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Francis Nichols of Sedgeberrow, Worcester, England

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Francis Nichols of Sedgeberrow, Worcester, England
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Winter 2001 and Revised 21 May 2004

Neil D. Thompson, CG, FASG, in the October, 2000 issue of "The American Genealogist" [Vol. 75, No. 4], traces Francis' roots back to about 1510. We prepared a critique of the article in our Summer 2001 article at Francis Nichols of Sedgeberrow, Worcester, England . In summary, we found the article thought provoking, but inconclusive as to Francis' roots.

We have received additional information from Paul Nichols in his email of 27 Dec 2001. It reads, in part, as follows:

    "On December 3 of this year, I had the opportunity to visit the tiny village of Sedgeberrow in Worcestershire, England (1991 population, 713). Sedgeberrow is the town in which genealogist Neil Thompson, in an October 2000 article in The American Genealogist, suggests that Sgt. Francis Nichols of Stratford, Connecticut, was born. One of the things I wanted to see was whether the parish church might be old enough to be the same one that Francis and his ancestors attended centuries ago.

    I found the old church, took a picture, and it is online at http://www.his.com/~pnichols/sedgeberrow.html . Unfortunately, the church was locked, so I couldn’t get inside. I asked a couple people in the only store in town if they knew the age of the church; they not only didn’t know, but didn’t seem to care. That afternoon, when I went to the Worcestershire Library and History Centre, I learned from Page’s Victoria History of the Counties of England: A History of Worcestershire, Volume III (1913) that the church was dedicated in 1331, so it was already 300 years old by the time Francis Nichols left the area. This book has a photograph of the chancel area inside the church, which I’ve also put online at http://www.his.com/~pnichols/Sedgeberrrow_church_chancel.jpg

    I didn’t have much time, but I did want to see what else I could find at the History Centre. They have baptismal, marriage, and burial records on microfilm (courtesy of the LDS) of about 250 Worcester parishes, including the Sedgeberrow parish. Luckily, that parish is one of several to have had the hard-to-read parish records transcribed and bound and available in the Centre. The transcribed volume is not attributed, but the web site of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (Sedgeberrow isn’t far from Stratford-upon-Avon) indicates it is the work of J. Harvey Bloom around the beginning of the 19th century. I should have Xeroxed the entire thing, but instead I rather hurriedly wrote down all the Nicholls records (which turned out to be more than I thought there would be). Unfortunately, even Bloom’s transcription was a bit hard to read, and I probably got some of his abbreviated months wrong. I found 44 Nicholls baptisms (1569-1638), 6 Nicholls marriages (1568-1636) and 26 Nicholls burials (1582-1644).

    These records are now online at http://www.his.com/~pnichols/nicholls_records.html .

    During this 70-year period, Nicholls was one of the most common names in Sedgeberrow; there were only 235 baptisms, and 44 of them (19%) were Nicholls children. After the dates indicated above, the name Nicholls never again appeared in the register, lending support to the idea that Francis Nicholls left Sedgeberrow before his son Caleb was born. The baptismal records include the children of John Nicholls baptized between 1575 and 1592; he is thought to be the father of Sgt. Francis Nichols (baptized 1575). I copied the Francis Nicholls baptismal record, and it too is online at href = "http://www.his.com/~pnichols/baptism.gif . This record shows how difficult these old parish records are to read - the early ones aren’t even in English, but in Latin. Around the same time John’s children were born, there are also baptismal records of five children of a Roger Nicholls. All of the Nicholls records at Sedgeberrow were for the families and descendents of John and Roger. So far, there’s no indication if or how Roger was related to John.

    Interestingly, Roger also had a son Francis, baptized in 1580. Our Francis married Frances Wimarke, who was baptized in 1577. John’s son Francis would have been about 2 years older than Miss Wimarke, and Roger’s son Francis about 3 years younger. These slight age differences and the names of subsequent children would suggest that our Francis was the son of John rather than Roger. It’s possible that both of the Francis Nichollses had children; Neil Thompson, in his article, attributed all children of Francis Nicholls except one (Elizabeth, born September 1606) to the Sergeant.

    The last book I could find to consult was a volume of Worcestershire County court records, 1591-1643. The only reference I found to a Nicholls in Sedgeberrow indicated that William Nichols (possibly Francis Nicholls’ brother) was indicted in 1643 with three others "for not working in the repair of the highways there on the appointed days." I didn’t think I would find any reference to Francis’s son Caleb, and I didn’t. And just to cover all bases, before I went, I had a professional researcher in Worcester see if she could find anything on Caleb, and she couldn’t either.

    One minor detail that doesn’t agree with Thompson’s article: neither she nor the ranscriber of the parish records thought the record showed that Francis Nichols had twin sons, Joseph and Jonathan, born in 1614. I looked at the microfilm of those records, and it appeared that Joseph was baptized 30 April (or August?) 1614; the next record was Jonathan, last name unclear, baptized 31 August. Carol Tilson thinks the format of the entry for Joseph (one line instead of two) suggests that he was indeed a twin of Jonathan. Those of you who have copies of the LDS film can see what you think.

    Overall, I believe the evidence that Francis Nicholls of Sedgeberrow was the immigrant Sgt. Francis Nichols of Stratford is stronger than that presented by Neil Thompson.

    1. First, he concluded that Francis of Sedgeberrow was our immigrant ancestor with only records of the baptisms for all but the last three of his children. As we now know, the Sedgeberrow records fortunately include the baptism of an eighth child, Isaac Nicholls (a much less common name).
    2. Also, Sedgeberrow is only 3 miles south of Bengeworth, where Francis Nichols’s daughter Jane’s husband lived. Mr. Thompson told me that he was not searching for Francis Nichols near Bengeworth, so the fact that the two towns were so close definitely strengthens the case that he found the right Francis Nichols. (By email of 30 Dec 2001, Paul Nichols elaborates as follows:)

        "I think the Jane Washburn connection is very significant, especially since Neil Thompson did not search the Sedgeberrow records because the town was near Bengeworth. We know that William Washburn's wife was Jane Nichols because of the [reference in the Will of their son] to "uncle Isaac

        Nichols of Stratford," and we also know that William came from Bengeworth. Finding Francis Nichols with a daughter Jane 2 years younger than William Washburn and living within a 5-minute horseback ride of his home is, to me, pretty good evidence that Thompson found the right family."

    3. One other thing that may offer a slight connection between the Sedgeberrow Nichollses and the immigrant ancestor - the name of Roger Nichols's wife appears to be "Timbrell," same as the maiden name of William Washburn's mother. William married Sgt. Francis Nichols's daughter Jane.

    I would be interested in comparing notes and thoughts with any other descendents of Sgt. Francis Nichols as I rewrite my version of The Nichols Family to include the Sedgeberrow information. "

Conclusion

While Thompson's article might correctly identify Francis Nichols' ancestry, and while the contents of Paul Nichols' emails, above, adds additional background information and perspective, some troubling aspects still remain:

    1. There still is no direct evidence that the Sedgeberrow Francis Nichols ever emigrated to America. He could have died anywhere in England after the last recorded birth of a child in 1617 in Sedgeberrow. There is a gap of 22 years until 1639 before the Stratford, CT Francis Nichols first appears.

    2. The only evidence is indirect and based on two children (John and Isaac) having the same names as those of Francis Nichols of Stratford, CT and on finding Francis Nichols with a daughter Jane 2 years younger than William Washburn and living within a 5-minute horseback ride of his home.

    3. "John" is a common name which would have been found in a great many Nichols families in England. That leaves only "Isaac" as a common denominator.

    4. There still is no evidence that the Sedgeberrow Francis ever had a son named Caleb, so, for now, one has to resort to imagination that he did.

If you have any information about the folks mentioned in this article, please contact us at dewald@prenticenet.com and please include the title and date of this article.

Return to Top of this Article .

Footnore 1:
Sedgeberrow Parish Records. Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials 1566-1783. A Full Abstract of the Register of Sedgeberrow, County Worcester. Bound volume at the Worcestershire Library and History Centre, Trinity Street,
Worcester WR1 2PW, UK. 

Nicholls baptisms:

Henrie, son of Roger, 1 Oct 1569
John, son of Roger, 24 Aug.1571
George, son of Roger, 24 Oct.1577
Francis, son of Roger, 30 July 1580
Stephen, son of Roger, 11 Sept. 1584

Francis, son of John, 25 May 1575
John, son of John, 3 May 1577
William, son of John, 3 January 1579
Goodith, daughter of John, 17 March 1581
Henrie, son of John, 13 April 1583
Elinor, daughter of John, 18 August 1586
Ann, daughter of John, 15 Sept., 1590
Elizabeth, daughter of John, 22 Sept. 1592

Marie, daughter of Henrie, 10 April 1590
Edward, son of Henrie, 27 May 1592
Elizabeth, daughter of Henrie, 21 Oct. 1594
Henrie, son of Henrie, 20 March 1596
Joan, daughter of Henrie, 13 Feb. 1599

John, son of Francis, 16 May 1601
Jane, daughter of Francis, 3 Nov. 1603
Henrie, son of Francis, 19 Nov. 1605
Elizabeth, daughter of Francis, Sept. 1606
Anne, daughter of Francis, 18 Oct. 1606
Margaret, daughter of Francis, 4 Jan. 1608
Francis, son of Francis, 25 August 1611
Joseph, son of Francis, 31 Aug 1614
Jonathan, son of Francis,  31 Aug 1614
Sarah, daughter of Francis, 7 Nov. 1615
Isaac, son of Francis, 27 Dec. 1617

Stephen, son of Stephen, 25 April 1611
John, son of Stephen, 13 April 1614
Richard, son of Stephen, 6 Oct. 1616
Mary, daughter of Stephen, 20 Feb. 1617
William, son of Stephen, 14 June 1620
Thomas, son of Stephen, 1 Sept. 1622
Henrie, son of Stephen, 27 April 1626
Francis, son of Stephen, 11 May 1628
Ann, daughter of Stephen, 26 Sept. 1630

Henrie, son of Anne, 18 June 1615

Anne, daughter of William, 27 Feb. 1622
William, son of William, 27 Nov. 1627
Elizabeth, daughter of William, 21 April, 1630
Mary, daughter of William, 30 May 1634
William, son of William and Elizabeth, 1 May 1636
Margaret, daughter of William and Elizabeth, 24 April 1638

(No more Nicholls baptisms listed)

Nicholls Burials:

Goodith Nicholls, daughter of John, 27 April 1582
Margerie Nicholls, widow, 20 April, 1586
Elinor Nicholls, widow, 8 June 1592
Elizabeth Nicholls, daughter of John, 19 May 1595
Harry Nicholls, son of John, 5 June 1595
John Nicholls, 6 August 1597
Marie Nicholls, daughter of Henrie, 14 Feb. 1601
Henrie Nicholls, son of Francis, 21 Dec. 1605
Anne Nicholls, daughter of Francis, 25 Sept. 1606
Henry Nicholls, son of Margaret, widow, 22 August 1614
Joseph Nicholls, son of Francis, 2 September 1614
Jonathan Nicolls son of Francis, 4 Sep 1614.
Marie Nicholls, wife of Roger, 17 Jan. 1614
Richard Nicholls, son of Stephen, 26 May 1617
Roger Nicholls, 3 Oct 1621
Stephen Nicholls, son of Stephen, 21 July 1623
Henry Nicholls, son of Stephen, 20 May 1626
Joane Nicholls, wife of John, 29 Nov. 1627
Joane Nicholls, wife of Stephen, 28 May 1628
Francis Nicholls, son of Stephen, 1 June 1628
William Nicholls, son of William, 31 August 1629
Anne Nicholls, wife of Stephen, 9 October 1630
William Nicholls, son of William and Elizabeth, 15 July 1637
Stephen Nicholls, 17 Jan. 1637
Margaret Nicholls, daughter of Elizabeth, 4 Sept. 1640
Margaret Nicholls, widow, 4 March 1640
Margaret Nicholls, 29 October 1644
(No more Nicholls burials listed)

Nicholls marriages:

Roger Nicholls married Marie Timbrell (?), 29 Jan. 1568
Francis Nicholls married Francis Wimarke, 24 Jan. 1599
Elinor Nicholls married Thomas Payton, 2 Jan. 1613
Elizabeth Nicholls married William Widowes (?), 30 Oct. 1628
Stephen Nicholls married Anne Brige (?), 31 Dec.(?) 1629
Thomas Nicholls married Anne Smyth (?), 11 Oct. 1636
(No more Nicholls marriages listed)

Correspondence:   If you have any information about the folks mentioned in this article, please send your information to us at the Prentice Newsletter. Be sure to give the full title and date of this article in the Subject line of the email.

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