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The Shakespeare Family History Site

The 'Extended Family' of the Poet

William Shakespeare

'The only Non Royal English Family Pedigree that can with certainty show a clear Pre-Conquest descent is that of the Arden Family. Shakespeare was an Arden on his maternal side.'

This is an attempt to bring together in a coherent form information which is available elsewhere on the site, but which may not be obvious to the casual viewer.

The 'accepted' genealogy of the Poet is available elsewhere on the site. However, research reveals that his 'supposed' uncles left descendants who have been scarcely documented elsewhere, and his youngest brother, Edmund, seems to have been the father of an illegitimate child, Edward Shakespeare, who died as an infant and was buried, like his father, in London in 1607 - this is scarcely mentioned by the Poets biographers, and raises the thought that if this child was illegitimate why was his surname recorded as Shakespeare?. In addition, more recent research indicates that William may have had two older siblings who were born before the start of the surviving Stratford Parish Registers.

More Siblings?

One of the earliest of the Poet's biographers, Nicholas Rowe, stated that William was one of ten children - it seems that he sent an agent to Stratford and he probably spoke to surviving family members, or at least people that knew the family. However, later in his book he mentions just eight children - information apparent to anyone reading the surviving parish registers (which begin in 1558). What should be apparent to anyone reading them is that the Stratford Parish Registers, like many others of the period, are defective - proof of this can be seen in the fact that William's sister Joan, whose baptism is recorded in 1558, obviously died as a young child, for another Joan was baptised in 1569 to the same parents: the burial of the earlier Joan is not recorded.

The Stratford Parish Registers?

Three, apparently, distinct families appear in the entries in the early parish registers. The majority of these relate to the Poet's family. Just about contemporary with these is an Anthony Shakespeare who had a daughter, Elizabeth, baptised in 1583. Anthony is described as 'of Hamton'. This is quite definitely Hampton Lucy - where both Anthony and his wife, Joan, are both buried.

The other family is that of John Shakespeare, 'Shoemaker'. There is circumstantial evidence that this John may be an older sibling of the Poet. An analysis of this evidence possibly makes this more clear.

No other Shakespeare families appear in the Stratford registers until a marriage in 1700.

The Poet's Grandfather?

The evidence for the Poet's grandfather comes primarily from the Grant of Arms made to William's father - this same grant mentions an ancestor of the Poet being granted land for military service - the best conjecture for this at the moment is that this may have been service at the nearby Battle of Bosworth. A number of other records exist which confirm his living in Snitterfield.

Various theories have been put forward for the origins of Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield, as he has long been presumed to be the Poet's grandfather. However recent researches indicate that this argument can no longer be considered valid, as it can be shown that John, the son of Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield - long believed to be the same man as the Poet's father - actually died in Clifford Chambers. So the search for the origins of the Poet's father must begin anew.

The Warwick Connection?

Several clues indicate that the Poet's family had links with Warwick.

A John Shakespeare, son of Thomas Shakespeare, Bailliff (ie 'Mayor' - and therefore of similar status to the Poet's father) of Warwick - described as 'of Rowington' was apprenticed to William Jaggard, the printer who produced the celebrated 'First Folio' of the Poet's works. It is difficult to explain this connection/ change of allegiance, as earlier printed works of the Poet were produced by Richard Field, the son of the Poet's Stratford neighbour Henry Field - the Poet's father produced the inventory of his goods when he died.

Addionally, the Poet's father served on a jury in Warwick concerning land in Balsall - this was the place of origin of the Warwick Shakespeares.

Revised June 2005