Back to Family Tree Home Page
- Augusta., Granddaughter of John Jay,
ENGLISH MARRIAGES: PROHIBITED DEGREES JAY-PELLEW DIARY
by Ron Williams firstname.lastname@example.org
In the 1950s, my grandfather, Milfred WILLIAMS, worked in Augusta, Georgia for a pulpwood company that was tearing down some old homes on Green Street. They had taken the contents of the houses to a warehouse where they were going to be destroyed. If people wanted anything in the warehouse they could help themselves. My grandfather picked up several old books. Only one has survived and he gave it to me a few years ago. It is a diary from the late 1860s and early 1870s. No one could make out the handwriting, but since I am used to reading old records I was able to figure out some things.
On the first page is written "To Augusta Jay from H. E. P." I thought that this was a reference to Augusta, Georgia, but I was wrong. I discovered that the diary repeatedly mentions Henry Edward PELLEW (H. E. P.). This name did not mean anything to me at the time, but on a trip to the State Archives in Atlanta, Georgia, I happened by a set of books about prominent people in U.S. history. When I looked under PELLEW, I was surprised to see an article on Henry Edward PELLEW, whose first wife was Eliza JAY, after whose death he married Eliza's sister, Augusta JAY. This time I was in shock. I couldn't believe that I was actually holding this diary that was a piece of American history.
Henry Edward PELLEW was Viscount Exmouth in England. Augusta JAY was the daughter of William JAY and granddaughter of John JAY, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The diary opens with Augusta in England taking care of her dying sister, Eliza, and Eliza's children. In great detail Augusta describes in page after page Eliza's painful, agonizing death and funeral in England. A few months later, after a trip to the sea to gather shells, Eliza's baby took sick and died.
Augusta stayed on to care for the two boys left motherless. As the months passed, Henry Edward PELLEW, whom she calls "Poppy," asked her to marry him. It was illegal in England to marry the sister of a former spouse.* Therefore, they left England to marry in Austria, where Augusta's brother, John JAY, was the American ambassador. The night before the wedding they attended a party with the Prince and Princess of Wales. The evening after the wedding they had a private dinner with just a few guests. Augusta casually mentioned that Theodore ROOSEVELT and his wife were present (the parents of the future President, Theodore ROOSEVELT). I have since learned that PELLEW and ROOSEVELT worked closely in a national charity organization.
They returned to the United States, to Augusta's childhood home near Bedford, New York, in Katona's Wood. The diary records day-to-day life there, buying and remodelling a home, and how "good help is so hard to find." It ends in the mid 1870s, abruptly, leaving me wondering what happened to these people.
I have contacted the John Jay Homestead Society in Bedford, New York. They have no idea how the diary could have ended up in Augusta, Georgia. They did say that there was a family in Georgia who claimed to be descendants of John JAY, but I have never been able to find them. This diary could help prove their relation to this great American.
[Note: English marriages and "prohibited degrees." These were forbidden by acts of Parliament and ecclesiastical law. A marriage between two people within a prohibited degree required (AND STILL REQUIRES [as of 1998 anyway]) a private act of Parliament authorizing that marriage. These degrees have varied over time. They were listed in the Book of Common Prayer of 1662. The prohibitions prevented someone marrying his or her: (a) brother or sister (OR THEIR SPOUSE); (b) parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, child, or grandchild (OR THEIR SPOUSE); (b) niece or nephew (OR THEIR SPOUSE); and (d) spouse's child, grandchild, parent, aunt, uncle of grandparent. Statutes of 1907 and 1921 made an exception to the prohibition at (a), allowing people to marry the spouse of their brother or sister, if that brother or sister had died. Some further exceptions were made in 1931, 1949, and 1986 so that, for example a man was allowed to marry his deceased wife's niece, aunt or widowed mother. Source: ANCESTRAL TRAILS: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BRITISH GENEALOGY AND FAMILY HISTORY, by Mark D. Herber, in association with the Society of Genealogists, London. (Published in USA, 1998, by arrangement with Sutton Publishing Limited by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, Maryland)]
See http://Pellew/Exmouth for details.
Descendants of Augusta Jay