Ancestry of Col. Augustine Moore (1685-1743) of ‘Chelsea’, King William Co., Virginia.

Although I have been aware for some time of the claim that has sometimes been made by the descendants of Col. Augustine Moore of ‘Chelsea’, Virginia – principally the Aylett, Macon, Butler-Moore, Spotswood, Carter, and other allied (and more contemporary) families in America  that he was descended from Sir Thomas More, I have only recently come into possession of a copy of the statement on which the claim has been based. This comes from a memorandum said to have been written by Col. William Aylett (d.1780) that one of his descendants, Col. William Winston Fontaine, said he had discovered among his (Aylett’s) papers in 1858. As far as I can ascertain this statement first entered the public domain when it was reported in an article by Charles H. Browning in the William and Mary Magazine (an American Publication) in October 1907.

The statement attributed to Col. Aylett reads, “Augustine Moore of ‘Chelsea’ was the son of a sister of Basil, the son of Thomas More who married a daughter of Sir Basil Brooke”. This, of course, implies that Col. Augustine Moore was descended from Sir Thomas on his mother’s side and that his surname ‘Moore’ must therefore have come from his father’s side (about which see later). [1]

After clarifying the various members of the More family involved, using the limited resources at his disposal - pedigrees in Burke’s “Commoners” and what he calls “Yorkshire Pedigrees” by Joseph Foster [2] - Browning concludes, “I regret to say that I do not find that Colonel Augustine Moore was, or could have been, of the maternal ancestry claimed for him by Colonel Aylett.”

In order to reach his conclusion Browning identifies, correctly, Thomas More, his wife Mary (daughter of Sir Basil Brooke), their son and heir Basil, and their four daughters, Frances, Mary, Margaret and Bridget. He says that Thomas “was born before 1618 and died before February 1669-70”. In fact, as we now know, Thomas was born in 1607, and his death is recorded in Foster’s pedigree as 12 January 1660 (a date Browning should have noticed). Browning also notes that Mary (Brooke) was “living in 1670” when, again, Foster gives the date of her death as 6 June 1688. [3] Browning dates Thomas’ marriage to Mary Brooke as “after 1623” – in fact we now know it took place in 1629.

Regarding Basil More, one of whose sisters is claimed in the Aylett document to be the mother of Col. Augustine Moore: Browning does not give a date for his birth (it is not recorded in Burke or Foster), but it has since been found in the register of St. Mary Woolnoth, London, for 17 March 1640. He gives the date of Basil’s death (recorded in Foster’s pedigree) as 17 November 1702. He notes that Basil married Anne, the daughter of Sir William Humble, and ‘guesses’ that the marriage took place “before 1st May 1665” when, he says, their eldest son Basil jnr. was born. What he failed to notice in Foster was that the birth of Basil jnr. was preceded by that of two of his sisters, Mary and Frances, whose birth dates are given as 1661 and 1663. We now know that Basil and Anne (Humble) were, in fact, married at St. Benet & St. Peter, Paul’s Wharf on 25 February 1659.

Taking the year 1689-90 as the probable date of Col. Augustine Moore’s birth, Browning eliminates all four of Basil’s sisters as candidates for being his mother.

1. Frances, who married George Sheldon, had died 12 May 1666.

2. Mary was (according to the Foster pedigree) still living unmarried in 1697.

3. Margaret was a nun who, according to Burke, died 24 December 1691 and,

    according to Foster, died 10 September 1679.

4. Bridget, who married Thomas Gifford, had died 10 June 1673.


What Browning did not know (and it wasn’t really important to his argument) was that Mary was also a nun who belonged to the same order as her sister (the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary). While Margaret died a prisoner in York Castle in 1679 Mary, also a prisoner, survived. She is believed to have returned to one of her orders houses in Germany in 1699. The date of her death is not recorded. [4]

Just in case Col. Aylett had got Basil More snr. mixed up with his son Basil More jnr., Browning also examined the data he had on the younger Basil and on his six sisters who survived into adulthood. I can find no evidence to contradict what he said about these, nor with his elimination of young Basil’s younger brother Augustine who, born 11 August 1676, became a woollen draper in Whitechapel, London, and who is recorded in all the pedigrees of the family as having died on 15 August 1719. [5] For his part, Colonel Augustine Moore died in 1743.

Browning’s conclusions were rejected by Francis T.A. Junkin (an Aylett descendant) in the next edition of the William and Mary Magazine. However, he produced little or nothing of substance to make his point, his main argument being that Burke and Foster – Browning’s main sources - may not have included all the children of Thomas and Mary More (nee Brooke) in their pedigrees. He refers to a letter he claimed was sent to him by Col. Fontaine in which he suggests that if Col. Augustine Moore’s mother was not Mary or Margaret More, then she must have been the widow of either George Sheldon or Thomas Gifford, “or there must have been another sister not mentioned by Burke”. Junkin claims that Burke “frequently in all his works leaves out the names of many of the children” and gives two examples of this. Junkin makes no reference to the fact, already pointed out by Browning, that Frances More the first wife of George Sheldon, and Bridget the wife of Thomas Giffard were both dead years before Col. Augustine’s birth and so couldn’t have been his mother. Seemingly happy to go along with Col. Fontaine, Junkin suggests that “earnest searchers” of the future may well discover a ‘lost’ daughter of Thomas and Mary More.

In making his case Junkin produces no challenge to Foster’s pedigree, the other main source used by Browning – perhaps he had never seen it. Foster’s “Pedigree of More of Barnborough Hall” however is a more valuable and reliable source than Burke. It gives much fuller information about the More family than Burke does, and Foster states that all his pedigrees have been authenticated by the members of the families concerned. [6]

In what seems to me to be a further edition of the William and Mary Magazine there is a copy of an even earlier statement said by Fontaine to have been dictated to him in 1833 by Col. John Spotswood Skyren, a great-grandson Col. Augustine Moore. This adds further to the statement said by Fontaine to have been made by Col. Aylett – and it deepens the mystery. According to Col. Skyren, who died in August or September 1855, Colonel Augustine Moore was “born in England about 1685. On the paternal side he was of the same family of Moore as that of the Lord Mayor of London in the time of King Charles II. His Moore coat-of-arms is still at Chelsea. His mother’s maiden name was Grace Cresacre More; and she was a lineal descendant of Sir Thomas More, the author of Utopia.”  “Colonel Augustine” he adds “came to Virginia when he was about twenty years old…” This information, Col. Skyren says, he got from his grandmother, Anne Catherine Spotswood More, the daughter-in-law of Col. Augustine (wife of his son Bernard).

If Col. J.S. Skyren’s statement is true, then we don’t even have to consider any of the known sisters of Basil More because we should be looking for evidence of a sister with the first name ‘Grace Cresacre’. The problem with this is that, as we have seen, Foster does not identify a Grace, let alone a Grace Cresacre, nor do the other pedigrees of the More family. It is perhaps worth pointing out that the name ‘Cresacre’ only occurs twice as a first name in the whole More pedigree, and on both occasions it belongs to a male - the first occurrence is that of Cresacre More (1572-1649), and the second that of Christopher Cresacre More (1666-1729). Christopher Cresacre is also the only recorded member of the family who was baptised with two first names.

On the question of Col. Augustine’s maternal ancestry I can only conclude that, in spite of what Col. Aylett and Col. Skyren are claimed to have said, there is, so far, no evidence for the existence of Grace Cresacre More. I have, therefore, to agree with Charles Browning (1907) when he says, “I regret to say that I do not find that Col. Augustine Moore was, or could have been, of the maternal ancestry claimed for him.

Having reached a conclusion about Colonel Augustine’s maternal ancestry, there remains the question of his connection to “the same family of Moore as that of the Lord Mayor of London in the time of King Charles II” – a rather vague statement. More precisely, this family was that of “Moore of Appleby Parva” a village in Leicestershire, my own home county. Extensive coverage of this family, including a pedigree can be found in Vol. 1V, Pt. II of John Nichols’ “The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester”, published in 1811. [7]

John Moore’s father was Charles Moore, a ‘husbandman’ of Norton-juxta-Twycross on the borders of Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Charles’ father (John Moore’s grandfather), also Charles, had bought the estate at Appleby Parva from Sir Edward Griffin in 1599, thereby becoming Lord of the Manor. When Charles the elder died in 1625 the younger Charles (John Moore’s father) inherited the estate becoming Lord of the Manor in his turn, and probably building Appleby Hall which he established as the family seat. I have not found any evidence that Charles the younger (John Moore’s father) had any brothers. He married Cecily Yates who died in 1632 and was buried at Appleby on 25 December of that year. Charles was buried at Appleby on 25 June 1654.

Charles Moore had five sons and two daughters: The date and place of birth of Charles, the eldest son (and heir to the estate at Appleby Parva) is not recorded, but it was probably on Roe Farm at Norton where John (who became Lord Mayor) was born in 1620, and Robert in 1622 (he died in 1633). There were two Georges, probably twins, born at Appleby in 1628, one of which died shortly after birth.

As second son of Charles, John Moore was not due to inherit the family estate at Appleby and he established himself in London where he became a merchant. He was involved in the East India trade from which he made his fortune. He became an alderman of the City of London in 1671, one of the sheriffs of London and Middlesex in 1672, and Lord Mayor of London in 1681, at which time – as all Lord Mayors did - he received his knighthood. [8] He was elected president of Christ’s Hospital in 1681 and paid for the building and endowing of magnificent buildings for the writing and mathematical schools. He built and endowed Appleby School, a grammar school for the education of male children from the local towns and villages. The school had a resident headmaster, houses for Latin and English teachers (all of whom were required to have a B.A. from Oxford or Cambridge), and accommodation for up to fifty boys. Sir John represented the City of London in the parliament of 1685.  Sir John married Mary Maddox, but they had no children. Mary died in 1690 and was buried in the Church of St. Dunstan in the East, London He died on 2 June 1702 and was also buried in the Church of St. Dunstan in the East. Apart from the land on which the school was built he owned no land in Appleby and he left his fortune of over £85,000 to his nephew John Moore (son of his younger brother George).




The pedigree of Moore of Appleby Parva does not record any Augustine in the immediate family of Sir John Moore, nor is there an Augustine in the families of his two brothers both of whom survived into adulthood and married. There is, in fact, no ‘Augustine’ anywhere in the pedigree of this Moore family. So, was Col. Augustine Moore descended from Moore family of Norton-juxta-Twycross/Appleby Parva? On the evidence available this also seems unlikely. 

What about the Moore coat of arms said to have been at Chelsea? When John Moore was knighted in 1681 he adopted the arms of the Moore family of Morehall and Bankhall in Lancashire. An actual link to this family has, however, never been proved, and was regarded as doubtful by later members of the Moore family of Appleby Parva who tried to trace it. The arms granted to Sir John Moore depict three collared greyhounds in a running pose, and are described as “Ermine, three greyhounds courant (in pale) Sable, collared Gules.” Because of his service to Charles II while he was Lord Mayor, the King granted him an ‘augmentation’ to his arms described as “on a canton Gules, a lion of England”. This little red (gules) lion is situated at the top left hand corner of the coat of arms. The crest over the coat of arms is described as “Crest on a wreath of his colours, a moorcock Sable, gutté Or, the beak, comb wattles and legs Gules, the wings open, holding in the beak a branch of heath proper.” The motto is “Non Civium ardour”.  Charles II extended the use of these arms to Sir John’s brothers.


Another story, the origin of which I do not know - but based on information extracted in 1999 from a box of “Longstaff Papers” lodged with the Society of Genealogists in London – was reported in The “Thomas More Gazette, No.10, 2000 in an article by Christine K. McGeoch. This claims that “Col. Augustine Moore (1676-1743) was the sixth son of Basil More, who emigrated to Virginia in 1705”. There is absolutely no evidence for this statement and it is clearly untrue. As such it matters little that it also contradicts what has been claimed in America about the paternal and maternal ancestry of Col. Moore.

As we have already seen Col. Augustine Moore is estimated to have been born sometime between 1685 and 1690 - not 1676. He made his will on 20 January 1742 and died in Virginia on 28 July 1743. Having gone to America c.1705 he returned for a while to England where he married Mary Gage (of unknown origin). He returned to America again where Mary died giving birth to their first child. Mother and child are buried in the same grave at ‘Chelsea’ in Virginia. Col. Augustine later married a widow, Elizabeth Seaton (whose maiden name was Todd) and they had three sons, Augustine, Bernard and Thomas, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Lucy. For his part, as we have seen, Augustine More (sixth son of Basil) was born in 1676 and died in 1719. He is recorded as having married (his wife’s name is not recorded) and to have had a son and a daughter.


The Aylett documents said to have been discovered by Col. Fontaine not only formed the basis of the story of Col. Moore’s origins, they also formed the basis of a separate story of the notable English origins of the Aylett family for which, similarly, no evidence has so far been found. I understand that George King, a prominent Virginian genealogist, was asked to make a judgment about the status of the Aylett letters in the 1950s and, after consulting other experts their verdict was unhesitatingly that they were forgeries. He repeated this opinion in 1965 and again in 1974. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Fontaine was aided and abetted in his work by Junkin.

In view of the above, the authenticity of the statement said by Fontaine to have been dictated to him by Col. Skyren as early as 1833 must also be called into question. If Fontaine had actually had that statement at the beginning of the controversy, then why didn’t he produce it then, instead of suggesting the Sheldon and Giffard widows, or some other ‘lost’ sister of Basil More must have been the mother of Col. Augustine - and failing to mention the paternal connection to an unrelated ‘Moore’ family? Fontaine certainly seemed adept at coming up with new – and mutually exclusive – answers as soon as he was challenged!

Given the lack of evidence to substantiate the maternal and paternal ancestry claimed for Col. Augustine Moore one has to ask why anyone might invent such a story? One simple answer to this question is: to impress people. Today we refer to it as ‘name-dropping’. In earlier days one of the more common ways in which it manifested itself in certain social circles was through claiming to be connected in one way or another to titled or other ‘notable’ families. I can think of various ways in which the claim to a ‘reputable’ pedigree (especially one with both Catholic and Protestant connections) would benefit some of the early settlers in Virginia. Mythical ancestors were apparently common among the people of Virginia.

In addition to the above, two other possibilities have been put forward. Colonel Fontaine is said to have been a known romanticist and in creating his story he was just providing a proof for what most of the family wanted to hear. For his part, Francis Junkin was, it seems, a prosperous lawyer with a strong desire to discover a prestigious family ancestry. He was the first to publish the Aylett documents and, in his case, a financial motive cannot be ruled out.

So was Col. Augustine Moore descended on either his mother’s or his father’s side from Sir Thomas More?

 On the basis of the evidence produced by Col. Fontaine et al. the details of the maternal and paternal ancestry claimed by them for Col. Augustine would appear to be an invention.

What we don’t know is what ancestry, if any, Col. Augustine claimed for himself.  It is said that he named his house ‘Chelsea’ after the home of his ancestor, but just as that might be true so it might also be part of his, or his descendants, creation of a suitably prestigious image/pedigree. Sir Thomas’ home for about ten years until his execution in 1535 was, in fact, never called ‘Chelsea’; this was the name of the village where he had it built. In all the literature I have seen the house is only ever referred to as the ‘Great House’.

If Col. Augustine Moore himself openly claimed descent from Sir Thomas on either his mother’s or his father’s side, and if that claim was true, then it is perhaps surprising that more exact details of the nature of that descent were not handed down in the families of his descendants – rather than waiting to be ‘discovered’ more than a hundred years after his death. The same can be said of any descent from the Moore family of Appleby Parva.

If, after all this has been said, Col. Augustine Moore was actually descended from Sir Thomas More and/or Sir John Moore of Appelby Parva origin, but handed down no written record of this, then the fact that his later descendants have not been able to discover the exact links is not surprising given the length of time that has elapsed and ocean that separates the two countries. The difficulty of establishing such links is common to many people trying honestly to trace their ancestors. However, given the lack of conclusive evidence, any claims to descent must remain categorised as family tradition and not promulgated as fact.


The problem with much genealogy today is that while Internet web sites like the Mormon Family Search site, RootsWeb and AncestryCom, provide people dedicated to genuine genealogy with an opportunity to publish their well researched pedigrees, they also provide an opportunity for others to create mythical pedigrees for themselves and to publish them as fact on the web. I have seen many examples of this being done by people claiming descent from Sir Thomas.







  [1]   Although the spelling of names was more ‘fluid’ in earlier time, the main line descendants of

   Sir Thomas have always spelt their name ‘More’. This is borne out not only by the spelling

   of the name on various published pedigree but also by their signatures on a number of

   documents, copies of which I have in my possession.

[2] The full name of Burke’s work is ”Burke’s History of the Common People of Great Britain and

   Ireland.” The title of Joseph Foster’s 3-volume work is “Pedigrees of County Families of

  Yorkshire”, published in 1874.

[3] In fact, Mary is recorded in the register of St. Mary’s Church, North Mymms, as having been

  buried on 18 June 1683.

[4] An I.B.V.M. Biographical Dictionary of the English Members and Major Benefactors (1667-

  2000)” by Sr. Gregory Kirkus, I.B.V.M. Catholic Record Society 2001.

[5] The names of Basil junior’s sisters are confirmed in the will of Anne More (nee Humble)

  made on 31 March 1694.

[6] The title page of each volume of Foster’s pedigrees contains the statement that the

  pedigrees were “authenticated by the members of each family”. The pedigree of

  “More of Barnborough Hall” is in Vol. II. West Riding.

[7] Nichols did his research prior to 1798 when his massive 8 volume work began to be

  published in London. It was re-published in 1971 by S.R. Publishers in Association with

  Leicestershire County Council.

[8] The office of Lord Mayor was only ever held for one year. The year currently starts in


 © Martin Wood      [3,409 words]

Melton Mowbray,



11th November 2003.

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