Sometimes being contacted about one of my lines by another researcher spurs me to do additional research on that line. So it has been recently with the Plumb family of Essex County, England, and early colonial New England. I say “Plumb” but it’s got a ridiculous number of spellings – Plumbe and Plumme being two of the most common variants, probably actually more common than Plumb back in Early Modern England. Then there is an additional layer of mistranscription. The National Archives [UK] has, rather to my surprise, indexed the Plumme materials that have the line over the first “m” to represent the second “m” as “Plume” rather than “Plumme,” and the other sites I’ve checked so far have followed suit. Most online trees seem to have copied this spelling as well.
This may sound like a digression, but an online tree is how I came to write this post. I was going along doing more research on the family in original records after receiving a note from the researcher, and I thought I would check and see what other people have posted online about the family. In some of the Plume trees on Ancestry there is a small photo (seemingly snatched from a website) of a Spaines Hall, County Essex, with a lengthy caption about how the first person to add the photo to Ancestry had been curious about Spaines Hall and done a web search, wherein they discovered that it was still in existence and was now a popular wedding venue. They also copied information about how this Spaines Hall had only ever been owned by three families – and oddly, none of those surnames were any variants of Plumme. Did none of the people who had added this information wonder why a manor would only be associated with surnames that don’t match the one they are researching? Curious, I double-checked back in the original records for their references to a Spaines Hall associated with Plummes, and verified that rights to a Spaines Hall in Great Yeldham had been willed by Plumme family members. Then I set about trying to sort all of this out.
A web search for Spaines Hall Essex quickly turned up references to an old manor that is indeed a popular wedding site today, including hosting a bridal expo. However, while this Spains Hall is in Essex, it is not in Great Yeldham. I clicked through to the Wikipedia article and discovered that: 1) Much of the information in the Ancestry caption had been copied and pasted without attribution from the Wikipedia page; 2) There are at least two other Spaines Halls (varying spellings) in Essex, including one in Great Yeldham that today is usually spelled Spayne’s Hall. A more precise web search for Spaynes Hall Great Yeldham Essex turned up the Spayne’s Hall that was actually associated with the Plumme family. It doesn’t have nearly as much historical information online and it doesn’t have nearly as flamboyant a modern usage, but it’s the correct manor.
As always with genealogical research, one question for researchers is: Are you looking for information on a family with the same names and places that have matching names? Or are you looking for your family members and the locations associated with them?
The Plummes/The Plumbs
I am in the process of documenting the Plumme/Plumb family to my satisfaction. This is the family tree according to the published version of the 1634 Visitation of Essex (note that due to their purpose, the Visitations only documented some lines of descent); names spelled here as in the Visitation, including variants within the pedigree:
John Plumme of Yeldham Magna [Great Yeldham] m. [unknown]. Children:
- Robert Plumme of Yeldham Magna [Great Yeldham] m. __ daughter of ___ Purcas of __ in Essex.
Children of Robert and __ (Purcas) Plumme:
- Robert Plumme of Yeldham m. Grace, daughter of Robert Crackbone.
- Margeret Plumme.
- Elizabeth, wife of Richard Symonds.
- Thomas Plumme of Yeldham Magna [Great Yeldham] m. Mary, daughter of Richard Hamond of Ellingham.
- Mary Plumme.
- Anne Plumme.
- Edmund Plumme.
Children of Robert and Grace (Crackbone) Plumme:
- Robert Plumme of Yeldham Magna [Great Yeldham] and Lincolns Inn, 1634, m. 1st Frances, daughter of __ Gaswell of Watlington, Norfolk; m. 2nd Honora, daughter of Thomas Woolrich of Cowling, Suffolk.
- John Plumme of Ridgwell, Essex.
- Ethelred, wife of Phillip Sparrow of Wickham Brooke, Suffolk.
- Frances, wife of John Upcher of Colchester.
- Hannah, wife of William Sadleir of Horksley, Essex.
Children of Robert & Grace’s brother/brother-in-law Thomas Plumme and his wife Mary (Hamond) Plumme:
- Samuell Plumme of Yeldham Magna [Great Yeldham], 1634, m. Dorathey, sister of Sir Richard Higham of Eastham, Essex, and daughter of William Higham.
- Thomas Plumme.
- Robert Plumme.
- Mary, wife of Henry Milsop of the Ile of Ely.
- Jane, wife of Robert Brooke, rector of the church of Woodham Walker.
- Martha, wife of Samuell Pratt.
- Elizabeth, wife of William Sandford, rector of the church of Eastwell, Kent.
Children of Robert and Grace’s son Robert Plumme and his first wife, Frances (Gaswell) Plumme:
- Robert Plumme, aged about 16 in 1634.
- Edmund Plumme.
- Anne Plumme.
- Sarah Plumme.
- Frances Plumme.
- Jane Plumme.
Children of Robert and Grace’s son Robert Plumme and his second wife, Honora (Woolrich) Plumme:
Children of Thomas and Mary (Hamond) Plumme’s son Samuell Plumme and his wife, Dorathey (Higham) Plumme:
- Samwell Plumme.
- Thomas Plumme.
- Robert Plumme.
- Dorathey Plumme.
- Mary Plumme.
Children of Thomas and Mary (Hamond) Plumme’s daughter Elizabeth (Plumme) Sandford and her husband William Sandford (listed on the Sandford Visitation pedigree):
- Thomas Sandford.
- William Sandford.
Children of Margaret (Plumme) Strutt Woodcock, daughter of an unspecified Plumme, and her second husband John Woodcock of Alphamstone, Essex (Woodcock Visitation pedigree):
- John Woodcock, 7 years old in 1634.
- William Woodcock.
It is interesting that the Visitation documented two lines of descent. It is also interesting to note that the Plummes seem to have been an up-and-coming family in Essex at the time, as they were not mentioned in Essex’s earlier Visitations. In my research I have found a Prerogative Court of Canterbury will for a Plumme who was described as of Ely, Cambridgeshire, which is particularly interesting since the Visitation described Thomas and Mary’s daughter Mary’s husband Henry Milsop as “of the Ile of Ely,” which was a separate administrative area near the town of Ely. Also intriguing, the family used the name Ethelred repeatedly for daughters, and Anglo-Saxon Saint Æthelthryth, whose name was/is often transliterated to Ethelreda, had been Abbess of Ely, though this certainly could be coincidence, as there were a number of well-known historical Ethelreds (though usually men). I have yet to fully sort out what the family’s connection to Cambridgeshire and Ile of Ely might be.
As I have attempted to stress, this is the family pedigree according to the 1634 Visitation of Essex. It may be completely accurate (as far as it goes) or it may have one or more errors. Having some family members listed in the wrong generation seems to be an especially common error, and as the pedigree probably already made clear, not knowing the origins or possibly even the names of some of the male family members’ wives was also common. Robert and Grace had died by the time of the 1634 Visitation and their son (and my ancestor), John Plumme/John Plumb, seems to have been willed the rights to Ridgewell Hall in Essex, and he was apparently living in “Ridgwell” at the time the pedigree was compiled. (Compiled genealogies state his land rights, but so far I haven’t located a will that explicitly states them and I have yet to view the family’s inquisitions post mortem, which are in hard copies at the National Archives [UK].) Within two years he would seek his fortunes anew, being in Connecticut Colony in New England by late 1636.
This is something I have seen time and again as I research my early New England colonists’ English ancestry – so many of them are the younger sons of gentlemen, or the younger sons of younger sons of gentlemen/knights. While I know enough about conditions for “average” people in England at this time that it is sometimes difficult for me to feel sympathy for them, from their perspective, their prospects were limited in England – they had gotten less (or no) rights to land than their elder brother(s) or knew that their father’s elder brother(s) had gotten more than their father and that they were likely to also be willed less money or land rights than their own elder brother(s). If you wanted to try to make your own fortune, own land outright (rather than, even if you were at the top of society’s echelons, at best being a large landholder holding your land direct from the Crown), and perhaps were seeking adventure and/or a society with others who shared your Puritan beliefs, moving to the Colonies won out in the “risk-reward” columns.
John Plumb had already married Dorcas Chaplin before they left England and they had at least nine children, most born in England. John became a trader in the “New World,” spending a lot of his efforts on trade with the Native American tribes, like his Massachusetts Bay Colony counterpart William Pynchon, whose relatives have made appearances in some of my posts from earlier in 2014. John also held various offices and amassed a good amount of land, which he owned outright and sold when his family moved, unlike in the country of his birth. How would he and Dorcas have done if they had stayed in England? I can’t say. But it seems to me like they did well for themselves and their children in their choice to start over.
Spayne’s Hall in Great Yeldham was listed by the British government in 1952. Their listing implies that the building dates from the time the Plumme family ran it, but the listing (not updated since it was first listed in 1952) notes that the property had had a large amount of 18th century and late 19th/early 20th century work done.
British History Online has digitized a 1916 inventory of Great Yeldham that includes Spayne’s Hall. It is interesting to note that the inventory-taker(s) dated the building as having been built later than the official listing’s estimate.
A location named Ridgewell Hall in Ridgewell, Essex, was also listed by the British government, but the listing says it dates from the late 1600’s, so I’m not sure it’s the same hall that John (seemingly) had been willed rights to occupy. There is no Ridgewell Hall listed at British History Online’s digitized 1916 inventory of Ridgewell, just a “Ridgewell Hall Farm,” though the latter is estimated in the inventory to date from early enough to possibly be the property related to the Plummes/Plumbs.
The Plumb, Crackbone, and Purcas families are featured in Clifford L. Stott’s “John Plumb of Connecticut and His Cousin, Deputy Governor Samuel Symonds of Massachusetts: Additions to Their English Ancestry” [part 1], The American Genealogist 70:2 (April 1995); Stott’s footnotes also contain additional sources that will likely be of interest to researchers of these families. NEHGS members can view a scan of this article on NEHGS’s website. Regular readers of this blog likely remember that I have found errors regarding other families in Morant’s History of Essex, which is used extensively in Stott’s article. (I have not yet tested Morant’s assertions about the families in this blog post against original records.)
Reminder: Essex Record Office has digitized their old parish registers and some of their other old records, all available on their pay-to-view site Essex Ancestors.