The Carr family
The diverse forebears and descendants of a Methodist minister



0th generation

1st generation

2nd generation

3rd generation

Children of James B. Carr and Martha Hay


Other sources

  1. Various correspondence with John C. Bragg
  2. Carr family tree, compiled by Tom Johnstone (1913-1994), courtesy of John C. Bragg
  3. The Family: Facts and Fables, book by Lindy Selley (daughter of Jan Carr), privately printed, 2022
  4. Correspondence with Pat Heynes, archivist at Walcot Chapel, Bath
  5. 'Granny Mick and her grandchildren', notes by John C. Bragg
  6. Correspondence from John Simcox, Steve Green, Clare Matheson and others (2007)

Family trees

Smith family tree
Family trees of the Smith, Watton, Carr and Hay families


Other information

Marriage certificate Tom Smith Jeanie C Carr
Marriage certificate of Thomas Henry Smith and Jeanie Copley Carr, George Street Methodist Chapel, Grimsby, 31st October 1868. Presiding Minister was Rev. James Carr


'Gypsy Blood'

A legend has arisen that somewhere along the line, this branch of the family acquired some 'gypsy blood'. Namely that an ancestor had a dalliance with a gypsy girl, who bore him a child, and left the infant on his doorstep. The ancestor, realising that he was the father, brought the child up as his own. This tale supposedly explained why some relatives in the Carr family have darkish hair and features. (See the introductory page on the Johnstone / Smith families for note on use of the word 'gypsy'.)

There are essentially two versions of this tale: in one, set out here, the gypsy babe is male, and he and the father are distant ancestors in the Carr family. The story was handed down through the generations, and finally written down by Jan Carr, a granddaughter of Granny Mick. Jan's notes and the family tree she sketched were found stuck to the back of one of the portraits of Jeanie Carr (née Copley), the mother of James Byron Carr.iii

In the other version of the tale, the gypsy babe is female, and the father is from the Hay family, namely Thomas and his daughter Martha, the mother of Granny Mick. See the page on the Hay family for a possible scenario, and on Granny Mick and her family for how the gypsy blood legend was used to explain away any number of family eccentricities.iii,vi

Jan Carr's version goes like this:

Gypsy Blood 1
Gypsy Blood 2
Gypsy Blood Tree

Sometime in the early 18th century a certain yeoman farmer, surname Carr (a common Yorkshire name) lived in Yorkshire. At his village was an annual Fair, to which gypsies always came. One year, he disported with a gypsy girl; the following year, when the Fair was over and the gypsies had pulled out, Carr's housekeeper heard a wailing from the front porch, and there discovered an infant. This she took in to her master with a cry of 'Eh, maister, I'll send him down t' Foundling House.' Carr, having meanwhile looked the child over, replied, 'no you don't, I'll keep him' - for he had seen that round the baby's neck was one of his (Carr's) kerchiefs, and he realised that it was his own child by the gypsy girl. So he brought him up as his son and made him his heir - my idea of what happened is on the enclosed Tree. He was one of our forbears. This story was constantly told us, when we were children, by my paternal grandmother, Jeanie Copley Carr - married Tom Smith (Granny Mick to us children). Also Aunt Edith (Auntie Deedie) and Cousin Alison [Alison D.B. Wells, daughter of Frances Carr] told me this tale often.

Some points to note

See the page on the Hay family for the other version of the legend, which although it wasn't written down like Jan's, had its adherents, notably Mie Trentham, and has certain plausible aspects.

Nexus Chapel Bath


Nexus Methodist Chapel, Bath, in 2020

This family group hails from the area south of Leeds in Yorkshire, where the Carrs were probably farmer-landowners in the late 17th century. They can be traced back, with reasonable certainty, to Robert Carr and Rose Lascelles; but without corroborating evidence, the family tree does get shakier the further back you go: what's given here is essentially 'quite probable'.

Various of my relations have uncovered a mass of detail and stories on the Carrs, in particular John Bragg (who pieced together the chain of Methodist chapels shown below),i Tom Johnstone,ii Harriet Bridle and Lindy Selley,iii some on the trail of the fabled 'Gypsy Blood' (see below) which may or may not run in the family.

Horbury and Hunslet

The early generations of Carrs lived in the village of Horbury south of Leeds. (See the map of West Yorkshire for many of the locations given here.) Robert Carr and his wife Rose Lascelles (a family name later used many times by her descendants), both born in 1697, had nine children of which the fifth was David Carr, born in 1731. David moved to Leeds, where he married Ann Laun, who was baptised as an 'Arian Independent Christian' in the Call Lane chapel in Leeds. (Arianism, not in any way related to the racist ideology of Aryanism, is a non-trinitarian Christian movement, whose doctrine has some similarities with that of the Jehovah's Witnesses.) Robert and David Carr feature in the family 'gypsy blood' legend - see below left.

Jeanie Copley
Jeanie Copley, later Carr (1769-1844)

Portrait in possession of Pippa Green

Photo courtesy of Lindy Selley

David and Ann Carr had just one child who reached adulthood - unusual at a time when large families were the norm. (Ann died some time after the birth of her fourth child in 1764.) This child, James Carr, became an attorney in Leeds, as recorded on the marriage certificate of his son. James married Jeanie Copley, also an Arian, the daughter of William Copley, and they moved to Hunslet, where their 12 children were born. (Jan Carr later stated firmly that there were 13, all sons.iii) The family had sufficient status and funds to have two portraits painted of Jeanie. Unfortunately, Carr being quite a common name, it is hard to know what became of most these offspring, except for James Byron, who, like two others of my great-great-great-grandfathers, Henry Stannard and James Farrell, went into the church.

Rev. James Byron Carr

James Byron Carr was born to James Carr and Jeanie Copley in Hunslet near Leeds in 1810. (The middle name Byron is omitted from most birth/marriage/death/census records, but does appear in two newspaper marriage listings from 1838.) He was the last of 12 children, and as often the case with youngest sons, took holy orders. Sons of less well-off families tended to go into the dissenting churches,iii and at age 22, James became a Methodist minister. At that time ministers of this church were required to change post at least every five years, so between 1832 and 1876 he was stationed at 20 different churches throughout England (and France!), in fact staying roughly 2-3 years in each place.i His 15 children were scattered around the country accordingly.

Rolling stones gather no moss, and perhaps James was not anywhere for long enough to integrate into the community, or have his portrait painted. Information from the Walcot Chapel in Bath (photo above) reveals that in addition to normal work as a minister he was engaged in the missionary activities of the church; he also preached at the chapel two years before taking up his post there, and attended the opening of a new place of worship in Bath after he had left for Bristol.iv This is perhaps fairly typical of the life of a Methodist minister.

James met his wife Martha Hay while stationed at Louth in Lincolnshire (1837 to 1839). Martha was the daughter of Thomas Hay, a landowner in Holton-le-Clay and a prominent Methodist, who used his house for religious services and contributed greatly to the expansion of the movement in his locality. James and Martha were married in the Anglican parish church of St Peter in Holton, on 7th August 1838: various Methodist chapels were situated nearby, but they weren't yet licensed for weddings. See the page on the Hay family for details.

James's wife Martha died in 1864, probably in Hunslet near Leeds, where he was then stationed, and the following year (now at Cherry Street in Birmingham) James married Mary Ratcliff Heeley, daughter of silversmith Edmund Heeley, a prominent member of the Methodist community.i

Grimsby Methodist Chapel
Grimsby Methodist Chapel, George Street
(demolished 1957)

Photo: Lincolnshire Family History Society

During his stay in Birmingham, his daughter Jeanie (later known as Granny Mick) met Thomas Henry ('Tom') Smith (whose stationery business was also on Cherry Street), and James married the couple in 1868 in the Methodist chapel in George Street, Grimsby, where he was then working (see photo right and marriage certificate below left). See the pages on Granny Mick and her family and the Smith family for details.

James's last posting, at age 66, was to Cardiff, where his eldest son Henry had settled (see below), and where he officiated at the wedding of his daughter Frances in 1878. James died in Cardiff in 1880, and his widow Mary lived there for a while after his death.


The descendants of the Rev. James B. and Martha Carr were a large and diverse family, geographically and socially. Helpfully (but sometimes confusingly), the family names Lascelles, Copley and Hay (and later Emsley) were often used as middle names.

Anna Maria

Anna Maria Carr, the eldest child, is described in the census of 1861 as a drawing teacher, in 1871 and 1881 as an artist and from 1891 as a watercolour landscape artist - one of the several artistically gifted relatives from this part of the family. Sadly no examples of her work have yet come to light. She married Joseph Duckworth, a draper, but they had no children.

Henry Lascelles Carr


Henry Lascelles Carr (1841-1902)

Henry Lascelles

James's third child and eldest son, Henry Lascelles Carr, born in Knottingley in 1841, became a newspaper proprietor.1,2 He entered theological college in Richmond, Surrey, bound for the Methodist church, then changed course for the Anglican church, attending St Aidan's in Birkenhead.i Finally, having dipped his toe into the waters of journalism (he had written some articles for the Liverpool Daily Post), he left college before being ordained. Henry first worked on, then in 1877 bought the Cardiff-based Western Mail, then in 1891 he bought the London Sunday paper, the News of the World. Thus began the Carr dynasty at this newspaper which continued until 1969, bringing wealth and influence to the family (see below).

Henry was an important figure in Cardiff in the late 19th century: he was a town councillor and JP, and later owned the Royal Hotel. He married three times: his first wife Mary Ann was from Westmeath in Ireland; they had a son Loftus, and probably divorced in 1875. Then came Helen Sarah Jackson (probably a common-law marriage), who bore him three daughters including Jenny Lascelles Carr (see below), and who died in 1900.ii Henry's third and final épouse was a French lady, Isabelle Marguerite Suzanne Nicole, whom he married in 1902. Suzanne was a journalist and women's rights activist, who helped to establish the girl scout movement in France.4 This 23-year-old French girl was probably the sister of Henry's son-in-law Raoul P.M. Nicole, who had married his daughter Ettie four years previously. Henry died in 1902 in Hyères in the south of France, a few months after his marriage to Suzanne.

Thomas Hay Carr

Rev. James Carr's second son Thomas Hay Carr worked in the textile industry in the north of England - one census describes him as a manufacturer of woollen goods. He married Sarah Emsley and they had five children, one of whom, William Emsley Carr, became Editor of the News of the World. Thomas was seemingly unlucky in his business affairs, and was declared bankrupt in 1894. (His financial problems would have been solved if he'd lived some 80 years longer, as his grandson William died a millionaire!)

William Emsley Carr
Sir (William) Emsley Carr (1867-1941)

Photo: National Portrait Gallery (CC)

William Emsley Carr (1867-1941) worked for a time on the Western Mail, and in 1891 was installed by his uncle Henry (soon to become his father-in-law) as Editor of the News of the World, a job he retained until his death in 1941.5 Emsley (as he was known) became an influential member of the media establishment. Under his editorship, and propelled by managing director George Riddell, the paper increased sales from one million in 1900 to four million in 1940. He married his cousin Jenny Lascelles Carr (daughter of Henry Lascelles Carr) and they had eight children, various of whom worked on the paper: as well as William (see below), twins Walter C. Carr and Harry L. Carr (known as 'Horace'?) were both journalists, and Harry's son Clive Carr was a director of the newspaper at the time of its sale in 1969,i and later became Vice-President of Arsenal Football Club.6 Emsley Carr was knighted in 1918 for his charity work during the war.

William Emsley Carr
Sir William (Emsley) Carr (1912-1977) and Rupert Murdoch in 1969

Photo: Alamy Images, used by permission

Emsley Carr's youngest son, William (Emsley) Carr (1912-1977) took over the News of the World on his father's death, and became Chairman in 1952.7 It seems he ran the newspaper "like a family grocery store".8 By the late 1960s, an unambitious business plan compounded with the poor health of the man at the top (Carr was a heavy drinker) made the paper an obvious takeover target. Notorious publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell began circling his wagons in 1968, but his bid was violently opposed by the then Editor, Stafford Somerfield. Later that year Rupert Murdoch appeared on the horizon, and by a mixture of charm, guile and not being Robert Maxwell, persuaded the shareholders, in a highly-charged meeting at the Connaught on 2nd January 1969, to vote for his takeover bid. (It seems some of the 'shareholders' were 'lent' shares by Murdoch for the purpose of this vote.8) Murdoch took over as Chairman in June that year, marking the start of his media empire in Britain.


Jeanie (or Jenny) Copley Carr, who links the Carr family to the Smith family, was born in Eyre Street in Sheffield in 1844. As a young woman (in the 1861 census in Manchester) she worked as a music teacher. She met Thomas Henry Smith while her father was at the Cherry Street Methodist chapel in Birmingham: Tom, whose mother Elizabeth was also a Methodist, worked at his father's stationery and bookbinding business on the same street. They married in 1868 at the George Street Methodist chapel in Grimsby (see certificate, above left) and settled in Birmingham. Jeanie went on to become a matriarchal figure, affectionately called 'Granny Mick', apparently because one of her 17 grandchildren, Steven Green, couldn't pronounce the word 'Smith'. After she was widowed at age 52, two of her children went to live with her brother Alec (see below). See the page on Granny Mick and her family for further details and photos.v


George Alexander Carr, known as Alec, born in Huddersfield in 1851, became a wealthy timber merchant in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. After his brother-in-law Thomas Henry Smith died in 1896, Alec, who had not married, suggested that two of his widowed sister's children should come to live with him: they would get a handsome inheritance on condition that they changed their names to Carr. Thus Edith Piercy Smith became Edith Carr-Smith and Frank Clifford Smith became Frank Clifford Carr. They lived with Alec and his brother Robert (see below) in his grand house, Waltham Grove south of Grimsby, near Holton-le-Clay, the birthplace of Alec's mother Martha (see the map of Lincolnshire and the page on the Hay family). Edith ('Edie') effectively became Alec's housekeeper or 'chatelaine', and Frank was introduced into the world of business as Alec's heir apparent. After his death in 1900 they duly changed their names and returned with their inheritances to the rest of the Smith family in Birmingham.iii Edie didn't marry, but lived with her widowed mother; Frank went into the family bedstead business. See the pages on Granny Mick and her family and the Smith family for details.

Other children (selective list)

Frances Catherine Carr, Alec's slightly elder sister, married Thomas Wells, a recently widowed metalworker from Lincolnshire living in the south of Birmingham. They married in Cardiff and gravitated to Edgbaston, the stronghold of the Smith family, where Thomas worked in the bedstead manufacturing business. (Frances would have known Frank from the time he lived with her brother Alec in Waltham Grove, and it is possible that Frank and Thomas ended up in the same company.) The youngest of their three daughters was one Alison Dorothy Barnett Wells, probably the "Cousin Alison" referred to by Jan in the 'Gypsy Blood' tale (see left).

James William Hay Carr followed his father into the priesthood, starting as a curate in St Lawrence, Gem Street in Birmingham (census 1871), then becoming the vicar of the Anglo-Catholic church of All Saints on Linthorpe Road in Middlesborough (census of 1881), and subsequently in the parish of Holy Trinity and St Mary in Hull (census of 1891).

Robert Frederick Carr, who also did not marry, lived with his brother Alec at Waltham Grove, working as a commercial traveller, possibly in his brother's business. (The story goes that Alec and a brother, quite possibly Robert, had contracted syphilis on a youthful escapade, and felt honour-bound not to marry.iii) On his brother's death Robert put the house and contents up for sale by auction, and Frank and Edith had to move out promptly.