I’m grateful to my American fellow-researcher Kori Lambert, who shares my interest in the Greene family of Stepney, for directing me to a record in the National Archives for Joseph Greene, a 17th-century mariner from Limehouse.  Although I have no evidence that Joseph was related to ‘my’ Greene family, the fact that he was a mariner living in the same parish, and at around the same time, as my 8 x great grandfather Captain William Greene (1626 – 1686), means that there might be a connection.


The collection of State Papers for the period before 1782 includes Masters’ Certificates granted by Trinity House between 1660 and 1673. One of these was issued on 12th December 1663 to Joseph Greene of Limehouse. I ordered a copy of the certificate and it has now arrived (see above). It reads as follows:

These p[re]sents are to Certifie whome it doth or may Concerne That Joseph Greene of Lymehouse hath Submitted himself to the Examination of us of the Trinity house wherein wee doe find him an able Experienced Mariner fit to take the Charge of a M[aster’s]place in a Ship or Ffriggott in his Ma[jes]t[y]s service In Testimonie whereof and at his request wee have hereunto put our hands D[ecember] the 12 1663 and in the Ffifteenth yeare of the Reigne of our Sov[ereign] Lord King Charles the second

The document is signed by five men, of whom the first is ‘Tho Middleton’ and two of the others are ‘Wm Badiley’ and ‘Jno Swanley’. The remaining two signatures are difficult to read, but they might be ‘Tomas White’ and ‘Simon Nichols’. The first-named could be the same Thomas Middleton, mentioned by Pepys, who rose to the rank of colonel in the Parliamentary Army, traded with the American colonies, and served as Navy Commissioner and Surveyor of the Navy.

The contemporary records include a number of references, at around this time, to a mariner named Joseph Greene from Limehouse. I’m not sure if he is the same Joseph Greene, mariner, who lived in Ratcliffe Highway during the same period. They were both married to women named Elizabeth, but this may be a coincidence.


On 11th December 1641 a marriage allegation was published (see above). It reads as follows:

This daie appeared personallie Joseph Greene of the parish of Stepney in Middx Mariner and a batchelor and about 26 years and alledged he intended to marry with Elizabeth Kirton of ye same place spinster and about 26 yeares and at his owne dispose and [illegible] to be married in the parish church of Stepney or St Faith London.

Joseph Greene

I’ve yet to find a record of the actual marriage.

On 5th October 1642, Joseph, son of Joseph Greene of Limehouse, mariner, and his wife Elizabeth, was christened at St Dunstan’s, Stepney. There is then a gap in the records of almost twelve years (was Joseph away at sea?) before the christening, on 15th July 1654, of Susan, daughter of Joseph Greene of Limehouse, mariner, and Elizabeth.

On 30th October 1654, Joseph son of Joseph Greene of Ratcliffe Highway, mariner, and Elizabeth, was baptised at St Dunstan’s. Since this comes so soon after Susan Greene’s christening, and since Joseph and Elizabeth of Limehouse already had a son named Joseph, I wonder if this is actually a different couple?

On 17th July 1656. Joseph son of Joseph Greene of Limehouse, mariner, and Elizabeth, was buried at St Dunstan’s. If this was the Joseph born in Limehouse in 1642, he would have been 14 years old: if the one born in Ratcliffe Highway in 1654, he would have been two.

On 7th September 1656, Mary, daughter of Joseph Greene of Ratcliffe Highway, mariner, was christened. On 24th January 1663, Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Greene of Ratcliffe Highway and Elizabeth, mariner, was baptised.

To sum up: Joseph Greene of Limehouse, mariner, definitely had two children – Joseph and Susan – the first of whom certainly died young. He may also have had daughters named Mary and Elizabeth.

I’ve yet to find a burial record, or a will, for either Joseph or Elizabeth Greene, so at this stage it’s impossible to determine their relationship (if any) to my own seafaring Greene ancestors. It’s a shame that Masters’ certificates from Trinity House seem to be available only for this brief period. However, perhaps we can assume from his absence from these documents, that my ancestor Captain William Greene must have been granted his own certificate before these records began in 1660.

Update: 8th February 2013

Of course, the period between the births of the two children of Joseph Greene of Limehouse was almost exactly the period of the English Civil War – so this, rather than a sea voyage, may account for the lack of births, if Joseph was engaged as a protagonist for one of the warring factions.

Since writing this post, I’ve found the name of Captain Simon Nichols (one of the signatories to Joseph’s Master’s certificate) in a list of Elder Brethren of Trinity House (a list that also includes my 8 x great grandfather, Captain William Greene).