Uncle Matthew’s letter and what it tells us

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Bundled up in a collection of estate records is a letter written by a priest from the Tudor period to his niece’s husband. It might not sound very exciting, but this letter is the sort of document that family historians dream about. Because the Tudor priest was writing in reply to a question about his niece’s ancestry.

And the Tudor priest was called Matthew Knightley.

The information in his letter clears up several mysteries about the Knightleys’ pedigree, and it also flags up errors, particularly in the 1558 Herald’s Visitation of Essex, which has been taken as fact for a long time.

To make the information clear, I’m providing two full transcriptions of the letter: one in its original spelling, and another in modern spelling. Following on are discussions about different parts of the Knightley family which the letter reveals.