There's one thing about the parade of rainy days...I have plenty of time for climbing around in the family tree. Good thing too as there's lots and lots of information to be found on my dad's side. I'm not complaining; it's been fascinating to uncover so many names and the stories that go with them.
This past week or two I've been working in the Browne family. Abraham Browne (my 11th great-grandfather) settled in Watertown, MA, having arrived in this country in 1630 on one of the ships in the Winthrop Fleet. He was a surveyor and was highly respected in this fledgling community where he was charged with laying out the roads and parceling out the homestalls to the new residents.
While Abraham is rather well documented as such an early resident of this country, I was lucky enough to discovery a good bit about his English ancestors too, including a number of buildings tied to their names.
Like this one. It's Swan Hall in Hawkedon, Suffolk, England. It's where Abraham was born in 1590, where his father Thomas and mother Joan Sayer Browne lived, and even where his grandfather Christopher Browne lived before 1568.
While it's unclear whether Christopher Browne built it or not, it's list on the registry of history homes as having been built in the 16th century so it's entirely possible that it was he. I'm fascinated by the rows of big logs that form the end of the home.
Christopher was the third in a line of three generations bearing that name, and his grandfather Christopher Browne (my 15th great-grandfather) lived in this house:
Quite the digs, huh...but then Christopher did serve three terms as High Sheriff of Rutland. This is Tolethorpe Hall located near Stamford. If we were there now, we could be enjoying Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors or A Midsummer Night's Dream, both of which will be playing in the next week or two. The building is no longer a family residence but now the Rutland Theatre, home to the Stamford Shakespeare Company.
This series shows several views of All Saints' Church in Stamford. The original church dates back to the Doomsday Book (1068) but none of the original church remains. It was rebuilt in the 13th century and extensive additions were made in the 15th century at the expense of John Browne, my 17th great-grandfather. The steeple was added by his son William who is not my direct ancestor.
The church interests me for several reasons. According to The History of Stamford, there were formerly five bells in the church besides the saints' bell. The first was inscribed Margaret and the third John for John Browne and his wife Margaret, benefactors of the church. There is also a wall-mounted brass plate bearing this prayer in Latin:
"Pray for the souls of John Browne, merchant of the staple of
Calais, and Margaret, his wife; the said John died July 26, 1442,
and the said Margaret November 22, 1460; on whose souls may
God have mercy. Amen."
John Browne was a draper (one who made or sold fine wools or other cloths) and a member of The Merchants of the Staple, a sort of prestigious trade union. John Browne and Margaret and other Browne family members (including their son John Browne) are the only people buried inside the church.
Son John's wife Agnes (my 16th great-grandmother) had an interesting approach to eternity. When she died in 1470, she left the sum of £75 so a priest would sing a daily prayer for her soul for a period of 15 years. She must have figured that was long enough; if she hadn't made it into heaven by then, she wasn't going to.
While it's unlikely I'll get to England to check out these places, I might get to Boston to see the Watertown home built by Jonathan Browne, son of the Abraham Browne first mentioned and my 10th great-grandfather.
Known as the Browne House it's a nonprofit museum operated by Historic New England and even if it didn't have a family connection, the story of it's restoration is compelling. It had fallen into disrepair when purchased in 1919 but then it was over 200 years old by that time. The new owner considered dismantling and moving it but was persuaded that it was too important to do anything but restore it. Thus, the Browne House became one of the first fully-documented restorations of a First Period building in the United States.
I don't have this level of detail and information on every surname in my tree so it's really cool so find out so much about those named Browne.