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Jack Priestley’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. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Jack’s as (1)



JOHN SAGAR. The name Sagar means “Sea Spear”, evoking Anglian seafolk who invaded northern England. It is found particularly around the Yorkshire/Lancashire border. Our own Sagars are concentrated on the small town of Askrigg in Upper Wensleydale.

In 1638 Richard Brathwaite published Drunken Barnaby’s Four Journeys to the North of England. He was not impressed with Askrigg. [1]

Askrig, market-noted,
         With no handsomnesse about it;
         Neither Magistrate nor Mayor
         Ever was elected there.
         Here poor people live by knitting,
         To their Trading, breeding, sitting.”

The hosiery trade was still important in Askrigg in the 18th century, when we pick up the continuous story of the Sagars. Men and women knitted stockings and “guernsey frocks”. Another important cottage industry was the making of watches and clocks. John and Margaret’s grandson Edmund Sagar became a noted clockmaker.

In 1587 Elizabeth I granted Askrigg a charter to hold a weekly market and three annual fairs. The little town was at its most prosperous in the 18th century. Today, it is an attractive village with cobbled streets.

Askrigg was a chapelry within the larger parish of Aysgarth, further down the River Wensley. The surviving parish registers date only from 1701. There are some fragmentary Bishops Transcripts from the late 17th century and some records have survived in baptism and marriage indexes.

The Sagars were already in Askrigg when the registers begin, but they may only have been there for a generation or so. The evidence does not suggest a large extended family.

We first meet them in 1676, in the reign of Charles II.

Baptisms. St Oswald, Askrigg
1676 Nov 26   James son of James Segar
James jnr was buried Feb 25 1677.
1678 Oct 20  James son of James Seggar
1678 July 11   Margrett daughter of Eliz Seggar
1678 Sep 27  Margrett daughter of Joh. Seggar
1681 Aug 8   Isab daughter of Joh. Seggar

Marriages. St Oswald, Askrigg
1681 Nov 28   Jam. Seygar and Elisab. Allen

Baptisms. St Oswald, Askrigg
1682 Sep 7  Elizabeth Seggar daughter of James Seggar

Marriages. St Oswald, Askrigg
1691 Jul 3  Jn Sagar and Margt Pirkins

In 1715 we find the first of two marriages for John Sagar, to whom we have traced back our ancestry. We do not have a baptism for him, but would expect him to have been born around 1690. He is described as John Sagar jnr, indicating that he was the son of an older John Sagar. This would fit with the marriage of John Sagar and Margaret Pirkins in 1691. John jnr was probably their eldest son.

We should expect John snr to have been born in the 1660s, but the records do not go back that far. James and John Seggar were having children baptised in the 1670s. It is possible that one of these is John’s father.

John jnr became parish clerk, as did two of his sons. This office was traditionally passed down from father to son. We might have assumed that John snr was also the parish clerk, but the records do not suggest this. It seems more likely that this branch of the Sagars was living at the hamlet of Helm. This stands high above Askrigg, a mile or so to the NW.

The steep road from Helm to Askrigg [2]

MARGARET PIRKINS. There fewer records for the Pirkins/Perkins family before Margaret’s marriage. If she was born in the 1660s, or soon after, the most likely father would be August(in) Parkin.

Marriages. St Oswald, Askrigg
1624 John Perkins Youngest and Margt Nicholson

Baptisms. St Oswald, Askrigg
1676 Nov 4   Anne daughter of August Parkin
1682 Nov 19  James son of Jon Parkin
1688 Edw son of John Parkin


Margaret Pirkins and John Sagar married in 1691. This was two years after the accession of Mary II and William III, following the flight from England of Mary’s father James II.

We do not have a record of their children’s baptisms. 

There is a burial in 1701/2.

Burials. St Oswald, Askrigg.
1701/2 Jan 21  Margaret Sagar

We only know this through a burial index. We cannot tell whether this is the wife of John Sagar.

In 1707 we have another burial

1707 Mar 30  Rachell Sagar of Helm.

The name Helm occurs in several records for this family.

John Sagar jnr was living at Helm before he became parish clerk. It is likely that this was the family home and that the Sagars were farming there, or working as craftsmen. We do not know how Rachell Sagar was related to them. It is possible that she was John snr’s mother.

John Sagar jnr became parish clerk between Sep 1716 and Feb 1718. If his father also held this office, we would have assumed that this is when John Sagar snr died. But we have found no burial for him then. He appears to have died in 1727.

Burial. St Oswald, Askrigg
1727Nov 25  John Sagar of Helm

This means that John Sagar snr was not the parish clerk, since he would have needed to live nearer to the church. And John jnr had been already in office for ten years. The younger John must have taken over from a previous clerk who had no son to succeed him.

This interpretation is strengthened by the following burial next year.

Burial. St Oswald, Askrigg
1728 Oct 11 Margaret Sagar of Helm.

There are not very many Sagars in Askrigg at this time. The coincidence of the names John and Margaret, both of Helm, strongly suggests that this is where our earliest known generation lived.

If we are correct that they were born in the 1660s, they would have been around 60 when they died.


[1] http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/NRY/Aysgarth/Aysgarth90.html
[2] http://myyorkshiredales.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/photo-gallery/oxnop-common-walk/72_-_Muker_Road.JPG




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