Friday, December 21, 2012

When We Were English, Part XVIIIL

by Glenn N. Holliman

Return to England, Part II

In the last post, I began to share the findings of my recent trip to England, and especially the research of professional genealogist Anne Holmes.  My thesis, which Ms. Holmes has endorsed, is that one John Holyman of Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, England (d 1521) was the father of John Holyman, same community (d 1533) and this Holyman was the father of Thomas Holyman, again Cuddington (d 1558).  One of Thomas's sons was Christopher Holliman (d 1588) of Sherington, Buckinghamshire.

It is my thesis that Christopher of Sherington was the father of Thomas Holyman of Bedford, Bedfordshire and the grandfather of Christopher Holyman, who died in Virginia in 1691, the founding father of almost all American Hollimans (and various spellings).  This is a long winded way of saying that John Holyman, d 1521, would be my 12th great grandfather!

We do not yet know the date of John Holyman of Cuddington's birth, but he died in 1521 leaving a will.  As a way of perspective Henry VIII, the great Tudor king, was 30 years old that year and still married to Catherine of Spain.  Henry would forsake his Roman Catholic allegiance to Rome in the 1530s, a decision that would shake the foundations of the country and the Holymans in particular. 

As Ms. Holmes observes, the Holymans were on the rise financially and socially in the 1500s.  One relation, another John Holyman, would be appointed Bishop of Bristol by Queen Mary Tudor, Henry's first daughter, in 1554.  Another ancestor, Christopher Holyman (d 1588 and 9th great grandfather of mine) would marry into the prominent Lee family of Hartwell House fame near Aylesbury.

We have the will of John Holyman (d 1521) which demonstrates the affluence of the expanding family.  We know Holymans had lived in Cuddington since at least the 1440s, and one did not leave a will unless one had wealth to pass on to descendants.

 John's will (below) is available on line at  The will is found on two pages in E.M. Elvy's (pub. 1975) The Courts of the Archdeanonry of Buckinghamshire 1483-1523 in Vol. 19 of the Bucks Record Society.

What do we learn from this will? 

1. John asked to be buried in St. Nicolas parish cemetery.  It is safe to say his remains are some where in the photograph of the church yard in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire.  The memorials visible date from the late 18th and early to middle 19th Centuries and later, as few outside stones are legible before 1800. Pictured are the author, family historian Peter Smith and his wife, Maureen November 2012.

2. John left a bequest to the 'mother church' of the Diocese of Lincoln of which Cuddington belonged in the 16th Century.  Remember until the 1530s and the upheaval of Henry VIII's divorce, England was Roman Catholic.  However, a Reformation was sweeping western Europe and concerning matters of faith, much was about to change.

3. Daughter Isabell seems to be left only a pot and pan.  Household items were of great value in England at this time, and as later in the American colonies, were often included in wills.  One suspects Isabell was married and cared for by a husband.  Could that husband have been Sir Charles Ryly who was left a bushel of wheat?

4. Son William Holyman, while receiving some land, also inherited 'a grene pot'.  Anne Holmes, whom I sourcie throughout this article, suggests this may have actually been a grain vat, a large vessel or structure used in agricultural work.  Also William, evidently the second son, was left a 'messes', that is a messuage or a dwelling house with a 'yard land', a term for an area of land associated with a building, anywhere from 15 to 40 acres.

5. John Holyman, from whom American Hollimans reading this are descended, received the greater value of the farm land, being  two dwelling houses and two yard lands.

6.Wife Elyn, whose last name unfortunately is lost, received the residue of the worldly goods.

7. Note the witnesses - another Ryly, another 'sir' if you will, suggesting the deceased John enjoyed enhanced community status. Was Isabell the wife of Nicholas or Charles Ryly?  In addition to a John White, John Holyman, presumably my generation's 11th great grandfather, signed the will.   

To Ms. Holmes I owe a debt of continuing gratitude for her interpretations and explanation of the wording of the will.  More of her important insights in the next posts.
For a comprehensive listing of Holyman (Holliman and various spellings) ancestors in my 'branch of the tree', please click on the Family Lineage page in the upper right column of this Home page. 

 Next, the Will of John Holyman, 1533....





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