Many people have spent very many frustrating hours trying to find the origins of William Emptage of Queenborough, Isle of Sheppey.
He is said to have been born c1720 though we on Team Emptage have not yet seen a baptism record nor any other evidence for this.
Emptage births and baptisms database
We have an extensive Emptage births and baptism database, with details gathered from parish registers, civil registration, wills and estate papers, using online sources and copies of wills or probate grants of administration.
Unfortunately, not all baptism registers have survived (due to the effects of mice, damp, mould and even the English Civil War), whilst some pages have been damaged and not all the entries are legible, often due to the bleed through of ink from the other side of the page.
The image shows the baptism of Ann, daughter of Jeffery Emptadge, in 1635 at St Lawrence, Thanet and demonstrates the problems we experience in deciphering early parish register entries.
The first entry on the baptism database is in 1560, in Thanet. As we know from the wills, there were Emptages in Thanet before 1560 and so this implies that either the registers were not kept from 1538, as ordered by Thomas Cromwell following the establishment of the Church of England, or that the earlier records on loose paper pages were not copied on to parchment pages which were to be preserved in a bound book as they should have been in 1598.
For the first 100 years or so, only the father’s name was given in baptism registers, which it makes it difficult to decide whether the children named are of one person or of cousins with the same name living in the same parish. Even when the mother’s name began to be added, the details provided varied from parish to parish, with occasional blank spaces where the mother’s name should be. The father’s occupation wasn’t added until many years later
We know that the baptism registers are incomplete as we find burials for children or adults for whom there is no baptism record or children referred to in a will who do not appear in the baptism registers.
Not all parish registers have been digitised yet. We have to work with what we have at the moment and sometimes we have to draw conclusions or make reasoned conjecture based on the evidence which is available to us.
Looking at the database, frustratingly, there is only one William baptism close to 1720 in baptism year. He was born in 1722, in Folkestone but he died the following year.
William Emptage of Queenborough
William married Ann Fisher in Queenborough in 1746 and set up home there. Unusually for the time, Ann was a divorcee. As Ann Bassett, she’d married Henry Fisher in 1735, when she was 16.
William and Ann had six children between 1747 and 1759, named Bassett Will (1747-1748), John, Mary (1753-1753), Susannah, Frances and Bassett (1759-1760). Ann also died in 1760, aged 41.
William died in 1762, whilst serving in the Royal Navy, on His Majesty’s Ship Princess Caroline, an 80 gun ship of the line, with a crew complement of 476.
He left three surviving children: James aged 13, Susannah, 8 and Frances, 5.
William had a brother, John, whose first wife, Susannah, died in 1751. He then married Sarah. The surnames of the two wives are not known. He had five children born between 1748 and 1757, all baptised in the dockyard church in Sheerness. Sadly his four sons, named John, William (x2) and Joseph, died in infancy but his daughter Elizabeth survived and married William Smith in Minster, Sheppey in 1766.
[The names of children are important as they often allow us to trace members across generations of the same family, especially if they are unusual but, unfortunately, the names John, William, Mary and Elizabeth are the most popular in our baptism database.]
Following his brother’s death, in 1763 John was made guardian of William’s three surviving children.
Probate 6/138 Middlesex Admon June 1763 William Emptage:
On the 17th day admon. of the goods and chattels and credits of William Emptage,
deceased, late of Queenborough in the county of Kent, but belonging to His Majesty’s Ship Princess Caroline was granted to Mary Waterer widow, accrediting of the said deceased, having been first sworn duly to administer John Emptage the uncle, next of kin and curator or guardian lawfully signed to John Emptage and Ann Emptage, both minors, and Francis Emptage an infant the natural and lawful and only children of the said deceased first remaining. Dec 1763.
Susannah (named Ann in the document) died a year later, aged 10, leaving John, who was born in 1749 and Frances who was born in 1757. She married James Bacheldor in Queenborough in 1783.
Her brother John married Mary Holmden in 1773, in Queenborough. Through John and Mary, William of Queenborough was the ancestor of the all Emptages born in Sheppey from 1773 onwards and who migrated from there to Grimsby or Woolwich. So William is an important figure in the history of the wider Emptage family and we would like to know his origins.
As all of William and John’s children were born between 1747 and 1759 it would seem that the brothers may have been fairly close in age. If they were aged between 20 and 40 when the children were born, William and John would have been born between 1707 and 1727.
The Isle of Sheppey is just a few miles along the Kent coast from the Isle of Thanet and we have believed for several years that William was connected to the Emptages of Thanet. Our theory has been proved by DNA testing, with a genetic match between a descendant of William and a descendant of Henry Emptage and Ann Peal, one of the two branches of Emptages in Thanet.
However, the questions remain: who was William and who were his ancestors?
We have been looking at the puzzle as if William suddenly arrived on Sheppey from elsewhere. Indeed, he may have done so. He was in the Royal Navy and there was a large naval base and dockyard at Sheerness, Sheppey. It is possible his ship docked there for repair, refitting or supplies and he met a lady, married her and set up home there, as so many sailors have done in so many ports over the centuries. It is exactly what William’s two mariner great grandsons, James and William, did when they left their then home in Filey, Yorkshire and married two women from the thriving port of Grimsby some ninety years after William of Queenborough died.
Past research seems to have concentrated on linking William directly to one of the Emptages of Thanet, even to establishing that he was born in Thanet. However, there is an important fact that I had not realised until a few months ago: that William and John were not the first Emptages to set foot on the Isle of Sheppey.
When I drew up William and Ann’s family tree I noted that there were a number of Emptage marriages, baptisms and burials in Sheppey during the 1700s which were apparently unconnected with William or his brother John. There were four other families.
Edward Emptidge married Elizabeth Twopenny in Warden, Sheppey, in 1700.
Elizabeth was baptised in Eastchurch, the daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth, in 1681. Eastchurch is less than four miles from Warden.
Edward and Elizabeth had a son named John, baptised at Warden in 1701. Edward died there in 1713.
John Emptage married Mary Bunduck in Woodnesborough in 1709.
Woodnesborough is not far from Sandwich, which was then a port on the Kent coast, just south of the Isle of Thanet. John was noted in the register as being a “batchelor of Sheerness, sawyer” and Mary from the parish of St Peter, Sandwich. They married by licence rather than the calling of banns. John and Mary set up home in Sheerness, Sheppey.
The baptism register for the Dockyard Church at Sheerness shows they had at least three children baptised there: Francis (son) baptised and buried in 1710, Mary baptised in 1711 and Frances (daughter) in 1713. There may have been another child as the name of an Emptage child baptised there in 1716 is illegible.
They also had a daughter Jane, who was buried in Minster, Sheppey, in 1724 and in the same year, Mary, noted as the widow of John, was buried there. We have no way of knowing whether it was Jane’s baptism in 1716 or whether it was for another child. Unfortunately, we are going by transcriptions rather than being able to view the actual image.
There is no baptism record for Mary Bunduck in 1680 +/- 20 years but there was a baptism of Jane Bundick in 1689 in Sandwich, the daughter of Francis and Jane Bundick. It seems quite probable that Jane and Mary were sisters and that John and Mary named their children after Mary’s parents.
The question is: how did John from Sheerness come to marry a girl from Woodnesborough in 1709? By today’s roads, they are some 50 miles apart.
William Emptage married Elizabeth Pummey in 1711 in Minster, Sheppey.
Both were of the same parish at the time of the marriage. They had at least one son, Joseph, baptised in 1714, buried in 1730, described in the burial register as a youth. William died in 1718.
Elizabeth was baptised in Minster in 1678, the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Pummy, meaning that she was 33 when she married William. It would seem that Elizabeth’s mother died and that Joseph married Margret and had at least two children in Minster: Margret in 1679 and Joseph in 1684. Presumably William and Elizabeth named their son Joseph after her father.
John Emptage married Elizabeth Taylor in 1726, in Minster, Sheppey.
Both were of the parish of Minster. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Taylor was a common name in Kent at the time but there was an Elizabeth Taylor baptised in Harty, Sheppey in 1691.
They had at least one son, Dearing, born in 1730. John died in 1743 and was buried in Minster. Dearing died aged 24, a sawyer, and was buried at the Dockyard Church in 1754.
Dearing used as the first name is unusual with very few recorded in the baptism registers. Such names are often that of the mother or grandmother’s maiden name, used as a first or middle name for the child, as has happened with the Emptages of Thanet, where the name Lindsey has continued through the years to the present day since Isabel Brett, daughter of Mary Brett whose maiden name was Lindsey, married Humphrey Emptage in 1815.
In other cases, the name was not of somebody who was related but was given to honour a benefactor.
Searching the baptism registers for the surname Dearing, we find that, there were 18 baptisms around Kent, 10 of which were in Sandwich between 1641 and 1701.
This could be significant as we know that Mary Bunduck [Bundick] who married John Emptage in 1709 was from the parish of St Peter, Sandwich, though the marriage was in Woodnesborough, two miles from Sandwich.
An Elizabeth Emptage, widow, was buried in Minster in 1746. Was this the widow of John, who had died in 1743, or the widow of William, who had died so many years before, in 1718?
From the dates I’m inclined to think that the Elizabeth who died in 1746 was the widow of John but that is simply a feeling, nothing more.
Evidently John and Elizabeth Taylor married too late to be the parents of William born c1720 but it is quite possible that William and his brother John were the children of one of the first three marriages.
Unaccounted for baptism
Susanna Emptage was baptised in 1795 at Queenborough. Her mother was given as Susanna but there was no father, indicating that the infant was illegitimate and, indeed, there is a Bb note on the register, confirming that she was base born. Being baptised in 1795 would make her of William’s grandchildren’s generation. As far as we can ascertain, William’s daughter Susannah was born in 1754 and died in 1764, aged 10.
Of course, the mother may not have been from Sheppey but merely gone there to have the child. If she was aged say 15 to 35, Susanna would have been born between 1760 and 1780. Unfortunately, there is no likely candidate on the baptism database anywhere.
Unaccounted for burials
Besides the burials of Mary and Elizabeth, mentioned above, there were also:
John in 1764, in Minster and William in 1770 in Minster, noted as a lad.
There is also an entry for Hannah, buried in 1765, but as it has the same burial date, 12 September, as Susannah, William’s daughter, it appears to be a mis transcription.
As is usual in family history, there are more questions than answers.
Was the John the sawyer, who died in 1743, the husband of Elizabeth Taylor, the same John who was baptised in Warden in 1701? If Elizabeth was the infant baptised in Harty in 1691, she would have been nine years older than her husband. By today’s road, Harty is five miles from Warden, across what were then marshes, with just one road into Harty, leading to a ferry to the mainland.
Which John was buried in 1764? Might it have been the brother of William of Queenborough, dying within a couple of years of his brother?
Or was there another John, not yet identified?
How many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle forming the Emptages of Sheppey are still missing?
It is very clear is that by spending time looking in Thanet for the birth of William of Queenborough, supposedly in 1720, we are ignoring those other Emptages who were on Sheppey before he married Ann Fisher in 1746 and who may or may not have been his close relatives.
- Edward who married Elizabeth Twopenny in Warden, Sheppey, in 1700,
- John, who was resident in Sheerness, who married Mary Bundick in 1709, in Woodnesborough, near Sandwich,
- William Emptage who married Elizabeth Pummey in 1711 in Minster, Sheppey,
- John Emptage who married Elizabeth Taylor in 1726, in Minster, Sheppey.
Given the closeness of the dates, what are the chances that those first three marriages were of brothers? If so, who were their parents? It is evident that we are looking for them sometime in the late 1600s. Are we asking the impossible?
More on the off chance than in actual expectation, I examined our baptism database and, assuming that the grooms were aged between 20 and 30 on marriage, I found:
- 1676, Edward, son of John and Mary, at Sandwich, Kent. He would have been 24 in 1700.
- 1682, John, son of John and Mary, at Sandwich. He would have been 27 in 1709.
- 1685, William, son of John and Mary at Sandwich. He would have been 26 in 1711.
This Edward is the only suitable candidate and, whilst there were other Johns and other Williams baptised in the years we’re looking at, only these three had the same parents.
With no matching entries in the burial register, all three sons appear to have survived childhood.
As well as the three sons, John and Mary had two daughters: Elizabeth, baptised in Sandwich in 1678 and Mary, baptism date unknown but died in 1679 and buried in Sandwich.
1674, John Emptage senior married Mary Benford, a widow, in Sandwich.
A householder named John Emptage was buried in 1687 in Sandwich. With no other Emptages in Sandwich, this must have been John senior.
The children would have been aged between 2 and 11 when her husband died so, already widowed once, it’s quite probable that, unless her husband left her well provided for, Mary married again.
There is a marriage for a Mary Emptage to John Coleborne in Sandwich in 1691 though there is no note to say she was a widow, as there is for other women on the same page.
However, it seems likely as, for this to have been a marriage of a daughter Mary, married at say 16, she would have been born very close after John and Mary’s marriage and, if she had survived, there would have been no need to name another daughter Mary, who died in 1679.
Did Edward move to Sheppey and his brothers join him over the years or did they all move together? We know Edward was there in 1700 and John already there when he returned to Woodnesborough, near Sandwich, to marry Mary Bundick in 1709.
Sandwich is an historic town on the river Stour in Kent. Still a thriving port in the 17th century, it is now two miles inland due to the silting up of the Wansum Channel, which separated the Isle of Thanet from the rest of Kent. Sandwich is on the opposite side of the channel from Thanet.
It seems clear that the three brothers moved from Sandwich to the Isle of Sheppey. And, with
the children of John and Mary being the first Emptage baptisms in Sandwich, it is also clear that John Emptage arrived there from elsewhere. But from where?
So our next question is: can we identify which John married Mary Benford, the widow, in Sandwich?
Working to the same principle, that John was no younger than 20 when he married Mary we’re looking for a John baptised no later than 1654.
There are four possible candidates baptised between 1639 and 1656, all in Thanet, two in St Lawrence [Ramsgate] and two in St Peters [Broadstairs] though the fourth was probably too young:
- 1639, John, son of Jeffery and Ann, St Lawrence,
- 1641, John, son of Robert and Susanna, St Lawrence,
- 1647, John, son of William and Ann, St Peters,
- 1656, John, son of John and Ann, St Peters.
[The vicar in St Lawrence at the time spelt the name as Emptadge.]
Ramsgate is still a commercial port and Broadstairs is now a seaside resort but still has a fishing fleet. By modern roads, Ramsgate is less than 10 miles from Sandwich and Broadstairs is just a mile or so further east from Ramsgate.
We have established that there was only one Emptage family in Sandwich at the time, that of John and Mary Benford but were there any other Emptages in the area, to whom John may have been connected?
Two miles from Sandwich, at Woodnesborough, we find Richard Emptage and his wife Margaret Eastland. They married in 1668 in Woodnesborough and had six children: Robert 1669-1669, Richard 1670-1670, William 1672, Ann 1674, Margaret 1676 and Richard 1686. The family seems to have moved around as the baptisms took place in Woodnesborough, Eastry and Ash, all within one or two miles of each other and of Sandwich.
These were the only Emptages in the area so could John and Richard have been brothers who had moved from elsewhere?
Assuming that Richard was aged between 20 and 30 when he married Margaret, we’re looking for a Richard baptised between 1638 and 1648.
The only candidate is Richard, baptised in 1639 in St Lawrence, the son of Robert and Susan. He would have been 29 when he married.
So we now have:
- 1639, Richard, son of Robert and Susan, St Lawrence. He would have been 29 in 1668.
- 1641, John, son of Robert and Susanna, St Lawrence. He would have been 33 in 1674.
- 1649, Ann, daughter of Robert and Susan, St Lawrence.
The parish register give us the marriage:
1638, Robert Emptage to Sus Ruff, St Lawrence.
However, there were other children born to Robert before 1638, presumably from his marriage to Mary Wappall in 1623, in Sandwich. The children were all baptised in St. Lawrence, indicating that the marriage had taken place in the bride’s parish but that their home was in St Lawrence. Through his first marriage, Robert probably established connections with the Sandwich area, connections which could prove useful in the future.
The only baptism candidate for Robert is:
1589, Robert, son of Thomas, baptised in St Peter, Thanet.
We now have several links between the Emptages of Sheppey and Sandwich, and between Emptages of the Sandwich and Woodnesborough area and the Emptages of St Lawrence and St Peter in Thanet.
Early wills of Emptages who lived in St Lawrence, St Peter and St Nicholas at Wade (who we believe to be related) show that they were yeomen. From the 15th century, the expression yeomen referred to commoners who owned and cultivated their own land whether freehold, leasehold or copyhold.
They were farmers who generally owned not less than 100 acres and could be quite wealthy. They were one step down from landed gentry but above the smaller landowners known as husbandmen.
Sons learnt their business on the family farm and then had to find their own home, especially if they wanted to marry. They either had to persuade somebody to sell part of their land, which was unlikely, or wait for a farm to be for sale, perhaps through the death of the owner.
If the father leased his farm from a manorial estate, the estate manager would get to know the family and could recommend the son to take over the lease on another farm on the estate when it became vacant. Such estates were often quite widespread and contained several farms.
Unlike the sons and daughters of agricultural labourers, who married quite young, the children of yeoman would marry later, once the son had learnt his trade from his father and the daughter had learnt her role from her mother.
The sons would learn to manage the fields and plough them, grow and harvest the crops and to rear and look after the livestock which would provide food or income, such as cattle, sheep and pigs and the horses or oxen which drew the plough.
The daughters would learn not just to launder the clothes, cook and to bake bread and look after the house but to grow herbs for cooking and herbs with medicinal qualities to make into potions for the family members and farm workers who were ill or injured. Bees would be kept for honey, chickens for eggs, cows for milk and the daughters would learn to make cheese and butter. They’d spin wool from the fleeces of sheep and weave it into cloth for blankets and clothes using the natural dyes, such as woad, from the plants they grew. Wax from the bee hives would be used to make good candles. Agricultural workers would use tallow from rendered animal fat to make inferior candles.
Both sons and daughters would learn to buy and sell at market and to employ the servants and farm labourers who attended the market to offer themselves for work.
A son setting up his own farm had to not only know his trade but needed to marry a woman who knew and could manage her role within the establishment, to bring added value to it. Through their father’s connections, which often extended beyond the immediate area, they would meet a suitable woman. Very often, families were joined together through marriage for strategic reasons.
I have no evidence but, from what we know of other Emptages in Thanet at the time, it seems highly possible that John and Richard, sons of Robert Emptage and Sus [Susan or Susanna] Ruff of St Lawrence were yeomen, who made their homes in Woodnesborough and Sandwich.
John’s son John, although already living on Sheppey, married Mary Bundick from Sandwich, though the marriage took place in Woodnesborough. It is highly likely that he’d known her from his time in Sandwich and perhaps maintained contact with her through his uncle Richard in Woodnesborough.
We started this research to look for the ancestors of William Emptage of Queenborough, possibly born in 1720, and his brother John, neither of whom have baptism register entries.
We have found three families on the Isle of Sheppey who were there at the time when William was supposedly born, who were married in 1700, 1709 and 1711.
The three families were headed by Edward, John and William, who appear to have been three brothers who were baptised in Sandwich. Their father John quite possibly moved to Sandwich from St Lawrence, Isle of Thanet.
Any one of those three brothers could have been William and John’s father but my hypothesis is that they were the sons of John Emptage and Mary Bundick, whose parents were Francis and Jane Bundick.
John and Mary’s known children were born or died between 1710 and 1724. They named their son Francis but he died in 1710, the same year he was born. They then named a daughter Frances in 1713.
If William was born c1720 and his brother John was similar in age, they would be the younger children of John and Mary. There was a baptism in 1716 but, according to the transcription, the name is illegible. This could have been Jane, who died in 1724, William or John.
William married Ann Fisher in 1746. They named one of their daughter Frances, baptised in 1757. Was she named after William’s siblings and his maternal grandfather, Francis Bundick?
I believe this to be a carefully researched and reasoned hypothesis which explains how the Emptages of Sheppey were linked to the Emptages of Thanet, as proved by DNA testing and I offer it for consideration. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or suggestions.
The tree which sets out this hypothesis of the migration of the Emptages from the Isle Thanet to the Isle of Sheppey is here.
Update 24 August 2017
Making the link between Thanet and Sheppey via Sandwich was all very good but since I’m a nosey person when it comes to family history, I was left wanting to know why the three brothers moved from Sandwich to Sheppey.
Yesterday, simply in passing, I came across a marriage in Warden, Sheppey in 1671, between Thomas Emptage and Mary Muddle. Both were resident in Warden. I’ve not found any baptisms for any children for them.
Warden is where Edward, the eldest of the Sandwich brothers, married Elizabeth Twopenny in 1700, the first one of the three to marry and move to Sheppey.
So, I’m hypothesising that Thomas was married in Warden to Mary Muddle, that they didn’t have children but that they had land. Having no immediate family to pass the land on to, they chose a relative, Edward.
And that, once there, Edward told his brothers that Sheppey offered good opportunities and they moved to the island too.
So the questions are:
What relationship was Thomas and Edward?
Who was Thomas?
What took Thomas to Sheppey and when?
The problem with those questions is that they all feature Thomas. And Thomas was a very popular name amongst the early Emptages.
However, it is something to bear in mind as we study the pieces of the puzzle which is those early Emptages.
The different spellings of the name Emptage are of no relevance.
There was no standard spellings in those days and the spellings in the parish registers were phonetic, merely reflecting what the vicar or church warden thought they had heard. Pity a vicar who was not from the local area who found himself somewhere with a strong local dialect or accent and had to write down what he heard. Plus, some vicars themselves were not particularly well educated.
Alas, there was little consistency. Even the playwright William Shakespeare was said never to spell his name the same way twice. We have evidence of the same name being spelt different ways in a document or on a memorial stone.
So the fact that the name was spelt Emptage, Emptidge, Emptadge or Emphage in different places does not mean that the same spelling would be used elsewhere. So searching for connections through the spelling is of little use.
Parish registers as available on FindMyPast.co.uk and Ancestry.co.uk and elsewhere.
Dockyard Church, Sheppey: baptisms (no marriages or burials):
Google maps for distance between places.