Our earliest Whitehead ancestor that I can definitively claim to be our own is William Whytehead who is thought to have been born around 1747 into Georgian Era, Westwell, Kent, England. I have estimated his year of birth based on him being aged 65 when he died in 1812. Other than this I cannot give the exact date at this time. Similarly with Mary Bassenden’s date of birth, I am equally without evidence.
William married Mary Bassenden in Westwell on the 28th of November 1767. The marriage records are from the Mid Kent marriage index in West Ashford. The name is recorded as Whytehead. On another records Mary is inaccurately recorded as Baperden and Bissendon.
William and Mary were born pre-civil registration. Each local parish had the responsibility of registering its baptisms (not births), marriage and burials (again, not date of death but date of burial). The primary religion in England at the time was the Church of England. These were tumultuous times in British history. George III, the Farmer King, ruled England during much of William and Mary’s life. The king’s own serious health issues often caused uncertainty in the country which was able to be capitalised on by political factions wanting change. The Jacobite risings of 1688 to 1746 culminated in the devastating battle of Culloden in Scotland. These risings were predominantly over religion and who should be in power. Namely the exiled Scottish Catholic Prince Charles Stuart believed somewhat idealistically and with poor planning that he was the rightful heir to all of England, Scotland and Ireland and would be swept into power if on
The Catholics wanted their house of Stuart returned to ruling power in England, Scotland, and Ireland. It was into this culture of fervent patriotism that young William and Mary was born.
Known children of the marriage recorded in Westwell parish records were:
- Sarah possibly 1768 (needs further confirmation)
- William baptised July 1770.
- Stephen baptised 20th September 1772.
- James baptised February 1775.
There is a daughter Lucy Whitehead recorded in 1778 as the daughter of William Whitehead and Elizabeth Whitehead. At present I’m not sure whether something had happened to Mary and William had remarried or whether this Lucy belongs to another William Whitehead entirely?
There is a Mary Whitehead who died in 1777 but again, I’m not sure whether this is our Mary or not. By the time these later records were being curated the surname spelling had taken it’s more permanent and familiar spelling of Whitehead.
Around this same time, Sir Frederick Morton Eden wrote regarding the people of Westwell in Kent in ‘The state of the poor; or an history of the labouring classes in England’. That the people of Westwell in 1795 were living on a diet consisting mainly of milk, bread, potatoes, tea, and cheese. Very little meat if any was eaten, with little beer and no butter.
On the 20th of September 1812 William Whitehead’s death was recorded in Westwell he was buried on the 20th of September 1812. He was aged 65.