Those of you who follow the *slow* progress of my novel about the English family know that genealogical research occasionally leads to twists in the story. My goal is to fictionalize only the parts that are undocumented, but to keep to the facts as much as possible, like Alex Haley did in Roots. After working on Moate (my working title!) for several years, I thought the basic plot points were pretty ironed out. I've started revising the ~ 75,000-word draft to make the story flow better, develop characters, add details, etc.
Today, I ran into a little snag.
My main character in the second book of this multigenerational saga is Ann English, whose mother and father died when she was a little girl: Mary died in 1672 and John in 1676. John's second wife, Eleanor, was never mentioned again in the genealogical records. They had only been married two years. As I wrote in this 2009 post, I thought some of their relatives may have taken in the orphans, Ann and her brother Thomas. I decided that their aunt and uncle, Dinah and John Clibborn, were the most logical choice. They were well off and probably lived only a mile away from the children's inherited farm, which the Moate meeting took care of in trust. Not only were the Clibborns a logical choice, but very convenient for the story — they were the main characters in book 1 and their grand home, the Castle, would continue to be the main setting.
Here's today's surprise: I had photographed some signatures of members of the Moate meeting to supply me with names for supporting characters. I just noticed the signature of a witness at two weddings: Eleanor English, in 1678 and 1679. This is not John's sister Elinor, who had married George Castleton about 1669 (note: I am reconciling different records about Elinor's marriage date, and at the moment I think 1669 more accurate than the 1664/5 date in the English Family Tree on this blog). As a matter of fact, Elinor Castleton is the signature above Eleanor English in the 1678 document!
As much as I hate to throw out my whole orphans-live-with-Clibborns part of the story, having Eleanor stick around would explain why Thomas was living on his farm at the age of 14 in another record. I thought that was a bit young to be on his own. But why was Eleanor never mentioned in the death or (re-)marriage records?
Since there are no records for her, I think I need to go back through the other records and look through all the witnesses. At least that would give me a rough timeline to think about.
Oh, I so wanted Ann to live in the tower room at the Castle... Maybe Eleanor was just visiting? *sigh*
- I was about to submit this post when I remembered that the farm was rented out to Christopher Coats when Thomas was about 16 (this from memory). That means that Eleanor was either gone by then, or she had to move in with somebody else. I've got some figuring out to do.
For my extended English family readers: Eleanor Wilkinson was already a widow when John English married her. "Elinor" Chesworth, daughter of John, was born in Middleweich parish, Chester County, England, and came to Ireland as a servant in 1659. She married Stephen Wilkinson of Athlone in 1662. Stephen died in 1671. Eleanor had a daughter Martha in 1672 who died about eight months later. Husband and child were both buried in Moate in the Friends Burying Place. (Moate Meeting record book, MM IV, M1)