Remembering Our Ancestors: Lady Anne Jernegan

Our 15th and 16th Great-Grandmother Harris, nee Jernegan, lived in 15th century England during the War of the Roses.

Lady Anne Jernegan was born in 1448 in Herefordshire, England, if the Find-a-Grave record is correct, to Sir John Gilberd Jernedan and his wife Lady Agnes Jane Darell.  Times were spicy in England then as the War of the Roses between the House of Lancaster and the House of York was soon to be in full swing, and would not be resolved still by the time little Lady Anne was grown, had married, had children and passed on.

It appears that Lady Anne grew up in Herefordshire which lies up against the Welsh border in the west of England.  There, she also met and married William John Harris, son of John Harris and Anne Hartford, in 1467 when she was 19 years old.  They had three children during their marriage, if we are correctly informed.  Their son John Arthur was our direct forefather through Arilla Harris, mother of Mattie Mulford who married Steward Leslie Denney.

St Marys Churchyard in Prittlewell
St Mary’s Churchyard in Prittlewell, Southend, Essex

While the English nobles continued their feud, Anne and William apparently moved from one side of the country to the other for by the time Anne died on 4 May 1480, we find them living in Prittlewell in Essex, that is, on the south-eastern side of the country.  Anne, who died when she was only 32 years old, lies buried there as well as William, who passed on almost 25 years after Anne in 1504, and their son John Arthur (1468 – 1520), all, it appears, in St. Mary’s Churchyard where the gravestones are in disarray by now as you can see in the featured image.

Rest in Peace, Great-Grandma Harris.  England was in turmoil during your life, but you still managed to grow up, marry, have children, and carry on the torch.

Harris Coat of Arms
Harris Coat of Arms

Remembering Our Ancestors: Jane Playse

Let me take you back to the Elizabethan time.

Our 15th (and 16th) great-grandmother Jane Andrews (née Playse) was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and even lived in London, England, at the latest since 1595.

But she had not been a city dweller all her life, much like The Bard.  Jane Playse was born in 1528 in the East Midlands, more precisely in Northampton, in the shire that bears the same name, some 60 miles north-west of London, and about 45 miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon.  There she appears to have grown up, and by the time she was 21, in 1549, she married our 15th (and 16th) great-grandfather William Andrews in Charwelton, a village about halfway between Northampton and Stratford.  There, at least two sons were born to them, William Jr. and Robert, both in 1550.  Since the bubonic plague was ravaging the area off and on during those years (and for many more decades to come until the Great Plague of London of 1665-66 marked the last great epidemic almost 100 years later), we do not know how many more children they might have had and lost, but we do know that Robert lived long enough to become the father of our 14th (and 15th) great-grandfather John Andrews.  John’s own son William, in turn, immigrated to the colonies in 1624 and started the Andrews family of (what was to become) Hartford, CT, and John followed him when he was already 83 and most all his remaining relatives had either died in England or immigrated already.

But back to Jane and William.  How long they stayed in the area of Charwelton we are not sure, but the year 1596 finds them in London, where William died, his burial being recorded in the church books of St. Giles Cripplegate.  This church lies about a 15 minute walk from St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate where Shakespeare resided during the same year.  Presumably, Jane and Andrew lived somewhere in the vicinity as well.  St. Giles is also the church where, 15 years later, Jane’s burial is documented.  According to the records, she was buried 24 January 1611, that’s today 409 years ago.

I still remember just how exciting it was to realize that Jane and William lived in Shakespeare’s London, and at least Jane had the (theoretical) possibility to go and see a play in the original Globe Theater which was build in Southwark, on the other, as yet barely developed and quite disreputable side of the river, in 1599.  Maybe Jane would never have dreamed of going to the playhouse!  But maybe she did!  We cannot be sure either way.

Jane’s son Robert did not live in London either for the most part, but married and settled in Coventry in Warwickshire, just north-west of his hometown.  Chances are that Jane and William moved to London only after their son had left their home to raise his own family.  Interestingly enough, however, Robert, too, died in London, at the St. Bartholomew-the-Great hospital, and his burial is recorded in the books of St. Martin, Ludgate.  All these places, St. Giles, St. Bartholomew and St. Martin are less than a mile away from each other.

It does make you wonder if people came to London from the countryside to die and be buried there, or if spending a part of your life in the countryside and a part in the big city, like we know Shakespeare did, was quite common back in the day, at least for a certain social class.

In any case, history comes alive when direct ancestors were part of it and no mistake.  Rest in Peace, Great-Grandma Jane Andrews.  We envy you.  A little.

The_Swan performance
A 1596 sketch of a performance in progress at The Swan, a theater much like The Globe that was built in 1599.


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

~ William Shakespeare

Featured: John Norden’s map of London in 1593, cropped

Remembering Our Ancestors: Sir William and Alice Harris

This week we remember our 11th (and 12th) great-grandparents Sir William Harris I and his wife Alice Smythe.

Here we have two ancestors from the Harris line that joined first the Mulford line and in the next generation the Denney line.  Alice Smythe and her husband Sir William Harris, a knight, both died this week 404 and 403 years ago respectively.

Sir William Haris Knight
This photo shows a painting of Sir William Harris, and next to him is a rapier that is said to have been his. The photo can be found on Sir William’s Find-A-Grave memorial.

Sir William Harris I was born on 21 September 1556 in Woodham Ferrers in the county of Essex, England.  His wife Alice Smythe was born in the same year in Westenhanger, near Hythe in Kent, England.  Both villages are east of London, with Woodham Ferrers being further north.

Alice’s father was Sir Thomas Smythe, who was Collector of Customs under Elizabeth I.

William married Alice on 6 May 1583 in St Gabriel Fenchurch, London, and the family had their home at Creeksea Place Manor.  One of their seven children was our 10th (and 11th) great-grandfather Captain Thomas Harris.

William was knighted on 23 July 1603 at Whitehall on the eve of the coronation of James I.  Both he and his brother in law, Sir Thomas Smythe and his son, Sir Arthur Harris, each, were Incorporators and Subscribers to the third charter of the Virginia Company of London.  Both Harris and Smythe were very interested in the development of Virginia.  They exerted their influence to secure money, men, equipment, supplies, and ships for the colonization efforts.  Small wonder that William’s son Thomas immigrated, although there are still some unanswered questions concerning Thomas, and some more research appears to be necessary.

William and his wife Alice stayed in England, though, and died in Creeksea in the same month and almost exactly one year apart:  First Alice passed on on 10th November 1615, and then William on 14 November 1616.  They both were laid to rest in the All Saints Churchyard in Creeksea.

Rest in Peace, Great-Grandparents Harris.


Death is a Boon Granted

Today 46 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien passed on. 

“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.”


Rest in Peace, Professor.  Death is a boon granted.

Our Own Dear John Ronald: 1066 and the Sackville-Bagginses

The Norman Conquest of England, led by William the Conqueror, was carried out between 1066 and 1071 AD. The conquest saw the death of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the replacement of the Anglo-Saxon elite as William was crowned king and redistributed land to his fellow Normans.

There is in fact a word which sums Bilbo up, often used of the English middle-class to which he so obviously belongs: ‘bourgeois’.  This is not an English word but a French one, and Tolkien does not use it – he regretted, again for professional reasons, the medieval takeover of the English language by Norman French, and always tried to reverse it as far as he could.  But he may well have been thinking of just that word, as is indicated by a couple of running private jokes.  Later on, in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, it will be disclosed that the road Bilbo’s hole is on is called Bag End: very appropriate for someone called Baggins, perhaps, but an odd name for a road.  And yet in a sense a very familiar one.  As part of the ongoing and French-oriented snobbery of English society in Tolkien’s day (and later), municipal councils were (and still are) in the habit of indicating a street with no outlet as a ‘cul-de-sac’.  This is French, of course, for ‘bag end’, though the French actually call such a thing an IMPASSE, while the native English is ‘dead end’.  ‘Cul-de-sac’ is a silly phrase, and it is to the Baggins’ family’s credit that they will not use it.  The Tolkien family’s, too, for his Aunt Jane Neave’s house was down a lane with no exit, also defiantly called ‘Bag End’ (see Humphrey Carpenter’s J.R.R.TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY, p. 106).  It is a very bad mark for the socially aspiring branch of the Baggins family that they have tried to Frenchify themselves and disguise their origins: they call themselves the Sackville-Bagginses, as if they came from a VILLE (or villa?) in a CUL-DE-SAC(K) (Bag End).  They, then, are real BOURGEOIS.  Bilbo is just heading that way.

Gandalf means, however, to turn him back, and that is why he makes him a ‘burglar’. (…)  The root of ‘burglar’ is in fact the same as that of ‘bourgeois’, Old English (and probably Old Frankish too) BURH, ‘borough, town, fort, stockaded mansion’.  A BURGULATOR, as the OED points out, is someone who break into mansions, a BOURGEOIS lives in one.  They are connected opposites, like Sackvilles and Bagginses.  Gandalf means to move Bilbo from the one side, the snobbish side, to the other.  In doing so, Bilbo will not become less English, but more so.  (…)

We should note, in view of the bad press which ‘Englishness’ has had for most of the twentieth century, that Tolkien was quick to point out some of Bilbo’s native virtues (…).  The narrator comments, once Bilbo has recognized Gandalf and responded with genuine excitement and interest, ‘You will notice already that Mr. Baggins was not as prosy as he liked to believe, also that he was very fond of flowers’.  Hobbits, then, like the English middle class to which they so clearly belong, may aspire to be bourgeois and boring, but it is not natural to them.

Tom Shippey: J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century.

Incidentally, the German “Sackgasse” is quite close to ‘bag end’, with ‘Sack’ being a sack or bag, and ‘Gasse’ a lane.



Featured: Bayeux Tapestry, scene 51: Battle of Hastings; Norman knights and archers

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