By Katie Ledbetter, ProGenealogist
Tina Davis recently won our Branch Out Sweepstakes, and received 25 hours of AncestryProGenealogists research time. Tina wanted to learn more about her mother’s side of the family tree, specifically her Rickwood line. She was hoping to verify some information she had been given and to extend that part of her family tree a few generations. We quickly traced the Rickwoods from London where they had been for four generations, to the town of Ely in Cambridgeshire.
The Rickwoods in Ely were millers by trade, including Tina’s fifth great-grandfather, Henry Rickwood. Henry’s wife, Margaret Nichols Rickwood, (Tina’s fifth great-grandmother) was attacked during the famous 1816 Ely riots when the poor, unable to afford bread, lashed out at the millers who ground the flour. A group of men came to the Rickwood mill and demanded £50 from Margaret because her husband, Henry, wasn’t home at the time. A newspaper account of the riot stated that the men showed up at her door threatening to destroy the mill unless she gave them the money. Their leader, John Dennis, brandished a gun and the others carried pitchforks and clubs. Margaret had her son, William, run to get the banker to bring the money.
The group grew restless so she went with them up Bond Street to fetch the banker, a Mr. Edwards. He met up with them and denied the mob the money. One of the men hit him on the head and drew blood. He then arranged for three of the men, including John Dennis, to meet him at the Rickwood’s house to receive the money. Both Margaret and William Rickwood testified before the Commission against John Dennis who was hanged!
As we looked for Tina’s sixth great-grandfather, Philip Rickwood, we couldn’t find his baptism record in Ely. In fact, it seemed as if Philip had appeared in Ely from thin air for there were no Rickwoods in the area at that time.
However, when we discovered the record for his 1769 marriage to Ann Fiske, this mystery was solved. The parish priest at Trinity Church in Ely went the extra mile and wrote that Henry was from Mildenhall, Suffolk. This was a bit unusual for the time. We looked in the Mildenhall parish registers and found Philip’s baptism on 9 January 1743!
Parish registers offer a wealth of information because England didn’t start registering vital events with the government until 1837. Before that, the churches recorded baptisms, marriages, and burials in their parish registers. It all started when Henry VIII left the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England. He sent out an order that the parishes keep all vital records.
In 1598, Queen Elizabeth decreed that two copies of every register be made; one copy for the parish and one for the diocese known as Bishop’s Transcripts or BTs. She also ordered the priests keep the records in parchment books instead of the flimsier paper scraps that they had been using.
Once Philip’s baptism was finally found, we were able to trace the Rickwood line in Suffolk back another five generations to Tina’s 11th great-grandparents, Richard Rickard and Grace Fflawner in 1612.
From London to Cambridgeshire to Suffolk, over 400 years of family history was accounted for in this extremely successful block of research. We hope Tina is excited to finally be ‘introduced’ to these new branches of her Rickwood family tree.
Katie Ledbetter is part of the AncestryProGenealogists team.