Sunday, February 20, 2011

Line 3.1 William Fisher, Surfing the Wake of the Puritian Wave

Robert Fisher lived through the reign of Henry VIII, though his son, Edward VI’s reign and through his daughter Mary I’s reign. He probably died early in the reign of Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII. William was born about the time Henry VIII became infatuated with Anne Boleyn and his life was most assuredly colored by the changing religious ideals of the English Reformation, begun because of a lack of a male heir and the infatuation of a king for a young maiden.

William Fisher was born about 1527 probably in Syleham, Suffolk, England
Married Margerie Bert daughter of William Bert and his wife Johan Godbold
Died 1591 in St. James South Elmham, Suffolk, England
The children of William and Margerie Fisher were:
1.   Johanna Fisher who married George Bugge
2.   William Fisher who married Alice Anne Aldous
3.   Anthony Fisher who married Mary Fiske
4.   Agnes Fisher who died young
5.   Jane Fisher who married Francis Wolnaugh
Genealogists like “just the facts” but it is nearly impossible to not wonder what sort of dreams and hopes our ancestors had. We can follow the facts and make some guesses, just as I have with Robert Fisher. His son, again, provides little personality to his records but his children and grandchildren give us an idea of the leanings of the Fisher family and in later Tudor and Stuart generations, these leanings are puritanical.

William would have been a small child when England slit from the Roman Catholic Church and Henry VIII declared himself the Supreme Head of the English Church. The future Mary I was about ten years older then William. He was a few years older then the princess who would become Elizabeth I and a few more years older then the future Edward VI. William and his peers were of a generation very much felt the Reformation movement to it’s fullest, swinging back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism. In 1547, as he entered manhood, young William watched as the young Edward VI took the crown and continued the Protestant movement. A few years later as a young father, he learned of the nine-day rule of the Lady Jane Grey and then the ascension of the Roman Catholic Mary I. In 1558, Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth ascended the throne of England and again the religious order of England was changed.  One has to wonder at the bewilderment of the congregation at the little Norman church in Syleham as it slide from Protestant to Catholic and back again.

Church records record that “William ffissher and Margaret Bert” married 15 Oct 1551 in Stradbroke, Suffolk, England. According to his will William purchased properties in both Cransford, which lay nine miles from Stadboke and Swefling, which was two and a half miles beyond Cransford. Because William and Margaret’s children were baptized in both the Stadbroke and Syleham churches, they probably lived on the boundary of these two villages. Whether they lived in Stadborke or Swefling is unknown. But they did moved to the parish of St. James South Elmham, seven miles northeast of Stradbroke, which is still in county Suffolk.
William died in 1591, twelve years before his queen, Elizabeth I. His will was dated 14 June 1591 and probated 9 Aug 1591. It names "welbeloved wiffe Margerie" sons Anthony and William; his sister Anne Forder and her daughter Rose “Fordr”, his grandson Cornelius Fisher and the three sons of his daughter Johannes and their sister. William Fisher Jr’s son, Anthony’s two sons and daughter and the "the childe or children that my saide dawghter Jane is now bigge wth all [if] god give her saffe delyverie" as well as "Cornelius the sonne of Francys Wolnaughe [Jane's son]”

William Fisher was living in ST. James South Elmham when he wrote his own last will and testament, 'scripte by me will'm Fisher,' 14 June 1591.” He died shortly after writing his will as it probated 9 August 1591, less then two months later. His will indicates that that he was part of the yeoman class of English citizens, but on the gentleman end rather then the husbandman end as he names no animals or grains which husbandmen usually counted in their wills. However he did name implements in his will which indicates animals that worked or grazed the land which were probably owned by renters.

William provided his "welbeloved wiffe" Margerie, for life, "all my free holde landes and Ten'tes and Indenture or lease lande lyinge and beinge in Sarlehame [Syleham],’ and after his wife's decease these properties should go to their son Anthony. Anthony was also to receive 'all suche moveable goods as are in his Witcihngham hall one fether bedde and one coveringe wth fetherbedde posted bedsteade and coveringe I give unto Margery my wiffe.' Also, 'the rest of the Evidence concerning the landes before devised to Anthonye my sonne I will that they shoulde be delyvered to him' (referrring probably to the Syleham lands, mentioned earlier in the will). Son William was to inherit the lands in Swefling and Cransford, and each year he was to pay to "Margerie his mother" an anunity ofL6. . . William also bequeathed to his son William 'all suche stuffe of howsholde as I have remayninge in his custodie and possession and all my Armor bookes and suche Evidence as I have concernynge the landes before devised to him.'...[William also bequested] to 'Anne Fordre my sister' 40s and "Rose Forder her daughter' was to receive 26s 8d at her day of marriage." William gave Token legacies to his grandchildren: 'my dawghter Joannes thre sonnes...and their sister,' 'my sonne Will'm Fishers dawghter,' 'my sonne Anthonye Fishers two sonnes....and their sister,' and 'my daughter Janes sonne...and...his siter...and the childe or children that my saide dawghter is now digge with all [if] god give her saffe delyverie.' In another part of the will William named Jane's son: 'Cornelius the sonne of Francys Wolnaughe.' Margerie and son, William were named executors."
Many Puritans came from the Syleham area of Suffolk, so it is very likely that William leaned toward that theology. His children and grandchildren certainly did.

1.      New England Historical and Genealogy Resgister, April 1997 “The Bert Ancestors in England of Fisher Families in Early New England
2.      New England Historical and Genealogy Register, Vol 151, April 1997 "The English Ancestry of New England Settlers Joshua and Anthony Fisher" by Myrtle Stevens Hyde and John Plummer
3.   Transcript of Parish Records, Stradborke,

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