Theobald in Clacton and Whittaker in St Osyth

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For about three years now, I’ve been trying to find an explanation for the Wade family’s fondness for “Whittaker” as a middle name. I assumed there must be an ancestor somewhere by that name, but I could not find a marriage for William Cardinall to his wife Elizabeth – which must have occurred in the late 1730s or early 1740s. So I was none the wiser. I assumed that Elizabeth’s maiden name was Whittaker, but usually when “Whittaker” was used as a middle name, the girls were called “Sarah Whittaker” plus their father’s surname. (I shall alter my spelling willy-nilly between Whitaker and Whittaker, just like the source documents do….).

What connection was there between Edward Wade and his wife Elizabeth (née Cardinall) and Thomas and Mary Cooper? They are buried very near each other in Fingringhoe, and the Cooper’s second son was John Whittaker Cooper – Whittaker was Mary’s maiden name, so was she connected to the Wades? When Edward and Elizabeth married in Layer-de-la-Haye in 1767, one of their witnesses was Charles Tiffin. Was he connected to John Tiffin of Layer-de-la-Haye, who’d married Sarah Whittaker in Fingringhoe in 1762? Were Mary Whittaker and Sarah Whittaker sisters? Was John Tiffin’s wife the inspiration for the name “Sarah Whittaker” chosen by the Wades?

After transcribing Ramsey’s parish registers, and rummaging through some wills, I had a mini breakthrough. I was able to find out that Mary, wife of Thomas Cooper, was originally a Whittaker, and that her mother’s maiden name was Davall – that name also turns up as a middle name in the Cooper family.

Wade Pritchett Cooper graves in Fingringhoe by Cindy Lilley

The grave near the front of the picture, covered in ivy, contains the remains of Edward Wade and his wife Elizabeth. The brick tomb behind is where Thomas and Mary Cooper are buried.

The Theobald family

But the biggest breakthrough came when I started to look through wills of the Theobald family. I was actually doing something else entirely – researching the family history of Hannah Southgate who I wrote about in Poison Panic. In the course of researching her mother’s Blowers ancestors, I happened across the Theobald wills from St Osyth and Great Clacton, and was amazed at what I found.

There, in the will of Anthony Theobald of St Osyth, written in 1743, was mention of his granddaughter – Elizabeth Carnel wife of William Carnel. As you may have noticed, “Cardinall” presents problems for people, who sometimes spell it “Cardnell” and sometimes drop the “d” out entirely and just go with “Carnel” – this is what I assumed had happened in Anthony’s will. This couple, it seemed to me, were William and Elizabeth Cardinall who lived in Alresford in the 1740s. So I decided to follow this thread further.

The will of Anthony Theobald jnr of Great Clacton was written in 1721, and proved the following year. In it, he mentions his wife Sarah and his daughter Elizabeth, and his father Anthony Theobald. Clearly then, Anthony jnr died in 1721 or 1722, over twenty years before his father. I could find only one baptism in Great Clacton for a child of Anthony – this, unhelpfully, was just “A child of Anthony Theobald”, on 7th August 1720. I then looked for marriages.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. But there it is… in June 1719, Anthony Theobald married Sarah Whitaker in Great Clacton. They had only had time for the birth of that one child, and then Anthony had died. On 18 February 1725/6, the widowed Sarah Theobald married for a second time – William Cary, aged 24 from St Osyth. They married at the church of St Mary’s-at-the-Walls in Colchester and someone called Thomas Whitaker of St Osyth was the bondsman on their marriage licence allegation. It’s a shame William and Elizabeth’s marriage hasn’t come to light yet, but thank goodness for Anthony Theobald senior’s will.

But who was Sarah Whitaker? Where had she come from? Could I link her to Mary Whittaker, who married Thomas Cooper, and Sarah Whittaker, who had married John Tiffin?

The Whittaker family

Bearing in mind Sarah Whittaker married in 1719, I was looking for a date of birth of about 1700. While there are a couple to choose from in the FreeREG database (and in the transcriptions on this site), I could discount the Sarah Whitaker born in Wivenhoe as it seems she died in childhood. I was interested in the Whittaker family in St Osyth.

William and his wife Sarah founded their brood in 1695, but of the eight children they produced, only three appear to have survived to adulthood – Sarah (born on 5th February 1698/9), Thomas (born on 18th April 1700) and John (born on 23rd Feb 1702/3). If this is the Sarah Whitaker who married Anthony Theobald, she would have been 20 when she walked down the aisle.

Thomas Whitaker

It seems plausible that this is the same Thomas Whitaker (or “Whittakers” as he signs himself) who was the bondsman for Sarah Theobald’s marriage to William Cary in 1725/6 – it’s not unusual to see brothers being the bondsman for their sister.

Thomas himself had a wife called Sarah, and they had four children between 1733 and 1737. Sarah, born about 1733; Thomas a year later, Mary in about 1736 and an unnamed child (possibly William) in 1737. When Thomas senior wrote his will on 15th February 1739/40, he only mentions two children – Sarah and William. His wife Sarah appears in the will too. His executor is his father-in-law Robert Lucken. Whilst that term can refer to a stepfather as well as the father of one’s wife, it’s possible that this is Sarah’s father, which gives us a possible maiden name for her (without yet locating their marriage, this is a handy clue). Thomas also names his brother John Whitaker in the will – he left him £5.

It is possible that Thomas’ widow is the Sarah Whittacre, widow, who married John Dean in Weeley in 1741.

John Whitaker

In 1729, when John was 26, he married a widow, Mary Stephens, in Tendring. Her maiden name had been Davall, and her first marriage had been to Anastasius Stephens in Mistley in 1722; he died in Tendring only a year later.

On the marriage of John and Mary, John’s abode was given as St Osyth, but they had a son, John, baptised in Tendring in 1730. It seems the child died a few months later. The following year, a daughter, Mary was baptised in St Osyth, and then buried in Tendring not long afterwards. In 1733, they had another daughter called Mary, who was baptised in Tendring. The Mary Whittaker who married Thomas Cooper was born in about 1733 – this as an estimate based on the age carved on her tomb when she died in 1769, which said she was 36. In 1735, John and Mary had another daughter baptised in Tendring – this was Susan. Is she the Susanna Whitaker who was buried in Fingringhoe in 1738?

There’s other clues which firm up the theory that the Mary Whittaker baptised in 1733 is the same one who married Thomas Cooper in Ramsey in 1755:

  • Thomas and Mary Cooper had a son called John Whittaker Cooper, who would appear to be named after Mary’s father,
  • Thomas and Mary’s daughter had a son called Henry John Whittaker Cooper Roger Hayes,
  • Thomas and Mary’s son Thomas had (among his 15 children) sons Thomas Davall/Duvall Cooper (the spelling varies) and another John Whittaker Cooper.

What seems possible is that Sarah Whittaker, daughter of Thomas Whittaker, was living in Fingringhoe with relatives when she married John Tiffin in 1762, perhaps where her mother had gone with her new husband, if she had remarried. Sarah moved with John Tiffin to Layer-de-la-Haye, and as this is where Elizabeth Cardinall married Edward Wade in 1767, it seems reasonable to suppose that Elizabeth had moved with Sarah (who was her mother’s cousin). Elizabeth’s father died when she was only about 8 years old, and her mother was 29. Sarah had lost her father when she was 7. Tight family networks were vital for people to survive in the 18th century, hence they would move together.

There’s also something else to ponder…. Mary Davall’s mother, Priscilla, had married a William Whitaker in Ramsey in 1717. As the last child of William and Sarah Whitaker was baptised in 1711, it is at least plausible that Priscilla had married William Whitaker of St Osyth (sadly the marriage only gives their names, without abodes and marital status). This would mean that in marrying John Whitaker, Mary Davall had married her stepbrother, a not-uncommon occurrence.

The grand denouément

So there we are. The explanation for the names “Sarah Whittaker” and “John Whittaker” being repeated by later generations, the reason why the Wades and Coopers are buried so near each other in Fingringhoe, “Davall” popping up as a middle name in the Cooper family…. In order to make this nice and clear, behold, a family tree. I’ve removed some people who aren’t mentioned here, but otherwise….

whittaker-theobald-davall-cooper-tiffin-wade-tree

They were all cousins, all the descendants of William Whittaker and his wife Sarah, in St Osyth. And I only unwound this skein by a chance mention in a will that’s nearly 300 years old. But then, that’s what I like about genealogy. One minute you think you’re wasting your time looking through a random will, and the next, you stumble over a clue that you thought you’d never find.

Note

There’s still more to find out – at The National Archives, there’s a record from the Court of Chancery between William Whitaker of St Osyth and Anthony ‘Theoball’ senr, from 1727. It could be coincidence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is to do with Sarah possibly marrying again in 1726, and what that would mean for the property that she and her daughter were left by her first husband. It may even tell us if Mary Davall’s mother had married William Whitaker of St Osyth. Or it could tell us about disputes over the Kenerley’s estate – as you are about to read, Anthony Theobald and Sarah Whittaker were related because Sarah’s aunt was her husband’s stepgran. We shall see…. as soon as I can get to Kew to read it!