Friday, July 8, 2016

The d' Avranches Ancestry of Governor Thomas Dudley of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

For the past few months I have dipped my toe into ancestry dating to the time of the Norman Conquest. The most important thing I've come away with is the realization of how difficult it is to do genealogy on medieval ancestors and how unreliable the information is out there on the net. A lot of what I found was completely unsourced. Avoid ancestry dot com at all costs! Wikitree is not much better. There is a pretty good website called Medieval Lands, it is part of the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, but beware, experts disagree with the expert opinions found there. The rootsweb hosted GEN-Medieval message list is full of folks who know what they're talking about, but even they disagree. Theories abound, but how do you fit a theory into your tree. You can't. Putting speculative ancestors in a tree, especially if you put it on the web is a disservice to everyone who comes along and copies it. If you do include it, please put up a warning flag to let people know that the relationship is not proven. That being said, here I go diving into the de Avranches ancestry of Gov. Thomas Dudley.

simon and cecilia
King John's Tomb by Julian Guffog
Simon d' Avranches is said to be the son of a William de Avranches, but no proof has been found to substantial the claim. [1]Simon is first found in the records in the year 2 Richard I (1191) when he paid 100 marks to have a trial for some land that he felt was being withheld from him by the Earl of Ghisene. This would put his age at at least 21 in the year 1191, so his birth was as late as 1170, but may have been much earlier. That same year,1191, Simon and a group of barons were involved in a power struggle between John, Count of Mortain, the future King John,  and the Bishop of Ely, William Longchamp. Longchamp was King Richard's chancellor and Richard was away on crusade. John and his cohorts, including Simon, were all excommunicated by the Bishop. [2]

In the year 6 Richard I, (1195), a scutage, a form of taxation normally used to pay for war, was raised to pay the ransom to release King Richard from captivity. Simon was recorded as paying 21 pounds and 10 shillings. Two years later, in 1197, later he paid for the second scutage for Normandy. His land in Kent was assessed for 21 knight's fees.[3] Simon continued to appear in the Testa de Nevill and the Great Pipe Roll of King John until about 1203.

Simon was married to Cecilia _____. When Simon died in about 1203, she paid the King 100 marks and two Palfreys to remain unmarried. [4][5] Simon's estates were inherited by his eldest son William. Simon's land holdings seem to have been in the county of Kent. Cecelia held land in her name as well and  was recorded in the Testa de Nevill to hold land as a gift of the King in 1219. [6] William had reached his majority prior to 13 John I, 1212, when he was recorded as paying a scutage for Wales. [7] William must have been born by 1191 or earlier.

william in trouble
Rochester Castle by chris Whippit
In 16 John I, things were looking pretty good for William. He was wealthy as evidenced by the amount of scutage he paid. He was granted the right to have a yearly fair at Folkestone as well as a weekly market. But these were troubled times. King John was struggling to keep control of his kingdom; the barons were in open revolt. The first baron's war began in 1215 after King John got the Pope to repudiate the Magna Carta which he had be forced to sign earlier in the year. The first battle in this war was the siege of Rochester Castle in Kent. William was one of the rebel barons. John's forces proved too much for the castle and the barons eventually surrendered. John had erected a gallows intending to hang all the rebels, but was persuaded to imprison them instead, err his men suffer the same fate if captured. [8] William was turned over to Peter de Mauley and sent to Corfe Castle.

Cecilia was able to get a safe conduct granted to her and helped negotiate his release. He had to give King John his daughter Maud as hostage and Cecilia had to sell the manor of Sutton to the monks at Robertsbridge.  [9]

William died in 1230. His children and lands were first given to Hubert de Burgh and then to the Bishop of Exeter for large sums of money. He controlled the land and arranged the marriages of the two children, William and Matilda. William died young but Matilda lived to marry and inherit her father's estates.

simon and joan
On 3 May 1226, the widow Joan de Ferrers pledged 100 marks to the King to be able to choose who she married. Putting up the money were, among others, William d' Avranches and Cecilia d' Avranches. [10] Joan chose to marry Simon de Avranches. Joan was one of three daughters and heiresses of  Hugh de Bocland and his wife Matilda de Say. Simon's brother William was married to her sister Matilda. At the same time that Joan paid for the right to marry Simon, the King took homage from her and her sister Matilda for the lands that they were inheriting from their recently deceased sister Hawise. She, Hawise, had married John de Boville but they had no children to inherit. [11]

12th century Radcot Bridge
It seems that all of Simon's lands came from his wife's inheritance. In 1229 he was fined and paid 10 marks for his scutage. His name is in the fine rolls of Henry III on several occasions involving court cases over land. [12] Simon through Joan held the manor of Radcot Grafton in Oxfordshire and Brompton Regis in Somerset. The land at Radcot and Brompton was only held at 1/4 knights fee, not much and the Grafton land was rented from the Noyon Priory in Normandy. [13] Simon was last recorded in 1242 and his wife Joan is known to have died by 1252. In her IPM, her heir was her only son John.

john and amice
Not too much can be said of John d' Avaranches. His wife's name is only known as Amice. They had three daughters; Joanna, Margaret and Elizabeth. John died at the young age of about 30 in 1257. In 1259 the King, Henry III, gave to two men, William de Renham and Emery de Bezill, the wardship of John's daughters. Two years later, Emery de Bezill was granted the marriage of Amice. [14] Elizabeth Avranches married Matthew de Bezell, nephew of Emery. The land that she brought into the marriage through her inheritance stayed in the family for quite some time, eventually coming into the Fettiplace family.


[1] Medieval Lands

[2] William Dugdale, The Baronage of England After The Norman Conquest, (London: Thomas Newcomb, 1675).

[3] Hubert Hall, The Red Book of the Exchequer, Vol. 1, (London : Eyre and Spottiswood, 1896) 79.

[4] Dugdale, The Baronage.

[5] The Great Roll of the Pipe for the 5th year of the reign of King John, Michaelmas, 1202-1203. ( : accessed 6 July 2016). page 27

[6] Great Britain, Exchequer, Liber feodorum. The book of fees, commonly called Testa de Nevill, reformed from the earliest MSS, (London: H. M. Stationary Office, 1920) 275. Archives ( : accessed 6 July 2016).

[7] The Great Roll of the Pipe for the 13th year of the reign of King John, Michaelmas, 1210-1211 Page 242,( : accessed 6 July 2016).

[8] Paul Hillman, "Rochester Castle and the Great Siege of 1215," Paul's Castle ( : accessed 7 July 2016).

[9] William Farrer, Honors and Knights' FeesVol. 1, (London : Spottiswoode, Ballantyne, and Co., 1923) 263.

[10] Fine Rolls of Henry III

[11] Fine Rolls of Henry III

[12] Fine Rolls of Henry III

[13] IPM Joan de Ferrers

[14] Pipe Rolls of Henry III, volume 5 page 38 and 140

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