Joseph Lemuel Chester
Born: 30 Apr, 1821
Died: 26 May, 1882
Field: Historian
Location in the Abbey: South choir aisle
Type of memorial: Tablet
Type of material: Marble

The American genealogist Colonel Joseph Lemuel Chester has a memorial in the south choir aisle of Westminster Abbey. It is made of various coloured marbles and was put up in 1883. The inscription reads:

"Colonel Joseph Lemuel Chester L.L.D. of Columbia College, New York City as also D.C.L. of the university of Oxford. Born 30 April 1821 at Norwich, Connecticut U.S.A. Died 26 May 1882 in London where he had resided for many years. The learned editor of The Westminster Abbey Register. In grateful memory of the disinterested labour of an American master of English genealogical learning this tablet was erected by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster"

He was the third son of grocer Joseph Chester and his wife Prudee (Tracy). His brothers were Albert and Charles. The earliest known ancestor of his in America was Captain Samuel Chester who moved to New London from Boston in 1663. He was a school teacher for a while and then a clerk and contributed articles to journals. Then he studied law and the governor of Pennsylvania, Hon.James Pollock, appointed him one of his aides-de-camp with a military rank of Colonel. In 1858 he came to England and lived in Surrey, not far from London. He started work on tracing the ancestry of American families and transcribed many notes from parish registers. But his greatest work was "The Marriage, Baptismal and Burial registers of the Collegiate Church or Abbey of St Peter Westminster" [ie.Westminster Abbey] which was published in 1876 with many useful footnotes. Queen Victoria sent him her thanks for such a "valuable and interesting volume" and sent him a book on the life of Prince Albert. He was a founder of the Harleian Society and a member of the Royal Historical Society. He died unmarried and was buried at Nunhead cemetery and has a long inscription on his grave there.

A photo of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

"Memoir of Colonel Chester" by J.Ward Dean, Boston,1884

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004