40   Mariner   Yes

Rebecca May   25     Yes

Elizabeth May    5     Yes

Thomas May   30   Mariner   Yes

Harriet May   30     Yes

Thomas May    8     Yes

Jane May    5     Yes

Lydia May    3     Yes

Louisa May    1     Yes


Elizabeth died two years later. Elizabeth May of Alfred Square was buried in Deal on 19 July 1843 at the age of 76.


E.C. Pain, The Last of Our Luggers and the Men who Sailed Them , (T.F. Pain & Sons, Deal and Sandwich, 1929)

Deal Home Page: home.freeuk.net/eastkent/deal/index.htm

Messuage 1712-95, messuage and 3 perches 1815, 2 messuages 1812 (estate of John May), Kent History and Library Centre. Ref: De/T15.

John Laker, History of Deal . T.F.Pain & Sons, Deal, p.371.



Next Generation: 5. MAY

Previous Generations: 7. MAY-BAKER

                                 7. LAMBERT


The search forNick's lifeboatman ancestor leads the Fewings into a dangerous situation as Millie goes missing