The first ever English Mort family gathering (after several hundred years and many generations of separation) took place on December 9th in the Bulls Head Pub Astley; a location deemed to be fitting as both the ancestral family home of the famous Adam Mort and also the epicentre of the many North West towns from which so many of us originated.
Astley Manor Tour:
Those of us who could make it a little earlier enjoyed the treat of a guided tour around Astley Manor (aka Damhouse); by one of the founders of the Mort-Astley heritage fund ‘Elaine Hurst’. Elaine is passionate about this house and its continued presence at the centre of the Astley community. We could all appreciate that without the devotion of the Trust, that this grand old building would have long since met the same sad fate as the other nearby former Mort Homes of Peel / Wharton Hall.
We were able to inspect the attic and servants quarters, which had not yet been modernised and as such were almost locked in a magical time capsule. Being able to view the original windows, oak beams and walk the same floors as the Astley Mort family from hundreds of years ago, was an amazing experience. In the near future this top floor will undergo a huge renovation and modernisation programme, so this visit was indeed a timely privilege. In a quickly changing world, here is a lesson in grabbing the moment and seeing what you can before it is transformed into something that will be gone forever.
Many of us purchased the books for sale and certainly have some interested reading material to catch up on. Many thanks to Elaine Hurst and Grandson Noah, for taking the time to show us around Adam Mort’s wonderful home, (Hurst is also a name in my family tree by the way, so maybe a Hurst reunion is a future consideration)?
The Pub Meeting:
Next came the visit to the pub, where for the first time in probably many years we found ourselves queueing up for opening time. Never say never again!
The majority of Mort’s came well prepared for some genealogical ‘swapping of notes’ and were armed with family trees and laptops at the ready. As the organiser, I was the least organised (I am ashamed to say), but thankfully I did know much of my ancestry ‘off by heart’, so I was able to determine common relatives with most people in the room fairly quickly. Phew!!
Although many Mort’s were local to the area (definition as in within 20 miles of Astley near to Leigh), others had travelled from Leeds and as far afield as Essex. In this instance, place of present origin and distance made little difference as we soon discovered we were all related to our common ancestor of Arnold Mort born around 1598 in Leigh and his wife Elizabeth Sotheren born around 1596 (or whatever other spelling one wants to adhere to for the Southeren / Sotheren name ). The spelling of surnames were not consistent in the past so we have to cut the ancestors some slack here.
There was some debate as to which Arnold Mort we all linked into, as allegedly there was an Arnold Mort that was reputed via IGI records to be a son of the Astley Manor Adam Mort and yet other records do not record Adam as having a son called Arnold. Genealogy can be confusing at times, and as Gillian pointed out, our ancestors often conducted a ‘try before you buy’ attitude to wedlock, so illegitimacy was not uncommon. All in all, finding the connection we all have to the Adam Mort of Astley Manor, aka Damhouse - is very much work in progress.
Personally I believe (nay I know) that there was a connection, it just hasn’t been proven yet. Tyldesley was the next village up from Astley and many of the ancestors of many of the Mort’s that came to today’s reunion came from neighbouring Tyldesley. Many hundreds of years ago, there was simply not the huge population in these little areas to conclude that someone with the same unusual name in the same small micro area could NOT be connected. The maths just do not figure.
In the same small community of the Bulls Head Pub, those of us who had dug far enough back into our past to have a decent trail of ancestors - all found we were related – 100%. This has been my experience so far. In fact, I throw down the gauntlet of yet finding one living Mort descendent whose ancestor came from within a 50 mile radius of Astley that I am NOT related to. I have not found one as yet!
My Great x 7 Grandfather John Mort was born in Astley in 1693. How could he have not been connected to Damhouse/ Astley Manor when the Manor was the communal mega centre of this Hamlets universe? It is so extremely unlikely in such a small place ‘as was’ back then and ‘as is’ even now, to think that my 7x Grandpa John was a total Mort nomadic wanderer that just happened to be born in Astley and whose parents chanced upon the place by accident. This chance happening, does not make any logical sense to any reasonable person at all? Nouse prevails! Only local people will understand this term.
Many of us went a generation below Arnold as a common linking ancestor, to Thomas Mort of Leigh and Bridgett Lea of Tyldesley, parting company according to whichever of their resulting children we descended from.
It was just an incredible experience to be in a room full of total strangers that you know you share your DNA with and yet have never met before. We could pass each other in the street and be none the wiser, and yet my GGGGGGGGGG Grandfather, was the same ancestor as the unknown person sat next to me. The Internet has really made this such a small world.
I could see and hear so many people discovering long lost cousins and finding matches within their family trees and we hope you can share your stories with us all and well as sharing your lines of decent so we can figure out how many cousins x times removed we all were. Please do write and tell us what you discovered about your family today?
I listened in on a few conversations where someone would suddenly realise that their Great Aunt had been the best friend of the Mum of the stranger stood next to them - or words to that effect...sort of. It really is a small small world and I think that today many of us Mort decendents understood just how small that world really is and how interrelated and interbred we probably all are. 2 heads - 6 eyes – how come we appear okay? Well...some of us at least.
Other success stories:
We had an advert in the Leigh Journal about the reunion and several brave people walked in off the street to say, ‘I am a Mort and I am from Leigh’. It was almost like an AA confession, and yet many of these had no idea about their genealogy or the amazing family they belonged to. I gave some the link to the website and the advice to use the Internet service at Leigh Library and ‘go explore their genes’. We hope we have inspired more people to dig deeper into their past and find out who they really are and be proud of their heritage. If anything, maybe today has inspired some people new to genealogy to investigate more.
There were also people present who had dug a little way back into their past and had become stuck at maybe their G Grandfather. The www.mortfamily.net site is on hand to help and we just don’t look at the Mort family in isolation – but what we refer to as the ‘Mort Community’. The many other families/surnames that married into the Mort’s are part and parcel of all our global family history.
Gillian is the official keeper of the Mort family database, and to Gillian all information is important. Even if you only got as far as your GG Grandmother in Bedford in 1879, Gillian wants to know what you found out so then she can put the whole jigsaw puzzle together in what will be a very detailed one name study. She can work bottom up as well as top down if that makes sense.
Please email your Mort community family history with associated surnames (in any format – GEDCOM, Spreadsheet, Scanned doc, word doc - whatever) to Gillian at -
Please contribute your stories, thoughts and opinions about today to Martin (the Web Master), so we can include a story about this on the site -
Also- any comments you want to add about today onto the discussion forum can be found at - http://www.mortfamily.net/forum/index.php?topic=158.0
Cheers all – from Sheila
Thank You all so much for turning up as I would have looked so pathetic on my own. It was an inspirational turn out.