Family history website


The author

I was born in 1964 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire in the south of England, the son of Peter and Alba and brother of Sara. I studied chemistry at the universities of Oxford and London and worked in marketing in the chemical industry for 10 years, in London and Bremen (north Germany). I then switched careers, with the aim of becoming a professional singer. After studying at the RNCM in Manchester, in 2002 I joined the opera chorus at the theatre in Lübeck, also north Germany. My professional life there consists of chorus and some solo singing in the theatre, and occasional concert work. My wife Iris also works in this theatre, as head of the men's costume department.

Mark McConnell


Mark McConnell in Doagh, Co. Antrim, July 2018

My interest in family history was kindled some years ago by reading the notes on the Pennycuick family by James A.C. Pennycuick and Stuart Sampson, and on the Smith family by John Bragg. This spread to all branches of my ancestors, until at some stage I felt the urge to set down some of my findings. A website seemed to be the obvious medium, with unlimited 'reach', direct links to sources, internal cross-links, zooming in on images and ease of updating. Also, not too many trees would need to be cut down.

So, enjoy! And if you have any comments or questions on the content, please feel free to contact me at the e-mail address below.

Mark McConnell

Contact address:

Website address:


These web pages were created over many years, using the BlueGriffon web design software. I learned the basics from Jon Ducketts book, HTML & CSS, and am also very grateful to Andreas Gerlach for tips on web design. The website is hosted by Manitu Webhosting.

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The pages finally went live in May 2023. There will of course be various corrections and updates over the coming months and years.


I've checked all the internal and external links quite carefully, but external websites are reorganised from time to time, and some links may stop working. Please let me know if you come across any dead ones.

Similarly, please let me know of any errors you spot: the information is spread across four different programmes, and mistakes do creep in.


I have used a somewhat arbitrary system of numbering for the generations, using Roman and Arabic numerals more or less interchangeably. The furthest back most families can be traced, often around the early 18th century, is Generation 1. (In some cases I've been able to trace further back than that, sometimes less far.) Generation VIII includes me and my sister and our first cousins.

The system runs into problems with the 'long families', e.g. the ten children of Francis Johnstone, where the eldest was almost 30 years older than the youngest. Where these children married into related families, you get 'cross-generational' marriages, and the family tree becomes quite complicated. For example, four of the Johnstone sisters from Generation 4 married men from Generation 3.


Most of my research has been done online: on-the-ground research into church registers and other sources throughout the UK and Ireland would be too time-consuming, especially from Germany. These days internet genealogy is quite easy, given the extraordinary wealth of information out there. As well as genealogy websites (I mainly use and, Wikipedia is a stalwart stand-by, and many old books have been beautifully digitised by Much of the information on Scotland is from the website, unbeatable for detail on distant generations - reading the handwriting on the 18th-century church registers comes with practice...

Piecing together the tree

A vital source of information, and the best way of checking how families fit together, is census data, in particular that for England and Wales from 1841 to 1921. One is transported back through the centuries by names, descriptions of occupations, numbers of servants, handwriting of census collectors and so on. Sadly, the 1921 census is the last that anyone will see for a long time: the 1931 data was destroyed by fire in 1942, and no census was taken in 1941 because of the war. So we wait until 2051 to see the 1951 data...

Unfortunately, from the mid-19th century onwards, normal online research into, say, birth registers becomes more difficult. After 1837, church registration of baptisms was largely replaced by civil registration of births. Marriage and death registrations were similarly standardised. One result is that much of the information previously available on birth registers is, post-1837, simply not there - unless you pay for it. Some modern birth registers include only the maiden name of the mother but not her first name, nor the names of the father.

It's also regrettable that the most recent census data available for England and Wales (1921) is not (yet) free of charge, even for (paying) users of Casual surfing of the census reports is thus not really an option.

One thing that makes fitting together the generations a whole lot easier was the practice in the 18th / 19th centuries (now less widespread) of giving children 'family' middle names, such as the maiden name of the mother or her ancestors. To pick a few examples at random: John Stannard MacAdam, Samuel Watton Smith and Clive Emsley Bracewell Lascelles Carr.

Field research

Easily the most valuable and enjoyable input has come from meeting and corresponding with far-flung cousins, and seeing the places were my ancestors lived. I am extremely grateful for all those various contacts (mentioned in detail on the introductory pages for each section) for the richness and life they helped bring to this project.


And lastly, an appeal: if anyone feels they can fill in some gaps in my knowledge, especially with pictures, please do get in touch. In particular, I'd be excited to hear anything about:

Welcome to this website, which sets out the histories of the various branches of my ancestors, namely the McConnells, Stannards, Pennycuicks and Johnstones. These are the families of my four grandparents, who are shown in the photograph below, together with my parents Peter and Alba, on whose wedding day this photo was taken.

McConnell Pennycuick Wedding
My grandparents and parents

L to R: William Samuel and Olive McConnell (née Stannard), Peter and Alba McConnell (née Pennycuick), Lucy (née Johnstone) and Joe Pennycuick

Taken at the Old Manor House, Maids Moreton, at the wedding of Peter and Alba, 4th October 1958

These six people constitute the two generations immediately before me and my sister Sara. Their ancestors, the four branches of the family, can be seen in the family tree below.

Grandparents family tree
Family tree showing my parents, grandparents, and their ancestors (generations III to VIII)


The four main sections of the website can be accessed by picture links (below).

Each section has an introductory page containing other picture links to pages on families, people, places and events. Maps and family trees of the various branches can be accessed from most pages. Detailed explanations of how to get around the website, including a Site Map, are given on the Website guide page.

The eight families

In spite of the division of this website into four, it is the particular character of the eight (or really, sixteen) families of my great-(great-)grandparents which has fascinated me over the years, for all sorts of reasons - geography, social position, occupation etc. The pictures below are of the 'head' of each family, i.e. the furthest back for which pictures could be found.

Samuel McConnell
Samuel McConnell
Thomas McConnell
Thomas McConnell
Agnes Gawn
Agnes Gawn
William John Meharry
William J. Meharry
Mary Ellen Parr
Mary Ellen Parr

The McConnells, Gawns and Meharrys were originally farmers in what is now Northern Ireland. Many from these families emigrated to Australia and New Zealand, some staying put, others returning. They worked as farmers and stockbreeders, or entered the 'professions' (teaching, medicine etc.) in Belfast and, later, London. James McConnell, son of Samuel, a comparatively wealthy colonist, qualified as a doctor in Belfast, and later married Janie, the daughter of Belfast doctor (and farmer's son) William John Meharry. They gravitated to London. Others of Dr. Meharry's family also moved to England during the early 20th century.

Jane Annie Penketh
Jane Annie Penketh
William Lanagan Stannard
William Lanagan Stannard

The Stannards were a family of wealthy Irish landowners from County Kilkenny. The descendants of John Lanigan Stannard through the female line became part of the MacAdam family of Co. Clare (and later southern England). The male Stannard line also moved to England when William Lanagan Stannard was packed off to east Yorkshire to live with his Scottish aunt. He became an accountant in Liverpool, where he married Annie Penketh, whose forebears were tradesmen from Lancashire.

Brig. John Pennycuick
Brig. John Pennycuick
Sarah Farrell
Sarah Farrell
Stephen Chamier
Stephen Chamier
Dora Tyrrell
Dora Tyrrell

The roots of the Pennycuick family stretch back the furthest, to 17th-century Perthshire, and (probably indirectly) to 13th-century Midlothian. They were farmers and lairds (landowners), with an adventurous streak: many set sail for the colonies (as had many McConnells and Gawns), and my great-great-grandfather John joined the army, travelling to Asia, where he met his death in 1849. His children became embedded in British colonial society, in particular in India. His son John, an engineer, married into the Chamier family, part of the British-Indian civil service for generations. His wife Grace's mother, Dora Tyrrell, was, like Janie Meharry, a doctor's daughter from Northern Ireland. Like many from the colonies, John and his family 'returned' to England on retirement.

Henry Wilkinson
Henry Wilkinson
Francis Johnstone
Francis Johnstone
Thomas Hay
Thomas Hay
Jeanie Copley
Jeanie Copley
Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith

The Johnstone family centres around the genial figure of George Hope Johnstone (GHJ), a jeweller and an important civic and cultural presence in Birmingham. His father Francis, the 'dancing master of Dumfries', probably grew up in a similar setting to his near-contemporary, Brig. John Pennycuick - both were sons of Scottish lairds. GHJ married Emily Wilkinson, whose roots were in the Yorkshire textile industry, and their son Stanley married into the equally prosperous Smith family of Birmingham. Stanley's wife Jessie was the daughter of Jeanie Copley Carr, known as 'Granny Mick', whose paternal grandmother Jeanie Copley and maternal grandfather Thomas Hay are shown here.


Unlike some of the websites I have used as sources, this does not aim to be a comprehensive compendium of all family members going back as far as records allow. I have ended up concentrating on a 'sweet spot' from around the late 18th century to the mid-20th century, as that seemed to be where the information was richest. Further back than this, the task of piecing together the generations becomes increasingly uncertain, as online records begin to thin out. Often it is not until the mid-19th century that family trees can be 'fixed', using the ever more detailed census data in Britain (see side note). At the other end of the sweet spot, my website comes to an abrupt halt at recent generations: with a few exceptions (mainly my 'sources'), I have avoided descriptions and photos of living relatives, as one quickly reaches information overflow; also it seems intrusive.


As I've tried to show in the 'geographical' family tree below, using colours for the countries of birth, my ancestors came together from all four corners of Britain and Ireland (with the curious exception of Wales). Northern Irish blood comes from the McConnells, Meharrys and Tyrrells; the Stannards and Farrells are from southern Ireland; my Scottish roots are from the Pennycuicks, the Wilsons and Francis Johnstone. The Chamier family are essentially English (with French roots) but lived most of their lives in India. The others - Parr, Penketh, Southworth, Faraday, Wilkinson, Smith, Carr and Hay - are all from England. Of my 32 gt-gt-gt-grandparents, eight were Northern Irish, five Scottish, four Irish, and the rest (15) English. The geographical family tree is pleasingly symmetrical: both my mother and my father have Northern Irish, Scottish, Irish and English roots.

Geographical family tree
Family tree showing the country of birth of my ancestors

In the last quarter of the 19th century, for various different reasons, five of my great-grandparents moved from Ireland and the colonies to England. James McConnell (then a boy of 11) returned from New Zealand to Antrim in 1877, and subsequently settled in London. Janie Meharry (born in London) also came over from Ireland, and they married in 1898. William Lanagan Stannard, also a young boy, moved from Ireland to England in the late 1870s and married there in 1899. Also 'coming home' were Col. John Pennycuick and his wife Grace, on the steamer from India in January 1896, following the completion of the Mullaperiyar Dam the previous year.


My four grandparents were born within six years of each other; but as you go back through the generations, the age gap widens considerably, so for example my Pennycuick gt-gt-grandfather was born before most of the ancestors a generation before him, and 114 years before his grandson John. One reason for this is the 'long families' of many children, separated by 20 or 30 years, and one consequence is that in some families, the gt-gt-gt-grandparents seem somehow more 'present' in terms of pictures, details of their lives and so on, mainly because they lived more recently.


A glance at the religious affiliations of various ancestors also reveals various groupings. The first such, conspicuous by its absence as it were, is that none of my ancestors, as far as I know, was Catholic. Which is surprising given that Catholicism was by far the predominant faith in Ireland (south and north) in the mid-19th century (see Wikipedia - Religion in the Republic of Ireland).


Most of the McConnell and Gawn families of Co. Antrim belonged to the Presbyterian church, related to the Presbyterian church of Scotland, and the largest Protestant grouping in Northern Ireland. Two important centres of worship in the district where these families lived were the First and Second Donegore churches in Parkgate and Dunamuggy, both of which are thriving today.


Founded in the late 18th century by the Wesley brothers of Epworth, Lincs, this non-conformist evangelical movement spread throughout much of England and Wales in the 19th century. Many of the family of Thomas Hay (also from Lincolnshire) were Methodists, and James Byron Carr, who married Thomas's daughter Martha, was a Methodist minister. Across the family tree, the Southworth and Penketh families had their roots in Methodism, as did the family of Thomas Smith's wife Elisabeth Watton, along with her cousins the Sadlers and the Walkers.


Another non-conformist movement, now less well-known, was based on the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg of Stockholm. The New Church, as it was called, had a strong following among the intellectual, cultured classes of Birmingham in the 19th century. Many of the Johnstone family belonged to this church: Francis Johnstone moved from London to Birmingham to join it, and his wife Emma was the daughter of New Church minister William Faraday. People tended to marry within the church and bring their spouses into the family business, forming a strong family-church-business-social 'knot'. The Johnstone, Faraday, Bragg, Haseler, Rabone, Best and (to a lesser extent) Wilkinson families were linked together in this way.


The Chamiers are a Huguenot family, that is to say descended from French Protestants fleeing religious intolerance under Louis XIV and XV. The original émigré was one Daniel Chamier (1661-1698) who came to England in the 17th century.

Church of Ireland

Effectively the Irish wing of the Anglican church, this was the main Protestant movement in Ireland in the 19th century, but still only accounted for around 8% of the inhabitants (see above Wikipedia entry). Two of my clergyman ancestors belong here: the Rev. Henry Stannard (grandfather of William Lanagan) and the Rev. James Farrell (father of Sarah).

Little is known of the religious affiliations of my Scottish forebears, or the rest of the English ones. In most cases, it would seem, religious fervour dimmed as the 20th century unfolded.


Various 'core occupations' tend to run in families - medicine, jewellery, the armed forces, the Indian civil service, farming and so on: these are highlighted in the introductory page for each section. In addition, certain niche occupations crop up here and there across the family tree.

Army surgeons

Heads of girls' schools

Campaigning feminist journalists