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John Gay and Virginia Woolf

their cousinship with Jean Margaret Kennedy
through the Pollard family

John Gay

Through the Pollard family, my natural grandmother, Mrs. Jean Margaret (Kennedy) Mitchelson, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, was a 5th cousins seven times removed of John Gay, author of The Beggar’s Opera, and a 10th cousins twice removed of Virginia (Stephen) Woolf, the novelist.


         Anthony Pollard       =  Petronell Chudleigh
   of Waye and Horwood, Devon  |
          (ca. 1481-)          |
                               |
                    ___________|____________________________
                    |                                      |
   Thomas Gay    = Alice Pollard     Nicholas Ashe  = Joanna Pollard
  of Goldworthy, |                    (or Esshe)    | d. 16 June 1587
     Devon       |               of Clyst Formison, |
                 |                      Devon       |
      ___________|                d. 4 April 1552   |
      |                                             |
   John Gay     = Margaret        Richard Esshe (or Ashe) = Prudence
of Frithelstock |  Welsh              of Sowton, Devon    | Rudgeley
                |                     (ca. 1531-1591)     | d. 1591
       _________|___________________            __________|
       |                           |            |
   Anthony Gay     = Elizabeth  Matthew     Henry Esse      = Loveday
(of Frithelstock?) |  Beaple      Gay  (Esshe, Eshe, Aishe) |  Moyle
    Mayor of       |               |       of Sowton        | d. 1629
Barnstable (1638)  |               |       (d. 1640)        |
                   |               |                        |
        ___________|        _______|                        |________
        |                   |                                       |
  John Gay, of = Joan     The Rev.   Oliver Mainwaring, Jr. =  Prudence
Frithelstock   | Smith   John  Gay   of Exeter and Dawlish, |  Esse
               |         Vicar of           Devon           | (1599-  )
               |       East Anthony    (ca. 1587-1672)      |
               |            |                               |
       ________|            |______              ___________|
       |                          |              |
 William Gay      The Rev.  = Patience  Oliver Mainwaring  =   Hannah
of Barnstaple,  Dennis Venn |  Gay    (or Manwaring) (III) |   Raymond
    Devon        Vicar of   |         of New London, Conn. | (1643-1717)
 (1649-1695)      Holleton  |           (1634-1723)        | 
= Katherine                 |                              |
   Hanmer                   |                              |
       |                    |                              |____
       |                    |                                  |           
   John Gay             The Rev.       Peter Harris  =   Elizabeth
  (1685-1732)         Richard Venn    of New London, |   Manwaring
   Author of          (1691-1740)         Conn.      | (ca.1663-1720)
The Beggar's Opera     Rector of       (1660-1719)   |
                     St. Antholin's                  |
                     parish, London                  |
                     = Maria Ashton                  |
                            |                        |
          __________________|                   _____|
          |                                     |
 The Rev. Henry Venn    = Eling           Joseph Harris = Catharina
       1725-1797        | Bishop       of Poughkeepsie  |   Hegeman
 Vicar of Huddersfield, |                (1709-1746+)   | (living 1746)
   Rector of Yelling    |                               |
        ________________|                      _________|
        |                                      |
The Rev. John Venn = (1) Katharine    Francis Harris = (1) Catharina
   (1759-1813)     |       King       of Sandy Cove, |       Lent
    pastor of      |    (1760-1803)     Digby Tp.,   |   (living 1767)
 Little Dunham,    |                     Annapolis   |
     Norfolk       |                   Nova Scotia   |
                   |                     (1740-1816) |
                   |_________                        |___________
                            |                                   |
Rt. Hon. Sir James  = Jane Catharine   John Comfort, Jr. = Catharine
    Stephen,        |     Venn        of Clinton Tp.,    |   Harris
    permanent       |  (1793-1875)   Lincoln Co., U.C.,  | (1767-1846)
 Under-Secretary    |                 (say 1759-1830)    |
of State for the    |                                    |
    Colonies,       |                                    |
Regius Professor of |                                    |
  Modern History,   |                                    |
   Cambridge        |                                    |
      ______________|                         ___________|
      |                                       |
Sir Leslie Stephen  = Julia Prinsep   Francis Comfort  =  Jemima
   (1829-1894)      |   Jackson       of Beamsville,   |  Wilcox
  editor of the     | (18461895)       Clinton Tp.    | (1801-1876)
  Dictionary of     |                Lincoln Co., U.C. |
National Biography  |                  (1800-1880)     |
                    |___                               |______
                       |                                     |
 Leonard Sidney  =  Virginia          John Kennedy (IV) = Margaret
    Woolf           (Stephen)           of St. Anns,    |   Comfort
   political          Woolf           Gainsborough Tp., | (1834-1916)
  theorist,         the writer           Lincoln Co.,   |
    author          (1882-1941)          (1832-1897)    |
 (1880-1969)                               _____________|
                                           |
                                     John Kennedy (V) = Susanna Samantha
                                       of Melita,     |  Helena Young
                                       Manitoba,      |   (1882-1937)
                                        Canada        |
                                      (1862-1939)     |
                                                      |________
                                                              |
                                     Richard Harry = Jean Margaret
                                     Mitchelson, Jr.    Kennedy   
                                      of Winnipeg,     (1917-2000)
                                       Manitoba
                                      (1914-1998)
                                        (my natural grandparents) 


Sources: In the chapter on John Gay in Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the English Poets, it is stated that Gay “descended from an old family that had been long in possession of the manour of Goldworthy in Devonshire [and] was born in 1688 [sic] at or near Barnstaple.” This hint was picked up on a number of years ago in the account of the Gay family in Annals of a Clerical Family by John Venn (1834-1923), a grandson of the Rev. John Venn (1759-1813) above, and himself a distinguished logician, perhaps now best known for his lasting re-introduction of (Euler’s) circles in set theory, was also author. But he had a second and equally distinguished career as a biographer, being coauthor, with his son John Archibald Venn, of the monumental Alumni Cantabrigienses. Materials consulted include, besides standard biographical dictionaries:

For John Gay

  • Annals of a Clerical Family; being some account of the family and descendants of William Venn, Vicar of Otterton, Devon, 1600-1621 (London, 1904), pp. 231-33.
  • J.J. Alexander & W.R. Hooper, The History of Great Torrington in the County of Devon (Sutton, Surrey, 1948), 102-3, which supplies some additional evidence for the identification of the poet’s father and grandfather.
  • Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists who came to America before 1700, 7th ed. (1992), line 217 (which includes the line on the right-hand side, from Anthony Pollard & Petronell Chudleigh down to Oliver Manwaring III).
  • The Visitation of the County of Devon in the year 1564, ed. Frederic Thomas Colby (Exeter, 1881), pp. 170-1 (Pollard), 110 (Gay).
  • The Visitation of the County of Devon in the year 1620, ed. Frederic Thomas Colby (Publications of the Harleian Society, vol. 6, 1872), pp. 125, 126 (Gay).

For Virginia Woolf

  • Annals of a Clerical Family, 41ff., especially pp. 142-44.
  • Francis Galton & Edgar Schuster, Noteworthy Families … an index to kinships in near degrees between persons whose achievements are honourable, and have been publicly recorded (Publications of the Eugenics Record Office of the University of London, vol. 1, 1906), pp. 72-74 (for the Stephen family and their Venn descent).

Return to list of famous relatives

From the Genealogy Page of John Blythe Dobson
URL = johnblythedobson.org/genealogy/famous/Gay.html
This page written 18 May 2003
Revised to show line of Virginia Woolf, 1 April 2009
Last revised 1 April 2009