Friday, August 3, 2012

The Farrer/Farrar Mystery

This mystery is the one that got me interested in genealogy in the first place.
My 3x Great grandmother ( her will was the one in the layout I posted a couple of days ago) was Ellen Farrer . From what Ive researched her father was one Benjamin Farrer – Clock and Watchmaker from Pontefract Yorkshire.
Multiple members of my family have been told the story of how Ellen ( and thus we her decscendants)  were related to Frederick Willam Farrer,who was the Arch Bishop and Dean  of Canterbury , and then also to his grandson WW2  British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery .

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Interestingly it wasn’t one of the Farrer family who told me of this connection. It was my great Grandfather Phillip Goodwin who was so proud of the connection through his wife , who was the granddaughter of the Ellen Farrer mentioned above.
I recall a family tree he drew in my childhood ( sadly this has long been lost) which tracked the path from Frederick Farrar to me. ( I did wonder how it was we had fallen quite so far down the Ecclesiastical Tree!) but I dont remember much from that family tree at all and I have no idea where the information came from. I have a vague recollection  he copied it from a family bible at some point.

Well now I’ve got involved in genealogy myself, one of my first missions was to find that connection between Ellen Farrer and Frederick William Farrar.
Sadly I haven’t found one iota of evidence to prove it.
It appears the Farrer family that Ellen is descended from had resided for generations in Pontefract and many of them were Watchmakers .
Benjamin, 1788- 1877 married Ellen Thompson ( which is likely why at least 3 of Ellen Farrer’s children carry the Thompson name as a middle name)
The 1841 and 1851 censuses have Benjamin listed as a Clock maker at the Beast Fair .
His father was John Farrer ( christened 1745), various horology interest websites list John as a Clock maker as well .
I haven’t managed to go back any further than John at this point.

The family tree of Frederick William Farrar is quite well established. On researching it one name popped out at me – that of his father Charles Pinhorn Farrar. I remember this name from the family tree my great grandfather had written for me. How, if there is no truth to the connection between the 2 families did my Great Grandfather know, back in the 1960s ,( well before the internet)  the details of Frederick Farrar’s family? – I recall he also had listed Maud Farrar, the daugther of Frederick William. I wish I could remember more…
As yet I can find absolutely no connection between the two families. – One thing is clear – more research is required if I’m to ever solve this mystery.


  1. If you have a male family member of the surname Farrer you might try to get him to join the Farrar DNA project at
    I am administrator of that project and although most of us are Americans. There are four Brits in the project one of them also named Farrer. We all share a common ancestor, albeit I know not how long ago.

    I might also mention it seems to be an obsession in those with the Farrar Farrer surname in their ancestry to spuriously link themselves to some notable personage.

    We do not stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, thus glory to them does not pass on to us, any more than the ignoble and dastardly acts of our ancestors are passed on to us.

    We don't live vicarously, we live and die on our own merits, demerits and behaviors.

    William Farrar
    FarrarDNA project Admin
    farrardna at yahoo dot com

  2. I wish I knew one David but our Farrer connection was my great great great grandmother who married a Middlebrook, so no Farrer surnames amongst us.

  3. I just posted some info, but do not see it on your site.

    William Farrar

  4. I must have messed up with my previous post
    but here goes.

    When I noticed the mention of Clockmakers I recalled that at least one line of the Farrars, son and grandson of Jacob Farrar who married Sarah Holdsworth, were Clockmakers, these were Jonathan Farrar of Sinderhills, Yorkshire and his son also named Jonathan

    Also it appears that the Farrars ancestral home is in Yorkshire, and I've found variations of the name (and it's coat of arms) in Durham County and Westmoreland County, which border Yorkshire.

    However the Farrar family itself seemed to not have wandered far from it's source (Calderdale or Calder valley), Pontrefact, Midgley, Mytholmroyd, Luddenden, Sowerby, Northowram, Southowram, Heptonstall, are all townships in West Yorkshire and all of them associated with Farrar families.

    The first of the name that I found, was a fferror&uxor, (Ferror and wife) listed in Elland, Halifax Parish, West Yorkshire in the Subsidy Rolls of 1391 (Poll Tax of 1379), Elland is walking distance from Ewood Hall, built by Henry Ferror (Farrar/Farrer) in 1471.

    Clockmaking is a highly specialized and difficult trade, that your Farrars were clockmakers and the sons of Jacob and Sarah Farrar were clockmakers are circumstantial evidence that these families were closely related.

    1. Hmm I just posted myself and it's not showing up. We just changed some details on our tree after getting some new info and a will for John Farrer died 1817 but still can't find a connection between us and the Archbishop. I'm sure there is a distant one though. One relative was passed down a book about a Bishop Ferrer who was martyred indicating we were descended from him. No proof of course.