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Gee of Leeds

Sometime after the mid-16C the Gee family left Rothley. (See history of Gee of Rothley.) One group became Gee of Hull, which gave rise to Gee of Bishop Burton, Gee of Orpington and others. The heir inherited land through his wife, sold the Rothley estate and moved to Sutton Bonnington. In the mid-18C, one line moved to Leeds.

This line descends from William Gee (1781-1817). William's christening has not been found in the parishes in and around Leeds or Hull. The separate arrivals in Leeds of Elizabeth and George Gee at about the same time William was born suggest that they may have been an aunt and uncle.

William became an hosier in Leeds. He married Sarah Fearne in Holy Trinity, Hull, in 1805. William6 Gee, twice Sheriff and thrice Mayor of Hull, had rebuilt the great window of Holy Trinity two centuries before.

Her father, John Fearne, gent. had earlier married Elizabeth Crispin at Eastrington 1773, Eastrington is not quite halfway between Hull and Leeds. They christened daughter Sarah in 1783. It is significant that William was able to marry the daughter of a gentleman.

It is very likely not a coincidence that two centuries earlier Sir John Fearne was co-secretary with Sir Wm7 Gee on the Council of the North. Sir John was connected with Leeds, his papers are stored in the archive at Leeds.

The Gee of Bishop Burton owned land around, and possibly in, Hull. For example Wm of Bishop Burton had the advowson at Marfleet.

The ancestry of Robert Gee, who owned the residence and shop at 39 Lowgate, is uncertain. Robert is apparently tied to the Gee shippers of Hull. That house/shop had been owned by William6 Gee, twice Sheriff and thrice Mayor of Hull in 17C.

Christian names were common within the Gee hosiers and shippers of Hull and the Gee shippers of Cottingham, indicating a relationship between the two families. Joseph, Stephen, and Robert were all fairly unusual Gee names at this time. The name Robert was shared across the Hull hosiers and the Hull shippers, Joseph across the Hull hosiers and the Gee of Cottingham and Stephen across the Hull shippers and Cottingham. The three families must be connected.

In the will of Robert Gee d 1799, Robert owned shops, “messuages” (dwellings) etc. at Lowgate in Hull. One of Robert’s tenants was John Grant. An umbrella maker, John Grant rented 39 Lowgate from the Gee family in 1791[1]. Grant was the father in law of Thomas Mapplebeck, an artist who left drawings of the building.

“The house and business premises in Lowgate, now owned and occupied by Mr. Mapplebeck, were formerly the residence of Mr. Alderman Gee.” [2]

Robert had one son, Stephen Gee of Elbring, who was under 23 in 1799. Elbring was one of the Hanseatic League cities with which the Gee of Hull may have been trading wool and other commodities for centuries.

The naming of Willliam (1781-1817) and Sarah’s children suggest that William’s father was also named William. He may have descended from Sir William7 or a near relation. He would have been born around 1750, perhaps in York. He probably did not have a close family relationship with the hosiers of Hull, since otherwise his son likely would not have been able to marry the daughter of a gentleman. He may have had other children, including a daughter Elizabeth and a son George.

Again from the children’s names, his mother may have been Ann Helmsley. And note that two of his children were named Elizabeth and George. Note that the second child (twins), one was named John Fearne, we know this was Sarah's father's name. If this line of thinking is correct, it accounts for most of the children:

*Ann Helmsley 1806 – oldest daughter named for William’s mother?
*William Armitage 1807 – oldest son named for William's father?
*Joshua Brown and John Fearne (twins) 1809 – second son named for Sarah's father John Fearne, Joshua could have been an uncle.
*Josiah Bown 1811 -- Josiah Fearne of Leeds was a clothier, the relationship is not known. Josiah had a son, Nehemiah Fearne of Leeds, who died before 1742.
*Elizabeth Crispin 1813 – second daughter named for Sarah’s mother
*Sarah Elizabeth 1814 – third daughter named for Sarah?
*George Walker 1815 -- possibly named for William's brother?

Sarah had brothers Mr. John Fearne, draper, of Hull and Mr. T[homas?] Ferne, also of Hull. They appear as drapers at 16 Lowgate in contemporary directories of Hull.

William died in Ostbaldwick in 1817.[3] Sarah had died two years before at the birth of their eighth child. This left William with up to eight children, the oldest only age 11. He may have been in Ostbaldwick to get help from his family or his wife’s family.

Ostbaldwick was a prebendary of York Minster. Gee have been associated with York Minster going back at least to the time of Sir Wm7, who has a mausoleum there.

There are two interesting buildings immediately at the edge of Osbaldwick:

*Heslington Hall. Heslington Hall was constructed 1565-68 for Sir Thomas Eynns, the Secretary and Keeper of the Seal to the Council of the North, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward Neville. Sir William7 Gee of the Rothley/Hull/Bishop Burton line held exactly this position a few decades later. Sir William’s co-secretary was Sir John Fearne.

*The King’s Manor. The Presidents of the King’s Council in the Northern Parts took over the late fifteenth century house of the abbots of St Mary’s Abbey and converted it into the King’s Manor. Sir William7 and Sir John Fearne would have worked in this complex of buildings.

This is not to suggest that William (1781-1821) was visiting a resident of either building when he died in Osbaldwick in 1817. However as we see over and over again, very often some family members continue to live in an area for generations. Sir William7 and Sir John Fearnewould have spent much time in York, very possibly owned property there, if so that property would have been near the King’s Manor, i.e. in or near Osbaldwick.

This adds to the other circumstantial evidence and makes it likely that William descends from the Rothley/Hull/Bishop Burton line, which remains to be confirmed.

The current DNA data as of this writing (July, 2013) lets us estimate that the most recent common ancestor between this branch and other Gee branches was distant, perhaps as early as 13C (50% probability). The DNA suggests that this line shares common Gee ancestors with the Devon and Gee/Jay of Montgomery Co., Maryland lines.

Two of William and Sarah’s sons married daughters of John Simpson (1782-1851). Simpson’s son Edward founded Stead and Simpson, a small tannery in Leeds. William and Sarah’s grandson, Harry Simpson Gee (1842-1924), moved the company to Leicester and turned it into one of the first vertically integrated footwear businesses in England (see history of Gee of Leicester).

As far back into English history as as we can trace, and likely back to Anjou in France before coming to England sometime around the 13th century, the Gee have been associated with cloth. Originally wool, exporting wool, later as drapers selling finished cloth. Young males growing up in families of drapers may have turned to hosiery as a hot new business area.

The relationship between William (1781-1821) and the hosiers of Hull may be as close family, however given that William married the daughter of a gentlemen, this is not likely. Another possibility is that after the bankruptcy of Roger Gee d 1778, the last of the Bishop Burton line to own the manor, young William may have been one of many in the extended family who suddenly found their support cut off . Whatever the cause, younger sons had always needed to venture into new areas, and hosiery beckoned.

[1] Newsletter 17, East York Local History Society, Summer 2007, p. 22.
[2] Sketches of Hull Celebrities: or, Memoirs and Correspondences of Anderman Thomas Johnson (Who was twice Mayor of Kingston-upon-Hull) and Four of his Lineal Descendents, from the year 1640 to 1858, ed. William Anderson Gunnell, Mssrs. Walker & Brown, Hull (1876).
[3] Hull Packet, May 20, 1817 (deaths). This information was furnished by Barbara Holmes.

Owner/Source  Clive Simpson Gee 
Latitude  53.795068 
Longitude  -1.53609 
File name  Leeds Minster (St. Peter).jpg 
File Size  7.27k 
ID  69 
Dimensions  210 x 184 
Linked to  William Gee 

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