I’m making another attempt to trace the origins of my maternal 8 x great grandfather, Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe, who died in January 1685/6. Captain Greene was a mariner and Warden of Trinity House under Samuel Pepys. In the previous post, I reviewed the evidence confirming that William Greene was, indeed, my ancestor, and the father of my 7 x great grandfather, London goldsmith Joseph Greene (1677 – 1737).
I’ve always believed, though I haven’t been able to prove, that William Greene was somehow related to another mariner of the same name, who also lived in Ratcliffe, and who died in 1634. However, two years ago I speculated that William might be the son of another William Greene, who also lived in Ratcliffe, and who worked not as a mariner but as a chirurgeon (surgeon). This theory was prompted by my discovery that John Bodington, an apothecary who lived in Ratcliffe and made his will in 1728, was not only a close friend of Joseph Greene (he made him joint executor of his will) but for some reason had an interest in the will of Joseph’s mother-in-law (and my 8 x great grandmother) Alice Byne née Forrest.
My research into John Bodington’s background led me to the conclusion that he was the third person to bear that name in his family. The John Bodington who died in 1728 turns out to have been the son of another apothecary named John Bodington, also from Ratcliffe, who died in 1698. He in turn was the son of John Bodington, chirurgeon, who was not only apprenticed to William Greene of Ratcliffe, chirurgeon, but in 1638 married William’s daughter Margaret.
We know from the Stepney parish records that William Greene, chirurgeon, and his first wife Agnes had a son named William, who was christened at the church of St Dunstan and All Saints on 14th March 1623/4. Could this be my 8 x great grandfather, the man who grew up to be Captain William Greene, mariner? If he survived, this William Greene would have been two months away from his 62nd birthday when he died in 1685/6: we know that Captain Greene was in his sixties when he died (the second digit of his age is obscured on his tombstone) and ‘aged 50 yeares or thereabouts’ when he married his second wife Elizabeth in 1676/7.
There are a number of posssible objections to this hypothesis. The first is that William Greene chirurgeon, makes no mention of a son William in his will of 1654. However, we know from other wills from this period that they did not always mention every heir or beneficiary. Moreover, William Greene also fails to mention his married daughter Margaret in the will, and at the same time makes reference to ‘my foure youngest daughters’ without naming any others.
Another possible objection is the unlikelihood of a chirurgeon’s son becoming a mariner. Isn’t it far more likely that William Greene junior would have become a chirurgeon, like his father? Once again, however, there might be ways of countering this objection. One is my theory that William Greene senior was, in fact, a ship’s surgeon who may have had dealings with the American colonies, so it’s possible to imagine his son growing up in surrounded by mariners and talk of sea voyages, all of which might have influenced him towards a maritime career.
Secondly, I’ve discovered a parallel in the family of the third John Bodington. Searching for records in the National Archives, I came across a case in Chancery from 1716, in which John Bodington of Stepney, Middlesex, was a defendant and Samuel Younghusband, a mariner, was the plaintiff. Younghusband was the purser on HMS Monmouth, which sailed to Jamaica in 1712. It appears that John Bodington’s brother Richard, said to be deceased, was a Lieutenant on the same ship. I assume the court case was a dispute over Richard’s will. Richard had been born in 1684, six years after John, but to date I’ve been unable to find any record of his death.
If the second John Bodington, a Ratcliffe apothecary and himself the son of a chirurgeon, could have a son who was a mariner, then might not William Greene, chirurgeon, also have had a son who became a ship’s captain?
Reviewing the records for the third John Bodington – the one who died in 1728 and was a friend of Joseph Greene – I noticed that he leaves ‘six pounds apiece to buy each of them mourning’ to his two apprentices, John Letch and Moor Doughty. I recalled that one of the witnesses to the will of Joseph Greene, who died ten years later, was Joseph Letch. He was an attorney, and it seems from the will of John Letch, apothecary, who died in 1763, that he was his brother. Incidentally, it appears that Moor or Moore Doughty became a ship’s surgeon.