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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



HENRY HARRIS. The burial register says that Henry Harris was 72 when he died in 1815. This would put his birth date at 1742-3. People’s ages were not always exactly remembered, and the most likely baptism for him is in the village of Kings Nympton, between South Molton and Chulmleigh, in 1745.

Baptism. Kings Nympton.

1745  Henry son of Robert & Joan Harris. Septembr. 1st

Henry named his eldest son Robert, so this parentage accords with the custom of a man giving his father’s name to his first son.

Henry was the third child, and the eldest boy, of the husbandman Robert Harris and Joan Loosemore.


Before he was three, his family moved from Kings Nympton back to his mother’s home of Rose Ash, where his father had also worked before their marriage. Twin sisters were born, who died within a month, and then a brother and another sister.


Like his father, Henry became a husbandman, or small-scale farmer. His father died when Henry was 37 and apparently still unmarried. There are two possible burials for his mother, one 11 years previously, the other the year after his father. If it was the latter, then she was buried as a pauper. In either case, his siblings were adults now, and Henry is unlikely to have remained single because he had to support other members of his family. Yet no evidence has been found of a marriage for him before 1795, when he was 49.

At the time of this marriage, his parish of settlement was South Molton, where the wedding took place. It is likely that he had been farming in that area. There are possible weddings for his two elder sisters there too.



SARAH FOOKE.  Sarah’s burial record in 1827 gives her age then as 67. This matches with the daughter of John Fook born in the scatter of farmsteads that make up the parish of Filleigh, west of South Molton:

Baptism. Fiptism. Filleigh.
1759  Sarah  Dr. of Jn Fokes  Ap. 24 – 59


There is some doubt about Sarah’s mother. She may be Ann Peaster of Bishops Nympton, where the Fooks originated from, or Sarah Folkes, who was buried in Filleigh in 1779, or Mary Fook, buried in 1797.


At some stage Sarah moved to South Molton. She was said to be ‘of this Parish’ when she married Henry there. She may have been in service in the town, or helping on a farm.

Sarah was a spinster when she married Henry. At 36, she was considerably older than brides usually were. But she was still 13 years younger than her bridegroom.


Marriage.South Molton

Henry Harris of this Parish Husbandman and Sarah Fooke of this Parish Spinster were married in this Church by Banns this tenth Day of March in the Year One Thousand ninety five By me John Oliver, Vicar

                  The Mark of Henry  H  Harris

                  The Mark of Sarah  S  Fooke

In the presence of John Thomas

       The mark o f James X  Dadds


Both Henry and Sarah sign their names with a shaky attempt at the initial letter of their Christian names. They may have been taught to read a little, but not to write.

Other men in the register are described as ‘labourers’. Henry’s status as ‘husbandman’ is not as high as that of yeoman farmer, but he was farming independently in a small way.

Sarah was probably a spinster in more than one sense of the word. She would have contributed to the family income in this wool-producing area, before becoming a farmer’s wife.


Writing of Devon in 1796, William Marshall says:


POOR’S RATE. It is worthy of remark, that, nothwithstanding the wages of the country are low… the parish rates are moderate…

  This fact, perhaps, maybe the best accounted for, in the circumstance of the wool, which the country produces, being manufactured within it: not, however, in public manufactories, by the dissolute of every age and sex, drawn together from all quarters, as if for the purpose of promoting dissoluteness, debility, and wretchedness: but in private families; by men, women, and children, who, by this employment, are kept at their own houses, are enured to the habits of industry, are enabled to support themselves, at all seasons, and are always at hand, to assist in the works of husbandry, whenever the production, or the preservation, of the necessaries of life requires their assistance.



No record has been found of any children baptised in South Molton. The couple are next found in Mariansleigh, between South Molton and Rose Ash.

Baptism. . Mariansleigh.
1803  Simon, Son of Henry and Sarah Harris was baptized  Jan 29th.


This is the earliest record of the Harris surname in Mariansleigh. But Simon had two contemporaries in the parish, Robert and Henry Harris, who say in the census returns that they were born in Mariansleigh. The close links between them in later years, and the fact that there is no evidence of another Harris family in the village at this time, suggest that these three were brothers. From the census records, Robert would appear to have been born soon after the marriage, and Henry was probably the middle son. The relevant page is missing from the Mariansleigh baptismal register, so it has not been possible to verify whether the older two boys were indeed born there.


Henry  died when the boys were still in their teens. Though he belonged to Mariansleigh parish, he was buried in the same churchyard as his parents, in Rose Ash. It is likely that he was farming on the eastern side of the parish, as their son Robert did later. The couple may have worshipped in Rose Ash, if that was nearer for them than Mariansleigh church.

Burials. Rose Ash.
1815  Harris, Henry  of Mariansleigh  aged 72  Apr. 23


Sarah lived on another twelve years. She was also buried in Rose Ash.

1827  Harris, Sarah  of Mariansleigh  aged 67


Their sons Robert and Simon stayed in Mariansleigh, though their fortunes differed. Robert became a yeoman farmer at Trittencott, on the eastern side of the parish, while Simon was an agricultural labourer living in the village. Henry junior married Emmeline Pearce in Mariansleigh. When his first child was born he was a dairyman, but two years later a labourer. After that, he moved out of the parish, and for a time worked in Kings Nympton, where his grandfather had farmed, and where his father was born.





Sampson Tree