I’ve been trying to find out more about the origins of my 8 x great grandfather, Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe, Stepney (1626 – 1686), but without much success.  Another way of tackling the many questions surrounding Captain Greene’s family might be to look more closely at his children and grandchildren.

Early 17th century family (woodcut)

Early 17th century family (woodcut)

We know that William Greene had at least two, and possibly three or four children who survived into adulthood. The child about whom we know most was the last to be born: my 7 x great grandfather, Joseph Greene (1677 – 1737), citizen and goldsmith of London. Joseph was the product of William’s second (or possibly third, but certainly final) marriage, which I believe was in 1676 to Elizabeth Elliott née Leete.

Joseph is the first of William Greene’s relatives to be mentioned in his will of October 1685, receiving ‘all my silver plate gold rings and jewells whatsoever’. However, Captain Greene further stipulates:

in case my said son Joseph Green should happen to dye and depart this life before he attaine unto the age of one and twenty yeares that then and in such case I give and bequeath one moiety or half part of the said silver and jewells to my two grandchildren William Greene and Mary Greene equally to be divided betweene them and the other moiety or half part thereof unto my dear and loving wife Elizabeth Greene if she should be then living. But in case of her death also that then my said two grandchildren shall have and enjoy the moiety or half part last mentioned to be given to her of the said promises.

Unhelpfully for our purpose, William does not make clear, either here or elsewhere in the will, who the parents of these grandchildren were – or even whether they were both the children of the same parents. Mentioning them immediately after Joseph might suggest that they were his children, if William had not already mentioned that Joseph was not yet twenty-one, and therefore almost certainly unmarried. In fact, we know that Joseph was only eight years old at this time and would not marry for another sixteen years.

Early 17th century wedding (woodcut)

Early 17th century wedding (woodcut)

The other relative mentioned in William’s will, besides his son Joseph and wife Elizabeth, is his daughter Mary, who merits a single sentence:

I give and bequeath unto my loving daughter Mary White late Greene the sum of seventy shillings of lawfull money of England.

I wrote about Mary some months ago, suggesting that she was almost certainly the wife of John White, a Ratcliffe mariner like her father, and that they were probably the parents of the Mary White who was christened at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 19th January 1686 (just sixteen days after the burial at the same church of Captain William Greene) and buried there on 31st July in the same year.

The only marriage between Mary Greene and John White that I’ve been able to find took place at St Botolph, Aldgate, on 1st October 1682. Apart from the location, the other curious aspect to this record is its description of Mary as a widow. If this is the ‘right’ Mary, then either the clerk has entered her maiden surname (Greene) rather than whatever her first married name was – or her first marriage was to a man who shared the same surname – a cousin, perhaps. These uncertainties might lead us to dismiss this record out of hand, were it not for the fact that the only match I can find for the second marriage of Mary’s father, Captain William Greene, was also at St Botolph’s, and also (if it’s the right one) gives the bride’s maiden name – Leete – rather than her previous married name (in that case, Elliott).

St Botolph without Aldgate, London

St Botolph without Aldgate, London

If Mary was previously married to another Greene, then it’s conceivable that William and Mary, grandchildren of Captain Greene, could be her children. However, that seems unlikely, given that no connection is made between them in the will. If they are not Mary’s children, then they must be the children of another of William Greene’s offspring – and presumably a son (or sons), given that they share his surname. And since this son is not mentioned in the will, I assume that he (and perhaps the children’s mother) had died by the time it was written. In order to conclude that William and Mary were the children of two different fathers, we would have to assume that Captain Greene had two sons who died, each leaving a child, which is possible but perhaps less likely.

Can we identify the parents of these grandchildren? We know that Captain Greene was probably born in 1626, so it’s unlikely that he would have married before about 1646 (I understand that men tended to marry in their early twenties in at this time). If so, then his own children would not have come to maturity before the mid-1660s at the earliest. Searching the parish registers in the Stepney area, for baptisms of children named William and Mary, between 1665 and 1685, we find the following:

William Greene

12 Feb 1665  St Mary, Whitechapel, son of William and Mary Greene

13 Apr 1665  St John of Wapping, son of William and Mary Greene

17 Apr 1665  St Mary, Whitechapel, ‘waping’  (no other information)

31 Dec 1665  St John of Wapping, son of Edmond Green of Wapping, mariner, and Elizabeth

14 Jan 1671  St Mary, Whitechapel, son of William and Sissely Green, ‘in ye Saltgates’ (?)

3 Sep 1677   St Dunstan, Stepney, son of Edward Greene of Ratcliffe, mariner,  and Mary

8 Apr 1679   St Paul, Shadwell, son of William Greene of Wapping Wall, mariner, and Elizabeth

27 Apr 1685  St Dunstan, Stepney son of John Greene of ??? street ??? and Judith

Mary Greene

25 Oct 1666  St Dunstan, Stepney, Samuel Greene, Whitehorse Street, silkweaver, and Elizabeth

20 Sep 1668  St Mary, Whitechapel, daughter of William and Sisly Greene, Well Close

19 Dec 1671  St Dunstan, Stepney, daughter of Thomas Greene of Ratcliffe, butcher, and Frances

28 Apr 1672  St Paul, Shadwell, daughter of William Greene of Wapping Wall, mariner, and Mary

29 Jul 1674   St Paul Shadwell, Lawrence Greene, New Gravell Lane, mariner and Mary

1 Jul 1677      St Dunstan, Stepney, daughter of Edward Green, Spitalfields, ‘throster’ (?) and Mary

8 Sep 1678    St Dunstan, Stepney, daughter of Edward Green, Browns Lane,  ‘throster’ (?) and Mary

21 May 1679  St Dunstan, Stepney, daughter of Thomas Greene, Poplar, mariner, and Elizabeth

7 Nov 1679    St Paul Shadwell, John Greene, Fower (?) Lane, butcher (?) and Joane

21 Jul 1681   St Dunstan, Stepney, daughter of Thomas Greene, Wapping, mariner, and Mary

28 Jul 1684   St Dunstan, Stepney, daughter of Nicholas Green, ??? King Street, weaver and Barbara

St John's church, Wapping

St John’s church, Wapping

How can we begin to assess which of these children, if any, might be the grandchildren of Captain William Greene? One starting-point might be to assume that William and Mary were born to the same parents. If we do this, then two ‘pairs’ spring immediately to our attention:

  • William Greene of Wapping Wall, mariner, and his wife, Mary, had a daughter named Mary in 1672. In 1679, William Greene of Wapping Wall, mariner, and his wife Elizabeth, had a son named William. In 1685, when Captain Greene wrote his will, these two children (if they survived) would have been 13 and 6 respectively.
  • William and Sisly or Sissily Greene of the parish of St Mary, Whitechapel (of ‘ye Saltgates’ and then of Well Close) had a daughter named Mary in 1668 and a son named William in 1671. These two children would have been 17 and 14 respectively in 1685.

Another way of evaluating this list of christenings is to assume, for the sake of argument, that Captain Greene’s son was probably a mariner like him. William Greene of Wapping Wall fits the bill, but we don’t know the occupation of the William Greene who was married to Sisly or Sissily. The other candidates who definitely meet this criterion are as follows:

Edmund Greene of Wapping : with his wife Elizabeth, he had a son William in 1665 (age 20 in 1685)

Edward Greene of Ratcliffe: with his wife Mary, he had a son William in 1677 (12 in 1685)

Lawrence Greene of New Gravel Lane: with his wife Mary, he had a daughter Mary in 1674 (11 in 1685)

Thomas Greene of Poplar: with his wife Elizabeth, he had a daughter Mary in 1679 (6 in 1685)

Thomas Greene of Wapping: with his wife Mary, he had a daughter Mary in 1681 (4 in 1685)

I’ve managed to find out some information about a number of these families, and I’ll share this in future posts, starting with William Greene of Wapping Wall, about whom I’ve written before.


Update: 10th February 2013

Further searches have turned up another William who might be the grandson of Captain Greene. His name did not come up in previous searches at Ancestry, presumably because his Christian name is rendered as ‘Willm’.  On 12th December 1677, William, son of Peter Green of Ratcliffe, mariner, and his wife Margaret, was christened at St Dunstan’s, Stepney. If he survived, this child would have been seven or eight years old when Captain Greene wrote his will in 1685. This, together with the place of his birth and his father’s occupation, makes him a likely candidate for one of my ancestor’s grandchildren. Could Peter Green be the son of Captain Greene? Unfortunately, this is the only record I’ve been able to find for him so far.