draft start to page – and bio of Michael Rickson will be moved to a separate page

Faversham is a town where some direct ancestors and other relations lived, but with my direct ancestors I have no good evidence of it being home for more than a generation at a time (Dorothy Whitlook’s ancestors the possible exception).

Direct ancestors

The Goatham connection

Soon after I started investigating my family tree in the 1970s my great aunt Ethel decided she needed to go into a care home, and had a clear out. She gave me a copy of the birth certificate of her father, Herbert Goatham and a family prayer book. One page of this had a list of birth’s which included that of Herbert, my great grandfather. Auntie Ethel told me the others were his brother’s and sisters. I found this hard to believe; Herbert wasn’t born until 1862, and the first was in 1835. I was born in 1963 so it was immediately obvious it was as though I had a sibling born in 1936. The idea seemed ridiculous, some of my friends had siblings some years older, but none anything like 27 years older.

However, not only was it true, but they were full siblings, they shared a mother who had had children regularly between the ages of about 18 and 45.

Herbert and most of his siblings were born in Faversham and I at first imagined this was where the family had been for centuries. I remember my Dad and I having a day out and visiting Faversham Church. I carefully looked at the monuments in case there were any Goathams amongst them. No joy, and sheep grazing in the churchyard prevented looking for family gravestones.

I soon found out that Herbert’s parents, Charles and Sybilla, were not themselves from Faversham, but had moved to the town with their young family c. 1840.

(I found this from looking at census returns – and as this was in the 1970s that meant a trip into London and winding through the microfilm entries for Faversham until finding the family, rather different to today when I could have found them in a few minutes online research).

This link to the town though was just a single generation one, at least as far as my direct line is concerned: while Charles and Sybilla moved to the town and spent the rest of their lives living there, Herbert moved to Margate (Garlinge) and lived the rest of his life on Thanet.

When I visited the brilliant museum in the Fleur de Lys Centre in 2011 it really brought to life the town in the past – and I wished I had earlier ancestors from Faversham and that this was part of my heritage. Now I may have found some.

The Rickson / Whitlooke connection (?)

The aforementioned Charles Goatham was the grandson of one George Goatham. Goatham being a rare name it seems fairly safe to assume that the George who turns up in Tonge PRs in 1761 was one from Whitstable – but was he the one baptised there in 1734, son of George and Jane, or the one baptised in 1740, son of Michael and Elizabeth? I have found no good evidence to conclude one way or the other. Following his marriage in Tonge George named his first born Michael, which leads me to think he was most likely the son of Michael and Elizabeth, but this is far from certain. The two George’s were second cousins, so I can discover ancestors further back, but for a couple of generations there is uncertainty.

Hence, the ‘(?)’ – I may or may not have Rickson and Whitlooke ancestors from Faversham. Whether or not they are my ancestors, here is a little about the family.

The first I know of Michael Rickson and his first wife Dorothy Whitlooke is their marriage in Faversham in 1659. There are earlier Whitlookes in Faversham so Dorothy may have been a local girl, although I have not yet found her baptism.

Rickson, on the other hand, does not appear in Faversham PRs prior to this suggesting Michael had come from elsewhere. Judging from various indexes neither Rickson nor Rixon are names that were  commonly found in Kent, being more associated with the North of England. Across the channel the name Ricksen is found, and given the amount of trading that went on between Kent and the low countries it seems possible that Michael arrived from the continent, married a local girl and settled down in Faversham. Michael was a hoyman, hoys being vessles that transported goods to and from London. It is interesting both because the term hoy derives from a Dutch word, emphasising the link, and because it does show that if Dutch his work could have brought him to Faversham.

This again is a fleeting connection. Whilst Michael spent the rest of his life in the town, four of his five children who reached adulthood, including my possible ancestor Amy, moved to Herne, although his son Thomas does appear to have moved back to Faversham as both he and his wife were buried there.

Michael – a potted biography

Michael’s first marriage lasted a little over 20 years, a period often quoted as the average length of a marriage in the days when an early death cut short many. But he was not to spend much time as a widower. At that time his 5 surviving children were aged about 5 to 19, and it was natural he should look to marry again, not just to find himself a wife but for his children, especially the younger ones, to have a mother-figure. About 10 months after his bereavement he married Susanna, in a similar situation, being recently widowed. Her previous husband was Matthew Austen, who was a Jurat when he died and had previously served as Mayor of Faversham.

I imagine that Michael was doing well business-wise that he could marry into a family like this, and it may have been a financially advantageous marriage as I can’t see that Mathew left a will (none in East Kent wills index or catalogued with PCC wills).

Like Michael, Susanna had also had six children; unlike Michael who had lost one and had 5 surviving, it seems probable that Susanna had lost 5 and just one, John, survived, so on his marriage Michael became a step-father to a 12 year old. This marriage was to prove Michael’s shortest. Less than 5 weeks after the wedding Susanna was sick and writing her will. Just seven weeks after the ceremony Susanna was dead and Michael once again a widower. In just under a year Michael had been bereaved twice. Even if the ubiquity of early deaths lessened the shock compared with someone faced with the same situation today, and even if the marriages were more for practical reasons and less based on a romantic attachment, and I don’t think we can be certain of this, the pain Michael must have experienced is hard to imagine.

Very few wives at this time left wills, not having a legal right to do so, so the fact that Susanna did is interesting. Whilst she bequeathed her goods, chatels and household stuff to her son John, she specified that her husband Michael was to have the use of them until John reached the age of 21 years. Does that suggest that John was expected to remain with his new step-father and step-siblings rather than going to live with, say, his uncle? I would guess that it does. Although making her will because already sick and with her son only aged about 13 Susanna made him executor of her will, appointing her husband and brother as overseers. Probate could not be granted to a minor so seems to have been granted to her brother, William Homersham, as custodian for John.

His two rapid bereavements did not put Michael off from marrying again. Perhaps the reverse was true, he needed a wife to console him and now had another child in need of a (substitute) mother’s care. Five months afer the death of Susanna he married  one Mary Brodnax. At the time of the marriage Mary was shown to be of Faversham, while the marriage licence records that she too was a widow. I have not, though, found any burial or will of a Brodnax of Faversham prior to the date Mary married Michael which could be of her previous husband. From her will it would appear that she had no children or that they predeceased her, although as nearly 14 years were to elapse between her marriage to Michael and writing her will it is possible that she did have children at the time of the marriage and that Michael acquired more step-children.

Mary left money to all of her step-children, Michael’s children, in her will, and also her clothes to her step-daughters. Mary Mason was favoured with more than the rest, and the first choice of the clothes. Assuming the daughters at least stayed living at home until their marriages one might have guessed Mary would have been closest to the youngest, Dorothy, who only married 2 years before she wrote her will. Mary Mason, though, was the one of Michael’s children who remained in Faversham so maybe she had a friendship with her that she didn’t with the others who moved to Herne.

Far more money went to cousins of Mary, though, than to her step-children. These cousins bore the surnames Russell, Knight, Gibbs and Smith. Amongst the Smiths was a George, and also a couple John and Susanna.

After Mary’s death in 1696/7 Michael was a little slower in remarrying. With all his children now married perhaps the need to find somone to care for them meant he felt less pressure to find a new wife. Still only fifteen month’s had elapsed when he did marry again, once more to a widow, this time Abigail Beaty. Abigail does not appear to have left a will and at present I know little about her, although it seems clear she was the widow of Adam Beaty, clerk, who was buried in Faversham in 1694/5, since he named his wife as Abigail in his will (in the burial register Adam Beaty was described as ‘gent’, so again it appears that Michael may have married ‘well’).

Michael’s marriage to Abigail was his longest, though only exceeding that to Dorothy by a couple of weeks. I don’t know when he was born, but with his first marriage in 1659 it is unlikely to have been any later than 1638, and so he was almost certainly at least 80 when Abigail died in 1618. Unsurprisingly, therefore, he spent the remaining three years of his life as a widower. His last will, written only about 3 months before his death, shows that his mind was still active and reminds us that although by now he had outlived all but one of his children, he had a good few descendants who we may hope found time to keep him company in his old age, both grandchildren and great grandchidren being remembered in his will.

His son Thomas was ‘of Herne’ in 1716, but may have returned to Faversham prior to Michael’s death; Thomas’s daughter Mary was ‘of Faversham’ by the time she married in 1729. In addition, Michael’s granddaughter Elizabeth, a daughter of his son Michael’s second marriage, married in Faversham in 1718, and her children’s baptisms suggest she remained living there, so she at least was living close by.

Michael’s working life

As a hoyman I believe Michael would have been transporting goods from East Kent to London and vice versa. Faversham was an important port, and during the period of Michael’s working life the interregnum came to an end. Canterbury Cathedral’s library had been confiscated during the Commonwealth, with the intention of incorporating the books in a library in London. Details were kept, and with just a few books missing the Catherdral were allowed them back after the restoration – though they had to pay for the previlege, which seems a little unfair. The Cathedral accounts show that the books were transported by river and sea to Faversham, and thence by horse and cart to Canterbury. I like to think Michael may have been involved in returning the library to the Cathedral. I will have to enquire as to whether the accounts show any names (although if it does I will probably find he wasn’t the hoyman involved and won’t be able to enjoy imagining he was!)

Michael’s friends

Apart from bequests to his executors for their trouble, all of Michael’s bequests were to family. It is interesting to note who he chose as his executors. We can’t know why he elected not to make his only surviving child, his son Thomas, an executor, as we may perhaps have expected. Perhaps Thomas was not suited to administration of this sort. Those he did appoint were “my very Good Friends Stephen Everard of Faversham aforesaid Physitian And  George Smith of the same Woollan Draper”.  It seems almost certain that George was the cousin of that name of his second wife, Mary, mentioned in her will, as the PRs and memorials in Faversham Church show that John, father of the three Smiths to whom Mary left bequests, was also a woollen draper.

Although no memorial to Michael survives in church or churchyard, if there ever was one, his marriages and friends point to him keeping company with the more important people of the town at that time.

Both of his friends / executors are commemorated in Faversham Church, with the memorial to Stephen Everard being of particular interest.

His choice of friends we may assume reflected Michael’s own concerns and priorities. A monument in Faversham Church describes Stephen Everard and his wife; it would be good to think that some of their attributes described there were also be found in Michael and his wives also.

STEPHEN EVERARD of this town, M.D.
No less experienced in his profession than in

his practice juft,
a perfon in whom all the distinguishing virtues that
could adorn a good man were eminent.
He dyed the 17thof January 1738 aged 76.

To the memory of MARY EVERARD
relict of the above STEPHEN EVERARD
who was a good wife, most kind relation
and in her affection showed a tenderness and regard
equal to a parent’s love.
She was charitable and her alms were extensive
as the distribution of them private
nor less studious than delighted in doing any good,
as her many liberal acts to objects in distress can testify.
She was a kind mistress to her family.
Few words can scarce express her deserving
being a pattern that may be imitated
but not easily equalled.
After a tedious indisposition, indued with
great resignation, she dyed an example of
patience and piety on the 19th day of December 1757,
aged 76.

Michael’s foreign connections

I have already pointed out that Michael could have had Dutch origins. Although Michael’s son of the same name did not enjoy a long life like his father, who he predeceased by some 13 years, he too managed to marry several times. The third of these was Judith Macaré from a Canterbury Huguenot family. Michael senior’s youngest child married Thomas Vandipere, presumably of Dutch origins, although whether the move to England was as a result of religious persuecution or trade as a mariner I have not tried to investigate.

With other surnames French or Dutch origins may not be so obvious, so their may be other links I have yet to notice, and given I do not know the maiden name of 2 of Michael’s wives there could be undiscovered links.

I referred to Susanna, Michael’s second wife, having no right to leave a will and the fact that both she and Mary did may point to a foreign influence. In England at that time a married woman had no rights to property of her own, on marriage it becoming her husbands. Even if he let a wife write a will, a husband could change his mind after her death and disregard it. Michael, however, allowed the writing and proving of wills by both Susanna and Mary. On the Continent at this time I gather that married women were allowed their own property and to dispose of it as they wished when they died. Hence if Michael were Dutch this was have seemed normal to him; alternatively he may have had Walloon or Huguenot friends who found it natural to let their wives leave wills and have adopted their attitude.  It is unlikely to have been the influence of his daughter-in-law Judith Macaré, unless the two families were already friends, since his son Michael did not marry Judith until 1703, but the wills of Susanna and Mary were written in 1680/81 and 1695.

Other relations

to be written


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