On discovering my 7 x great grandmother – and a whole new branch to my family tree

A couple of weeks ago I reported that a sudden whim had led to an important discovery about my 8 x great grandfather, Stepney mariner Captain William Greene (1626 – 1686). By searching for information in a slightly different way, I found out the name of his first wife – Jane. Now a similar thing has happened with the next generation, with even more fruitful results.

I’ve never really paid much attention to my 7 x great grandmother, Mary Greene – the wife of Captain Greene’s son Joseph, a London citizen and goldsmith. I knew that she outlived her husband, who died in 1737 at the age of 60, and that after his death she purchased the estate of Woodredon near Waltham Abbey, Essex and gave it to her daughter, another Mary, and her husband John Gibson. Recently I found out that she was still alive some forty years later, when she was mentioned in her daughter’s inventory of John Gibson’s effects. This led to the discovery that the older Mary was involved in the brewing trade and that she was declared bankrupt in 1763, probably as a result of carrying her son-in-law’s debts following his arrest for fraud against the Crown. She must have been quite old by this time, and I imagine she probably died shortly afterwards. However, I’ve yet to find a definite record of her death or any evidence of a will.

Tower Hill and Little Tower Hill, from Rocque's London map of 1746

Tower Hill and Little Tower Hill, from Rocque’s London map of 1746

As for Mary Greene’s origins, I’ve always assumed that these were obscure. We know that she and Joseph were married before 1703, when their son Joseph was born at Tower Hill and christened at St Botolph’s, Aldgate. They would also have a daughter Mary (my 6 x great grandmother) in 1710 and another daughter named Elizabeth in 1711. According to the inscription on the family tomb in Stepney churchyard, Joseph and Mary had a third daughter named Ann, but I haven’t yet found a record of her baptism. Of these children, only Mary would survive and in 1729 she would marry John Gibson.

If we consult the parish registers for this period, there are only a couple of marriages that fit the bill for Joseph and Mary. On 12th October 1693/4, Joseph Green married Mary Sias (?) at the church of St James, Clerkenwell. However, given that ‘my’ Joseph was born in 1677 and only began his apprenticeship to goldsmith Joseph Strong in 1692, this seems an unlikely candidate. The only other possibility is the marriage on 19th March 1701 at All Hallows, London Wall, between Joseph Green and Mary Byne. Joseph would have been 24 by this date and presumably ‘made free’ of his apprenticeship. The fact that Joseph’s daughter Mary would get married at the same church 28 years later also seems to be a good sign.

All Hallows, London Wall

All Hallows, London Wall

For some reason, until this week I had been misreading Mary Greene’s maiden name as Byrne when in fact it was Byne. My search for records of Mary Byrne had always drawn a blank, so I had more or less given up hope of discovering more about her family. Since ‘Byrne’ is an Irish name, I half-assumed that Mary’s family had migrated to London and that I would never find a record of her birth. But my realization that her name was actually Mary Byne has led to the discovery of a whole new branch of my maternal family tree.

To begin with, I struggled to find any further records for Mary. I came across a number of instances of the surname ‘Byne’ in various parts of London in this period, but the search was made difficult by variant spellings of the name. The closest match was a Mary Byne, born to draper William Byne and his wife Martha in the parish of St Clement Danes, Westminster. Then I came across a cluster of Bynes much closer to ‘home’, in the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate. John and Alice Byne lived in this area in the closing decades of the seventeenth century: in fact, they lived at Tower Hill, which was where Joseph Green would make his home.

My next breakthrough was discovering the last will and testament of John Byne, who died in 1690. He was a citizen and stationer, married to Alice, and his will conveniently lists their surviving children: John, Alice, Mary, Magnus and Thomas. I was able to cross-check this against the St Botolph’s parish register and realised that some of these records – including Mary’s christening – had been hidden behind variant spellings.

St Botolph, Aldgate (from London Lives website)

St Botolph, Aldgate (from London Lives website)

On 3rd September 1676, Alice, daughter of John and Alice Bynes of Tower Hill was christened at St Botolph, Aldgate. On 15th December 1679, John, son of John and Alice Bynes of the same address was christened. On 7th December 1683 Mary, daughter of John and Alice Boynes (transcribed as Baynes at Ancestry) was baptised. On 21st June 1685 Magnus, son of John and Alice Bines of Tower Hill was christened. I haven’t yet found a christening record for Thomas. In addition, the International Genealogical Index claims that John and Alice also had a daughter Ann in 1677 and another daughter with the same name in 1682, as well as another daughter named Alice in 1681.

On 22nd December 1703 Thomas Bouts, a 22-year-old bachelor from the parish of St Mary Whitechapel, declared his intention to marry Alice Byne, also 22, of St Botolph’s, Aldgate. The wedding took place at St Botolph’s on the following day.  Interestingly, the address given at the christening of their son, Thomas junior, five years later, is Tower Hill. Did Thomas and Alice move into property owned by the Byne family after their marriage? And was this also how Joseph Green came to be living in the same area, following his marriage to Alice’s sister Mary in 1701?

If this is the right family, then Mary Byne would have been eighteen years old when she married Joseph Green. Taken together with the Tower Hill connection, this made it increasingly likely that I was on the right track. But final confirmation only came with my discovery of the will of Alice, widow of John Byne, written in 1733. Among other interesting information, this document includes the following passage (my italics):

I give and bequeath to my Son in Law Joseph Green and to Mary his wife ten pounds apiece…also I give and bequeath unto my Grandson John Gibson and unto Mary his Wife ten pounds apiece…and unto their three daughters Mary Jane and Elizabeth Gibson I give and bequeath the sum of five pounds apiece.

John Gibson was, of course, Alice Byne’s grandson-in-law, not her grandson, as becomes clear later in the will. Alice leaves property to ‘my said Grand daughter and God daughter the said Mary the said Wife of the said John Gibson’. John Gibson also acts as one of the three witnesses to the will. John and Mary Gibson were my 6 x great grandparents, and their daughter Elizabeth was my 5 x great grandmother.

To sum up, I have found conclusive evidence that my 7 x great grandmother Mary Greene, née Byne, was the daughter of John and Alice Byne, which makes the latter my 8 x great grandparents. Their wills have opened up a rich new seam of my family history, with connections stretching back through the seventeenth century in London and Sussex, which I will continue to explore in future posts.

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4 Responses to On discovering my 7 x great grandmother – and a whole new branch to my family tree

  1. geesnmore says:

    I truly enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the wonderful work.

  2. Elaine Burman says:

    Hi Martin, I have been following your blogs since the one about the Hatton family of Barkingside who were neighbors of your family the Londers. I am a descendant of the Benjamin Brett Hattons.
    I find your blogs very interesting and well written. (wish I could do as well)
    Carry on the good work
    Elaine Burman

    • Martin says:

      Thanks, Elaine. I promise to return to the Hattons and the Londors family at some point – it all depends on new (Essex) records becoming available. In the meantime (as you can see) I’m finding the abundance of London records irresistible.

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