June 2022 Genealogy Blog Party: My Earliest Direct Ancestral Line Marriage

The theme this month of Elizabeth O’Neal’s June Genealogy Blog Party on Heart of the Family is all about weddings.

I had to think about this topic for a while, as I distinctly remember checking to see if June was a popular month for weddings in my family and it seems it wasn’t.

There are three weddings in my close family that took place in June, but for privacy reasons, I won’t be writing about them.

I did share a post from 2019 on the Genealogy Blog Party link up that explained weddings customs of the Carpatho-Rusyns of Eastern Europe.

However, I really prefer to write a new, unique post to share at the blog party.

Since I rarely write much about some of the earliest ancestors in my family tree, I manually scrolled through the list of married couples in my RootsMagic software.

Having some very early New England lines which have been traced back into England well into the 1400s, I focused on identifying the earliest couple in my direct line with a proven marriage date.

The winners are: John Belgrave and Joanna Strutt, who married on 22 September 1560 in Glemsford, Suffolk, England.

I feel very comfortable with the accuracy of this information as articles have been published in several articles about the family in both The American Genealogist and The Register.

Glemsford is a small village with an ancient history. It is first mentioned before the conquest or William the Conqueror in 1066, as the village was recorded in lands granted by Edward the Confessor in 1051!

In 1086, the Domesday Book records 40 houses with 35 villagers and five enslaved persons.  The village sat on 12 acres of meadow and had its own mill and a church. At this time in history, the church would have been Roman Catholic. By the turn of the 21st century, the village population had grown to 3,700 people.

The parish Church of St. Mary dates back to the early 1300s, which means that today’s church would be the very same church in which my ancestors married in 1560.

Of course, in the intervening years, not long before John Belgrave and Joanna Strutt married, Henry VIII abolished the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church of England was established.

In the 1500s, marriages always, by law, took place in a church. Banns were announced for three Sundays preceding the marriage so that anyone who had an objection to the upcoming nuptials had a chance to voice his concern.

Women had little say in who they married, as marriages were often arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. Marrying for love was considered to be quite foolish!

The bride wore a dress of any color – white wedding dresses didn’t come into vogue until the 1800s. A garland of flowers was placed on the bride’s head; the ring finger was thought to have a vein that lead directly to the heart – the reason why today, we still have a ‘ring finger.’

After the minister married the couple, there would be a celebration. How elaborate it was depended on the wealth of the parents.

Brides also brought dowry, whether in food, animals or money depended again on the wealth of her parents, who also paid for the wedding events.

After marriage, a woman was considered to be the property of her husband with no legal rights of her own unless widowed.

By the 17th century and the beginning of the Great Migration to New England, much of Suffolk, England was strongly Puritan in its religious beliefs and a number of families emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

With this background foundation, John Belgrave’s and Joanna Strutt’s lives can be viewed with some social context.

John Belgrave’s parentage is unproven, but he was born c1535, possibly in the village of Leverington, Cambridgeshire, England, about 50 miles away.

Joanna Strutt’s parentage is established through the will of her father, John Strutt, who wrote his will on 16 April 1591. It was proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Sudbury less than one month later on 12 May 1591. He lived in the village of Glemsford. Joanna’s mother predeceased her father, who married (2) Juliann Scott in 1578. However, her name was Catherine (MNU).

Joanna Strutt was buried on 14 August 1577 in Leverington, Cambridgeshire, England. Given that she was buried about six weeks after the birth of her 8th child, she may have died from childbirth complications.

The children were baptized at St. Leonard’s Church, Leverington, which was built in the 1200s.


1. Thomasine, baptized 1 February 1562; in father’s will; died after 26 July 1616, probably Stansted, Suffolk, England
2. Elizabeth, baptized 16 February 1563; in father’s will
3. Catherine, baptized 31 March 1566; in father’s will
4. Thomas, baptized 13 December 1567; in father’s will
5. Abraham, baptized 27 December 1569; in father’s will
6. George, baptized 31 August 1571; in father’s will
7. Barbara, baptized 12 June 1575; buried 4 May 1576, Leverington
8. Barbara, baptized 27 June 1577; died 17 September 1589

Her husband John married (2) Elizabeth Fairfax on 22 October 1578 in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England and had four more children with her. However, only one of those four children, Jacob, born c1586, was still living in 1591.

John Belgrave wrote his will on 3 February 1590/91 and it was proved on 11 March 1590/91 at the Consistory of Ely. He was literate enough to sign his name.

My line of descent with Generation 4 being a double descent:

1. John Belgrave & Joanna Strutt
2. Edward Frost & Thomasine Belgrave, married 26 July 1585, Glemsford
3. Henry Rice & Elizabeth Frost, married 27 November 1605, Glemsford
4. John Moore & Elizabeth Rice, married 27 November 1633, Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, England AND John Maynard & Mary Rice, married 16 June 1646, Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts
5. Joseph Moore & Lydia Maynard, married c1668, probably Massachusetts
6. Joseph Moore & Elizabeth Cleveland, married c1697, probably Massachusetts
7. John Woodward & Saphira Moore, married 1 August 1721, Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts
8. Robert Wilson & Mary Woodward, married 22 February 1759, Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts
9. Robert Wilson & Dorothy (Dolly) Holmes, married May 1790, Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada
10. Benjamin Parker & Maria Wilson, married 12 April 1812, Campobello Island, new Brunswick, Canada
11. Daniel Adams & Sarah Ann Parker, married 15 September 1836, Deer island, New Brunswick, Canada
12. Calvin Segee Adams & Nellie F. Tarbox, married 1 February 1878, Calais, Washington, Maine
13. Charles Edwin Adams & Annie Maude Stuart, married 21 September 1898, Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts
14. Vernon Tarbox Adams & Hazel Ethel Coleman, married 19 July 1920, Calais, Washington, Maine
15. George Michael Sabo & Doris Priscilla Adams, married 6 June 1947, Hackensack, Bergen, New Jersey
16. Me!

It’s quite amazing to me to have a documented marriage all the way back in 1560. If not for my English ancestors in the habit of writing wills and having the luck to have the church registers still surviving, the exact dates these events took place would be lost to time.






4 thoughts on “June 2022 Genealogy Blog Party: My Earliest Direct Ancestral Line Marriage”

  1. That is pretty cool to have a proven document back in the 16th century! Mine is much later (1700). Fascinating how many of those children ended up in what became the United States! I’m sure I must have some similar occurrences in my lines, but haven’t been able to get back far enough to trace them.

  2. Wow, that is awesome to have documentation of a marriage going back that far! I have some marriages, baptsims and census going back, but not for too many of my lines…just my main line. I did not know about the white wedding dress custom, until your blog.

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