Chasing Chiltons

David B. Appleton — My Favorite Ancestor 8 June 2017 CHGS Meeting

 James Chilton, at age 63, was the oldest passenger on the ship Mayflower in 1620, and he and his wife both died during that first hard winter for the Pilgrims, leaving their youngest daughter Mary, my 10th great-grandmother, an orphan in wild and unsettled New England.

James Chilton and his family had lived in and around Canterbury, and later Sandwich, in the County of Kent, England, for some years in the late 16th and very early 17th Centuries before they moved to Leiden in The Netherlands and then in 1620 boarded the Mayflower to voyage to New England.

 The earliest record I have found so far which names James Chilton is a reference to “Chylton, James, tailor” who was made a Freeman by Gift of the City of Canterbury in 1583.

With that as background on James Chilton, my wife and I took an opportunity in 2014 to spend a full day in Kent, England, “chasing Chiltons,” where we visited the three parish churches, two in Canterbury and one in Sandwich, where we know James Chilton and his family spent time: St. Paul’s Without the Walls, Canterbury; St. Martin’s, Canterbury; and St. Peter’s, Sandwich.


St. Paul’s Without the Walls, Canterbury, Kent

We find several parish record entries of James Chilton’s children being baptized at St. Paul’s:

Isabella, the daughter of James Chilton, baptized 15 Jan 1586/87

Jane, the daughter of James Chilton, baptized 08 Jun 1589

Ingle, the daughter of James Chilton, baptized 29 Apr 1599

Chiltons Fig 1.1

St. Paul’s Without the Walls (that is, outside the walled city of Canterbury) is believed to have been built as a chapel by the nearby St. Augustine’s Abbey for local people and overseen by the monks of the Abbey as a place of worship and instruction.

In the late 13th century the church was enlarged eastwards creating the space now occupied by the organ (built in 1901).

Chiltons Fig 1.2

The church has been enlarged again, southward in 1320, and further extended and refurbished in the mid-19th century when the tower was rebuilt and a third aisle created southward, but certainly the oldest portions of the church we see today would have been familiar to James Chilton and his wife.

There are two other entries in the parish records which may relate to the family of James Chilton:

Richard Chilton, baptized 27 Jan 1582/83

Joel Chilton, baptized 16 Aug 1584

These baptisms were performed in years when such entries did not include the father’s name. The parish records around these years is inconsistent: in some years, the father’s name is included; in other years, it is not, apparently at the whim of the recorder.

St. Martin’s, Canterbury, Kent

The following entries are found in the parish records for children of James Chilton:

Joel, the son of James Chilton, buried 02 Nov 1593

Mary, the daughter of James Chilton, buried 23 Nov 1593

Elizabeth, the daughter of James Chilton, baptized 14 Jul 1594

James, the son of James Chilton, baptized 22 Aug 1596

 The sign near the entrance to the grounds of St. Martin’s Church (named for St. Martin of Tours) states it is the oldest church in continuous use in England, and notes the days and times when services are still held there. It goes on to tell us that about the year 580 King Æthelberht of Kent gave his Christian bride, Bertha, the daughter of Charbert, King of the Franks, and a Christian, a place for worship. It was originally a building of Roman origin, and the remains of the older Roman building can still be seen in the walls of the chancel.

 In 597, Pope Gregory sent St. Augustine and forty monks to lead a Christian mission in England. Ethelbert allowed them to worship here, and they extended the chapel to include the great west wall. “Here they first began to assemble, to sing the psalms, to pray, to celebrate mass, to preach and to baptize, until the king was converted to the faith and gave them greater freedom to preach and to build and restore churches everywhere.” (Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, 731 A.D.). Eventually Æthelberht was baptized, and Augustine went on to build the Abbey and Cathedral and to become Canterbury’s first Archbishop. At that time, St. Martin’s lost its prestige but retains its historical primacy.

Chiltons Fig 2.1

The great west wall and the roof of the nave dates to the 14th Century, though some of the roof beams have had to be replaced since then.

Chiltons Fig 2.2

 Of the baptismal font in the church, the base is newer (it probably dates to the 19th Century), but the two lower tiers and the rim are believed to be of Saxon origin, and the higher tier of arches, Norman (since the Normans required higher fonts in their churches). This is the font where James Chilton and his wife stood when their children Elizabeth and James were baptized.

Chiltons Fig 2.3

St. Peter’s, Sandwich, Kent

The following entries are found in the parish records for children of James Chilton:

Christian, daughter of James Chilton, baptized 26 Jul 1601

James, son of James Chilton, baptized 11 Sep 1603

Mary, daughter of James Chilton, and my 10th great grandmother, baptized 31 May 1607

There has been a church on the site of St. Peter’s in Sandwich since about 1100. That early Norman church was probably destroyed in 1216, when Sandwich was attacked by the French during the First Barons’ War (1215-1217), when a group of rebellious major landowners (barons), supported by a French army under the future Louis VIII, made war on King John of England for his refusal to abide by the Magna Carta.

Chiltons Fig 3.1

The church was rebuilt a little later in the 13th century, when it consisted of a central nave with north and south aisles, a tower, and a chancel. In the 14th century the north aisle was widened and raised in height, and a chantry chapel was built at the east end of the south aisle. Much of the church today thus dates to the 13th and 14th centuries.


There remains on display in the church a 17th century sounding board, a wooden canopy which hung horizontally over the pulpit to direct the words of the officiating priest out to the congregation in these days before electrical amplification. Without a more specific date, I cannot say if this sounding board was installed at the time the Chiltons attended the parish, or if it is a replacement for the one that was in use when they were there.

Chiltons Fig 3.3

 It was a fun and informative journey, following the moves of James Chilton and his family through three parishes in two cities in Kent, England. The opportunity to visit these places, to “walk in their footsteps” and to learn first-hand a little bit about the lives of this – my – Pilgrim family, has heightened the emotional connection to these places where they lived and worked, and where some of their children were born and buried.

 And yet, the history of these places both precedes and succeeds the Chiltons’ time there, with connections as distant as St. Augustine and more recently, to a descendant from across the ocean “chasing Chiltons.”

by David B. Appleton


My Parents Were Inmates

In the 1930 Census my parents are shown as inmates.  A fact about my parents I would never have known if I had not been researching my family.  But it’s not as bad as it may sound.  My parents were both orphans and grew up in Buckner Orphans Home in Dallas.  In the 1930 Census, they, along with all the other orphans, were listed as inmates instead of orphans.

You just never know what you may learn when you start researching your family.  You’re likely to learn some surprising things, and probably, you will go places and do things you would never have thought you would do.

When you start researching your family you may even go to such places as Monkstown or Saratoga, Texas.  You might even venture out of Texas to exotic places like Poteau, Oklahoma or Buena Vista, Georgia.  In the process you will likely visit numerous cemeteries and rummage through old records in courthouses.

Surprisingly, family research has a way of transforming all these activities into interesting adventures.  For example, in an effort to save a cemetery in Monkstown, Texas, I had to go to the courthouse in Bonham, the county seat, to see a judge who in turn got the sheriff after a property owner that claimed he owned the land of the cemetery.  The cemetery was saved and cleaned up, but the property owner doesn’t speak to me anymore.

Maybe you’re thinking you can do all your family research in the comfort of your home surfing on the Internet, and possibly submitting your DNA to connect with someone that can tell you about your family.  All this technology is helpful, but this too is likely to develop into more genealogical adventures.

My father entered Buckner Orphans Home at the age of eight years old.  He barely knew his father and never mentioned his grandfather.  By researching the census and other records on the internet, I thought I had figured out who my father’s grandfather was, but I wasn’t sure.  So I submitted my y-DNA and matched a man in Georgia who turned out to be a distant cousin.  With his help I was able to determine that my father’s grandfather had come to Texas after the Civil War and I located his grave in Milford, Texas, which is a little south of Waxahachie.  I was surprised to find that the headstone said he was a doctor.  But guess what?  When he came to Texas he left behind a family in Georgia and came to Texas with the younger sister of his wife back in Georgia.  When I contacted his descendants in Georgia, they were really surprised because they had been told he died in the Civil War.

Tags Orphan, Inmate, Family stories, Census

Start Writing


You probably had a great time getting together with family and friends these past holidays: exchanging family stories, updating on the latest happenings of family members, and making some great memories.  As an amateur genealogist and family historian, I hope you are taking the time to record these stories on paper—or on your computer—before you forget them.

While working in the genealogical society’s booth at Cedar Hill Country Day, I met many young families that were quite interested in learning their family history, but they admitted not having the time to do the research.  I told them that I understood, but urged them to talk to their parents and grandparents while they were still alive to get their stories about growing up and what life was like back in the “old days”.  I told them that when we finally do have the time, Grandpa and Grandma would likely be gone.  I can’t tell you the number of times someone has told me “I wish I had talked to Grandpa about that while he was still alive!”

I am among the lucky ones.  My mother is a vigorous 88 years old.  I frequently ask her about the “old days”.  She’s told me about life on a 1920s dairy farm: living with outdoor plumbing, electricity in the early days of its adoption, how she became the first girl in her family to attend high school—she stamped her feet and insisted—food preservation and storage, and much more.  I made notes while on the phone and typed up the story while it was still fresh in my mind.  Don’t have a parent or grandparent to provide information?  Write about your “old days”.  If you have children under 21, they probably don’t know what an LP record is—they soon may not know what a CD is!  When they were young cell phones were just beginning to come into use and not many people had home computers.  You can provide that link to the past by writing about all of those things.

Some tips: sharing our stories in writing is something that is easy to put off until we know exactly what we are going to say and how we are going to say it—a sure way that it will never be written.  Do as the professionals do.  Set aside a specific time to do it—I did my writing on Friday afternoons—writing is surprisingly hard work so you have to have some discipline about it.  Pick a subject and start writing.  Just write, don’t stop to correct it and make it pretty.  Get it all written before going back to proof it.  The important thing is to get your story on paper.  Word processors are great for us less than gifted writers.  Many check spelling, grammar, punctuation and style.  They all let you insert additional words and move things around without having to retype them.  You can even include scanned pictures in your stories.  They work very well for those of us who can’t type.

As you write, you will think of other subjects to write about.  Write those story ideas down before you forget them and then write about them next session.  Whatever you do, keep writing.  Even if you never get around to researching your family’s history, you’ll have left behind a rich legacy for the person who finally does tell your family’s story.  Your descendants born and yet unborn will thank you for it.

By Dave Klauck, Cedar Hill Genealogical Society