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One of my maternal great-great-great-grandmothers was Mary Anne COMBER (1803-51). She was born at Cuckfield, the third known child of Thomas Comber (1776-1848) and Ann BANKS (c1775-1827). The earlier generations used Comber as the spelling, later ones tended more toward Coomber. Some of my information about Mary Anne's possible Comber ancestors has been supplied by several other COMBER researchers.

Mary Anne Comber (1803-51) had six known children with Richard KENNARD (1785-1861) at Keymer and Cuckfield between 1827 and 1847. Richard's first wife had been buried at Cuckfield in 1825 but Richard and Mary Anne did not marry, the reasons are not known, some of their children were known as Kennard but others used Comber. All bar one, Francis Richard COOMBER (the extra 'O' was squashed in on the will) were named as KENNARD in Richard Kennard's will but two daughters subsequently married as COMBER. Originally it was thought that only one of their children was baptised but four others have now been discovered. Only the last was baptised as KENNARD (at Balcombe but parents of Haywards Heath), four were baptised as COMBER but all appear as KENNARD in censuses and many other sources. Those baptised as COMBER were: William Kennard in 1829 at Wivelsfield (possibly aged 3); Francis Richard in 1837 at Cuckfield aged 6; Elizabeth Kennard in 1846 at Brighton aged 8 and Hannah Mary Kennard in 1846 at Brighton aged 5. William was said to be the son of Mary COMBER, the rest as the children of Mary Anne COMBER.

Thomas (1776?-1848) and Ann [Banks] (1775?-1827) had four known children baptised at Cuckfield between 1800 and 1806. They then had at least four more children baptised at Lindfield before ending up at Wivelsfield where Thomas was buried. Their children baptised at Cuckfield were: Louisa; Richard Shoulder; Mary Anne and Thomas. Those known at Lindfield were: Sarah, Elizabeth, Charity and Zilpah. Thomas was listed as a farmer for the post 1812 baptisms at Lindfield and also appears as a farmer in the 1841 census for Wivelsfield, living at Hurst House.
The marriage of Thomas Comber and Ann Banks took many years to find. It is not on the otherwise comprehensive Sussex Family History Group marriage index but it did take place in Sussex, at Lindfield in 1796. It turned out to be 'invisible' because the names of the participants weren't filled out by the vicar, who also didn't include it when he later prepared the Bishop's Transcripts. Thomas signed as T Comber and Ann in full, there were four witnesses who included Ann's sister Sarah Banks. The Bankses lived at Keymer but several of their children, including Ann, were baptised at Lindfield. The parents also had the habit of doing them in batches, rather than individually as babies. Proof that Ann Banks was the wife of Thomas Comber is provided by her burial entry at Keymer in 1827. The register states that she was the wife of Thomas Comber, farmer of Hurst House, Wivelsfield. Very kind of the clerk to mention these details and also very helpful that Thomas was still living there in 1841.
Richard Shoulder Comber (1801-35) married Mary HOWARD in 1828 and had children at Wivelsfield. Sarah Comber had two illegitimate children and was in the workhouse in 1851. Charity Comber married the much older Henry DEWEY of Keymer and they had two daughters. The fate of most of the rest isn't known but Zilpah did something that rather stunned me when I discovered it. Zilpah had an illegitimate son baptised as Warden Kennard COMBER at Wivelsfield in 1834. Zilpah appears with Warden KENNARD senior and their four children, including Warden KENNARD junior at Wivelsfield in 1841. The Sussex Family History Group Marriage Index has revealed that Zilpah and Warden took a trip to Lewes in 1835 to get married, about six months after the birth of their first child. They were at Brighton in the 1851 census and had two more children there. Their moving may have had something to do with Warden's appearance at Lewes Quarter Sessions in 1845, I haven't yet looked at the details. Warden KENNARD senior was the son of Richard KENNARD, the "husband" of Zilpah's older sister Mary Anne COMBER. So Zilpah married her sister's "stepson".

It had been thought that Thomas Comber (1776-?) was baptised at Slaugham, the seventh and last known child of John Comber (1737?-1817) and Sarah (?-1803). However, this was before the four later children baptised at Lindfield and the subsequent move to Wivelsfield were discovered. Extra information sent to me by another COMBER researcher revealed that there was another candidate for Thomas. This one was baptised as an adult in 1812 at Lindfield, born 1776, son of William and Ann. Given the later events and extended links with the KENNARDs it seems much more likely this was 'my' Thomas as a William COMBER married Ann SHOULDER at Lindfield in 1775. Their children (except Thomas) were baptised at Fletching and William was buried there in 1808. Ann was buried at Fletching in 1827, she was of Piltdown which is just over a mile away. However, nothing is proven and there is actually a third candidate for Thomas, baptised in 1774 at Wivelsfield, son of John and Charity.

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