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Fay Sampson’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 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)

Sampson  Tree



JOHN HOPPER. John brought up his family in the village of Molland on the Devon/Somerset border on the fringes of Exmoor. We have not found a baptism for him there. Molland’s registers go right back to 1538, when Henry VIII first ordered them to be kept, but if John was baptised there, the record may no longer be legible. There are a number of mutilated pages in the mid to late 1540s when we should expect John to have been born. Or he may have been born in another parish whose registers do not go back that far.

Since he started his family in 1572, we should have expected John to appear in the 1569 Muster Roll for Molland, which included all able men between the ages of 16 and 60. [1] But the only man of that surname is Thomas Howper/Hooper, who is one of the four presenters of the roll, and therefore a man of some standing in the parish. He is probably John’s father.

Nor has John been found in the adjacent Devon parishes.

It is possible that he had an infirmity that prevented him from bearing arms.


In March of the following year the will was proved of Thomas Elston als Hoper of Molland. If this was John’s father, and he was a yeoman like John, it would be at this point that John would have taken over the family farm.

We have not found any instances of John using the Elston alias.


Elizabethan Molland was a rural community, but in the latter part of the 16th century iron began to be mined there. We have to think of the newly-built London Inn thronged with grimy-faced miners, as well as agricultural labourers.

The London Inn, Molland [2]


We have not found a marriage for John, nor do we have the burial of his wife. The Molland baptism register gives only the father’s name.

There is one possibility. There is an isolated baptism in neighbouring North Molton on 30 Dec 1585 for Mary, daughter of John Hopper and his wife Ellyn. We have not found Ellyn Hopper’s burial, so we have no further evidence to support this.


There are four baptisms in Molland for children of John Hopper/Hooper.

Baptisms St Mary, St. Mary, Molland.
1572 Oct 20  Grace
1573 Apr 14  Chrystyan
1576 Sep 30  Margery
1582 Apr 6  John

In the 1581 tax return for Molland, we find John Hooper as one of 25 taxpayers.[3] Five are charged for land, the rest for goods. The highest one of the latter is rated at G11 and the next at G7. John Hooper comes third, as the only taxpayer assessed at G6. There are seventeen others at G5, G4 and G3. Surprisingly, Hugh Courtenay, gent, is assessed lower than John, at G5. John Hooper would appear to be comfortably off.


John lived to the end of the century, and the closing years of Elizabeth I’s reign.

Burial. St Mary, Molland.
1599/1600 Jan 24  John Hoopper

It is not until later that year that we learn from the probate record of his will that John Hooper Senior was a yeoman. Since he was not assessed for land, he must have been a tenant farmer. It is likely that he was raising sheep, to supply the woollen industry for which Devon was famous.

We have not found the burial of John’s wife.

There is another possibility for his wife besides the Ellyn of North Molton. On 2 Jun 1628 we have the burial of Christian Hooper, also in neighbouring North Molton. John’s second daughter was named Christian. It is possible that she was given her mother’s name. The widowed Christian senior may have moved from Molland to live with one of her children after John’s death. But the traditional naming pattern would make it more likely that this is his mother’s name.


[1] The Devon Muster Roll for 1569. Ed.T.L. Stoate and A.J. Howard. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/
[2] Devon Heritage
[3] Devon Taxes 1581-1660. ed. T.L. Stoate. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/




Sampson Tree