My 7th great grandfather Joseph Symons married Prudence Williams on 11 Nov 1710 at Breage, Cornwall and I would like to be able to determine who his parents were. Prudence was christened on 5 May 1693 at Helston, Cornwall, making her only 17 and a half years old at the time of their marriage.

At least for now, I am assuming that Prudence probably married someone only a few years older than herself so I suspect that Joseph was born and christened at Breage in about 1690.

Unfortunately, in Breage, “Baptisms beginning with 1603 ending with 1700 are imperfect for the first six years, deficient in the years 1657-1678, deficient from 1683 to 1697, but regular from 1697 to 1700” so it seems unlikely that his christening record will be found.

To try and determine his likely parents I have examined the Cornwall OPC records for Breage that do exist for the period in question and currently rank my candidates in this order:

  1. James Symons and Charity who had a son John christened on 24 Mar 1690. The same James may have had a daughter Mary christened on 13 Jun 1697 and a son Alexander christened on 23 Feb 1698. This couple may belong to an unsourced marriage on 22 Nov 1686 at Breage between James Simon and Charity Polglaze.
  2. Thomas Symons and Joane Carleene who had a son Thomas christened on 25 Jan 1683 but Thomas (senior) appears to have been buried on 11 Jul 1685 meaning that Joseph would be about five years older than I have conjectured from Prudence's age at marriage. Thomas and Joane were married on 24 Apr 1682 so probably only had the opportunity for one more child.
  3. John Symons who had a son James christened on 20 Jan 1689. Unless re-marriage is involved this is probably not the John Symons married to Grace Cornish on 16 Jan 1694 (they had a daughter Dorcas christened on 7 Jan 1697) or the John Symons married to Mary Row on 21 Nov 1696.

It should be noted that the names of Joseph and Prudence's children (Prudence, Joseph, Mary and Humphrey) seem to offer no hints and the surrounding parishes do not seem to have any better candidates than Breage. I originally wrote that I had not been able to find wills for any of the candidates but somehow I had overlooked this source which shows that a number of Symons wills from this period in Breage are available. I note that several of those wills indicate an occupation of yeoman. Although, I do not know the occupation of Joseph, his eldest son Joseph was a yeoman, and the eldest son (my 5th great grandfather) of his other son (my 6th great grandfather) was also a yeoman, so there seems to be a good chance that he was also a yeoman.

Being in Australia my access is limited to online sources, so I am wondering whether anyone may have any thoughts on other places that I might be able to seek confirmation of Joseph Symons' parents?


It is still too early to be certain but a fourth candidate has emerged who I think eclipses the other three in terms of their likelihood of being Joseph's father. The Answer from @ColeValleyGirl caused me to look harder for Wills and there is one that appears to fit the bill for Joseph's father: CRO AP/S/2540 Will of Humphrey Symonds of Breage 1721‐1722 (from http://www.cornwall-opc.org/Par_new/a_d/pdfs/breage_wills.pdf). While I have been trying to figure out how to view a copy of this will, I have also found more facts that appear to support this being the person I was seeking.

  • A Humphry Symons married Margaret Foss at Breage on 17 Sep 1709 - I suspect this is an older brother to Joseph - the 1721-22 will is expected to disprove or support this.
  • Joseph's two sons Joseph and Humphry both named sons Humphry (and Joseph)
  • Don't be surprised (based on searches I've done) if the document for Humphrey Symonds turns out to be an admon (administration, granted typically to widow or oldest son) rather than a will -- if this is the case, there will be little info in it but you might be lucky if Joseph was his oldest son.
    – user104
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 11:54
  • @ColeValleyGirl You are right "SYMONS, Humphrey: admon dated 6 Mar 1721" webs.lanset.com/azazella/breage_pro.html (my bolding)
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 1:48
  • It occurs to me that you don't know yet if this admon relates to the Humphrey Symons that married in 1709 or an older (potential) father...
    – user104
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 8:02
  • @ColeValleyGirl Am keeping an open mind to that. The "married in 1709" seems to have had only two daughters, both called Rosamond, born in 1710 (died 1711) & 1711. Am assembling a batch of Symons will requests for Cornwall Records Office so hopefully more clarity soon.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


Some avenues you could explore (but not many of them will work online I'm afraid).

  1. What was Joseph's occupation? If he was a farmer or otherwise held property, Land Tax record might indicate his father and then him paying Land Tax on a property in successive years. Not conclusive, but an indication if you find it. Other property records that might help include leases and rental books. Manorial records can also be a good source of information about transfer of property rights down a family.

  2. Parish records (not registers) might yield settlement orders or other Poor Law records referring to the families of interest.

  3. Non-conformist records. Just because they married in the local Parish Church, that doesn't mean they were members of the Church of England.

  4. You've already mentioned wills but I'm adding them here for completeness.

A search of Cornwall Record Office online catalogue might throw up some clues, but they don't have any documents online. (Some) non-conformist records are available at the usual subscription suspects: Findmypast, ancestry, TheGenealogist as well on a 'credits' basis at The Official Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial BMDs Service. The index of Manorial documents is held at the National Archive but Cornwall isn't indexed on line yet and even if it was, the relevant documents could be anywhere in the country, might not have survived and won't be online.

One observation: I'm not convinced it's safe to assume that Joseph and Prudence were close in age; I would cast the net wider.

  • Many thanks - your comment about occupation triggered me to search for "symons yeoman breage", and I struck a document (see updated Question) with 31 Symons wills in Breage - a number from the right period with names of interest. A wider net on his age catches a Joseph Symons christened in Falmouth (17 miles away) in 1683 but I am keeping that in reserve for now.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 10:00
  • @PolyGeo, I noticed many of those wills when I searched at Cornwall Record Office and via A2A.
    – user104
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 10:02
  • @PolyGeo, if he was a yeoman it's worth looking for property records of one sort or another.
    – user104
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 10:26
  • Now that I am hot on the trail of a 1721-22 Will for Humphrey Symonds of Breage (see Question postscript), I will make property records my next focus.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 3:41

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.