lthough the 1610 Will of Richard Lord leaves out many details that would allow a more complete reconstruction of the house he lived in at the time, it does provide quite a bit of detail on the distribution of wealth he intended to the surviving family members. In so doing, this document gives us a glimpse into the social history of the family and its composition. We already have stated that Richard and his wife, Joane, had four adult children in 1610. Since two of them were recorded in the baptism registers of Leckhamstead Parish, in Buckinghamshire, (below) about six miles south of Towcester, and there are significant gaps in those registers (allowing for the others also to have been born there), we may assume that prior to moving to Towcester, the family lived here, from at least 1583, and perhaps until about 1600.

The Will was written in May of 1610 in Towcester, and we may conjecture the family had been there for some time. Many genealogical sources suggest Richard and Joane Lord were married in Towcester and that their children were all born there, but to date no primary data to support that has been found. Gaps in the Leckhamstead marriage records (for 1563, 64, 66, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 76, 78, 79, 80 and 81) include precisely those years when the marriage might have taken place.


willleckchurchone.jpg The Church of St. Mary the Virgin where  Elizabeth and Alice Lord were baptised, and a typical street scene.

What we do know is that Elizabeth was born in Leckhamstead near to May 26th of 1583 (Parish Baptismal Register), making her exactly  27 years old when cited in this Will; Thomas was born around 1585, as his age is listed as 50 in the passenger list when he boarded the ship Elizabeth & Ann in  May of 1635 (Hotten's Lists), making him 25 years old; Alice was born in Leckhamstead near to January 18th of 1586(7) (Parish Baptismal Register), making her 23 years old; and we might guess that Ellen was born early in this sequence, as she is the one cited as closest to being married in 1610, so perhaps in 1584 in Leckhamstead and being 26 years of age. 

The order of mention in the Will for the female children may represent the eldest to the youngest, which would be "Elizabeth...Ellen... Alice". But the legacy to Elizabeth is only ten Shillings while that to Ellen is thirty Pounds and to Alice also thirty Pounds. Given that Ellen is the daughter for which we have no birth data, this information is not helpful. (see further discussion of this below.)


In 1610 Money was calculated in pounds, shillings and pennies.

The pound was represented  by ‘li’ from the Latin ‘libra’, meaning pound. A shilling was represented by ‘s’, originally short for ‘solidos’, a Roman coin. A penny was represented by ‘d’, short for ‘denarius’, a Roman coin. It was not called "pence" then.

Numbers were written as follows:

  j = 1
  ij = 2
  iiij = 4 (not usually iv)
  V = 5
  X = 10

It is interesting, and common in the period, that as the first item in his Will Richard makes a gift to the church:

"1st I give towards the repare of the said parish church of Towcester xij d."


St. Lawrence Church - Towcester

Leaving a legacy to the local church was often seen as insurance that a person would be given a spot in the consecrated ground of the churchyard. The amount, just 12 pennies (one shilling), seems a paltry sum, compared to the 30 Pounds left to the daughters, and is even less than was paid to the three supervisors of the Will - "ij s vj. d." (two shillings six pennies). What could Richard's shilling buy? A carpenter in that time made about 13 Pounds a year (about $13,000 in our terms). That would be about 260 shillings in wages for the year. So Richard's one shilling (12 pennies) would buy about one day's labor by a skilled carpenter. Perhaps that was good enough?

The Will


Copyrighted image. Northampton wills 2nd series Book V 38, dated 1610, permission granted for this use only by the Northamptonshire Record Office.

As far as we can confirm, on the day Richard Lord signed his Will with his "marke" (above), the Lord family consisted of the people indicated in the chart below. That Joane had produced four children that lived to adulthood, and herself survived, is in itself noteworthy. We will see this same phenomenon repeated in the family of Thomas and Dorothy Lord decades later.

But one critical factor is immediately evident here. Although in today's world Richard's wife, Joane, would be expected, while living, to inherit the entire Lord estate, in 17th century England, the wealth of the family, and any rights to title, lands and Coats of Arms, always went to the eldest male child. Thomas was not only the eldest son... he was the ONLY son. This meant the legacy of Richard Lord's patriarchy would be carried forward in only one line. There would be no other child but Thomas to preserve the "Lord" name... at least in this lineage.

newwillmap.jpg Most Americans think that primogeniture – the preference in inheritance that is given by law or custom to the eldest son and his issue - is just a sexist manifestation of ancient patriarchic domination. But the motivation was really more economic and political. Its wide use in medieval England followed the introduction of continental feudalism by the Normans, who stressed the wishes of a lord to keep his holdings intact to ensure the rents, fees, and military services arising from these tenures. Otherwise, a vassal might distribute his tenure among his sons in a way that would defeat the economic basis of the feudal structure. Since primogeniture applied also to titles, it meant that the English nobility was a small group, and younger sons were essentially disenfranchised.  Feudal tenures were abolished in England in 1662, after which all freehold land could be willed regardless of age. Primogeniture initially existed in almost all of the original thirteen American colonies. 

The family of Richard Lord in 1610 and their names, as recorded in his
will (below - .
Copyrighted image. Northampton wills 2nd series Book V 38, dated 1610,
permission granted for this use only by the Northamptonshire Record Office. )


We know that Thomas, the son, will receive the bulk of the property from his father, and we know from the previous webpage that Richard's wife, Joane, will be provided for in the Will (the provision to be reviewed below).

So let's first "dispose of" the daughters' inheritance, and see what we can ascertain from the way in which they were recognized by their father in his last (and perhaps only) written statement about the family.

Since the lands and house and any other buildings and much of the material objects in possession of the family in 1610 will largely pass to Thomas, what is left to the daughters is primarily money. But in giving these sums of money, Richard attaches certain qualifications that reveal something of what was going on with these young women at that time.

Elizabeth my daughter

We know that Elizabeth is 27 years old and assumed to be the oldest of all the children. Yet while her sisters get 30 Pounds each, she gets just 10 Shillings; which is a fraction of one Pound.

"Item.. I give to Elizabeth my daughter tenn Shillings of currant money of England."

The 19th century transcription of this passage reads "x li of currat money", but there is no doubt the word is "Shillings" and one can debate the amount written before it. Copyrighted image. Northampton wills 2nd series Book V 38, dated 1610, permission granted for this use only by the Northamptonshire Record Office.

If she is the oldest or not, she is clearly 27 and well past marrying age. Did Richard consider her hopeless? Was she a nun? Or perhaps was she already married? In a later Lord Will (1669/70) the daughters who are married are mentioned with their new last names. Perhaps in 1610, this was not the way it was done.

A clue is found in the microfilm archives of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Attached to a listing related to "Elizabeth (Lord) Johnson" we find the following notation:

March 25 1610 Elizabeth Lord, daughter of Richard Lord of Towcester and William Johnson
son of Robert Johnson of Sibbertoft married.
Thomas Lord of Towcester made oath as to consent of parents.

Since from the 12th century to 1752, the civil or legal year in England began on the 25th of March (Lady Day), we may assume this marriage took place on New Year's Day of 1610. Since Richard dictated his will in May of that year, he recognized Elizabeth as already married and therefore not in need of more than a token inheritance. The fact that his son Thomas made an oath as the the consent of the parents may suggest they were too ill to leave the house at that time. This source has yet to be confirmed, and the Mormon database is rife with errors. But the wording of this entry strongly suggests it was taken from reliable sources, perhaps Parish registers. Confirmation remains to be obtained.

Ellyn my daughter

We estimated that Ellen was 26. And from what Richard says of her, Ellen is on the verge of marrying a young man from a few miles north of Towcester - in Caldecot. There are substantial, and perhaps significant, differences between the 19th century transcription and the actual text of the Will, so I will "translate" what I see (below) with that in mind.
"...and bequeath to Ellyn my daughter Thirtie pounds of currant money of England to be payd unto her by my executor hereafter named in manner and forme following. Viz: the one half thereof at her day of Marriage, and the other half within Twelve months after her sayd day ofmarriage yf she shall be livinge. And yf it shall happen that she shall marrie with one Robert  Marriot of  Calcot Yeoman, then my will is that the fsyd sume of Thirtie pounds be made up by fourtie pounds and to be payd to her at the sayd daye before married by equall porcons. But yf she happen not to marrie, Than my willis that she shall have Thirtie pounds onlye for her procon to be payd to her within three yeares after my deceassing."

Copyrighted image. Northampton wills 2nd series Book V 38, dated 1610, permission granted for this use only by the Northamptonshire Record Office.

So what we clearly have here is a bribe; with the father wishing to insure, with significant monetary reward, that the pending marriage with the "yeoman" from Caldecot takes place. Harking back to our former discussion of Richard's status as "husbandman" and "yeoman", it seems his idea of a well placed marriage for his daughter was aimed no higher than yeoman class.

Alice my daughter

Alice was 23 in 1610, and does not seem to have the same prospects for marriage that her sister Ellen had. (Note: the fact that for both Ellen and Alice Richard stipulates different bequests based on whether they marry or not, but does not do that for Elizabeth, tends to confirm Elizabeth was already married.)

(Again, there are substantial differences between the 19th century transcribed text and the actual text.)

"Item: I give and bequeath to Alice my daughter Thirtie pounds of currant  money of England to be payd unto her by my executors hereinafter named in manner and forme following Viz:  the one half thereof at the day of marriage, and the other half within Twelve months after her sayd day of marriage yf she shall then be Lyving. but yf she the sayd Alice happen not to marrie Than my will is that her Sayd Legacie be payd to her within five yeares next after my deceasing."

Copyrighted image. Northampton wills 2nd series Book V 38, dated 1610, permission granted for this use only by the Northamptonshire Record Office.

The provisions for both Alice and her sister Ellen are similar, except Ellen get ten more Pounds by marrying the man her father had his eye on for her. This suggests Alice did not yet have anyone in mind, or at least anyone her father favored for her. Yet the Parish records show that within seven months of her father's death, Alice married Richard Morris in Towcester.

Jone my wife

The details of Richard's legacy to his wife were detailed in the previous webpage, and will not be repeated here. Essentially she gets half of all the moveable property (furniture, etc.), with the other half reserved for Thomas, along with the house. She gets a third of the orchard crop, and she gets to live in the master bed chamber until her death or marriage. In fact her entire inheritance is contingent on her not remarrying.

"I give and bequeath to Jone my wife..."


Copyrighted image. Northampton wills 2nd series Book V 38, dated 1610, permission granted for this use only by the Northamptonshire Record Office.

The geneaogical record has several spellings for her name, including, most commonly, "Joan". It is often also transcribed as "Joane", even when the original document carries no terminal "e". It is an error often made, thinking adding the "e" makes it more authentic, like "Olde England". But as can be seen, in the Will it is written "Jone". Now writing, even by clerks, was often phonetic, with the words spelled the way they sounded. Even into the late 18th century, written texts appear almost childish with little connection to the way the language is written today. But this document is not like that; the words are usually spelled correctly and consistently. So perhaps we have some basis for assuming her name was actually "Jone Lord", not "Joan" or "Joane". After all her husband is sitting right there as the clerk takes down his words.

In his detailed provision for his wife, Richard clearly assumes for her a long life beyond his own. As it was, she died 23 days before he did. The Parish records for Towcester contain the following information:

Buyalls A.o 1610

Joan ye wyfe of  Richard Lorde..................22.   Sept.
Richard Lorde yeom...................................16.   Octobr

Thomas my sonne

"Item: I give and bequeath to Thomas my sonne and to his heires and assigns forever all my Lands Tenements and hereditaments whatsoever in Towcester and within this realm of England – conditionally that he shall instantly and trulie performe this my last will and testament without fraud or deceipt, And all the rest of my goods and chattels whatsoever moveable and <??> moveable <??> after my debts and legacies payd and my funeral expenses p’formed I give and bequeath to my sayd sonne Thomas whome I do make and ordayne my sole executor of this my last will and testament and utterly deneye all other former wills heretofore by me made given or bequeathed."


Copyrighted image. Northampton wills 2nd series Book V 38, dated 1610, permission granted for this use only by the Northamptonshire Record Office.

He could have just said "And Thomas gets everthing else..." As the only son, Thomas would take over the property that was the "Lord Family's" as he would take over the role of patriarch of the "Lord Family" at his father's death. At that event, In the autumn of 1610, Thomas was only 25; an age of adulthood and often an age when a man was married with wife and children. Yet Thomas did not marry until February 23rd, 1610 (which in our calendar would be 1611), after his father's death. His wedding took place in Towcester. It was a Saturday and it no doubt took place in the St. Lawrence Church (see below).

newwillinsidechurch.jpgAs indicated in the previous webpage, Richard signed his Will with a "marke" and then impressed into it his signet ring. This was a "papered seal", (see below) which means instead of just the bare wax to preserve the imprint, a slip of paper, cut into the edge of the document, was first folded over the warm wax, and then impressed. This preserved the seal better, as will be seen when we look at Dorothy Lord's wax seal from 1669/70, which was not papered and has lots much of its wax imprint. (Look here for more about this seal.)


It is very likely that Thomas felt he was not in a position to marry until he had sufficient property and wealth, and his father's death late in 1610 provided that. Assuming the role of head of the household, and no longer required to provide the use of the master bedchamber to his mother, Thomas no doubt saw the spring of 1611 as the start of a new life and a new family.

Dorothy Bird

The woman he married was Dorothy Bird of Towcester. She was born in that town in May of 1588 and so was 23 years old at her marriage to Thomas, who was about 3 years older. (Note: Her name is usually spelled "Dorothy Bird" in 19th century texts, but her own will and American colonial documents have it as "Dorathy Lord" and in the Parish Regsiter of Marriages it is recorded as "Thomas Lorde & Dorithee Byrde".) Her parents were Robert and Amy Bird of Towcester, and we can see her parents names given to two of her children.

Their Children

During the next 20 years this couple would create a family of ten; with eight surviving children. This is the family that would relocate, in 1635, to New England and the Connecticut River Valley frontier. (Note, dates written as "1611/12" would be "1612" in our modern calendar, but are recorded as "1611" in the Parish records.)

Richard  5 January, 1611/12
Ann 18 September, 1614
Thomas, Jr. 15 December, 1616
William 27 December, 1618
Robert 12 May, 1621
John 21 January, 1623/24
Amy 30 November, 1626
Dorothy 1 July, 1629

One is perhaps immediately struck by the size of this family and cannot help but wonder if these ten people stayed in the same house that sheltered just six 20 years ealrier? And another clue might be the names given and how these may lead us to the grandparents of Thomas Lord (as yet unknown). Children were often named for immediate relatives, so by eliminating the known names, we are left with names that must relate to either a parallel branch (siblings of Richard) or an ancestor (parents of Richard).

"Richard" - clearly named for his granfather, Richard Lord. "Thomas" - clearly named for his father, Thomas Lord. "Robert" - clearly named for his mother's father, Robert Bird.  "Amy" - clearly named for her mother's mother, Amy Bird. "Dorothy" - clearly named for her mother, Dorothy (Bird) Lord. So that leaves "Ann", "William" and "John". Some souces suggest Richard had a brother named "William", but that is not confirmed. So these clues remain just that.... clues.



This webpage is being worked on. A substantial amount of primary data has still to be collected. So please check back in a few weeks.

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