Tag Archives: 17th century

Mistley and the Witchfinder

796px-Matthew_Hopkins

I knew I would come across the burial of Matthew Hopkins, “witchfinder general”, when I came to transcribe Mistley‘s earliest parish register. It was still a strange feeling, to add his name to the database along with all the other residents. But along with Matthew, there was one other Hopkins in the register, and his burial seems to explain just what Hopkins was doing in Mistley in the first place, and perhaps how his campaign took hold.

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Was your ancestor married by a witchfinder?

"The Puritan Wedding Interrupted" by George Henry Boughton. Yale University Art Gallery.

“The Puritan Wedding Interrupted” by George Henry Boughton. Yale University Art Gallery.

Well… sort of….

During the Commonwealth, from the time of the 1653 Marriage Act to the Restoration in 1660, marriages weren’t performed by clergy but by the local Justice of the Peace.1)See Rebecca Probert’s Marriage Law for Genealogists for more information. In the Tendring Hundred, these Justices – amongst them Harbottle Grimstone (who sounds like a Dickens character) and Sir Thomas Bowes (a relative of mine – sorry everyone) would have performed the marriages. And these were the very same men who aided Matthew Hopkins in his crusade against “witches” – they were responsible for committing the women (and sometimes men) for trial.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. See Rebecca Probert’s Marriage Law for Genealogists for more information.

Talk: Wivenhoe’s epidemics

plague

Just a quick note – I’m giving a talk for the Wivenhoe History Group at the William Loveless Hall in Wivenhoe on Wednesday 8th July at 7.30pm.

All are welcome and it’s free.

I’ll be taking you through Wivenhoe’s burial registers, which show that the village was visited by plague, small pox and possibly cholera, from 1603 to 1849.

August 1666 – a bad time to be a sailor?

st-james-battle

Image reproduced by courtesy of the Essex Record Office.

I’m currently transcribing the earliest register for Ramsey St. Michael in Essex. Although the very early register is lost, entries survive from 1645 onwards. I was intrigued to see if Ramsey was as affected by the plague of 1665 as had neighbouring Great Oakley. There certainly appear to have been an increase in burials that year, particularly in August, September and October – this is the same period as plague deaths were noted in Great Oakley’s register.1)At this point, there’s about twelve burials a year in the Ramsey register. In just those three months of August, September and October, there were ten burials, and those three months are also the same period for plague deaths appearing in Great Oakley. But there’s no notes in the Ramsey register, so we can’t say for sure what those people died of.

But moving into 1666, something unusual appears. From 5th August to 26th August, the Ramsey parish register records the burials of nine sailors. By why?

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. At this point, there’s about twelve burials a year in the Ramsey register. In just those three months of August, September and October, there were ten burials, and those three months are also the same period for plague deaths appearing in Great Oakley.