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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 CARY was the only known son of William Cary of St Giles on the Heath, north of Launceston, and Margaret Bozon of Clovelly in North Devon.

By now, the prefix “de” was going out of use in surnames of Norman-descended families.

John was born in 1325. His mother died when he was two and his father when he was five. We do not know who brought him up.

His first wife was Alice/Agnes Stafford. She died soon after the marriage, leaving him with no children.


The Heralds’ Visitation of 1620 tells us:

“This Sir John Carye was a Knight of great worth and is said to have had lands in 3 counties: Devon, Dorset & Somerset. He apparently dwelled at times in every of them; at Hoke in Dorset, and at Castle Carye in Devon. He was a great benefactor to the Abbey of Abbottesbery in Dorset, which he endowed with the great Poole, called Abbottesbery Poole as well as sundry other lands and revenues. After his death he was buried in the same Abbey.”

Abbotsbury tithe barn and pond [1]


Fairfax Harrison, in The Devon Carys, comments:[2]

“The choice of the fishpond as his benefaction to Abbotsbury seems to show that Sir John could sympathise with the monks on Friday and that at home “Withouten bake mete never was his hous./ Of fish and flesh and that so plenteous /it snowed in his hous of mete and drinke/ Ful many a fat partich hadde he in mewe/ And many a breme and many a luce in stewe”

“From this pleasant picture we may fairly deduce that there had been a substantial and steady improvement in the family fortunes during the two preceding generations,, and that they were now established in a solid economic position, comfortable to themselves and important in relations to their neighbours. General as the evidences for this may be, they find confirmation in the national prosperity of England during that halcyon time of the economists from the accession of Edward I [1272] until the Black Death [1348]. The Carys had grown largely by reason of their marriages, but partly by the improvement of the status of the minor gentry as a class.”

He also tells us that the older Sir John’s reputation for pious benefactions is borne out by the fact that, in 1370,  the Bishop of Exeter granted John Cary a licence to maintain oratories in two of his Devon manors.

This book casts doubt on the Stafford marriage, seeing it as later attempt to explain how Sir John is found in possession of the manor of Hooke in Dorset. Harrison also thinks that Joane Bryan married Robert Cary, not John Cary, but agrees that she was the mother of Sir John Cary, Baron of the Exchequer.


JANE DE BRYAN. Unlike the Carys, the Bryans had kept the Norman “de”.

Jane was the daughter of Guy de Bryan lord of Walwyn Castle in Pembrokeshire and Torbryan in South Devon and Ann Holway of Holway in Devon.

Holway is the present Holloway in the parish of Northlew. This is 7m NW of Okehampton in Devon and SW of Holsworthy.

Jane was born in Holway around 1325 and had at least one brother, Guy, who became Admiral of the Fleet.

It is from her inheritance that we have the following:

“The memory of this eminent early Devon family is kept alive by their church of Torbrian, which still stands in a wooded glen some mile inland from Tor Bay.”


By far the most significant event of their lives was the Black Death of 1348-9. Around half the population died. It was just at this time, in 1349, that John and Jane married.

John would have come into his father’s estates when he came of age. Jane’s father had died in 1347, the year after he had fought at the Battle of Crecy, and she too inherited some land. As feudal landowners, their way of life would have been radically challenged by the acute shortage of labour caused by the devastating death toll of the plague. Their large estates had been worked by peasants, who were obliged to give a certain number of days’ work to their liege lord. The crisis in labour supply meant that many peasants left the land to seek employment in the towns, where the shortage offered significantly higher incomes, Laws were passed forbidding them to leave their feudal lords, but the scale of the situation made these hard to enforce.

Manorial farming [3]

One consequence of this was a move away from arable farming to less labour-intensive forms, such as sheep-rearing. The rising success of the wool trade added impetus to this.

At some point in the 14th century John purchased the manor of Clovelly, which had been his mother’s home. The Carys may have settled here.


John and Jane had four children.

John, born in 1350, William 1352, Thomas 1354, and Johanna 1356.

Johanna’s birth cost Jane her life. She died in 1356 at the age of 31.


John lived to be 47. He died in 1372.

He was buried at Abbotsbury Abbey in Dorset.


Almost their entire lives had been lived in the reign of Edward III (1327-77).


Their eldest son John became Baron of the Exchequer. Both he and his brother William were Members of Parliament.



[1] https://i0.wp.com/www.beautifulenglandphotos.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/mill-pond-and-abbey-tithe-barn-abbotsbury.jpg?fit=595%2C400&ssl=1
[2] Harrison, Fairfax, The Devon Carys. 1920.
[3] https://cdn.britannica.com/17/125117-004-EC0D221E/Farmers-land-castle-illustration-manuscript-French-use.jpg




Sampson Tree