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General Information
about the A'Bear Family History Website

How it all started

A'BEAR is such an unusual name that it attracts amateur historians like bees to a honey-pot. Over the years many A'BEARs and their descendants have been fascinated by the name and have been prompted to look it up in reference works on British surnames whenever the opportunity arose. However, it was not until 1979 that any serious attempt was made to trace the History of the A'BEAR Family.

It was in this year that the allure of such a rare name became too much, and my father, as a keen genealogist and family historian decided to find out a bit more about these A'BEARs. Although not our own ancestors we are closely related to the family. My great great great grandfather, William MAY of Woodley, had a sister, Jane Ann, who married John Burton A'BEAR in the 1850s. Their son, John Burton A'BEAR (Junior), later married William's daughter, Ada MAY, and together they had eleven children! So the A'BEARs are doubly our cousins.

First we had to re-establish contact with these people, whom by great Grandfather and his brothers and sisters had known so well. Auntie Kate (my great grandfather's sister) had given us a few of their names, but to go any further vie needed the help of the A'BEARs themselves. We knew the family had moved from the ancient family home of Wargrave out to Aldsworth in Gloucestershire (,my grandfather had visited them their as a child), so a search through the local telephone directory soon led to a visit by my parents to meet Sid A'BEAR and family in Bibury. A warm welcome and lots of stories about the A'BEARs in days gone by led my father on to a long course of research at the Berkshire Record Office and the Central Office of Civil Registration (St. Catherine's House as it then was). Later visits to John Burton George A'BEAR (the present head of the family) at their farm in Seend enabled my father to examine both the ancient painting of the family coat of arms passed down from generation to generation, and the wealth of old family documents in John's possession dating back to 1632.

With all this help it was only about two years before my father had put together an extensive family tree, tracing the A'BEARs back through ten generations of Johns to John A'BEAR of Hill Farm, Harehatch who died in 1685. (He should have been born around 1620/30.) Six of these generations had used the name John Burton A'BEAR, and the mystery which took the longest to solve was as to the origins of this middle name. Eventually it was discovered that John A'BEAR (1698-1771)'s wife Alice was born a BURTON, her parentage being hidden by her first marriage to Edmund WHITFIELD.

Work was then started on tracing every A'BEAR alive today with the aim of linking them all together on one family tree. There were only thirty-three A'BEARs in the telephone directories, and with the help of many of them it was soon established that there are only seven branches of the A'BEAR family around today. All but one of these have been found to definitely descend from the main Wargrave Family. Mostly they can trace descent from Joshua A'BEAR, half-brother of John A'BEAR who married Alice BURTON.

In 1982, my father was contacted by Stephen LEACH, grandson of Winnie (A'BEAR) LEACH sister to the already mentioned Sid A'BEAR. Taking time off from university, Stephen wished to find out more about the origin of the name A'BEAR and particularly the family legend that an ancestor once saved the life of the Black Prince at the Battle of Crcy (1346). Stephen's research led to the realisation that the A'BEARs are descended from one Sir Richard DE LA BERE who indeed fought at Crcy and bore the coat of arms used by the A'BEARs today. In 1985 he published the fruits of his endeavours in a small booklet, 'The A'BEAR Family of Wargrave'.

E.B. POPE wrote in his 'History of Wargrave' in 1929 that the A'BEARs 'have no recorded pedigree, and they are far too numerous to correctly trace from parish registers, as there seem often to have been seven or eight Johns alive at the same time.' In 1988 I set out to prove that he was wrong. My father had already traced their lineage back to c.1620, and I felt sure it should be possible to go further, especially with the help of the 16th and 17th century wills available in the Berkshire Record Office. My father had been unable to fit together the people mentioned in these wills, and Stephen had given up on them as 'too illegible to be transcribed in full'. However, after a little work, I did transcribe them, and together with the Wargrave parish registers (from which we have always had a list of A'BEARs recorded therein despite Stephen's reference to the contrary) it has been possible to construct the family tree back to c.1480! And there were only ever five John A'BEARs alive at the same time.

Today the mantle of genealogical research has passed to John Burton George's A'BEAR's nephew, Mark, and a very distant cousin, David A'BEAR of the Isle of Wight, whose father had helped my own father make the family connection with the Middlesex A'BEARs all those years ago. My own interests have moved more into researching the DE LA BERE family, from whom I also seem to be very distantly descended.

Contact Me

If you have A'Bear ancestors and think that we may be related, please e-mail me on dford@britannia.com

Acknowledgments

This site has only been made possibly through the researches of my father, Michael Ford, who has been investigating our family's origins for the past forty years.

Related Sites

The A'Bears on mayfamilyhistory.co.uk have three sister-sites which you may also find of interest:

May Family History
Berkshire History
Early British Kingdoms

I am also History Editor of Britannia.com.

David Nash Ford


 

    David Nash Ford 2001. All Rights Reserved.