Ancestry of Col. Augustine
Although I have been aware for some time of the claim that has sometimes been made by the descendants of Col. Augustine Moore of ‘Chelsea’, Virginia – principally the Aylett, Macon, Butler-Moore, Spotswood, Carter, and other allied (and more contemporary) families in America – that he was descended from Sir Thomas More, I have only recently come into possession of a copy of the statement on which the claim has been based. This comes from a memorandum said to have been written by Col. William Aylett (d.1780) that one of his descendants, Col. William Winston Fontaine, said he had discovered among his (Aylett’s) papers in 1858. As far as I can ascertain this statement first entered the public domain when it was reported in an article by Charles H. Browning in the William and Mary Magazine (an American Publication) in October 1907.
The statement attributed to Col. Aylett reads, “Augustine Moore of
After clarifying the various members of the More family involved, using the limited resources at his disposal - pedigrees in Burke’s “Commoners” and what he calls “Yorkshire Pedigrees” by Joseph Foster  - Browning concludes, “I regret to say that I do not find that Colonel Augustine Moore was, or could have been, of the maternal ancestry claimed for him by Colonel Aylett.”
In order to reach his conclusion Browning identifies, correctly, Thomas
More, his wife Mary (daughter of Sir Basil Brooke), their son and heir Basil,
and their four daughters, Frances, Mary, Margaret and Bridget. He says that
Thomas “was born before 1618 and died before February 1669-70”. In fact, as
we now know, Thomas was born in 1607, and his death is recorded in Foster’s
Regarding Basil More, one of whose sisters is claimed in the Aylett document
to be the mother of Col. Augustine Moore: Browning does not give a date for
his birth (it is not recorded in Burke or Foster), but it has since been found
in the register of St. Mary Woolnoth, London, for 17 March 1640. He gives
the date of Basil’s death (recorded in Foster’s pedigree) as
Taking the year 1689-90 as the probable date of Col. Augustine Moore’s birth, Browning eliminates all four of Basil’s sisters as candidates for being his mother.
1. Frances, who
married George Sheldon, had died
2. Mary was (according to the Foster pedigree) still living unmarried in 1697.
3. Margaret was
a nun who, according to Burke, died
according to Foster,
4. Bridget, who married Thomas Gifford, had died
What Browning did not know (and it wasn’t really important to his argument)
was that Mary was also a nun who belonged to the same order as her sister
(the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary). While Margaret died a prisoner
Just in case Col. Aylett had got Basil More snr. mixed
up with his son Basil More jnr., Browning also examined the data he had on
the younger Basil and on his six sisters who survived into adulthood. I can
find no evidence to contradict what he said about these, nor with his elimination
of young Basil’s younger brother Augustine who, born
Browning’s conclusions were rejected by Francis T.A. Junkin (an Aylett descendant) in the next edition of the William and Mary Magazine. However, he produced little or nothing of substance to make his point, his main argument being that Burke and Foster – Browning’s main sources - may not have included all the children of Thomas and Mary More (nee Brooke) in their pedigrees. He refers to a letter he claimed was sent to him by Col. Fontaine in which he suggests that if Col. Augustine Moore’s mother was not Mary or Margaret More, then she must have been the widow of either George Sheldon or Thomas Gifford, “or there must have been another sister not mentioned by Burke”. Junkin claims that Burke “frequently in all his works leaves out the names of many of the children” and gives two examples of this. Junkin makes no reference to the fact, already pointed out by Browning, that Frances More the first wife of George Sheldon, and Bridget the wife of Thomas Giffard were both dead years before Col. Augustine’s birth and so couldn’t have been his mother. Seemingly happy to go along with Col. Fontaine, Junkin suggests that “earnest searchers” of the future may well discover a ‘lost’ daughter of Thomas and Mary More.
In making his case Junkin produces no challenge to Foster’s pedigree, the other main source used by Browning – perhaps he had never seen it. Foster’s “Pedigree of More of Barnborough Hall” however is a more valuable and reliable source than Burke. It gives much fuller information about the More family than Burke does, and Foster states that all his pedigrees have been authenticated by the members of the families concerned. 
In what seems to me to be a further edition of the William and Mary Magazine
there is a copy of an even earlier statement said by Fontaine to have been
dictated to him in 1833 by Col. John Spotswood Skyren, a great-grandson Col.
Augustine Moore. This adds further to the statement said by Fontaine to have
been made by Col. Aylett – and it deepens the mystery. According to Col. Skyren,
who died in August or September 1855, Colonel Augustine Moore was “born
If Col. J.S. Skyren’s statement is true, then we don’t even have to consider any of the known sisters of Basil More because we should be looking for evidence of a sister with the first name ‘Grace Cresacre’. The problem with this is that, as we have seen, Foster does not identify a Grace, let alone a Grace Cresacre, nor do the other pedigrees of the More family. It is perhaps worth pointing out that the name ‘Cresacre’ only occurs twice as a first name in the whole More pedigree, and on both occasions it belongs to a male - the first occurrence is that of Cresacre More (1572-1649), and the second that of Christopher Cresacre More (1666-1729). Christopher Cresacre is also the only recorded member of the family who was baptised with two first names.
On the question of Col. Augustine’s maternal ancestry I can only conclude that, in spite of what Col. Aylett and Col. Skyren are claimed to have said, there is, so far, no evidence for the existence of Grace Cresacre More. I have, therefore, to agree with Charles Browning (1907) when he says, “I regret to say that I do not find that Col. Augustine Moore was, or could have been, of the maternal ancestry claimed for him.
Having reached a conclusion about Colonel Augustine’s maternal ancestry,
there remains the question of his connection to “the same family of
John Moore’s father was Charles Moore, a ‘husbandman’ of Norton-juxta-Twycross
on the borders of Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Charles’ father (John Moore’s
grandfather), also Charles, had bought the estate at Appleby Parva from Sir
Edward Griffin in 1599, thereby becoming Lord of the Manor. When Charles the
elder died in 1625 the younger Charles (John Moore’s father) inherited the
estate becoming Lord of the Manor in his turn, and probably building Appleby
Hall which he established as the family seat. I have not found any evidence
that Charles the younger (John Moore’s father) had any brothers. He married
Cecily Yates who died in 1632 and was buried at Appleby on 25 December of
that year. Charles was buried at Appleby on
Charles Moore had five sons and two daughters: The date and place of birth of Charles, the eldest son (and heir to the estate at Appleby Parva) is not recorded, but it was probably on Roe Farm at Norton where John (who became Lord Mayor) was born in 1620, and Robert in 1622 (he died in 1633). There were two Georges, probably twins, born at Appleby in 1628, one of which died shortly after birth.
As second son of Charles, John Moore was not due to inherit the family
estate at Appleby and he established himself in
The pedigree of Moore of Appleby Parva does not record any Augustine in
the immediate family of Sir John Moore, nor is there an Augustine in the families
of his two brothers both of whom survived into adulthood and married. There
is, in fact, no ‘Augustine’ anywhere in the pedigree of this
What about the
Another story, the origin of which I do not know - but based on information
extracted in 1999 from a box of “Longstaff Papers” lodged with the Society
of Genealogists in
As we have already seen Col. Augustine Moore is estimated to have been
born sometime between 1685 and 1690 - not 1676. He made his will on
The Aylett documents said to have been discovered by Col. Fontaine not only formed the basis of the story of Col. Moore’s origins, they also formed the basis of a separate story of the notable English origins of the Aylett family for which, similarly, no evidence has so far been found. I understand that George King, a prominent Virginian genealogist, was asked to make a judgment about the status of the Aylett letters in the 1950s and, after consulting other experts their verdict was unhesitatingly that they were forgeries. He repeated this opinion in 1965 and again in 1974. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Fontaine was aided and abetted in his work by Junkin.
In view of the above, the authenticity of the statement said by Fontaine to have been dictated to him by Col. Skyren as early as 1833 must also be called into question. If Fontaine had actually had that statement at the beginning of the controversy, then why didn’t he produce it then, instead of suggesting the Sheldon and Giffard widows, or some other ‘lost’ sister of Basil More must have been the mother of Col. Augustine - and failing to mention the paternal connection to an unrelated ‘Moore’ family? Fontaine certainly seemed adept at coming up with new – and mutually exclusive – answers as soon as he was challenged!
Given the lack of evidence to substantiate the maternal and paternal ancestry
claimed for Col. Augustine Moore one has to ask why anyone might invent such
a story? One simple answer to this question is: to
impress people. Today we refer to it as ‘name-dropping’. In earlier days one
of the more common ways in which it manifested itself in certain social circles
was through claiming to be connected in one way or another to titled
or other ‘notable’ families. I can think of various ways in which the claim
to a ‘reputable’ pedigree (especially one with both Catholic and Protestant
connections) would benefit some of the early settlers in
In addition to the above, two other possibilities have been put forward. Colonel Fontaine is said to have been a known romanticist and in creating his story he was just providing a proof for what most of the family wanted to hear. For his part, Francis Junkin was, it seems, a prosperous lawyer with a strong desire to discover a prestigious family ancestry. He was the first to publish the Aylett documents and, in his case, a financial motive cannot be ruled out.
So was Col. Augustine Moore descended on either his mother’s or his father’s side from Sir Thomas More?
On the basis of the evidence produced by Col. Fontaine et al. the details of the maternal and paternal ancestry claimed by them for Col. Augustine would appear to be an invention.
What we don’t know is what ancestry, if any, Col. Augustine claimed for
himself. It is said that he named his
house ‘Chelsea’ after the home of his ancestor, but just as that might be
true so it might also be part of his, or his descendants, creation of a suitably
prestigious image/pedigree. Sir Thomas’ home for about ten years until his
execution in 1535 was, in fact, never called ‘
If Col. Augustine Moore himself openly claimed descent from Sir Thomas on
either his mother’s or his father’s side, and if that claim was true,
then it is perhaps surprising that more exact details of the nature of that
descent were not handed down in the families of his descendants – rather than
waiting to be ‘discovered’ more than a hundred years after his death. The
same can be said of any descent from the
If, after all this has been said, Col. Augustine Moore was actually descended from Sir Thomas More and/or Sir John Moore of Appelby Parva origin, but handed down no written record of this, then the fact that his later descendants have not been able to discover the exact links is not surprising given the length of time that has elapsed and ocean that separates the two countries. The difficulty of establishing such links is common to many people trying honestly to trace their ancestors. However, given the lack of conclusive evidence, any claims to descent must remain categorised as family tradition and not promulgated as fact.
The problem with much genealogy today is that while Internet web sites like the Mormon Family Search site, RootsWeb and AncestryCom, provide people dedicated to genuine genealogy with an opportunity to publish their well researched pedigrees, they also provide an opportunity for others to create mythical pedigrees for themselves and to publish them as fact on the web. I have seen many examples of this being done by people claiming descent from Sir Thomas.
 Although the spelling of names was more ‘fluid’ in earlier time, the main line descendants of
Sir Thomas have always spelt their name ‘More’. This is borne out not only by the spelling
of the name on various published pedigree but also by their signatures on a number of
documents, copies of which I have in my possession.
 The full name of Burke’s work is ”Burke’s History of the Common People of Great Britain and
Mary is recorded in the register of St. Mary’s Church,
 “An I.B.V.M. Biographical Dictionary of the English Members and Major Benefactors (1667-
2000)” by Sr. Gregory Kirkus, I.B.V.M. Catholic Record Society 2001.
 The names of Basil junior’s sisters are confirmed in the will of Anne More (nee Humble)
 The title page of each volume of Foster’s pedigrees contains the statement that the
pedigrees were “authenticated by the members of each family”. The pedigree of
“More of Barnborough Hall” is in Vol. II. West Riding.
 Nichols did his research prior to 1798 when his massive 8 volume work began to be
Leicestershire County Council.