Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Hollimans of England, Part 2

by Glenn N. Holliman

An Important Update....

In our last posting, Lindsay Holliman, published a 16th Century Will by one of his great grandfathers, William Holyman, d. 1557, of Cuddington, Buckinghamshire.  After continued research and the study of this and other Holyman wills, professional Buckinghamshire genealogist, Anne G. Holmes, believes that this William was a brother of Christopher Holyman, d 1588 in Sherington, Buckinghamshire.  As noted by published research in this space, the evidence points to this Christopher is my 9th great grandfather.

This means that Lindsay, b. 1946, and this writer, b. 1946, are descended from the same great grandfather, one Thomas Holyman who died in 1558 in Cuddington!  Earlier this year DNA testing revealed we had a common distant ancestor.  Our paper trails and DNA have come together!

Above, a photograph taken in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire.  Left to right are Anne Holmes, Lindsay and his wife, Madeleine Holliman, and Carol Stonham, owner of the Holyman farm on which the group visited in June 2014.

Anne Holmes has produced the most complete and well-researched thesis on our Holyman families from the 1500s.  As this is an important family document, I print her words in their entirety for current and future generations to study. 

"The evidence reasonably suggests that this William (d 1557) was the son of the Thomas who died in 1558. Both William and Thomas possibly died of a flu like fever that swept through England in 1557 and 1558 in epidemic proportions.

Perhaps the children of Thomas and his two wives could be shown on a family tree as a ‘blended family’ as it is difficult to ascertain to which mother, Margaret or Dorothy, some of the children of Thomas belonged. There was another John Holliman, son of William, who could have been Lindsay’s ancestor but this John too probably died in the epidemic of 1558. I will update the early elements of the Holyman family tree as best can be done and forward a copy in the form of a descendant chart.

Looking back on my notes from autumn of 2012 on HOLLIMAN Wills examined and the genealogical information found in them, I think it is very likely that the William HOLLIMAN who died in 1557 was the half brother of Christopher HOLLIMAN, both sons of Thomas HOLYMAN.

The Thomas HOLYMAN who died in 1558 is the only known recorded Thomas HOLYMAN alive at that time resident in Cuddington. That is not to say there was not another unrecorded Thomas HOLYMAN living in the Cuddington locality mid C16 but the Thomas HOLYMAN who died in 1558 appears to be the only landholder of that name in Cuddington in the mid sixteenth century. Thomas HOLYMAN, and his then wife Margaret, are earlier recorded in a land conveyance document relating to the Manor of Haddenham and Cuddington dated 1539, that is nineteen years before Thomas died in 1558.

From Thomas’ Will, it is known several of his children were under 21 years of age in August 1558 (Will dated 9 August). The two oldest surviving sons of Thomas, that is Richard and Francis, inherited land directly from their father on his death in 1558; therefore it reasonable to presume Richard and Francis were the sons from Thomas’ previous marriage to Margaret and of full age. 

The next two eldest sons due to inherit land were George and John. As they were mentioned to inherit land in the Will, these two sons were probably close to being of full age, so could have been the sons of either Margaret or Dorothy. Daughter Margaret possibly was possibly the child of wife Margaret, but as it is not known when Margaret died, this daughter could have been named in honour of a deceased wife and have been Dorothy’s daughter.

The children from the marriage of Thomas HOLYMAN and Dorothy CLARK were probably Christopher (after his maternal grandfather), Dorothy (after her mother) and youngest child Elizabeth. The other children could have been those of Margaret or Dorothy depending on their ages in 1558 and the date Margaret died. In the list of children of Thomas, it is noted there is no Thomas named after his father. I suspect there may have been a son Thomas who possibly died before 1558.

Returning to William’s Will of 1557, it is noted his son Thomas, although not the eldest son, is to inherit land from his grandfather Thomas HOLLIMAN. It is though the choice of child Thomas to inherit the land is to preserve the namesake of his grandfather, as there was no son Thomas of Thomas to carry on the landholding. This tradition can be seen again in the children of Christopher HOLYMAN (d 1588 in Sherington). 

Christopher’s daughter Usselly or Ursula is singled out to inherit from her grandmother more than her sisters, a special inheritance. It appears this is the case because daughter Ursula has been given the name of her grandmother Ursula (LEE). I think for perhaps this reason, and also that there appears to be no other known adult Thomas HOLYMAN around at that time, that William HOLLIMAN was the son of Thomas and Margaret HOLLIMAN. Thomas senior also had an uncle named William HOLLIMAN (d 1547).

The other area of ambiguity concerns the John HOLLIMAN, father of Robert who died in 1600. Which John was he? There was another William HOLLIMAN in Cuddington who also had a son named John. This William, uncle of Thomas, as stated died in 1547. His Will names his two children as John and Elyne, therefore this William was probably the son of the John HOLYMAN who died in 1521. Another John HOLYMAN died in Cuddington in 1558. This John’s Will names his children as Richard and Katharine. The most likely hypothesis is that this John who died in 1558 was the grandson of the John who died in 1521, and the John who died in 1600 was the son of the William who died in 1557, as recorded in Lindsay’s ancestral tree. 

Whichever is the correct lineage, it seems the common ancestor of Glenn and Lindsay is most likely Thomas HOLYMAN (d 1558), but if not then Thomas’ grandfather John HOLYMAN (d 1521)." 

Below, Lindsay and Glenn, both surnamed Holliman, born the same year 1946, Lindsay in England and Glenn in Alabama, USA, stand by Holyman's barn mews in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire in June 2014.  Both are descended through great grandparents who lived and worked the farm in the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Anne Holmes continues...."There were three known male HOLYMAN deaths of note in Cuddington in less than two years (1557-1558). I have been doing some research on the Tudor inhabitants of my home village, and I have noted there is a marked increase in Wills written in the year 1558. Talking to other local historians, they have also noted this increase in deaths around 1558. It appears there was an event outside the norm happening locally at this time.

From Charles Creighton’s 1894 publication A History of Epidemics in Britain: Volume 2 p 306 -
……It is known from the general historians that there were two seasons of fever all over England in 1557 and 1558, of which the latter was more deadly, the type according to Stow, being ‘quartan agues’. In letters of the time the epidemic of 1557 is variously named………..Next year in 1558, the epidemic sickness returned in the summer and autumn, in a worse form than before….

The collective evidence suggests William HOLLIMAN (d 1557), John HOLLIMAN (d 1558) and Thomas HOLYMAN (d 1558) were probably all struck down by the flu like fever in the epidemic of 1557 and 1558. It is possible John HOLYMAN, the Bishop of Bristol, may have also succumbed to the same fever. The Bishop’s Will was written 4 June 1558 and it is stated in Crieghton’s book that priests were particularly vulnerable to the fever due to their contact with so many people.

It is probable these four HOLYMAN individuals wrote their Wills in 1557 and 1558 knowing that death was probably imminent for them.  It is not known how many other HOLYMANS may have succumbed to the fever epidemic of 1557 and 1558. Cuddington parish registers have not survived for this period so it is possible Christopher HOLYMAN may have lost some young siblings to the fever. 

Thomas’ sons Richard, Francis, John and Christopher, from their Wills and mentions in siblings Wills, did survive. Daughters Dorothy and Katharine also appear to have survived, but it has been difficult to trace what happened to the remainder of Thomas’ children. It is interesting the Creighton quotes a contemporary observer of 1558, who describes the ague as

….A dainty mouthed disease, which passing by poor people, fed generally on principal persons of greatest wealth and estate…

Queen Mary died of the lingering effects of an ague in the autumn of 1558. It is thought she too was a victim of the epidemic." - Anne G. Holmes 2014

Concerning the flu which took so many lives in the mid 16th Century, Lindsay Holliman has found this statement in a National Institute of Health paper at

"The pandemic of spring 1557 is the first in which global involvement and westward spread from Asia to Europe was documented. Unlike the pandemic that appeared 47 years previously, this one was highly fatal, with deaths recorded as being due to ‘pleurisy and fatal peripneumony’. High mortality in pregnant women was also recorded. Examination of Parish registries in England showed a high frequency of excess deaths from 1558 to 1560, representing the first documentation of excess influenza deaths in a defined population, and suggesting that the disease prevailed for at least two years, conceivably having exhibited one or more recurrences." 

Below, Glenn Holliman and Anne Holmes study her notes in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, June 2014.

The above is complicated, and to increase our understanding, Anne has prepared a 16th Century family tree of the Holymans of Cuddington.  Jeanette Holiman Stewart, the keeper of the Holyman/Hollyman Tree, has incorporated Anne's work into a massive 18,000 names work!  Jeanette is constantly updating and adding new names.  The most complete record of the Holymans of the 1500s can be found at this site. One can contact Jeanette at or email me at for copies of Anne's detailed diagrams. - GNH

Next more on Lindsay''Hollimans ancestors and their participation in the growing affluence of English life in the 19th and 20th Centuries....

Have questions about Holliman family history? You are invited to join the Hollyman Email List at and the Hollyman Family Facebook Page located on Facebook at "Hollyman Family". Post your questions and perhaps one of the dozens Holyman cousins on the list will have an answer. For more information contact Tina Peddie at, the list and Facebook manager for Hollyman (and all our various spellings!).

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