We are pleased to be able to devote a section of this web site to detailed research by genealogists Mike Darch and David Yaw.
The fruits of Mike’s early research were first published on Sheila’s site in 2008, followed by a significant revision in 2015. We can now present the results of their latest findings.
Mike and David have explored a loosely connected group of families that can be traced back to the early 16th century in the areas around Tiverton, Taunton and Bridgwater. They were not exclusively located there, as one line can be documented through Bickington to the Totnes area in the mid 16th Century. Besides Yea, Yaw and Yeaw, in early records of this branch, surnames were often written Yeo and as other variants. This would have reflected the levels of literacy of the time, especially in small rural parishes where only the cleric could read and write and simply wrote down the name he heard; anyone familiar with the nuances of West Country accents will readily understand how that could give rise to such variations.
So, while it is possible to identify a group of families with these surnames – which became more distinct as certain members grew wealthier and needed to execute important legal documents with a consistency in spelling of the name – nothing in the Mike and David’s research should be interpreted as implying they were necessarily separate from the Yeos of Devon and Cornwall documented elsewhere.
In his previously published research, acknowledging and referencing Alfred Monday’s work, Mike proposed that his own ancestor Robert Yea of Kingston St Mary (died 1710) was directly descended from Richard Yea who died in 1548. From his and David’s latest research, including transcribing records of court cases only recently available, it is now evident that this was not so. The histories of a number of lines of this branch can now be documented with a high level of confidence.