The Tilley family migration


The Tilley's of the New Forest

Ten generations ago, John Tilley was born in or nearby the small hamlet of Sopley, Hampshire, England, and the year was 1665.

This was not the John Tilley who was baptised on 19 December 1571 at Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, the son of Robert and Elizabeth Tilley. Who latter married Joan Rogers nee Hurst, on 20 September 1596 at Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, the Daughter of William and Rose Hurst and Widow of Thomas Rogers. This John Tilley sailed on the Mayflower and died sometime during the first winter at Plymouth, likely between January and March 1621. Nor was it any of his offspring.

Tilley was a relatively common name with a wide dispersion across England as shown on this Ancestry page.

Sopley is an ancient settlement going back to before the Doomsday book and is described in this article. It is on the edge of the New Forest. The nearby area is sometimes in Hampshire and sometimes in Dorset depending on various boundary changes. Most of the employment in the area would have been engaged in either rural activities or supporting the large number of family estates in the area. Sopley Park and Winkton House being a couple of the closest. 

A couple of centuries later and Sopley is still a rural community as seen on this 1872 Ordnance Survey Map. More information on Sopley can be found on Vision of Britain and British History Online. Sopley was in the Christchurch Hundred from this 1832 Boundary Map. Another useful Boundary Map updated up to 11/12/1899 is found here, zoom in to find Christchurch, and then Sopley. From the  Vision of Britain Through Time analysis 70% of Sopley families are  engaged in Agriculture from the 1831 Census data.

Timeline Context

The Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from Southampton and Plymouth, England, to the New World in 1620. There were 102 passengers

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") over, principally, the manner of England's governance.

Charles II (29 May 1630 – 6 February 1685) was king of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland and Ireland from the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 until his death in 1685.

The Great Plague, lasting from 1665 to 1666, was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. ... The Great Plague killed an estimated 100,000 people—almost a quarter of London's population—in 18 months.

John Tilley was born 1665

The Second Anglo-Dutch War (4 March 1665 – 31 July 1667), was a conflict fought between England and the Dutch Republic for control over the seas and trade routes, where England tried to end the Dutch domination of world trade during a period of intense European commercial rivalry.

1665 The city of New Amsterdam in the Province of New York is reincorporated as New York, named after James, Duke of York, and the first Mayor appointed.

31 October 1665 – Parliament passes the Five Mile Act preventing non-conformist ministers from coming within five miles of incorporated towns or the place of their former livings.

1665 - 1667 The Great Plague forces the closure of the University of Cambridge, where Isaac Newton is a student. Newton retires to his home in Lincolnshire for safety, and stays there for two years. During that time alone, Newton will make groundbreaking discoveries in mathematics, calculus, mechanics, and optics, and lay the foundations for his books Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica and Optiks.

1666 September 2–5 – Great Fire of London: A large fire breaks out in the City of London, in the house of a baker on Pudding Lane, near London Bridge. The fire destroys more than 13,000 buildings (including Old St Paul's Cathedral), but only six people are known to have died, whilst at least 80,000 were left destitute and homeless. The re-surveying of property is credited with giving both cartography and the practices of surveying a leg up, as well as resulting in the modern definition by John Ogilby of the statute mile, as 1760 yards.

A time of great change but perhaps not all impacting on the rural community in and around the New Forest.

Tilley families in the area

There appear to a number of families with surnames of Tilley, Tilly, Telley, and other derivatives of the name. At the time most people could not spell, read, or write so it was down to the person, generally writing in a register of births, marriages or deaths, to decide how a name was spelt based only on the pronunciation given. Derivations are therefore to be expected.

The names appear in both regular and non-conformist registers in Boldre, Ellingham, and Ringwood as well as Sopley. At this stage I don't know if any of these families link at sometime further into the past.

geograph 1860042 by Peter Facey

Some of the families are in non-conformist registers from the Ringwood Great Meeting House in 22 Meeting House Lane (Presbyterian). The building still exists. In 1672 licence was granted for a Presbyterian to preach at the house of Widow Saunders at Sopley.There is also a Congregational mission room in Sopley.

The Parish Church in Sopley is St Michael & All Angels. The church is Grade II* listed and is also detailed on Historic England. A photo of the church by Peter Facey can be found here. and adjacent.

The Sopley Church registers are contained in four books, the first having all entries from 1682 (burials from 1678) to 1731; the second all from 1732 to 1786, the marriages till 1754 only; the third is the printed marriage book 1754 to 1812, and the fourth has baptisms and burials 1786 to 1812.

From this it is unlikely to find records of John Tilley, birth and baptism in 1665 or who his parents were.


John Tilley and his descendants

At the time of writing the parents of John Tilley appear to be unknown. Sources used to date to attempt to find them include Ancestry, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, The GenealogistThe Hampshire Genealogical Society, and MyHeritage. So the story really starts with the marriage of John Telley and Martha Spearen on 9th October 1683, in the Parish of Sopley. This record was found on the CDs of The Hampshire Genealogical Society. 

It my Family Tree is correct John Tilley is my 8th Great-Grandfather. A mere 10 generations back.

John and Martha had three children, two sons and a daughter.

Details and the tree of this branch can be found at my Tilley Migration Family Tree constructed within the The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding "TNG".

However, before tracing the tree towards the current time, let us explore the inhabitants of the village of Sopley. The parish marriage records start in 1682. Phillimore Marriage Registers, 1531-1913, Hampshire Marriage Registers, Vol 7, contains Marriages at Sopley, 1682 to 1812 commencing at page 95. I started a One Place Study of Sopley based on this information. Analysis of the first 13 years indicates that of the 67 recorded marriages there are 55 unique surnames. Allowing for part of the population to be outside of marrying age it seems reasonable to assume that the population of Sopley at about 1690 consisted of about 100 families. Duplication of surnames would therefore suggest being of the same family, albeit not necessarily siblings. Tree statistics for OPS of Sopley can be found here.

During this exercise I found note of a marriage between Thomas Dorendell & Eleanor Telley on 30 Nov 1682. Four lines further on we find John Telley & Martha Spearen 9 Oct 1683. Could Eleanor be a sister of our John. It does seem quite probable. I not sure even DNA on both branches would provide definitive proof as this is ten generations back. 

I would note at this point that dates are somewhat different during this part of history. This is the note I add to records of that age; 'The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750. The Act had two parts: first, it reformed the calendar of England and the British Dominions so that the new legal year began on 1 January rather than 25 March (Lady Day); and, second, Great Britain and its Dominions adopted the Gregorian calendar.' Yes, New Years Day, 25 March! Not changed until 1750.

 Back to the potential of John having a sister called Eleanor. I have been provided with some scans of records, which do not conclusively prove the relationship, but do make the same link and explore the Eleanor side of the tree. The records also demonstrate very clearly how variable the spelling of names can be so far back. One person has different spelling of his surname for his birth, marriage,and death, according to this information. Understandable considering the extent of illiteracy at the time. In 1660 upon the restoration, Latin, the language of the courts, which had been prohibited by Cromwell, made a comeback. Some parish records where in Latin. Further confusion.

I have added Eleanor to the Tilley Migration Family Tree, not knowing where it might take us. Statistics for that tree can be found here.

Continuing to explore Eleanor, or more precisely her husband  Thomas Dorendell. Some of the information provided suggests that Thomas Dorendell was born in Ringwood and that his name was then recorded as Thomas Durndole. There is a Transcription of England Births & Baptisms 1538-1975 in FindMyPast that records a Thomas Durndole was baptised on 4 Sept 1659, in Ringwood,and that his father was Robert Durndole. 

The county of Hampshire has in the past been called "Southamptonshire" and appears as such on some Victorian maps. The name of the administrative county was changed from 'County of Southampton' to 'County of Hampshire' on 1 April 1959. The short form of the name, often used in postal addresses, is Hants. Wikipedia. The old name appears as the place of embarkation of many of the immigrants into Ellis Island. It is recorded in the 'Commonwealth Instrument of Government, 1653, which was adopted by Oliver Cromwell when he assumed the office of 'Lord Protector' in 1654.

During the period of Anglo-Saxon settlement, modern Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were occupied by Jutish tribes – a people separate initially from the Saxons and Angles. Jutes founded kingdoms known as Wihtwara (Wight), Meonwara (Meon Valley) and Ytene (in an area similar to the later site of the New Forest). According to St Bede, however, the Jutes were conquered by the surrounding Saxon kingdoms during the 7th Century. Hamtunscīr (after Hamtun, the original name of Southampton) was one of the first Saxon shires to be recorded, in 755.

For two centuries Hampshire represented the western frontier of Saxon England, as the Britons fought off advances into Dorset and Somerset. After the Saxons advanced west Hampshire became the centre of the Kingdom of Wessex, and many Saxon kings are buried at Winchester. A statue in Winchester celebrates the powerful King Alfred, who stabilised the region in the 9th century.

After the Norman Conquest the county was favoured by Norman kings who established the New Forest as a hunting forest. The county was recorded in the Domesday Book divided into 44 hundreds. These later consolidated to 37. These were Alton, Andover, Barmanstip, Barton Stacy, Basingstoke, Bedbridge, Bondsborough, Bosmere, Buddlesgate, Christchurch, Chutely, Crondall, East Meon, Evinger, Fawley, Finchdean, Fordingbridge, Hambledon, Heling, Holdsett, King's Somborne, Kingsclear, Mansbridge, Meanstoke, Micheldever, New Forest, Odiham, Overton, Pastrow, Portsdown, Ringwood, Shelbourn, Sutton, Thorngate, Titchfield, Waltham and Wherwell. Sopley was in the Christchurch Hundred from this 1832 Boundary Map. Another useful Boundary Map updated up to 11/12/1899 is found here, zoom in to find Christchurch, and then Sopley.

Electoral roll Hampshire 1734 FP 2In Ancestry there is a Poll book and Electoral Registers 1734. Possibly created for the 1734 British General Election. Note that it was the parliament of Great Britain. The union with Ireland in 1800 led to the creation of the United Kingdom. The is a considerable difference between who can vote now and who could vote then, and not just by gender. The National Archives has an interesting article. Until 1832, most voters were freeholders and others who could meet property requirements for the franchise, and poll books list only those who actually cast a vote.

An extract below as who could vote, and therefore be included on the Electrol Register.

Before 1832 the basic qualification for the vote in county elections was ownership of freehold land worth 40 shillings (£2) a year by men aged 21 and over. Until 1774 the man had to reside in the county in which he voted; no woman was eligible. Forty shillings had been fixed by an Act of 1429 to cut out "a great, outrageous, and excessive number of people, of which the most part was people of small substance and no value ... [who] pretended a voice equivalent to ... the most worthy knights and esquires ... whereby manslaughter, riots, batteries and divisions among the gentlemen and other people of the counties shall very likely rise and be". It was said that an income of. forty shillings a year made a man independent, being sufficient to furnish him with all the necessaries of life. By 1832 forty shillings would just about support a labouring man for a month, but the number of people who had such an estate in England and Wales was then only about 247,000. From 1763 the holders of annuities or rent charges on freehold land were also entitled to vote. In 1832 the right to vote in county elections was extended to include some 123,000 copyholders and leaseholders for periods of years on property worth £10 a year (reduced to £5 a year in 1867). The franchise was further extended in 1867 to tenants at will paying a rent of £50 a year.

The value in 2017 of £2 a year can be calculated in many different ways as shown here, with results ranging from £1,303 to £741,000.

It is the New Forest Division of the Poll Book that is of particular interest to us. The candidates are P C S L, Lord Harry Pawlett, Anthony Chute Esq. Sir Simeon Stewart, Edward Lisle Esq.  The voters of Sopley can be seen on these two pages. Twenty eight people in total with six of that number being Elliot. By the 1790 General Election, the Poll Book only contained eight people with a freehold in Sopley, who voted. Is it a case of the population becoming less wealthy or less inclined to vote? I will check who lived in the big houses in the village, and how they voted.


As an aside, the total votes cast for the New Forest Division were, P. 309, C. 303, S. 404, L. 454, Total 1,470, with the winer for the Division taking 31% of the vote. The overall winners elected to parliament of Great Britain for the County of Southampton were:

  1. Harry Powlett, 4th Duke of Bolton PC (24 July 1691 – 9 October 1759), known until 1754 as Lord Harry Powlett, was a British nobleman and Whig politician. He sat in the House of Commons from 1715 to 1754, when he took his seat in the House of Lords.
  2. Edward Lisle Esq

In amongst all the names was a Thomas Durndell . on page 94, where he both had his freehold and lived in Christ-Church. He voted for S and L. However, just having a similar name in approximately the right part of the country does not confirm this person as a relative. It does however, make them a person of interest. Someone worth looking into further.

Frequently it is random wandering around a subject which leads to little gems.  The investigation around the One Place Study of Sopley may provide both probable and improbable names. Both are as important. Sopley is an ancient settlement with associations to aristocracy and royalty. Sopley is part of the 'Hundred of Christchurch', which in turn is part of the 'The honour of Christchurch'. The 1st feudal baron of Plympton in Devon, Richard de Redvers, after acting as one of the principal supporters of Henry I in his struggle against his brother Robert Curthose for control of the English throne, was rewarded with estates that made him one of the richest magnates in the country. After the grants from the king, Richard's Devon estates probably consisted of around 180 Domesday manors, including Tiverton and Honiton, as well as the boroughs of Exeter and Plympton. He held the honour of Christchurch which consisted of many widely scattered manors in several counties. He held virtually all of the Isle of Wight (the exceptions being two manors held by the bishop of Winchester), and the island remained in his family until King Edward I bought it from a dying Isabella de Fortibus in 1293. His son became the 1st Earl of Devon. Just because the Earl of Devon held Sopley in his collection of lands does not mean that he ever livid  there or even visited. It is though Plympton, Exeter, and Carisbrook Castle are more likley residences. It is facinating to learn someting of the lives of people in such a distant time.




















ESRI Migration Map

Under development Migration map



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