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

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FRANCIS DICKINSON. The parish registers for Whitby begin in 1608. Immediately we have the baptism of William Dickinson, son of Christopher. After that, the entries follow thick and fast, with James, Richard and Ralph Dickinson also raising families. Clearly the Dickinsons had been in Whitby for a considerable time, and were now a widely extended family.

Since he was married in 1614, Francis would have been born before the registers begin.

We do not have a record of his occupation, but it is almost certain that he was a farmer, like his son, grandson and great-grandson. Like them, he farmed at Whitby Laithes, on the high ground south of Whitby Abbey, overlooking the sea.

Laithe can mean a barn. The site was formerly a grange, or outlying farm of Whitby Abbey.


ISABELL RUSSELL. As with Francis, we should expect her birth to be in the late 16th century, before the Whitby registers begin. In the early 17th century we have Henry, Edmund, James and Christopher Russell all raising families in Whitby. Clearly this is another long-established Whitby family.


Whitby is on the NE coast of Yorkshire. The narrow valley of the Esk runs between steeply sloping banks, with houses on either side and a fishing harbour at the mouth. On the cliff above are the ruins of the Benedictine Whitby Abbey, which replaced the Anglo-Saxon one of St Hilda. Whitby is known for the jet found on its seashore.


Francis and Isabell were born towards the end of the Elizabethan era. They saw the coming of the Stuart monarchy with the accession of James I in 1603.

 Marriage. Whitby
1614 May 17  Francis Dickinson and Isabell Russell

There is only one baptism close to this date.

Baptism. Whitby
1618 May 17  Margaret

There then follows another isolated baptism for a child of Francis Dickinson.

Baptism. Whitby
1631 Jul 18   Richard

Despite the gap in the dates, the fact that Isabell lived until 1677 suggests that this is the same family.

There were probably other children born between these two, whose baptisms are now lost to us. There are gaps in the register and pages that are hard to read.

Because the Whitby registers are patchy for this period, it is possible that there is another baptism for Richard Dickinson. But the fact that Richard called his second son Francis suggests that this is the right parentage.


This was the century that saw a major increase in Whitby’s shipping fleet.

In 1629-30 the inhabitants of Whitby made a plea for greater self-government. They stated that “of late years, by reason that the inhabitants of the said town have not a settled and constant government and power to make ordinances and wholesome laws within themselves for the well-ordering of their town and river, the same is . . . likely in short time to come to utter ruin.”

They petitioned for liberty to have a recorder and town clerk, their own justices of the peace and all officers necessary for the government of the town, court leet and baron, the government of the harbour and river with the waterbailiwick, their ancient fairs and markets, all new cattle fairs, and a gaol in their town.

King Charles I ordered Letters Patent to be drawn up granting these requests with some modifications,  but nothing further was heard of the matter. As things remained in 1635 the owners of the liberty had the government of port and town, receiving harbour dues and selecting the twenty-four burgesses, who had the privilege of buying and retailing goods brought in by the sea, while the other inhabitants might not buy more than served for their own provision. The burgesses also paid two-thirds of all ordinary charges levied by the constables, the body of the town paying the rest.

How much this affected farmers like Francis it is hard to say.

In 1641/2, just before the outbreak of the Civil War, people were required to take the Protestation Oath, pledging loyalty to King and Parliament. The return for Whitby would have told us the names of the adult men in the Dickinson and Russell families living in the parish then, but unfortunately the Whitby return is missing.

A major landowner in the Whitby area, including possession of the Abbey, was Sir Hugh Cholmley. He began as a staunch Parliamentarian, and held Scarborough Castle against the King. But when Queen Henrietta Maria took refuge in the north, he was persuaded by her to switch his allegiance to the Royalist side.

Whitby itself, on the other hand, began the war as a Royalist port, until it was captured by the Parliamentarian general Lord Fairfax.

It is difficult to know where individuals stood in this dispute. Families were often split.

Both Francis and Isabell lived to see the Restoration of the Monarchy, with the accession of Charles II in 1660. 

We have a burial for Francis in 1674.

Burial. Whitby.
1674 Mar 16  Francis Dickinson  Whitby Laithes

This is followed by a burial for Isabell Dickinson
1677 Feb 22   Issabell Dickinson widow of Whitby Laithes

Whitby Laithes is where we find the next generation of this family.

It stands on high ground between the southern part of Whitby and the sea.

Whitby Laithes is on the cliffs to the left[1]



[1] Sky News





Bray Tree