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Anne Brooks' Ancestry



"Three and half weeks later, Mercedes has unearthed another fossil. It was beached beneath a quarter-inch of dust on a forgotten page of a crumbling registry. Another name. Perfectly preserved in its desert grave, waiting to be exhumed and grafted onto Mercedes’ family tree; granted eternal still life in a meaningful context.”
Fall on Your Knees, pg. 213
Ann Marie MacDonald

  St. Pancras Church, Widecombe in the Moor 2006 (1)

Being relatively new to the hobby of family history and genealogical research, I have often thought about how lucky we are to have at our avail, software programs that can support entries of names, dates and data far in excess of what was possible when done on paper. We have access through the internet to a maze of people who are also searching some fragment of our line, and we are able to share with each other, download gedcoms, and pour it all into our own databases. On the other hand, is that the goal? Is it just a number game? How human are these numbers; how well do we really know them? Wouldn’t it better to know more about fewer of them, than almost nothing of many? Granted in many situations, the information does not exist. Nevertheless, I continue to ask myself if I spent as much time searching for greater details of their lives, as I do in collecting names and dates, would I not make some gains?

John NOSWORTHY and his wife, Mary CAUNTER have a story to tell. For some time they existed in my database as mere names and dates, with no emotion attached. Through the luxury of the internet, I met a descendant of this line, Mike NORSWORTHY, who was able to provide me with the emotion. His father owned a document, passed down to him, which was the framework of the lives of this family. It provided me with many clues for further research, but most importantly, it allowed me to lift them from paper and recognize them as strong, loving people who had goals and dreams just as we do.

  St. Pancras Church ca. 1840 (2)

John was baptized on June 19th in 1808 in Buckfastleigh, Devon; he was the son of John NOSWORTHY and Ann BRINNING whose ancestors had strong roots in Widecombe in the Moor. Mary was baptized on November 9th in 1809 in Widecombe in the Moor, the daughter of George CAUNTER and Alice CLEAVE. John and Mary married on April 7th 1831 and raised a family, living at one time in a cottage named "Stouts" which exists today. At some point in time their surnames evolved into NORSWORTHY and COUNTER after coming to Canada. They immigrated in July of 1852 exactly 100 years before my own family did the same, a fact that intrigued me greatly. Immigration is rarely taken lightly especially by those making that decision, but also by those left behind. For those who leave, it is like turning the page while reading a book only to find the author has changed every facet of the story, from landscape, to characters and plot. Nothing is ever the same as it was. For those left behind, a chapter is missing, and because of it, the last page leaves the reader with unanswerable questions and the book is shelved with unrest. Those left behind suffer a sense of loss which diminishes in time, but which cannot be fully resolved, as only forgetting would accomplish that, and forgetting loved ones is worse than remembering.

John and Mary did not come alone. They had 13 children to bring across the Atlantic and one can hardly imagine how difficult that must have been in those times. Fortunately, they were not the first to leave. No doubt they were torn between those they left and those who were waiting. Mary CAUNTER’s brothers, Charles and Richard, had already settled in Ontario. Even Mary’s parents, both in their late 60s, had immigrated. Why do so at that time of their lives? To maintain family ties? In reality, they made the journey to search for their lost son, James. He had written to his brother that he had injured himself with his own gun and they had heard nothing more from him. To cross the ocean to search for a lost son in the Canadian wilderness, no matter the risk, no matter the futility, no matter the century - is what loving parents do.

  Stouts Cottage 2006 (1)

John’s sister, Mary Ann who married William COOMBE, left Torquay, Devon in 1851 and immigrated to Ohio, eventually settling in Illinois. While we can assume John and Mary Ann never did meet again, we know that a meeting took place between some of the cousins many years later. A meeting that demonstrated their need for family unity and provided a document that gave us insight into their lives, and which was, in effect, a plea to be remembered... nothing could be more human.

In recognition of their courage and hope for a better life, I have compiled a document:

The Story of John NORSWORTHY and Mary CAUNTER
From Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon to Thamesford, Ontario

It is a 42 page narrative and includes pertinent photos and scanned vital records, detailing the lives of John and Mary NORSWORTHY and their family. Also included is a fully sourced descendant report. It is available on a CD in pdf format which is also suitable for printing. You may view the introductory page here. Please contact me here for further information.


1. Courtesy of Mike Norsworthy.
2. Devon Libraries Local Studies: Etched on Devon's Memory.