17th century newsflash: Okehampton's thatched school house catches fire

Category: Ancestors Corner


Regular readers will know that I've been tracing backwards on my maternal grandfather's line, through my Edwards, Recket, Pudicome and Randall ancestors. Last time, I reached back to 1672 when my 7 x great-grandfather, Nathaniel Randall, was born in Okehampton in Devon. His father was John Randall and his mother was Jane (nee Wood).

John and Jane married on 27th October 1665 in Colan in Cornwall. They had five sons between 1666 (the year of the Great Fire of London) and 1676. The fire raged from the 2nd to the 5th September and their eldest son, William, was baptized just days later on the 11th September but thankfully, they were living a long way from London in Jacobstowe in Devon.

John Randall was appointed the Vicar of Colan in 1663 and in the following year he became the Rector of Jacobstowe. By 1670 his responsibilities had broadened when he became the schoolmaster at Okehampton Grammar School and the Chaplain at St James' Chapel, Okehampton.

Here is a transcript of the form of agreement which John signed...

"It is agreed on and fully consented to, that Mr. John Randall shall have liberty to teach scholars at the School House of the town and borough during the pleasure of the Mayor, Principal Burgesses and Assistants for the time being, and it is agreed on that the said Mr. Randall shall read Common Prayer at the Chapel mornings and evenings, and that he shall preach four Sessions Sermon every year, and that the said Mr. Randall shall instruct 6 or 8 poor children freely, such as the Mayor for the time being shall think fit, and that the said Mr. Randall for, and in consideration of his pains in the discharge of the duty incumbent upon him, shall have liberty to dwell in the school house, and that he shall have £15 yearly in the gift of the Mayor and Burgesses in recompense of his pains, and it is moreover agreed that the said Mr. Randall shall preach a sermon once every year at the election of the Mayor, provided it shall be free for the Mayor for the time being to have whom he pleaseth to preach at any session or election held for the town and borough. Witness our hands and seals this day," etc.

John had his own encounter with fire when, on 29th October 1670, the chimney in the school house caught ablaze. The thatch was destroyed but most of the timber was preserved and so the school house was rebuilt in the following year with "a chamber over it, and new heated".

On 13th May 1672, John Randall with the Mayor of Okehampton, the Vicar (Mr. Hussey) and many town inhabitants viewed some of the parish boundaries on Dartmoor Common. It was usual for the beating of the bounds, as it was called, to take place on Ascension Day or during Rogation week.

John died in 1680 and was buried at Jacobstowe on 8th December, described as the Rector of the Parish. He was buried in wool according to an Act of Parliament which was designed to protect the English woollen industry. He left no will but his estate was administered in 1681. The fate of his wife, Jane, is currently unknown.

Image courtesy of Sailom at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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My Edwards, Recket, Randall and Pudicome ancestors from West Devon

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

Map of Inwardleigh, Hatherleigh and Okehampton
Map of Inwardleigh, Hatherleigh and Okehampton.

This post follows on from my previous one about the family of Nathaniel Edwards and Grace Reckett.

Grace's father was Robert Ridstone Recket who was born in Inwardleigh, Devon, in about 1722 to an unmarried woman called Catherine Recket. There are a number of variants for Robert's surname which appear in the parish registers as Recket, Reckett, Record and possibly Riccard.

It remains a possibility that an alternative spelling of Robert's middle name might have been Risdon as there are people by that name living in Inwardleigh around the time Robert was born. The name might even have been Redstone. His middle name may give us a clue to who Robert's father was but an obvious candidate cannot be easily identified in the parish registers. One possibility is one John Risdon who was buried a few days after Robert's baptism.

Robert's wife was Elizabeth but her maiden name is unknown. She died in 1761 and it's possible that Robert married again. In 1775, a Robert Riccard married a widow called Dorothy Clarke in Inwardleigh. Could this have been my Robert?

Nathaniel Edwards was the fifth of seven children although at least three died in infancy. His parents were John Edwards and Jane Randal/Rendal who were married in 1737 in the ancient market town of Hatherleigh. All of their children were baptized in the Presbyterian Chapel.

John's parents are unknown but Jane was the daughter of Nathaniel Randall and Rebecca Pudicome. It seems Nathaniel Edwards was named after his maternal grandfather.

Nathaniel and Rebecca were married in Hatherleigh in 1706 and probably lived there until their deaths in 1731 and 1736 respectively. Nathaniel left a will which has not survived. He was born in 1672 in Okehampton which is situated at the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park and this is where we will pick up the story next time.

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Poverty and the Edwards' Family of Hatherleigh

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

Order of Settlement relating to the Edwards' Family
Order of Settlement relating to the Edwards' Family.

I've recently been delving into the family of my 5 x great-grandparents, Nathaniel Edwards and Grace Reckett/Rickett.

Blacksmith and scythe manufacturer, Nathaniel was born in Hatherleigh in North Devon in about 1750 and baptized there in the Presbyterian Church. Grace was from nearby Inwardleigh where the couple were married in 1775. Their eldest daughter, born in 1776, had the unusal name of Beaten and my 4 x great-grandmother, Maria arrived in 1779.

Times were hard because, in 1780, the Edwards' found themselves the subjects of a Removal Order from Inwardleigh back to Hatherleigh....

"...Nathaniel Edwards, Grace his wife and Beaton aged about four years old and Mariah one years old their daughters lately intruded themselves into your said Parish of Inwardleigh there to inhabit as Parishioners contrary to the Laws relating to the Settlement of the Poor and are likely to become chargeable to your said Parish of Inwardleigh..."

Nathaniel was in need of Poor Relief and therefore he and his family were sent back to the parish which had the legal responsibility to provide it.

Four more children followed; Angel, Elias, Israel and Abet. The family might have moved around during this period as Angel was baptized in Crediton and Elias and Israel were baptized in North Tawton.

In 1804, Beaten had an illegitimate son. She went on to marry Edward Bowden, who was 25 years her senior, in June 1811 but not before giving birth to another son in April of that year. Edward died in 1813 and was buried on the same day as their daughter, Grace, was baptized. Beaton was living with her daughter in Hatherleigh in 1841 and she died in 1850.

Another wedding took place in 1811 when Maria married a labourer from Okehampton called William Ball. The family moved between Hatherleigh and Okehampton and had four children, the eldest being my 3 x great-grandfather, Israel Edward Ball. William died in 1845 and Maria had outlived her son Israel by two years by the time she died in 1849.

Angel enlisted in the Army Reserve during the time of the Napoleonic Wars and fought in the War of 1812 (or the Anglo American War) in the 8th (King's) Regiment of Foot - 1st Battalion. He died of his wounds in 1814 after the Battle of Lundy's Lane (also known as the Battle of Niagara Falls).

Israel Edwards and his family emigrated to Australia in 1847, Elias stayed in Devon, dying in 1871, and Abet's fate is unknown.

Nathaniel Edwards died in 1809 and his widow outlived him by 22 years. Grace was reportedly 85 years old when she died in 1831. Both are buried at Hatherleigh.

Coming soon - the history of Nathaniel and Grace's forbears.

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Of all the days...

Category: On This Day...

Florence Weaver (nee Smale)
Florence Weaver (nee Smale).

My great-grandmother, Florence Weaver (nee Smale) was born on the 11th January 1888 so today would have been her 129th birthday. Florence was my maternal grandmother's mother.

By some coincidence, my gran also had a daughter born on the 11th January: Happy Birthday Mum!

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AncestryDNA Sale - Reduced until Monday

Category: General

AncestryDNA Sale
AncestryDNA Sale

Ancestry are currently having a sale on their AncestryDNA product. At £49 plus P+P (an additional £20), it is their cheapest price yet. But hurry as the sale ends at midnight on Monday 28th November.

Cousins, please test!!

AncestryDNA is an autosomal DNA test which looks at a person's entire genome, helping to identify matches throughout the whole family tree on both paternal and maternal sides. Anyone can take an autosomal DNA test. This type of test is most useful for approximately six generations but can sometimes take you back a little further. Besides cousin matches, the AncestryDNA test also provides estimates about your genetic ethnicity.

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Sentimental Sunday: We Will Remember Them

Category: Making Memories

Remembrance Sunday Service at Tavistock 2016
Remembrance Sunday Service at Tavistock 2016

Remembrance Sunday Service at Tavistock 2016
Remembrance Sunday Service at Tavistock 2016

Tavistock War Memorial
Tavistock War Memorial

Memorial Cross dedicated to Henry James Weaver
Memorial Cross dedicated to Henry James Weaver

Click the images above to see a larger version.

Harvey and I went to Tavistock today for the Remembrance Sunday Service. My great-grandfather, 4732 Pte. Henry James Weaver, is commemorated on the War Memorial there and, as it is the centenary year of the anniversary of his death, I thought it was fitting that we should be there today.

Tavistock War Memorial - 13th November 2016
Tavistock War Memorial - 13th November 2016

Keywords: Tavistock, Devon.

[Why Sentimental Sunday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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GRO provides mother's maiden names during free search

Category: Brick Walls

Mary Ann Hellyer
Mary Ann Hellyer

I've mentioned before about the discrepancy I have regarding the maiden name of my 2 x great-grandmother (see my blog post at http://www.hibbitt.org.uk/blog/item/442). In 1871 she married my 2 x great-grandfather, John Gale Hellyer, in the parish church at Shanagolden, Limerick, Ireland. For some while I have had two possible names for her; Mary Ann Burgoyne and Mary Ann Congdon.

On the plus side, since the recent changes at the GRO (General Register Office) where they are now providing the mother's maiden name when you carry out a search in the birth indexes, I do not now need to purchase the birth certificates for each of the children of my 2 x great-grandparents. However, after looking up the records, I am just as confused as ever.

Of the couple's ten children, the first six birth records have Mary's maiden name down as either Congdon, Condon or Cougdon. The final four children's birth records give a previous name of either Birgoyne or Burgoyne. At this stage, some might be thinking that perhaps John Hellyer married twice, to two women who both happened to be called Mary Ann. This theory falls down when I compare the name on the couple's marriage certificate which I obtained some time ago from the Muller Trust, an orphanage where two of the couple's children were sent after their parents died. The name on the certificate is Burgoyne. Her father was apparently a sailor called William Burgoyne and this is all I know about him.

Maybe both names are correct. Perhaps her mother was called Congdon and was unmarried when she had Mary. Why did Mary begin by giving her maiden name as Burgoyne, then Congdon and later revert to Burgoyne again? Was William Burgoyne her father or step-father?

Irish records are sparse so I'm hoping that DNA may hold the key. My mother and maternal aunt have a number of matches who have Irish ancestors but, at this stage, I'm not even certain whether they are on my maternal grandfather's or grandmother's side. In the future, as more cousins test, the answer may become clearer. Of course, there's a chance Mary wasn't Irish at all!

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Where there's a Will there's usually a way - but not in this case!

Category: Handy Family History Links


Did you know the majority of wills that were proved in Devon were destroyed during an air-raid on Exeter in 1942? Some Devon wills, however, were originally proved in London at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and these have survived.

Somewhat tantalizing is the fact that calendars (lists) of many of the lost wills had been compiled before the war and so we know about the previous existence of a will that our Devon ancestor left but, in many cases, the contents have been lost forever.

Over a number of years, the Devon Wills Project tracked down a proportion of copies, transcripts and abstracts of the lost wills and administrations from a variety of sources and created a central index of where these documents can be found. The index can be viewed at http://genuki.cs.ncl.ac.uk/DEV/DevonWillsProject/ and is also available to FindMyPast subscribers at http://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-Records/devon-wills-index-1163-1999

I'm currently researching some of my North Devon ancestors and have learnt that my 7 x great-grandfather, Nathaniel Randal from Hatherleigh, left a will after he died in 1731. You've guessed it, all we have now is a list entry. I wonder what his will would have told us about his family, his occupation and his wealth and status in those times. Sadly, we shall never know!

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Testing dad's Y-DNA in search of my Hibbitt roots

Category: DNA

DNA Helix
Designed by Freepik

A Y37 Y-DNA kit for my dad is on order from FamilyTreeDNA in the hope we may be able to learn a little more about our direct paternal ancestry. This would be our Hibbitt line where our earliest known ancestor is John Hybit who married three times in Exton, Rutland, between 1712 and 1732.

Only men can take the Y-DNA test as women don't possess a Y chromosome. The aim is to see whether my dad's DNA matches anyone else with a similar surname, or if not, then perhaps find a pointer to see where to look if a different surname pops up frequently with any other men who have tested.

The Y37 test looks for STR markers which change slowly from one generation to the next. This means if dad has a match, they could end up being related within or outside the genealogical time frame where records can assist in the research. Let's hope he gets a close match!

If you are male and have, or you know any men with, the following surnames it would be great if you/they could also take the Y-DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA and then join the recently started Hibbert DNA Project to find out whether we have a common ancestor:

Hibbert
Hibbart
Hebert
Hibberd
Ibbert
Hibbit
Hibbitt
Hibbet
Hibbett
Hybit
Hybut
Ibbot
Ibbott
Abbot
Abbott

The Y37 test also provides an estimated Y-DNA haplogroup which indicates where a person's deep paternal ancestry may have originated. I have already calculated dad's Y-DNA haplogroup using his autosomal DNA test from AncestryDNA (using Method One here) so it will be interesting to note whether the FamilyTreeDNA Y37 test confirms this.

Dad's calculated haplogroup is S190 which points to an ancestor who probably lived in Scotland somewhere near Stirling about 1200 years ago. In order to fine-tune dad's membership of the Little Scottish Cluster, as it is known, we have ordered a specific Y-SNP test which other men in this group have tested positive for. We now wait with bated breath.

Thanks dad, for being a great sport.

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Tracing my forbears in North Devon

Category: What's New at Hibbitt.org.uk

Barnstaple, North Devon
Barnstaple, North Devon

Our son has recently relocated to Barnstaple in North Devon and so I decided to see how close I could come to finding forbears who lived near there. I knew I had ancestors from North Devon and so I made a start by looking into my 5 x great-grandparents, James Alford (abt. 1772-1847) and his wife, Catherine Bellew (abt 1785-).

When the couple married, James was resident in Bideford and Catherine in nearby Westleigh, the latter being situated some 6.5 miles south-west of Barnstaple town centre.

James initially worked on the land as a husbandman in Great Torrington but by 1841, at the age of almost 70, he was described as a toll collector located at Chapelton Gate, Tawstock, about 6 miles south of Barnstaple.

After James' death in 1847, Catherine continued as a toll collector at the Turnpike Gate at Ashreigney, a few miles south of Chapelton. She was still described as a turnpike gate keeper ten years later in 1861, although she was visiting one of her daughters in Bridgetown, Tawstock, on the day the census was taken. Catherine was approximately 76 years old and still working.

Map of North Devon
Map of North Devon

The Alfords came from High Bickington and before this, in the early 18th century, from Roborough by Torrington. I am familiar with a Roborough in the north of Plymouth and, at the back of my mind I seemed to recall there was another Roborough in Devon. What I didn't know was that there is a third Roborough, an area very near to Barnstaple itself.

My 8 x great-grandparents, Lewis Alford and Mary Beale, married in Roborough by Torrington (14 miles due south of Barnstaple) in 1704 and their son, also called Lewis, married a Mary Alford and so Mary didn't need to change her name after she'd wed. This couple had ten children, one of whom was called George, a yeoman born in 1747, who married Margaret Hern/Hearn. These were my 6 x great-grandparents and they are buried at High Bickington, about 4 miles north-east of Roborough.

Margaret's parents were John Hearn and Frances Newcombe who were both from High Bickington. Four years after John's death, Frances remarried, this time to a John Richards. John Hearn's parents were Robert Hearn and Margaret Edworthy who married in High Bickington in 1714 and Frances was the daughter of William Newcombe and Joan Crocker.

Catherine Bellew's forbears all came from Yarnscombe which lies approximately 8 miles south of Barnstaple. Her parents, William Bellew and Catherine Paddon, were born in about 1750 and 1752 respectively. Catherine Paddon's parents were Peter Paddon and Sara Isaac who married in Yarnscombe in 1748.

Back to my 6 x great-grandfather, William Bellew, his parents were Henry Bellew and Mary Fursman. Henry was born in Yarnscombe in about 1719, the first of seven children belonging to William Bellew and Elizabeth Milton. This William Bellew was born in the 17th century, the son of my 9 x great-grandparents, Laurence Bellew and Mary Mogridg who married in 1682. Laurence was a yeoman when he died in 1713, having left a will, an abstract of which has apparently survived. I have yet to discover the contents of this document.

Finally, I have the name of my 10 x great-grandfather, William Mogridg, but nothing more is known about him.

None of these ancestors made it all the way to Barnstaple but James Alford and Catherine Bellew did in fact come very close.

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