It’s just 13 generations between me and a Catholic martyr.
My ancestor, Elizabeth Bowling, was married to immigrant Thomas Speak(e), sometime before November of 1663, probably in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. In the fall of 2013, the Speak Family Association undertook a trip back to the homeland of both Speak and Bowling families, both from Lancashire, England, about 30 miles distant from each other. In preparation for the trip, I compiled information about the Bowling family from various sources. Aside from the DNA portion, little of this is my original research. I am grateful to all of the original contributors for their diligence and hard work, much of it done in the churches in England.
According to cousin Harold Speake, now deceased, Thomas Speak(e), who may have been an indentured servant, arrived from England sometime before 1662. We know that in 1662, he was arrested for debt, so he had been here long enough to acquire that debt.
We know that Maryland was organized as a haven for Catholics, persecuted in England, and the Speake family was indeed Catholic. They were in England, their family records being found in the original Catholic, now Protestant, church in Gisburn, and they were in the colonies as well. Bowling Speake, born in 1674, the son of Thomas Speake and Elizabeth Bowling was prosecuted and proudly pled guilty in June of 1752 for publicly drinking to the health of the “Pretender,” the Catholic and deposed King James. In other words, Bowling was Catholic and proudly and publicly so, regardless of the consequences.
The Bowling family was also Catholic in England as well as in Maryland. They lived near and in the village of Chorley and the area of Charnock Richard, some 30 miles from Gisburn, in Lancashire. The Bowling family members found themselves on the list of recusants, in other words, devout, religious warriors or stubborn, unrepentant Catholics, depending on your perspective.
On the map below, A is Chorley and B is Gisburn, both in Lancashire.
No record of the marriage of Elizabeth Bowling and Thomas Speake has been found in the UK churches, so it’s presumed that they married after both families settled in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. They probably both lived at or near Boarman’s Manor, given that Elizabeth’s brother James is recorded as living there. There was only one Catholic church in that area at that time, and both families likely attended. We were told during our visit in 2011 that the early church services were held in people’s homes. If your religion was enough to lose your land and your life for, holding and attending services was something that would have been a very important part of everyday life. And of course, they would have sought other Catholics to marry.
In his article, “The Bowlings of Boarman’s Manor,” Jeffrey Wills, Bowling family historian, tells us that the records of early Maryland give evidence of the Bowling family starting with James Bowling (1636-1693) who arrived in the province sometime before 1658. The Bowlings became associated with other Catholics who eventually settled on Boarman’s Manor in what is now Charles County, Maryland. James had no children from his two marriages, but his will makes clear that there were descendants from his siblings, John (died 1684), Thomas (died 1700) and Elizabeth who married Thomas Speake.
Jeffrey states that the family in Maryland was Catholic and possibly shoemakers by trade. Court records exist that establish relationships with a couple of people, neither of whom have been identified, but the most important clue to the Bowling origin comes from a 1734 deposition, where it is stated that John Bowling, brother to James, “came from Lancashire and left a brother there by the name of Roger Bowling” (Charles Co. Court Rec. R2, 528). Now we have the names of three brothers: John, James and Roger Bowling.
The Bowlings In Lancashire
In Lancashire, practically the only family of the Bowling name is one centered in Charnock Richard in the parish of Standish. T. C. Porteus, in his 1927 history of the parish, describes the township of Charnock Richard as “a nursery of recusants,” meaning a hotbed of Catholic nonconformity to the new Elizabethan church. Among the recusants listed there in 1628 are a John Bowling and wife. The township of Chorley is adjacent and there is a village of Chesham is about 15 miles southeast, shown on the Lancashire map below, both names that the Bowling family of Maryland used for their land holdings.
One problem with the Bowling family, and most English families of this timeframe, is that they reused every first name in every generation. That means if your father’s name was John, then one son would be named John, and one grandchild in every child’s family would be named John. If the original John had 10 living children, that means he had 1 son John and 10 grandsons John and in the next generation, using the same math, there would be 100 Johns in just the original John’s line. And every family had someone named John. If you were lucky, your ancestor was named something like Balthasar, not John. But in both the Speake and Bowling families, there were lots of Johns, James and Williams, etc.
Originally, the Bowling family that James and Elizabeth belonged to were identified as the children of Roger Bowling of Charnock Richard, a shoemaker who wrote a will 17 Sept. 1673, proved on 10 Nov. 1673. He refers to his children: John Bowling, Thomas Bowling, James Bowling, Ann Bowling, Jenet Bowling, eldest daughter Elizabeth (wife of John Catliffe). He also mentioned a grandson Roger Bowling, son of John.
However, the information about Elizabeth Bowling being married to John Catliffe, given that “our” Elizabeth married Thomas Speake, had to be reconciled. Some have suggested that John Speake, the innkeeper, might have been Thomas Speake’s child by a first, unknown, wife, with Elizabeth perhaps marrying Thomas as a widow in 1773, having Bowling in 1774. There is no evidence to support this speculation.
The Bowlings in England are not easy to unravel.
The baptisms of about fifty Bowlings are attested from the 1550 to 1650, and Roger is a name found in several generations, so locating the specific line is not straightforward. The fact that there is no baptismal record for the children mentioned in Roger’s will of 1673 suggests that there could be many more Bowlings than attested in the Anglican church records. Of course, Catholics attempted to prevent their children from being baptized in the Anglican church – and apparently often succeeded, much to the chagrin of genealogists today.
Jeffrey suggested that Elizabeth Bowling Speak’s line was as follows:
- Elizabeth, daughter of
- Roger “the shoemaker” Bowling, born 1619 who married Elizabeth, son of
- Hugh Bowling, born 1591 who married Ellen Finch, son of
- Raffe Bollling
Shirley Bowling Platt along with Jean Purdy, in England, have put together a summary of information as well. Shirley was kind enough to send me her detailed work, for which I am exceedingly grateful, and I have extracted from it below.
Jean and Shirley found additional information that proves that our Elizabeth Bowling was not the Elizabeth Bowling who married John Catliffe, so our Elizabeth was not Roger the shoemaker’s daughter.
Jean says, “Burt saw Roger’s original will which is now too fragile to see. He thought her husband’s name was Ratcliffe. I have never found any Catliffes, but Radcliffes or Ratcliffes abound. The family originated in Radcliffe Towers, the ruins of which are about 200 yards from where I live. The chapel there was used by Catholics throughout the penal years. Steuart Bowling drew my attention to a marriage in 1672 on IGI of a John Radcliffe to Elizabeth? at Saddleworth Yorkshire. The place is misleading as it is actually on the Lancashire side of the Pennines, just above Oldham and is now part of the Greater Manchester connurbation. I have been to the church and Elizabeth Bowling of Charnock Richard married John Radcliffe (son of Alexander) at Saddleworth church in 1671. Sadly she is also buried there in 1676 and John married again in 1680.”
Therefore, we confirm that our Elizabeth is not the daughter of Roger Bowling.
Shirley and Jean attribute our Elizabeth Bowling to Hugh Bowling and Ellen Fynch/Finch, so eliminating Roger the shoemaker and attributing Elizabeth to Hugh directly and not as a grandchild. A daughter Elizabeth was born to Hugh and Ellen in Charnock Richard in June of 1635 and died in March of 1637/38. A second daughter Elizabeth was born to this couple on 25 Oct 1641, also in Charnock Richard, Lancashire. She was christened on 25 Oct 1641 in Standish. This is believed to be our Elizabeth who died before 1692 in St. Mary’s County, MD.
The rest of the children’s names proven through James Bowling’s will are found in this family as well, at least the ones we know, so this certainly seems to be the right family.
Shirley and Jean’s proposed ancestry for Elizabeth, listing oldest generation first, was as follows:
- Robert Bowling born 1520 in Chorley married Agnes, last name unknown, who died on April 26, 1566 in Chorley
- Hugh Bowling born 1540 and died July 17, 1598, married Constance Bibbie on 12 May 1560 in St. Wilfred’s, Standish, Lancashire. Constance was born about 1540 and was buried on 18 Dec 1601 in St. Wilfrid’s Church, Standish. This is the oldest Bowling burial record.
Perhaps she is buried here in the area where some stones have been cleared.
Or maybe here, near the church entrance, nourishing the newly planted trees.
Her funeral would have been preached in this stunningly beautiful church. This nave has heard many Bowling funerals over the centuries.
This exquisite carved cross has overseen many joyful and sorrowful events in the Bowling family – many baptisms, weddings and funerals. All of life’s events took place under the vigilance of this cross – first as Catholic and then as Anglican.
Most of the Bowlings, including Constance and her husband, Hugh, up until the early 1700s, were on Papists lists and/or fined for recusancy. Hugh Bowling and Constance Bibby were convicted of recusancy, which probably led to them losing their lands in 1591.
A record from Steuart Bowling (apparently translated from Latin):
Hugh Bowling of Charnock Richard, husbandman (small farmer); Constance Bowling of Charnock Richard, Roger Bowling of Charnock Richard, and Elizabeth of Charnock Richard, Cecily Bowling of Preston and John Pilkington of Coppull, husbandman, land in Coppull.” Choppull is adjacent to both Chorley and Charnock Richard.
- Raffe Bowling born 1563 in Chorley, Lancashire. He was christened on 4 Dec 1563 in Standish, Lancashire, probably in this same baptismal font, and died in 1600.
Raffe (Ralph) Bowling was in Leeds, Yorkshire as late as April 16, 1590 (christening record of his son, Rauffe)–but was in Chorley as early as 6 Aug 1591 (christening of his son Hughe). Raffe married Margaret Marston in 1588 in St. Peter’s, Leeds, Yorkshire. There is a question if Margaret Marston was the second wife of Raffe…since some of children were born before this marriage in 1588.
Jean Purdy states that there is no proof whatsoever that our Hugh’s father Ralph (Raafe) was the one marrying in Leeds. She searched all the records of people given leave to reside in Charnock Richard. This was necessary under the Poor Laws—-there was a John Bowling in the late 1600s—but no Ralph or Rafe.
- Hugh was born in 1591 in Charnock Richard, Lancashire. He was christened on 6 Aug 1591 in Chorley, most likely in the old bapistry, shown below, now retired, in St. Laurence in Chorley.
Hugh died on 7 Sep. 1651 in Charnock Richard and was buried on 7 Sep 1651 in Parish Church, Standish, Lancashire. Perhaps his coffin was carried in through this gate in the church wall.
Both Hugh and his wife Ellen’s funerals were most likely preached in this church, before their coffin was carried outside to be buried in the church yard.
Hugh’s grave is now unmarked someplace in the cemetery below.
The cemetery surrounds the church, some areas having been cleared of stones for maintenance. Some graves reused. The oldest stones, of course, would have been located closest to the church and now are, sadly, long gone.
The cemetery extends right up to the church walls, shown below.
Burial space was and remains an issue for all of these old churches. In some cases, extra land was annexed for the “burying ground,” but that wasn’t always possible. They had to make do with what they had and they did, using every possible inch and then reusing older graves whose families were no longer there or whose markers were not legible. Of course, there are also burials inside the church, in the floor and in crypts. Those burial locations were reserved for the wealthy or the notorious. Our family fell in neither category.
The death bed testament of Hugh Bowling gives his residence as “Bowleings Farm.” Later land records suggest this was at Four Lane Ends—where the lane in Charnock Richard crosses the road to Preston and Lancaster. There was another farm “Bowlings in the Fields,” which Jean believes belonged to the other branch of the family (that of Roger the Shoemaker). It was later acquired by Henry the Blacksmith’s Great Grandson, another Hugh Bowling, in the late 1700s. Jean was unable to pinpoint where that was—but the name suggests it was out of the village. Charnock Richard is about half way between Standish and Chorley.
Hugh married Ellen Fynch, daughter of Roger Fynch and Isabella or Elizabeth Brears on 9 Apr 1616 in St. Laurence Church, Chorley, Lancashire, probably entering through the front door shown below.
The Fynch Family
Ellyn Fynch was born in Jan 1597/1598 in Charnock Richard. She died on 13 Jun 1659 in Charnock Richard and was buried on 13 Jun 1659 in Standish Parish Churchyard, Lancashire, below.
It is believed that Roger Fynch (born 1573) is the son of John Finch (born circa 1548-84). He is believed to be the martyr, John Finch (Fynch), yeoman farmer of Eccleston, who was arrested at Christmas 1581, tried in Lancaster on April 18, 1584 on the charge of harboring Catholic Priests and subsequently found guilty and executed.
St. Mary’s the Virgin Church in Eccleston, below, dates to the 1300s, so it is likely the home church of John Fynch. The name of Eccleston itself came from the Celtic word “eglēs” meaning a church, and the Old English word “tūn” meaning a farmstead or settlement – i.e. a settlement by a Romano-British church. It’s quite ancient, having been mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086.
John Fynch’s devotion to the Catholic religion in the face of adversity is very likely representative of the devotion felt by the entire Catholic conclave in Lancashire.
John Fynch was a yeoman of Eccleston, Lancashire, from a Catholic family, but brought up an Anglican. When he was twenty years old he went to London where he spent nearly a year with some cousins at Inner Temple. While there he was struck by the contrast between Protestantism and Catholicism in practice, and determined to lead a Catholic life.
Failing to find advancement in London he returned to Lancashire where he was reconciled to the Catholic Church. He then married and settled down, his house becoming a center of missionary work, he himself harboring priests and aiding them in every way, besides acting as catechist. He drew on himself the hostility of the authorities, and at Christmas, 1581, he was entrapped into bringing a priest, George Ostliffe, to a place where both were apprehended. It was given out that Finch, having betrayed the priest and other Catholics, had taken refuge with the Earl of Derby, but in fact, he was kept in the earl’s house as a prisoner. For three years he was held prisoner in various locations and prisons, alternatively tortured and bribed to obtain information on other Catholics.
He was eventually removed to the Fleet Prison, Manchester, and afterwards to the House of Correction. When he refused to go to the Protestant church he was dragged there by the feet. Following that, he was returned to Lancashire where on April 19, 1584, he was tried with three priests, convicted and executed with Priest James Bell, on April 20, 1584 at Lancaster for secreting a Catholic priest for Christmas services and denying that the Queen was head of the Church.
John Fynch was Beatified in 1929 as one of the Lancashire Martyrs. Beatification in the Catholic Church is to be one of the blessed and thus worthy of public religious veneration in a particular region or religious congregation. The Catholic Church canonizes or beatifies only those whose lives have been marked by the exercise of heroic virtue, and only after this has been proved by common repute for sanctity and by conclusive arguments.
One of the church windows in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Chorley honors John Fynch of Eccleston who is pictured with a haystack, because they say, on the church website, that he was of “farming stock.” They also mention that John Finch’s relatives still live in the Mawdesley area. The map below shows that these locations are in relatively close proximity, 3 or 4 miles, to each other and also to Charnock Richard.
It seems that Bowling Speake came by his proud, defiant recussancy honestly. John Fynch, his great-great-great-great-grandfather, would have been proud of him, some 171 years after John’s own act of defiance and 168 years after his barbaric death, being drawn and quartered. I’m sure that Bowling knew that his great-great grandfather was a Catholic martyr. That isn’t a story that is lost in a Catholic family. I’m sure it was both a source of great pride and great sorrow.
I have to wonder where John Finch/Fynch was buried, if the family was allowed to gather what remains of him they could find and if they were allowed to bury anything. He surely would not have been buried in the churchyard which was Anglican at that time. So where was he buried, and the priest also killed with him?
In the book, “The Antiquities of Canterbury In two Parts” by Nicolas Battely it states that John Finch, William Selling and Thomas Goldston were “buried in the Martyrdom.” This is in the History of Christ-Church in Canterbury section, page 35. Elsewhere in the book, it says “John Finch – of this prior’s acts or what he did living, I have seen no monument, but that of him dead, you may find in the Martyrdom, where he lies interred under this broken Epitaph, which is in the Appendix Numb LV.” Other places in the book refer to the Martyrdom as an actual location and in one place it is called “The Altar of the Martyrdom of St. Thomas” in the cathedral.
To say I was excited by this was an understatement. It was about 3 AM – I was hyperventilating. Was it even possible that I had stumbled upon the final resting place of our John Finch? And if so, why didn’t they tell us this when we visited St. Mary’s church in Chorley? They had other information about the family- why not this? Something seemed wrong.
I found the book online, scanned by Google, but as luck would have it, the ONE page I needed, page 62 in the final appendix, had been missed during the scanning. I had to give up and go to bed, but not before sending a message to a cousin asking him to see if he could find the elusive page 62.
I had even found a picture of the altar near where John Finch is buried in Canterbury. The next day, cousin Jerry found page 62, I typed the Latin of John Finch’s epitaph into a Latin translator, and here’s the English equivalent, more or less:
“Here lies John Fynch of Winchelsey once prior to this ecclefise who takes on 9 January eificia conftrueta closing many other goods whose soul.”
I wondered where Winchelsey was, and set about to find out. I discovered that it is no place close to Lancashire, on the Southeast coast of England, and the John Fynch from Winchelsey was a politician that lived in the 1600s. Crumb. Crumb. Crumb. Not our John at all. Our John Fynch/Finch is still MIA. I hate wild goose chases and I felt terrible about involving my cousin in this one – getting everyone’s hopes up. But I’m very glad we persevered for page 62!
Elizabeth Bowling in America
Jean Purdy feels that Elizabeth Bowling accompanied her brothers, James, Thomas and John from England to Maryland, departing for America with her brothers Thomas and John after their mother died in 1659. James Bowling was already in Maryland by that time.
What we do know is that Elizabeth Bowling Speake was subpoenaed to court on November 3, 1663 to testify. She had son John Speak, the Innkeeper, whose birth was determined from 2 depositions given by John as an adult to have occurred in 1665. This implies her marriage about 1663, and possibly somewhat earlier, to Thomas Speake. She had son Bowling in 1674 according to numerous depositions given by Bowling throughout his lifetime. It’s rather unusual that they didn’t have any more children. Perhaps they had children that did not live to adulthood.
Thomas died in August of 1681, still a relatively young man of 48, his will leaving everything to his eldest son, John. He appoints his brother-in-law, James Bowling, his executor and wills “that my Loving brother in Law James Bowling hath the Disposall of my children to be brought up in the Roman Catholick faith.” Elizabeth was apparently gone too, less than age 50, by the time her brother James made his will in 1692. James was childless and left his estate to his siblings and the children of his siblings, including John and Bowling Speake.
It must have been difficult on John and Bowling Speak to lose their father in 1681, their mother sometime in the next decade, before 1692, and their uncle in 1692 who was or probably had been raising them. John would have been about 27 in 1692 and Bowling about 18. That’s a lot of loss and a rough beginning for 2 young men.
Beginning with John Finch, the Martyr, to me, we find the following:
- John Finch of Eccleston, the Martyr was born 1748, died April 20, 1584
- Roger Fynch born 1573-1642, Eccleston married Isabella or Elizabeth Brears (1569-1631) in Charnock circa 1595.
- Hugh Bowling was born in 1591 in Charnock Richard, Lancashire. He was christened on 6 Aug 1591 in Chorley. Hugh died on 7 Sep 1651 in Charnock Richard and was buried on 7 Sep 1651 in Parish Church, Standish, Lancashire. Hugh married Ellen Fynch, daughter of Roger Fynch and Isabella or Elizabeth Brears on 9 Apr 1616 in St. Laurence Church, Chorley, Lancashire.
- Thomas Speake (c 1634-1681) married Elizabeth Bowling (1642 – before 1692)
- Bowling Speake (1674-1755) married Mary Benson
- Thomas Speake (1698-1755) married Jane, last name unknown
- Charles Beckworth (or Beckwith) Speake (1741-1794) married Anne, last name unknown (1744-1789)
- Nicholas Speak (1782-1852) married Sarah Faires (1786-1852)
- Charles Speak (1804-1840/1850) married Ann McKee (1801/1805-1840/1850)
- Elizabeth Speak (1832-1903) married Samuel Claxton (Clarkson) (1827-1876)
- Margaret Claxton (1851-1920) married Joseph Bolton (1853-1920)
- Ollie Florence Bolton (1874-1955) married and divorced William George Estes (1873-1971)
- William Sterling Estes (my Dad) (1903-1963)
So there you go, just 13 generations between me and a Catholic martyr. Well, possibly, assuming all of that is correct.
What can we do, if anything, to solidify this connection? Can DNA help?
Can DNA Help?
How would we go about determining if there is a Finch connection in our Speak line? Actually, it’s in the Bowling line that feeds into the Speak line with the marriage of Elizabeth Bowling to Thomas Speake in Maryland in the 1660s. What this means is that if there is a Finch connection, every descendant of both the Bowling family in American through the Maryland group, and the Speaks family in America though Thomas and Elizabeth are descendants of the Finch family.
The first thing to do is to be sure that every Speak(e)(s) descendant who has taken an autosomal test is in the Speak project so that I, as the administrator, can see if they match any individuals with the ancestral or current surname of Finch.
Currently, we have 18 individuals in the Speak project who meet the criteria and have already taken the autosomal DNA test. When I began this comparison a few weeks ago, we had 12 Speak individuals, but I checked the matches of all 12 individuals and found another dozen or so autosomal matches to people with Speak lineage. I invited those people to join the Speak DNA project, even though they are not descended from the direct paternal line. In order to keep this straight, I have an autosomal grouping category in both the Y and mtDNA portions of the project since I’m actually using it for autosomal matching as well.
Next, I searched for Finch and Fynch matches for each of the project participants. It’s surprising how many I found. Among 12 participants, there were 42 Finch matches. Of those, four ancestral groups were repeated more than once. Looking at these groups, it’s possible that they could share a common ancestor between them. That is encouraging.
I checked the Finch DNA project to see if I can tell anything about the Finch groups I found with repeated autosomal matches to Speak descendants.
- John Finch born 1625 England – his son Guy Finch b Aug 18 1655 in Berkeley Gloucestershire, England d 1688 Calvert Co., MD, married Rebecca, daughter Mary Finch married Charles Beaven.
- Also in Calvert Co., MD, Elizabeth Finch born 1687 Woodbridge, Calvert Co., MD died in 1729 Charles Co MD married William Elder.
- Margaret Finch b c 1590 in Stanley, Gloucestershire, England married John Flood and died in Charles City, VA (also shown as Surry Co., VA)
- Stamford CT Finch group
- One lone person who says “Finch- Lancashire,” but doesn’t answer the e-mails
The Calvert County, MD group could well be Catholic as well.
The Finch DNA project and site tells us that the CT group is from Yorkshire. Unfortunately, the Calvert County group seems to be unrepresented in Y DNA testing. There are also no families from Charles City, VA or Surry Co., VA.
Even more encouraging is that one individual listed their Finch ancestor as being from Lancashire. Unfortunately, I e-mailed them and they have not yet replied.
Shortly, I’ll check the list of Speak participants for Bowling matches as well to see who we match in that line that I could invite to join the project to see if the Bowlings are descended from the Finch family utilizing the same methodology.
From this point forward, we need to do the Finch genealogy work on one hand, relative to the matches, and on the other, we need to work on triangulation to see if we can attribute a DNA match to two people who share the same common ancestral line. That would confirm, along with a match to us, that we do share that common ancestor with them.
However, our common Finch ancestor is many, many generations removed. Little of John Finch’s DNA may be remnant in his descendants – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to find it. You can’t fail if you don’t try, but you also can’t succeed!
This job will take a little bit of genealogy sleuthing, some genetic analysis, a dash of synchronicity and a huge dose of good luck.
Wish me luck!! I’ll get back with you on this one. I’m busy hunting for my magic DNA wand right now. A little bit of magic dust wouldn’t hurt either!