Select Lawrence Surname Genealogy

Here are some Lawrence stories and accounts over the years:

Saint Lawrence

Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of Rome who were martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258. 

The story goes that the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Lawrence, it was said, asked for three days to gather together the wealth and during that time worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as he could.  On the third day, he appeared before the prefect, presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church.  By tradition, Lawrence was sentenced at San Lorenzo in Miranda, imprisoned at San Lorenzo in Fonte, and martyred at San Lorenzo in Panipema. 

Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Catholic Church.  French explorer Jacques Cartier gave the name of Saint Lawrence to the river running through Canada.  Also in Canada are the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal and Saint Lawrence Boulevard running through Montreal.

The Lawrences of Ashton Hall

There are two conflicting genealogies for the ancestry of the Lawrences of Ashton Hall.  The first is the most commonly published ancestry by H. G. Somberby and others.  A Visitation may have been the source for this pedigree.  According to this genealogy, the Lawrences of Ashton Hall were descended from the Robert Lawrence, born about 1150 in the vicinity of Lancaster who distinguished himself in the Third Crusade.  One source indicates that his father was also named Robert and worked as a silversmith for the Lord of Lancaster castle. 

The second genealogy is based on manuscripts written by Schuyler Lawrence in the mid-1930’s concerning the Lawrences of Lancashire.  He stated there that Ashton Hall did not come into the possession of the Lawrences until about a hundred years after the Third Crusade.  There was a lawsuit at that time brought by Lawrence de Lancaster, son of Thomas de Lancaster and grandson of Roger de Lancaster.  These de Lancasters were Barons of Kendal.

John, the son of Lawrence de Lancaster, was the first to use the Lawrence surname.  And he was the first in 1324 to be connected to Ashton Hall. 

Early Lawrence Lines in England

The following are Lawrence lines in England traced back to the 16th and 17th centuries:

  • Richard Lawrence married Margaret Ryves in Winterbourne, Dorset in 1559
  • Robert Lawrence born in Bonby, Lincolnshire in 1561
  • John Lawrence married Elizabeth Bull in St. Albans, Hertfordshire in 1579
  • Thomas Larence married Alice Sutton in Croston, Lancashire in 1584
  • John Lawrence married Agnes Burns in Billingham, Durham in 1598
  • Thomas Laurence married Unica Skinner in Ickingham, Suffolk in 1634
  • Mungo Lawrence married Anna Thornehill in Harewood, Yorkshire in 1672
  • Thomas Lawrence married Martha Mendlove in Wem, Shropshire in 1668
  • John Lawrence married Ann Beard in Randwick, Gloucestershire in 1669. 

In addition to these lines, there were the earlier Lawrences of Ashton Hall in Lancashire and Lawrences from Rumburgh in Suffolk.

The Lawrences of New York

This was how the Lawrences were described in Famous Families of New York, published in 1917. 

“The Lawrences have been remarkable for their activity, energy, and industry.  Few families of which there are any records can begin to compare with them either in regard to these qualities, or what is equally important so far as the state is concerned, in regard to their numbers and vitality. 

Though they marry as a class later in life than does the average citizen, they nevertheless have much larger families than the normal and a larger number of sons.  This is shown in many ways.  The records of the Register's and County Clerk's offices, the civil list of the United States, the triennial catalogues of Columbia, Harvard, and other institutions of learning, the red book of New York State, the records of the Exchanges, and The Old Merchants of New York fairly bristle with the name.  More than two hundred are chronicled in the Lives of the Old Merchants alone, and more than fifty are inscribed in the red book.

On account of their numbers, their connections by marriage would fill an entire volume."

Amos Adams Lawrence of Boston

Amos Adams Lawrence, the son of Boston philanthropist Amos Lawrence, was a mill owner, a devout member of the Episcopal Church in Boston, and – more importantly – a leading campaigner against slavery in the years up to the Civil War. 

He played a major role in the battle over the crucial border state of Kansas, contributing personally for the Sharp rifles, which, packed as “books” and “primers,” were shipped to Kansas and intended for the free settlers.  Lawrence financed the founding of the University of Kansas in 1849 at Lawrence, a town named after him. 

Back in Boston, Amos Adams Lawrence is often credited with founding an Episcopalian dynasty there, having encouraged many of the Boston Brahmins to convert from Unitarianism.  His son William took an even more avid interest in the Episcopalian Church and became the long-time Bishop of Massachusetts.

The Lawrence Family Album at Lisreaghan

The last-but-one landholder of the family at Lisreaghan, the Rev. Charles Lawrence, had a volume of photographs and documents relating to his family history compiled in the late 19th century.  It was known as the Lawrence Family Album.

The Album included biographical notes on various members of the family.  But not all members of the wider family appear to have been recorded.  No reference was made to Thomas Lawrence of Belview who converted to Protestantism in 1788.  Similarly no mention was made of William Lawrence, originally of Ballymore, who served as a sergeant in the Irish Regiment of Dillon in the French army and who died in 1730.

Unlike several other families who served the Elizabethan administration and settled about east Galway in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, such as the Moores of Cloghan Castle, minor branches of the wider family descended from junior sons of the main line were not established about county Galway.  The expiration of the main line in the early 20th century thus witnessed the disappearance of the Lawrence family in the county.

Bellview, the family mansion at Lisreaghan shorn of its works of art, was demolished following the sale of lands in the 1920’s, leaving just the ruins of its walled garden

T.E. Lawrence's Illegitimacy

Sarah Lawrence was a beautiful young woman when she arrived in Ireland in 1879 to be the governess to Thomas Chapman's four daughters.  Chapman was the grandson of a baronet and scion of seven generations of colonial English landlords.  He was also, when Sarah arrived from England to join his household as governess, an unhappy man, trapped in a marriage to a woman he had long ceased to care about. 

Falling in love with Sarah, a girl very ambitious to better her circumstances, he had a serious choice to make when she became pregnant.  In those days it was a rare and unthinkable move for a gentleman to forsake his caste for a liaison with a servant.  But when Chapman asked his wife for a divorce and she refused, he did just that, eloping with Sarah to England, landing first in Wales in 1887 where T.E. Lawrence, their second son, was born one year later. 

An astonishing name change defined his parents' new life abroad.  He was known by Sarah's assumed maiden name.  But they would henceforth live as Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Chapman.  Together for 34 years until Thomas's death in 1919, they kept their secret inviolate; while the consequences within were particularly lethal.  Their second son, T.E. or Ned, would change his own natal surname a couple of times before he died in a motorcycle accident at 47.

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