Select Jeffries Surname Genealogy

Here are some Jeffries stories and accounts over the years:

Jeffries, Jefferies, and Jeffreys

Modern variants of the surname are Jeffries, Jefferies and Jeffreys.  The table below shows their approximate numbers today.

Numbers (000's)

John Jeffreys, Tobacco Merchant

John Jeffreys prospered in the mid 1600’s as a London merchant dealing with newly developed tobacco in the Virginia colonies.  He was to suffer some financial reverses from the Great Fire in London in 1666. 

On the morning of September 2, a fire broke out in the baker's house and quickly spread.  It soon also burned down Thames Street where all the tobacco warehouses.  W.G. Bell’s book The Great Fire of London recorded: 

“Alderman John Jeffries of Bread St. ward and a former M.P. for Brecknockshire in Wales had tobacco burned at a value of 20,000 pounds sterling in the fire.” 

Although he was hurt financially by the loss of his tobacco and warehouses, he had become so wealthy by this time that he was soon able to rebuild and continue his profitable business.

Judge Jeffreys, the Hanging Judge

After Monmouth's rebellion failed in 1685, Jeffreys dealt with the rebels with great severity, earning himself the nickname of 'Bloody Jeffreys.'  Not only did he sentence 320 people to death but he also sentenced about 850 to transportation to the West Indies as slaves and ridiculed them in his court whilst passing sentence.  There was one reported case where he brought up four large horses and had the man’s arms and legs tied to the horses and then had the horses beaten until the man was quartered. 

Such was the storm of protest afterwards that Judge Jeffreys was taken to the Tower of London and locked up.  He died there four years later.

Dr. John Jeffries, Surgeon, Loyalist, Astronaut

John Jeffries was an American by birth, having been born in Boston in 1745 where his father was town treasurer.  By 1784 he was a British subject living in England, a Loyalist who had served in British military posts during the Revolutionary War.  A year later he and a Frenchman were the first to fly a hot air balloon across the English Channel.  But he returned to Boston in 1789 to resume his illustrious surgery practice there.  And he died an American in Boston in 1819. 

In June 1783 the Montgolfier brothers had launched their first large balloon in Paris.  Soon a Frenchman named Jean Pierre Blanchard started to imagine ways that such balloons could be steered in flight.  He thought he would find more patrons outside France, so he went to England.  That patron turned out to be Dr. John Jeffries.  In November 1784 they undertook their first flight together in Blanchard’s hydrogen balloon. 

Then, two months later, the two men undertook something infinitely more daring, the first balloon crossing of the English Channel.  Half way across the Channel, the balloon started to descend and they started to jettison things to keep them airborne.  Jeffries recalled: 

“We had not now anything left to cast away as ballast in future, excepting the wings, apparatus, and ornaments of the car, with our clothes, and a few little articles.  But as a counterpart to such a situation, we here had a most enchanting and alluring view of the French coast, from Blackness and Cape Blanez to Calais, and on to Gravelines.” 

They even jettisoned their own clothes before finally managing to make it to the French coastline. 

Jeffries returned to England and published his account of the trip.  But he never quite got the adulation he expected in London from his accomplishment.  So when he received letters from his father David Jeffries, who had never left Boston, to return, he did so and departed England in 1789.

Thomas Jeffries and His Herefords

In 1836 the Hereford bull Cotmore was calved.  It had been bred by Thomas Jeffries and was acknowledged to be the greatest bull ever produced to that day.  Its weight at nine years was 3,920 pounds. 

Thomas Jeffries was recognized by his contemporaries. 
A subscription list, prefaced by the following notice, appeared in the Hereford papers in 1839: 

"Many admirers as well as breeders of Hereford cattle having viewed with feelings of pride the success of Mr. Thomas. Jeffries of The Grove in obtaining at the first meeting of the English Agricultural Society, held at Oxford on July 17, 1839, a prize for exhibiting the best Hereford bull, desire to present him with a piece of plate, as an expression of the highest estimation in which his services are held as a breeder of Herefords." 

Mr. Jeffries was presented at a dinner with a magnificent service of plate.  The service, along with a large number of cups, has later in the possession of his son Henry who treasured them not only as evidence of the skill of his father and other members of the family in breeding Herefords, but also as a testimony of the esteem in which Mr. Jeffries was held by a wide circle of friends.

Charles Jeffries and His Concertina

Charles Jeffries was born near Paddington in London in 1841. According to legend, he was a tinker - someone who mends pots and pans, sharpens knives, and deals in various scrap metal objects.  His descendants have adamantly contended that he was, like his father, a brushmaker in his younger days.  Still, brushmaking could be an itinerant occupation, with the brushes being made during the winter and hawked through the summer. And hence Charles in his wandering days might have been mistaken for a tinker. 

Charles probably acquired his first concertina in the early 1860’s. One legend of his early life has him traveling with his barrow and playing his concertina to attract the attention of people in the surrounding houses or busking for pennies when business was quiet.  When people became interested in his concertina, he would offer to sell them one.  If the story has any truth, most of his early customers would have been ordinary folks. 

Somehow his skills eventually led him to the concertina as a trade, apparently first as an aspiring concertina player, then as a repairer, and finally as a maker.  In the 1866 birth certificate for his child, his occupation was given as “musical instrument maker,” but the “maker” was then struck out and corrected to “mender.”  By 1969, his occupation was given as “musical instrument maker.”  This is good evidence that Charles Jeffries went into the concertina trade in earnest in the mid-to-late 1860's.

Return to Top of Page
Return to Jeffries Main Page