The Shipway Pedigree Fraud

With 10 years’ expertise of deciphering Sixteenth-18th century registers, FreeREG transcriber Cathy Jury has come throughout some fascinating entries. She even wrote about the challenges of transcribing troublesome entries, again in 2017. However the next be aware, referring to a baptism of ‘John Shipway, the son of John Shipway’ within the Charfield, GLS register, she says caps all of them:

“Notice that the entry of Could thirty first 1619 is a forgery, written at a a lot later date and forming a part of the infamous Shipway Forgery. See additionally marriage 4 Feb 1617 and burial 9 Dec 1684.”

Cathy appeared into the story behind the entry, and says that it’s definitely worth the learn…


When the church data present a BMD report on your ancestor, you’re inclined to just accept it as a truth. Errors are made, in fact – however often solely within the spelling or order of names. The likelihood that an entry is fraudulent is unthinkable.

That’s why Lt Col Robert Shipway of Grove Home, Chiswick, who knew he had some ‘ancestral connections’ inside Gloucestershire, was completely happy to just accept the findings offered to him by the ‘principal genealogical specialist’ Dr Herbert Davies BA, MD, who he had employed to analysis the Shipway pedigree, in 1897.

However Lt Col Shipway was deceived. ‘Dr’ Davies was truly a 22-year-old former assistant college instructor who had assumed the BA (Oxon) diploma of 1 Herbert Davies (who was now in Australia), and whose MD diploma diploma from the College of Heidelberg was a whole forgery.
And, in actual fact, the ‘findings’ Davies offered to Lt Col Shipway had truly concerned the desecration of a number of historic relics (together with the addition to the Charfield register nearly 270 years later, which Cathy had seen), and one unlucky demise following an exhumation. All of it resulted in a three-year jail sentence for his or her perpetrator.

Outstanding fraud

Throughout the subsequent 12 months following his engagement, Davies had pursued the Shipway line and traced it again to John Shipway (c1615-1690) of Beverston Fort. However his analysis had stalled with the shortage of Shipway entries within the parish register previous to 1639, so Davies then commenced a exceptional sequence of fraudulent actions to be able to set up a extra historical and much more vital pedigree for the Shipways. 
It needs to be famous that, all through this era, Davies was being paid day by day, plus bills – in complete he acquired £683 in charges and bills (equal to c£91k right now, in response to the Financial institution of England’s calculator). 
Utilizing his spectacular educational standing, Davies gained free entry to the Beverston registers and satisfied the vicar to provide authorized certificates of the entries he had ‘discovered’. He additionally gained permission to examine the contents of some graves, resulting in the ‘discovery’ of an inscription on the plate of a lead coffin (found after Davies was left alone to ‘clear’ it).

Imago of the register with a note about the fraudulent entry

Picture of the register web page, with a be aware in regards to the fraudulent entry.
Reference P74/IN/1/5, Courtesy of Gloucestershire Archives

“A lesson to all”

Davies’ subsequent act was to forge numerous wills. However this was to be his undoing.
Lt Col Shipway confirmed the wills to the eminent genealogist WPW Phillimore, who felt that the content material was suspicious and alerted the suitable authority. The consequence was a prosecution lasting from September to November 1897, which was avidly adopted by the native and nationwide press. Davies was sentenced to a few years penal servitude.
Learn more details on the story here and on this blog on the AmericanAncestors website, the place the creator properly notes: 

“The case of ‘Dr’ Davies serves as a lesson to all: even essentially the most detailed makes an attempt at crafting a fraudulent story can be unravelled by well-trained researchers.”

Open, International Family tree

After all, if all knowledge was actually open and accessible to everybody – which is our goal at UK Free Family tree, con-artists akin to Davies would discover it tougher to work their scams!

OPEN, GLOBAL GENEALOGY is the theme of our annual convention which is able to happen (on-line) on 22 and 29 Could. Discover out extra about our plans for the convention and register to affix us on the 2021 Conference page.