This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.

I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)






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JOHN MAY. On 1 June 1678 John May , mariner of Deal, aged 28, married Mary Pettit , aged 25, in her home parish of Buckland next Dover, otherwise known as Dover St Mary.

We would expect a baptism date of 1649/50 for John. The nearest is John , son of John and Elizabeth May , baptised at Ringwould St Nicholas on 7 Feb 1651/2. Ringwould is only a mile from Deal, and he named his first two children John and Elizabeth. But the date is two years later than expected. These were common names, and not all the records have survived from this period, but it looks promising. His grandson was named Henry . There are no Henry Mays in Deal before this, but several of that name in Ringwould. Ringwould was also Mary’s birth parish.We have not found a more likely marriage for this John May , son of John and Elizabeth .

Ringwould is a mile south of Dover and a little way inland. John became a mariner, which would explain his move to Deal.

Earlier, Sandwich, north of Deal, had been one of the five Cinque Ports, designated to guard the shipping lanes around the coast of Kent and Sussex. But over the centuries Sandwich’s harbour silted up, so that it is now 2 miles from the sea. Nick Parmee, writing in the Spectator , says:

“However the sand got into Sandwich, it did Deal a big favour. As the Cinque Port’s harbour silted up from about 1500, the merchant ships out in the downs, protected by those hidden shallows from the Channel’s full fury, began to offload their cargo into small boats called hoys that came out from Deal. A new town was the result.

The beach front, Middle Street and the High Street and the small streets and alleys that run between them are a kind of zoo of domestic architectural and decorative styles, with houses grand and not so grand from about 1600 onwards.”



John May would have been one of those boatmen who plied their trade between Deal and the shipping moored in the Downs.


MARY PETTIT. With Mary’s family, we move away from the long line of Deal boatmen stretching down to the 20 th century.

Mary was the daughter of Francis Pettit and Thomasin Bowles. Her father was a yeoman farmer, owning land and property in the village of Ringwould. He was a freeman of Dover and a constable there.

We know from her marriage licence that Mary was 25 when she married in 1678. This gives her a birth date if 1652-3.

Her baptism has not been found in the parish registers. Her siblings were baptised in Ringwould, but the Ringwould register for this period is in poor condition. Sections of it are illegible, and one of these covers the period when we would expect to find Mary’s baptism.. We learn of her descent through her father’s will of 1667.

Mary was the second child in a family of three girls and one boy.

As children, Mary and John would doubtless have delighted in the huge hollow yew tree in the churchyard of St Nicholas, Ringwould.

Both children were born during the Commonwealth period, between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the Restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in 1660.


Mary’s father died in July 1667, when she was about fourteen. On 9 Feb 1668/9 her mother Thomasine married again, to Ingram Sutton, vicar of Buckland by Dover. Mary moved there with her mother and siblings.

Four years later her stepfather also died, but Mary continued to live in Buckland with her mother. She was living there at the time of her marriage to John in 1679.


Two years after Mary’s marriage, her younger sister Thomasin also married a John May, but he was a saddler from Dover.


John May , mariner, was living in Deal at the time of their marriage. Mary joined him there.

The couple had four children baptised in Deal.

1679 26 March John .

1682/3 21 Jan Elizabeth.

1680 30 Nov Francis

1687 12 June Vallentine


There was a burial on 2 Sep 1679 of Mary, wife of John May, but this appears to be an older generation.


The most likely burial for John is on 23 Jan 1711/12. He would have been around 62.


Mary’s burial has not been found in Deal. There are burials in Ringwould for Mary May on 21 April 1715 and on 17 April 1720. She may have returned to her childhood home for her last years. If so, then she too would have been in her sixties.

Photo: kubrickon.com.

C anterbury diocese archives, Registrations of general licences, Sequestrations. DCb/L/R.




Next Generation: 9. MAY

Previous Generations: 11. MAY

                                                              11. PETTIT-BOWLES




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