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The Ansty Family


Saints or Sinners?



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When I first found out that my ancestor Thomas ANSTY was a cleric, I imagined him a model of piety. There he was, listed in Alumni Oxonienses, matriculating in July 1579. The same entry told me he was a good Dorset boy, of plebeian stock, but by 1592 he was rector of Witchampton. He married one Avis BRADSTOCKE, daughter of a family sufficiently respectable to be listed in the 1623 Visitation of Dorset. And Thomasís will (1612) was further evidence of his benevolent nature, bequeathing money, wheat and barley to the poor at Witchampton and Hampreston.


Avis settled in Hampreston after Thomasís death, where she was no doubt a ray of sunshine in the lives of her churchwarden son Nicholas and his bride Dorothy DUGDALE, daughter of ... wait for it ... yet another vicar. Nicholas and Dorothyís son Daniel was so virtuous he didnít even father a child until he was in his sixties. And thatís where the ANSTYs begin to lose their saintly reputation...


That child, Mary, married William OKELY at Blandford St Mary in 1725/6. Now, Blandford St Mary seems to have been one of those parishes where clandestine or irregular marriages took place. And a marriage settlement was drawn up six weeks after the wedding. Hmmmmmm!


Did William and Mary run off together, with the settlement drawn up afterwards in an attempt to regularise the affair? Certainly, Williamís family, although describing themselves as gentlemen, seem to have had one or two shady connections. The family tomb, in Kinson churchyard, is believed to have been used to conceal smuggled contraband. And when William and Maryís daughter Molly wrote her will in 1795, she made Isaac GULLIVER of Long Critchel a trustee of her estate. Heís described as a merchant in the will, but is better known in Dorset lore as the countyís most famous smuggler ...



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© D. M. Watton, 2001