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Fay Sampson’s Family History

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)


Sampson Tree

John Sampson (3)

JOHN SAMPSON was born on 7 April 1863. The address on his birth certificate is given simply as West Worlington. This suggests that his parents lived in a cottage in the village and not on one of the outlying farms. His father is William Sampson farm labourer, and his mother Susan Sampson formerly Harris. William Sampson makes his mark +. 1

His mother was a farmer’s daughter, of a rather higher status than his father. John was their second son. 

The family moved to Romansleigh around 1870, when John was 7.

1871 Census. Romansleigh.
25 Village.  Thorndown Cottage

William Sampson Head Mar 36/8 AgLab Meshaw
Susan Sampson Wife Mar 32 “ Wife Mariansleigh
John Sampson Son 7 East Worlington
Mary Sampson Daur 6 East Worlington
Robert Sampson Son 3 East Worlington
Susan Sampson Daur 2 East Worlington
Richard Sampson Son 7mths Romansleigh

This record gives his birthplace as East Worlington, but this is not repeated elsewhere.

None of the children is listed as a Scholar. John Sampson taught himself to read as an adult in the army. His brother William was already working on his uncle’s farm at 9 and it is likely that John would have started work as an agricultural labourer at a young age.

By 1881, both the older boys are farm labourers, living at home.

1881 Census: Romansleigh

William Sampson M 48 M Head Farm Labourer Meshaw
Susan Sampson M 42 F Wife Wife Mariansleigh
William Sampson U 19 M Son Farm Labourer Witheridge
John Sampson 17 M Son Farm Labourer Westington
Robert Sampson 13 M Son Scholar Worlington
Susan Sampson 12 F Daur Scholar Worlington
Richard Sampson 10 M Son Scholar Worlington
Sarah Sampson 8 F Daur Scholar Worlington
Frederick Sampson 6 M Son Scholar Romansleigh
Elizabeth Sampson 4 F Daur Romansleigh

“Westington” appears to be a contraction of West Worlington.

Six years earlier, in 1875, the Devonshire Regiment was formed.

34th Brigade Depot

On the introduction of the system of localisation of the forces, the 1st and 2nd Battalions 11th Foot were, by General Orders 18 and 32 of 1873, ordered to be formed into a brigade for purposes of enlistment and service, and to be allotted to the 34th Sub-District, consisting of the county of Devon, and having its headquarters and brigade depot at Exeter. The brigade depot was formed at Exeter on 31 May 1875.

In 1881 the Devon Regiment (11th Foot) was in Afghanistan, at
Kandahar. They were then moved (later that year) to India and quartered at Jullundar in the Punjab. The Regimental Depot (where recruits were trained)was at Higher Barracks in Exeter (Devon). On July 1, 1881, the Army Reorganisation Act was passed by Government and the Regiment’s name was changed to The Devonshire Regiment.

The 11th Foot had been the North Devonshire Regiment. It merged with the Devon Militia.

Almost immediately after the census John left farming to join the army. He enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment in June 1881. It is highly probable his brother William joined at the same time.

John Sampson is described in his War Office record as:
b. W. Worlington.  Ag.lab. aged 18.  Height – 5’ 6”.  Eyes- Hazel.  Hair- Brown. 

The army was not necessarily a more dangerous choice than farming. Two years later, on 17 February 1883, the South Molton Gazette reported a tragedy in the neighbouring parish of Mariansleigh, in which another John Sampson, possibly a second cousin, was involved:

South Molton. The Fatal Accident at Mariansleigh.

An inquest on the unfortunate lad Francis Davies, who was killed, as reported in our last issue, by becoming entangled in a thrashing machine, was held on Saturday last before J H Toller esq. county coroner. John Sampson, who was working with the deceased at the time of the accident, and Mr Toms, his employer, gave evidence, and stated that they were obliged to take the machine to pieces and cut the bag before they could extricate the body. Deceased had been in the machine about a quarter of an hour. Mr. E. Furse, surgeon of South Molton, deposed as to the cause of death. A jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

The First Battalion was posted to Egypt in 1891. This would explain why John is not listed in the 1891 Census. During the period 1891-93, the 1st and 2nd battalions of the Devons were on routine duties, garrisoning and guarding the Suez Canal area.

William went to India with the 1st Devon Regiment. At Rawal Pindi, he recovered from a bout of fever, celebrated with a big meal, and suffered a fatal collapse. He died on 6 December 1893.

John Sampson

John Sampson

John and William

John (left) and William

1st Battalion
1881.07.01 1st Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment
1881 England: Colchester
1882 Ireland: Newry
1888 England: Aldershot
1891 Egypt
1892 India: Thobba
1896 Cherat

Sometime in the 1890s John transferred to the 3rd, a militia battalion stationed in Plymouth. He held the rank of sergeant, and later colour sergeant.

A colour sergeant was the senior sergeant of an infantry company, with the duty of guarding the colours and of carrying the regimental, battalion or national colours (now Company Sergeant-Major or Quartermaster Sergeant).                  


On 25 April 1898 he married a widow, Elizabeth Maria Norton (née Lee), at St Budeaux church. She was a dressmaker. Her first husband, William Wallace Norton, had also been a sergeant in the 3rd Devon Regiment, and John would have known him. There were three children of this earlier marriage: William, Emily and Winifred Norton. John Sampson moved into the house where the family were living, 8 West Park Terrace. This street no longer exists, but it was between Honicknowle and Crownhill, within the parish of St Budeaux on the northern edge of the city.

Their first child was Edmer Ismail, born 30 December 1898. Edmer said that his father wanted to call his firstborn son Ali Hassan, after the regimental camel-driver during his time in Egypt, but the vicar refused to christen him by a heathen name. They compromised on a second name of Ismail, after Abraham’s eldest son by his wife’s Egyptian maid Hagar, who is said to have been the founder of the Arab people. This story is somewhat compromised by the fact that Edmer was registered with this name on 12 Jan 1899, two months before his christening.

Edmer was baptised in the parish church of St Budeaux, where Elizabeth Lee grew up.
1899 March 12, Edmer Ismail. John & Elizabeth Maria Sampson. 8 West Park Terrace. Sergeant. 3rd Devon Regt.

In 1901 Edmer was attending a Wesleyan Sunday School in Mutley, where Elizabeth was living when her first two children from her previous marriage were born. It was close to Mutley Barracks, where John was now stationed.

Twin boys, Stanley and Sidney, were born on 21 July 1901. They were baptised in the parish church of St Andrew in Plymouth on 23 October. The family’s address was then Mutley Barracks, Hyde Park Road. John had been promoted to Colour Sergeant, 3rd Devonshire Regiment.

John was discharged from the army in July 1902, having served 21 yrs 52 days. He was then aged 39. He was given a silver inkstand inscribed:

Presented to Cr Segt Sampson by Permt Staff 3rd Dev Regt On His Retirement 1902


The address given in his discharge record is 7 Highland Terrace, Crownhill, Plymouth and there is a book bearing Elizabeth Sampson’s name and that address. The family moved to The Green, St Budeaux, where Elizabeth’s widowed mother and her brother Richard both lived for a time.

A daughter Marie Elizabeth was born on 3 February 1906. She was baptised on 11 March at the parish church of St Budeaux on the Green, opposite the cottage where the Sampsons lived.

Four months later, John died at home on 19 June 1906 at the age of 43, leaving a young family. He suffered what must have been a painful and unpleasant death from cancer of the tongue, following “10 months Hæmorrhage, 2 days Exhaustion”. Elizabeth was at his side when he died.2

John was buried on June 23, 1906 at Higher St Budeaux.
Burial: John Sampson.  Parish Green.  Age 43.

1GRO Birth certificate
2GRO Death certificate


Next Generation: 2. SAMPSON-CORY

Previous Generations: 4. SAMPSON-HARRIS

Sampson Tree