Saturday, August 13, 2011

When We Were English, Part XXV

Are We Bedfordshire Holymans?
by Glenn N. Holliman

According to parish records,  Thomas Holiman (Holyman) of Bedford, who may or may not have been born fifteen or so miles south in Woburn, married at St. Peter’s Church in Bedford in 1609 to Helenara Poynard.  Roger Smith suggests the name Helena might be Eleanor, and Poynard, which is not yet found in other Bedford records, may be P’nard or Peynard.  Spellings were not yet ‘settled’ nor is the handwriting of parish administrators always legible.

St. Mary's parish is today an archaeological trust facility, and has long since ceased to be a place of Anglican worship.  The building and cemetery stand on a busy street corner, two blocks from the river and across the street from Bedford College.  Imagine if you will four hundred years ago, no automobiles, only muddy streets, horse carts and the Holyman couple having their children baptised in this parish.  How many of them now reside in the cemetery?  We don't know.

Again according to parish records, this couple had the following children, all baptized at St. Mary’s Church in south Bedford, two blocks from the River Great Ouse (a wonderful name!).

John, b 1610 (was he named after a grandfather?)

Eleanor, b and d 1612 (may have been named after her mother)

Joan, b 1613

Thomas, b 1616 (named after his father)

Christopher, b 1618 (the believed to be emigrant to Jamestown, Virginia in 1650)

Judith, b 1621 (the believed to be emigrant to Jamestown, Virginia in 1650)

Eleanor, b 1625 (named after her mother and deceased sister)

Stephen, b 1625

Mary, b 1628

Tombstones were rare in 17th Century England (as in Virginia).  This one of a grieving angel in St. Mary's grave yard, is only from the 1800s.  Coal smoke and  pollution have worn away the stone carving.  The cemetery, like the church, is abandoned but the lawn is kept up and the grass mowed.  Do our 8th great grandfather, Thomas, and his wife lie in these grounds?

As discussed in earlier articles, a John Holiman died in Virginia in 1650, and a Thomas Holiman (or Holman) took possession of land at Martin’s Hundred, Virginia in 1636.  Are John and Thomas  from this same family, and is this the encouragement that led to Christopher and Judith to leave for Jamestown, Virginia? 

Encouragement Christopher and Judith undoubtedly had, but the 1636 Thomas in Virginia is most probably not the off spring of Thomas who married in Bedford in 1609.  Parish records indicate a Thomas Holiman married in 1639 at St. Paul’s, Bedford, and my guess this is the second son of the 1609 marriage.  Tragically, a son Matthew, died was buried at St. Paul's in 1640.

Next posting….a visit to Woburn and the Heritage Center there.

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