2. The Standish of Duxbury Muniments DP397

Deeds Purchased (1965) by the Lancashire Record Office

2M. Conclusion: the Vital Importance of

the Standish of Duxbury Muniments

(including revealing Myles Standish’s great-grandfather)

Helen Moorwood 2013

The main and inevitable conclusion is that it was impossible to sort out the history of Standish of Duxbury in any detail without the benefit of the Standish of Duxbury Muniments. These solved the main problems, but some still remain. However, the outline story of the Standishes of Duxbury, with the benefit of their Family Papers, has been largely established.

If it were not for the case of Captain Myles Standish having named his settlement Duxbury in Massachusetts, and become such a hero in the US, probably no further interest would have been shown in this family. Apart, perhaps, from someone like myself, with a Duxbury ancestor, and an interest in the family that had ‘taken over’ from the Duxburys of Duxbury. It was purely in search of the Duxburys of Duxbury that I first looked at the Standish of Duxbury Muniments. It was a growing interest in the Myles Mysteries that led me to examine them carefully. It was with slight surprise that I discovered that 19th and 20th century accounts of this family were hopelessly inadequate - even outright wrong in several places.

I presented the most important of my conclusions in articles in 1999/2000, with two family trees, one indicating the ‘new’ lines of descent and one underlining all the military men in the history of the two main Standish families. Chorley historians have subsequently agreed with the new version of the family history, particularly the sorting out of the muddles with two contemporary Thomases, etc.; and also so many previous floating pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place with the establishment of Family B, side-lined until they took over the Lordship of the Manor of Duxbury when the male line of Family A died out. All this was uncontroversial, but it was satisfying to have a more accurate version of the family with which, all had previously assumed, Myles must have been connected in some way. It was obvious to all concerned that there was a certain lack of clarity for and by historians in the 19th and early 20th centuries, who had not had access to the Standish of Duxbury Muniments.

It was also obvious that, if one were to find any trace of Myles’s great-grandfather of Duxbury, then to provide an explanation for him giving this name to his settlement, the most likely place would be in the Standish of Duxbury Muniments. And lo and behold! There was indeed a younger son who complied with all the requirements in Clause 9 of Myles’s Will: “my great-grandfather being a second or younger brother from the house of Standish of Standish”. He was in Sir Christopher’s settlement cum will of 1493, in a list of sons: “son and heir Thomas . . . in tail remainder to James, Hugh, Alexander, Rowland, sons of Sir Christopher Standish”. Standish of Standish documents provided the information that Sir Christopher had married Alice Standish of Standish, daughter of Sir Alexander in 1490/1 (as Sir Christopher’s third wife); also that there had been another son Christopher, who had died in the meantime. So Alexander was indeed a “second or younger brother”, in fact the fifth (fourth surviving son in 1493), with a Standish of Duxbury father, but a Standish of Standish mother and maternal grandfather. Sir Christopher and Sir Alexander had been comrades-in-arms for the Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III, in 1482 at the Siege of Berwick, knighted at their camp on Hutton Field by Lord Thomas Stanley (Metcalfe’s Book of Knights, p. 7). It seemed to make common sense that Sir Alexander would have granted lands to his first grandson (born 1491/2), who bore his own name, to help to establish himself in the world. His next grandson, also named Alexander, was not born until 1502, to his son and heir Ralph, so this younger Alexander would automatically inherit all the Standish of Standish lands and the Lordship of the Manor of Standish when he attained the age of maturity, and would need to have no special provisions made for him. Sir Alexander would leave nearly everything to his son and heir Ralph (which he did) and Ralph, in turn, would leave nearly everything to his son and heir Alexander (which he did, in his will, which has survived).

So there we had a ‘perfect contender’ for the role of Myles’s great-grandfather:

a) With the right name. Myles’s son and heir was Alexander, who, common sense tells us because of naming habits of the time, was most likely named after his paternal grandfather, Myles’s father; and Myles’s father might well have been named after his own paternal grandfather, who in turn would have been Myles’s great-grandfather.

b) With the right birth-date. If one applies the useful genealogical rule-of-thumb of an average of 30 years per generation, one can work backwards: Myles was born in the 1580s, his father in the 1550s, his grandfather in the 1520s and his great-grandfather in the 1490s. Alexander, younger son of Sir Christopher, was born in 1491/2.

c) With the right Standish of Standish ancestry. As the first grandson of Sir Alexander named after himself, he would have been in line for some Standish of Standish lands. These would obviously not have been from the core estates, reserved for son and heir Ralph, but some peripheral lands, ideal in providing a small estate producing an adequate income for a young gentleman and his family.

d) With the right Standish of Duxbury ancestry. With a Standish of Duxbury father, young Alexander[7A5] would owe his first allegiance to this family. This would presumably have been passed down through his own male line, which would make Myles’s naming of Duxbury in Massachusetts eminently natural and logical.

This was my conclusion when Alexander, son of Sir Christopher, first leapt off the page in DP397/21/3. I see no reason to change my conclusion. No other contender before or since could present such ‘perfect’ qualifications.

The main question arose as to why no one before me had discovered him there? The answer was easy: no one with an interest in Myles had examined in such detail the Standish of Duxbury Muniments at the Lancashire Record Office. This was perfectly understandable in the case of the main expert on Standish of Standish, Rev./Canon T. C. Porteus, who had died in 1948, well before this collection turned up out of ‘nowhere’ in 1965 in an antique bookshop in London. This also applied to the main Myles Standish and Pilgrim expert in Chorley, Edward McKnight, first librarian of the newly founded Chorley Library at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, who had assembled the superb Pilgrim Fathers Collection but died rather young (in 1911). It applied equally to the most thorough local researcher into the history of the early Standishes of Duxbury, John Wilson, who died in 1918.

It did not apply to Mr G. V. C. Young of the Isle of Man, who only began researching the ‘Manx Myles theory’ in the 1980s, with his first publication in 1984. I did not understand when I first started to research the Standishes of Duxbury, and still do not understand why no one who believed in this theory took a good look at the Standish of Duxbury Muniments. A written query to the Lancashire Record Office to ask if there was anything relevant to the Standishes of Duxbury would have produced a positive reply and details of the Catalogue of DP397. Yet Mr Young obviously did not make this query and nor, apparently, has anyone else since, from the Isle of Man, or any believer in a ‘Manx Myles’. For me, the family papers were one large nail in the coffin of a ‘Manx Myles’.

The main problem with Alexander son of Sir Christopher came from the fact that he left no further trace in later Standish of Duxbury documents, nor in Standish of Standish family papers. The common sense explanation for this came from Myles’s claim that the lands from his great-grandfather had been “surreptitiously detained”. If someone else had acquired possession of the SMALL ESTATE of lands in “Ormskirk, Burscough, Wrightington, Mawdesley, Newburgh, Croston” - which they obviously had - then it would certainly not be in their interest to publicise or make available to anyone any documents in their possession that would serve to prove Myles’s descent, and proof of the acquisition of lands in these places by his great-grandfather in the first place. This would have been true, whoever Myles’s great-grandfather had been. It would have been even ‘more true’ in the case of a descendant of such a well-known and fairly distinguished local family.

Another common sense piece of the explanation is that when Myles’s great-grandfather (young Alexander above?) took over the ownership of his property and set up his own household (in one of the townships name in Myles’s Will?), he took all the necessary documentation with him. If the lands stayed in the possession of the family from son to grandson to great-grandson (which we know from Myles’s Will that they did), there might not have been much documentation elsewhere.

One of the most controversial discoveries was in the text of the 1355 document (DP397/13/1) naming a “free tenement in Croston and Bretherton”, owned jointly by a Standish of Duxbury (but only the second generation after their arrival in Duxbury from Standish), and six others. The identity of two of these as “Langtrees” made it reasonably certain that it was a property, or a piece of land, that dated back to the time when the Standish and Langtree families were founding their respective branches in the places from which they took their family names. We will remember that they both married granddaughters of Warrin de Buesli/Busshell.

I had already become very aware of the Isle of Man straddling the boundary of Croston and Bretherton. It had already been suggested in an article in Chorley Library that this might be the one in Myles’s Will. Intrigued, I pursued this, with the details (to be) given in 1355: DP397/13/1in the folder MYLES STANDISH.


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