I have asked a question about my 4th great grandfather Francis Green previously as Finding late 18th Century service record of Francis Green in Cornish Militia?

Francis Green was, according to:

  • the 1841 Census, born about 1776 in Cornwall
  • the 1851 Census, born about 1767 (his age is difficult to read and may be 84 or 64 but the latter would make him aged 11 when married!) at Falmouth, Cornwall.
  • his burial, aged 94, in 1860, born about 1766

However, I have not been able to locate either a baptism or birth record for a Francis Green born anywhere in Cornwall between 1760 and 1780. The nearest candidate is probably:

Name:   Francis Tolvert Greenway
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 5 May 1774
Baptism Date:   10 Jun 1774
Baptism Place:  Falmouth, Cornwall, England
Father: William Greenway
Mother: Mary
FHL Film Number:    267525

Despite that baptism being in about the right place, at about the right time, with a name that conceivably could be shortened to Francis Green by accident or design I considered this to be a long shot until I started to think about why his second son was baptised John Soil Green (20 Nov 1803 at Brixham, Devon). His first son William Woodley Green, baptised 14 Feb 1799, at Lustleigh, Devon, has a middle name matching his mother's maiden name, so I thought it likely that Soil might be a family name too.

These first two children from the marriage were followed by nine more baptisms, and only the last two of those were given middle names: Joseph (1806), Francis (1806), Henry (1808), Henrietta (1816), Charles (1816), Cordelia (1816), Amelia (1818), Matilda Grace (1821) and James Woodley (1826). Those last two middle names match the maiden name of their mother Grace Woodley.

While researching Francis' candidate parents (William and Mary Greenway) I found their marriage record:

Name    William Greenway
Gender  Male
Marriage Date   30 Jan 1774
Marriage Place  Falmouth, Cornwall, England
Spouse  Mary Sowell
FHL Film Number 267525

It strikes me that Mary's maiden name of Sowell and the middle name of Francis Green's second son John Soil Green could be two variants of the same name.

My current theory is that Francis Tolvert Greenway baptised 1774 at Falmouth and Francis Green who married Grace Woodley 1798 at Totnes may be the same person.

To try and disprove that theory I have looked widely for records of a Francis Tolvert Greenway (or a Francis Greenway with or without middle names like Talbot because his sister Mary's middle name was Tolbot, and his maternal grandmother's maiden name was Talbot) beyond that baptism record, and have found none.

I have found burial records for all known members of the birth family of Francis Tolvert Greenway at Falmouth (except for his father William Greenway - no burial record found yet):

  • sister Mary Tolbot Greenway baptised 8 Apr 1776 at Falmouth and buried 22 Jun 1778 at Falmouth, aged 2 years
  • sister Sarah Greenway baptised 3 Jun 1778 at Falmouth and buried 6 Jun 1778 at Falmouth, aged 3 days
  • mother Mary Greenway buried 10 Jun 1778 at Falmouth, aged 24 years (matching the baptism of Mary Sowell on 8 Mar 1754 at Falmouth)

It seems like the childhood of Francis Tolvert Greenway was tragic because, when aged about 4 years, he lost two sisters (aged 3 days and 2 years respectively) and his mother within the space of about 19 days. Presumably, he was then brought up by his father.

If Francis Green is the son of William Greenway then it is unsurprising that Francis' eldest son is named William.

Would the above body of evidence be approaching that needed to meet the Genealogical Proof Standard necessary to conclude that Francis Tolvert Greenway baptised 1774 at Falmouth is the same person as Francis Green who married Grace Woodley 1798 at Totnes?

This image is the clipped signatures of Francis Green and Grace Woodley from their marriage record at Totnes, Devon (where both were of the parish, and Francis was recorded as being in the Cornish Militia). From this simple gauge it appears that both were literate.

enter image description here

Francis Green's home life was not always harmonious because The Royal Cornwall Gazette of 24 Oct 1856 reported that Francis and his son Francis had been assaulted by their son and brother Charles.

enter image description here

I am including some more details about Francis Green who married Grace Woodley at Totnes, Devon on 13 Feb 1798 comes from his military background (see Finding late 18th Century service record of Francis Green in Cornish Militia?) and the baptisms of their children:

  • William Woodley at Lustleigh, Devon on 14 Feb 1799
  • John Soil at Brixham, Devon on 20 Nov 1803
  • Joseph and Francis (twins) at St Clement, Cornwall on 9 Mar 1806
  • Henry at St Clement on 21 Feb 1808
  • Cordelia and Henrietta (twins) and Charles (who appears older from 1841 Census) at St Clement on 23 Jun 1816
  • Amelia at St Clement on 22 Nov 1818
  • Matilda Grace at St Clement on 7 Oct 1821
  • James Woodley at St Clement on 5 Feb 1826

These locations, events (including a birth estimate of 1770) and dates are mapped below and seem to support Francis having been born in Cornwall (Falmouth is the only place named for this event, and that was in the 1851 Census, the 1841 Census just says Cornwall), having been part of the Cornish militia for at least some, and I suspect all, of the 6 or so years that he lived in Devon, and then returning with his wife Grace and at least two children to Cornwall, where he spent the rest of his life around Truro (St Clement and St Mary).

enter image description here


2 Answers 2


I think you may be barking up the wrong...er...family tree.

To me this doesn't add up, and certainly more evidence is needed before concluding that Francis Green and Francis Tolvert Greenway were the same person.

  • You need to explain why the surname may have changed from Greenway to Green, yet Francis still passes on family names as middle names to his children? Possible explanations are adoption, estrangements, inheritance, illiteracy, etc., but none of these are very plausible to me in this case.
  • A simple gauge of literacy is his signature on his marriage record. It's only two words, but if neatly written then that suggests he could probably read and write, and be unlikely to have changed the name 'accidentally'.
  • The dates don't seem quite right. Yes, the 1841 census gives his age as 65, but this census is notoriously inaccurate as far as ages. Enumerators were supposed to round down to the nearest five. Even so, they were often incorrect. The other records you have seem to indicate he was the better part of a decade older.
  • Check Francis's marriage record for any hint. Witnesses? Abode?
  • Check for wills in the Green, Greenway, Soil, Sowell families, from Falmouth and nearby parishes. One of these could be key to establishing a relationship, if any.
  • Keep in mind, the birth place given on the 1851 census might not be accurate. It could just be a place he lived in childhood, or an early place he remembered.
  • Also keep in mind that not all children were baptised, or baptised in their parish of birth, so not finding a baptism in Falmouth does not necessarily mean he was not born there. A significant percentage went unbaptised, for some later figures see What proportion of the births or baptisms of children were recorded in early nineteenth century England?
  • I would caution relying on naming patterns as the primary evidence. Yes, they are good stepping stones to establishing links, but on their own are just a tiny piece of the puzzle.

I can't rule out that Francis Green and Francis Tolvert Greenway are one and the same, but based on what you have written I don't see much that strongly supports this theory.


In this answer I present the timeline that I have developed for Francis Green's son John Soil Green:

  • John Soil Green was baptised on 20 Nov 1803 at Brixham, Devon to Francis and Grace Green
  • John Green married Jane Andrews on 29 Jun 1828 at St James, Westminster, London
  • John Lowell Talbot Green and his wife Jane baptised son Frances Green on 5 Feb 1830 at St Mary At Hill, London
  • John Sowell Talbot Green was admitted to the Company of Barbers in London as a Tailor on 22 Mar 1831
  • John Green (Widower) and Frances Rapson had marriage banns published on 18 Oct, 25 Oct and 1 Nov 1838 at St Michael, Paternoster Royal, England
  • John Talbot Green was a Tailor at 85 Lower Thames St in 1839
  • John Green (Widower; Tailor) and Frances Rapson married on 12 Nov 1840 (2 years after Banns!) at St Michael, Paternoster Royal, England and John's father was named as Francis Green (Butcher)
  • John Talbot Green was a Tailor and Habit Maker at 85 Lower Thames St in 1840
  • John Green (Tailor; aged 35) and wife Frances (aged 35) were living at St Dunstan in the East, London, for the 1841 Census
  • John S Green (Chartered Tailor; aged 46; born Truro [where he lived when young]), wife Fanny (aged 35), and children William Henry (8), Amelen (6) and James Woody (4) were living at St Dunstan in the East, London, for the 1851 Census
  • John Talbot Green was an elector at 85 Lower Thames St in 1855
  • John Soil Green was a Tailor at 85 Lower Thames St in 1856
  • John Soil Green was a Tailor at 85 Lower Thames St in 1860
  • Jno Soil Green (Eating House Keeper; aged 56; born Truro [where he lived when young]), children Wm H (19), Amelia (17) and mother Grace Green (85; born Totnes, Devon) were living at St Dunstan in the East, London, for the 1861 Census
  • John Soil Green had Coffee/Eating Rooms at 84-85 Lower Thames St in 1865
  • John Soil Green was paid rent to Edward Falkener at St Dunstan in the East, London on 15 May 1866
  • John Soil Green was paid rent to Edward Falkener at St Dunstan in the East, London on 15 Apr 1867
  • John Soil Green was an elector at Solhurst Road, Eastern, Surrey in 1870
  • John S Green (retired Tailor; aged 66; born Barkham, Devon) was a visitor at Croydon, Surrey for the 1871 Census
  • John S Green (Tailor; aged 77; born Brixham, Devon) was living with Amelia Hobbs (presumably his daughter) and her family at West Ham, Essex for the 1881 Census
  • John Soil Green formerly of 1 Windsor-terrace Cooper's-road Old-Kent-road but late of 64 Crystal-Palace-road, East Dulwich, Surrey died at 64 Crystal-Palace-road on 9 Jan 1884 and left a personal estate of 122 pounds and 10 shillings

I think the timeline above helps to provide a clear link between John Soil/Sowell Talbot Green (1803-1884), his father Francis Tolvert/Talbot Green/Greenway (1774-1860), paternal grandmother Mary Sowell (1754-1778; who married William Greenway in 1774) and Mary's mother Mary Talbot (born 1725; who married William Sowell in 1754) and now provides much stronger evidence that the Francis Tolvert Greenway baptised 1774 at Falmouth is the same man who married Grace Woodley as Francis Green in 1798 at Totnes.

Intriguingly, from AncestryDNA, both my sister and I share 7.5 centimorgans across 1 DNA segment with an individual, whose paper records can be traced to Mary Talbot's parents (our 7th great grandparents) Francis Talbot and Mary Ford who married on 25 Dec 1721 at Falmouth, Cornwall via their daughter Thomasin.

I also share 6.9 centimorgans across 1 DNA segment with another individual, whose paper records can also be traced to Francis Talbot and Mary Ford via their son John.

  • I have two cautions. First, when I am working a possible same-name case, I often start NOT by asking "Can I find my person named John Smith?" but "How many different people named John Smith might there be in this record set / community?" When Names and addresses match, then you need more identifiers. Same-age records are not proof of the same person -- there might be two or more cousins in the same community around the same age. When you have conflicting evidence (e.g. occupation) the GPS advises us to account for the conflict. Proceed with caution.
    – Jan Murphy
    Aug 5, 2018 at 20:00
  • @JanMurphy I would like to harden up my proof so your comments are appreciated. In this case I think the occupation records seem very consistent with a Tailor who moved from Truro St Clement to London and late in life kept an Eating House at the same premises. I think the chances of me confusing the records of two cousins sharing the same name are greatly reduced by the chances that both moved from Cornwall to London.
    – PolyGeo
    Aug 5, 2018 at 21:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.