Erroneous Smyth Pedigree from Burke's Irish Family Records
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Brad Verity
2014-03-23 20:44:32 UTC
There have been many posts recently about the accuracy of the College of Arms' Weston pedigree from 1632. I've just spent several hours researching a much more recent pedigree, that of Smyth in 'Burke's Irish Family Records' [BIFR] (1976) that contains a number of inaccuracies.

The first five generations, BIFR gives as follows (p. 1033), "Lineage--This family originally came from Stainton in Palatinate of Durham but moved to Yorks ca 1500, settling at Rossdale Abbey which was leased to them by Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland after the Dissolution of the Monasteries."

The above statement is not as crazy as it sounds. Yes, Ralph, 1st Earl of Westmorland (1364-1425) died over a hundred years prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which began in 1536. But this was clearly an error for Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmorland (1498-1549), whose alleged sister Cecily, wife of John Weston of Lichfield, has been the subject of much dispute, who was granted Rosedale [not Rossdale] Abbey, in Pickering Lythe, Yorkshire, by Henry VIII at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The statement that the Smyth family was originally from Stainton in co. Durham is also apparently an error, for Sir William Dugdale, in his 1665 Visitation pedigree of the Smith [not Smyth] family, has them seated at "Sneinton" in Pickering Lythe, which is the same wapentake as Rosedale Abbey.

The BIFR pedigree continues: "THOMAS SMYTH b 1520 m Jane Layton, of West Layton, and had with other issue,
"THOMAS SMYTH, b 1550, m Margaret, dau of Simon Lightfoot, of W Clayton, and had with other issue,
"JAMES SMYTH, m Helen, dau of Francis Sayers, of Worsall, Northallerton, and had issue, a 3rd son,
"WILLIAM SMYTH, came to Ireland from Rossdale Abbey ca 1630, settled first at Dundrum, co Down but later moved to Lisburn, co Antrim, m Ann (d ante 1630), dau of Sir Thomas Hewley, and aunt of Sir John Hewley, MP for Yorks, and d 1650, leaving issue [4 sons and 1 dau]."

There is an extensive pedigree of Layton of West Layton in the 'Visitation of Yorkshire in 1584/5 and 1612' (pp. 258-259), with the heralds having visited the family in both 1585 and in 1612. Though there are two marriages between the Layton and Lightfoot families ("Eliz. mar. to Hercules Lightfoot, and had issue Hy. and Thos."; "Roger Layton, of West Layton, co. York = Elizabeth, dau. and heir of Hercules Lightfoot, of Richmondshire"), there is no marriage of a Layton to a Smith/Smyth, nor any daughter named Jane Layton at all.

There was a marriage of a James Smith and a Helen Sayer. Dugdale's original 1665 Visitation pedigree of Smith of Sneinton is here:

There are four sons of James Smith and Helen Sayer: John (who was the informant to Dugdale in 1665), James, Ralph and Francis. No third son William Smith, as the 1976 BIFR Smyth pedigree alleges. Certainly if there had been a son William Smith who went to Ireland, his elder brother John would have said so in 1665.

John William Clay's 1899 pedigree of Smith of Sneinton is here:

Clay looked at the 1642 will of James Smith of Sneinton (d. 1643), and added two daughters, Mary and Ursula, that Dugdale did not have in the original 1665 pedigree, because they had been named by James in his will. But James clearly didn't mention any son named William in 1642, or Clay would've added him in as well.

Clay also found baptism records for seven of the ten children he gives to James Smith (d. 1643) and Helen Sayer, and these range from 1611 for eldest son John Smith to 1630 for the youngest daughter Catherine Smith. If there had been a third son William Smith, he would have to have been born after 1611. It is thus chronologically impossible for the William Smyth of the BIFR pedigree, who was said to have immigrated to Ireland about 1630, after the death of his wife who had borne him five children, to have been a son of James Smith of Sneinton (d. 1643) and Helen Sayer.

A very detailed website on the Sayer family has a pedigree of the Sayers of Worsall and Rudby. It has James Smith's wife Helen Sayer with a marriage date of 1607 (which does fit with the chronology of the baptisms of her children given by Clay), and as daughter of Francis Sayer of Yarm = Anne, with Francis Sayer of Yarm the son of Francis Sayer of Marrick Park = ..., and the Francis Sayer of Marrick in turn the son of William Sayer of Worsall (1503-1581) and Margaret Fairfax:

The marriage of William Sayer of Worsall to Margaret Fairfax is given much weight on the website, which says, "In 1520 at the age of seventeen, William Sayer of Worsall, sixth in descent from the first John Sayer, married Margaret, the daughter of Sir Thomas Fairfax of Walton. She was a granddaughter of Lady Margaret Percy and thus could claim descent not only from the Percys also from the Nevills and thereby, through Joan Beaufort, from John of Gaunt and the Plantagenet kings":

That is indeed true, but it is not true that Francis Sayer of Marrick Park (grandfather of Helen Sayer, wife of James Smith of Sneinton) was the son of Margaret Fairfax. The Sayer of Worsall pedigree from the 1612 Visitation (p. 572 in 'Visitation of Yorkshire in 1584/5 and 1612') only gives one child, son and heir John Sayer of Worsall (1521-1584) to William Sayer and his Fairfax wife. Luckily, Robert Surtees made a more detailed pedigree of Seton and Sayer of Worsall and Preston-on-Tees, in 1823:
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He has Francis Sayer, living 1559, a generation earlier, as the son of John Sayer of Worsall (c.1486-1530) and Margery Conyers. This is borne out by the 1559 will of Leonard Sayer of Broughton (another son of John Sayer of Worsall & Margery Conyers), which Surtees abstracts, "To be buried in St. Augustine's Church, at Kirkby. Sister Elizabeth Crathorne; nephew Thomas Crathorne; to nephew John Sayer, a young horse; to all other my brother's children and to every of them, xxl. My fermhold in Stokesley to my brother Francis Sayer; my other fermhold to my brother George Sayer to William Sayer, of Rudby a cowe; to niece Agnes Conyers; to Richard Sayer. Anne Sayer shall be ordered by my nephew John Sayer. Brothers Thomas and George execrs; John Sayer, of Worsall, Esq. and brother Francis, execrs":

This is also borne out by the Inventory for John Sayer of Worsall, taken on 12 January 1530/1, shortly after his death, in which is described "To Francis Saire beside his legacy iij kye & a black meare ... To litell John Saire Wm sone and hear ij mares & ij kye ... To Leonard Saier a yonge horse if he contented wth his barnes part ... To Joan dau. of Willm Sayer xxj l. vj s. viiij d.":

If Francis Sayer had been a son of William Sayer, rather than his younger brother, he would have been described as son of William in 1531, just as William's son John Sayer and daughter Joan Sayer were above. Instead, Francis Sayer is without description, just as Leonard Sayer is, and so they were younger brothers, not younger sons, of William Sayer of Worsall.

Though Helen Sayer doesn't bring an Edward III descent to the Smiths of Sneinton, she does bring an Edward I descent. Margery Conyers, wife of John Sayer of Worsall (c.1486-1531) and mother of Francis Sayer of Marrick Park (Helen's grandfather), is descended from Edward I.

However, as it turns out, William Smyth who settled in Lisburn, co Antrim, Ireland, and died in 1650, was not the son of Helen Sayer Smith, and so doesn't have this Edward I descent. The 1976 BIFR pedigree continues,
"The yst son [of William of Lisburn], CAPT RALPH SMYTH, of Ballymacash, co Antrim, High Sheriff 1680, m 1643, Alice, dau of Sir Richard Hawkesworth, of Hawkesworth Hall, Yorks, and d (will dated 15 Aug 1688, pr 1690), leaving issue."

Now, though Sir Richard Hawksworth of Hawksworth Hall (d. 1657) was not descended from Edward I, both of his wives - Anne Wentworth of North Emsall, the first wife, and the second wife Mary Goodrick of Ribstone - were descended from Edward III. So this would give the children of Alice Hawksworth and Ralph Smyth of Ballymacash an Edward III descent.

Except Sir Richard Hawksworth had no daughter named Alice, nor any daughter married to a Smyth. Here is the pedigree of Hawksworth from Dugdale's 1665 Visitation of Yorkshire:

Sir Richard only had two daughters: Katherine, married 1st Sir William Lister, 2nd Sir John Bright; and Jane, married Francis Baildon. No Alice, married to Ralph Smyth. The pedigree is confirmed by the 1652 will of Sir Richard Hawksworth, and the 1677 will of his son Walter Hawksworth, neither of whom mention an Alice Smyth, a Ralph Smyth, or any Smyth at all:

So, how can we explain the 1976 BIFR Smyth pedigree? Were these early generations completely made up? Probably not - there was some truth to the lineage statement about Rosedale Abbey being in the hands of Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, and there's probably some truth to the Sayer and Hawksworth marriages given by the pedigree, as well.

Dugdale's 1665 Smith of Sneinton pedigree states that James Smith (d. 1643), husband of Helen Sayer, had an elder brother William Smith who was a lawyer in the city of Durham, with issue. It may be that the William Smyth who settled in Lisburn, co Antrim, and died in 1650, was the son of this Durham lawyer, and so a nephew of James Smith and Helen Sayer. That would work, at least chronologically.

As for the Hawksworth marriage, this detailed website on the Smyth family surmises that Ralph Smyth married a niece, or cousin, of Sir Richard Hawksworth of Hawksworth Hall (d. 1657), not his daughter:

And a detailed Hawksworth pedigree from 1907 shows that Sir Richard Hawksworth had a younger brother, as well as four uncles, all of whom had issue, so that may well be the case:

The eldest son of Ralph Smyth of Ballymacash (d. 1690) and his Hawksworth wife was Rt Rev William Smyth, Bishop of Killala 1680-93 and Raphoe 1693-99, and Bishop of Kilmore in 1682. The bishop married Mary Povey, daughter of the Chief Justice of Ireland, and they are ancestors of the Trappes-Lomax spouse whose ancestry I'm currently researching, which is how I came across this BIFR Smyth pedigree in the first place. What isn't mentioned in that pedigree is that, in addition to Capt Ralph Smyth serving as High Sheriff of co Antrim in 1680, he was also a tanner.

From the Smyth website linked to above: "Ralph founded a tannery in Lisburn, which is only about eight miles from the centre of Belfast, lying on the main road from the south in County Antrim. The tannery was to flourish and prosper to such an extent that Ralph, as an old man, held the esteem and respect of the whole county, and, as an old family document states, "he succeeded so well as to leave a good estate." That a tanner should have been a man of such wealth and repute may seem curious in these days of synthetic materials, but three hundred years ago leather was a vital necessity of daily life. Without his skill and craft, a book could not be bound, a kitchen could not be fully equipped, a man could not be properly clad, a horse could not be saddled or reined; indeed an army could not even put into the field. Ralph as a young man showed energy and initiative in taking advantage of the opportunities to prove his skill in the new settlement at Lisburn."

A 17th-century tanner who served as High Sheriff for his county and had a son who became a bishop - certainly the occupation was no deterrent to high office, a good thing to keep in mind.

The 1976 BIFR Smyth pedigree is 7 pages, detailing hundreds of descendants of this Ralph Smyth of Ballymacash, over two dozen of which were indicated as still living that year. There are well over fifty member pedigrees in Ancestry.com alone (in addition to the countless ones online in general), which trace Ralph Smyth's descendants back to Sir Richard Hawksworth and his first wife Anne Wentworth, as well as James Smith and Helen Sayer. Though I haven't seen any that take the ancestry further back to Edward III, I thought I should make this post in case anyone researching this ancestry as I am, incorrectly does so.

Cheers, ----Brad
2014-03-24 00:27:40 UTC
Several volumes of VCH are also useful:

'Parishes: Northallerton', A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1 (1914), pp. 418-433. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=64779 Date accessed: 23 March 2014.

'Parishes: Stranton', A History of the County of Durham: Volume 3 (1928), pp. 365-376. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42641 Date accessed: 23 March 2014.

Are particularly useful for the Sayer/Seton ancestry.

Doug Smith
2014-03-26 00:27:31 UTC
Brad's comments on the BIFR pedigree of William Smyth the 1630 emigrant to Ireland certainly cast doubts on his supposed connection to the Smiths of Sneinton, Yorkshire. It's interesting however that, according to "Burke's General Armory", several of the families descended from William Smyth used the same arms which are ascribed to the family of Smith of Sneinton in Clay's edition of Dugdale's 1664-5 visitation of Yorkshire (cited earlier in this thread). There could be a number of reasons for this (including confusion by the heralds assigning the arms), but it's a point that should be considered.

Another possible origin for William Smyth can be gleaned from the information on his wife's family. Per BIFR he married Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Hewley and aunt of Sir John Hewley, MP. Sir John the MP has a bio in the 1660-1690 section of HOP, which references a pedigree of the family (under the name Hule) in volume 2 of Clay's edition of Dugdale's visitation. Here Anne is said to have married William Smith [sic] of Cawood, Yorkshire. A pedigree of Smith of Cawood is in vol. 1 of Joseph Hunter's "Familiae Minorum Gentium" (vol. 37 of the Harleian Society's visitation series). It starts with William Smith and Anne Hewley and traces the descendants of only one son, James Smith of Cawood. It makes no mention of any Irish connection for William Smith. But insofar as it goes, it's not in conflict with the BIFR pedigree, which states that William and Anne's oldest son James remained in Yorkshire and had issue there.

The English ancestry, flawed as it is, of William Smyth the Irish emigrant seems to have first appeared, at least in the Burke's world, only in 1976 in BIFR. This publication of course was the renamed 5th edition of "Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland" which had been published in four previous editions (1899, 1904, 1912, and 1958) following its spinoff from the main BLG. The 1899 and 1912 editions are available on-line (at Google Books and the Internet Archive respectively), and I have access to a library copy of the 1958 edititon. All three editions start off with William Smyth the emigrant - without any prior ancestry. However, all three editions combine William Smyth with his son William Smyth of Dundrum (who married Mary, daughter of John Dowdall of Glasspistol), and thus they assign William Smith of Dundrum as the father, not the brother, of Capt. Ralph Smyth of Ballymacash - the individual who is ancestral to a Trappes-Lomax wife and thus prompted Brad's interest in this family.

As a side note, William Smyth of Dundrum and his wife Mary Dowdall of Glasspistol are ancestral to Prince Charles, and they appear as J885 and J886 in Paget's work. As Leo's Genealogics database shows, Paget gives no parentage or ancestry for William Smyth of Dundrum.

Brad, I would be interested to see the descent from Capt. Ralph Smyth of Ballymacash to the Trappes-Lomax wife that you mention - perhaps off-line since it's definitely OT. I assume it's not to Alison Perkins, the Trappes-Lomax wife we've discussed off-line.

I also have one comment on the Sayer family, connected to the family of Smith of Sneinton, said by BIFR to be ancestral to William Smyth the Irish emigrant. I think it may be premature to say that the elder Francis Sayer was the brother, not the son, of William Sayer who married Margaret Fairfax. Brad's post cited this thorough discussion of the Sayer family (which incidentally was also published in a series of issues of vol. 2 of the "ECA Journal" {English Catholic Ancestor} in 1989):

Near the end of this website, in a section titled "Decline and Dispersal", the author discusses a transaction of 1552 involving John Sayer of Worsall and his brother [not uncle] Francis Sayer of Marrick. The author says that this Francis Sayer made his his will in 1585 (thus contemporaneous with his elder brother John who died in 1584). The line of this Francis Sayer is traced by the author to a granddaughter who married James Smith of Snainton [or Sneinton]. I don't think it's significant that the Sayer pedigree in Foster's edition of the 1584-85 and 1612 Yorkshire visitation, because that pedigree shows only the direct male-line ancestry of John Sayer, with no collaterals. And the occurrence of Francis as a brother of William in the Sayer pedigree in Surtees' Durham doesn't preclude the existence of a Francis in the next generation, presumably named for his uncle - and overlooked by Surtees. If the placement of Francis Sayer indicated by the website author is correct, supported by the 1552 transaction he discusses, Francis Sayer is a son of Margaret Fairfax and thus regains his Edward III descents.
2014-03-26 11:22:38 UTC
Post by Brad Verity
There have been many posts recently about the accuracy of the College
of Arms' Weston pedigree from 1632. I've just spent several hours
researching a much more recent pedigree, that of Smyth in 'Burke's
Irish Family Records' [BIFR] (1976) that contains a number of
Grand snip. Hope the following helps. (I have a mild interest in the
Smyths of Ballynatray.)

Pedigree of Smith of Sneinton, Co. Durham and Rushton, Co. Yorkshire, of
Ballymacash, Co. Antrim and of Ballingarry, Liamacrory and Milford all
in Co. Tipperary, c.1525 -- c.1842.
Format: Manuscript
Subjects: -
Smith, family of Ballymacash > County Antrim
Ballingarry > County Tipperary
Lismacrory > County Tipperary
Milford > County Tipperary
Ireland > Ulster > Antrim
Ireland > Munster > Tipperary

The Somerset-based 'Meade Smythe' branch of the family - that of Canon
Ronald Smythe (still living, 2002) and his sister, Pat Smythe, the
Olympic equestrian (d. 1996) - is descended via Ralph Smyth of
Ballymacash, Co. Antrim, (brother of William Smyth of Dundrum).

Ralph Smith of Ballingarry, county Tipperary, was descended from a
family of that name originally based in Durham in the north of England.
He settled in county Tipperary in the 17th century. His descendants
married members of the Jackson, Cornwall, Cooke and Drought families.
Ralph Smith of Lismacrory and Milford married Elizabeth Stoney of
Greyfort and died in 1814. [more info]

Sir Richard Smyth
Back in 1600, during the latter stages of the Nine Years War, Richard
Boyle had been appointed clerk of the council of Munster. It was in that
capacity that he visited Queen Elizabeth in December 1601 and gave her
the news of the English victory over the Irish at Kinsale. Amongst those
officers given special mention in his report was his brother-in-law
Captain Richard Smyth. Captain Smyth was married to Boyle’s sister Mary.
Burke’s Peerage describes Smyth as a Knight ‘of Ballynatray, co.
Waterford, and Rathcogan, co. Cork’ and that he ‘flourished in the reign
of Queen Elizabeth’. [25] It is not known where Captain Smyth’s forbears
came from. He may have belonged to the circle of minor Kent gentry from
which pool Boyle himself sprang. He may have been a kinsman of Thomas
Smyth, the man charged with organizing Queen Elizabeth’s Royal tours,
whose daughter Mary married Edward Brabazon, Baron of Ardee, one of the
Queen’s Privy Councilors in Ireland.

The Smyths of Ballynatray have the same coat of arms as the Smiths of
Sneinton and others.
2016-06-29 16:26:13 UTC
Very interesting. I was aware of the problems with the Hawksworth connection, but the other flaws you point out in the Smyth lineage are new to me. Thank you for your careful analysis.

My wife descends from the Smyths through James Smyth, the Archdeacon of Meath. We will have to review her notes on the Smyths and make some modifications.
2019-12-03 07:27:46 UTC
Post by JPD
Very interesting. I was aware of the problems with the Hawksworth connection, but the other flaws you point out in the Smyth lineage are new to me. Thank you for your careful analysis.
My wife descends from the Smyths through James Smyth, the Archdeacon of Meath. We will have to review her notes on the Smyths and make some modifications.
I have a portrait o of Arthur Smyth ESQ 1764 - 1830 and his Wife Abigail Hamilton 1770 - 1853 who descended from the Hawksworth's the portraits are in very good condition and have been handed down through the family
Rhonda Smythe