The grandchildren of William Greene the elder

In my last two posts, I’ve written about William Greene and Bartholomew Greene, two of the three sons of William Greene ‘the elder’, who died in 1634. Both men were mariners like their father and both, like him, lived in the hamlet of Ratcliffe in the parish of Stepney, to the east of London. I’m still trying to prove a possible connection between these seafaring Greenes and my 8 x great grandfather, Captain William Greene (died 1686), who was also from Ratcliffe.

The old quayside, Newcastle

The elder William Greene’s third son, also a mariner, was left unnamed in his will, and we have to wait until the 1652 will of William’s second wife, Elizabeth, to discover that he was called John and that he lived in ‘New Castle’ – presumably Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I’ve found a record of the will of John Greene of Newcastle, ‘mariner, of towne and county of Newcastle upon Tyne’, who died in May 1668. Unfortunately, the archive in which it is collected has yet to be digitised, so I’m still trying to discover how I can access this will and determine whether this is the ‘right’ John Greene.

In his will of 1634 , William Greene the elder leaves money to his seven grandchildren, the children of his three sons. By the time his widow Elizabeth wrote her will eighteen years later, only three of these seven grandchildren still survived. They were: Sarah, the daughter of Bartholomew; Elizabeth, the daughter of William; and John, son of John. So who were the other four grandchildren who died between 1634 and 1652? My recent research into the lives of Bartholomew Greene and the younger William Greene has led me to the following conclusion. Firstly, that one of these children was almost certainly William, son of Bartholomew, who was born in 1630 and seems to have died in 1646. Secondly, that two of the younger William Greene’s children might have been part of the original seven. He had a son named William who was born in 1632 and died in December 1634, six months after his grandfather’s death. He also had a daughter, Margaret, who died in September 1635: if she was born in or before 1634, then she might be the sixth child. That would leave one grandchild unaccounted for: at this stage, there’s no way of knowing whether he or she was another child of Bartholomew or William the younger, or another child born to John Greene of Newcastle.

Where does this leave my theory that my ancestor, Captain William Greene, was somehow linked to this family? Well, I think my recent research has demonstrated that Captain Greene could not possibly be the son of either Bartholomew Greene or William Greene the younger. As we’ve seen, both had sons named William, but these children did not survive to adulthood. Bartholomew had a son named William, who was born in 1630, but there’s a strong chance that he was the person of that name, said to be the son of Bartholomew Greene, who was buried in 1636, when he would have been sixteen years old. William Greene the younger had three sons named William, all of whom died in infancy: in 1634, 1635 and 1636. If he had another son named William, as yet undiscovered, after that date, then we would have to revise our current estimates of my ancestor’s birth date for him to be a candidate.

That leaves John Greene of Newcastle. It’s possible that he had another son, named William, who survived, and either did not follow his father to Newcastle, or returned to Stepney as an adult. At this stage, there’s no way of knowing.

Tombs in Stepney churchyard, 1896

Another outside possibility is that William Greene the younger, brother to Bartholomew and John, is himself identical with my ancestor, Captain William Greene. After all, both were mariners and both lived in Ratcliffe. However, for that to be the case, we would have to revise our current thinking about Captain Greene’s birth date. The inscription on the family tomb in Stepney churchyard reads (or use to read) as follows:

Here lie the remains of Capt. W. Greene late of Ratcliff mariner who died the third of January 1682 aged 60 also of Mrs. Eliz Greene who died the 14th of December 1712 aged 80 Also of Mr Joseph Greene Citizen and Goldsmith . . . late of the parish of St B(otolph) who died the 26th of December 1717 aged 60 years

However, there are questions about the reliability of this transcription. It was carried out by a member of the Holdsworth family (also descendants of Captain Greene) towards the end of the 19th century, and I believe that the tombstone is no longer visible in the churchyard. Moreover, the transcriber was uncertain about some of the digits in the inscription: presumably these had become obscured or damaged in the intervening two centuries or so.

My fellow researcher and distant relative Ron Roe was the first to point out the mistake in the transcription of the death date of Joseph Greene, son of William and my 7 x great grandfather: we know that he died in 1737  not 1717 (the age given is correct, since we have a christening record for Joseph from 1677). I also believe that the death date of Joseph’s mother, and Captain Greene’s widow, Elizabeth Greene, might be wrongly transcribed, and is more likely to be 1722. The transcriber inserted parentheses around the final digit of 1682, the supposed year of Captain Greene’s death, and around the last digit of his age. I’m fairly sure that 1682 should read 1686, since it was in January  of that year that Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe was buried at Stepney parish church.

Some confirmation that 60 might be an accurate rendering of William’s age at the date of his death came in my recent discovery of a marriage bond that could relate to his second marriage. That marriage, to widow Elizabeth Elliott, took place in 1676 or 1677, and the William Greene of Stepney, widower, named in the allegation was said to be ‘aged 50 yeares or thereabouts’. In other words, this particular William Greene would indeed have been 60 years old (‘or thereabouts’) in 1686 – when my ancestor died. The problem is, I’ve yet to find a christening record for a William Greene born in 1626, who survived infancy.

On the other hand, there is the other marriage bond from 1677, between another William Greene, widower, this time of the parish of St Paul’s, Shadwell, and another widow named Elizabeth – this one with the surname Noble. My current assumption is that this is not my ancestor (despite the fact that he is explicitly described as a mariner) and is in fact the ‘other’ William Greene of Wapping Wall, who died in 1696. This William was 42 years old when he (re)married, meaning that he was born in about 1635.

Incidentally, I sometimes worry that neither of these two men is my ancestor – since their (second) marriage dates don’t fit well with the birth of my 7 x great grandfather Joseph. The latter was christened at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 14th March 1677, when he was 22 days old: in other words, Joseph was born on or about 20th February. The first marriage allegation – between 50-year-old William Greene and Elizabeth Elliott – was registered on 20th March 1676/7, six days after Joseph’s baptism. Was this a marriage ‘after the event’, so to speak (and if so, how common was that at this period, especially among what I believe to have been Puritan folk?), but then the parish register refers to Elizabeth as Captain Greene’s wife (uxor) – or should we read 1676/7 as the year before Joseph’s birth? Does the marriage come too soon after Joseph’s birth for us to speculate that it might be to a different Elizabeth from Joseph’s mother, who might have  died in childbirth?

On with the quest!

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