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John Mercer F.R.S. F.C.S. M.Ph.S.

mercer tree


about this Family Tree


The Family of John Mercer, Chemist.
Some of you have an interest in the family of John Mercer, I know my husband does being descended (on balance of probability) from Henry Mercer, his uncle. I thought I should put it on record that there are doubts about some published information.
Much of the information found online in various places comes from the research by Harry Eaton which he published in a booklet – the printed pedigree of this appears on Ian’s website , and has been replicated many times on pedigrees on sites such as Ancestry. Adding to the confusion other researchers have tried to tie the grandfather of John Mercer in to entries in the parish register of Great Harwood and reached unsound conclusions.
I started looking at the wider Mercer clan as family of influence in Great Harwood many years ago and immediately had doubts about some of the information on the tree. A few years ago Lancashire Archive produced a display celebrating Lancashire inventors and of course John Mercer featured in these – and I noted that they seemed to share at least one of my concerns.
The concerns are:
The marriage of Thomas Mercer, grandfather of John the chemist.
The marriage of Thomas has often been cited as being that to Mary Hindle in 1747. However, there were three marriages of a Thomas Mercer around that time – to a Ann Kitchen in 1744, to a Mary Michel in 1746 and to Mary Hindle in 1747. Examining the autobiography of John Mercer and other sources shows no mention of the name of his paternal grandmother, or indeed any mention of Hindle relatives. No record of burial for either Thomas or his wife can be confidently determined.
A survey of Nowell lands in 1765 (Nowell owned the Lower Town of Great Harwood, which included Stoops where Thomas Mercer lived, and which was part of Park tenement) shows Thomas Mercer at ‘part of Park tenement, and one of the lives is a James Michael. I have not been able to determine who this James was, but a family of this name seem to have moved from Read (another Nowell holding) in the mid eighteenth century. As lives on leases were often those of people close to the family it could (and only ‘could’!) mean that Thomas Mercer of Stoops married Mary Michel.
When Lancashire Archive produced their display they left the name of the wife of Thomas Mercer blank, suggesting that their researcher wasn’t able to reach a firm conclusion about his marriage.
The birth date of Thomas Mercer.
Again there have been attempts to tie Thomas Mercer grandfather of John to a baptism in the parish register. This is always difficult without other information to verify it, and no parish register is ever complete for various reasons: error, events taking place elsewhere or not at all in the parish church. (I tried for some time to tie down the Lowerfold Mercer family, from whom I descend, only to find that this family, although originating in Great Harwood, lived in Yorkshire for at least two generations.) The document cited above, the survey in 1765, gives the age of Thomas Mercer at that time, fifty five, giving a birth year of about 1710. There are some baptisms for children called Thomas Mercer around that time in the parish register of St Bartholomew’s, but there are reasons to suppose they may be from other branches of the Mercer clan.
The children of Thomas Mercer
This illustrates the danger in using transcriptions rather than original records. In his pedigree of John Mercer, Harry Eaton gives the first child of Thomas Mercer as Ann baptised in 1748, and the second child as John. The printed transcription of the register lists Ann daughter of Thomas Mercer baptised 11 December 1748 and abode as Stoops. Next to the entry is the baptism of a Thomas on the same day, also to a Thomas Mercer but no abode given. The original register however, shows a bracket clearly indicating that these two children were children of the same Thomas. If more confirmation is needed then this Thomas is listed as a life, aged eighteen, in the 1765 survey which fits well with the baptism year. His second son, John, born 1752 is also listed as a life for Stoops on that survey.
The death of Thomas Mercer
Thomas Mercer probably died sometime shortly around when the survey was printed as it records him as a life, but added is ‘Thomas Mercer assigns’, indicating he may have died. Stoops was mortgaged in 1767 by Nowell, when it is recorded as ‘lately occupied by Thomas Mercer’, but parts of Feildens tenement in the same document show them ‘occupied by Thomas Mercer’, but this may, or may not, be another individual. Stoops was sold to the Aldred family in 1773.

Sources, all held at Lancashire Archive, although I have transcriptions and some images of the originals:
DDLX 19 143A Mortgage of Park Tenement
DDLX 19 416a Sale of Stoops Tenement
DDF 965 Nowell Survey 1765
UDCL 8/1 Autobiography of John Mercer

Barbara Youds 2018


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