Welcome to the history of the Pickering family of Cheshire UK

This has been a very long journey – it’s taken me almost 50 years to get to the point where I felt I was ready to recant the story of a remarkable family, of which I am a descendant. Assembling the facts and family lore of my Pickering family ancestors has taken me on many historical adventures, introduced me to cousins in over five continents, and was the reason for me to take a dream-of-a-lifetime visit to the ancestral villages of Frodsham and Norley in Cheshire, England. 

You see, at about age 8 I became convinced I was a princess. What eight-year-old doesn’t? But the clinchers for me were that my father wore a wonderful blue and gold ring that bore a family crest. He was never without it and as I grew up I learned that the ring was so precious to him that he gave it to my mother for safe-keeping as we went on to fight in World War II. My mother kept it close and was happy to return it to him when he returned safely from the War. Many childhood photos show him wearing that ring.

The second bit of evidence that proved I was truly a princess was a photograph of a magical, mist-shrouded “castle”. No one really knew anything much about the castle but family lore was that this was where my great grandfather was born. I did know one bit of information: it was called Montebello and I knew that some distant cousins had actually visited it.

My father died of heart failure when I was only 16. Mother kept these family treasures for us and it was a known fact that my then one-year-old brother would inherit the ring. But even as a teen, facing the fact that I was not a princess, I became obsessed with finding out the true story of how we wound up with ancient artifacts in the year very modern year 1962. Unfortunately there was barely anyone left to ask.

My father’s younger sister was left without a mother at age 11 and her father was not really capable of bring her up so she came to live with our family until she married at age 21. She was too young and uninterested in her Pickering heritage at the time so she didn’t ask too many questions of her father. My father’s older sister was too distant for me to ask questions, and anyway, I really didn’t know what questions to ask at the time. And my grandparents were long gone.

Then, in 1973 my sisters and I discovered an “Old maid great aunt” (as she was know by the family) who was living in a nursing home in Philadelphia. Aunt Louisa Pickeirng [1897-1979] related stories of her childhood and memories of her grandmothers, Elizabeth Walker Pickering and Margarette Sterling DeMar. Elizabeth Pickeirng traveled in heady upper-class circles in England and Louisa remembered seeing some of her grandmother’s ball gowns worn at Queen Victoria’s court. I eventually received a photo of Elizabeth in one of those gowns as she posed for a portrait as Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting. I then paid a researcher in England to follow up on some of Aunt Louisa’s leads and typed up their findings in my first genealogy outline and all the stories I had gathered up to that time.  It was painstakenly typed on an old typewriter at home and was complete with an index. That was in 1979.

Aunt Louisa’s father, my great grandfather was Alexander John Pickering, [1857-1927]. He was actually born in the “castle” (which was really just a giant mansion) of the old photograph and I later found out that he departed from Liverpool, England to the U.S. through the port of New York aboard the legendary Lusitania. He traveled with his oldest brother, Charles William [1841-1928]. Alexander's occupation was listed on the passenger list as "manufacturer" and Charles was a "contractor."

I have learned so much about our wonderful world-travelled family over the last fifty-plus years of research. I laugh when I remember how I started out by writing letters to miscellaneous Pickering that wrote their contact information in the Genealogical Digest. It was, at the time, the only genealogy connections available to researchers and it was slow – very, very slow research. So I started going to the library and researching Pickering names at random in phone books throughout the United States and just simply picked up the phone and talked to them and asked about their ancestry in hopes we could make a connection. A little naive I know but I was determined to find a family member that knew something and could fill in the blanks.

I had a few chuckles and mishaps along the way, especially when I spoke to an obviously Black Southern gentleman named William Pickering. We both had a good laugh about that call and he was very kind to a young White girl trying to find information on her great grandparents. I knew so little then on how to do research, but I was willing to do almost anything to gather more information! When the internet became a viable way to communicate – about 1990, I created a website and put up what information I had in hopes that someone would find me and write that we were related – and I was finally rewarded for my efforts.

I can clearly remember when a cousin wrote to me from New Zealand. I thought my heart would stop at this miraculous connection with Cathy Clarke. Then a cousin, Alfard Kowallek, from Germany wrote that he had a 26-page handwritten diary from about 1799! I cried with excitement and wonder that such a document actually existed.

He then painstakingly emailed me one page at a time over the next 26 days. I just couldn’t wait to return home every day to read that day’s chronicles. He also sent me photos of a ring that was handed down through his family which had the same family crest and shield as ours but, appropriately, with minor differences. He and I were exactly fifth cousins – his great-great grandfather Peter, and my great-great grandfather William were brothers. He was just an amazing family historian and I loved corresponding with him.

As people found my website I heard from more and more cousins from around the world. Cousins from New Zealand, Australia, England, Germany, Prussian descendants, and even cousins from Kansas, and California, USA wrote to me with their stories and sent me photos of the treasures handed down to them. I was totally hooked and knew right then that I would spend a good deal of my life piecing this jigsaw of a story together.

In April of 2011 I made the journey of a lifetime to Frodsham, Cheshire, England where I traced our family back to the 1500’s. The little village looked like time had stood still and because of the details of the 1800’s census records and because of the very “English” way of treasuring their past, I was able to visit the very homes my family lived in and the churches they supported and worshiped in during the early 1800’s. As I sat during a church service at St. Laurence in Frodsham I looked up at the marvelous stone arches in wonder at the family story that brought me to this ancient place.

Our ancestors were mostly wealthy. They were world travelers and inventors. They were Merchant Bankers, investors in technology, landowners, mill owners, and shipping magnates. They immigrated to the US and Australia to purchase land to raise sheep so they could send their wool back to the mills of Liverpool. They were cotton and coal brokers. Oh yes, and they were artists and well-educated writers – traits that have been handed down to my generation and the generations of our children and grandchildren.  We are a family of entrepreneurs, writers, artists, and survivors.

My brother died suddenly in 2003 and the family decided that I should inherit the ring. My sisters were generous in allowing me to carry important symbol of our family’s heritage and I treasured every day I wore it. But there came a day when I knew someone else should be the bearer. During a family reunion in 2009 in Michigan, I gave the ring to my dear nephew, the son of my youngest sister Susan.

I really didn’t want this story to end with me. Matthew just had a young daughter, Emma, and I hope upon hope she will think she is a princess too because her Dad wears a beautiful blue and gold ring with a family crest. Only now its origins won’t be as much a mystery.

Here’s my journey and here’s our story. Please share it with your children and grandchildren – it’s story I’m so proud ot be a part of.

Constance Pickering Stover
   January, 2012