The Ma(u)nsers of Hightown

In the previous post I used a pedigree of the Maunser family of Sussex to trace one branch of my family tree all the way back to 1483 and to Sir Robert Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst – supposedly my 15 x great grandfather. However, since writing that post I’ve found another version of the Maunser pedigree that contradicts the version I was using in some respects.

visitations sussex cover

The chart I’ve been relying on was published in 1905 but is the literal transcript of a document in the Harleian collection in the British Museum, entitled The Visitations of the County of Sussex made and taken in the years 1530 and 1663-4. The pedigree of the Maunser family can be found on page 127 of this volume and it consists of six generations. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll keep to the main line of descent, through which the ownership of Hightown passed. The six generations in the chart are as follows:

(1) Robert Maunser, who was alive during the reign of Richard III and married Margaret

(2) Walter Maunser, alive during the reign of Henry VII

(3) Christopher Maunser of ‘Hightowne’, alive during the reign of Henry VIII, who married Mildred, daughter of a Barham of ‘Wadehurst’

(4) Robert Maunser of Hightown, who  married Joane, daughter of someone by the name of Rootes, from Marshalls in Sussex

(5)

Children of Robert and Joan Maunser:

1st son: William Maunser of Hightown, who married Mary, daughter of Thomas Hobsden of Burrish, Sussex

2nd son: John Maunser ‘of the borough of Southwark nigh London’, who married Mary, daughter of Benjamin Cole of Aston, Sussex

Daughter: Mary, who married Thomas Scotsonn ‘of Malling nere Lewes in Sussex’

(6)

Children of William and Mary Maunser:

Sons:

1. Thomas

2. Nicholas

3. Herbert

4. Abraham

Daughters:

Elizabeth

Mary

Son of John and Mary Maunser:

John Manser

The second pedigree chart can be found in a publication entitled ‘Pedigrees of the families in the county of Sussex’ by William Berry, which dates from 1830 (note: it has been wrongly labelled as something completely different at Google Books online). The preface of this volume notes a frustrating lack of dates and certain deficiencies in the original ‘visitation’ documents from 1530 and 1663-4, and claims to have corrected them by including additional information gleaned from the families concerned.

So how does this chart differ from the first? Well, the two charts are identical with regard to the first four generations, down to and including the Robert Maunser who married Joan Rootes. However, when it comes to the fifth generation, the children of Robert and Joan, this chart claims the following:

1st son: William Maunser married not Mary Hobsden, but Mary the daughter of Nicholas Fowle Esq of Retherfield

2nd son: John Maunser was not ‘of Southwark’ according to this version

As for the sixth generation, the children of William and Maunser were not the four sons and two daughters listed in the first version, but:

1st son: Nicholas Maunser of Hightown, who married Elizabeth, daughter of someone from Burwash

2nd son: John Maunser of the borough of Southwark, who married Mary Cole (as in the first version)

Daughter: Mary who married Thomas Scotsonn (as in the first version)

In other words, the main difference between the two pedigrees is that the second, amended version makes John Maunser of Southwark and Mary the wife of Thomas Scotsonn the children of William Maunser, not his siblings.

This revised version also adds a seventh generation, which consists of the children of Nicholas Maunser – who were wrongly allocated to his father William Maunser before. These were: Thomas, Nicholas, Herbert, Abraham, Elizabeth and Mary. This generation also includes John, son of John Maunser of Southwark.

How might my ancestor Mary Maunser fit into this amended version of the family tree? According to Renshaw’s history of the Byne family, Mary was the daughter of John Maunser or Manser of Wadhurst, who was in turn the son of Robert Maunser of Hightown. This must be the John Maunser who was Robert’s second son (the first being William, who was heir to Hightown). Renshaw also claims that this John Maunser died in 1598, and that he had a son named Christopher. We also know that Mary married Stephen Byne in 1611, so she was probably born around 1590.

Charles I visiting Parliament

Charles I visiting Parliament

If the second pedigree chart is correct, then Mary was the first cousin of Nicholas Maunser of Hightown, the son of her uncle William Maunser. We know that Mary and Nicholas were approximate contemporaries due to a piece of independent evidence. In 1630, King Charles I made use of an ancient custom to levy an unpopular tax on landowners who had not presented themselves for knighthood at his coronation. According to one source, quoting a document dated 29th June 1631, among those ‘which have not agreed to paie their fines for their not attending at his Majesty’s Coronacion’ was Nicholas Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst.  According to Renshaw, in 1630 Stephen Byne (Mary’s husband) also ‘answered to the Commission for examining into the cases of persons liable to compound for not taking up knighthood on the occasion of the coronation’ of Charles I.

I’ve found the will of Nicholas Manser of Hightown, which was made in 1673 and proved in 1674. I’ve been assuming that this must be the Nicholas who was the son and heir of William Ma(u)nser, and the cousin of my ancestor Mary. However, it’s a confusing document in many ways. Nicholas leaves twenty pounds each to Abraham Manser and Thomas Manser, described as ‘sonnes of my xxxx Abraham Manser, gent’. The word that I can’t quite read is reproduced in the screenshot below:

Nicholas Manser word screen shot

If anyone can help me interpret this crucial word, I’d be extremely grateful. The initial letter looks like the ‘w’ in some other words in the will, or perhaps a ‘v’, followed by a ‘u’ and then perhaps ‘ch’? Is this some obscure legal or Latinate term, I wonder, or am I not seeing the obvious? Later in the will, Nicholas bequeaths property to Francis Manser, son of ‘my xxxx Nicholas Manser’, and to ‘my Cosen Nicholas Manser, sonne of my xxxx Herbert Manser’ where ‘xxxx’ represents the same word as above. Nicholas, son of Herbert, also appears to inherit Hightown itself. Another Nicholas Manser, son of ‘Christopher Manser, gent’, also benefits from the will: was this the same Christopher who was the brother of my ancestor Mary Maunser?

The will is confusing because, according to the second pedigree that I quoted earlier, Nicholas, Herbert and Abraham were the names of the sons of Nicholas Manser or Maunser of Hightown. Not only that, but we know that Nicholas’ firstborn son, Thomas, who is not mentioned in this will, was the heir to Hightown. Finally, the will gives Nicholas’ mother’s name as Susan, when the pedigree says she was called Mary.

Could it be, though, that this is not the will of the Nicholas Maunser of Hightown mentioned in the pedigree, but that of his second son, another Nicholas? We know from another document in the National Archives that in 1646 Nicholas Maunser the elder of Hightown entailed a certain property to his son and heir Thomas and his wife Susan, with the remainder entailed to his sons Nicholas, Herbert and Abraham. Perhaps Thomas died and Hightown passed to his younger brother Nicholas Maunser the younger, who made his will in 1673, leaving property and money to the children of his brothers, who (confusingly!) bore the same names as the men of the previous generation? If so, then does the word in the will that I can’t understand represent, in some obscure way, ‘brother’?

Clearly, a good deal more research and analysis will be needed before we can be clear about the Maunser family tree, and its links with the history of my Byne ancestors.

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6 Responses to The Ma(u)nsers of Hightown

  1. John Brechin says:

    Hi Martin,

    Regarding the dechyphering of the “elvish” I find it very difficult, but some person will see it and immediately “get it”. I initially thought kith as in “kith & kin”, but I don’t think it is really. I had a quick look at the docs in http://genealogy.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=genealogy&cdn=parenting&tm=23&f=10&tt=3&bt=0&bts=1&zu=http%3A//script.byu.edu/
    on the national archives tutorial on palaeontology just looking for the distinctive first letter(s) a scrawling lower level “C” attached to a “v” thinking if you got that one the rest would appear. I didn’t see an exact match, but I haven’t time to study it for long, perhaps in document 3? Good luck.

  2. Martin says:

    Thanks for the links, John – those resources look very useful. I wonder if the line across the ‘h’ at the end of the word indicates a shortening…maybe an ‘er’ left off, but still not sure how it’s possible to get e.g. ‘brother’ from those initial letters…

  3. Martin says:

    Thanks to everyone who tried to help with the missing word – and to John for posting about it on the Rootschat forum. There seems to be an emerging consensus around ‘uncle’, which makes a kind of sense. The initial letter could be a ‘u’ – Nicholas’ ‘w’ has the same kind of tail – and the second letter does look rather like the ‘n’ in ‘sonnes’ in the same sentence. Seventeenth-century ‘c’ often looked more vertical/straight than ours, I’ve noticed, and it’s possible that what I thought was a final ‘h’ or ‘k’ is actually two letters – ‘le’. I’ll have to try this theory and see if it ‘works’ with the data. Martin

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