Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Working on Wednesday: William Wilcockson (1601 - 1652), Linen Weaver, Farmer

One April 2, 1635, three people were enrolled as passengers on the ship Planter in London bound for Massachusetts Bay. They were my eighth great grandfather 24-year-old William Wilcockson,* his wife Margaret (Harvey), who was 24, and their two-year-old John. The Planter left England eight days later and landed in Boston on June 7th.

Because the couple produced the required certificate attesting to their conformity with the Church of England** signed by the Vicar of St. Albans, it used to be believed that they were residents of Hertfordshire. However, more recent research hasn't found any record of them in that county and now it's thought they came from Derbyshire, perhaps because of William's occupation as a linen weaver.*** Once he arrived in Massachusetts, he appears to have become a farmer.

[Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae Tabula. Published by Willem Janszoon Blaeu, Amsterdam-1630.
Source: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.]

[Detail of above map showing Derbyshire, St. Albans and London.]

These two couples, taken from the right margin of the 1630 map above, show an artist's conception of how the English dressed in the city and country. William and Margaret probably wore similar clothes.

Their first residence was in Concord, Massachusetts, where William became a freeman on December 7, 1636, which meant he had to have been admitted as a member of the church before that date.

However, William and Margaret didn't remain in Massachusetts, removing to Stratford, Connecticut, by 1639. And that's where my direct ancestor Obediah, the seventh of their ten children, was born about 1645.

[Detail of A Map of New England and New York, 1676, showing locations of Boston and Stratford. Sold by Tho. Basset in Fleet Street and Richard Chiswell in St. Paul's Church Yard. Source: Wikimedia Commons]

In 1647 William acted as the Deputy for Stratford to the Connecticut General Court (he served on petit juries there) so he had some standing in the community.

His will was signed on May 29, 1651. It was damaged in a fire and the top part of the page was lost but he desired his younger children to live with their mother who was to give each one a cow along with their property when they reached adulthood. The inventory of his estate is dated June 16, 1652, suffered a similar loss. William's total estate was valued at £322 13s. 3d. most of which appears to have been land but included "arms" worth £3 and "books" valued at £3 14s. He left £30 to the Concord Church which he had been a member of many years earlier.

William Wilcockson is buried in the Old Congregational Burying Ground in Stratford. His widow Margaret married William Hayden some time between May 1656 and December 22, 1657, when John Winthrop, Jr. treated "Heiden William his wife 47 years old" at Windsor, Connecticut, and several of her children in later years.

William's entry in volume VII of The Great Migration is five pages long and is my source for most of what I've written here (via the New England Historic Genealogical Society's website).

*Alternate spellings of the surname include Willcoxson and Wilcoxon. Several generations later it was shortened to Willcox.
**You can read more about what government requirements were for prospective travelers to the New World here.
***Hertfordshire was known for its silk weavers. According to the Great Migration Project, the case for his father being William Wilcockson of Biggin-by-Hulland in Derbyshire is "suggested but not proven."

© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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