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John Sandford of Tuam and Miss Berry

The earliest Sandford from which my family has a clearly proven line of descent was John Sandford, a gentleman of Tuam. From his tombstone at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland cathedral at Tuam, we know that he died on 8 Sept 1817, aged 66 years, he was therefore born in 1750 or 1751. Here is the transcription quoted by Christopher Sandford in 1945. It can still be made out 56 years later when I visited Tuam in 2002.

In the Blessed hope of
Everlasting life which was
promised through our Lord
Jesus Christ reposes The
remains of John Sandford
who departed this life the
8th of September 1817 in
the 66th. Year of his Age

According to my grandfather, there was a tradition that John held some high office, probably ‘monarch’ , mayor or sheriff of Tuam. He married a Miss Berry. Miss Berry was thought to have come from a house called the Lo, Galway. Tradition says that she was very beautiful, and that people used to gaze after her when she went out riding. This fact is known only from notes made by one of our kinswomen, K.Lockwood.

Another snippet of information amongst my grandfather's papers is that Miss Berry brought the name Beech to the family.

It is sad that we nothing know more of my great great great great grandmother, not even her Christian name. It is noted that in 1810 a Matthew Berry was a merchant in Galway. In 1883 there was a Michael Berry in Tuam with his son Patrick Berry. Perhaps these clues will one day yield fruit, although I am not too hopeful since it is said that at that time there were lots of Berry’s around.

In 1945 my grandfather's first cousin, Christopher Sandford, had engaged Mr Thomas Sadlier, “the greatest living expert on Irish pedigrees,” on looking up the Sandfords. Sadlier had already reported that John Sandford was an auctioneer and also carried on a hardware business, and maybe he was the John Sandford who occupied Gorragurrane near Dunmore, County Galway. Sadlier apparently thought that John may have been a son of James Sandford, collector of Sligo, who died in 1756.

According to the Tuam register, in 1808 John Sandford married Eleanor Graham who was presumably his second wife. John had only one son and possibly one daughter. We know about this only son from his will, of which Arthur Wellesley Sandford (1858 – 1938) made a pencilled note exactly as follows:

Will of John Sandford Tuam 1817
I  J.S. Gentm everything to my grd son John S. eldest son of my only son Beech Sandford who appoint executor ( and desirable as guardian to his son & my grd son!)
(Money to be invested in some security approved of by Revd Thos. Hawksworth)
Beech to have the interest until John 21 & to have it if John shd die, for his sole use
T Hawkesworth
Witnesses Jane Potter
Thos. Hicks

The evidence for a possible daughter of John Sandford is the marriage licence in Tuam in 1811, for the marriage of Katherine Sandford to Chas. O’Callaghan of Lismore.

Besides Sadlier’s suggestion, there have been other speculations on the origins of John Sandford, as follows:

Firstly, that he may have been a brother of Thomas Sandford of Trinity College Dublin, who was born in Galway the son of Robert, gent. Farmer, of Gortagarran, Clonbern. I think this which came from Christopher Sandford may have been an early idea which was replaced by the suggestion by Sadlier mentioned above.

Secondly, there is a tradition that the family are a branch from the ancient Sandford family of Sandford from Askham near Penrith. Mary, (Lady Carbery), my grandfather's aunt, wrote to him,

We have traced these Cumberland people to Galway, where Beach (sic) Sandford, yr grt gr? Father lived but so far cant prove the connection. You know of course that the Sandfords are one of the very few families who have gone down the male line ever since the Conquest. But they were there, in the North country, before William came, and were probably Vikings, & that part of England was never conquered like the rest. That crest motto, Saint et Fort, must have been a very recent invention! Unworthy of Vikings – (even tho’ the original Norman were of course of that stock).
I don’t think that anything has got beyond notes on family history. An old Mr Sandford whom we met in Scotland, knew all abt the descent, & it is said that on his death his widow sent the papers to Rodington, & that your father did not keep them, but I can’t vouch for that. It doesn’t sound likely to me. After the war – please God – you must talk to Christopher (this is his address) & he will tell you what he knows.

All the records and registers at Tuam were destroyed in a riot in 1798 and none others were preserved until 1807. It is therefore difficult to obtain further confirmation that Miss Berry was John’s wife, or to find the record of the birth of their son Beech.

Michael Sandford - 30 May 2004

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