The Jennings Family Tree - owner found!

Some of you may have followed the happenings of the Jennings Family Tree in the media or via this blog.

Early July, a family tree was handed into the Waiheke Library. It was beautifully drawn out on A2 draughtsman’s paper, and the Librarians on Waiheke sent it to me, so that we could trace the owner.

The tree dated back 500 years, and was annotated that the original research had been taken from the records of the Drapers’ Company of London from the 15th Century – earliest date marked on it was 1589, although it showed the Jennings line going back some four generations more than that.

It was also annotated that the tree had then been further updated by Mary Adelaide, Lady Jennings, in 1894 and published privately in "A Kentish Country House."

The tree had again been updated by an F. Keiller in 1969, and showed the Jennings branch of David and Maria Faint (nee TURNER) coming to New Zealand, and settling in Nelson with their 12 children (11 surviving).

Intriguingly, the tree stopped there. It was noted that this page, was page one of two.

The tree also had several photos stuck on to it.

Photos of Nathaniel COLLYER 1620-1700 (from a painting);
Hannah GIBBON 1626-1694 (from a painting);
an earlier Dr David JENNINGS 1692-1762 (from an engraving);
Mary Adelaide, Lady JENNINGS, no dates;

                     David JENNINGS 1806-1877
Maria Faint JENNINGS (née TURNER) 1821-1895

Armorial Bearings of Sir John Rogers JENNINGS 1820-1897

When it arrived to our Research Centre, it was rolled up in a tube, and a couple of the photos had come unstuck and fallen off. The chart was a bit tatty looking, and I was reluctant to handle it too much, so I sent it up to our preservation unit to be looked at. It spent a few weeks in temperature-controlled surroundings being flattened out; minor repairs were made, and the photos were re-attached. It was then mounted on some card to keep it flat, and put into a protective sleeve.

Photographs were taken of the chart as a whole, and also of sections of the chart. I was reluctant to be handling the original chart too much, as I wanted to ensure that it would not suffer from further damage.

We decided to publicise the find, to see if we could find the original owner. I gave a few newspaper and radio interviews.

We were inundated by phone calls and emails as a result. Some people making contact were genuine descendants of this particular branch of the JENNINGS family, some had copies of the chart themselves. Others had the surname JENNINGS and were just hoping to be connected.

Two JENNINGS descendants that made contact were able to provide considerable information about the family: Dr Peter JENNINGS and Owen JENNINGS. There was a family reunion in 1999, and Owen’s daughter Dianne updated this.

David JENNINGS had been banished to France with his wife Maria and two children (David Horatio and John Henry), by the family. They had another child in France (Mary Elizabeth), The family apparently decided that France wasn’t far enough away, so they were sent on to New Zealand, where another nine children were born (Rev Edward, George Clifford, Louisa Isabel, Rev Charles, Margaret, Nathaniel Lardner, Lancilla Ann, Amelia Adelaide, and an infant that died).

This family is well-documented as being early settlers in the Nelson region, and a lot can be found out about them. With so many children, there must be hundreds and hundreds of descendants.

Eventually, contact was made by Elisabeth GAMLEN, the daughter of Margaret (Margot) KEILLER. Margot is a JENNINGS and is the wife of the late F (Dick) Keiller who drew the chart up in 1969. She is the daughter of Laurence Arthur JENNINGS, who was the elder son of Reverend Charles William JENNINGS – David and Maria’s seventh child!

Margot is in her early 90s and lives in Southern Hawke’s Bay now, and I had a very pleasant phone conversation with her. The chart I have, is the original from which many copies were made. She hadn’t seen the chart since her husband had passed away, and its still something of a mystery of what happened to it in the intervening years. She has generously donated the chart to Auckland Libraries, and it will be deposited in the Sir George Grey Special Collections and form part of their manuscript collection.

We had initially been told that it had been found in an attic on Waiheke, but it transpires that it was actually found among some papers donated to the SPCA – and it was assumed that it was someone’s attic clear out.

Having found the descendant, Margot, who owns the chart; and now also the original person who handed the chart in, my job is done.

I would still love a copy of page 2, and also the books created:- the original "A Kentish Country House" would be fascinating, as well as the later book created by Frank KEILLER. It would be good to keep these items with the original tree that we will keep in our Special Collections . . . so if anyone has copies?

Sadly, I will not be able to respond to the hundreds of phone messages and emails that I have had – there just aren’t enough hours in the day! There is an update in the Aucklander newspaper that you might like to read, which will tell you more about Margot KEILLER and her impressive family tree!

Happy hunting!