Early Gadburys

in England

by Russell Gadberry


Today we are accustomed to having our names recorded. At birth our names, parents, weight, length, hand and footprints are recorded for our birth certificate. This record keeping continues throughout our lives until that final certificate is filed, our death certificate.

The genealogical researcher by using these records has the ability to collect ancestral information and construct a family tree, but only to a point. In the United States many states did not keep birth and death records until the early 1900's. Researching before this time requires many hours at microfische machines searching census and tax records as well as wills, property and deed records. After all these records have been researched, ancestors found, and a family tree assembled with the available information, we still may know very little about those who came before us.

Oddly enough, it most likely was not out of concern of the historical record that governments began keeping family records, but the ability to track populations for the collection of taxes. Before 1538 in England there was no government mandate for the keeping of records. It was in this year that Thomas Cromwell issued such an edict to the churches. It stated: "You and every parson, vicar or curate within this diocese shall for every church keep one book or register wherein ye shall write the day and year of every wedding, christening, and burying made within your parish for your time . . . " Fittingly enough in the year before, 1537, the Pilgrimage of Grace had been placed in law requiring a tax be paid before a baptism could take place. On other occasions the clergy were transformed into tax collectors using the required parish registers. It is these records, as onerous as they might have been to the citizens of the day which allows us to build our family trees, when they are available. Today many English vicars refuse to release these ancient records.

The earliest records of English Gadberry families are to be found mostly in the London area. The family of John Gadberry/bery (both spellings recorded) of London, Saint Peter Westcheap Parish had five children registered between 1543 and 1550, three unnamed girls, one unnamed boy and a daughter Joyse. The mothers name was not listed. Thomas Gadberry was born to unnamed Gadberry parents in Dec of 1549 in the parish of London St. Mary the Virgin. Also in this same parish in Feb of 1551 John Gadbery was born to Ellis Gadbery(no mother named). In Stepney, St Mary Whitechapel between 1574 and 1578 three children, Sara, John, and Vrsula were born to the Gadberie family. Rychard Gadbarre married Lucus Taylor in Nov of 1557 in London Christ Church at Greyfriars.

In the 17th century the number of Gadberry (all spellings included) families multiply and become too numerous to name here. What the relationship between these families were, why their names were spelled as they were may be impossible to determine, but it becomes evident that they came from all levels of British society from the knighted, Sir Richard, to the famous, John the author, to the convicts, Anne and later John. It is the rare individual who attracts the attention required to place their name and story in view of the public to be permanently recorded by newspapers or governments. And so after centuries it is usually the famous or infamous whose family stories we find.

We’ll now tell three of those stories.

John Gadbury

William Gadbury loved Francis Curson, but William as a servant to the Curson family must have known the restrictions and also known that her father Sir John, Knight and Lord of Waterperry Manor would never allow them to marry.

Whether William served the family as a servant or farmer is in some question, he at times is referred to as a servant, but then as a farmer. Was he placed there by his father, Oliver of Worminghall, or was he an employee, or perhaps attached to the land, we may never know, but his love for Francis was real and it was forbidden?


Francis must have also been quite taken with William for she, against the strictures of the day, eloped with William. The price Francis paid was enormous. Arousing the wrath of her father Sir John, he disinherited her.

Exactly what repairs were made to the relationship are not known. Over the years and probably due to the efforts of her son, John, a partial reconciliation with her father must have been made for she was buried in the family graveyard at Waterperry church. Her grave now long lost among the illegible tombstones.

William and Francis’ son John was born Dec 31, 1627 and led a very public life. As a teen-ager, following the custom of the day for the working class English, he was apprenticed as a tailor to Thomas Nicholls, but by the age of 16 had left Mr. Nicholls and prevailed upon his Grandfather Sir John for a reconciliation and an education at Oxford. As a young man he joined a merchant adventurer and lived near Strand Bridge in London. He married about 1648.

John’s religious affiliations were diverse. He joined in succession the Presbyterians, the independents and the ‘family of love’ which he left in 1651. A year later he returned to his grandfather and began to study astrology. It was in this same year that his prolific writing began with the book "A ‘Philastrogus’ Knavery Epitomized, with a Vindication of Mr. Culpepper, Mr. Lilly and the rest of the Students in that Noble Art," written by J. Gadbury, a lover of all ingenious arts and artists," in which he defended the ‘art’ of astrology. His writing continued with such works as: "The Doctrine of Horary Questions, Astrologically handled," and "An Astrological Demonstration of England’s future felicity".

John during the 1650's was instrumental in the development and writing of almanacs, that were published in book form and also printed on ‘broadsheets’, newspaper sized posters placed as a form of public notice. These almanacs could be compared to Poor Richards Almanac written by Benjamin Franklin or todays Farmers Almanac. This became a rather competitive adventure, since many of the prognostications of the almanac writers would disagree about future events, it was necessary to debunk a competitor as false.

John Gadbury, John Partridge, George Parker all early developers of the almanac denounced each other as frauds, imposters, and religious papists. John Partridge struck an obscene blow when he accused John of complicity in the murder of one Godden who had accused John of being a papist, and of debauching Godden’s wife. At this time, the late 1670's, the English government was in a uproar about the discovery of this ‘popish plot’, and of fears of a Catholic succession to the throne. The government knew the power of the almanacs, which were so popular with the public, and watched for any deviation from religious orthodoxy by the authors. "In 1679 John Gadbury, known as a Catholic sympathizer, was brought before the Privy Council and rebuked by the Bishop of London for failing to include the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ plot in his almanac."


The Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 20, printed in 1889, best describes what happened next:

"He (John Gadbury) was the accredited author of the clever narrative ballad, in four parts, 1679, ‘A Ballad upon the Popish Plot’ (Bragford Ballads). Thomas Dangerfield professed to have had eight meetings with Gadbury in September 1679, at the house of Mrs. Elizabeth Cellier. Gadbury was summoned as a witness against Cellier at her trial in June 1680 and testified in her favour, having known her ten or twelve years (Case of Thomas Dangerfield, &c., together with John Gadbury his testimony, with all his evasions, 1680, p27). Gadbury had been taken into custody on suspicion, 2 Nov 1679. He denied connivance, before the king and council and obtained release two months later. His enemies pretended that he had attempted ineffectually to bribe Sir Thomas Danby with a present of plate, and on trebling the value of the present to gain for him a pardon. In compensation for wrongous imprisonment’ he received 200l in 1681."

This was not to be the end of John’s problems. During this time he had lost his wife and in 1690 was again accused in anti-government plots. The Dictionary of National Biography continues.

"Gadbury was falsely accused, on the strength of papers intercepted at the post office, of being implicated in a plot (June 1690) against William lll. He was detained in custody for eight or ten weeks, and had certainly refused as a nonjuror to take the oaths of allegiance."

The accusations against John continued, he was accused of writing. ‘The Scurrilous Scribble dissected; a Word in William Lilly’s ear concerning his reputation,’ printed on a broadsheet which was undated. John Partridge wrote "The First Part of the Black Life of John Gadbury", evidently a supposed expose’ of John’s scandalous life.

The accusations against John Gadbury were many indeed. The book ‘The History of Oxfordshire’ says: "Abraham Archdale saved one Wheatley (the village located in Waterperry manor, home of the Cursons) charity from the rapacity of John Gadbury . . . " Whether John deserved any of these accusations and criticisms we may never know, he certainly was a controversial gentleman. His resiliency carried him through many trials and differences with the government, at which he seemed to prevail.

John died toward the end of March 1704 at the age of 82 years, leaving an unnamed widow. He was buried in the vault of St. Margaret’s Cathedral in Westminster on March 28, 1704. His name is recorded in St. Margaret’s registry.

He was succeeded by his cousin Job as a writer of Almanacs. Job died in 1715. John and Job were not the only Gadbury authors from the offspring of Oliver of Worminghall. Timothy the brother of William (John’s father), taught navigation at Ratcliff in London, compiled nautical almanacs and helped with new editions of Hartgills Tables. Timothy died in 1661.

John was not the only English Gadbury to meet face to face with the law however. Our next story begins in 1723.

Anne Gadbury


Pre-Industrial Revolution 18th century England was a difficult place to live. Class distinctions were severe and binding. The average working class Englishman earned between 12l and 13l a year about $300.00 in todays currency.

England’s economy was robust by the standards of the day, and living standards higher than that of surrounding countries. Where the French ate dark bread and soup, the English ate wheat bread and meat. Conditions though were less than ideal, the wealth of the titled contrasted sharply with the poverty of the working class. Later these conditions would be exposed by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist and described in the raucous book, Tom Jones, written by an English Squire, Sir Henry Fielding.

Where class and financial distinctions are so great, laws protecting the possessions of the wealthy controlling class can become severe. Crimes that we would consider petty could demand harsh penalties.

It was in this environment that Anne Gadbury committed her crime.

It appears that Anne had been trained as a nurse and hired by Richard Guest to tend his ill wife. We pick up the story now from the Old Bailey Sessions (court records) of January 1724:

Ann Gadbury and Mary Griffith, of the Parish of St. Margarets Westminster, were indicted for feloniously stealing a silk mantle, value 20s. &Pair of silk gloves, value 20s. 2Guineas, 8s,6d. in Money, and other goods, in the dwelling house of Richard Guest, on the 16th of October last. The Prosecutor deposed, that the Prisoner Ann Gadbury had nursed his wife, and having been discharged and paid, she came afterwards, and took the things in the indictment. And part of the Goods were afterward taken upon the prisoners, when they were apprehended. Another evidence deposed, that at their Apprehension, they had on each a suit of the Prosecutors headclothes, and other Goods were found in their lodgings, which Gadbury owned were the Prosecutor’s. There not being Evidence sufficient to affect Mary Griffith, the Jury acquitted her, but found Ann Gadbury guilty to the value of 4s. 10d. Transportation.

By todays standards a petty crime indeed, but serious enough in Anns time that she faced ‘transportation’. Transportation was a kind government word for deportation. For the theft of a few dollars worth of used clothing Ann Gadbury would be sent from her home and family to a wilderness an ocean away. This though wasn’t the full effect of her punishment, she would be responsible for repaying her passage, if she survived it, from her earnings in her new home, if there were any. What would Anne do? How could she repay her debt from the wilderness?

The answer would be the same as in our next story.


John Gadbury

John Gadbury was a spunky young man in the winter of 1766, possibly between the ages of eleven and sixteen. According to the ‘Gentlemen’s Magazine’ of the time it was one of the coldest winters England had ever had. How cold was it?

The coaches of the genteel had stands on each back corner on which post boys stood as the coach traveled the country. The ‘Gentlemen’s Magazine’ reported the weather so cold that post boys had frozen to death standing at their coach posts. It was this winter that John Gadbury met face to face with English justice. Why it was that John decided that it was necessary to steal, was his family cold, hungry, was it to sell for money? Again the reasons why are not recorded, but the results are. The Old Bailey Sessions for Dec/Jan 1767 reads:

John Gadbury was indicted for stealing one chauldron of sea coals, value 26s. the property of John Walton and William Slade; and 12 bushels of sea coals, the property of persons unknown. Nov. 13.

Daniel Hart. I am a lighterman; the coals were lost from Wapping dock, about one in the morning, on the 12th day of November; I was informed of it, and went and saw the prisoner in the watch house, and saw the coals in a boat at Bell-wharf; they told me they had taken the coals out of a lighter at Ratcliff cross; then they went to another place and took more; then they came to Wapping dock and took the barge away, and endeavoured to drive her down into Limehouse-reach, and got on board a tier of snaps at King Edwards-stairs; and there they were detected with the boat, with coals in her, by the side the barge.

Alexander Cowdey; On Thursday morning the 12th of November, I went to see for the barge and it was gone; about two in the morning I took the boat and rowed down, and saw the two prisoners jump out of my masters barge; I stopped them; there was about a chauldron and a half of coals in the boat; they threw coals at me; I drove with them from New Crane to Ratcliff cross; there were men coming that I knew; they assisted me, and we took them into custody; then they confessed they took the coals out of this barge, there and before the Justice; the coals belong to Mess. Walton and Slade; they would not tell where they took the rest they had.

The prisoner said nothing in his defence. Guilty. T.

Note: There was Thomas George indicted with the prisoner, but being ill, could not be tried.

For stealing coal in one of the coldest winters recorded at the time, John also received the punishment ‘transportation’, (that is the meaning of the capital T after guilty). As a young man he was to be removed from his family and home, deported from his country and sent to a wilderness to work off his fine and punishment in the same manner that Anne would as an indentured slave in the wilderness.

It would be easy to justify and rationalize these cases. The crimes were petty and the penalties were harsh according to our standards, but what effect would they have on these young people, what would become of their lives in America?




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