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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)



JOHN SHILSTON. The Shilstons were a large extended family in Dunsford, going back centuries.

The name Shilston means ‘shelf stone’. It may come from Spinsters’ Rock, the remains of a megalithic burial chamber in the neighbouring parish of Drewsteignton. The mound which once covered it has been eroded away, leaving a giant capstone supported on three huge uprights. Legend has it that three spinsters erected it before breakfast. Close by is Shilstone Farm.

At the end of the 17th century, there were at least five men or boys in Dunsford called Pentecost Shilston. This suggests that at one time the family had Puritan sympathies. If so, then they would have been at odds with their Lord of the Manor during the Civil War in the 1640s. The Fulfords had been lords of the manor at Great Fulford since Norman times. During the Civil War the house was besieged by the Parliamentary general Lord Fairfax. The house was bombarded from the park, captured and looted.

Just where John fits into this family is unclear. The two known Johns who would have been of the right generation died as children. And with so many branches of the family, it is hard to tell how many men there were with the same first name.


John appears to have married outside the village. Indeed, he himself may have come from elsewhere. His wife is never named. Their daughters were named Mary (possibly), Sarah, Susanna and Joan, but the mother’s name is not recorded.

The couple set up home in Dunsford in the 1680s or 90s and had at least five children there, including twins. The village of Dunsford stands in the Teign Valley just below Steps Bridge, where the river emerges from a steep-sided gorge. In those days there was no bridge, only dangerous stepping stones where travellers sometimes lost their lives when the river was high.

The first mention of John Shilston which could be relevant is the baptism of a daughter in 1686.

1686  Joan the daughter of John Shilson was Bapt  September 3.
Joan was buried on November 7 the following year.
Agnes, daughter of John Shilston, married in 1703. She too could have been part of this family.
On May 2, 1689, Mary wife of John Shilston was buried. She may have been the wife of this John or an older generation.

From 1688 there are references to ‘John Shilston Junior’, who may or not be the same man. He appears to have come from another parish, since his son’s baptism has not been found in Dunsford. But the appellation ‘Junior’ is usually used to distinguish a man from his father living in the same parish.

Burial. Dunsford.
1688  John ye son of John Shilston Junr Buryed  November 13
Another son was born.
1690  Edward ye son of John Shilston junr was Baptized  June 3

There is then a gap of five years, leaving it open to question whether the next entry for John Shilston refers to the man previously known as John Junior or not. The couple having children in this next decade are certainly the ones we want. What is not clear is whether this was the beginning of their family, or whether they already had children.

Baptisms. Dunsford.
 1695  John ye son of John Shilston was Baptized  Octob. 14
1698  Sarah ye daughter of John Shilston was Baptized September 13
Three-year-old John died the next year.
1701  Susanna the Daughter of John Shilston was baptiz’d October 27th
1703  Richard and Joan the Twin-Children of John Shilston baptiz’d February 17
Two-year-old Susanna was buried on March 30, 1704.

There are several possible burials for John.
1705(6)  John Shilston was bury’d.  January 130
1709  John Shilston was bury’d. July 270
1737(8)  John Shilston. January 5

If the first of these burials was the right one – and it would fit with the birth of his last child – then there could be a connection with a subsequent baptism.

1707  Henry the base son of Susanna Shilston Widow was baptiz’d  November 30o

John named a daughter Susanna, so this could be her mother’s name.

This, again, could be connected with a marriage in 1711.
1711  Robert Connet of Holcomb-Burnell m Susanna Shilston  November 27o

This is highly speculative, but there is no unmarried Susanna Shilston identifiable from the baptism records. There is, however, a burial for Susannah Shilston on November 9th, 1735.

None of the women buried in the first half of the 18th century is said to be the wife or widow of John Shilston. There are burials for Joan Shilston in 1729, Julian Shilston widow and Agnes Shilston in 1737, Mary Shilston, Nymphas Shilston and Mary Shilston widow, all in 1742, and Joan Shilston widow in 1744.




Lee Tree