Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

On the origins of Presidents, Pilgrims and Dissenters

Stapleford church on a winter morning. The remains of President Barack Obama’s ancestor might rest in this cemetery near St. Andrew's church in Stapleford, England. Mine certainly do.
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Sutton -

So here we are on very the day of the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United StatesJoe Biden, who, as we know, was Vice President to Barack Obama. Having just finished writing about the third of the three Wilton brothers, Henry, Richard (my 3rd great-grandfather) and Joseph, last night I decided to do some research into the area where their ancestors had come from. What's the link? Both Barack Obama and I can claim links back to the same two villages in CambridgeshireGreat Shelford and Stapleford

Barack Obama's link to Stapleford is, according to genealogists (please understand, I haven't seen or checked their research for accuracy), as a direct descendant of one Thomas Blossom, who grew up there towards the end of the 16th century before emigrating to the Plymouth Colony in 1629The Blossoms, it seems, lived first at Great Shelford, then possibly Little Shelford, and moved to Stapleford, probably about 1582. My Wilton ancestors may well have been there at the same time. They probably won't have met in the pub - knowing my family, we probably ran it - but a baptism record from 1695 shows we were in the village of Stapleford at a relatively similar time. 

Six degrees of separation? If I have to have a claim to a celebrity connection, this one could not be better. It might even Trump (pun intended) Danny Dyer's Right Royal Family. The timing though was, frankly, eerie.

Towards Bury Farm on the Babraham to Stapleford bridle way
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Sutton -

The earliest records I can find for my ancestors [so far], are for the baptisms of the children of Henry Wilton & Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) - that's 10 generations: they were my 7th great-grandparents - in Stapleford:

  1. Sarah Wilton bap. 14 Jul 1695 (presume died in infancy)
  2. Martha Wilton bap. 27 Dec 1696
  3. Sarah Wilton bap. 14 Apr 1700
  4. Henry Wilton bap. 12 Apr 1702
  5. Richard Wilton bap. 7 Oct 1705

Elizabeth Wilton died and was buried on 15 Oct 1705. (I think we can guess the cause.) Henry does not appear to remarry and there are no other children listed born to a Henry in that period with a different mother. Henry Wilton Snr died and was buried on 30 Jun 1726, in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire.

St Mary's, Great Shelford
Photo © John Sutton (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Henry Wilton (1702), farmer, married Martha Douse (bap. 8 Jul 1711, daughter of Philip and Constantia) in 1732 in Great Shelford. They had the following children baptised in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire:  

  1. Henry Wilton bap. 2 Sep 1733 
  2. Richard Wilton, bap. 16 Oct 1737 
  3. Martha Wilton bap. 21 Oct 1739

Henry Wilton (1702) died and was buried, on 21 Oct 1739, in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire. Martha Wilton died and was buried on 24 Oct 1766, in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire.

Henry Wilton (1733 - states 1736), Farmer, married Maria Frogg on 12 Jun 1762, in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire. They also had 3 children; Martha Wilton bap. May 1763, Henry Wilton bap. 24 Dec 1769 and Maria Wilton bap. 29 May 1774.

St Mary, Sawston - East end
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Salmon -

Richard Wilton (1737) married Mary Robinson on 30 Mar 1762 in Sawston, Cambridgeshire. Only 2 miles down the road from Great Shelford and Stapleford, is Sawston, where there are already many Wiltons, going back to the early 1600s - just haven't tied them all together [yet]. Richard and Mary have the following children, all baptised at St Mary's Church, Sawston.

  1. Elizabeth Wilton bap. 4 Jul 1762
  2. Henry Wilton bap. 30 Oct 1768
  3. Stephen Wilton bap. 25 Dec 1777
  4. Hannah Wilton bap. 7 Jun 1779
Sawston is notable as one of the very few industrial villages in the county that take advantage of the clean water supply, one of the principle industries being leather. There are two sites in Sawston which support or have formerly supported Tanning facilities and there may have been leather-workers in the parish in the Middle Ages. This very likely explains what led Henry Wilton (1768) and his nephew, Henry Wilton (1809) to become saddlers and my 3rd great-grandfather, Richard Wilton, a harness maker.

The River Cam (or Granta) near Sawston
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Sutton -

Third brother, Joseph Wilton, tailor, most closely followed in his father's footseps. In 1792, at the age of 15, Stephen Wilton was apprenticed to William Haggis in Great Shelford, as a Collarmaker. Stephen Wilton then married Elizabeth Hankin on 24 Mar 1803 in Ashwell, Hertfordshire

They have the following children, the first five baptised in Royston, Hertfordshire (Didn't find baptism records for the last four children): 

  1. Mary Wilton, born 1804, baptised 25 Feb 1807 
  2. Elizabeth Wilton, born 1805, baptised 25 Feb 1807
  3. Martha Wilton, baptised 25 Feb 1807 
  4. Henry Wilton, baptised 15 Jan 1809
  5. Richard Wilton, baptised on 20 Mar 1811
  6. Joseph Wilton born 1815
  7. Ann Wilton born 1817
  8. Sarah Wilton born 1819
  9. Ellen Wilton born 1819

Stephen Wilton died in 1839 in Royston and, in 1841, the widowed Elizabeth is living at Lewers Cottages, Royston with Ellen Wilton (22), Ann Wilton (20) - looks like she transposed their ages - and Mary Whitechurch (16).

Stephen's brother Henry Wilton had already gone to Great Dunmow, as had Stephen's three sons, HenryRichard (my 3rd great-grandfather) and Joseph.

Richard Wilton married at the Quaker Meeting House, Great Dunmow; older brother, Henry Wilton's children had Non-Conformist Burials at the Protestant Dissenters Burial Ground; younger brother, Joseph Wilton's wife had a Non-Conformist Baptism, the denomination described as Independent. The Wiltons may have moved over borders into a different counties, but 11 miles to Royston or even to Essex, can hardly be considered as 'emigrating'. They're not Pilgrims, nor exactly radical English Separatists, nevertheless, something made them want to be different. And I rather like that too.

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