Reunion 2004, Robert Ward, Thomas Whitney of Westminster
Thoughts on Thomas Whitney of Westminster
by Robert L. Ward
26 June 2004
- AEG = Allan Green
- JMP = Mike Poston
- JP = Jinny Parks
- KLW = Ken Whitney
- RCW = Robert Croxton Whitney
- RLW = Robert L. Ward
RLW: We all know that John1 WHITNEY of Watertown was the son of Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster and his wife Mary BRAY, or at least that there is a very strong circumstantial case that that is so. The parentage of Thomas is not currently known. The purpose of this talk is to give a new theory about that.
We start with what we know about Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster. We know that he was born before 1562, married Mary BRAY in 1583, and his death occurred in 1637. We don't have the date of his death, but we have the date of his burial, and we have the dates of the administration of his estate. In the marriage license it says he came from Lambeth Marsh, Surrey, right across the Westminster bridge from Westminster, where he was married. He lived in Westminster. He owned a house there, we know that from the administration of his estate, where one of the items which had to be dealt with is payment to workmen for repairs to it. So he owned real estate. That was not a very common thing in England at that time. You had to be a person of some means to own real estate. Mostly people were tenants, farmers, workmen, and they rented places where they lived. People who owned the property were generally of a higher class. The kings owned huge amounts of territory. Other nobles and other landed gentry people owned most of the rest. This is a good sign, that he was of a higher class. He was called in some records, "gent." or "gentleman" which means he was well-born (whatever that means) and "yeoman," which would seem to be a contradiction. If he was well-born, how could he be a yeoman? A yeoman is actually a description of his status as a land-owner, more than of his status of his birth. We know his children's names. Sometimes those provide very valuable clues. Margaret, Thomas, Henry, Arnwaye, John, Nowell, Francis, Mary, James, Robert, another Thomas, and another Robert. I think we have figured out why Arnwaye is in there. There was a fellow who also lived in Westminster named Richard Arnwaye, who apparently was a friend of Thomas. He was a fine fellow, and donated his time and money to charities and was well respected by people around there. We think maybe Thomas named a son after this friend. Nowell we haven't figured out yet. The other names are very common names, so that's not all that valuable a clue.
JMP: Was Nowell born at Christmas time?
RLW: Well, that's certainly an idea. I don't know whether Nowell was born in late December or not. I'll have to check. [He was baptized 30 Oct 1594, so not near Christmas.--RLW] He apprenticed his son John to the Merchant Tailor's guild, in fact, to a certain William Pring, who was a member of that guild, but Thomas himself was not a member, which is mildly unusual. We don't understand exactly why that happened. The Merchant Tailor's guild was an excellent guild, well-respected, very powerful, and many people belonged to that guild who were not in fact tailors. On the other hand, we have evidence that John WHITNEY was a tailor, both in New England and in England. That's part of the evidence that leads us to believe that John1 was the son of this Thomas.
AEG: I have a vague memory from somewhere that John BRAY, father of Mary, was in the cloth trade.
RLW: That may be. I don't recall offhand. That could be how he and Mary met. One son, namely John1, settled in Isleworth, Middlesex. It's not pronounced "EYEL-wurth," it's "EYE-zel-wurth," as we were corrected by John G. Whitney of Oxford and the Whitney Research Group. One daughter was buried at Isleworth. Isleworth is not very close to Westminster. It is several miles up the Thames River. Why there? Maybe we'll find out a little later. One grandson claimed descent from the famous Herefordshire family of WHITNEY of Whitney. The claim is that he was the heir male of the whole family, and therefore he was entitled to inherit everything, but the claim was apparently not sustained at the time, presumably because the heralds had good reason to believe that it was false. We believe that the claims put forward by the grandson were false, for chronological reasons. The main reason is that Thomas was too old to be a grandson, as was claimed, of Sir Robert and Sibyl (BASKERVILLE) WHITNEY of Whitney. Born before 1562, but we don't know how much before 1562. No grandson of Sir Robert and Sibyl, son of their third son, could possibly be born before 1562.
AEG: Was it customary to name the children only after the father's side of the family?
RLW: No. Not at all.
AEG: Mary's father's name was John.
RLW: Yes, Mary's father's name was John, and there's a John in that list. On the other hand, John could have been from the father's side, too. There was a daughter Mary in that family, and a daughter Margaret, and Mary's mother was Margaret, so there are names there that did appear in the BRAY family.
Now I'm going to show you a series of six pedigrees that I've extracted from various sources, that all pertain to Thomas WHITNEY and his alleged parents Robert and Elizabeth. Here's Pedigree I. This comes, as you see, from the Visitation of Herefordshire of 1586, with additions of a later date, and there's the reference. Here's the Thomas we're talking about, and here's Robert and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Morgan Duglim. What I want you to do as I show you these pedigrees is to compare them and contrast them. Look for places where they are similar, look for places where they are different. The things that are similar among the six pedigrees, I am going to believe are pretty much right. Things that are different, I'm going to try to figure out why they are different, and which of them is right, if any, and how to straighten that business out. So here we have the first pedigree, and here's Thomas, here's his alleged parents Robert and Elizabeth. This pedigree says that Robert was the son of an earlier Robert; that there are four brothers and two sisters; and there's a grandson Eustace. Eustace is a name that is used quite frequently among the WHITNEYs of Herefordshire. That sort of gives a little bit of impetus to the thought that maybe there really is a Herefordshire connection. Certainly Robert is a name associated with them. Morgan and POWELL are Welsh names. I don't know about ROBERGE. "Ap" is a part of Welsh names, it means "son of." So here is this family group, Robert, son of an earlier Robert, four brothers, two sisters, and a grandson. That's pedigree I.
Here's pedigree II. All right, here's Thomas, here's Robert, his wife is missing, Elizabeth. It calls him second son of WHITNEY of Whitney. This doesn't agree with the first pedigree, which just says that his father's name was Robert. It didn't say he was "of Whitney", and this one doesn't give his first name. And here again are the four brothers, Nicholas, William, Thomas, and Richard. Here is Thomas ROBAGE married to daughter Ann, and here's Margaret or Margery married to, this one says, somebody WILLIAMS, while before it was William POWELL. I think this is wrong, and his name really was William POWELL. The ROBAGE family, it says where they live. They live in Herefordshire. All right, here is a connection to Herefordshire. Presumably Ann met him somewhere in Herefordshire. Probably this father [Robert] lived in Herefordshire. We're guessing. Now in the ROBAGE family, there was a daughter Eliza who married Robert CHAUNDLER, who was of Cumberton Magna in Worcestershire. County Wigorn is an old-fashioned way of saying Worcestershire. Here is the reference, Visitation of London, 1634, Publications of the Harleian Society. Notice the similarities, notice the differences.
Pedigree III. This is the fictitious claim. I won't say fraudulent, I think he thought it was right, so he wasn't really doing so maliciously, he was just mistaken. John WHITNEY claims to be heir male of the whole family. His father Robert of Westminster, son of Thomas, which would be our John1's brother. This definitely calls him Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster, Gentleman. We have the record of Robert's apprenticeship to his brother John, his being freed after his apprenticeship was finished, his marriage to Mary, their children, baptism of this John, and all these records tie Robert to Thomas to John, so this part is very solid. Again this calls Thomas the son of Robert and wife Elizabeth, which agrees with the first pedigree, daughter of Morgan ap Gwillims. I think this is sort of a hybrid between Guillaume (the French word for William) and William. I can't reconcile this with DUGLIM which we saw in the first pedigree. Ap again is Welsh, son of William. I can't resolve this. The only records I have of Morgan are these pedigrees. He is mentioned several times with varying surnames. I think we can agree that Elizabeth was the daughter of someone named Morgan, but who he was and what his surname was, I don't know. This [Robert being son of Sir Robert and Sibyl (BASKERVILLE) WHITNEY] is impossible. Thomas was too old to be a grandson of this couple. You recall that there was another pedigree which said that Robert was the son of Robert. There was another pedigree which said that Robert was the son of WHITNEY of Whitney. There's some slight agreement here, but it can't be exactly right. Now this pedigree doesn't give you anything about the brothers and sisters.
Here's another one. This one agrees with the last one. This one is from a different source. John WHITNEY, aged 38 in 1676, and the same presentation. This one is more or less a copy of the third pedigree.
Here's Pedigree V. Here again we have the four brothers, Nicholas, William, Thomas, and Richard, with numbers now, Thomas is the third son, and the daughters Margaret and Anna, married Thomas ROBAGE, not ROBERGE. Given the British accent, that's clearly the same thing. Here's Robert and Elizabeth, daughter of Morgan AP WILLIAM, again, and once more we have Sir Robert and Sibyl, and we are convinced that that can't possibly be the right thing. Source, Visitation of Gloucestershire. Why Gloucestershire? Because some of the WHITNEYs settled in Gloucestershire, at Icomb. They have a common border, and Whitney is not that far from the border, and neither is Icomb, on the other side of the border. That's Pedigree V.
Here's Pedigree VI. Here we have the same group: Robert, wife Elizabeth, Morgan WILLIAMS, the four brothers, Nicholas, William, Thomas, and Richard, grandson Eustace, and the two sisters, Margaret married, here it says William BOLL, not POWELL, and Ann, married Thomas ROBAGE, servant to William, Earl of Pembroke. Of course Pembroke is in Wales, the Earl of Pembroke certainly had his seat is Wales. Herefordshire also borders on Wales. This is the Visitation of Herefordshire in 1569, with additions, who knows when the additions were made. This agrees to a large extent with the things we have seen before. We still believe that Sir Robert and Sibyl (BASKERVILLE) don't belong up here.
RCW: Is there a missing generation in there somewhere?
AEG: No, they're too close already.
RLW: Patience! We'll get to this. Now this is the pedigree of the ROBAGE/CHAUNDLER family, research of Paul C. Reed, hired by Tim Doyle, partially supported by Allan Green. Paul Reed is a very well respected professional genealogist. Here it says F.A.S.G. For those who don't know, that means "Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists." The American Society of Genealogists is a very select group of fifty people, when one dies, they elect another one. They are the cream of the crop of professional genealogists. This is my ultimate goal, if I could ever achieve becoming one of these Fellows, I would be in genealogist's heaven. He is a very good researcher, well respected, and this is research he supplied under commission from Tim Doyle of the Whitney Research Group. Here we have Robert Whitney and Elizabeth, daughter of Morgan ap William, the daughter Ann who married Thomas ROBAGE, again. They also had a son Giles, but he had no children. There was a daughter Elizabeth who married Robert CHAUNDLER, here we go again, of Cumberton Magna, we saw that on an earlier pedigree, and Paul Reed has found a son Richard CHAUNDLER, Master of Arts, who was a minister, rector of Wilton, Wiltshire, and we know his age, because when he entered Cambridge to be educated and get his degree, Master of Arts, his age was given, 19 years old in 1604. Why is that important? Well, think about it. Richard CHAUNDLER was born in 1585, his mother was most likely not born after 1565, and his grandmother not after 1545, and Robert WHITNEY probably not later than 1525, maybe earlier, maybe a good deal earlier. Here is another chronological difficulty with the pedigrees that make this Robert the son of Sir Robert and Sibyl (BASKERVILLE). Again we run into a chronological difficulty. Sibyl BASKERVILLE was far too young to be the mother of this Robert, and so was her husband, Sir Robert. In fact they were pretty much contemporaries, and maybe this Robert was even older than Sir Robert. It's hard to say. This is done by making guesses and estimates going back three generations, but it's pretty clear that there's a chronological difficulty here. How do we resolve these two chronological difficulties in the same pedigree? Well, we don't throw away the whole pedigree.
Let's talk about Robert, the third son of Sir Robert. He existed. The pedigrees agree that Sir Robert had a third son named Robert. He received a small annuity in the will of his father, Sir Robert. We don't have the will, the will is missing, but we have the Inquisition post mortem of Sir Robert, which describes the contents of the will. So he existed. In 1565 he was living and was given a small annuity in the will of his father. In 1587, his brother Sir James WHITNEY died, without surviving children, and he left a will which we'll come to a little bit later, which mentions many, many relatives: his brother, he had a younger brother Eustace, he mentions various uncles and cousins, but it did not mention his brother Robert or any children or possible children of Robert. James's aim in writing this will was to make sure that the Whitney property would stay in the hands of somebody named WHITNEY. He mentions his brother Eustace, if Eustace's male line dies out, then it should go to the uncles and their male line descendants, and if that doesn't work, then it goes to his second cousins and their male line descendants, and so on. He is very explicit about wanting this to stay in the WHITNEY family. He never mentions a brother Robert. Now there are two ways to interpret this. One, Robert was a terrible guy, and he wanted to cut him off, so that he wouldn't ever own any property that James held. The other is that Robert had died, and that's the simpler one. That's my conclusion, that Robert died with no heirs. Could this Robert then be the one who married Elizabeth and had four sons and two daughters and various descendants? Impossible! This is my small piece of insight.
I've figured out how to solve this whole mess, at least, I think I have. Split Robert into Robert and Robert. There are two Roberts: Robert, husband of Elizabeth, and Robert, third son of Sir Robert. The third son was far younger than the husband of Elizabeth. Robert, husband of Elizabeth had been born, we guessed, no later than 1525, and maybe somewhat earlier. Robert, third son of Sir Robert was probably born about 1550 to 1560. They're just in different generations. That takes care of BOTH chronological difficulties. Both Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster and Ann (WHITNEY) ROBAGE could be the children of Robert and Elizabeth, as agreed by all the pedigrees, without violating anything else. By just chopping Robert in two, I've solved two chronological difficulties. Jacobus cut the line between Thomas and his father. I'm cutting the line one generation further back. Now what's left is consistent, and chronologically agrees. Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster could be the brother of Ann (WHITNEY) ROBAGE, the chronology is right, and a son of Robert and Elizabeth. The pedigrees could be accurate except for this single one error, making two Roberts into one. We've seen Pierce make this error this all the time. Apparently the pedigree makers did this too. Well, if that's true, now we know a lot about Thomas's family, don't we! He would have three brothers and two sisters we know about, and we see some of these names repeated. Richard is a name that Thomas gave to a son, Margaret is a name he gave to a daughter, Robert certainly is a son, but there isn't an Ann or Elizabeth. So thanks to Paul Reed showing us that the ROBAGEs had a chronological difficulty, too, we now have a way of solving both problems. Not only that, Paul Reed found a new will that I had never seen before. It's not really a new will, just new to me. The will of Robert WHITNEY, gentleman, of Castleton, Herefordshire, dated and proved in 1555, naming wife Elizabeth (does that sound familiar?), sons Nicholas and Thomas (does that sound familiar?), and unmarried daughters Eleanor and Margaret. Five of the six names agree with the pedigrees: the father and the mother, two sons, and one of the two daughters. What about the other children, Richard and William, they're not mentioned, and what about Ann, the one who married ROBAGE? Well, he only mentioned unmarried daughters. Maybe Ann was old enough in 1555, and she was already married. That agrees with the chronology we looked at before. It's all consistent. What about Eleanor, who is mentioned as an unmarried daughter? The pedigrees don't mention her at all. Probably she died unmarried, and the pedigrees were concerned mainly with descendants, and she had no descendants. She was ignored. If this is the will of Robert who married Elizabeth, daughter of Morgan, then what do we have? If Robert WHITNEY of Castleton had all the children of the pedigrees and the will, then he had seven children. He must have been married about 1540 or even earlier. The fact that he had unmarried daughters means that probably they were born after 1535, so he may have been married even earlier, so I'm guessing his own birth probably around 1500 to 1510. That would make him 45 to 55 at the time of his death. That is consistent with his having unmarried daughters and having seven children.
KLW: If Thomas was a gentleman and owned property, one would assume that he came from an economically well-placed family. Do we know that about Robert of Castleton?
RLW: Yes, and we'll see that in a moment. We aren't done yet! I suggest that the Thomas in this will, this Thomas, is Thomas of Westminster. I found him in a will, something that we have been looking for since 1933, when Donald Lines Jacobus cast some doubt on what was in Melville. He complained, how come we have never found any records of this Robert and Elizabeth? How come we have never found any baptisms of their children? How come we have never found anything to tie all this together? Here it is. This will that Paul Reed uncovered, if I'm right. So I'm suggesting that this is Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster. If so, that means that he was born before 1555, maybe somewhat before 1555. He was the third son in a family of seven children, he could have been born not far from 1550. In fact, consistent with his marriage in Westminster in 1583? Yes, he would be in his early thirties, or if he was born in 1545 he would be in his late thirties. If he was born earlier, he was in his forties. That's not impossible. He was buried in 1637. He could have been quite elderly at the time. Sometimes people married much younger women. There's nothing wrong with the chronology here. This makes Thomas a lot older than we thought. We knew that Thomas was born before 1562, but we never thought that he was born quite a bit before 1562. Why is it that we get in these little boxes, and we don't think outside the box? We were trying to squeeze the chronology to make him younger and younger and younger. Nobody ever thought about stretching it out and make him older.
Now Thomas WHITNEY had a brother, if the pedigrees are right, had a brother named William, and our John1 was at Isleworth. Also in that parish was a William WHITNEY, who was old enough to be Thomas's brother. He married first a woman named Johan. We don't have the marriage, we don't have any children of William and Johan, but we have her burial in 1573 in Isleworth. He was buried fifteen years later. He married a second wife Elizabeth SMITH. They were married shortly after his first wife's death, and we have seven children born to William and Elizabeth. Look at the names of the children. Here's a Nicholas. Remember, Nicholas was the oldest brother of the four. William for himself, Robert for his father, Elizabeth for his mother. We recall that Thomas WHITNEY buried a daughter in Isleworth. There are real connections between Thomas and this William, and the names are very suggestive. I suggest that this is the brother, William, son of Robert and Elizabeth, and brother of Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster, and uncle of our John1 WHITNEY. The fact that William lived in Isleworth, and he had a son Robert who lived there at least until 1615, might explain why John1 chose to go there. We had no idea why he went to Isleworth, but we know that he did from the records of the Merchant Tailor's guild. This may be why, he had an uncle living there. William died, but he had children living there. It's all hanging together, isn't it? In fact, when I began to put these pieces together, it just got better and better and better. Oh, this is wonderful! It's so good that it almost HAS to be right! Almost!
Now let's talk about the entail. When Sir James WHITNEY of Whitney, the son of Sir Robert and Sibyl (BASKERVILLE), specified in his will in 1587 that his land should go to the following or their male line heirs in this order: his brother Eustace, who actually inherited. He had a son named Robert and several daughters. The son Robert was the heir male, he was the next WHITNEY of Whitney, but the son Robert had only daughters, who ended up being the coheirs of the property. But according to this entail, that was illegal, and the property should have reverted to someone named WHITNEY, not those four daughters. Anyway. Brother Eustace. Uncle George WHITNEY. I found George, he lived at Icomb in Gloucestershire. Uncle William WHITNEY. These people appear on the main pedigree. I'll show you the main pedigree in a minute. Thomas WHITNEY of Clyro is the next legatee. He is, I believe, a son or grandson of a great-uncle. Thomas WHITNEY of Castleton. Who could that be? Of course he is the son of Robert WHITNEY of Castleton who is mentioned in the will, who I believe is the same identical person as Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster. Here is Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster mentioned. Here is Richard WHITNEY, brother of the last. Sure, Thomas had a brother Richard. James WHITNEY of Clifford, Francis WHITNEY of London, and Eustace WHITNEY of Clifford. The WHITNEYs of Clifford have been studied. There is a fellow named Evans who wrote a paper that John WHITNEY of Oxford got a copy of, detailing the ancestry of the WHITNEYs of Clifford. They haven't been connected to the main line yet. Nobody knows how they are connected to the WHITNEYs of Whitney. Clifford is a little hamlet two miles from Whitney. The WHITNEYs of Whitney owned land in Clifford, not the same land as the WHITNEYs of Clifford. They both owned land in this little hamlet in Herefordshire. The fact that they are mentioned in this will means that at least Sir James thought that they were related. And the fact that they are way down at the bottom means that they were distantly related. All that ties into the information that John WHITNEY gave me, that was written in the paper by Mr. Evans about the WHITNEYs of Clifford. He has traced them back to about 1520, and there is no proven connection with the main line, so it must be pretty early. So these are probably like third cousins. These are his male line WHITNEY relatives: his brother, his uncles (whose children would be first cousins), second cousins, and possibly third cousins. And here are the brothers Thomas WHITNEY of Castleton and his brother Richard. How did I suddenly realize that this was important? Because of Castleton. And how did I know about Castleton? Because of this will. If I hadn't had that will, ... It just ties everything together.
All right. Here is the main line of the WHITNEYs of Whitney. Sir James WHITNEY believed the WHITNEYs of Castleton, including our Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster, if we believe he was of Castleton in that will, were cousins. So how does the father Robert, the one who wrote the will, fit into this family? So we look at the relatives. Here is Sir James of the will. Here is his brother Eustace, whose male line eventually was extinct. Here is the third son Robert, who I am convinced died young. There are two sisters. They didn't come into play in this entail to make sure the Whitney land estate stayed in a WHITNEY-named family. Here is his father Sir Robert, the one who married Sibyl BASKERVILLE. Here is the uncle George and uncle William, mentioned in the entail. George was married, he had a daughter Mary and a son George, who lived in Icomb, Gloucestershire, across the county line. I believe I have determined that this George was married, and had children, too, so this is where the land should have gone. Here's Watkin WHITNEY, second son, of Clyro. You recall in the entail there was a Thomas WHITNEY of Clyro. I believe that he belongs in this bunch, either he was a brother of Jenkyn and Catherine, or he was Jenkyn's son. Where does Thomas WHITNEY of Clyro fit? I don't have proof, but it's pretty clear from the order of things that James wanted land to go to the children of this second son. And there's a James, and here's a Robert. Now isn't that strange! Here we have Sir Robert and we have Robert. This, I think, is Robert WHITNEY of Castleton, and a sister Margaret. Now in the entail, first things go to Eustace, then they go to the uncles, then they go to the children or descendants of Watkyn, then they would go to the children of Robert, and then you have to go back another generation or more to get the connection to the WHITNEYs of Clifford, and that Francis WHITNEY of London. Thus it is all consistent. The order of the people in the entail is his closest WHITNEY relatives, more distant, still more distant, and very distant. You see they are in different generations. You have to go two generations from this Robert to the Robert I think is right.
JP: Was it common to have two children with the same name?
RLW: The farther back you go, the more you see that.
JP: I know it happened if they died. A child would die, and they'd name the next kid after him.
RLW: I've seen a case in the ATWOOD family, there's a case where there were four sons named John. Bizarre. No one knows why. Yeah, it's unusual, but the pedigrees are clear. There are at least three or four different versions of the pedigree that show two brothers both named Robert. Strange, but apparently it's right. So, here is the connection to the main line of WHITNEYs of Whitney. I propose that Robert, younger son of Sir James and Blanche (MILBOURNE) WHITNEY, born about 1500, was the same as Robert WHITNEY of Castleton, will dated 1555, and father of Thomas WHITNEY of Westminster. That would make John1 WHITNEY a second cousin of this Sir James. Neither John1 nor his nephew John the claimant would be the heir, because the Icomb family had male issue, and they would have been the heirs, so even if John WHITNEY the claimant had gotten the line right, he would have been out in the cold.
So this would be the theorized descent. James WHITNEY of Whitney, born about 1455 and married Blanche MILBOURNE. Robert WHITNEY, the younger son, younger brother of Sir Robert, born about 1500, died in 1555, of Castleton, married Elizabeth, daughter of Morgan, son of William. Thomas WHITNEY, the third son, born say 1550, died 1637, of Castleton and Westminster, married Mary BRAY. And our ancestor the immigrant John1. It all hangs together. It's all consistent. There is circumstantial evidence, there is strong suggestive evidence that this is right. It feels right. I think it's right. I don't have proof. We have to find proof.
How are we going to find proof? This is difficult. Part of the problem is that records in Herefordshire are fragmentary. Parish registers were poorly kept, poorly preserved, often not kept. They were supposed to start in 1538. King Henry VIII issued a royal command that all parish priests were to keep registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials of everybody in the parish, from 1538. Some parishes have those records. Many parishes failed to comply. In 1558 a second royal order was issued saying, "You better do this. Stop fooling around!" Some of them still didn't comply, especially ones that were far from London. Many records were not kept until around 1600. The ones that were kept sometimes were not preserved. Herefordshire, you have to recall, is on the Marches of Wales. It was pretty wild country. They were spending a lot of time defending themselves against Welshmen ravaging the countryside, and weren't spending a whole lot of time making sure that their records were well kept. Also the records were occasionally burned or washed away by floods. You recall that the parish church of Whitney was completely destroyed by a flood of the river Wye, at one point. So the records in Herefordshire are much more fragmentary than those in places such as Essex or Hertfordshire or Kent. It was just a wilder place and a rougher place to live. The records are not well preserved. That makes it difficult. Among the probate records apparently we have found a very important piece of evidence in that probate. We don't have probates for everybody on that chart, and what we have doesn't say that the Thomas in that will was of Westminster. We have the pedigrees from the College of Arms, and the probates. Perhaps some day someone will uncover some manorial court records. They are hard to find and hard to use, usually being in private hands. If they survive, they are the property of the current owner of the manor, so access can be difficult. Also, they are unindexed, being recorded in chronological order.
AEG: ... a bailiff for the WHITNEY family, so she was interested in the WHITNEY family simply because her own family had been associated with the WHITNEY family at Whitney on Wye, in Hereford, over a number of generations, and from that source, she told me that some of the private records and other records from Whitney and that area were in storage at the University of Radnorshire. Have you heard anything about that.
RLW: Never. This is brand new to me.
AEG: I have never ever followed up on that. I'm not even sure that I even know the right avenue to go about trying. Do you have a way to contact Paul Reed?
RLW: No. In fact, Tim Doyle has lost contact with Paul Reed. He hired him to do some work.
AEG: It might be worthwhile asking him if he'd ever run across any mention of WHITNEY records at the University of Radnor.
RLW: Indeed, it would. Tim hired Paul to do this work, and he went off and he did a whole lot of research, and he sent some results to Tim, and they were talking about writing an article together, about the genealogy of the WHITNEYs of Clifford, and the search for our connection, if any. They apparently haven't come up with this. This is my work, not Paul Reed's. But they were talking about writing an article. So Tim said, "This is great!", so he kept writing to Paul, saying, "When are we going to start writing this article?" and he never got any responses, and he got very frustrated. Finally he sent all the material that Paul Reed had collected to me, and to Allan, and I think to John WHITNEY in Oxford, just to make sure that it didn't get lost, just in case something happened to him. Taking that and the other materials that I had at hand, I put this all together. Tim hasn't been able to be get hold of Paul Reed since then, so I don't know what's going on there.
AEG: There might be another avenue to try, to see if there's any way to contact the Radnor University library via the Internet.
RLW: I believe Clyro, mentioned in the pedigrees, is in Wales, and not in Herefordshire. The WHITNEYs owned land on both sides of the Welsh border, as well as in Gloucestershire and other places. Something that occurred to me was, that this older brother, Nicholas WHITNEY, what happened to him? Well, there is a Nicholas WHITNEY who sort of fits. He left Herefordshire, if it's the same guy, and he appears in Walden, Essex, in eastern England. We don't know if it's the same guy or not, but the name Nicholas is fairly rare in the WHITNEY family, and here is this untracked Nicholas, and here is this Nicholas that we lose track of, and there is a very strong temptation to say that it might be the right guy. Being the oldest son, he would presumably be the heir to his father's lands in Castleton, but he's not mentioned in his father's will.
AEG: Maybe he was dead, s. p. [sine prole, Latin, meaning, "without issue", i. e., with no children--RLW].
RLW: I don't know. It's really hard to figure out why people weren't mentioned in wills, or were.
JMP: Do you know where Reed found this will?
RLW: No, I don't. I don't have an exact reference to the Herefordshire Record Office file, or other location of this will.
JMP: The reason I asked is because they owned property in more than one county, so very likely the will and probate materials or records would be in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.
RLW: It's not clear that Robert WHITNEY of Castleton owned property in more than one county, but if he did, that would be where the will should have been probated. Wills in England are very arcane. The LDS has put out a really good study of wills and where they might be probated. They are split up by counties, and within each county, they have a list and a map. The list is color coded. Here are all the probate courts that probated wills from this county. Then they have a map, which is color coded. If your person lived in the red area, it was probably in this court. But not necessarily! It might be the one which included the red area and the green area, or the one which included the whole county, or the one which included the whole country, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.
JMP: And that's only the southern half.
RLW: So you have to look in various different places to try and find these wills.
JMP: One of the reasons that controlled where the wills were probated was the Diocese of the area, controlled by the Bishop of Hereford, or the Bishop of Lichfield, except that there were maps with these checkerboard areas, they called them "peculiars". They were related to the Archbishop of Canterbury, or whoever.
RLW: All wills before 1857 were proved in ecclesiastical courts, not in civil courts, which makes things complicated, because the ecclesiastical system is very complicated. You have the Archbishop of Canterbury, you have all these bishops, and you have all these other miscellaneous officials, too, and a very bizarre heirarchy. Each one of these officials apparently had, or had been granted by somebody the right to deal with wills, and all the estate process that went with it, including taxes, and prerogatives of that sort. So things are very complicated with regard to wills. You would guess that this will would be in the Diocesan Court of the Diocese of Herefordshire, but maybe not. The fact that it hasn't come to light until now maybe indicates that it is in a place that you wouldn't expect. I wish I knew where it was, but so far the information I got from Tim Doyle does not tell me. I want to find this very key piece of evidence, which led us to a possible solution of this long-standing problem.
Well, that's my theory, and I like it a lot. Of course, I have a vested interest, since it's my theory, but I hope I've convinced you of its correctness. Hopefully, by leading you through my thought process, you see how I came to these conclusions.
One of the nice results of this is that, if I'm right, we get back a royal descent to replace the one which was disproved by Jacobus and Reed. That's because James WHITNEY, husband of Blanche MILBOURNE, was son of Constance TOUCHETT, a descendant of King Edward III of England.
Copyright © 2004, 2006, Robert L. Ward and The Whitney Research Group