SILVER (Sir Bartholomew), Hertfordshire, 14th century

February 2001

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Hertfordshire

PLEASE NOTE: When this question was asked the amount of information available online was very restricted and the only census available (on a CD) was the 1881 census. The answer given below should be carefully checked using the additional information now readily available online.

Edited posting to a query on the old forum - February 2001

Ron Silver wrote: In "History of the Silver Family in England" it states that a "Sir Bartholomew Silver, Knight of the county of Herts, who was living in the early part of the fourteenth century in the reign of King Edward II (1307-1327)." This appears to have as its source Pedigrees of the Families in the County of Hants" by William Berry, London 1833 "(From visitation of 1634)." "A pedigree of one line of this family is given on page 92 in Berry's Pedigrees. The coat-of-arms is as follows:--Per pale, gules and sable; a griffin sergreat, or Crest; an heraldic tiger's head, erased, gules; tusked and maned." The book also states "Part of the emigration [to Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1634] of that year sailed from Southampton, England, situated but a few miles from Ropley, where were settled the Silver descendants of Sir Bartholomew Silver....." etc, etc, The writer goes on to say "From the closeness of localities it seems almost certain that Thomas Silver, the American settler, belonged to the family of Silver of HARTS and HERTS."

I would appreciate learning anything about early-14th century knight, Sir Bartholomew Silver, including coat of arms and descendants.

There are no references to Sir Bartholomew SILVER (or anyone of the SILVER surname) in the Victoria County History, Cussans, or Sir Henry Chauncy's The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire which does not mean he did not exist but simply that the accessible surviving records of (mainly) property ownership and taxation either do not show him, or do not link him to a particular manor.

More relevant is the quotation from the book "From the closeness of localities it seems almost certain that Thomas Silver, the American settler, belonged to the family of Silver of HARTS and HERTS." In the context stated the words "almost certain" are wild speculation at the level which should warn you to treat everything the author says in the way of a connected genealogy as highly dubious:

(1) Ropley is not very close to Southampton by the standards and social practice of the time - about 20 miles - as most people never travelled that far from their place of birth in a lifetime.

(2) Ships to America obviously had to leave from a port. I don't know how many ports there were that supported that trade - but what often happened were that a number of people from an area (not necessarily anywhere near a port) banded together and travelled to a port where berths had been booked. It is therefore far more important to know where other passengers on the same boat came from than which port was used (within reason - someone from Hampshire is unlikely to have sailed from Glasgow).

(3) Until recently virtually the only records that were readily available in English were printed sources - such as the visitations and books like Chauncy's "Hertfordshire" (published in 1700). There were all concerned with the small minority of people who considered themselves among the "the great and the good" and who had enough money to possibly buy a copy of the publication. (Almost a case of vanity publishing by proxy). People combed these very limited sources looking for a particular surname and then tried to weave it into a pattern, and even if the first author of a family history clearly said he was guessing (and many did not) later authors often did not. (To make matters worse many people hired others to do the research - and these hirelings' income depended on a regular supply of enobling "facts" ....)

(4) Many of these older family histories are now falling apart at the seams because many other records are now far more readily available. For instance I noted in a couple of minutes searching on familysearch that a Thomas SILVER was baptised at Stoke Charity, Hampshire on 23 May 1607, the son of Peter SILVER. Maybe he is your Thomas SILVER, or maybe not - but before about 1980 this could only have been found out by writing a letter to the vicar in every parish in the county of interest (enclosing a suitable contribution) asking him to search the registers by hand. In fact I suspect that some vicars had a quick look, couldn't read the hadwriting, and simply pocketed the money replying that nothing could be found. I also noticed a SILVER marriage in the late 16th century at Eling, which is a couple of miles across Southampton Water from Southampton - so there may be SILVERs there. [There is no Thomas SILVER baptism on the IGI index for Ropley - but it may not have been indexed yet. However I note that the registers are microfilmed and available at your nearest Family History Centre - so it should be easy for you to check what SILVER were being baptised, married or buried in the village at the time.]

I hope the above example illustrates the danger of picking up someone else's work (and in saying this I include many family trees published on the internet) and trying to build on it before you have checked to see that the foundations are sound. You would be well advised to forget about Sir Bartholomew SILVER for the time being and, assuming the evidence leading back to Thomas SILVER who sailed to Massachusetts in 1634 has been checked and is sound, concentrate on finding his parents. You may well find the information on the topic My ancestor emigrated from Hertfordshire ... useful.

Ron Silver  replied: Thank you, Chris. Even a negative reply can be helpful at times. I shall have to be satisfied with the only proofs I have, i.e. that Thomas Silver appeared in Ipswich town records in 1637, and that he was born about 1622 (according to his deposition)----period. I think it's reasonable to assume he did come from England, though the boat he arrived on is unknown. My own family is quite comfortable just knowing who our colonial American progenitor was even if anything further back never becomes known.

If I ever get back to England I'll give it another try. I knew nothing about Thomas Silver in my earlier visits.

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November 2009

Ronald Silver (ronandphyllis @t att.net) writes: After several years and many, many hours of searching, I have found in the Eling Parish Register a baptismal record for a Thomas Silver ---1622--"Thomas ye sonne of Thomas Silver was bapt October 23."  Since this is the only record of a Thomas baptized in 1622 in all the parish registers of Hampshire that I have studied I think it likely the 1637 emigrant Thomas Silver of Ipswich, Massachusetts, came from Eling, only 3 mi from  Southampton. 

The existence of a Sir Bartholomew Silver, "knt temp" of Hertford is verified in "Pedigrees from the Visitation of Hampshire" by Clarenceulx investigators, p61, and quoted in "The General Armory", p927. Some descendants were in Ropley by the middle of the 16th century. Which of the many surnamed Silver in 16th and 17th century Hants might be descended from Sir B is left to the imagination

I no longer look at Medieval genealogies, or those which relate to the College of Arms, on this web site, as my knowledge of this period is limited and I am unable to read medieval Latin documents. However, as this is a follow-up to an earlier answer I will make a few comments.

Page updated November 2009