Gray Roots



Alice Maude’s Birth Family and their Forebears


 Words of Caution

In the interests of coherence some of the narrative below repeats part of the information in the previous section here.

It may be helpful when reading the following information about the Gray and Quartermain families to refer to the family trees below.

It may be even more sensible to ignore the following narrative and simply move to the observations which can be drawn from the detailed account below which can be found here.

There is also a summary list of all Alice Maude’s forebears whom I can identify at Gray Forebears, here.


The Grays

The Gray Forebears Family Tree


Much of the information in this section comes from here.

The first Gray who can be identified as an forebear of the McNamara family is a William Gray who may have been born about 1690 and who had a likely burial date of 24 August 1767, presumably in the Chalgrove area. The only information about his wife, Mary, is that she died in 1760.

William and Mary had at least one child, namely a second William Gray who was baptised on 31 July, 1717 at Charlgrove he was to become a yeoman farmer.There is a number of history of Chalgrove web sites, such as here.


Church of St Mary the Virgin, Chalgrove,


This William eventually married Ann King at St John the Baptist Church, Oxford on 1 August, 1743. Parish records state that Ann King was baptised on 21 August, 1680 at Charlgrove. She was the daughter of Matthew King and Margaret Smallbone who was from Steventon and who was probably born about 1690.


Steventon in 1955


Matthew and Margaret had married at New College, Oxford on 25 September, 1712. They had four children and the second was Anne who was baptised on 13 March, 1716. Matthew King was buried on 17 February, 1740 at Charlgrove and Margaret was buried on 29 April, 1742 at Steventon.  Matthew King was the youngest of the three children of a  Thomas King, baptised 1680 and Mary. There is no further information about Margaret’s parents.


New College, Oxford


To return to William Gray and Ann King, William and Ann had eight children, the fourth of whom was yet one further William who was baptised on 1 May 1750 at Chalgrove. He followed his father to become a yeoman farmer. He married Ann Newell at Chalgrove on 4 June, 1794. William and Ann were to have five children the youngest of whom was Thomas Gray who was baptised at Chalgrove on 4 November 1804 ( on the records there is a discrepancy between his baptismal date and birth date).


Adwell Parish Church


William’s wife, Ann, can be traced back on her father’s side to a John Newell who was probably born about 1705 and who was buried at Adwell on 5 May 1779. Ann Newell was probably related to the local landed gentry.There was a William Newell who was High Sheriff of Adwell and in 1700 he was living at Adwell Manor House, see here.


Aston Rowant 1895


John Newell  was probably a man of some means because he left a will. He married another Ann. They had twelve children, the fourth of whom was Joseph Newell  who was baptised at Aston Rowant on 22 November 1732. He went on to marry Dennis (obviously a female name at the time)  Hill at Thame in on 14 November 1765. Dennis Hill was the daughter of John Hill and Denis Hunt who were married at Thame on 25 October 1741. John was baptised at Thame on 16 February 1711 and was the son of a Will Hill. Dennis Hunt’s birth year is estimated as 1715 and there is no further information available about her. Returning to the Newells, Joseph was buried from Eafford at Adwell on 13 July 1778. After his death Dennis married Edward Peedwell at Charlgrove on 5 June 1779.



As noted above, Thomas Gray was the youngest of William Gray and Ann Newells’ children. He became a carpenter, wheelwright and labourer. On presumes that he did not become a yeoman farmer because his older siblings had inherited or taken over the family farm land. Thus he had to turn to skilled work closely associated with agriculture and the country-side. Thomas Gray married Mary Ann Coventry  at Chalgrove, on 29 November 1831. They were to have seven children, their  eldest son was Matthew Gray who was baptised at Great Haseley on 18 May 1834. This is the Gray who became the father of Alice Maude, the maternal grandmother of DFIH.


Great Haseley, early postcard


Thomas Gray’s wife was Mary Ann Coventry/Smith. Mary Ann was baptised at Chalgrove, most likely on the 18 May, 1808 (there is a slight query about this date because she is registered as Anna Maria Smith). She was born a few days before her parents married, not unusual at that time (Not unusual because in agricultural communities the husband wanted to know that his future wife was fertile and able to produce children before the marriage) and this would explain why she is recorded as having the family name of Coventry and maiden name of Smith. Thomas died at the age of 54 and was buried at Great Milton on 24 September, 1858.


Waterstock parish church


On the 1861 Census his widow, Mary Ann, is recorded as living at Waterstock with three of her children and in 1871 she was the infant school mistress at Waterstock. She was buried at Great Milton on 13 January, 1875 at the age of 67. Mary Ann was the eldest child of John Smith and Mary Coventry who has married at Charlgrove on 16 May, 1808. Mary had been baptised at Charlgrove on 10 February, 1788 and was buried there on 27 April 1851. The only further information about her husband, John, is that he was born in 1785. Mary’s parents were  John Coventry and Martha Putt who were married at Chiselhampton on 9 April 1780. For the history of Chiselhampton see here. Mary was their third child. John was baptised at Chinnor on 17 May 1752 and buried at Charlgrove on 6 June 1812. Martha was probably born in 1760 and died at Charlgrove in 1831. John Coventry was the son of Thomas Coventry and Elizabeth Foley.


The Quartermains

 The Quartermain Forebears Family Tree


There is not so much information about the Quartermains but what there is does  invite interesting speculation. Matthew Gray married Alice Maude Gray’s mother, Harriet Quartermain,  at Waterstock, Oxfordshire in 1855/7. Harriet was born at Great Milton in 1834. She died at 72 High Street, St Clements, Oxford in 1879.


Great Milton, old post card


Harriet’s parents were William Quartermain, a wheelwright, and Elizabeth Honey. She was the fifth of their seven children. William Quartermain was born at Little Milton in 1798 and died in 1875, place unknown. Elizabeth Hony (also written as honey) was born at Oxfordshire 1800 and died at Thame in 1863. The couple married at Sadhampton in 1821.


Little Milton 1914


Their lineage can be traced back further although the details are sparse. William Quartermain was the eldest surviving son of the six children of Richard Quartermain and Elizabeth Hood who had married at Little Milton in 1766. Richard Quartermain was born at Ifley, Oxford on 12 February 1764 and he died at Little Milton in 1809. He was the son of Thomas Quartermain and Ann. Elizabeth Honey was the daughter of James Hony and Elizabeth who married at Steventon, Berkshire.



The Quartermains and the Norman Conquest


One of the family claims for historical significance is the ‘Quartermain connection’, and being a French name it does add a bit of luster to the McNamara name. At least our mother thought so. Our maternal great grandmother, the mother of our grandmother, Alice Maud, was a Quartermain.

Quartermain is an old English name derived from the French, see here. The name was probably given as a descriptive nickname to a person who appeared to have ‘four hands’, perhaps someone who was in the habit of wearing heavy gloves or one who worked so fast or was so dextrous that he seemed to have four hands. The surname is originally Norman and may have arrived in England during the conquest in 1066. It first appears in England on written records in Oxfordshire in the late 1100s and early 1200s. This obviously leads to the speculation that our ancestral Quartermains were French and must, at some time in the past, have travelled to Oxfordshire from France and that our forebear provides a link to the Norman Conquest. There are numerous wb sites to consult about the Norman invasion, for instance here.


Normans conquering, The Battle of Hastings, Bayeux Tapestry


I have attempted to explore a possible connection and by luck rooting around in internet archives have discovered a possible link. Any firm information about ancestors before 1835 is usually difficult to find on the web but luckily there is some information about the Quartermains.

To recap with an emphasis on place names which are important. Alice Maude’s mother, was born at Great Milton. Her father, William Quartermain, was born in 1798 at Little Milton. William Quartermain’s father, Richard Quartermain, was born in 1764 at Great Milton. As can be seen from Alice Maud’s more detailed family tree all her forebears came from Great and Little Milton or other villages close by, including Steventon, Stadhampton, and Newnham Murren. And on Alice Maude’s father’s side, the Grays, were also connected with villages in the same area such as Charlgrove and Little Hasley. All these villages can be located on a map of the  area.


The Quartermain villages in Oxfordshire


The map clearly demonstrates that prior to the time when the Grays moved the few miles to Headington, Oxford, all Alice Maud’s forebears lived in a relatively small and clearly defined area some five to seven miles to the south east of Oxford. It seems reasonable to assume that they will have been established in this area for some considerable time given the lack of mobility prior to the 18th Century, especially in agricultural communities. The historical evidence which allows one to speculate that the Quartermains living in this area were descended from Norman Quartermains is provided in The Quartermain Connection see here.


Alice Maude Gray’s Family and the Move to Oxford


In order to keep this section reasonably coherent there is some overlap with here. For more information about the early years of the Grays in family in Oxford see here.

Alice Maude’s father, Matthew Gray, was born at Great Haseley, Oxfordshire in 1835. The first record for him is included on the 1851 Census. At that time he was living in the household of his parents, Thomas Gray, 46. and Mary Ann Gray (nee Coventry Smith), 43. He was aged 17 and the eldest of six children, his siblings were: Emma, 14, Thomas, 11, Ann, 8, Abinido, 5, and Joseph, 2. Matthew was described as a carpenter, the same occupation as his father. The family home was at Chalgrove, Oxfordshire. One assumes that his family had moved from Great Haseley sometime between 1835 and 1851.


Mattew Gray and family, 1861 Census entry


Matthew married Harriet Quartermain at Waterstock, near Thame, in 1857. The next information about Matthew’s life story is found on the 1861 Census. He must have moved from the Oxfordshire countryside to the city and he was living with his new family at Pembroke Street , Cowley, Oxford. He was 26 years old and listed as a carpenter , his wife was 27. They had a son, William, aged 2 and daughter, Harriett,nine months. Also living in the house was Temperance Gurden, 23, a dress maker. Indicating that the house must have been of a reasonable size.

During the next ten years Matthew’s career flourished and he must have developed a successful business. On the 1871 Census he was described as a builder employing 26 men and 8 boys. The family were living at 27 Pembroke Street, Cowley. At the time they had eight children: William, 12, Harriett, 11, Walter, 10, Joseph, 8, Charles, 6, George, 4, Albert, 2, and John, 1. All except the two youngest are at school.

Some time in the next ten years the family moved to 200c Cowley Street,  Cowley, Oxfor. There has been a lot of redevelopment along Cowley Road but it is evident from remaining Victorian properties that this was a large and substantial Victorian three storied terrace house built of brick and stone. Matthew’s wife had died in 1879 and he was still described as a builder but with no further details about his business on this census. The were two more children: Agnes aged 8 and the youngest, Alice aged 4. The three eldest sons were listed as carpenters and the eldest daughter, Harriett, was acting as housekeeper to her father.

Ten years later in 1891 Matthew, then a widower, was living with the household of his eldest son, William Gray, 36. The family lived at 113 Bullingdon Rd Cowley. Number 113 has been rebuilt but judging by the adjoining properties it was a brick built terrace house, probably with four bedrooms. Definitely a more modest property than the Cowley Road address. William was listed as a carpenter and joiner as was his father, Matthew. Matthew’s change of occupation causes one to wonder about what has happened to the substantial building business that had been developed over twenty years ago. It is clear that his son, William Gray, ran his own building firm, as can be seen from information about his life. Whether he took over his father’s business or started his own firm as suggested in one of the accounts is unclear. It is possible that Matthew had no intention of retiring completely and decided to take life more easily and return to his original trade.

It is highly likely that it was the family of Alice Maude’s elder brother, William, that provided her with the Oxford association throughout her life. Alice Maude and our mother, Muriel, do appear to have had a particular affinity with this family.

For instance note the names of some of William and Elizabeth’s children. They include: Alice, Harry, Frank, and Hugh. All names that continue as family names (obviously Frank comes from the McNamara side as well). Moreover, I distinctly remember another two of their children. One was Dorothy, ‘Aunty Dot’. When we were young we visited her a number of times; she lived in a small cottage in Headington and was an elderly, frail spinster crippled with some debilitating illness, probably arthritis. I also clearly remember ‘Uncle Tom’. He was severely crippled and a hunch-back. We visited him a number of times in Oxford and I do remember him being driven from Oxford to Hall Green Road by another member of the Gray family for a visit. Also there was talk of one female Gray who had suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. There were an Evelyn Gray and Elizabeth Gray whose birth dates would indicate that they could have been living in Singapore at the time. I think the name Evelyn did get mentioned from time to time.

Matthew died on 27 April 1899, aged 62, at 47 Randolph Street, Cowley.


William Matthew Gray’s family, Alice Muriel’s Oxford relations. Uncle Tom is far left and Aunty Dot is middle row far right


More general and personal comments about the Gray family and an attempt to provide an overviw in an historical context are provided here.