Faith, Fish, Farm or Family? North Devon Emigrants

‘We cannot truly understand a community unless we look at those who leave’  Barry Reay

I completed my doctoral thesis Faith, Fish, Farm or Family? The Impact of Kinship Links and Communities on Migration Choices and Residential Persistence in North Devon 1841-1901 at The University of Exeter. I am now developing this work, with particular emphasis on why people left North Devon for a life overseas. Many of those who formed part of this North Devon exodus were members of the Bible Christian church, in which I also have an interest. I am compiling a series of biographies of Victorian emigrants, principally from North Devon, for eventual publication. I am also researching all those who left Buckland Brewer, Bucks Mills and Bulkworthy for overseas destinations, prior to 1930. This research is a work in progress; for some families I have a wealth of information, for others very little.

Some of the emigrants I am researching:-

Ashton from Beaford to South Australia

Braund from Buckland Brewer to Yarraville, Victoria, Australia

Braund from Bucks Mills to Port Hope, Canada

Braund from Black Torrington to Exeter, Canada

Braund from Frithelstock and Littleham to Bradford, Pennsylvania, USA

Braund 7 sons of Philip from Black Torrington to Echuca, Victoria, Australia; Prospect, South Australia; Murray Bridge, South Australia; New South Wales and Aurora, Canada

Braund from Holsworthy to Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri, USA

Cavenett from Instow to Willunga, South Australia

Chidley from Torrington to Perth County, Canada

Ching from Bulkworthy to Guelph, Canada

Cole from Buckland Brewer to Norfolk County, Canada

Cory from Hartland to Mariposa and Port Hope, Canada

Courtice from Buckland Brewer to Darlington, Canada

Cudmore from Sheepwash to Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Cudmore from Chulmleigh to Prince Edward Island, Canada

Edwards from Hatherleigh to East Aurora, New York State, USA

Elliott from Bucks Mills to Port Hope, Canada

Essery from Petrockstow to Usborne County, Huron, Canada

Fulford from Buckland Brewer to Port Hope, Goderich and Colbourne, Canada

Goodenough from Buckland Brewer to Wallaroo, South Australia

Heal from Bulkworthy to Juneau County, Wisconsin and Peterborough, Ontario

Hooper from Bulkworthy to Juneau County, Wisconsin and Peterborough, Ontario

Horrell from Plymouth to New Orleans Mariposa, Ontario, Canada

Jewell from Buckland Brewer to Mariposa, Ontario, Canada

Madge from Meeth to Usborne, Ontario

Mallett from Langtree and Bideford to Prince Edward Island, Canada

Martin from Bulkworthy to Darlington, then Caledon, Cardwell, Peel County, Ontario, Canada

Mitchell from Buckland Brewer to Melbourne, Australia and Foxton, New Zealand

Nancekivell from Buckland Brewer to Wellington, New Zealand; South Australia; Illinois, USA and British Columbia, Canada

Narraway from Buckland Brewer to Brantford, Ontario, Canada

Newcombe from Bulkworthy to Wellington, New Zealand and Toronto, Canada

Northey from Beaworthy to Nebraska, USA

Pennington from Clovelly and Bucks Mills to Goderich, Canada

Prouse from Buckland Brewer to Mariposa, Canada

Quance from Buckland Brewer and Bulkworthy to London, Ontario, Canada

Risdon from Petrockstow to Elgin, Canada

Rouse from Great Torrington to Philadelphia, USA

Rowe from Buckland Brewer to Prince Edward Island and Brantford, Ontario, Canada

Saunders from Buckland Brewer to Dunedin, New Zealand

Sillifant from Colebrooke to Fremantle, Australia

Sillifant from Holsworthy to Stratford, Downie Township, Perth County, Ontario, Canada

Stoneman from Frithelstock and Littleham to Bradford, Pennsylvania, USA

Sweet from Beaford to Stephen and Exeter, Ontario, Canada

Tanton from St Giles in the Wood to Prince Edward Island and London, Ontario, Canada

White from Woolfardisworthy to Port Hope, Canada

White from Beaworthy to Nebraska, USA

Williams from Great Torrington to Clinton, Ontario, Canada

For additional emigrants from Buckland Brewer see here.

‘Man is a history-making creature who can neither repeat his past nor leave it behind’ W. H. Auden


43 comments on “Faith, Fish, Farm or Family? North Devon Emigrants

  1. Glenn Elliott says:

    As an Devon Elliott, I am back on this site often. Great source. Thank you.

  2. Susan says:

    Good Afternoon, Hope you are well & safe during this vey challenging time. I have a lot more information of the “Tanton” family & subsequent emigrations to Prince Edward island- having been visited in Devon by relatives from both Canada & Michigan, USA.: They all came from the line of Tanton in Devon & although some are now deceased, have kept in touch. My late husband was William “Bill” Tanton, who as many may know was a farmer, councillor, race horse trainer & local weather forcaster – we both lived at St.Giles in the Wood for over 25 years on our smallholding. We welcomed Dr. John & Mary Lou Tanton several times. Unfortunately Dr.John Tanton died on the 6th February 2012, but I have still kept in touch with the family – their girls, Laura & Jane & supported Mary Lou who now lives with Laura. Mary Lou herself a Conservationist & bee keeper gave up their farm in Michigan after Dr.John Harrison Tanton died & I still support the “flying pop up eye clinics” in India & Africa that they all ran during the summer months.

  3. Sharon Ballantyne says:

    I recently made contact with a man in Tavistock, Devon, who very kindly sent me a link to your very interesting website. I was noticed that the surname Cole is included in the list of emmigrants you are researching. Cole is my maiden name. My Great-great Grandfather, Thomas Cole (7 July 1818-19 January 1905) left Devon in 1845, sailed from Plymouth to Canada, and settled north of Cobourg in Northumberland County. Do you know if he has any connection to the Coles you are researching? My brother and I have been searching for some time trying to find out where he was born, but have had no luck. We do have additional details about him: he married Mary Ann Doidge in March 1845, and we have all the details regarding their children etc. but do not know precisely where in Devon he was born, nor do we know the names of his parents. From the time he arrived in Canada, he identified himself as a Bible Christian, and at one time was an itinerant preacher in the local circuit (Plainville, Ontario).

  4. Mary Ann Carothers says:

    Hi Janet – I see that you have Stonemans from Frithelstock and Littleham to Bradford, Pennsylvania, USA. I have Stoneman ancestors (John and Anne Newcomb) from Langtree – all of whose children were baptized in the Bible Christian church – who emigrated to Orange, OH, USA in 1837, and two other families (whose farms bordered on the Stoneman farm in Langtree) followed them to Orange within a year or two. The Stonemans kept the faith and donated a corner of their farm for a Bible Christian church. The other two families were Elias Whitlock, wife who was a Stoneman and their children and Willam Hutchings and his wife, also a Stoneman. I will have to search for information regarding the Stonemans of Frithelstock who landed in Pennsylvania. Thank you for

  5. Martin says:

    Martin from Bulkworthy to Caledon, Cardwell, Peel County, Ontario
    Wondering if this is my family.

    • John Martin born c. 1819 in Buckland Brewer and his wife Mary née Ley + 4 children emigrated in 1857. I don’t have very much on them but if they look familiar I am happy to let you have what I know.

      • Beverly says:

        Oaky this is another try. Not sure if you got the other two or not. So sorry.
        Yes I would love what you have on the Martins. I would love to prove that this is my family.

      • Hi No nothing else has come through. I will email you the little that I have.

      • Mark Richards says:

        Hi Janet, I am gradually tracing the history of the Richards families who were based around Petrockstowe, Burrington, and High Bickington in the 1840s. One branch has appeared in Illinois, whilst another is in Australia dating from migration of the period you are studying. Others disappear from Uk records in 1860s having reached adulthood so may well have also migrated, having stayed in the area for 2 centuries ( the majority continued to do so). The families appear to have moved to the area just after the Civil War in the 17th century and spread through most of the villages in a 10 mile radius from Burrington. I’d be pleased to hear from anyone interested in them, or with any information. I note there were Richards in Buckland Brewer too but I have not connected them to this line. I will share more on the migrants as I find it. My direct ancestor for your period is William Richards born 1819 in Petrockstowe, and traces back to Abraham Richards born in Asreigney in 1693. The Illinois branch are Tanton Richards’ so May well connect to your Tanton family following a marriage to Mary Tanton. A number migrated together I think.. A number of the Richards family were Village policemen in the period of your research in the area. So although the family is not part of your core research there may well be shared relevance. Happy to share more if useful.
        Congratulations on the PHD and the research – it’s a very interesting topic.

      • Thanks Mark. I will pass this on to Devon Family History Society to see if anyone has common interests

  6. Sally Webber says:

    Hello Janet.

    I am descended from the Courtice family and am compiling our family tree. I have found Courtices leaving north Devon for Darlington Township, Durham County, Ontario, Canada. They were all Bible Christians. My grandmother was a Courtice, descended from Christopher Courtice (1797-1875) who emigrated with his wife Grace Mason (1801-1872) and children in 1833. They were preceded by Christopher’s brother Thomas by a couple of years, and other siblings followed after them. Their parents stayed in Devonshire: John Courtice (1771-1844) and Mary Phillips (1769-1853). She was from Weare Giffard. I have traced the Courtice line back from them to John Courtice (1685-1735) and his wife Honor Hooper (1688-?). The trail goes cold there. Any further information you might have would be most welcome.

    The village in which they settled here in Canada was called “Courtice” after this family. ( I have family photos and other resources if you are interested in supplementing your work.

    Sally Webber

  7. Julia Mackinder says:


    I see you have the Risdon family from Petrockstow on your list of emigrants you are researching. I have been researching my ancestor, Robert Lee, who left Petrockstow for Australia with his wife Charlotte (nee Cross) and two young children in 1847. In the 1841 census, Robert Lee is recorded as an agricultural labourer, living with Joseph Risdon and his family at Sincocks in Petrockstow. Is this the Risdon family you have been looking at? Do you have any information on why they might have emigrated? Were they linked to the Bible Christian movement? I am trying to find any clues as to why the Lee family might have left for Australia.

  8. Judy Copp says:

    Hi I Have Jewells in my tree who were from Clovelly. They emigrated to USA about 1883/4 and ended up in Galveston where all the family perished in the Great Storm of September 8th 1900.

  9. Anna P. says:

    Which ASHTONS from Beaford who went to Australia have you researched please?
    I have William Harwood Ashton,(1946-1933) son of Fanny nee Pope, blacksmith’s daughter of Brushford and William Ashton(1817-1861) of Beaford, leaving England in 1873.Before that William Junior worked as a butcher with his two younger siblings and mother,shopkeeper, in Plymouth.Fanny had been widowed in 1861. I think this branch of Ashtons had a grocery business in Beaford and that another brother John stayed on there running a tailor’s business.
    After William Junior emigrated to Oz the others ’emigrated’ to East London and Essex continuing in the trade of Provision Merchants, except for his older brother Samuel Henry who between 1876 and 1880 went out to East London,South Africa.

    I also think ( though this is not about emigration from Devon ) it MAY be correct that the Ashtons’ paternal grandmother was Rebecca Dymont.In which case this connects the Ashton (and Pope) family with the Dymonts later of Abbotsham,the Dymonds of Littleham and of the Jennetts valley and Langtree?

    • Hello
      The ones I have looked at descend from William and Mary Ashton Nee Mitchell married 1810 in Beaford – specifically Joseph Henry Ashton who emigrated to Australia in the 1870s

      • Ann Halford says:

        James Ashton (1819-1874) married Elizabeth Gibson from the Isles of Scilly in 1848. He had been appointed to the Elham circuit in Kent, and that’s where they married. He had been received into full connexion at Holsworthy Conference in 1845, when he was appointed to St. Columb, in Cornwall. After a voyage of 100 days in the ‘Chancellor’ (White Star Line) they landed at Melbourne, and transhipped to Adelaide in February, 1858. He and Elizabeth were going to go to Prince Edward Island, but there was a desperate need for missionaries in South Australia. jPlease let me know if you want sources and/or more detail. James was my g-g-grandfather.

      • Thanks very much. I’ll get back to you if I need more details.

  10. Ross Dickson says:

    I might be able to provide some Canadian information on Walter Madge 1812-1901 and his wife Mary Webber who came to Canada from Meeth and farmed near Exeter, Ontario. Some of his ancestors are buried at Meeth.

  11. Linda Hall says:

    Hello Janet, I have Cole family members in my tree. My 4 x great grandfather was John Cole, shipwright/ship’s carpenter, born Huntshaw 1785 to William and Ann Cole, died Appledore 1863. He had a brother Thomas born Huntshaw 1783, died Great Torrington 1865, ag lab. I have deduced that they are the sons of William Cole born Buckland Brewer 1747 who married Ann Evans in Buckland Brewer in 1773. They had the following children, all born Buckland Brewer: Moses (1773-1863), William 1775, George 1778, John 1779, Ann 1781. They possibly also had Betty 1788 and Richard 1791, both baptised in Northam. I am assuming that these are all the same family, born to the same William and Ann Cole, because the dates all fit together, but I realise that I have no actual proof of this and that there may be other William and Ann Coles. My John Cole certainly lived in Appledore. He married Catherine Matthews (1783-1861) in Barnstaple in 1810 and they had 4 children, all baptised in Northam (but probably born in Appledore which didn’t get its own church until about 1840). Their children were James Matthews Cole 1811-1857, William 1813, Jane 1815 and Sarah Matthews Cole 1817-1895. Sarah married Thomas Glover (1816-1883), master mariner in Northam 8 April 1840. Their oldest child Herbert Ebenezer Glover (1840-1905), also a master mariner, was my GG grandfather.

    • Hi Linda – I haven’t added these Hutshaw/Northam children to William Cole and Ann Evans. As far as I am aware John baptised 1780 in Buckland Brewer survived to marry Kitty Stevens and live in my house so another John baptised in Huntshaw seems unlikely. Having said that, I haven’t found another likely marriage for the Huntshaw parents. Your John and Catherine’s banns were called in Northam because John was living there then. Ann Evans did have connections to Appledore. I am afraid I can’t confirm either way if your John belongs to William and Ann of Buckland Brewer – the existence of the other John makes it unlikely but not impossible and I certainly can’t find an alternative. Hopefully other Cole researchers will comments

      • Linda Hall says:

        You have summed up exactly my line of thought; no proof, but no viable alternative has yet surfaced, but what about the other John??? I have heard of families where two children had the same name even though both survived; one suggestion has been that the first was poorly and not expected to survive, so their name was given to the new arrival, though I don’t find it a terribly convincing argument. I shall continue to look for my John’s parents in Huntshaw, but suspect it will be a case of too many people with the same common names all living in the same general area. I wonder if any of them left a will that could help provide links?

      • Linda Hall says:

        William, son of William Cole and Ann Evans, born Buckland Brewer 1775, turns up in Myrtle Street, Appledore in 1851 aged 76, labourer, with daughter Ann, 24, born Northam. This is probably the same family as the one who turns up in 1841 at Diddywell, between Northam and Appledore – William 60, ag lab, Ann, 50, William 20 and Ann 14. But then in 1861 in Myrtle Street William Cole 90, labourer and wife Ann 77 are both listed as born Northam. These Coles are very difficult to sort out!

  12. Jim Oke says:

    Hello Janet;

    I recently came across your DFHS article and thus arrived at this site. My main geneaological interest is the history of the various OKE families who left North Devon for (mostly) Canada during the period 1830-1880. Known places they emmigrated from were Bradworthy and Welcombe in N Devon and Morwenstowe and Kilkhampton nearby in Cornwall. And yes, many, if not the large majority, were Bible Christians.

    I have a rough guide to the families I have been researching at . I would be glad to add more information by seperate e-mail if you wish – it is quite an lengthy story but an interesting one.

    Regards, Wm. J. (Jim) Oke, Winnipeg, canada

  13. Sandra says:

    This family is originally from Crediton, Devon..not sure if that is “North” Devon or elsewere.I do have lots of records of this family further back from my g grandmother.

  14. Sandra says:

    I see you have an interest in the surname MADGE which I am also researching in Ontario – my great grandmother Kate Madge b Swindon England d Toronto 1942 her father William – her brother Fred MADGE had 2 sons found in Ontario records.. William MADGE and Samuel Madge…any potentital connections?
    Sandra Dawson –

  15. The marriage for Mary Ann to Samuel Nancekivell should be 1832. My typing error.

  16. Hi Janet, Having read your article in the latest Devon Historian – followed this to your site as you have mentioned my own Prouse family from Buckland Brewer in the article. William and Elizabeth were my 3xgreat grandparents. They had 10 children 7 of whom I know went to settle in Ontario. Only their son John stayed in Buckland Brewer (my 2xgreat grandfather). In fact Elizabeth also went to Canada in the mid 1850’s when she would have been in her 60’s. She died 6 April 1875 in Mariposa and is Buried in Little Britain Cemetery aged 81.Two of the Prouse girls married Mary Ann to Samuel Nancekivell in Clovelly 1882 and Lavinia to William Cory (from Bradworthy) in Mariposa mid 1850’s.

    Would be more than happy to share the family details if you are interested. Am considering writing a follow up article on my Prouse family to send to the Devon Historian, to expand on the article you have written, are you happy with this as I do not want to tread on your toes!

    All the family details are on my web pages. You will need the password – email me separately if you would like this.

    • I would be very pleased to see an article giving more details on this family. Not treading on my toes at all. I may well get back to you for the further details. I hope to have more time for this research over the winter.

    • debbie spraker says:

      Hello, I am Debbie Spraker and thought you may be interested in the fact that I found the original marriage license of William Madge and Elizabeth Blight. Married July 8th, 1867. Married by William Frederick Glubb Registrar, William Dennis Bible Christian Minister. If you would like any further info you can email me at It is in perfect condition.

      • Sandra Dawson says:

        I thought my Wiliiam MADGE fa of Kate was married to Susan SIMPSON…have to check with another family researcher….

  17. Marilyn Smee says:

    Hello Janet
    I read your recent article in The Devon Family Historian, the Torquay U3A Shared learning group in conjuction with Torquay Museum is undertaking some research into a Torquay Timber Company called CROSSMANS who also took emigrants from Torquay to Quebec, and North America do you know anything about these emigrants. We do know that one of the ships was a relegious ship called the Margaret, another member of the group is undertaking this research, any help or advice would be much appreciated.
    Marilyn Smee Group leader U3A Shared learning

    • I have not come across this company before – most of my reasearch has concentrated on North Devon. What sort of date were these emigrations? Most of the records regarding emigrants are at usually at the destination – we weren’t too bothered who we were getting rid of!

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