Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of Branches, Twigs, and Roots!

As you know, this e-zine features a different individual in each issue, who is a road block to me in my research. Some are from my own family tree, and others are from research I have done for other individuals.

Today's edition features James Clemenson, a fellow who lived during the 1800s in London, England. I hope you enjoy reading about him!

To comment on the contents of this e-zine, or if you have information or suggestions that will assist in resolving one of my brick walls, click 'Reply', or send an e-mail to Branches_Twigs_Roots@familyhistoryalive.com. I look forward to receiving feedback from you!

Did James Clemenson's Family
Come from France?

My research into the Clemenson family began with James Clemenson, born February 27, 1820 in London, England.

To date, I have not been able to locate a christening record for him, although I have them for some of his siblings. His parents were James Clemenson (1799 - 1862) and Sarah Cleeland (1797 - 1878).

James was the eldest of at least five children born to James and Sarah, the other four being Charles (1822); Elizabeth (1827); Ann (1831); and William (1832).

According to Clemenson family lore, the family originated in France, and James Clemenson (or Clementson) was born Jacques Clemenceau. In her memoirs, written when she was in her early 90s, a granddaughter had the following to say about this family's origins:

My grandad Jacques was born in England after his parents fled France during the Revolution. He had sisters - actresses - who were friendly with Edward VII so couldn't have been much cop! ...

On the subject of the actresses, I do not know what the daughters, Elizabeth and Ann, used as stage names. I have not been able to find them in the census documents or vital records, apart from their birth records. Perhaps they spent their time on the Continent?

In September of 1841, James married Mary Ann Hodges, whose family lived a few doors down the street from the Clemensons. In 1849, his brother Charles married Margaret Hodges, sister to Mary Ann - thereby 'keeping it all in the family'!

James and Mary Ann had seven children, born between 1842 and 1856.

At some point around 1857, James and Mary Ann broke up. From that point to her death in 1900, Mary Ann remained alone, always listed as 'married' in the census documents, although some of her children were living with her in their earlier years.

James lived common-law with Elizabeth Cox - with whom he had another five children, the first born in 1858 and the last in 1872 - from that time until his death in 1898. They appear to have presented themselves as husband and wife, with all but the first child registered under the Clemenson name. (The first was registered under both Clemenson and Cox).

The grand-daughter, quoted above, recalled that her grandfather always had a good tip for an organ-grinder who would play the Marseilles (the French national anthem) for him, and that they would always eat French-style breakfasts when they visited in the Clemenson home.

Organ Grinder with monkey.
Wikimedia Commons
Organ grinder with monkey

The Research Roadblock

Much of the above sounds like James / Jacques had some French background.

However, my research has not borne out that James was a first-generation Englishman. His father, also named James Clemenson, was born August 24, 1799, in Surrey, England, to yet another James Clemenson and his wife, Elizabeth Rogers. James and Elizabeth had a daughter named Hannah in 1801. On September 2, 1802, Elizabeth's James was buried in Lambeth, Surrey. The burial records state as follows:

James Clemenson, a married man, late coachman to Mr. Walters. Age 25. Consumption.

Consumption, of course, is known today as tuberculosis.

From the above quotation, we see that James, at age 25 in 1802, must have been born around 1777.

Elizabeth remarried in June of 1803, to Clement Taylor, a shoemaker. Clement taught his step-son James Clemenson (1799) the trade of shoe making, which he, in turn, passed on to his son James (1820).

It therefore seems that at least two generations of Clemensons before James (1820) lived and worked in England.

I have not been able to find a birth certificate for James Clemenson (1777); perhaps he is the one who came from France. His wife Elizabeth Rogers, however, was not of French origin; she was born in Cumberland, England.

Naturally, the fact that his wife was not French does not eliminate him from consideration as a French national who came to England as a result of the French Revolution. The time frame is right for the Revolution. He may have exited alone, or he may have done so with his parents and siblings.

There is also a large number of Clemensons (with several spelling variations on the name) in the London area where this group of Clemensons lived out their days, going back a number of generations. It is quite possible that James Clemenson (1777) was from this family grouping.

So, was the James Clemenson family French in origin? Or were they solidly English, for many generations before them? The jury's still out on that one!

Announcements this week

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Just two webinars, so far this week:

  • Monday, February 20, 2012 - 10:00 PM - 11:30 PM EST
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  • Thursday, February 23, 2010 - 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm EST
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    Click Expert Webinars to register.


Watch for new content this week on the www.familyhistoryalive.com website! I've already published one of the four pages on Canadian military history and related themes; the other three are nearly ready to go, as well!

Remember, much of Canadian military history is the 'flip side' of American military history, as battles between the U.S.A. and Britain generally involved Canada, as a British territory!

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