John England’s story

In 1640 there was a slander case involving my earliest rock-solid ancestor, William Howet, millwright of Eastwood Nottinghamshire. Anne Fletcher had been spreading rumours that William’s new son Robert (my direct ancestor) had been conceived before William had married Elizabeth England, and that he had fathered her previous child too.

Anne may have been correct in these things. William had married Elizabeth by special licence, probably in nearby Nottingham, on 1 Dec 1638. Robert was baptised in October 1639, but we don’t know exactly when he was born. Anyway, Anne was bound to keep the peace, and to declare that William and Elizabeth were legitimately married – which I don’t think was in doubt.

Elizabeth’s previous child, John England, was supposedly the son of William England, a blacksmith from the adjoining village of Greasley. John was born in 1636, and William England died in 1637. Genetic evidence does suggest he was William Howet’s son.

William Howet presumably adopted the little boy after he married Elizabeth. William’s somewhat loosely worded will in 1664 does not mention John England, but does leave some money to a John Howet. I think this was probably our fellow, called Howet though his legal name remained England.

William did have a son from an earlier marriage called John, but I think he died in Virginia in 1659, leaving young children to be adopted out (including Harwood). That John’s will leaves his brothers and sisters as little as possible, instead leaving his estate to his next friend (uncle? cousin?) Thomas Howett, cooper of London, who seems to have come from Screveton in Nottinghamshire.


What happened to John England? On the basis of some circumstantial evidence, and a close DNA link, I offer the following.

I think John England learned the millwright trade from William Howet. (Another son William was apprenticed to the clothworkers, the family trade of the supposedly-ancestral Hewets. My ancestor Robert got the farm. Another son George started as a clothworker apprentice to his brother, who died, and George seems to have ended up as a millwright in Lambeth.)

In 1665, a John England was born to John and Sarah England of Burton-on-Trent. That town was industrialising rapidly, and I expect they were happy to pay good money for a millwright. The Trent runs there from Nottingham, so while it’s in a different county it would have been easy for John to get there.

I haven’t found a marriage for John and Sarah, and in doesn’t seem to be in the registers of St Modwen’s in Tamworth. It might be in Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire, and not all the early registers have been transcribed. Interestingly, there’s a marriage at Burton-on-Trent of a John Howitt to a Sara Handbury in 1677, so maybe John England later took a nephew as an apprentice?

Sara England died in 1675, and John senior married somebody named Love and had additional children Joseph, Lewis and William. (One record gives a wife’s name as “Amicitia”, which I suspect is just Latin for Love.) Ultimately, they all moved to America except for William. Some of their children stayed behind.

John England of Burton-on-Trent died in 1681. I haven’t found a will.

In 1714, John England junior and a son Allen started attending the quaker meeting at Stafford.

In 1723, John England junior moved to America to run the Principio Furnace, in Cecil County, Maryland. That John died in 1734, and the mill was passed to his son Joseph. My DNA links to Englands in the US come from that family.


I have a stack of genetic matches called Bennett. I have found (actually my distant cousin Brian found) a Sam Allen Bennett (born ~1856), the son of William England and Mary Bennett who later married the father. Sam’s legal name continued to be Bennett.

I can trace Sam’s line back to William Ingland born 1793 in Kirkburton Yorkshire, son of John England. That William had a sister called Sarah also born in Kirkburton. I haven’t connected them back to Burton-on-Trent, but it does look promising.


POSTSCRIPT: I have come across a reference to William Howet in 1636 moving and reinstalling a mill near Melbourne Derbyshire, near the western end of the Trent.  It is looking more like William serviced mills right along the Trent, and at some point handed the patch over to his son John England.  I’d like to get our wandering millwright to Northamptonshire, which I can’t do yet, to link him to some Burtons and Bortons.  Still looking.

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Gotham again

As I noted in my post on Selston, I suspect that my millwright ancestor William Howet had links to Gotham. Let me take you through my logic.

William’s 1664 will was witnessed by John and George “Howete”. Given the same surname (if slightly different spelling) and the fact that William gave two of his sons those names, John and George look like they could be his brothers, though as they would all have been about 70 they might be nephews. (It’s unlikely that his sons were the witnesses for, just as now, it was bad form to have major beneficiaries as witnesses, and George junior was still a minor.)

In 1641, all men over 18 were required to swear allegiance to the Protestant religion. The only George Howet (however spelt) was in Gotham, and a John Howet was there too.

George Howet/t of Gotham was a churchwarden in 1637 and 1638. John Howite was churchwarden of Gotham in 1634, 1635 and 1642.

As early church registers go, Gotham’s is pretty good. The only matching George was born in 1589, to Roger Howet and Eloise, and it looks like he died in 1666. There was a John Howet born to Roger and new wife Emmot in 1613, or a first cousin born in 1593 to William Howet and Elizabeth Rawson. (The one born in 1613 is probably not the churchwarden in 1635.)

Our millwright would probably be the William born in 1591 to Roger; or less likely to Richard Howet and Joane in 1581. If he’s the son of Roger, he had (correctly matching) sisters Anne born 1593 and Elizabeth born 1595. There was also a Margaret born 1597, who married Henry Townsende at Gotham in 1626, and presumably not still around in 1664.

To be clear, there’s a great fit for the millwright to have been born in Gotham, and had two brothers witness his will.  The brothers evidently ensured bequests for both their surviving sisters (10 shillings each).

One thing that doesn’t fit as well is that the millwright didn’t have a surviving son called Roger, which you would expect given that he seemed fond of family names, but perhaps baby Roger died young, in the period where there are no surviving Eastwood registers. There are no Rogers in the next generation down either, and in this family you would tend to name a son after his grandfather. In the will of Roger’s father William (d1594) he apologises for giving too much to Roger, so there might be some special circumstance that makes Roger a black sheep after whom you wouldn’t name children.

William Howet of Gotham born 1591 might have moved to Eastwood/Greasley, perhaps as a trained millwright looking for work.  There was already  a John and Robert Howet in Greasley.  We know that the millwright had a son John in Eastwood (adjoins Greasley) in 1621, and it looks like the millwright’s sister Elizabeth was in Greasley in 1632.

I know William b1591 received some money from his godfather William Towle (maternal uncle?) in 1616 which might have assisted a move to Greasley.  That Towle family had links to Sandiacre, where a Richard Howet left (1558) money to William and John Howet, so perhaps son William moved to Gotham and is Roger Howet’s father, and the other son John moved to Greasley and had a John and Robert there … but we’re speculating.  That does leave a spare Richard in Gotham in the 1570s – a nephew?

In passing, a George Howet died in Gotham in 1568, with no details.  Could have been an alternative father of William (d1594) and Richard who left after 1581, or might just have been an early child of that William which would still be compatible with the scenario in the previous paragraph.

(That line of speculation would lead to connections to the Howets of Long Eaton, and ultimately the Hewets of Ockbrook in Derbyshire, which would be fun, but a subject for another day.)


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Recent DNA analysis

I’ve been corresponding with an American Hewitt researcher. He’s in the R1b haplogroup, like most of the Hewitts listed on the FTDNA Hewitt page – and indeed that’s the most common English haplogroup. With his contacts he’s been analysing the R-group Hewitts using software developed by Dean McGee. This software does many things including estimating the distance to the earliest common ancestor.

His conclusion is that he and a known cousin are only distantly related to Hewitts genetically, and they are genetic Greshams, presumably of the family of Sir Thomas Gresham who was Lord Mayor of London not long before Sir William Hewet. I suggested a possible mechanism for this connection, and my contact will be following up that and others.

The point is that, although their markers look much the same, statistics suggests that the R-group Hewitts could be several subgroups, not related in historic times. And there are a group of Devon Hewitts who look very much like Wyatts. So there is some teasing out to do.

The McGee algorithm makes a lot of assumptions about the way mutations work, which are defensible but always an approximation. And if you do happen to have a mutation in a low-mutating marker it can suddenly make you look a lot less related. I expect the designer would only claim ‘indicative’ results for the dates that emerge.

I ran the utility for the Hewitts that look genetically close to me (I-M253 and subgroups), as well as some families that look related. I have written elsewhere about having an anomalous result for marker DYS442; for this analysis I changed my result to 12 which is the presumed original one. I ran it all based on 37 markers even if I had more data; this gave an apples-to-apples comparison and gave me a good number to analyse.

First a calibration exercise: a result from a tester with surname England, probably from a child born before my ancestor William Howet millwright married Elizabeth England. The McGee utility estimates that the common ancestor was born 960 years ago; whereas my reckoning says about 430 years ago. So I suspect the utility significantly overestimates the years. I have observed that mutations seem much faster in the US than in the UK or Australia; whether due to pioneer privations or radon in basements.

I’m not particularly close to the I-group Hewitts. McGee gives the closest as 1620 years ago. Applying the same 45% ratio as for the England tester, that would be about 730 years, when I would expect it to be about 500 years. A bit of a moot point until I can draw a tree connecting us.

The closest results to mine are in the Chafin family, at 240-360 years. This family lived in Waukesha Wisconsin, with prominent local Howitts; of Scottish origin with a family tradition of three English Howitts moving to Scotland. My hypothesis is that these were Derbyshire Howitts who went north with Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 with many others from Lancashire and a smaller number from Derbyshire. These test results are consistent with that theory. (I couldn’t find three spare brothers in a quick look at the Howitts of Eastwood/Heanor, so they might be cousins or maybe just one stayed.)

Next is 360 years for Godseys and Holcombs. They are similarly related to each other and the Chafins. This suggests something like Howitt orphans being fostered out to different families. Two of the Wisconsin Howitts died in the Civil War, so that is a real possibility.

Then there’s a group of Harwoods, at around 810 years. I found an adoption in that family, at the same time as a John Howett (possible links to Screveton in Nottinghamshire) died returning to Virginia after his wife’s death. That could be another calibration result, as I expect a link to our family would be in around 1500 – again hinting that the years-ago figure could be overstated.

This is early days for this DNA analysis, and we might get better results as more data dribbles in. But it’s definitely food for thought.

Later Jan 2018 comment: a closer look at the Holcombs says that they probably came to the US in the early 1600s from Stogumber in Devon, and that they branched off from each other well before the Civil War.  The Godseys don’t share their information as much, so I can’t yet comment there.  The Chafins don’t have enough data to analyse.  May need some more work!

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Howitt of Selston

I’ve had another good look at Selston, a village some 7 km north of my ancestor’s village of Eastwood.

There was a very old family in Selston called Herott, and on my previous looks at Selston I had assumed this was Hewett or had become so. I now have access to excellent microfiche readers in the National Library of Australia, so I’ve checked the records carefully. They are definitely a different family, and some years have entries for both.

The Howets start with a son John born to William and Anne Howet in 1631. I am satisfied that this is the couple married in nearby Greasley one year before, and Anne was a Gristead/Greysteed of nearby Moorgreen.

William and Anne are then joined by John and Isabell (nee Clarke) who married in 1634 and had a son John in 1636. Very likely he’s William’s brother, and from the children’s names we can be confident their father was called John too.

In the generally good Selston records there is no sign of a John senior being buried, but he may well be the one buried in Greasley in 1631.

This John is probably the one who had children in Greasley between 1600 and 1603; probably before, but the Greasley registers are in poor shape and don’t go back any further. John of Greasley had children John, Anne, Robert (died young) and Richard. Possibly he’s the one who had a Susanne in 1621 too, most likely with another wife.

If John of Greasley beforehand had a William and an Elizabeth, John could be the father of my ancestor William Howet millwright of Eastwood. The family names are an excellent fit.

Following the same logic, John of Greasley may well have himself been the son of a William, or as a second choice a John. That William would have been born somewhere around 1530 so we are looking back a long way. I’m hunting through the known families of Howetts in the area at the time, and am not getting great matches – Gotham is however worth a second look.

At least one of William and John of Selston would have become a tenant of Selston manor, and those records exist, so maybe we can find confirmation of their parentage there. And John and Robert of Greasley may show up under the Beauvale Manor records. That’s an adventure for somebody else, as I won’t be able to get back to England for a few years.


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Hewitt of Stonington

Lots of American Hewitts claim descent from Captain Thomas Hewitt of Stonington, Connecticut. They have never been able to trace his background. Let’s run with some informed speculation.

Captain Hewitt is first known trading between the Mystic River and Boston in 1656. My guess is that he was a royalist in the English Navy, which was then a personal possession of Charles I. The King was executed in 1649, Cromwell took over, and many royalists fled to the American or West Indies colonies.

Captain Hewitt married in 1659, then took a trading trip to the West Indies in 1662. He never returned.

It’s not hard to guess what happened here. In 1660, Charles II was restored as King. There were English pirate settlements throughout the West Indies, and with royal blessing Christopher Myngs in 1662 assembled 14 ships and attacked Spanish settlements around Central America, at great profit.  I expect Captain Hewitt was looking for a sufficient fortune to move back to England.

I have found a reference (American Gazetteer) to the town of Estapa (modern Etapa) in Tabasco State, which was sufficiently strong that it repulsed Captain Hewet and his 200 buccaneers. I’m not sure of the date of the reference, but there’s an excellent chance this is Captain Thomas Hewitt. The incident is also mentioned in “Captain Dampier’s Voyages”, which says that privateer Captain Hewet was wounded in the leg. If he was the same man, he never made it back to Stonington.

Captain Hewitt had two sons, called Thomas and Benjamin. In 1663, a Benjamin Hewitt was granted land at Stonington, and I doubt that was baby Benjamin aged one. It sounds like the brother or father of Captain Thomas, and I’ll go with father.

Both of these names ring a bell. There was a Benjamin Hewet born ~1595, fourth son of Henry Hewet, son of Thomas Hewet who acquired the Shireoaks estate at the corner of Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire. That Thomas was the brother of Sir William Hewet, Lord Mayor of London.

That Benjamin was born shortly before his father died, got several minor bequests from relatives, and may have studied law. He is mentioned in an action for debt in 1651, and I have no record of him after that. King Charles was executed in 1649, and England suffered an economic depression. Plenty of reason for Benjamin and a son Thomas to have moved to America, if only to avoid creditors.

I’m not fabulous on Interregnum history, and US or Spanish history sources, so I can’t take this speculation any further. If anybody does, please report back here.

If this reconstruction is correct, Captain Hewitt was the nephew of Sir Thomas Hewitt of Shireoaks (see Wikipedia Shireoaks Hall) and probably the first cousin of the royalist John Hewytt who was executed by Cromwell (see Wikipedia John Hewett chaplain).

PS: I have also come across references to Captains Corbett and Hewet capturing a ship called the “Tiger” between Andalusia and Antwerp. A quick Google search didn’t give me a date for that. Might be worth a further look.

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What we know about William the Millwright

William Howet millwright of Eastwood was my earliest known ancestor when I first researched my family tree as a schoolboy in 1975. Despite astonishing amounts of research, I still have no proven link any earlier, though I have some promising theories. This page documents what I have gleaned about him over the decades since.

Biographical details

Presentment documents at Uni Nott show William Howett as a churchwarden in Eastwood c1625 and 1640. He would have been quite young in 1625, so it’s possible that the first one was the father or uncle of our William.

In late Dec 1638, Alice wife of William Howet was buried in Eastwood.

William married Elizabeth England, by licence, on 1 Dec 1638. This appears to be before his wife died, so likely one record has a transcription error, or Alice was the wife of a different person; possibly the millwright had a father called William, but then the register might have referred to Alice the wife of William Howet “senior” or “deceased”.

In 1640 William and Elizabeth were involved in a defamation action against Anne Fletcher, who had been telling people that the child born between Michaelmas (29 Sep) and Christmas 1639 was a month before the (marriage?) date and therefore a bastard. This child was Robert Howett (my ancestor) who was born in Oct 1639, but the document also refers to John England, who was Elizabeth’s child (bapt 11/11/1636) born before her then husband William England (a blacksmith) died in Oct 1637.  A bit hard to follow in the legal transcripts.  Anne was told to keep the peace, and a fellow with surname England in the US has close DNA to mine, so maybe John England was the millwright’s offspring too, while still married to Alice.

A William Howitt of Eastwood appears in the Notts Protestation Returns of 1641-42.

His will was written on 26 Dec 1664, apparently by somebody semi-literate and the spelling of names is fairly dodgy. He was buried three days later.

Elizabeth died in 1684.

Close family members

He had the following known family members:

* sister Elizabeth Mouson. There are some presentments (church disciplinary charges) at Greasley (next to Eastwood) for Elizabeth Howet in 1632 and 1632, for apparently living in an informal (or clandestine Catholic?) marriage with Charles Mouldsone or Mooultson. This surname often morphed into Mouson, which would be a good match for Elizabeth Mouson the sister of the millwright.

* sister Ann Minte? Surname close to unreadable on the will.

* daughter Meriall who married Henry Harrison of Duffield on 21 May 1641.

* son John born in Eastwood 1621 (or so). One of this name buried 15 Apr 1668. Discussion on the will page covers the possibility that John who died in 1668 is the millwright’s father, and his son John had gone to Virginia.

* son William, born around 1628, apprenticed to Humfry Jamson (who had links to Moor Green and Greasley next to Eastwood) as a clothworker in London in 1642, seems to have died without surviving issue before 1664 as not mentioned in the millwright’s will.

* daughter Dorothy born in Eastwood in 1632, buried 1639.

* son Richard, born about 1639, apprenticed as a clothworker in 1651 to his brother William (see above), and became a Master of the clothworkers in 1668.

* son Robert (my ancestor) who was left the lease to a farm in Eastwood, 1639-1696.

* son George who was under 21yo when the will was written; could be a millwright of Lambeth George Howett who died in 1719 mentioning debts in the town of Derby, with son William (also a millwright) and daughter Ann (who married a Hange).

William the millwright also mentioned a maid, Elner White, in his will. Maids were often relatives.

The solid information is that his daughter was married in 1641, hence born around 1620. That makes it likely that the birth record for John in 1621 is approximately correct. These details make it likely that William the millwright was born in the 1590s.

The will was witnessed by a George Howete (probably not the millwright’s minor child) and a John Howete who could be the millwright’s son, or father, or cousin etc.

Family traditions

The Howitt family history was written up by a prominent Victorian writer, William Howitt. His father was a local antiquarian, and the content seems to date from about 1800, reliably to about 1700 with half-remembered family information going back earlier.

According to the family tradition, we are descended from a junior branch of the Hewets of Killamarsh (Derbs) who had many clothworkers amongst them. DNA evidence tends to support that, as does the clothworker link.

The traditional lineage includes three consecutive Rectors of Eastwood (all called Thomas in some versions). I will show in a later post that there may be something to that story, though a bit jumbled along the way.

There is another family tradition that we are related to the Howitts of Long Eaton. I haven’t found any good connections there, but I do have additional information. The limited DNA evidence doesn’t support this link.

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Latest on the Howitts of Long Eaton

Time for a review of Long Eaton. The Howitts of Long Eaton share the same spelling as the Howitts of Eastwood/Heanor, and my very distant cousin Brian tells me of a family tradition that the two families are somehow related.

A few years ago I discovered that some Hewets of Killamarsh owned a moiety (portion) of Wilsthorpe Farm, which adjoins Long Eaton to the north-west. This is possibly a red herring, as it now seems likely these lands were inherited from a grandfather called Thomas Pattye; the will of Robert Sytwell of 1599 mentions lands going to John Hewet whose descendants had the land at Wilsthorpe.

That would mean that the Howitts of Long Eaton (who owned land adjoining Wilsthorpe) are probably not closely related to the Hewets who owned land in Wilsthorpe.

There is one remaining possible connection. William and John Hewett of Killamarsh had a brother Richard who died in 1592, leaving all his lands to his son William once he turned 21. Potentially these lands could include another moiety of Wilsthorpe Farm, from the same grandfather. Possibly young William inherited these lands and was the William of Long Eaton whose son Christopher was apprenticed as a clothworker in 1610 – if so, then Christopher’s uncle was the influential Sir William Hewett of the Clothworkers, who had died in 1599 but there were several cousins still in the guild. There might well have been another son Richard (ie named after his grandfather) as the one recorded as a landowner in 1633, by which time young William had presumably died. Henry “Hewood” who died in 1653 appears to be another son of younger William. But I have no proof that William (son of Richard d1592) survived or inherited land in Long Eaton, and he’s still one of my better prospects for my millwright ancestor of Nottinghamshire who died in 1664.

If not from Killamarsh, where did the Howitts of Long Eaton come from? UK Archives has a record of a Christopher Hewit who leased land in Ockbrook (Derbs) in 1551. He died in 1555, leaving children Thomas and Richard. Thomas Huet or Hewette of Ockbrook married Emmot Cooke at Wilne (near Long Eaton) in 1551. Thomas and Emmot had a son Robert as well as other unnamed children (I have both their wills). Emmot had a brother William Cook, who is too early to be the Master William Cooke clothworker of London who took Christopher Hewett (above) as an apprentice in 1610. The sketchy guild records suggest that William Cooke was born around 1564, the son of a Nicholas Cooke, so at best would be a nephew of Emmot Hewette.

The hamlet of Ambaston adjoins Wilne which is the closest church. Ambaston is technically in Elvaston but often grouped with Ockbrook, so I leave open the possibility that the land leased by Christopher Hewit was actually in Ambaston. Ambaston is where Henry Hewood died with a verbal will in 1653, and he appears to have links into the Hewett/Howett family of Long Eaton.

The other link between the Hewits of Ockbrook/Wilne and the Howitts of Long Eaton is the name Christopher. It’s probably worth mentioning that Wilne is on the border with Leicestershire, and a Christopher Howit (born ~1559) of Leicestershire graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford. This Christopher “looks” like he could be the first son of Robert Howet (m Agnes Webster @ Wilne 1559); perhaps Robert got work over the border. William Howett of Long Eaton could then be another son, who named his own son Christopher. I have the transcribed 1609 probate administration of a Robert Hewet of Measham (in an area contested between Leicestershire and Derbyshire) which is not inconsistent with that thesis, but neither is there a compelling link back to the others.


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