March Blog – Current Research of Rev Ralph Wheelock searching for the facts Part 2
Continuing from the previous blog, we know that Ralph Wheelock left for the colonies in 1636. On which ship remains a mystery. We do know that Benjamin Brook (1776-1848) in his book, “The Lives of the Puritans,” published in 1813 mentions other clergy who left Norfolk and Suffolk for Dedham in 1636 arriving in 1637.
These names may eventually help us to identify fellow travellers with Ralph Wheelock and eventually possibly the ship in which Ralph sailed to America, although this has already been extensively researched without success.
“JOHN ALLEN. This very pious divine was born in the year 1596, and educated, probably, in the University of Cambridge. He was a hard student, a good scholar, an excellent preacher, a grave and pious divine, and a man of a most humble, heavenly, and courteous behaviour, full of sweet Christian love to all; earnestly, and with much meekness of spirit, contending for the faith and peace of Christ. All these excellences, however, were insufficient to screen him from the persecutions of the times. Though it does not with certainty appear at what place he was settled, after his removal from the university, he bore his share of sufferings with the holy and zealous puritans of those times. A divine of his name, and probably the same person, was minister at Ipswich, who, daring the oppressions of Bishop Wren, voluntarily departed from his cure, and went to London.* Having no prospect of better days, or of enjoying rest from persecution, he went, with many others, to New England, where he arrived about the year 1637. Soon after his arrival he was chosen pastor of the church of Dedham, where he continued, much beloved and very useful, all the rest of his days. He died greatly lamented, August 26, 1671, aged seventy-five years (Brook, 1813, p. 456).
The above suggests that John Allen was in London prior to sailing to Massachusetts and that he sailed in the same year as Ralph Wheelock. Their connection is further supported by Clark who notes that,
“the church in Dedham was organised 8th November 1638, from a company of about thirty families, come together from several parts of England, few of them known to one another before and Rev. John Allin was ordained on the 14th of the next April.” (Clarke, 1858, p. 18)
“ROBERT PECK. This zealous puritan was rector of Higham in Norfolk, to which he was preferred in the year 1605. He was a zealous nonconformist to the ceremonies and corruptions of the church, for which he was severely persecuted by Bishop Harsnet. Having catechized his family and sung a psalm in his own house, on a Lord’s day evening, when some of his neighbours attended, his lordship enjoined him, and all who were present, to do penance, requiring them to say, I confess my errors. Those who refused were immediately excommunicated, and required to pay heavy costs. All this appeared under the bishop’s own hand. For this, and similar instances of his oppression and cruelty, the citizens of Norwich, in the year 1623, presented a complaint against his lordship in the house of commons. In the bishop s answer to this complaint, he had nothing to say against Mr. Peck s doctrine and life, only his non conformity. He pleaded, in his own defence, “ That Mr. Peck had been sent to him by the justices of the peace for keeping a conventicle at night, and in his own house; that his catechizing has only an excuse to draw the people together; and that he had infected the parish with strange opinions : as, “that the people are not to kneel as they enter the church ; that it is superstition to bow at the name of Jesus; and that the church is no more sacred than any other building. His grace further affirmed, that Mr. Peck had been convicted of nonconformity, and of keeping conventicles, in 1615 and 1617; and that, in 1622, he was taken in his own house, with twenty-two of his neighbours, at a conventicle” (Brook, 1813, p. 263)
Back to the topic, In terms of Genealogical Research Chris Gleason Clerk has put the case for Ralph Wheelock being the Curate at Eccles church, Norfolk from 1629 until 1636 (Clark C. G., 1998).
We have confirmed this and identified the original sources for this material and it does seem to be a very strong argument. The Wraplingham parish register does indeed hold a record for the marriage of Ralph Wheelock to Rebecca Clark (See February Blog).
The Banham parish register does hold a record of Mary Wheelock’s baptism, daughter of Ralph Wheelock.
The Eccles parish register does hold the baptism records for Gershom (1632) and Rebecca Wheelock (1634) both offspring of Ralph Wheelock.
Further checks have revealed or unable to trace the sources for the information provided in Daughters of America. No provenance to where this came from or who gave it to them.
(Daughters of the American Revolution VOL. LVI, No. 1, 1922)
So far we have been unable to locate records for John Wheelock or Elizabeth Rogers. When lockdown is lifted a trip to the Shropshire Archives is in store to look in the parish chest for Loppington, Whitchurch and Donnington would be needed to see if there are any vestry minutes which mention them. Likewise I have not been able to locate any registers for the Lyth Hill, Dorrington chapel for this period. This will be one of the things to check when the record office opens.
Humphrey Wheelock has been suggested as the grandfather of Ralph Wheelock. The Humphrey Wheelock in the burial register for Donington, Shropshire, dated 11th March 1595 (Parish Transcript Burial -The Gen./ Parish Register – www.findmypast.co.uk ). However, He doesn’t seem to be the right person. He is described as a ‘poor man’. It seems unlikely that two of a ‘poor man’s’ grandchildren would have attended Cambridge University at this time.
(About one-third of the population lived in poverty, with the wealthy expected to give alms to assist the impotent poor. Tudor law was harsh on the able-bodied poor, those physically fit but unable to find work. Those who left their parishes in order to locate work were termed vagabonds and could be subjected to punishments, often suffering whipping and being put in the stocks. This treatment was inflicted to encourage them to return to their “mother parish).
As Dorrington is often suggested as a place of birth for this particular line of the Wheelock Ancestors I looked from1592-1605 for any other mention of a Wheelock, I was looking for Abraham and Ralph. None were found.
This seems to me indication that the data provided to all descendants in the US regarding the origins of Ralph Wheelock is incorrect., and further delving into the archives is needed to locate his origins which could be in Dodington.
There is a Dodington on the outskirts of Whitchurch. Abraham Wheelock is repeatedly mentioned as being born in Whitchurch so it is possible he and his brother Ralph actually originate from the Dodington area of Whitchurch. (Dodington is 27 miles from Dorrington a 9 hour trek as the crow flies on the Old roman road).
Unfortunately, only book 3 of the Parish Register is available online (no records where found) so a visit to the Records office to see if Books 1& 2 still survive is required.
So the next trip when lockdown is lifted is as follows
Shropshire Records Office to see if it is possible to locate:
Whitchurch Parish Registers Book 1 & 2
Great Ness Parish Chest Material
Loppington Paris Chest Material
Condover – Donnington Parish chest Material
Lyth Hill, Dorrington records
St Marys’ Sandbach Parish Chest Material
Additional Research – Heather Dawson – AGRA
John F. Pound, Poverty and vagrancy in Tudor England (Routledge, 2014).
By the Queen a proclamation against certain seditious and schismatical books and libels – 1588 by the Deputies of Christopher Barker, Printer to the Queens Most Excellent Majesty, (NATIONAL ARCHIVES)
Bebbington, David W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (Routledge, 2003)
Britannica. (2021, Feb.). The Cambridge Agreement. Retrieved from www.Britannica.com Brook. B.(1813). The Lives of Puritans Vol.III. London.
Browne. J.(1877). History of Congregationalism and Memorial of churches in Norfolk and
Suffolk. London: Jarrold and Sons.
Clark. C.G. (1998). Mr Wheelocks Cure. American Ancestors New England Historical and
Genealogy Research Vol 152.
Clark, C. G. (1998). The English ancestry of Joseph Clark. The New England Historical and
Genealogical Register Vol.152.
Clarke. J.S.(1858). A historical Sketch of the congregational Churches of Massachusetts 1620- 1858. Boston: Congregational Board of Publication.
Daughters of the American Revolution VOL. LVI, No. 1, 1922
Lund. V.K.(1978). The Admission of Nonconformists to the Universities of Oxford and
Cambridge. College of William and Mary, Virginia.
McClure. D.(1811). Memoirs of the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock. Newburyport: Norris & Co. Tilden. (1887). History of the town of Massachusetts 1650-1886. Boston.