Robert Elgar Datlen


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Maidstone 1999
Report by Shaun Griffiths
Originated October1999.   Last reviewed July 2006


On Wednesday 6th October I paid a visit to the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone to search through the parish registers of St Mary's Church, Chatham. We know from the 1851 Census that Adam and Martha Datlen lived here before they moved to Dover. The census records the birthplace of their two sons Adam and Robert both in St Mary's Church, Chatham.[1]

I was hoping to find the original baptism records for the two sons and establish if any other children were recorded. And also the marriage record for Adam & Martha.

I had booked into the archives for a whole day from 9:00 to 16:45, after which I travelled into Chatham to take a look around. I managed to uncover some fascinating facts which I will be presenting on this site in a number of small articles broken up as follows:-

  1. The Name Game
  2. Baptisms
  3. Marriages and Burials
  4. Revelations
  5. The Chatham Experience

I knew from The Datlen Family Tree book (DaFT)[2] that Adam & Robert Datlen were baptised at St Mary's Church, Chatham about 1801 and 1810 respectively.  Evidently, St Mary's was the only church in Chatham during this time. Therefore I decided my starting point would be the St Mary's Parish register of baptisms for the period 1790 - 1815.

Working through the records was a laborious, time-consuming process. They were difficult to read; in places they were faded beyond readability and occasionally even obliterated altogether. I made a point of noting any records that contained surnames vaguely similar to Datlen - just in case. It took a few hours to scan the entire reel and I did not find one single record with the name of Datlen. I began to suspect that the entries for Adam and Robert were among the obliterated ones. I could feel the balance of fortune was tipping against me.

I read back through the entries that I had scribbled into my notepad. None of these listed Adam & Martha as the parents but I suddenly realised that a couple of the surnames seemed familiar.  I remember reading in the DaFT that the Datlen name may once have been spelt Deitland. ("The Origin of the Datlen Name" - page 5). The names that caught my attention were spelt Daitland and Dietland, in both cases the parents were listed as Adam & Phoebe and I recalled that the DaFT mentions that Phoebe was an alternative name for Martha. (Generation No 1 - page 47).  The balance was now tipping in my favour and I felt sure that I was at last heading in the right direction.

It is worth noting that during the course of my research in Maidstone the Datlen name was spelt differently in every case: Daitland; Datelan; Dedland; Dietland; Dedling; Datling. I suppose one reason for this is that the registrars who were recording the name found Adam’s foreign accent difficult to understand and therefore would have guessed at it’s spelling. It is interesting to compare the earliest recorded instance of the name, Daitland, with the latest Datling. In just a decade or so the name has evolved, possibly as Adam’s English improved and spoke with greater clarity.

In the next article I will reveal details of the baptism records for the children of Adam & Phoebe D(ait)(iet)(ate)(ed)(at)l(and)(an)(ing).

It's funny how when analysing documents, certificates etc, that little details that may be dismissed as irrelevant first time round can suddenly become very relevant the second time round. For example I was just browsing the entries of marriage as found in Canterbury Cathedral archives relating to Adam and his sons. Both sons signed their own names on the register. Adam married Ann Marlow in 1827 spelt his name as DATLEN and Robert married Mary Ann Willis in 1831 also spelt his name DATLEN. When Adam[1] married Susannah Hammond in 1836 he too signed his own name. Although his surname is spelt DATLEN by the registrar, Adam's signature tells a different story. When I first saw this I thought that Adam had made a mistake and attempted to correct it resulting in an illegible scrawl. But my opinion now is that Adam spelt his name D-I-E-T-L-I-A-N.

If this is so then what may explain this ?  One answer may be that Adam[1] being a foreigner probably could not speak or write English too good (sic!), and had a valid excuse to misspell his name. While his sons, born and raised in England, had no such excuse. Alternatively it could be that Adam[1] preferred (and insisted) to use the correct spelling of his name while his sons anglicised the name to Datlen - possibly in an attempt to avoid the confusion caused in the pronunciation and spelling of the original name.

The following records of baptism were taken from the St Mary’s parish registers, Chatham dated 1790 – 1815 held at The Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone. Box reference P85.1.22.

Before starting my research in Maidstone I was aware that there were at least two children belonging to Adam & Martha (Phoebe) Datlen, both born in Chatham; Adam about 1801 and Robert about 1810.  Only recently has evidence that a third child may have separated the brothers. Andy Datlen found a reference in the International Genealogical Index on the Internet ( that a Mary-Anne Datlen was baptised in Dover in 1807[3]. If this were to be true then it would mean that the family would have moved from Chatham following the birth of Adam, to Dover, then after Mary-Anne was born they would have moved back to Chatham for Robert’s birth. This didn’t make much sense and I was keen to check this out while in Maidstone.

Working through the microfiche from 1790 onwards I came across the first child of Adam & Phoebe just as expected and right where it should be. Dated 8th November 1801. The child was baptised Adam William DAITLAND.

The second entry was dated 2nd February 1806 and recorded the baptism of Joseph, son of Adam and Phoebe DEDLAND.

The third entry was dated 5th May 1808 and recorded the baptism of Charlotte, Daughter of Adam and Phoebe DIETLAND.

The fourth and final entry was dated 14th April 1811 and recorded the baptism of Robert, son of Adam and Phoebe DADLING.

The fact that I had found the baptism records for both Adam and Robert convinced me beyond any doubt that this family group were the Datlens.  The surnames may be spelt differently but it was clear that these four children were siblings.  I was a little concerned about the five year span separating the first and second born. I checked the registers again between these dates but found nothing.

As suspected there was no Mary-Anne baptised in 1807, or at least I was unable to find a reference. It is just possible that Adam & Phoebe could have squeezed her in between Joseph and Charlotte but I doubt it.  I believe that the IGI entry must be an error and that the 0 was probably a 6. This would then relate to Mary-Anne Datlen daughter of Robert Elgar & Mary who was born in Dover in 1867.

The IGI also lists a Mary-Anne Datlen born in Dover in 1838. This date would indicate a grandchild of Adam & Phoebe but Robert & Mary had Robert Elgar in 1838 and Adam[2] & Ann would have been hard pressed to have had a child between John, born 1837 and George, born 1839[4]. The IGI entry can not be discounted as an error because during my research in Canterbury I found that a Mary-Anne Datlen had died in 1883 aged 45[5], this would put her year of birth at 1838. At the time I could not attribute this child to any known ancestor but now it is reasonable to assume her to be the daughter of Joseph. There were a number of other individuals that I could not place, but as we uncover more and more facts about the past these too may gradually find their rightful place in the Datlen Family Tree.

In the next article I will report on my findings from the marriage and burial registers and describe how a cruel twist threatened my progress.

The following information was extracted from the St Mary’s parish registers, Chatham held at The Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone. Marriage registers 1790-1828 box ref: P88,1,50 : Burial registers 1800 – 1820.

Having found the baptism records for the children of Adam & Phoebe(Martha) I was keen to locate their record of marriage and maybe obtain a few clues as to Adam’s origin.  The marriage registers conveniently included an index at the beginning of the reel. There were no listed names for Datlen or similar but I felt compelled to check the registers myself as I did not trust the integrity  of the index.

Working backwards in time from the birth of the first child, Adam William in 1801, I checked the records through to 1890. I did not find any record of marriage between Adam and Phoebe.

I also wanted to check the registers prior to 1831 to find any record of marriage for Robert Datlen. We know he married Mary-Ann in 1831 but it is suggested that this was his second wife. I was unable to find any such record. In fact the entire archive had no records relating to a Datlen marriage whatsoever.

In order to assure the completeness of my research I turned my attention to the burial registers. I expected to find that Joseph and possibly Charlotte had died in their infancy which would explain why they became unknown to us in later years. I started working back from 1820 to 1800.

I discovered that on the 13th June 1813, Phoebe DATLING, wife of Adam was buried, Her age at death was given as 33 placing her year of birth at 1780.  This of course means that Phoebe and Martha are not the same person as Martha is known to have died in 1835[6]. It would be reasonable to assume that Phoebe may have died in childbirth but I was unable to find an entry of baptism or death to correspond with this date. I don’t know if a stillborn child would have been registered anyway.

Continuing through the burial register I passed 1811, Robert’s baptism date,  confirming his survival. I passed 1808 and 1806 which would suggest that Charlotte and Joseph survived infancy. I knew that the only other child Adam also survived otherwise the Datlen Family Tree Book would never have been written, and as I casually surveyed the remainder of the reel edging closer to 1800 I was not expecting to find any further entries.

I did find another entry.  To my horror it was the burial record for Adam William DEDLING, dated 28th October 1802, son of Adam and Phoebe. I was devastated, this could not be. Adam lived, I know he did, he had children, hell ! he had 10 of 'em.

The Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone, closes at 16:45. The time was now 16:30. I had one big problem, Adam junior had died Before his first birthday and this did not tie in at all with the Datlen Family Tree. In order for my research to hold any credibility I knew that I had to find another Adam somewhere in the archives.

I was now on a desperate and frantic race against the clock. I knew where to look, I knew exactly where to look. I was aware from past experience that following the death of a first born son, parents would often give their next son the same name. If a second Adam were to be found then he would be found in that 5 year period following the birth of Adam William in 1801 and Joseph in 1806.

Adam William died in October of 1802 and Joseph was baptised in February of 1806. I therefore decided to narrow my search between 1803 and 1805. The rhythmic ticking of the library clock was a constant reminder that the minutes were quickly passing. I located box reference P85.1.22. took out the reel, loaded it onto the microfiche reader and wound on to January 1803. I had checked these records twice previously so I decided for a change of tactics. Whereas before I was scanning for the surname of Datlen this time I would look for the mother's name to be Phoebe.

I faithfully checked record after record, synchronised with the ticking of the clock. The months passed, the minutes passed. I found a Phoebe ! No, the child's name wasn't Adam, and the surname was nothing like Datlen. Continuing my search and I came to the end of the year, no sign of Adam in 1803.

January 1804, February 1804, was that a Phoebe? Yes it was. Mother's name Phoebe; Father's name -Adam. I followed the line of text to the beginning, the surname read S-A-T-E-L-A-N. Disappointed I was about to move on when I noticed the child was baptised Adam. I looked at the surname again. The initial letter was hardly legible, it wasn't an S at all it was a D. Wow! I had found the final missing link. The change of tactic, to my immense relieve, proved successful.

Adam Satelarn baptism
Datelan, Adam baptised on the 5th of February 1804 son of Adam and Phoebe.

Hardly believing my own eyes I stared at the screen, checking and re-checking the record. I gazed defiantly at the clock, four minutes remaining. Buzzing with excitement, even if I had more time I couldn’t have done any more work that day. I returned the reel, gathered my notes and made my way towards the exit.

But before I close the heavy wooden doors of the Maidstone Record Office there is one more discovery I have to report. I have saved this fact until last because I feel it is the most fascinating of all.

The burial record for Adam William Datlen in 1802 lists his mother as Phoebe and father as Adam. But his baptism record in 1801 tells us something rather different. His mother is listed as Phoebe as expected but his father is not listed as Adam but curiously as JOHANNES. From the evidence there is no doubt in my mind that Johannes and Adam were the same person. It would seem that at some time between November 1801 and October 1802 Adam senior changed his name from Johannes.

In my next article I will describe my visit into the town of Chatham where the Datlens were first known to have lived.

When I left Maidstone records office I decided that there was still plenty of time left in the day to warrant the thirty minute bus journey into Chatham. I was keen to visit St Mary’s church and it’s graveyard and generally get a feel for the town.

Chatham is a hilly town. As I walked around it's streets I was either going uphill or downhill. And they were steep hills! I asked a few locals if they knew the whereabouts of St. Mary's church but no-one had heard of it. One local pointed me in the direction of an old church by the railway station. He didn't know it's name but it was the oldest church around. So of I went down the hill.

The church did look old, it was disused and in a poor state of repair. A demolition notice was pinned to the door and it referred to the building as St James church encompassing the parish of St Mary’s. I was not sure what that meant, Maybe it was once St Mary’s church and later changed to St James?

I was a little puzzled why no-one had heard of St Mary’s church. When I checked the index at Maidstone record office earlier in the day, I was certain that records existed for the church up until the mid 1990’s. It was only after I returned home that I realised that St Mary's was also known as the Dockyard church. Maybe if I had ventured down to the docks I may have found the old building.

I learned that there was only one cemetery in Chatham. So of I went up the hill. A long way up the hill. It was a large cemetery and it took me a while to walk around the various plots. The oldest graves that I could find were dated around 1850. I suppose the older graveyards have now been demolished to make way for modern life.

I regret that I did not have the time to wander more around Chatham and in particular to visit the docks but I was content that I had made the pilgrimage to this town in which our forefathers lived out a decade or more.

[1]  Information based on early assumptions. Adam Datlen died in 1847 but the census shows that both sons Adam and Robert were born in Chatham.
[2]  “The Datlen Family Tree” book by Andy R Datlen, first edition March 1999
[3] (Record submitted after 1991 by a member of the LDS Church)
[4]  Could be Mary Ann Datlen daughter of Robert Datlen and Mary Ann Sneller Willis born Dover 1833
[5]  ST James’ Church, Dover – Reference U3/26/1/246 (could be Mary Ann Lockree, the wife of Henry Datlen
[6]  Canterbury Cathedral Archives - St James Church, Dover – Reference U3/26/1/23, 22nd March 1835 entry 1552


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