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Just One Word

By Daniel Hubbard | June 5, 2016

I’m always skeptical of connections to the famous, the powerful, and the high-born, but a current project in Tudor England is starting to smell suspicious. The family name matches the name of a village. In that village lived a noble family of the same name. In the parish church remains of this family include medieval knights’ effigies laid on top of their tombs. There is nothing there on which to base a conclusion, especially when the family I’m researching lived at the other end of England from that village.

Yet the name is fairly unique and this family had money. Lots of money. Will after will makes that clear. When a good deal of a man’s will has to do with how much gold his various relations should get, he is not a normal man. When a family appears in the records of the Court of Star Chamber, it is not a normal family. The family was gentry. The family had money, but at least so far their origins are a mystery.

A few days ago I turned up a little clue, and a reminder that every word has the potential to tell a story. The clue is single word in one of the wills, “pottinger,” a sort of kitchen vessel. As far as I have been able to tell, it is a word that doesn’t belong in a will written in southern England. It belongs in the far north. Why would a man in the south use that word? Perhaps it is a clue that his family, and perhaps even that artifact, had come from the north, perhaps from a little village that shares their name. Perhaps…

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