Alan March’s Family History

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 many generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Alan’s as (1)

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WILLIAM CLIFFE. He was baptised in the parish church of St Andrew, Barnston. The village lies 3m SE of Great Dunmow and 9 m NW of Chelmsford.
Baptism. St Andrew, Barnston.
1629 Dec 8  William son of William and Anne Cliffe.

He was the younger of two children, with an older sister.

We have not found his mother’s maiden name.

We do not have his parents’ burials, but the evidence points to William being still a young child when his father died.


Baptism. Willingdale Spain.
1627/8 Feb 21  Martha daughter of Nathaniell Adams.

Her mother’s name was Sarah, but we do not know her maiden name.

We know from her father’s will that she was alternatively known as Mathew, a rare occurrence of this as a female name.

She was the fourth of eleven children, though two younger brothers died in infancy.

Her father was a yeoman farmer.

She was born in Willingale Spain, a village 9 m west of Chelmsford, now merged with Willingale Doe. When she was about four, the family moved 3 m west to Little Laver and it was here that Martha grew up. The family farm was Fannes. This lay at Waterman’s End in the NW corner of the parish, where the Ongar road separates the parishes of Little Laver and High Laver. Some of its fields lay in High Laver. Her father had another farm, and several smaller crofts.

William was 12 and Martha was 14 when the Civil War broke out. Essex was strongly Parliamentarian. A Puritan mob attacked Chelmsford church and smashed the stained glass windows. Another mob chased the High Church rector of Ardleigh down the road, pelting him with mud and stones.

Martha’s father died late in 1659, the last year of the Republican Commonwealth that followed the Civil War. Martha’s brothers Nathaniell and Isaac inherited their father’s farms and houses, with the principal items of furniture. His daughters received bequests of money. £60 each went to the younger daughters Ellenor and Rebecca. The older daughters Mathew/Martha and Marie received £70 each. His married daughters Elizabeth and Anne received 40s. They had probably been given marriage portions when they wed.

Martha’s mother Sarah was the sole executrix, but she died herself in Feb 1660, before the will was proved. Administration passed to “Mathew als Martha Adams the naturall and lawfull daughter” of Nathaniel and Sarah. Nowadays, a “natural child” means one born out of wedlock, but this was clearly not the case in the 17th century.

Weddings usually took place in the bride’s parish, so we assume that Martha had moved to Little Waltham by 1660. This is 4 m north of Chelmsford. This was the year when the monarchy was restored under Charles II.

 Marriage. Waltham Little.
1660 Nov 29  William Cliff and Martha Adams

They took up residence in William’s home of Barnston. The parish church of St Andrew originally had a steeple, but the Cliffes would have witnessed the dramatic change when this was struck by lightning in 1665. It was replaced by a cupola in the 18th century.

St Andrew’s, Barnston[1]

We do not know whether William was also a yeoman farmer. His grandson was a farmer, so it is more than likely. Men typically moved down the social scale, rather than up.

We know of five sons baptised at St Andrew’s.
Baptisms. St Andrew, Barnston.
1662 or 63  James
1666 Jul 5  Wylliam
1670 Jun 14  John. There was possibly a twin sister Jone, but this is more likely a mistranscription of John.
1673 Feb 12  Joseph
1678 Oct 21  Stephen.

We have not found a burial for Martha.

There is a burial for William Cliffe in Barnston on 5 Jan 1721/2, but this would make him 92 and is more probably his son.


[1] Barnston Village, Essex: St Andrew’s Church




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