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William Triffitt ‘of ‘Whixley was born circa 1730.

Well, so says every reference you will find.

Just one little problem.

His name wasn’t Triffitt and he wasn’t from Whixley.

Apart from that, the history books have got it right.


I went looking for Willy.

But not just any old Willy. This guy is James Triffitt’s grandfather – he holds the keys to the door; the previous history of the family. For a hundred years the history of the Triffitts has stopped dead, right at his feet. The best of us couldn’t get past it, no matter how many records we trawled. Dead end.

Many an amateur historian has battered at Willy’s door but nobody has managed to trace his parents or the exact year and location of his birth. For years even my amazing sleuthing produced sweet bugger-all. To all intents and purposes he emerged fully formed in the Whixley area of North Yorkshire just in time to marry a local girl in 1755 – that’s all anybody really knew for sure.

Worse, some loon got into the genealogical records and added details that are supposition, not fact. Someone found a wedding and some children born in Whixley, put two and two together and came up with five – it’s been Chinese whispers ever since.

Estimating dates: Use standard genealogical approximations. From a marriage date estimate that a man was married at age twenty-five and a woman at age twenty-one. You can also estimate that a first child was born one year after the parents’ marriage and that subsequent children were born every two years after that.

Dutifully Will is born ‘abt 1730’ and his wife ‘abt 1734’. Actually, it’s just an anal-retentive historian wanting to claim another soul, not fact. This sweet Mormon may well have sent generations of amateur genealogists off on a wild-goose chase.

To add to the confusion, in the period immediately before Will’s actual appearance, local parish records are lost, scattered or incomplete. Some, like Whixley, go back to the mid-sixteenth century; in the village next door there is nothing till the 1730’s – there are no rules.

What a mess.


So finding this Willy is no easy feat. Apha Willy is very specific. Any candidate has to pass a great many tests, all of which require attribution.

He has to have been born somewhere between 1700 and 1720, probably in Yorkshire – then marry a woman called Hannah and have at least five kids; William, John, Thomas, Mary and Edward. Everybody must end up in Great Cattal in the 1770′s – except one miscreant son: William [of] Whixley.

Only one of them has a recorded birthday – the rest float free of time. We don’t know Dad’s real name, or Hannah’s surname, where they met or married – of their combined appearance on this planet, absolutely nothing till the end. We only know about the family because the mysterious Hannah left a juicy will in 1773, sourced by Triffophile George Ripley.

In another day and age, the task would be impossible. Only one man came tantalizingly close; the same esteemed Mr. Ripley. He died before he could solve the puzzle.

Close on his heels was Chris Triffitt’s dad. He found Bramham.

FROM CHRIS TRIFFITT: I recently found a note from my father (who died in 2003) concurring [with George Ripley] that ‘the important thing is to find the birthplace and date of (Alpha) William Triffitt (Treafit)’ – having drawn a blank with Triffitt and Treafit he intended to research TREWITT and TRUIT as he found many references to these names in the records of Bramham, a village on the old A1 just south of Wetherby…’

Then he died before could solve the puzzle.

Maybe there’s a curse.

I set my fearless finger to the mouse.




One of the most unexpected things about this family history business is just how addictive and exciting it can be. Every now and then a door opens into a great new world of names and unexpected places. The power of the search engines does the rest. Zen serendipity closes in.

So it was yesterday when chance, intuition, logic and pure accident led me into some of the 1,937 results in Batch Number: C039951 of the International Genealogical Institute.

I won’t bore you with the fascinating number-crunching and elimination that led to the discovery; the discarded Williams; the loose clues followed to their customary dead-end. This process seemed to be guided by unseen hands. There, somewhere around the 1,700th result is the key.

WM TRUITT – Christening: 08 AUG 1708 Bramham, Yorkshire, England

Even better – Willy ain’t the only Truitt in Bramham; there’s a whole tribe of them – all fathered by a man called ANT.

Well, well, well – I went looking for a Willy and found an ANT.

It took me quite some time before I worked out that ANT was short for ANTONY. I was a bit disappointed. I much prefer ANT.


Of course, ANT came from somewhere…

Want to know where it is?



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