Ancestry of Margaret Legard Gunyon Church: Part One

Margaret Legard Gunyon Church: Ancestors and Family
Why did Margaret Come to America?
By Barbara Ann Bradley Petura

John Benjamin Church, son of Benjamin and Permelia Church, married Margaret Legard Gunyon, a young woman who came to Milwaukee from England. She was adopted by Robert and Fanny Gunyon, a childless couple of considerable means. John and Margaret wed on 10 Sep 1879 in Milwaukee, according to Wisconsin Marriages 1836-1930.

John and Maggie had six children: Frances A. Church [1880–1895], Robert Gunyon Church [1882–1944], Arthur Legard Church [1883–1942], John Walter Church [1887–1940], Harriet Margaret Church [1891–1896] and Edgar Benjamin Church [1894–?]. John’s eldest sister Ann Maria Church, called Hannah M., married Sherman Abernethy Bradley [see end note].

Who was Margaret ? Where was she from in England and why had she come to America? Finding her ancestors and the reason she emigrated took old letters from America found in 1999 in England; a wealth of historic records, newspapers and books online; communication with her distant cousins, and the help of a kind and knowledgeable genealogist who lives in Wakefield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England.

The Letters to Yorkshire
On 27 Nov 1895, John Church wrote to a William Legard of Yorkshire, England, mentioning his wife Maggie and their daughter Harriet. He referred to William as “Brother Will,” in other words his brother-in-law, according to Stephanie Legard of England who communicated with the author of this article. The letter was on Milwaukee Office of the Tax Commissioner notepaper; John was 9th Ward tax assessor late in his career. She also mentioned a letter from Edgar B. Church to William Legard, this time called “Uncle Will,” dated 31 Oct 1929; written from Los Angeles, it mentioned the crashes on the markets.

The letters were found in her grandmother Ellen Legard’s effects in 1999, Stephanie said. She noted that the family had no idea about the Church-Legard family connection and wondered if I could help. I provided a basic answer, based I what I had learned from several Church cousins and records such as census documents. Stephanie sent back a brief outline of her Legard genealogy and the fact that the Legards had been in the leather business in the West Riding of Yorkshire back then. I wondered if I could learn more about Margaret and her ancestors, starting with her parents.

Finding Margaret’s Ancestors – Fate Intervened
The Legards had a leather business in Wakefield and Barnsely in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Stephanie said, and William had a brother or cousin named Walter. A Legard family with these children and a father with this occupation did not turn up in UK census records, but I finally found William’s marriage record showing his father’s name was James. Using online books, I then found the family firm of James Legard & Sons, Curriers, but still no census, marriage or baptism records. A currier is a specialist in leather processing, working with already tanned hide using techniques of dressing, finishing and colouring to make it ready for use in making gloves, shoes, saddles and bridles.

Finally fate intervened. I was reading an article about a woman who was helped with her own family history by Allan Green, a genealogist who lives in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England. I immediately sent her an email asking if she could ask Allan if he knew who the parents of Walter, William and Margaret were. Back came the key to the mystery — the family surname had been Ledger or Ledgar until the 1870s when the spelling was changed to Legard!

He kindly sent the marriage date and place of 27 Jan 1840, St. Mary’s Church, Silkstone Parish, Barnsley, West Riding, Yorkshire, England, for James Ledger and Ann Craven, plus the census details for 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871. There were Walter, William and Margaret as well as further siblings Emma, Edwin and Mary Francis.

The three sons matched a statement in the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, that the will of James Legard, currier and leather merchant, who died 21 July 1877 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, was proved by Edwin Legard, William Legard and Walter Legard, “the Sons the Executors.” In the 19th century, Wakefield was wealthy market town and inland port, located by the River Calder. Barnsley, on the River Dearne, is south of Wakefield and north of Sheffield.

First part of an article completed in February 2015… to be continued. See Part Two and Part Three

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Published in: on June 5, 2016 at 5:16 pm  Comments (1)