In the previous post I explored a theory about the family background of my 8 x great grandfather, Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe. I speculated that he might have been the son of another William Greene, a chirurgeon (surgeon) who also lived in Ratcliffe and had a son named William baptised at Stepney parish church in 1623/4. However, I’ve been unable to find any conclusive proof of this connection, so for now I’m continuing to explore other possibilities.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m still hoping to find some kind of link between my ancestor Captain Greene and another mariner of Ratcliffe, also named William Greene, who died in 1634. In his will, this William Greene made bequests to ‘my sonnes William Greene and Bartholomew Greene both of the parish abovesaid in the Countie of Midd Marriners’ and to ‘my Grandchildren beinge the sonnes and daughters of my three sonnes viz in number seaven’. The identity of the elder William Greene’s third son is revealed in the will of his widow, Elizabeth Greene, who died in 1655, in which she refers to one of her late husband’s surviving grandchildren as ‘John Greene the sonne of John Greene of New Castle Marriner’.
For some time, I’ve been searching for information about John Greene (father or son), and today I finally tracked down a document that may offer some clues about his life. In the Durham Probate Records I came across a reference to the will of John Greene, mariner, of Newcastle upon Tyne, who made his will in May 1668. Apparently this was a noncupative or oral will, made aboard the May Flower of Newcastle, in Carlisle Bay, off Bridgetown, Barbados.
John Greene’s will has been digitised and can be accessed via the FamilySearch site. I’ve now downloaded a copy and transcribed the document, which is fairly brief, as you might expect of a will taken down by dictation from a sick and dying man, on a ship thousands of miles from home. When I first came across the reference to the will, I assumed it was made by John Greene senior, the son of the William Greene who died in 1634. However, I now think that if it has any connection to the Greenes of Ratcliffe, it is more likely to be the will of William Greene’s grandson, also John, assuming that the latter followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by going to sea. I base my hunch on the fact that the John Greene who made this will refers to a brother named Joseph, and we know that the older John Greene only had two brothers, William the younger and Bartholomew. On the other hand, if it is the same family, then the fact that it includes the names of two family members – Joseph, and also his and John’s mother Dorothy – that might provide clues to uncovering the link, if any exists, with the Stepney Greenes. It’s also interesting that the master of the May Flower was Thomas Green, though the will gives no suggestion that the two men were related, and the shared surname may simply be a coincidence.
I’ve been unable to find out very much about Thomas Green or his ship, except that it certainly wasn’t the famous Mayflower that transported the pilgrims to the New World more than half a century earlier: it seems there were a number of ships bearing the same name in the seventeenth century. At this period Barbados was an important British colony, dominated by sugar plantations and increasingly reliant on slave labour transported from Africa: the May Flower may well have taken part in this trade. During the 1660s, Barbados suffered a number of misfortunes, including a fire in Bridgetown and a major hurricane in 1667, and a drought in 1668, the year of John Greene’s death, which ruined some plantation owners.
My transcription of the will follows, and I hope that in future posts I’ll be able to report further findings on John Greene’s identity and his possible link with my Stepney ancestors.
Memorandum That in the Month of May in the yeare of our Lord God One Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Eight, John Green late whilst he lived of the Towne & County of Newcastle upon Tyne mariner, being then aboard the Ship called the May flower of Newcastle aforesd, whereof Thomas Green was then Master in Carlisle–bay at the Barbadoes, and being sicke and weake in body yet of sound and pfect memory, and being demanded by the sayd Thomas Green, how? and in what mannner? he would dispose of his Estaite, in case it should please God, to call him out of this mortall life, he the sayd John Green with A: serious intencon, and resolucon, to make & declare his last Will & Testament Nuncupative by word of mouth, answered and sayd, in these or the very like words in Effort following (vizt) The one halfe of my Estaite I give and bequeath to my brother Joseph Green: and the other halfe thereof I Give and bequeath unto my mother Dorothy Green Which words, or words tending to the same Effort & purpose were uttered by the sayd John Green being of pfect minde and memory, as and for his last Will & Testament Nuncupative in the psence and hearing of the sayd Thomas Green, and of John Chester Chirurgion of the sayd Shipp.
I wonder if there is any connection between Thomas Green, Master of the May Flower, and Thomas Greene, Captain of the Worcester, who was executed at Edinburgh in 1705 after a notorious trial for piracy, of which he was almost certainly innocent? I’m grateful to Christine Hancock, who has written about the case, for alerting me to this story in a comment on an earlier post.