Monday, August 29, 2011

When We Were English, Part XXVIII

by Glenn N. Holliman

Cousin Jeanette Holiman Stewart pointed out in 2010 that there were numerous Hollymans living in Worcestershire, England in the 1500 and 1600s, according to the International Genealogical Index. Could one of these Holymans be the origin of our Christopher Holyman, Sr., founder of the American family?

Could one be Thomas or John Holiman  who lived in Virginia in 1636 and 1650 respectively?  Or other Hollymans who appeared in the 1650s and 1660s?

Worcester is located 40 miles or so east by northeast from our cottage near Stow in the Wold, so we took a day and motored over to the Family Heritage Centre there.

Above on the corner of this Worcester photograph stands the Heritage Centre of Worcestershire which holds many family records.  We spent several hours exploring the files and local histories. Unfortunately the parish records were not indexed as in Bedfordshire, which means one must go through reams of microfilm, time which we did not have on this trip.  Yes, there is more investigation to do in Worcester, but we found considerable Holyman information which I share in the next post.

The Tutor building in the foreground (above) is one of the oldest structures in the shire, dating back to the 1400s.  Did some of our ancestors enjoy a pint of ale in that former inn, now preserved in a historical trust?

 Oh, yes, many Hollimans lived in Worcestershire in previous centuries!  They left many wills.  Would we find evidence that this area, 80 or so miles west of Buckingham and Bedford Shires, could be the origin of the American Hollimans, or at least some of them?

Just a few miles from the centre of Worcester, one encounters a countryside still providing pasture of the sheep.  Wool was and is a source of wealth for the English farmer.  This particular pastoral scene  (photo above) is in Leigh, Worcestershire.  Many Holymans lived in and around this village in the 1500s.  

My search of the various archives of England made very evident to me that groups of Holyman families lived in several parts of the country in the 15th to 17th Centuries.  From where did they originate and why were they scattered?  

Distant cousin Jim Maule of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shared a theory with me recently as to why there are several locations where obviously dozens of Holymans lived. He believes the 14th Century Black Death and the decrease in available labour led many persons to move about the country, financially bettering themselves.  Hence pockets of Holymans in several parts of England.  Makes sense.

Next post, a listing of Holymans found in Worcestershire - they left many wills!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When We Were English, Part XXVII

by Glenn N. Holliman

Last June, with the help of Bedfordshire family historian, Peter Smith (photo below), we explored the Bedfordshire, England Archives.  

In addition to our reading microfilm of 17th Century parish records, the archivists (see photo below) open the files of the almost 400 year old Bishop’s Transcripts (copies held by the dioceses of parish records). 

 I held the transcripts and viewed the names of Christopher and Judith Holyman (see below), born in 1618 and 1621.  The father’s name is given as Thomas.

If there be any question about the authenticity of these two persons, that is put to rest.  

Is this then truly the Christopher who sailed to Jamestown and inhabited the Isle of Wight County?  Were there other Christopher’s in England at this time?  Can we find more evidence to support the Bedford thesis or disprove it?

Can we find the birthplace of Thomas Holyman who married in 1609 and sired Christopher Holyman, born 1618?  When did this Thomas die and where?  The parish records do not tell us, yet.

Are there other places and archives in England to investigate?

Let’s keep looking….

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.

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.

Monday, August 8, 2011

When We Were English, Part XXIV

Back to England for More Research!
by Glenn N. Holliman

As I have written in earlier posts, in the spring of 2010, my wife and I did considerable research on the Holyman family in the Tring, Hertfordshire and Cuddington, Buckinghamshire areas of England.  The two villages are approximately a dozen or so miles apart, and in the 15th to 17th Centuries contained families named Holliman (Hollyman, etc.)

A highway leads from Cuddington, Buckinghamshire through the English countryside.  The Rt. Rev. John Holyman and other Holymans were born in Buckingham, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire in the 1400s and 1500s.  More and more evidence suggests these persons are the ancestors of the Virginia Hollimans of the 17th Century.

As described several of these Holymans became prominent; one The Rt. Rev. John Holyman (1495 – 1558) was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bristol, England and was caught up in the English Counter Reformation.  Another Holyman, Ezekiel, a great nephew of Bishop Holyman, ironically helped found the Baptist Church in Rhode Island.

Additional research by cousins in the States in 2010 revealed parish records of St. Mary’s in Bedford, Bedfordshire, England that registered a Holliman family that in the early 1600s gave birth to children named, among others, Christopher (b 1618)  and Judith ( b 1621)).  Two persons with these names migrated to Jamestown, Virginia in 1650. 

Judith disappears to history (probably married to one of the surplus males in the colony) and Christopher to marry, have six children and prosper financially.  He left a plantation of 1,020 acres at his death in 1691, and is credited with being the founder of all the Hollimans and various spellings in the now United States. 

And So to Bedfordshire
So in the spring of 2011, my wife and I sailed to England to research further the Holliman family (with its various spellings). In addition to American cousins doing considerable research, we have been assisted by a family researcher in Bedfordshire, one Peter Smith, seen below in the photo with the author in May 2011.  We are reviewing materials over lunch at the Swan Hotel in Bedford, Bedfordshire, north of London.

In May 2011, two couples met at the historic Swan Hotel in Bedford, Bedfordshire, England to review genealogical materials pertinent to the Holyman family.  John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, lunched here in the middle 1600s.  Left to right are Maureen Smith, Barbara Holliman, my wife, Peter Smith, a family historian and member of the local genealogical society, and yours truly.  One can observe that not all family history research and sharing occurs in a musty archives.  More of that later.

Peter had not found (nor did I) Holymans in Bedford before the 1609 marriage of Thomas Holyman, and the subsequent birth of his children.  Peter, in his research, however, had found a John Holman born 1560 in Woburn, Bedfordshire, approximately 15 miles south of Bedford and 15 miles north of Tring, Hertfordshire.  This John married early – 1575, but no wife is named.

While young, it may have been a required marriage as one Thomas Holiman was born in Woburn in 1576.  Two other children are recorded of that marriage – Robert, b 1581 and Joan, 1586, both born in Woburn.    Hmmm…..interesting.  Could this Thomas be Christopher Holyman, Sr.’s father?  Some believe this Woburn, Bedfordshire Thomas is an ancestor of ours.

Next posting in Woburn, Bedfordshire....

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Hollimans of Alabama

by Glenn N. Holliman
Back to the 19th Century...A Series of Articles on the Hollimans and Related Families of Fayette County, Alabama

This is my last post on the April 9, 2011 Fayette County, Alabama excursion organized by my second cousin, Glenda Norris.  Working with information from her Uncle Rhodes and Grandfather Cecil Rhodes Holliman, Glenda scheduled the day, and even did a 'test drive' before leading 15 of her distant cousins on a trip through family history.  Below in the Tuscaloosa County, Spring Hill Baptist Church Cemetery, Glenda in the background cleans a tombstone while her husband, Scott, and Norman Holliman look on. Robert Holliman in the foreground takes photos.

In this cemetery is the unmarked grave of my generation's third great grandmother, Elizabeth Holliman, wife of Cornelius.  They led their family by horse and wagon in 1836 from Lancaster County, South Carolina near the North Carolina line through George to west Alabama.  Here on recently released Indian land, the family purchased land and began farming.  Two brothers, Warren and Charles Holliman, made the trek also, although Warren moved on in a few years to Arkansas to put down roots and establish the Holliman name there.  In the photo below, 91 year old H. Bishop Holliman, who visited Fayette County for the first time in the 1920s (He was born in Irondale, Alabama in the 1919) explores the cemetery.

Several earthen grave sites dot the Spring Hill Cemetery.  In one of these resting places, may be the remains of Elizabeth Plyler Holliman, pioneer Mother and Grandmother

Next post, we return to study earlier Hollimans in England....
Plan now to attend the Holliman and Associated Families Genealogical Round Table at the Fayette County, Alabama Civic Center, 10 am to 3 pm, Saturday, October 15, 2011. For information and reservations for lunch, contact Glenda Norris at or Glenn Holliman at  Sessions to include Tracing the Holymans from England to Alabama, Holliman Farm Sites in Fayette County and sharing of information on Associated Families.  All invited including the social at 5:30 pm, Rose House Inn in Fayette on Friday evening, October 14th.  Y'all come!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Hollimans of Alabama

by Glenn N. Holliman

Back to the 19th Century...A Series of Articles on the Hollimans and Related Families of Fayette County, Alabama

Actually this article is about a Baptist Church just south of Fayette County and Newtonville.  Spring Hill Baptist Church is located just over the Tuscaloosa County line.  The memorial stone below in front of the church honors to of my generations's three great grandfathers - Charles Daniel Lucas and Cornelius Holliman.  Their graves were visited on April 9, 2011 by some of their descendants.

Below the church with the memorial stone in front.

As we know, Charles Daniel Lucas is buried several miles away in an Indian grave site.  Cornelius is at peace twenty or so miles north at Old Blooming Grove in the Bluff Community.  Glenda Norris believes Cornelius's wife, Elizabeth Plyler, is buried inside the gates of the Spring Hill Cemetery.  However, her grave is lost.

Next post, more graves in Spring Hill....
Plan now to attend the Holliman and Associated Families Genealogical Round Table at the Fayette County, Alabama Civic Center, 10 am to 3 pm, Saturday, October 15, 2011. For information and reservations for lunch, contact Glenda Norris at or Glenn Holliman at  Sessions to include Tracing the Holymans from England to Alabama, Holliman Farm Sites in Fayette County and sharing of information on Associated Families.  All invited, including the 5:30 pm - 9 pm social at the Rose House Inn, Fayette, Friday, October 14th.