The will of Robert Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, who died in 1592, casts doubt on the accepted pedigrees of the Maunser or Manser family. In his will, Robert mentions five sons: Robert, Thomas, George, John and Abraham. According to the pedigree in William Berry’s record of the heralds’ visitations,  Robert Maunser had only two sons: William and John.

Part of the pedigree of the Maunser family

Part of the pedigree of the Maunser family

By contrast, the next two generations in Berry’s pedigree chart appear to be accurate. He claims that William Maunser had three children: Nicholas, John and Mary. Nicholas is said to have had five children: Thomas, Nicholas, Herbert, Elizabeth and Mary. Much of this is confirmed by the will of Nicholas Maunser of Hightown who died in 1653, which I transcribed here and discussed here.

In his will, Nicholas refers to his wife Sarah: this seems to contradict Berry, who claims he married a woman named Elizabeth, but Sarah might be a second wife. Nicholas also refers to a brother named John, reflecting the information given by Berry. He leaves Hightown to his eldest son, Thomas; he bequeaths property in Battle to his son Nicholas; his son Herbert inherits Godsale or Guttsol in Burwash; and Abraham is to receive ‘Withers’ in Burwash. We also infer from the will that Nicholas’ daughter Elizabeth was married to David Leader and his other daughter Mary to Giles Watts.

Wadhurst Hall - built on the site of Hightown

Wadhurst Hall – built on the site of Hightown

The information in Nicholas’ will is complemented by the last will and testament of his grandson Nicholas, son of his eldest son Thomas, who inherited Hightown from his father and died in 1674, as well as by other archival sources. We also know from this later will that yet another Nicholas Maunser, son of Herbert Maunser, eventually inherited Hightown.

From the information in these sources, we can estimate the birth dates of the children of the first Nicholas Maunser of Hightown, and thus his own likely date of birth. If Nicholas’ eldest son Thomas already had a son in 1653, then he must have been born by about 1630 at the latest. However, we also know that the second son, Nicholas, had a son named Francis (who would become a cleric) in about 1645, so he must have been born by the early 1620s. Furthermore, we know that the third son, Herbert, married Sarah Haffenden in Lewes in 1643, so he must have been by the early 1620s, thus pushing his elder brothers’ birth dates further back. Of the two daughters, we know that Elizabeth’s marriage to David Leader must have taken place before 1641, when one of their children was born.

If Nicholas Maunser’s children were all born by the early 1620s or thereabouts, this makes it likely (though not proven) that the marriage of Nicholas Maunser and Elizabeth Hepden that took place in Rye in 1609 refers to him. And if that is so, then Nicholas must surely have been born by 1590. If we then assume that the information in the pedigree chart about his siblings is accurate, then John Maunser who married Mary Cole in 1614/5 must have been born by the mid 1590s, and Mary Maunser who married Thomas Scotson in 1604 would need to have been born by about 1590 at the very latest.

This prompts the question of why there is no reference to Nicholas or either of his supposed siblings in the 1592 will of Robert Maunser? And why do the pedigrees of both the Maunser and Fowle families agree not only that Nicholas’ father was William Maunser of Hightown, but that his mother was Mary, daughter of Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield? Certainly Nicholas’ own Christian name – and the fact that it was then passed on in the family – seems to hint at a Fowle connection.

Is it possible that there is a missing generation of the Manser family in the existing pedigrees?