JOHN HOARE'S FAMILY HISTORY
The Cheesman families in Brighton
Last updated 04/01/2002 reformatted Jan 2012
(a slightly updated version of an article published in the 'Sussex Family Historian', the quarterly journal of the Sussex family History Group, September 2000)
I have been researching my family history in a fairly haphazard way for several years. The Cheesman branch (my mother's family) soon proved interesting, partly because my grandfather had been Christened 'Childrens'. My mother muttered darkly that the priest must have been drunk, but the truth was to prove much more interesting. My investigations eventually took me to ESRO at Lewes, where I was encouraged by the peaceful atmosphere (I was used to the crush of the old GRO at St. Catherine's House!) and helpful staff, who were able to help me make rapid progress, and this led me to the SFHG, where I have always been greeted with enthusiastic help.
It seemed that whenever I mentioned the Cheesman family to a member there was always someone around with a connection. The more I researched, the more Cheesmans I found! Furthermore, I have been contacted by fellow researchers from time to time, but we have rarely found a good match. Unfortunately, my early expectations of a huge tree, neatly tying them all in was not to be. I have now done a blitz on the 1851 and 1881 censuses, as well as the baptism and marriage indices at ESRO, and I have several hundred Sussex/Brighton Cheesmans on the computer. I have tied up my family line reasonably well back to 1750, and I can see a couple of other lines, but the sheer number of apparently non-related occurrences in the area is a constant source of amazement. I alternate between being self-satisfied for what I have found and frustrated by the number of connections I know I must have missed.
My current sticking point, and perhaps my cry for help, is with Barbara CHILDRENS (b. abt 1736), the fourth of seven offspring of George and Arabella CHILDRENS. At the age of 31 she gave birth to a son who was christened as 'John CHEESMAN, baseborn son of Barbara CHILDRENS'. Giving the baseborn son the father's surname in this way is unusual. I have found some possible matches, but nothing definite.
Despite his apparently lowly birth, John did well. He married Mary KITCHENER, fathered probably twelve children, was referred to as 'a gentleman' in official records, and left a large amount of property around Brighton in his will. It has recently been suggested to me that he must have had quite a good start in life, and at least a good education and some money. Referring back to the unusual wording of his baptism, was he brought up in his father's family? Was Barbara a servant? Or did his wife Mary have money?
John died in 1823, and had a gravestone in St. Nicholas. The name CHILDRENS was to re-appear randomly as the last Christian name or the surname when his descendants' names were recorded. The oldest surviving son, John CHEESMAN the younger (b.1789), seems to have taken over the property. The third born was George CHEESMAN (b.1790), who set up a builder's business as 'George Cheesman and Son'. This company built several churches for Henry WAGNER, Vicar of Brighton, as well as being responsible for the rebuilding of old stables as the Concert Hall in the Dome. They also built the new St. Nicholas' vicarage in 1834 and are commemorated as patrons of the controversial restoration of St. Nicholas' Church in 1854. Another son of the first George was Charles CHEESMAN (b.1817) who was recorded in the 1851 census as a ship owner - in turn his son Charles CHEESMAN (b.1843) was recorded in the 1881 census as a builder in Uckfield.
Cornelius CHEESMAN (b1801), the seventh child, was also a builder, but he seems not to have prospered quite as well. He incorporated the name Childrens as his last Christian name, and was followed by three generations of John Cornelius Childrens CHEESMANs. These were the names that had been so easy to locate in my early research, and the last was my grandfather.
I would be delighted to hear from anyone who may be able to fill in any of the missing links, and equally anyone who is looking for Cheesmans or Childrens. I hardly need add that the spelling of the names varies in a fairly random way, and the status of the name CHILDRENS alternates between surname and Christian name.
John Hoare 26/08/2000