Blackett Family Tree

The old PhpGedView trees have been replaced with the more up-to-date ‘webtrees’ program. You may find these notes helpful when searching the new version of the trees for the first time, particularly as there are now more than 70,000 names in the tree (as at Oct 2020).

Proceed to Tree


Clicking on ‘Proceed to Tree’ at the top or bottom of this article in the main menu will take you to the tree homepage. There is no need to log in. That is purely for Blackett Admin.

Enter the name of the person you’re searching for in the small panel in the top RH corner, then click on the small magnifying glass icon next to it (or press ‘Enter’ on your computer). Then scroll down through the list of trees to the range of possible individuals below. If you’ve entered a common name such as ‘John Blackett’, you’ll see there are many pages of possibilities to search, including some close relatives of each John Blackett. Scroll through the pages until you get to the start of the ‘John Blackett’ entries, then work your way through them. (NB. If you’re sure of the year of birth of the person you’re looking for you can add that year after their name to narrow the search.) You can also search this way by entering a location instead of, or in addition to, a name, as the search function looks through all mentions of a particular word in the details of each entry, not just the name of the individual. If you're not sure whether the individual is part of the Main Blackett tree or one of the ones still unconnected (see below) remember to click the 'Select All' box.

Having found the name you were looking for you might find it worthwhile experimenting with the different charts you can bring up for them. When you’ve clicked on ‘Charts’ in the panel above their name, another panel will open up. Here you can choose how many generations to show. Make sure the box in the panel marked ‘Show details’ is ticked before clicking on ‘View’. Then you’ll be able to see place names and exact dates, if known.

If you can’t find who you’re looking for, it may be because that person is in a tree that we haven’t yet been able to connect to the Main Blackett Tree. (See Can You Help Us?). Scroll back up to the top of the page and click on the ‘Select All’ box, then scroll back down and click ‘Search’. That will then search all the trees and you’ll get a larger number of possibilities.

If the person still doesn’t show up, we might not be aware of them, so please Contact us.

Names, but no other details of living people are shown in the trees, as is normal practice with public trees. They will therefore show up as “Private”, but you can still find their ancestors by clicking on “Charts” and selecting “Ancestors”. That will bring up 4 generations back, which you can increase to 10, and then work back from there.

(NB. The Main Blackett Tree contains most of the total names, so, unless you want to confine your search to another tree, please make sure that the box alongside ‘Main Blackett Tree’ is ticked.)

A few more points

In some instances we have shown a title as a given name or surname in the Individual List, in order to make it easier to find the person concerned. In particular this applies to the Blackett Baronets, who will be found in the Blackett section under the first name of “Sir”. Monarchs have been given the surname “King” or “Queen” as appropriate, and appear as such, as do Princes. (Please see caveat below.)

In a few cases where a birth/baptism, marriage or death/burial occurs before March 26 in a year before the 1752 change to the ‘modern’ calendar, both the old and new versions of the year are shown in our underlying GEDCOM record, e.g. an entry recorded as 26 Feb 1726 (when 1727 did not commence until 25 March) is shown in the underlying record as ‘1726/27’. However, the site tree program displays only the earlier date, i.e.1726. To avoid confusion we will gradually amend the entries to show only the modern version of the date but this will take some time to complete.

The tree cannot be downloaded, nor can details be amended other than by Blackett Administration. If you have details that you would like to have added to the tree, restricted to descendants of Blacketts and their spouses, please submit them to us (large trees in GEDCOM format if possible), citing sources. (NB. IGI entries based solely on submissions by LDS members will not normally suffice.) In a tree of this size there will invariably be errors, and if you find one, please contact us.

This site is run by three amateur (though enthusiastic!) Blackett descendants. We cannot guarantee to carry out major research into the ancestors of visitors to this site, although we will do our best to help. (Anyway, the fun is in tracing your own roots!) We would however like to hear from you with comments on the site, where your family fits in, etc. and will try to answer your emails reasonably promptly.

Blackett v. Blacket

“The first thing to decide is how to spell Blackett!”, wrote Sir Anthony Highmore King (1890-1976) in 1968 in his notes on the Blackett family. As discussed in more detail in “My Name is Blacket” (unfortunately now out of print) by the late Nick Vine Hall, the spelling has varied since the name evolved from Blackved/Blackheved in the Middle Ages, but has now settled down to “Blackett”, overwhelmingly the spelling used in England, or “Blacket”, which is found far more frequently amongst the Australian side of the family.

[NB. In Middle English “heved” literally means “head”. The word appears several times in (e.g.) Chaucer’s “Boece”, and in some Norwegian country dialects the word for head is “hoved”, suggesting that heved may be derived from old Norse. A more likely explanation, however, is that heved derives from the Old English (i.e. Anglo-Saxon) “heafod”, also meaning head. The name could originally have referred to a person with black (in Old English “blaec”) hair, or to someone who lived at or near a dark headland or at the head of a stream/burn/beck called Black. (There is a Black Hill 4.4 miles south-south-east of Woodcroft and a Black Burn about the same distance to the east-south-east, but this may be no more than a coincidence.) Either way it seems unlikely that the name is Norman, as some sources claim. However, early deeds of the ancient Blackett family seat of Woodcroft, Co. Durham show that it was held by Knight Service at least as far back as the 13th century, inferring that the Blackheveds were a family of some substance.
“A dictionary of English surnames” by Percy Hyde Reaney and Richard Middlewood Wilson states that Blaket “cannot be from Blakeheved, whether as a nickname or a place-name. It must be a diminutive of Black, with the French suffix -et”. The title deeds of Woodcroft show that the Blakheveds/Blacketts must have been blissfully unaware of this publication. However, please see Agincourt and all that for a Blaket family to whom the authors may have been referring.]

Nick Vine Hall considered that, historically speaking, “Blacket” with one “t” is correct, but that in modern day usage, both spellings can be considered correct in a particular instance, depending on the accepted usage over several generations of the particular branch of the family in question. No conclusive evidence in support of this has, however, been found and the spelling “Blackett” was used at least as long ago as 1526. Since in many cases the same individual is referred to in different records by differing spellings, the “Blackett” version has been used in this tree, other than some of the descendants of John Blackett (1747-1795), who, according to a long time tradition in the family reported by Nick Vine Hall, dropped one “t” from his surname when he opened a drapery shop in West Smithfield, as “no Blackett ever opened shop.”


Cuthbert Johnson/Blackett

A number of Blackett descendants, including the three owners of this site, descend from Cuthbert Blackett, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Blackett of Kayslee and Cuthbert Johnson. Cuthbert Blackett was baptised at Hamsterley in 1703 and adopted his mother’s surname. (Cuthbert Johnson and Elizabeth Blackett never married, presumably because Cuthbert Johnson was already married at the time.) On 18 April 1719 Elizabeth and Cuthbert her son acquired a house and one rood of land adjoining Hestewell (or Heslewell) from Thomas Parmerley (who had inherited it from his late father, William). It is not clear why the 16 year old Cuthbert was a party to the transfer, but this may have been due to Elizabeth wishing to make provision for her illegitimate son before her marriage to John Brown, which took place on 10 October of that year. The Blackett and Parmerley families were obviously well acquainted with each other and Cuthbert Blackett married Alice Parmerley in 1726. In the Hamsterley Inclosure Ward of 1760 he is shown as a copyholder of land in Lynesack and Softley township with a yearly value of 18 shillings and 2 1/4 pence.

As outlined in Joseph Blackett of Durham City Cuthbert Blackett/Johnson was the first, but by no means the last, Blackett to have been given the Christian name of “Cuthbert” and a number of important Blackett lines descend from him. It is interesting to note that had his parents married, or had he simply adopted the surname of “Johnson” we might have concentrated our research on the Johnson family and this site would have been called “The Johnsons of North East England”!

(NB. Our thanks are due to Gail Young for supplying us with a copy and translation from Latin of the 1719 transfer of the house and land adjoining Hestewell/Heslewell.)


The Royal Connection

Most family historians would love to prove a link to the Royal Family, and there may be a temptation to dismiss evidence to the contrary. In our case, we can only say that there are probably two links. Both of these are subject to the first of the two caveats that follow, and one of the links to the second caveat. In view of the importance of this, it is worth examining in detail the two steps in the tree where the line may not be fully secure.

1. Richard Blackett

The two lines back to the Kings of Scotland, which provide the links to the present Royal Family, both run back from Alice Tempest (now believed to be an illegitimate daughter of Rowland Tempest), who married Nicholas Blackett around 1524. It is our belief that Richard Blackett was a son of Nicholas and Alice, but for 200 years researchers into the Blackett pedigree have searched in vain for conclusive proof of this. There is, however, considerable circumstantial evidence to support Richard’s link in the chain. In 1676 Sir William Blackett (who was Richard’s great-grandson) purchased Woodcroft, the ancient Blackett home, from an impoverished Blackett cousin, and referred to it as the home of his paternal ancestors. In a letter to the College of Arms dated 20 March 1811 the eminent historian and genealogist, Robert Surtees refers to Richard as “our supposed homo propositius” (i.e. the father of all our troubles).

Nick Vine Hall shows Richard as a younger brother to Nicholas, but this seems unlikely. In a 1575 heraldic record, Thomas Blackett shows his father, Nicholas, as having one brother, Lionel, who died without issue, but makes no mention of another brother, though this may be through Lionel having been an elder brother to Nicholas, rather than a younger one, as some researchers have supposed. Burke’s Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies 1844 (Blackett of Newcastle) shows William Blackett (1587-1648), the father of Sir William, 1st Bt., as being the great-grandson of Nicholas. That fits with Nicholas being Richard’s father, and not brother. A Pedigree of Blackett of Wallington supports this, stating that Edward Blackett (d. 1628), the son of Richard “of Shipley and Hole House” was the grandson of Nicholas. Burke’s Commoners 1838 and Burke’s Landed Gentry 1850 both cite Nicholas as an ancestor of the Blacketts of Wylam, who descend from Richard. Thus, whilst no absolute proof has been found, in two centuries of research the only candidate for the “missing” generation to emerge has been Richard, and the circumstantial evidence in support of this lineage seems conclusive.

2. Marjorie of Huntingdon

A family tree, believed to have been compiled in the 19th century by professional genealogists, shows the line back to King Malcolm III of Scotland through the Tempest, Umfreville/Umfraville and Angus families. This has been cross-checked with online historical sources and corrected where appropriate. In the case of Marjorie of Huntingdon, however, some authorities differ. Wikipedia shows her as a child of Prince Henry of Scotland and Adelicia/Ada de Warrenne, showing her marriage to Gille Crist, Earl of Angus. Electricscotland states that Gilchrist married a sister of William the Lion (i.e. William I of Scotland). Both of these authorities therefore place her as a great-granddaughter of King Malcolm III. (Incidentally, both the 44th US President, Barack Obama, and his opponent in the 2008 election, Senator John McCain, are also said to be descendants of King Malcolm III, through Isabel, the illegitimate daughter of William the Lion (see external article). Please, however, also see the caveat to these connections.)

The Complete Peerage, however, raises doubts about this marriage, RoyaList Online omits her as a child of Henry of Scotland, and Stirnet refers to some confusion over Gilchrist’s marriages, though including her, subject to further verification.

The websites cite differing original sources for their information.

To confuse matters further, the family tree referred to above shows her as “Margery (or Maud)”. “Maud” is the Anglo-Saxon form of “Matilda”, so there could be three possible versions of her name.

The most detailed reference to her is in Electricscotland, which mentions a story related by Buchanan, on the authority of an old chronicle. According to this, Gilchrist was given the hand of King William’s sister in gratitude for the great services he had done for the Crown. She was unfaithful to Gilchrist, however, who had her killed, thus provoking the King into confiscating Gilchrist’s estates and banning him from the kingdom. Gilchrist was, however, later pardoned by the King and his estates and honours were restored to him.

Whatever her name, the majority of sources we have come across support the belief that she was descended from Malcolm III, and therefore provides a blood link to H.M. The Queen, and thence on to Alfred The Great, Macbeth etc. So you pays your money and you makes your choice… !

For more details of King Malcolm III please see his Wikipedia page.

There is, however, a second line of ancestry back from Alice Tempest to King Donald III, the younger brother of King Malcom III, who seized the Scottish throne after the death of Malcolm in 1093. This provides an additional blood link to H.M. The Queen and avoids the problem of Marjorie of Huntingdon, since it runs back from Lady Elizabeth Comyn, the 6xgreat-grandmother of Alice Tempest, to King Donald III. (We are grateful to Alan Rounding for informing us of this additional connection.)

And finally…

If you sometimes get confused at the terminology defining precise relationships (e.g. what does a 3rd cousin 7xremoved actually mean?) have a look at A Quick Guide to Relativity.


Proceed to Tree