Tuesday 3 December 2013

Who was my 7th Great-grandfather?

As I discussed in the last blog post here, my 7th great-granduncle, William Shepheard, attempted to pass off a fraudulent will supposedly written by his brother, Sampson Shepheard, who had died in 1685. In it were named three other siblings then presumably still alive: a brother, Thomas Shepheard; an unmarried sister, Mary; and a married sister, Orange, “late the wife of John Maddicke deceased.” He did not list any other family members, one of whom, my 6th great-grandfather, Nicholas Shepheard, was ultimately deemed by the court to be the rightful heir to Sampson’s estate.

There is no marriage data for Sampson Shepheard. There is an entry in the Cornwood Parish burial register, for a Samson Shipperd, which is most likely this individual. He was buried on July 4, 1685. At that time he apparently owned property in several jurisdictions, presumably including the lands in Cornwood Parish. The court ruled on the validity of the will on May 6, 1686.

1685 – burial entries for Samson, Margeret and Cathren “Shipperd” in Cornwood parish burial register
The court record stated that William was opposed by Nathaniel Ryder who was acting as a guardian for Nicholas Shepheard, a minor, and nephew of both William and Sampson Shepheard. There is not baptism record for this Nicholas Shepheard, so I did not have a direct piece of information that would indicate who his father, and my 7th great-grandfather was. Here is how I figured it out.

The father of William and Sampson, Nicholas Shepheard, died in 1657. He left a will, signed on September 21, 1657, in which he named all of his surviving children, listing the daughters and sons in the order of their respective births. His three daughters were Barbarah, Mary and Ornidge. From the bequests stated in the will, Barbarah also appears to have been over 21 and her sisters, 19 and 18, respectively.

Nicholas’ five sons were John, Nicholas, Sampson, Thomas and William. At the time of Nicholas’ death, only John had reached the age of majority – 21 years. Nicholas appeared to be close, possibly 20. The other three were all minors.

1657 – portion of will of Nicholas Shepheard, document number PROB 11/271, The National Archives
The only surviving baptism records were found were for two children, in the Bishops Transcripts for Cornwood parish: John on June 20, 1633 and William on February 19, 1638. Both were recorded as sons of Nicholas Shepheard. Given the dates for these baptisms, I have made the assumption that the Nicholas Shepheard named as the father and the individual who died in 1857 are one and the same.

1633 June 20 – baptism entry for “John sonne of Nicolas Shepheard” in Cornwood Bishops Transcripts

1638 February 19 – baptism entry for “William sonne of Nicolas Shepheard” in Cornwood Bishops Transcripts
From the information in Nicholas’ will, and the two baptism entries, all of the children would probably have been born between 1633 and 1640. The children are assumed to have been born in this order: John – (June) 1633; Barbarah – 1634; Nicholas – late 1636; Sampson – 1636-37; Thomas – 1637-38; William – (February) 1638; Mary 1639; Orrnidge – 1640. In order to fit the four males in between September 1636, which was 21 years before the will was written, and February 1638, the baptism date for William, it seems two of them must have been twins.

While the will itself was deemed to be fraudulent, it could be assumed that the list of surviving siblings William mentioned might be accurate and that John, Barbarah and Nicholas were deceased by 1685. The court documents state that the plaintiff, Nicholas Shepheard, assisted by his guardian Nathaniel Ryder, was a nephew of both William and the deceased Sampson. I concluded that he would not have been the son of Thomas, or Thomas would have been the rightful heir as the next oldest male. Therefore the young Nicholas must have been the son of the other brother, Nicholas, who would then have also been deceased. And he would have been my 7th great-grandfather.

Rightly or wrongly, and until further information comes along, my family tree now has all of these individuals named Nicholas in my direct Shepheard line:
            Nicholas Shepheard (    -1657)                       8th great-grandfather
            Nicholas Shepheard (ca1636-bef1685)           7th great-grandfather
            Nicholas Shepheard (ca1675-1756)                5th great-grandfather
            Nicholas Shepheard (1716-1786)                   4th great-grandfather

Each of them has an interesting and unique story. The forename of Nicholas persisted through two more generations.

The baptism and burial images reproduced here are used with the kind permission of the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office,  They were reproduced from my own microfiche of the parish registers. The court documents are the property of The National Archives and published under their Open Government License. Catalogue references for the document is PROB 11/271.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He serves as the Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.