The Blacker Epic Chapter 1

The Blacker Surname

It is regrettable that the history of the Blacker name, in the far recesses of the past is so fragmentary. Certainly much of the little that can be gleaned is speculation at best. We, who carry that name however, are fortunate in the fact that it is not such a common name as Smith, Jones, or Brown. The name is sufficiently uncommon, despite its simpleness of spelling and pronunciation, that whenever and wherever one of us sees or hears it, we find reason to wonder whether all Blackers could be from a single family.

On the part of many who have had interest in family-name research, regardless of purpose, the possibility remains real despite the fact that we have found no direct blood-line connections between all Blacker families. Perhaps the major problem confronting any researcher is the scarcity of records kept, particularly by the family. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that a family has had no particular incentive or keeping records and if a family kept a record it was not the usual thing. Social organizations found more need for family records than did the family. For instance, the civil government is interested in its citizenry, for in the forming of communities, it has been felt every citizen had a responsibility toward that community. Very often the equalization of responsibility was taken care of by a system of taxation, and so records were kept by the community government, which expanded into county, state, and national government.

Actually, in most countries, the church antedated regularly established civil governments and became the protector of the people of the community in such areas as social needs. The minister - usually a vicar or rector - was expected to spend his full time in such activities as caring for the poor and even constructing roads and bridges. Not only did he require help in a variety of ways to care for his parishioners, but he and some of his assistants had to be taken care of by means of a salary. Parishioner responsibility required records be kept, for actually, during these early periods, it was a form of a tax and everyone was expected to do his part.

Not only were churches expected to respond to physical needs within the boundaries of their respective jurisdictions, but they also, had the pretense of 'saving souls'. The spirit needs of a community was to be cared for. Babies were to be christened in most churches and in others baptism was practiced for adults. The church eventually assumed the responsibility of keeping these records. Marriages, likewise, came under the jurisdiction of the church. Under the banns system it was required of the priest or minister to announce the intentions of the ones to be married, for three successive Sundays in each of the respective parishes. There were those wishing to be married who didn't want the publicity that those who were processed by banns received, and for a fee could buy a marriage license. Thus, there were the three types of records within the marriage ceremony preparations and event - the record of the banns or the license, and the ceremony itself.

This picture, taken by Loyn Blacker in 1930, is of St. Michael's Tower located at the top of a hill near Glastonbury, Somersetshire. It is about twenty miles southwest of Clutton, the ancestral home of our proven ancestors. Recent research (2006) located the inserted picture, taken in 1896, which shows the tower more clearly.

In 1837, the civil government started requiring all births, marriages and deaths be recorded in what has become known as civil registration. If one's ancestry happened to be among the small, but important class of land holders, a record of their holdings was kept from the 12th century. Actually, particularly in England where all the Blacker families - related and unrelated- have lived for centuries, there are thirty or more sources of records, any one of which may have some type of Blacker family information.

Reference has been made of the likelihood of a family history being kept by any Blacker family. Interestingly, one large family clan had a family history printed in 1901, which goes into considerable detail as to the origin of that family. While no bloodline connection has been established to our ancestry of the Edward Blacker Family Organization, nevertheless, the data is of interest to us probably for no other reason than for interest's sake.

Liberty will be taken to quote from it and full credit will be given to those who compiled it. It is questionable as to whether there ever was a copyright sought or granted, but even if one was granted, after eighty years it is very likely that the copyright privileges would have run out. No pretense is being made by this compiler to claim any of the information contained in the history to be of his research. All material used will be within quotation marks to assist the reader in knowing its source. Hopefully, the reader will be fully aware that the Blacker family which has the printed history to which we will now refer, is much older than we have traced our own ancestral lines and that no genealogical connections have been found. First, an introduction as to how a copy of this history was discovered and obtained:

While serving my mission for the Mormon Church in Birmingham, England, in 1929, and being on the lookout for any information which related to family genealogy, I read an announcement from a daily London paper - as I remember - The Daily Express - of a coming marriage of the daughter of a Colonel Blacker as of this writing, 1982, I cannot locate his initials or name other than colonel.

I wrote to this Mr. Blacker, for his address was given in the article and a few days later I received a package with a letter attached.

Shute Haye,
Bridport, Dorsetshire

Sept. 9, 1929
Dear Sir,
I send this family tree and history of the family, compiled by a member of the family several years ago for your perusal. I am very interested to get your letter. Perhaps you may be able to trace your ancestors in the tree. Please return the book as soon as you have finished with it as it is the only one I have and they are out of print.

I might mention that owing to the times I am, I fear, obligated to sell the old family place of CarrickBlacker in County Armagh. If you care to go and see it I will send a line to my solicitor, Mr. Girling, in Portadown to show you the place. Very truly,

? Blacker

After typing all the material and the chart, I returned his copy within a few days. I am unable to determine the initial he used. This entire letter was written in modern-day prescription script by a modern-day busy doctor only to be translated by careful study which we have done at times covering a period of well over 50 years. (L.B.)

The booklet - actually it is but a booklet which was printed by the firm Hogges, Figgis & Co., Ltd. of 104 Grafton Street, Dublin, is dated 1901. By way of explanation the account begins by somewhat theorizing with some evidence that the family has its origin in part in Scandinavia. Let me do enough direct quoting to present what the compiler, one Latham C.M. Blacker, Major; Dublin 1901 says:

"The history of this family is interwoven with Norse, English, and Irish records to a remarkable extent. Its origin dates with considerable certainty as far back as the ninth century, when the North men were spreading down over the countries of Ireland, Scotland, England, France, and other regions.

"The name is derived from Blacaire, son of Godfred, son of Ivar, son of Regnar Lodbrog, King of Denmark who was descended from Odin, King of Scandinavia about 2,000 B.C.

"Ivar invaded Ireland about the year 872, at the head of a large fleet, and landed where Dublin now stands, when he and his companions speedily subjugated the surrounding country, acquiring also the ports of Waterford and Limerick. This Ivar is known in the Annals as Ivar Beinlaus or the Boneless.

"It is curious that there is still in Norway a town called Blakier, and an ancient family Blackar of Blackargaard, connected, no doubt, with the Blacaire of those days.

"Blacaire achieved a great reputation by slaying the champion of Ireland, Muircheartache (of the Leather Cloaks), either at Ardee, County Louth, or on the banks of the Bann, where Carrickblacker now stands. (The River Bann is in North Ireland as is Carrickblacker, in County Armagh. L.B.) He was, at the time, King of Dublin then known as Dyflin or Bally Ath Cliath Dyglin, during the absence of his eldest brother Anlaff (Amlave or Amlaiby) on an expedition to Northumbria and who met with a disastrous defeat at Brunanburgh, near Beverly, (Yorkshire in north England. L.B.) at the hands of Athelstane, first King of England.

"On Anlaff's return to Dublin, Blacaire was either banished or sent on forays, in one of which he was killed, A.D. 946, with 1,600 men, by Congalock, titular King of Ireland, at the battle of Ath Cliath. His son, Sitric MacBlacar, succeeded him; but the name now disappears from the Irish Annals, and reappears in Yorkshire in Wigstrum Hundred (Domesday Book) as landholders before the Conquest.

"From thence it is traced to the parish of Grete Sandall, Yorks., in the Testamenta Evoraciensa, and finally reoccurs in Valentine Blacker, one of the officers of "49' who returned to Ireland about the commencement of the 17th Century, as Commandant of Horse and Foot, and who acquired the lands of Carrowbrack, County Armagh, which are now held by the head of the family, the Rev. Cannon R.S.C. Blacker, M.A., also of Woodbrook Enniscorthy, County Wexford.

County Wexford is the extreme southeast county of Ireland closest to England. Also, later the history states that the above Valentine Blacker sold his inherited estate in Yorkshire, England, and purchased the to-be Carrickblacker in County Armagh - north Ireland - 22 August 1660. (L.B.)

"It has been alleged by some that the family is of English origin: but the great similarity of the name in Norway (Black is a pure Swedish word, meaning a 'fetter' or 'gyve') couple with the fact that parts of Yorkshire in those days, about the time of the Conquest, were largely colonized by Danes and Norsemen, who were duly noted in Domesday Book, leads one to the irresistible conclusion that it is the same stock" (History of Carrickblacker)."

No attempt will be made to follow the history's account of the Scandinavian or Northmen's attempts to get a strong foothold in the British Isles including Ireland. Such invasions and attempted invasions continued for many years without eventual success despite the fact that their effects were deeply felt by the local native inhabitants of the areas involved. Many lives were lost in such warfare. The lifestyles of the people were oft times completely uprooted due to the necessity of leaving their homes to never return. Also, it must not be overlooked that it was not uncommon for many of the invading forces to find it desirable, both after victory or even with defeat, to remain and eventually mix with the local remaining populace.

At this point let us return to the history from which we have been quoting:

"In Yorkshire they (the invading Northmen. L.B.) survived even longer (than in Ireland. L.B.) and it was the Danes who rose and massacred William the Conqueror's garrison in York. In revenge, he, William, marched a large force north and devastated the whole country between York and the Tees (the river forming the northern boundary of Yorkshire. L.B.). The Norse settlements in which the Blackers were included seem to have escaped this destruction owing to their location in the corner of the county of Yorkshire.

"Near Barnsley, in the parishes of Darton and Darfield (near the extreme southern and western borders of Yorkshire. L.B.) there were two hamlets called Blacker, where the name occurs frequently as far back as 1330. The legal wills of Yorkshire do not date earlier than 1300; but the records are carried forward nearly up to 1597, the date of birth of Valentine Blacker. These records constitute a most valuable link with the past, and their authenticity is undoubted.

"During the Wars of the Rose (the middle of the 1400s. L.B.) Sandal Castle, near Wakefield, was a noted stronghold, and among the outworks which surround it we find, among other manor houses, Blacker Hall - another landmark in our chronology."

This area in which Blacker Hall is situated is approximately ten miles north of the area of the above two hamlets called Blacker, therefore, unquestionably is connected by family relationship. (L.B. Copied from History of Carrickblacker.)

Early in this nineteenth century, probably between 1825 and 1835, an Englishman by the name of Joseph Hunter compiled a number of family pedigrees in the general area of Yorkshire. Among these family pedigrees is an ancient pedigree of the Blacker family of Yorkshire, which pedigree starts with one Henry de Blakkar whose son, William de Blakkar of Worsborough with a note that he, William, was living in 1300.

This William's eleventh-great-grandson - 12 generations later was Valentine Blacker who was born in 1597 and inherited by the law of primogeniture all his father's holdings. According to the proving of the will on 14 December 1624, the father had died on or before that date.

Prior to our following the story of Valentine, attention might be called to the fact that according to the above mentioned pedigree well over three hundred years had elapsed from the first Blakkar showing up in Yorkshire to the time of Valentine inheriting his father's property. Actually, within the 12 generations including Valentine's generation, there had to develop a great posterity, only part of whom carried on the Blacker surname. Attention might be called to the fact that the Blacker Hall, a long, long time residence of some of the Blacker family did not descend to Valentine, but was kept in the family, but thru another branch.

Now, back to Valentine, for more information is available of him and his descendants than any other of this large family. In his younger years, Valentine served in the King's army and became a captain prior to Charles I losing his head on January 30th 1648. There had been a period of civil war in England with, particularly, the House of Commons condemning the king for his failure to sign many of Parliament's proposed bills. Oliver Cromwell, a member of the House of Commons from the town of Cambridge, had taken active part in this civil war. He had actually organized an armed military force with the intent of overthrowing the king, in which attempt he was successful and thereby introduced to English history a period of government by the army known as The Commonwealth. Cromwell himself, was selected as a 'Lord Protector' of England. He actually became a dictator with a powerful and devoted army at his disposal. He is claimed by English history as having been a sincere and devoted laborer for the good of the people and became known as one of England's greatest military commanders in all history. It is claimed to have been a sad day for England when Oliver Cromwell sickened and died in the summer of 1658, after having been in command of England for fewer than ten years.

Nothing in the history of Valentine Blacker tells us of his activities between the time he inherited his father's holdings in 1624, and the death of Cromwell and the ouster of Cromwell's not so talented son who held on for less than two years. At that time, after escaping to Holland, Charles' son, with help from the Loyalists returned and was acclaimed Charles II of England. Whether Valentine went 'underground' during what became known as the Comwellian Gap and the return of the royal line, we have no way of knowing.

Regardless of Valentine's political and military leanings and activities, he appears to have become dissatisfied to remain with his holdings in Yorkshire, for two years following the ascension to the English throne of 30 year-old son of the disposed king, Valentine sold his possessions and purchased an estate in County Armagh in northern Ireland, as has previously been mentioned.

Upon Valentine's purchase of the estate known as Carrowbrack with its large manor house of three stories with a red brick front faced with white stone, he, Valentine, changed its name, now to be known as Carrickblacker. It was situated on what is described as being "on a commanding terraced slope, above the River Bann, a couple miles from Portadown". I arrived in Belfast, Ireland, in February of 1928 to start my British Mission service and spent the next ten months either in Belfast proper or northward in Ballymena and Ballymoney and by January 1st 1929 I was transferred to Birmingham, England, at which place I was laboring when I was loaned this History of Carrickblacker. I never had the opportunity to return to Ireland to travel southwest of Belfast about 30 miles to see the manor house and other holdings at Carrickblacker to which I had received an invitation from Mr. Blacker in his letter of 9th of September 1929. Although he was not living in Ireland at the time, nevertheless, I appreciated his offer to forward an introduction to his solicitor in Portadown. The Carrickblacker holdings were held by the Blacker family (Valentine's) from 22 August 1660, to probably early in the 1930s, if Mr. Blacker proceeded with the intended sale of the property, as mentioned in his letter of September 1929. Approximately 270 years, or well over 60 years above and beyond the present age of our country, which was born in 1776 - this being 1982 - is a pretty good inning for any family homestead.

Many of the descendants of Valentine Blacker of Carrickblacker, Ireland, became prominent. Many branches of the family separated themselves from the home-county Armagh, such as establishing another Blacker stronghold in County Wexford in southern Ireland. One family is known to have returned to the old homeland of Yorkshire; several went to universities in the London area and remained there. Bristol, in England, is known to have had some of this family. Also, a Blacker in 1929, who was then the apparent owner of the Carrickblacker manorhouse, had his home in Bridport, Dorsetshire, in the south of England. We undoubtedly would be safe in assuming most larger towns in England would have any number of Blackers, all stemming from Valentine.

About the year 1950, while we were residing in Ontario, Oregon, a couple, probably a few years younger than we, stopped at our home. They were returning, as I now remember, from the genealogical library in Salt Lake City to their home in LeGrande, Oregon, and announced themselves as Reid and Jean Blacker.

The CarrickBlacker Manor House in 1901

We spent a couple hours comparing genealogy. Reid's parents' home was in Ohio and two or three previous generations had lived there. Their history tells of one Robert Blacker sailing "from Belfast to Amboy, New Jersey, in 1810 and then he went to western Ohio." They have made no direct connection to their own family pedigree; however, Reid's 2nd great grandfather sailed from Belfast, only thirty miles from Carrickblacker. Could this mean they were probably of the Blacker family of Ireland? Almost a certain possibility.

It is interesting to note in their history a list of prominent people over the years all stemming from the family prior to 1901: A vice-treasurer of Ireland; a high ranking government official known as an envoy; three lieutenant colonels; five high sheriffs; one magistrate; one quartermaster-general; and six majors; nine captains, two lieutenants; one midshipman; one Very Reverend Dean; one ecclesiastical canon; three prebendaries - a clergyman officiating in a cathedral; five vicars; five rectors - a higher salaried minister than a vicar; one incumbent (an ecclesiastical position); one Champlain; three barristers-at-law; one doctor of laws; four doctors of letters; several with bachelor of arts degrees; several master of arts degrees; nine justices of the peace; one bachelor of surgery; one king's counsel; a few doctors of medicine, and other various accomplishments.

As indicated above, the family had many of its members matriculate in schools of higher learning and received one or more of some several degrees. Dublin's Trinity College had its first Blacker graduate as early as 1674 and from that time to 1869 - nearly two hundred years - twenty-eight degrees were bestowed upon fifteen Blacker names. There is no record of family members not having the Blacker surname, such as children and grandchildren thru the lineage of the females of the family, who traded their maiden surnames for a married surname. From 1808 to 1883 six degrees were presented to five Blacker boys at Oxford University in south England, all from this family. Cambridge University in east England, and the University of Glasgow, Scotland, also issued degrees to the men of this extended family which had its start in Carrickblacker in 1660.

As we depart from our brief review of this branch of a Blacker family, which started with Valentine reaching out, undoubtedly, for greater opportunities by leaving Yorkshire for Ireland, we can't resist to make mention of one item of interest which the compiler of the history of that family included in his relatively brief, but important story. The writer titles a note as "Henry Blacker of Sussex, The Giant" and writes:

"A remarkable notability of the name was one Henry Blacker of Sussex, who attained the considerable height of seven feet six inches, without being badly proportioned. The Duke of Cumberland (the hero of Culloden) was a great friend of his, and some little time ago there appeared a portrait with a description of Mr. Blacker in 'The Strand Magazine', depicting a number of noblemen and gentlemen gazing up at him. He and they are all shown in the costume of the period of George II, (King George II reigned from 1727 to 1760. L.B.) with long waistcoats, full-skirted coats, and three-cornered hats; and none reach up to his shoulder. "This Henry Blacker must have belonged to one of the English branches, one of which was known to have been established in Sussex." (History of Carrickblacker, p. 48).

During the centuries since Valentine left Yorkshire in 1660, the preponderance of the Yorkshire Blackers remained in that area so far as is known. Undoubtedly their history and accomplishments would be as interesting to us as is the history of the family we have become accustomed to call the Irish Blackers. On the other hand, in the wake of the great Industrial Revolution, mainly from 1750 to 1850, certainly Yorkshire Blacker families would have a part in worker migrations, mainly to where industrial centers would logically be set up. England has always been dependent on seafaring activities from early world exploration, to bring in from its early colonies products and goods its own people needed. In turn, great factories were innovated in England for the processing of textile fibers such as silk, wool, and cotton from those colonies. With the invention of the steam engine, the logical sequence was to use it in factories and in as much as a fuel was required to produce steam, factories were erected where fuel could be obtained with as little shipping of coal as possible. If such combination could be found near a harbor or seaport town, to ease any eventual transportation, there is where industry developed.

Climatic conditions also played an important part in locating some industries, and as a result, cotton from the colonies was shipped across the Atlantic to particularly Liverpool from where much of it was taken inland to Lancashire centers such as Manchester and Bolton. These areas were ideal for cotton spinning due to the moist atmosphere. In like manner, the climatic conditions were most ideal in western Yorkshire for the spinning and manufacturing of woolen goods. Both areas, Lancashire and Yorkshire, had an abundance of coal and so it was quite possible that the Blacker families of Yorkshire would have plenty of incentives to stay northward in England. Whether or not they did, we really don't know.

By the same token, the great seaport town of Bristol, adjoined Gloucestershire and Somersetshire, to where the genealogy of the Edward Blacker Family Organization has been traced. Because these counties, particularly the latter, were strongly agricultural, great woolen mills were set up. There were more in Gloucestershire, due to greater population, but some factories spilled over into Somerset. Here again, coal was plentiful in both areas, which as previously stated, became a great contributing factor in the location of industry.

It must also be recognized that there was widespread population movement brought on by this Industrial Revolution. Providing factories were set up locally, there was no necessity for the people to move. On the other hand, where there were no factories, word would have gotten around of possible opportunities at distances afar, and because of boredom at home, or the lack of desirable opportunities, the venturesome would be on their way.

Now, returning to the Yorkshire Blacker family, attention may be called to family problems resulting from the law of primogeniture - and it was a law, not limited to custom only - by which the eldest son inherited all holdings of the father. Such an event happened a generation earlier than Captain Valentine's going to Ireland. Valentine's father, Ralph, who was the eldest of several brothers and sisters, rightly inherited his father's major assets, which included a sizable estate - this in south Yorkshire. One of Ralph's youngest brothers - probably the youngest - was named Nicholas, who, despite law or no law, custom or no custom, felt he was denied some of the privileges and rights any child should have and he became disgruntled.

Whether there was promise for him to find work or business or other opportunities down in Lincolnshire - the county adjoining Yorkshire to the south - we do not know, nor do we know whether he was yet single, or married. Nevertheless, he left Yorkshire. Frankly, more should be known of the reason for his dislike of the primogeniture system.

He returned to Yorkshire after a time and this trip was made solely for the purpose of taking the matter to the courts. And he did, but his case resulted in much the way most minorities get what they claim to be their just dues. He wasn't successful in 'bucking' the establishment and so, Nicholas, again left Yorkshire so far as we know, for the last time. We can only wonder what embarrassment there was to him with his family. Surely his brothers and sisters who were also deprived of any equity of his father's holdings, must have shared a hope in Nicholas' effort.

And what happened to Nicholas? We wish we knew for it would throw some light on questions as to certain possibilities. Further research is needed for us to know whether or not he went far southward, with him or his children getting eventually into Somersetshire. Let us put the name, Nicholas, on hold for the present. We shall hear of that name again.

Other than the early Blackers of Yorkshire, North Ireland and later south Ireland, and the mention of a Blacker in Sussex, we also find another early Blacker family resided in Wiltshire in southern England. No historical account has been found of this family, however, in the year 1623 Heraldic Visitations were made in the various counties of England for revenue purposes, among other reasons, and family data was obtained. Subsequently, the Harlean Society of London published the pedigrees which have been printed in the Society's numerous volumes and, in this instance, known as the Wiltshire Visitation Pedigrees, which volumes are available in larger libraries of the country, including the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City.

The challenge of the Edward Blacker Family Organization has been and continues to be to extend our Blacker - also allied lines - which we have done with considerable documentation into Clutton, Somersetshire, England which will be discussed in a later chapter. As these ancient Blacker families are being noted with whom we have no proven connections, we are not disallowing future possibilities of connections. The fact that Wiltshire joins Somersetshire on the east may seem the next-in-line ancestral connection, rather than the other geographically further away families such as those of Yorkshire or Ireland. We shall not dwell, however, on the Wiltshire findings, other than perhaps mention that a Blacker had three sons, among another or more, whose names are not given on the chart. The three sons' names are Walter, John and William, who married Alicia de Harnam. This William's will was proven 30 November 1588, meaning he was then deceased. Their son, another William, married a Maria Whetham, who had a son, again named William, who was married to Anna in 1623. This Blacker line as followed in this pedigree apparently died out, for two sons and two daughters are shown to have died without children. Their son, Edwardus (Latin for Edward. L.B.) does not show issue, however, he was found by inquisition on 23 Mar 1646/7 as a lunatic. This is interesting, but really doesn't mean a great deal. Unless we know the intent of the court, we could use our imagination to conjure up a number of reasons why he may not be wholly responsible for an act. The term lunatic could absolve him from any number of circumstances or penalties. Perhaps he was smarter than some of the rest. We have no way of knowing.

We are also aware of Blackers of early Somersetshire, but have such little information, no story can result. From the very early Roman encampment records, mention is made of a Blacker's Hill Camp which is supposedly in the area of Chilcompton which is probably ten miles south of Clutton, our family seat. Also, the history of the Clutton area mentions a Widow Blacker and her coal deposits (undoubtedly an open or surface coal deposit of which there were some in the area) as of 1610. This is much earlier than we have been able to trace our ancestry - at least two generations.

To confirm inferences already made, the Blacker name in England is not as uncommon as once we thought it to be. Evidences are that it can be of antiquity. Certainly the name has been in England for several centuries. Actually the record of the Great Roll of the Pipe at the time of King Henry II, shows there were Blackers in Devon and Somerset, which record is dated as 1174-75.

Even before that early date a Blacaire, King of Dublin, when disposed, allegedly showed up in Yorkshire. Like England, the name Blacker is old.