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The 'Black Country' Shakespeares

For over 25 years it was thought that all records of Shakespeares locally were descendants of Edward Shakespeare (as outlined below - First five generations only - further information regarding later descendants is available - please contact the site author.), apart from one isolated entry for the baptism of a daughter of John Shakespeare at Rowley Regis (the place where Edwards' recorded children were baptised) in 1612

This leads to the assumption that this John was a brother, or possibly an older son, of Edward. No other mention is made of John or his daughter - they simply disappear from the pages of history.

NB: a number of researchers have erroneously decided that Edwards wife was a Joan Chambers (of Rowley Regis). Their reason for thinking this seems to be that the baptism register of the entry for Edward's son William reads 'bapt William son of Edward Shakespeare and Joan daughter of Christopher Chambers. It is easy to see how this might be construed as inferring that Joan was the mother of William. However, further examination of the register for this period reveal that the Vicar was prone to recording events occurring on the same day in this manner, and that this entry does in fact refer to two separate baptisms. For those interested in looking at this further the will of Christopher Chambers survives and makes no mention of a Shakespeare connection.

Searches for Edward Shakespeare reveal only three of possibly the correct date

However; in February 2003 a discovery on the IGI revealed a marriage in 1581 at Sedgley, Staffs., of Thomas Shakespeare and Ann Gibbons - the original register entry reveals no further clues as to origin. If, which appears unlikely as Edward and his wife lived into the 1630's, the children of Edward recorded at Rowley Regis were his only children then it could be presumed that Edward married just prior to this date, probably in his early twenties, which would make the marriage of Thomas Shakespeare and Anne Gibbons of the right date to be his parents. However, there is some speculation that this marriage might actually be that of Edward himself, and his wife Ann.

The Gibbons family were prominent citizens (if Ann is of the same family) of the Parish of Kingswinford, Staffordshire  - later members of the family lived at Corbyns Hall at the lower end of what is now Pensnett High Street (Pensnett was within the Parish of Kingswinford), and to this day there is a 'Gibbons Industrial Park' on this site. The surviving Kingswinford Parish Registers begin in 1603: it is perfectly possible that this couple lived, and raised their children, in Kingswinford. This ancient parish  bordered Dudley, Rowley Regis and Sedgley, and it is a fact that some of Edward Shakespeares immediate descendants are recorded as living in Kingswinford.

Other Descendants:

The Shakespeares of the Black Country have spread far and wide. The author's ancestors stayed in Dudley, where there are numerous Shakespeares to this day.

During the 17th century there are records of Shakespeares at Wombourne - these probably crossed the border from Kingswinford, although research on this family has not yet been done in any depth.

Very early in the history of this branch members of the family are to be found in nearby Kingswinford, Staffordshire, from where many members of the family have migrated around England and to many other countries around the world, inluding Canada, Australia and the USA. It is from the Kingswinford branch that all of the Shakespeares in the state of Utah, USA, descend - by the late 1700's some of this family were in nearby Himley and it is here (although he was born in Sedgley) that David Shakespeare originated. It is David that emigrated to the USA in the mid 1850's following his conversion to the Mormon faith.

Another notable descendant of the Kingswinford branch is Noah Shakespeare, who was born in Brierley Hill (formerly part of the ancient parish of Kingswinford) in 1840. He emigrated to Canada, where he became a member of the Canadian Parliament.

Percy Shakespeare, of Dudley, had a promising career as an artist before being killed by enemy action in 1944.

A descendant of the Dudley family (although not himself named Shakespeare), through his grandmother, Esther Shakespeare, was Mark Bate - one of the early settlers, and first Mayor of, Nanaimo in British Columbia.

How Many Shakespeares?

It is interesting to look at the number of Shakespeares listed in the 1881 Census for the whole of the British Isles. This contains a total of 1669 Shakespeare individuals. Of these just over 600 had their origin in the 'Black Country' area, somewhere around 680 from the County of Warwickshire, with the rest scattered around Britain, including a concentration, as might be expected, in the London area. This means that just over one third of Shakespeares in the British Isles must be Edwards descendants, nearly as many as were in the entire County of Warwickshire - the 'ancestral home' of the Shakespeares.

It is easy to see that between them the Warwickshire and 'Black Country' families account for around 1300 of the total of 1669 Shakespeares alive in the UK at this time!, and nearly half of these the descendants of Edward Shakespeare!! What can also be inferred, given the 'law of averages' is that there were only around 800 male Shakespeares to pass on the surname (the other 800 or so being female) to all those Shakespeares alive in the UK at the present time. A rare surname, even if it is one familiar to most people in the world due to the existence of an Elizabethan glover's son from rural Warwickshire.

For Later Descendants of this family see:

Unresolved Lines of Descent & Some Descendants of Later Family Lines

 

Notes

See also:

 

July 2004

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