Henry Gee (d. 1545) was sheriff and "reforming mayor" of Chester. His son, Edmund, also served as sheriff and mayor.
The first reference to Gee’s in Cheshire is Henry Gee, sheriff and "reforming mayor." He began the Chester Races, the oldest in Britain still at their original course, the Roodee. Many speculate that the term "Gee-Gee's" for race horses honors him. He was twice mayor of Chester, ending corruption. His will, translated here, names properties in Chester, Mouldsworth and several cities to the northwest as well as Manchester.
Henry’s son Edmund Gee also served as sheriff and mayor of Chester. He was a prominent merchant in nearby Liverpool. At least one source has him mayor of both cities. He died while mayor of Chester, a victim of the "Black Death" in 1550.
While there is no evidence to connect the Rothley Gee branch with the Gee’s in Chester, it is quite a coincidence that Gee's appear as sheriffs and mayors in both Chester and Hull during the mid-1500's. The Leicestershire Gee's trace their ancestry back to about 1400. We are hoping through the current study to better understand the relationship between these two branches and to give some guidance as to where more work should be done in the public and other records.
The Chester branch may have given rise to the Manchester branch, something we are also hoping to uncover.
One of the current mysteries in the Gee family history is the origin of the Gee’s of Cheshire and Lancashire. Today around 24% of all Gee’s in England are from Lancashire, and adding Cheshire this raises to (ref).
Looking at the distribution of Gee’s in England as of the census of 1881, the greatest concentrations of Gee’s were in Leicestershire, Cheshire, Liverpool. Looking at the adjacent counties, it’s apparent that these initial centers have radiated out to nearby counties but only very slowly. This is completely in keeping with the predominant pattern for other English surnames.
Speculation has been that the name originated in Cheshire, coming from Gee Cross, a prosperous village on the outskirts of Manchester. However (ref) points out that the name Gee Cross dates only from the (ref) century which would be well too late. Others speak of a cross erected “anciently” by the Gee family, which again points to the name coming from the family rather than the other way around.
Robert and Dicon Gee
Henry VII’s accession (upon the defeat and death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485) marked the shift of power from white rose to red rose, and from York to Lancaster. The Yorkshire Gee’s seem to be the older family, in that they descend from the earlier Leicestershire Gee’s. Gee’s start appearing in Lancashire right after Battle of Bosworth. Perhaps the new Lancastrian king brought new opportunities in Manchester and the surrounding area.
The Recognizances of Chester refer to a Robert Gee who was son of Dicon Gee and father of Alexander Gee of Rothley in 1494. That cannot be correct—this would have been much too early. More likely the Recognizances has it backwards, and this Robert would have been son of Alexander of Rothley not his father.
This Robert may be the same Robertus Gee, de Southwald, merchant, who was trading in York in 1497.
A Robert Gee was great-uncle to William Gee, the sheriff and mayor of Hull during Henry VIII. This is so interesting because Dicon married Marion de Dokenfeld.
This is the Duckinfield family of Stockport. (W.C. Fields of all people is a descendent.) This is the first of many pointers to a connection between Chester and Leicestershire.
Another early Gee in this area is Charles Gee, a chantry priest at Trafford in 1514. Trafford is part of Stretford, and the Trafford family held Stretford since the eleventh century. Charles’ chantry was a part of the cathedral in Manchester. Sir Edmond Trafford selected.
Those names again
Let’s start by examining the evidence. The best-documented early Cheshire Gee is Henry Gee (d. 1596?), twice mayor of Chester.
The name Henry appears earlier in the Rothley Gee family (there was HenryL5 in Rothley, father of WilliamL6 of Hull. Could they be one and the same, therefore making Henry of Chester the father of WmL6? This would go a long way to explaining all the coincidences.
However Henry of Chester married Elizabeth __, the daughter of the Chester Recorder. A family pedigree shows HenryL5’s wife as the daughter of Cornelius Gee. But this same pedigree seems to differ with property records over Cornelius’ son. (Explain further.)
Also the name Edmond reappears. EdmundL2 was in the Rothley family. Henry of Chester named his son Edmond. However that would mean skipping several generations.
Edmond was a fairly common name then, or could have been a name from his wife’s family. Or perhaps there were one or more descendents midway along this line, of which we don’t have a record.
Again, the family business
Just as Hull, Chester was a port. Since it was on the opposite side of the country it tended to trade with Ireland rather than the Continent. And with Portugal and Spain. Henry had commercial dealings with a Spaniard and named him in his will. His son Edmund brought in port from Oporto in Portugal.
Henry’s occupation was draper. Now a draper in those days was a cloth merchant. We don’t know whether the family in Leicester was shipping cloth to Chester, either by sea or overland, but Henry was selling cloth. And very successfully, because he was able to buy land in various areas around Chester.
The similarity of their careers is perhaps even more striking. Two men, both outsiders, arrive in major cities. Both became successful merchants, then sheriff, then are elected mayor multiple times. This cannot be a coincidence.
The evidence from arms
Consider the similarity of arms of the two families. The Leicestershire Gee’s arms were a red shield with a blue sword with a gold hilt.
In Manchester a silver shield with a blue sword with a gold hilt. The Chester Gee’s used a red shield with a silver sword with a gold hilt.
It’s worth noting that Gee’s did not appear with arms during the visitations of Cheshire in (dates). The earliest Gee arms are those of Sir William Gee, secretary to James I.
The evidence from intermarriage
Intermarriage between the Cheshire and Yorkshire families. Apparently at times when there was no male heir, as a way to keep the property in the Gee family. (Examples.)
The evidence from the advisors of James I
Edward Gee, the son of Ralph Gee of Manchester, was the chaplain to James I (ref). Sir William Gee was secretary to James I and on his Privy Council. Yet another connection between the Lancashire and Leicestershire families.
Perhaps the clincher is examining the merchant’s mark of both men. Other than changing the letter of their first name (W and H) the marks are identical.
There is also the touching similarity that each was literate enough to write his own will in his own hand.
So… where did Henry come from?
Henry would have been a generation before WilliamL6. It’s tempting to think he might be his father. Or possibly his uncle.
Another possible ancestor is RogerL4, HenryL5’s uncle and WilliamL6’s great-uncle. Roger is believed to have had three children although none of their names have been recorded.
A mention of Cornelius. And a Cornelius pops up (later--when?) again in Cheshire (check this).
Dicon in Stockport 1494. DiconRobertAlexander. (Ormerod quoting the Recognizances) But this must be a misreading—possibly from Latin, confusion. If it was, must have been the other way around. Dicon would have been the right age for father or grandfather of Henry. One source says Dicon married Marion de Duckenfield. Would fit as Alexander’s other sons and grandsons married daughters of knights. (Ref.)
Henry as Mayor
Roodee, ‘gee-gee’s”, Calverley, lands (see will), descendents. Line may have become extinct but intermarriage preserved…
Spread to North Cheshire/Manchester
Edmond. Liverpool. Leased property from De Molineaux. The Gee in Oporto may have been associated with Edmond.
Manchester. Intermarriage with Hull family.
Speculation on contemporary Gee’s
In Manchester and North Cheshire…