Thursday, August 18, 2011

When We Were English, Part XXVI

by Glenn Holliman

Woburn is the home of the Dukes of Bedford, whose families have occupied the Abby property there since the 1500s when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.  For centuries the village was a staging station for travelers moving north and south from and to London, approximately 40 miles to the south.  The town today was rebuilt after a fire in the early 1700s, and retains a Georgian architectural look as viewed in the photograph below.

The name Holman concerns me.  In other shires, Holyman is plainly written, as it is in Bedford St. Mary’s parish records.  One grants handwriting is often a guess as many of the parish clerks were near illiterate in the late 1500s and letter formation had not yet finalized as it is in today’s English script.  

Photographed below is an index of Woburn parish records located in the Heritage Centre (pictured above - the former parish church which is now the museum and Centre).  Beginning in 1538, Henry VIII’s chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, required all churches to record all baptisms, marriages and burials.  This Cromwell helped convict Anne Boleyn of treason that led to her beheading.  Later Chancellor Cromwell lost his own head to Henry’s bad temper!

In these Woburn records (pictured above), one will find a host of Holmans and Hollmans but that middle vowel is always missing, no ‘i’, ‘e’ , ‘o’ or ‘y’.  Hmmm….There are numerous families whose head of households were named Robert, John, William and Thomas.  There is even one Judith Holman, baptized February 16, 1609, daughter of Kath Holman and Henry Dally….hmmmm….born evidently out of wedlock.
Above, as is common in England, kindly volunteers and staff do all they can to assist Americans in their search for English ancestors.

Yes, there is a Thomas Holman, son of Jn Holman, baptized March 4, 1576, but nary a Christopher born, married or died in Woburn between 1567 and 1670.  But if Thomas moved to Bedford, married and had his children, one would not expect to discover such in Woburn.  So Woburn cannot be ruled out totally even though the name does not quite match.

Let’s go back to Bedford and search some more.

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