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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 COLMAN. The Colmans form a small, apparently nuclear, family in the Exmoor  village of East Anstey in the 16th century.

There were no Colmans in the parish in the 1525 Lay Subsidy Roll.[1] Nor have they been found in the adjacent Devon parishes. There is John Cokeman in Bishops Nympton, only a short distance away. There is only one other instance of the Cokeman surname in all of Devon, so it may be a mistranscription of Coleman. He was rated at the lowest level of W1, meaning that he was assessed as a worker, and not as having rateable goods or land.

In addition, there are two Somerset parishes, Hawkridge and Dulverton, adjoining East Anstey, for which we do not have the Lay Subsidy Rolls. John could have come from one of these, though when their registers begin, we do not find any Colmans there.

The first record we have of them in East Anstey is in the 1545 Subsidy Roll, when John Colman appears as a taxpayer.[2]

We do not meet him again until his will was proved in 1578. Since he is not named in the 1569 Muster Roll for East Anstey, we assume he was then too old and infirm to bear arms.


GUNNET. The will of Gunnet Colman of East Anstey was proved in 1581, three years after John’s. Since this is such a small family, the natural conclusion is that she was John’s wife.

Gunnet is an unusual name. It is an alternative spelling of Gundred. St Gundred was a Cornish saint, the daughter of a leper who lived in isolation. She ministered to him by bringing him water and other necessities. She is commemorated by a sacred well bearing her name.

In 16th century Devon the name is chiefly found in Knowstone parish, 4 miles SW of East Anstey. It may be that Gunnet has her roots there. It occurs there in the Comyns, Bowber, Rendle, Yeo, Gamon and Vicarye families.


Henry Colman, whom we believe to be their son, was a respected member of the community in 1569. We would estimate from that that John and Gunnet were born in the first quarter of the 16th century. Their lives were lived out in the reign of the Tudors.


East Anstey is a very small parish in the foothills of Exmoor on the Devon-Somerset border. It lies 10 miles north of Tiverton. The name Anstey means “hill pathway for one”.


The parish registers for East Anstey have only survived from 1596, so we have no record of any baptisms for John and Gunnet’s children.

We do, however, have the Muster Roll for 1569.[3] The only Colman to appear on it is Henry Colman. We assume that he is John and Gunnet’s son. He is one of the four presenters of the roll, so he would be one of the leading parishioners. But he is not one of the two presenters given a special requirement to provide arms, indicating that he was not particularly wealthy. This probably reflects John and Gunnet’s standing in the East Anstey community.

There would almost certainly have been other children. Daughters would not appear in the tax and muster records. East Anstey is a small village. If there were other sons besides Henry, they would appear to have moved to earn their living in another parish. It is quite likely that Henry was the eldest and had taken over his parents’ holding by 1569. He may have been looking after them in their old age.

Henry’s rating in the 1581 tax returns was a little above average.[4] He was assessed for goods, not for land. He may have been a tenant farmer, raising sheep in this hill country. It is likely that he was following in his father’s footsteps. A farm would not have supported more than one of John’s sons, which would explain why East Anstey seems to have only one adult male Colman in each generation.

Anstey Mills cottages [5]


John and Gunnet lived through the upheaval of the Reformation and Henry VIII’s break with Rome, then the swing back to Catholicism under Mary, and the return to Protestantism with Elizabeth I.


We do not have a record of their burials, but John’s will was proved in 1578 and Gunnet’s in 1581.

John’s estate was valued at £45.7.4. This would be a respectable sum in Elizabethan England, but not an over-large one.

Three years later, Gunnet’s estate was valued at £15.6.4. No doubt much of John’s wealth had gone to Henry and any other children they may have had.


[1] Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-1527, ed. T.L. Stoate. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/
[2] Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1543-1545. ed. T.L. Stoate. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/
[3] The Devon Muster Roll for 1569. Ed.T.L. Stoate and A.J. Howard. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/
[4] Devon Taxes 1581-1660. ed. T.L. Stoate. https://www.westcountrybooks.com/
[5] https://www.devonfarms.co.uk/assets/accommodation/images/gallery/73018013-anstey-mills-cottages.jpg




Sampson Tree