A Tercentenary: Who was Rebecca?


Pedigree of the Gent Family

Discovering the Gent Family

My Father's Family

Family Heirlooms

A Tercentenary: Who was Rebecca?

Treasure Island

Dr Henry Gent: a Life Line

Reading Between the Lines

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When Esther Gent died on February 13th, 1900, her son, Frank Turner Gent, felt particularly bereaved because he lacked any close family. His father he hardly knew, being very elderly and for his last years senile, dying when Frank Turner Gent was only sixteen, and the only other relative he had ever met of his father's was Aunt Mary Gent, a spinster who died three years later at the age of eighty five. On his mother's side, most of them had moved away in search of employment, but he did make contact with his mother's sister Aunt Mary Williams of Dorking. In this means he felt able to reclaim some of his lost family, but more importantly, he was filled with a desire to discover his forebears, and he immersed himself in a genealogical search that was to fill much of his spare time over the next decade.

His brother had inherited family papers which provided a start, and he knew that the family had had its roots in Leek, in the far north of Staffordshire, in remote, hilly but beautiful country. He started the search through parish registers, visiting incumbents to copy the relevant entries, checking wills at Lichfield, and befriending other genealogists who assisted him in his search. Fairly quickly the family tree was constructed as far back as the early seventeenth century. He even traced his second cousin, Miss Lilian Molyneux of Liverpool, who sadly died soon afterwards, having fallen and broken her hip, and he was only able to spend a few minutes with her, the only relative of his father's he was to meet.

The one important gap in the family tree was the identity of the Rebecca who married William Gent of Overhulme, near Leek, in 1694. What was her surname? Who were her parents? Where did she live? Parish registers were searched, documents examined, but the missing link was elusive. He and his brother, Fred Gent, worked hard to unravel this tantalising puzzle, and made remarkably accurate guesses. Here is one of Fred's musings, sent to Frank:


"In Sleigh's "Leek" [William Sleigh wrote a history of Leek] re Ipstones he gives

James Janney=Ellen his wife

living 1664


William Janney =Rebekah

son and heir 1667 his wife

of ye Booths

will dated 1677


Mary Janney dau and devisee of William Janney of the Booths married to Richard Styche of Heywood Park Staffs 29/30 June 1730


"Now this must have been granddaughter of Rebekah if she Mary was married in 1730 and the William above died in 1677. She would hardly be likely to be married at 60 or 70 years of age.

"Now the above Rebekah is the only one of that name in Sleigh's books an here is a riddle for you as you have set me some about the Thomas's. Tell me if you think the following probable:

William Janney = Rebekah

son and heir 1667 his wife

of ye Booths

will dated 1677


William Janney= - Rebecca Janney = William Gent

son of John and Ellen Gent

Mary=Richard Styche 1694


"That would account for the chirograph, for John and Ellen and William and Rebecca, and the settling of John at Ipstones."

So he reasoned the answer - an impressive piece of deduction. The place, the dates, the names, all seemed to tally, and there was the legal document from Mr Hulme in Leek. The Chirograph was a legal document for selling land whose contents had been noted by Mr Hulme, and on this occasion the transaction was a marriage settlement - marriages at that time were commercial transactions, involving land, money, and heirs. I cannot find a transcript of it in the family papers now, unfortunately, its full importance was not appreciated, but Fred's theorem was excellent, a good reading of the evidence of this document. All he needed was corroboration.

Frank and Fred Gent went to Ipstones on August 26th, 1903, and saw the Parish Registers at the vicarage, and copied out the entries concerning the Gent family. But they missed the important entry. On the 29th August, 1994, I examined a microfiche copy of the Genealogical Index prepared by the Mormons - there is a copy in many large public libraries - and there was the missed entry: William Gent married Rebecca Janney on September 17th, 1694 at Ipstones. It explains how the Gents came to live at Ipstones. It took ninety-one years to correct the mistake and prove the relationship, just in time for the tercentenary of William and Rebecca's marriage.

What about the riddle of the Thomas's? And all the other Leek Gents? Frank Turner Gent wrote: 'Yes, this is a great riddle for Frank or some other descendant to solve, if ever one has the will to do so.' It took four generations, but one gap has been filled. Now to solve the other riddles…

And what happened to Rebecca? As far as we know she had a daughter and five sons, from ten months after her marriage till the youngest, Samuel, was born fifteen years later. She died a few days after his birth. But the Booths, the family farm and her dowry, stayed with the Gents. In the next generation another successful marriage by William and Rebecca's son John brought the Gents back to Middlehulme, where they had been in the 1540s, and which they were to own till 1880, the last link with the land till the venture in Devon.