Following the Trail, from Swinbrook

My ancestors can be traced from the village of Swinbrook, Oxfordshire around 1720.

A few weeks ago I found an elusive link which suggested that the key man, Robert, actually came from Bledington, up near Stow on the Wold and close to Chipping Norton.

But the trail led to the idea that the family name might have been a corruption of the original name, largely affected by regional accents and an inability to read or write.

In looking more closely at Bledington and the possible ancestors of Robert it soon becomes clear that the name in the 17th century handwritten form appears to be Ivings or Ivinge – a ‘g’ and an ‘s’ at the end of a word is a very similar form of squiggle.

In looking for others with that surname in the area and I am drawn to the Rissingtons – Great Rissington, Little Rissington, Rissington Wyke and Rissington Magna. Here the parish records go back to the mid 16th century, and here too are several individuals with variations on the Ivings name including Eyvinge (which suggests the pronounciation was indeed Eye-vings)

I tracked all the christenings, marriages and burials and then looked for patterns. I found one Robert Iving who had a series of children from 1538. Ambrose; Margaret; Katherine (who didn’t survive); Elizabeth; Katherine (who did); Johan (presume Joanne); Emat (who didn’t survive); and Robert.

Not only is this sequence fairly clear from the register, but luckily, Robert left a Will (dated 1572 – the 14th year of Elizabeth’s reign). It takes quite a bit of effort to read it as the letters have strange form and the spelling is very different to what we expect nowadays. One clue lies in the fact that he mentions, first, his 2nd son Robert to whom he leaves the stock of sheep and hay plus some other household items. So clearly, as the only male heir living at home Robert is to take responsibility for running the business. That means his eldest son Ambrose has left home. Ambrose is mentioned and is one of the executors, but he isn’t the most important in terms of keeping the show on the road.

Will of Robert Evinge 1572 Great Rissington - part 1

This selection from Robert’s Will reads: “.. Elizabeth, by the Grace of God, Queen of England France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, I Robert Evings – of the parish of Rissington Magna in the County of Glocester being (wyke) of body but of…”

Also interestingly, Joanne is not yet married (1572) as some of the items such as ‘five sheep’ are bequeathed to be sold ‘at the Day of her marriage’ and the monies and a quarter of barley given to her future husband – as a dowry. The bequests to the other daughters also include some sheep to be delivered and seemingly sold at market at the time of marriage along with the delivery of a quarter of barley on their marriage.

Then, I find that his son Ambrose has also left a Will, dated 1625. Here he clearly states that he is of Bledington in the County of Gloster. Now Rissington to Bledington is a walk of about 2.5 hours or 8 miles. So entirely likely, and anyway, there are only 2 people with the name Ambrose in my whole file of 6500 candidates. Ambrose appears to have had one daughter, Mary who married a Mr Shepherd, and it is they that feature most prominently in the Will. There are also bequests to various members of the Pheleps (or Phillips) family, but I have yet to determine who they might be. Possibly the children of one of his sisters.

So for now, I’m assuming that Robert Ivens who appeared in Swinbrook, might well have had ancestors in Bledington, and indeed the Rissingtons. He is clearly not the son of Ambrose, and Robert’s other son Robert is far too old. So there must be another line.

There is a Robert Ivinge, born in 1692 in Bledington who might be a likely candidate. He is the son of William and Joan. All his siblings have familiar family names: William, Thomas, Hannah, Elizabeth, John and Mary but while helpful is not proof.

So, following that logic, who might William, the father, be? There is no obvious record of William and Joan’s marriage (the records may no longer exist), but there is a William Eivings baptised in Little Rissington in 1605, the son of a Thomas and Elizebeth. This Thomas was baptised in 1581 and married Elizabeth Matthews in 1604. Their son William was christened the following year.

As records become harder to read and less accessible in the 16th and 17th century, it becomes ever more essential to look for patterns and clues from inferred data.

For now, I’m working on the hypothesis that the Robert Eyvens who appeared in Swinbrook, Oxfordshire in 1720 had ancestors who lived in The Rissingtons of Gloucestershire around the time of Elizabeth I, Queen of England, France and Ireland.

NOTE: For those who have tried to read old Wills and other documents from the 16th century, there is an excellent FREE tutorial at the National Archive website. It provides 10 samples, with transcriptions, alphabets, and clear images. A great resource!


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