John HEAD 1636/40


Following the greater probability, we will suggest that John HEAD was the father of Christopher, while noting in the records that this is not certain. We know John HEAD d. 16 Aug 1724, in Great Wishford, and since Christopher named his first son John it is likely it was his father's name. The only other HEAD in the Great Wishford parish register during that time is Robert HEAD, the son of George Head and Ann, b. 04 Apr 1635 in Great Wishford, Wiltshire. I will assume that John and Robert are siblings, both sons of George Head and Ann, and John is a few years younger.

Possible child of John HEAD:

Christopher HEAD b. abt 1665/66

B. Butterworth a HEAD family researcher offers this:

In tracing the history of the Head family we have sound documentary evidence for each step back from one generation to the next, up to the point where Christopher Head was living with his wife Martha and their nine known remaining children in the village of Great Wishford in Wiltshire. The children's christenings were recorded in Wishford church as follows: Martha, 1688; John, 1690 (buried 1691); John, 1692; Mary, 1695; Christopher, 1697; Sarah, 1699; William, 1702; Richard, 1704; Stephen, 1707; Job, 1710.

But here we have come to the most difficult period in English history for the family historian, the years covering the Civil War and the rule of Oliver Cromwell.

When the war broke out in 1642 the leaders of Wiltshire were opposed to King Charles, while the aristocracy, such as the Thynnes of Longleat and the Seymours, supported him. From that time the war swept back and forth across the county, disrupting people's lives and causing divisions within villages and even within families. The conflict ended in 1647 with the forces of Oliver Cromwell victorious, and after the execution of Charles I in 1649 Cromwell created the Commonwealth. His rule became increasingly unpopular, and in 1660 the people rejected this form of government and restored Charles II to the English throne.

During such a time of upheaval it would be surprising if the processes of record-keeping were not disrupted. But the major problem for future research arose when under Cromwell it was decreed that records of births, marriages and deaths should be kept by the civil authorities rather than by the churches, as they had been since 1538. This was reversed at the Restoration, but by then some documents had been lost forever. In Wiltshire there are few remaining records of baptisms, marriages or burials during the 1640s and the 1650s.

In a book of the Parish church of Great Wishford records it is stated that; "Records for 1647­1653, the closing phase of the Civil War and the first years of the Commonwealth, are missing." In fact, after 1535 the first Head record we have is the christening of Christopher and Martha's daughter Martha in 1688. We cannot even be sure that she was their first child, although it is likely that she was the first daughter, as she has her mother's name.

So we have no record of Christopher's birth, or of his marriage. Fortunately this is not an insurmountable obstacle to further research. When actual documentary evidence is lacking, family historians can often bridge gaps by using various clues and indications. These may not have the full weight of certainty but can offer a good degree of probability.

In looking for Christopher's father, we find that, with two exceptions, there were no male Heads recorded in Wishford before Christopher. In the two nearby villages, there were none recorded in Stapleford after the1550s, and only one in Berwick since 1609, and he was of the generation of Christopher's grandfather.

The first exception in Wishford was Robert Head, christened there on 4 April 1635. The second record of a Head there was that of the burial of John Head on 16 August 1724. If he were then in his eighties, he could have been born a few years after Robert, and could be his brother.

The date of Christopher's first known child, Martha, in 1688, suggests a marriage date for him before 1687. That, in turn, would indicate that his birth occurred before 1666. In that case he could very well be the son of either Robert or John. We always have to see whether Christian names can offer clues in uncertain situations. It was usual to name a first son after the man's father. Christopher had many opportunities to name a son Robert, yet he didn't. His first son was called John, and when he died, the name went on to the next son. There are three possibilities here: John may be Robert's brother, and the father of Christopher; or Robert was Christopher's father, but Christopher did not name a child after him; or Christopher had a son before Martha, whose record was lost, and whom he christened Robert.

Following the greater probability, we will suggest that John was the father of Christopher, while noting in the records that this is not certain.

We may now wonder whether Christopher had any siblings. Following again the clues in the children's names, we find that a Maria was buried in Wishford in 1730, and a Stephen in 1746. These could be the two children, but the dates suggest an earlier generation. Maria and Stephen could be Christopher's siblings, children of Robert. [or John]

The date of Christopher's death raises the same question and suggests the same answer. There was a Christopher buried on 12 November 1744. This could be Christopher's son, aged 47, but it is more likely to be Christopher himself, aged about 78, dying within a few years of his sister Maria and his brother Stephen. It would be good to have certainties, but at this distance in time and given the difficulties of that time, these are good probabilities.



i. Christopher HEAD
b. abt 1665/66
m. abt 1687/88 Martha Unknown
d. 12 Nov 1744 (Source: Great Wishford parish register)

SOURCE: B. Butterworth


Early Woodford Valley, Wiltshire Heads -- Possible family tree for Christopher


© Mark Head and Jerry England 2002

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