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Was my ancestor a bigamist?

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Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby eurogordi » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:57 am

My 7x great-grandfather, Ayliffe White (1670-1761), was baptised and buried at Kington St. Michael, Wiltshire. However, he spent most of his life in London where he was a successful Haberdasher.

He first married Jane Randall on 10 November 1689 at St. Gregory by St. Paul Parish Church, London and his residence was St. Giles in the Field.

Ayliffe then married Elizabeth Boswell on 4 August 1719 at St. Anne Parish Church, Soho, London. Although I cannot locate a burial for his first wife, the marriage licence describes him as a widower. He was still living at St. Giles in the Field.

Elizabeth died in 1758 and was buried at Kington St. Michael, joined by her husband three years later. The couple had four children, all baptised in Wiltshire, but with a noticeable gap of ten years between 1726/27 and 1736.

Imagine my surprise to find a third marriage when Ayliffe White married Susannah Robinson on 15 August 1728 with the groom living at St. Giles in the Field. A daughter, Susannah, was then born on 18 July 1731 and baptised at St. Martin in the Fields on 1 August 1731. There may be others I have yet to discover!

What makes this apparent third marriage of Ayliffe particularly interesting is that it was a Fleet marriage - clandestine marriages performed outside the control of the Church of England and usually for those who were inmates at Fleet Prison but often for others too, especially the wealthy and Ayliffe's will confirms he was a very rich man.

I haven't found any criminal proceedings against Ayliffe White, nor a burial for his third wife, but it would appear that he was in a bigamist third marriage while his second wife was living in Wiltshire.

There is another Ayliffe White who was the nephew of my direct ancestor. He lived at Castle Combe, Wiltshire and would have been old enough to marry in 1728, except his wife, Hannah, would have only been 12 at that time. Crucially, he does not seem to have lived in London.

So was my ancestor, Ayliffe White, a bigamist?

I would be happy to hear the thoughts of others who may be able to advise me further or have a Fleet marriage in their own family tree.
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby Mick Loney » Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:53 am

Me thinks there must be more than one Ayliffe White.
Fair enough he moved from Kington St Michael to make a life for himself in London, but it may be stretching it a bit to think he then went back and forth simply to Christen his Children followed by the burial of his wife.
What links the one in London with the one in Wiltshire, apart from the name?
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby eurogordi » Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:39 pm

The family held property in Wiltshire, London and Jamaica until the early 19th century when everything was lost.

Kington St. Michael is just three miles from the old coach road between London to Bristol (modern day A4) so very convenient to travel between the two places.

There are lots of estate and family papers held by National Archives as well as Wiltshire Archives, all of which confirm the identify of Ayliffe White.

I have only discovered the Fleet (clandestine) marriage through a suggestion on Ancestry. The fact that this took place outside the Church of England means that, for whatever reason, it was kept secret.
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby ksouthall » Thu Aug 02, 2018 5:21 pm

You say Ayliffe White left a will. Which of his children are mentioned in it? Was Susannah, child of the third possible wife, mentioned?

You'd first need to eliminate the possibility of there being another Ayliffe White who could have married in 1728 before assuming it is the same person.
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby Mick Loney » Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:05 pm

Eorogordi,
I do have some fleet marriages in my tree, and one thing I noticed with mine, is that quite often, they are quite specific in stating where the two parties came from! This is natural when you think about it, as ‘Fleet’ marriages were not the usual between partys ‘of this parish’ :D. Is this the case in Aycliffe’s marrIage?
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby eurogordi » Thu Aug 02, 2018 7:04 pm

The will, which went to probate on 28 March 1761, only mentions the four "Wiltshire" children, as does Chancery Court papers from when the will was contested on 24 February 1851 (an amazing 90 years after the death of Ayliffe White).

The court papers provide a detailed family history over several generations, all of which I have been able to verify and back up through parish registers and other wills.

Susannah doesn't appear in any of these papers, but the only other Ayliffe White that I know of living at the same time and of age to marry in 1728 is already accounted for elsewhere.

From what I know of my White ancestors, from the 1500s through to the 1800s, a bigamist marriage would not entirely surprise me, but trying to find that out one way or another is going to be a problem.

The only possible clue is the fact that the 1728 event is a clandestine marriage.
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby eurogordi » Thu Aug 02, 2018 7:13 pm

In reply to Mike Loney, the Fleet marriage entry reads "Ayliffe White of St Gyles in y Fields Gent & Susannah Robinson of St James Westmr Spr" This corresponds with Ayliffe's London address and his social status of gentleman.
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby DianaCanada » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:42 pm

Is it possible that Ayliffe the nephew was living with his uncle in London and it was he who married Susannah? She may have died within a few years and then he returned home and married Hannah. Perhaps the daughter died too.
Have you found something that would definitely rule this out? The clandestine nature of the wedding may have been for any number of reasons (religion, her father hated him, the Whites didnt like her, a whim, too much drink....).
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby eurogordi » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:53 pm

This is one possibility that I am still considering, although from what I know of the nephew it seems unlikely that he visited London... but not impossible of course. There is no mention of a daughter, Susannah, in the nephew's will which was dated 1757 (the nephew predeceased his uncle who lived to an incredibly old age (90) for that period of history). If only parish registers could talk... or I could find categorical burial entries for one or both Susannahs!
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Re: Was my ancestor a bigamist?

Postby ianbee » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:01 am

There are more baptisms to Ayliffe and Susanna White at St Mary le Strand
Elizabeth, 14 Oct 1733 (born 17 Sep), White Hart Yard
Lydia, 28 Feb 1734/5 (born 16 Feb), Ashley's(?) Little Dru: Lane
Ayliffe, 20 July 1739 (born 8 July)
Thomas, 12 June 1742 (born 31 May), Feather's Court

Ayliffe White in the St Mary le Strand rate books at Feathers Court, 1740-43
Usually noted "Pays no Taxes". Seems to be gone in 1744.

Apprentices duties - an Ayliff son of Thom: White of ye Strand, apprenticed to Jno Llewellin, Attorney, Inner Temple, in 1725. Who is that?
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