In his will of October 1685, my 8 x great grandfather Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe, mariner, makes provision for two surviving children: his son Joseph and his daughter Mary White, ‘late Mary Greene’. He also mentions two grandchildren, William and Mary Greene who, since Joseph was only 8 years old at the time, must be the children of another, deceased son.

Of these three children of William, we only have definite records for Joseph, my 7 x great grandfather, who was christened on 14 March 1677 at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, where the parish register describes him as ‘son of Capt. Willm. Green of Ratcliffe mariner and Elizabeth’.

If we could find out more about William’s daughter Mary, and about the son who was the father of his two grandchildren (assuming they both had the same parents), then it would provide more context for William’s own life and perhaps point us towards his origins. In this post, I write about my search for Mary, daughter of Captain Greene.

The latest date by which Mary Greene could have married her husband, Mr White, is 1685, the year when her father’s will was written. Indeed, given that no grandchildren with the surname White are mentioned in the will, it’s likely that the couple were recently married. At the time the minimum legal age for women was 12, so the latest date by which Mary could have been born is 1673. However, the only marriage I can find between a Mr White and a Mary Greene in the area at around this time took place at St Botolph, Aldgate on 1 October 1682, and the record describes Mary as a widow. There’s a slight problem with this record, in that I imagine widows usually gave the surname of their late husband when they re-married, but perhaps this wasn’t always the case. If Mary was a widow when she married John White, then this pushes her likely date of birth further back in time.

I’ve searched the parish records for a Mary, daughter of William Greene, born in this general area between 1643 and 1673. There are no matching births before 1657, and none at all in St Dunstan’s for this whole period, suggesting that Captain Greene lived in another parish at some point.

On 9 August 1657, a child by the name of Mary Greene was baptised at the church of St John of Wapping. Her parents were William and Elizabeth and their address at the time was Green Bank, which ran eastwards from St. John’s to Old Gravel Lane. Eleven days later, on 20 August, Elizabeth died, presumably as a result of complications following childbirth.

Another Mary Green was baptised at St Mary, Whitechapel on 20 September 1668. She was the daughter of William and Sisly (Cicely?) Greene of Well Close. The same couple had a son William christened at the same church on 14 January 1671, by which time they were living in ‘ye Saltgates’ (?). A third child, Richard, was christened on 12 April 1674: the family’s address was now ‘Rose Mary Lane’ , which connected Cable Street to Tower Hill.

It’s theoretically possible that this third Mary is the ‘right’ one, if we accept that both William junior and Richard had died by 1685, by which date Mary herself would be 17. We would also have to assume that her mother Cicely died some time between 1674 and 1676, by which time her father William would have relocated to Ratcliffe and married his second wife Elizabeth, in time for the birth of his son Joseph in early 1677. Unfortunately, none of the records for this family mention William senior’s occupation, though it seems unlikely (but not impossible) that someone who would later be described as a mariner of Ratcliffe would live for so long away from the riverside, and in a different parish.

A third Mary Green was baptised at St Paul, Shadwell on 28 April 1672. She was the daughter of William Greene of Wapping Wall, mariner, and his wife, Mary. However, I had assumed this was the daughter of the ‘other’ William Greene, who died in 1696, and whose daughter Mary married George Perkins in 1691. After all, we know that Edmund Green, who was definitely his son, was born in 1676 at the same address, to the same parents, and baptised at the same church.  What’s more, this Mary would only have been 13 at the time that ‘my’ Captain Greene’s will was written.

All in all, it looks as though the first of these three Marys is the most likely candidate. However, if this is indeed the ‘right’ Mary, then it suggests (a) that William Greene lived in Wapping at some point, (b) that he was married more than once, and (c) that his first wife was also called Elizabeth.

I’ll write about the search for Mary’s brother (the person who married and had two children, William and Mary, before 1685) in another post.