Featherstone alias Blackmore

Research in Progress

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Note: There is an update of February 2010 on the Featherstone Blackmore alias.

The Blackmore alias used by the earliest Featherstone ancestors whom we have so far traced, which is to the late 1600s, and over the following century, suggests that their family name might have been Blackmore at some time within living memory of those who used the alias.

The critical point of inquiry with which my sister Elaine and her husband Donald Dobie went to search at Taunton, Somerset, recently was to find the place of birth and parents of John Featherstone (alias Blackmore) who married Frances Midlam at Wiveliscombe, Somerset, 29 July 1698. There they found a baptism of one John Blackmore, son of Thomas and Ann Blackmore, at Wiveliscombe13 May 1683, and Agnes daughter of Thomas and Ann Blackmore baptized 10 April 1686. (I have since learned that Gordon Morley in Canada, a descendant of a brother of our James who came to Tasmania, has noted the same entries). Those parents names, Thomas and Ann, are the names which had already been suggested had by a likely marriage at Bradford-on-tone in 1674. It is significant that they had a son named John at about the right time. The date is a little too late but it could be the link from Featherstone back to Blackmore if it was a delayed baptism, as was not uncommon in this family. The date 1683 is also significant for being a year of conflict between Dissenters and the Established Church at Taunton and nearby, as a result of which it was claimed that there had been increased attendance at the parish church in Taunton [See Bryan Little The Monmouth Episode, London, Werner Laurie 1956; and Trench The Western Rising cited below]. We know that there were some Blackmore and Featherstone baptisms in independent churches later. There are even birth entries in the Wiveliscombe register for some children of John Featherstone and Frances Midlam which appear to be quite separate from the entries made when they were baptized some years later. What follows justifies the search for the birth or baptism of John son of Thomas Blackmore and his wife Ann.

The evidence suggested initially that we should look for the birth of John Featherstone alias Blackmore in the villages between Wellington and Taunton or thereabouts, and especially Bradford-on-tone, and possibly Pitminster or Bishops Hull, in the years 1674 to 1680, and that his father might have been Thomas Blackmore whose marriage to Ann Thorn in 1674 is reported to be registered at both Bradford and Pitminster. The intitial reason for looking there came from an hypothesis that this Thomas Blackmore is the same as the man of that name who was hanged with Richard Bovet, of Bishop's Hull, at Cothelstone on the orders of Judge Jeffreys for his part in the Monmouth rebellion in 1685, and that his family subsequently changed their name and moved to Wiveliscombe. It now seems more likely that the Thomas who married Ann Thorn was a generation later than the man hanged at Cothelstone, and might perhaps have been a son or a nephew. As noted above, we now know that there was a John son of Thomas and Ann baptized at Wiveliscombe at 1683, nevertheless we have reason to examine the historical record and genealogical information for the Taunton area in more depth.

The Blackmore alias

When the first four children of John and Frances (at least those still living) were baptised at Wiveliscombe in 1712, much delayed, the register reads in part "1712 Thomas, Mary, Martha & Sarah, ye Son and Daughters of John & Frances Featherstone, als. Blackmore were Baptiz'd upon Good Friday Ap. 18th." Then follow the ages of the children. The delay in baptizing the children could have been due to estrangement from the established church in a family which had been associated with an independent congregation. The alias Blackmore had appeared for a burial in March 1711/12 of Lazarus son of John Featherstone als. Blackmore, and again in February 1717/18 at the baptism of a seventh child, Joseph, but not for their fifth, sixth and eighth children. Later there was on 30 January 1731/2 the burial of Samuel Blackmoor als. Featherstone, and 6 June 1747 John Featherstone als. Blackmoor (presumably John who married in 1698). Thomas, the eldest son of John, who was 11 years old at that time of his baptism, appears to have married outside the parish for no marriage record has been found at Wiveliscombe for him as either Featherstone or Blackmore, but he and his wife appear in the Wiveliscombe parish register as Thomas and Margery Featherstone for the baptism of their first four children, Robert, Eleanor, Margery, and Thomas, while for the fifth child, John, in February 1741/42 they are Thomas and Margery "Blackmoor".

Robert, the eldest of those children of Thomas and Margery, married under the name Blackmore: Wiveliscombe, marriage: 2 Sept. 1746 Robert Blackmore & Elizabeth Darch, and the Blackmore name was used alone at the baptism of their eldest child Mary in 1747 but not for their later children who were all recorded simply as Featherstone. Mary was known later as Mary Blackmore alias Featherstone when a child of hers died in 1784, and as Mary Featherstone at the baptism of another child John in 1770. So it appears that the Blackmore name continued to be used in an inconsistent manner for nearly a hundred years after the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685, with two periods of significant usage around 1712-18 and 1741-47. We might wonder whether in the first period it was a forced disclosure on the part of the clergyman who knew their background and in second period perhaps a choice to revert to the original name which for some reason was not maintained. Perhaps the name Featherstone had by then become too well established.

It may be important to have in mind what was intended to be understood by "alias" when it was written in the parish register for the "Featherstone alias Blackmore" entries. It is the Latin derivation which is likely to have been in the minds of the clergymen of the Church of England who made the entries in the register, for in the relevant period they were all trained in the Classics. The Latin meaning of "alias" is "at another time or place". The Macquarie Dictionary has: alias , adv., n., pl. aliases. -adv. 1. at another in another place; in other circumstances; otherwise. 'Simpson alias Smith' means a person calling himself at one time or one place 'Smith', at another 'Simpson'. -n. 2. assumed. name; another name. [L: at another time or place]. [See also The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.] So the first occurrence of which we are aware, at the baptism of four children of "John Featherstone als Blackmore" at Wiveliscombe in 1712 meant literally that their father John, now known as John Featherstone, had been known previously at Wiveliscombe or at another place as John Blackmore. However, that would apply strictly only to the first generation in which the alias was used, because for legal reasons an alias might be passed on from one generation to another, and sometimes that was done for as long as a hundred years. An alias might have been retained in order to preserve property rights where property had been held on the ancient copyholder type of tenure which was less secure than freehold or in order to preserve the legality of a marriage and thus legitimate descent where a person had been married under one name in a dissenting Church and the other name in the established Church whose record alone would have had legal force at that time. It might also arise when a mother remarried, or when children were illegitimate, to indicate the natural father of the children. [See the entry for "Alias" in Pauline Saul's book A to Z of Tracing your Ancestors (5th Edition) See endnote] These various usages of "alias" need to be kept in mind when considering the evidence for the use of "Featherstone alias Blackmore" at Wiveliscombe. For similar reasons people were sometimes re-baptised in the Church of England in order to obtain legal identification for some official purpose after having been baptised originally in an independent church. This might have been one reason also for delayed baptisms of which we have some examples.

Even if there was good reason for John Featherstone alias Blackmore having an alias, we are still left with the question of why the name Featherstone came to be adopted. Why Featherstone? We can only guess at this stage that it came from a marriage at some unknown time or perhaps from a landlord who gave them a living. There must have been reason for the particular name, but we have nothing to indicate what it might have been, and at this stage it seems more fruitful to look into reasons for a change away from Blackmore.

Reasons for a change of name and the historical background

If there was a change of name it must have been for good reason, and the Monmouth Rebellion could have given a family sufficient cause. The remarriage of a widow might also be relevant, although it would not appear to be sufficient alone for retention of both the alias Blackmore and Featherstone in later generations, especially if they were not people of property which appears to be the case. The Rebellion brought great suffering to the common people of the South West, and the Taunton district in particular, when they rallied to the hopeless cause of James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, as he attempted to take the crown from his uncle James II. There are records of the names of some 4000 who joined Monmouth's army or were accused of having supported the rebels in various ways. After finding that one of those transported to the West Indies by Judge Jeffreys at the "Bloody Assizes" was a Samuel Blackmore, we searched for evidence of any Blackmore or Featherstone names among those accused. There were five Blackmore and no Featherstone men names in those historic lists. So if there was a change of name for reason of involvement in the Rebellion it was likely to have been from Blackmore to Featherstone, rather than the other way. The Blackmore names in Wigfield (ed) The Monmouth Rebels are as follows:

Richard Blackmore, weaver, of Taunton St Mary, "aiding" (CP); Blue regt. (P). [The Blue Regiment was one of the regiments formed by Monmouth which fought at Sedgemoor. DB.]

Samuel Blackmore, tried at Wells; transported for Stapleton (JR) in the 'Indeavour' from Bristol on Oct 20 to Nevis or St Kitts (SL). [There were Featherstones at Wookey near Wells, but it is far to the east of Taunton.]

Thomas Blackmore, tried at Taunton; hanged at Cothelstone (JR, JW). [Cothelstone is about 10 kms NE of Taunton and a similar distance ENE of Wiveliscombe. DB]

William Blackmore, senior, yeoman, of Colyton,"absent" (CP); presented at Exeter but at large (JR). [Colyton is in Devon, about 5 kms N of Seaton on the South coast and W of Lyme Regis where Monmouth landed.]

William Blackmore, junior, yeoman, of Colyton, "absent" (CP); imprisoned in the workhouse at Exeter but escaped ('London Gazette'); presented at Exeter but at large (JR), returned to Colyton; his child baptized there in summer of 1688 (PR).

Abbreviations used above:

CP Constables' Presentments ('The Monmouth Roll')

JR Jeffreys' Report to King James; British Library, Additional MS 90337.

JW Jeffreys' Warrant to Sheriff of Somerset. In British Library.

P Presumption

PR Parish Register

SL Sailing and Shipping Lists

The best fit to our data among those who were named as rebels would be Thomas Blackmore who was hanged at Cothelstone with Colonel Richard Bovet (sometimes recorded as Buffet or Bassett) [Wigfield's 1980 book The Monmouth Rebellion, a social history]. Cothelstone is about 10 kms NW of Taunton where the trial was held - "...they sat at Taunton on Thursday, September 17th, here in three days they wiped off the list several hundred cases." [Sir Edward Parry, The Bloody Assize, London, Ernest Benn, 1929, p. 250] The Battle of Sedgemoor was fought on the night of July 5-6th 1685. There is a picture of Cothelstone Manor in the AAA Guide to Britain where it has the following caption: PAYING WITH THEIR LIVES Judge Jeffreys hanged two of Monmouth's followers in the gateway to Cothelstone Manor after the Duke's defeat at Sedgemoor in 1685. Earlier, during the Civil War, the manor was besieged, and its owner Sir John Stawell spent 14 years in prison. Both the manor and the gatehouse can be viewed by appointment. Herewith a recent photo of the outer gate of the manor with the manor house and village church in the background. It has been claimed that Bovet and Blackmore were hanged on this gateway arch, but that is unlikely. [Wigfield's 1980 book 'The Monmouth Rebellion, a social history' has a picture of the archway at the entrance of Cothelstone manor as the place "from which Col. Bovet and Thomas Blackmore were hanged on Judge Jeffrey's order". Robin Bush's book 'Somerset Stories', published 1990 refers to several early sources which contain no reference to the archway as the site of the hanging and one which says that 'An 18th Century map of Cothelstone manor shows the park gate situated high up on the Quantock ridge.' Adding that "the first author that I can find who identifies the manor archway with the hangings was J.L1.P. Creswell in his 'Land of the Quantock' (1903), over two centuries after the event: hardly contemporary evidence for the fact." - with thanks to Susan Tyler.]

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Bovet was commander of the Blue Regiment in Monmouth's army which was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor, near Bridgewater to the North East of Taunton, following a brief campaign after Monmouth had been proclaimed King at Taunton. The Blue Regiment was made up of about 800 men from Taunton and surrounding districts, who Bovet as a former officer from that region under Oliver Cromwell, insisted on having under his command. Bovet was being 'offered' in execution to a personal enemy as a sick joke or sign of contempt on the part of Judge Jeffreys who ordered that he be hanged at the gate of Lord Stawell's home (Cothelstone) because Stawell, in spite of being perhaps the strongest opponent of the rebels in the district and a noted Tory, had objected to Jeffreys about his cruel practice of having dismembered bodies scattered and parts publically displayed in villages across the South West. Bovet was apparently chosen as a sort of present to Stawell because Bovet had been given possession of part of the Stawell estates when the land of his father Sir John Stawell was taken from them for siding with Charles I in the Civil War. Taunton was a Puritan stronghold which had taken the side of Parliament in 1644 when most of the South West was still controlled by the King and Cothelstone was a point of Royalist defence. [See W. MacDonald Wigfield The Monmouth Rebellion and the article "The Rebellious Army of James Scott, Late Duke of Monmouth" in Ivan Roots (Ed.) The Monmouth Rising, Devon Books 1986; and Charles Chenevix Trench, The Western Rising, London, Longmans, 1969.]

Possible links between the historical background and family data

The IGI has a record for a Thomas Blackmore who could be the father of our John Featherstone alias Blackmore: 8 Sept 1674, the marriage of Thomas Blackmore to Ann Thorn at Bradford, Som (presumably Bradford-on-tone about 5 kms WSW of Taunton). This marriage is significant because we have a later birth of the child John to Thomas and Ann Blackmore at Wiveliscombe, as will be discussed further. The same marriage is in the IGI for the same date at Pitminster, which is about 5 kms S of Taunton, but this registration does not appear in a list of Blackmore registrations for that parish linked to the Somerset records office web site. The familysearch.com reference is to a private research report at the LDS Temple in Salt Lake City and it appears that the IGI has not yet covered many parish registers of Somerset villages for the early periods (but filming was underway at Taunton recently). The record of marriage of Thomas Blackmore to Ann Thorn which appears on the same date at both Bradford-on-tone and Pitminster (if that is correct) is probably a case of the marriage being registered in the parishes of both parties, which happened sometimes when they were not both of the same parish at the time of marriage, and it would appear that an LDS member has traced them in parish registers which have not been entered into the IGI as a whole.

There is no certainty that this is the same Thomas Blackmore who was hanged at Cothelstone with Colonel Bovet, but the villages concerned are close to where Richard Bovet lived and it would be worth checking the registers of both parishes to see if other members of either family can be found there. The date 1674 would give time for several children to be born; and the marriage date for John Featherstone (later alias Blackmore) in 1698 suggests that he might well have been born between 1674 and say 1680. We have a baptism registration for John Blackmore in 1683, which is rather too late, but it could have been a deferred baptism as were several in the family of John Featherstone alias Blackmore, as noted above. It is hard to know where the children of the Thomas Blackmore and Ann Thorn marriage might have been born. It could be anywhere around Taunton, but those two parishes where the marriage was registered would seem likely possibilities, and we do have the registration of the baptism at Wiveliscombe. Whether it is the same family is hard to tell at this stage. Bishops Hull should also be considered as a Blackmore location in the same period.

Bovet came from Bishops Hull, on the SW outskirts of present day Taunton on the way to Wellington. It was within an hour or so's walk from Bradford-on-tone where it appears that Thomas Blackmore was married. Bovet was known as one of the "Wellington Roundheads". Wellington is about 10 kms SW of Taunton. Bovet was a fanatical republican and one of a notorious group centred on Wellington. He was a Colonel in the Somerset militia during the interregnum, and one of the very few local landholders of significance or experienced officers who joined Monmouth. It would appear quite likely that Thomas Blackmore could have had some association with him in the area near Wellington or Taunton, rather than having had any previous connection with Cothelstone where they were hanged. This area around Wellington is near the Devon border and most the Bovets (like the Blackmores) in the parish records from the 1600s are in Devon or Cornwall, some close to the Somerset border.

Bishop's Hull is a significant location for another reason than its being the home of Richard Bovet. It is also the parish of the marriage of a likely parent of the Thomas Blackmore who married Ann Thorn: either John Blackmore who married in 1645 or perhaps another Thomas Blackmore who was married in the same parish a year earlier. These two, Thomas and John, married two sisters, and were presumably brothers. Bishops Hull Marriages 1562-1812 from the web page http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/SOM/BishopsHull/Bmar_A.html: - has Blackmore, John m. Joane Shute, d. of Richard Shute 15 Aug 1644; and Blackmore, Thomas m. Mary Shute, d. of Richard Shute 02 Oct 1645.

In the same period there were a number of John Blackmore baptisms and marriages in Devon. One, presumably not the man of that name who was married at Bishops Hull in 1645, but just possibly the same, was a Major under Cromwell after being known as a Puritan student at Oxford at the time of the Civil War, and later in the interregnum was High Sheriff of Devon. He was an ancestor of Richard Doddridge Blackmore, the author of Lorna Doone, whose earliest known ancestors came from the area of North Devon around Lynton, Martinhoe and Parracombe, not a great distance west of Wiveliscombe. [See the biography of R D Blackmore by Waldo Hilary Dunn, Robert Hale, London, 1956.] The Monmouth Rebellion, of course, figures in the background of the story told in the famous romantic novel. Whether any family involvement in it was part of the tradition which inspired the story and was passed on in the family of R D Blackmore, whose grandfather was something of an antiquarian and genealogist, would be interesting to know. There are certainly some echos of relevant names (eg Bassett, which is one form of the name Bovet), and likely personal characteristics of some key figures in the novel. (One could write a little essay on that in itself.) We don't know whether the Devon family of Blackmore who fought for Parliament in the Civil War was related to the Blackmore men of Somerset and Devon who are recorded among Monmouth's men, but there was a sympathetic commitment, and it seems likely that they belonged together as most of Monmouths volunteers came from those groups which had supported Cromwell a generation earlier.

The likelihood is that the rebel Devonshire and Somerset Blackmores were at least distantly related to those of Devon earlier, and to those still living there, and that they were of a similar mind on the matters of moment in their day. We may assume that the wider Blackmore family was strongly identified with the Parliamentary cause in the time of the Civil War and for some time thereafter, although some ambivalence about this had developed in the tradition represented by R D Blackmore. By contrast the only Featherstone we know of who had any part in the Civil War was on the side of the King at the Battle of Worcester and lost his head and castle as a consequence. It was former supporters of the cause of Parliament like Richard Bovet in Somerset and John Blackmore in Devon who rallied to Monmouth's side in the Rebellion rather than those who had been on the side of Monmouth's father (Charles II) and grandfather (Charles I) earlier. [On the politics of allegiance with Monmouth see also the biography by J N P Watson Captain-General and Rebel Chief: the life of James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. London, George Allen and Unwin. 1979.]

In this context, however, one is led to ask whether it might have been an old comrade in arms who was hanged with Bovet, rather than a younger man like the Thomas Blackmore who married Ann Thorn in 1674. The older Thomas Blackmore who married in Bovet's home parish in 1644 might perhaps have been more likely to have fought with him and to have had sufficient prominence for Jeffreys to direct that he be hanged with Bovet, especially if he was of the same family as John Blackmore who was one of Cromwell's men in Devon. Old scores were being settled then, among other concerns. If that were the case, there would still be a fair probability that the younger Thomas Blackmore was associated with the cause as a son of either Thomas or John Blackmore of Bishops Hull. In either case such a family association could have been sufficient reason for a change of name. There could, of course, have been other men named Thomas and John Blackmore in the general area of the Vale of Taunton Deane, but there was not a large number of Blackmore families in that part of Somerset at that time, and it is likely that most of those who were there were related within a few generations.

The name 'Thomas' is very likely to be among the ancestors of John Featherstone/Blackmore who married in 1698 for it is repeated in the name of his eldest son and regularly in subsequent generations, down to the last before James who emigrated to Tasmania in 1842 and whose eldest brother was named Thomas. When that Thomas died another son was given the same name, and then after another death yet another child was named Thomas. We may assume that "Thomas" was being remembered for good reason, and we can ask whether it was in memory of Thomas Blackmore of whose execution the people of the South West would not have been ashamed, even if they needed at times to make their descent from him not altogether obvious. If Thomas Blackmore who lived near Wellington was not the father of John Featherstone alias Blackmore who married at Wiveliscombe he could have been an uncle or other relative in a family which changed its name, but direct descent seems the most likely reason for the change.

My initial hypothesis was that after the execution of Thomas Blackmore his family moved away from the area in which they had been living near Taunton, perhaps to Wiveliscombe where John married, and changed their name from Blackmore to Featherstone. However, we now have the birth of John Blackmore son of Thomas and Ann at Wiveliscombe in 1683, before the Rebellion. So the probability is increased that it was the older Thomas Blackmore who was hanged with Bovet, although the younger man could have joined Monmouth from Wiveliscombe. Against the younger man going to Taunton to join the rebel army is the fact that among those known later to have been accused in court of being rebels there were none from Wiveliscombe [according to Wigmore's index of places which list for each place all those named from that place, in The Monmouth Rebels.] There were many from Bishops Hull and nearby places. Thomas Blackmore's name does not appear among those from Bishops Hull. In fact there is no home parish given for him in the trial and sentence records. Over all, the hypothesis of a change of name by reason of the family having been associated with the rebels is still reasonable, but not as strong as it might have been had we found that the family moved to Wiveliscombe after the Rebellion. It is possible as an alternative to a direct name change that the widow of one Thomas Blackmore married a man named Featherstone. The name Featherstone might also have come from the name of a landholder where they lived. As noted above here must be some reason for the particular name being chosen whatever cause there was for a change, but that is another question.

If there was a change of name in the circumstances of the Rebellion and its aftermath there would be no Featherstone names related to them anywhere before 1685 unless at some point it was a woman's maiden or married name before remarriage which was later taken by some of the men; and "Featherstone alias Blackmore" would only appear at Wiveliscombe from that time, unless again Featherstone is from the distaff side somewhere there. Blackmore, however, should appear wherever they were before that date. These are questions to address when we can study the parish registers more thoroughly. However, recent information has come to hand from Gordon Morley (private email) and David Cheek (see http://web.libertysurf.co.uk/pbenyon/H_m_w/Index.html ) who have each extracted some entries from the Wiveliscombe parish registers with evidence of several Blackmore people being in the parish in the 1680s. The earliest entry which has been reported for a Blackmore is the marriage of Alice Blackmore to Nicholas Webber 11 February 1681. There were burials of two children of a William Blackmore (1684) and 1695) and of his wife Jane (1685). So there were several adult Blackmores there at the time when the child John was born to Thomas and Ann Blackmore in 1683 and his sister Agnes was born in April 1686 (barely within the range possible for her father to have been executed in September and probably captured in July 1685, assuming no delay in baptism). All of which suggests that we might find earlier generations at Wiveliscombe rather than nearer Taunton as we have been suggesting, but there are no reports of such earlier records at this stage, although Gordon Morley was not sure about possibly having seen one. The earliest certain Featherstone record we have at Wiveliscombe is the marriage of John to Frances Midlam in 1698, followed by the birth of their daughter Elizabeth in 1699, and son Thomas in 1700, and another daughter Mary 1702. Those birth records are strange because they correspond to delayed baptisms in 1712 when the Blackmore alias was used, but the births appear to have been separately recorded perhaps because of association with an independent congregation. Of further interest is the burial of a Jane Featherstone on 1 Apr 1700 (so there was another Featherstone adult, either this Jane or a parent of hers, there as well as John), and in 1703 the burial of Agnes daughter of Thomas & Ann Blackmoor. Then there is the burial 18 Aug 1711 of Thomas Blackmoor. So Agnes sister of John, it seems, was still known as a Blackmore. And if the Thomas who was buried in 1711 was their father he was still Blackmore(oor) and was not the man who was hanged. The first known use of the alias is for a burial in 1711 a "son of John Featherstone alias Blackmoor." So the possibility still remains of this John Featherstone having been born John Blackmore, perhaps a few years before his baptism in 1683, taking the name Featherstone before 1698 and using the alias by at least 1711. But obviously, there are many other possibilities.

One possibility we should consider further is that Thomas and Ann Blackmore who had the children John and Agnes baptized at Wiveliscombe in 1683 and 1686 were neither the couple who married at Bradford-on-Tone nor the parents of John Featherstone alias Blackmore. They could simply have been local Blackmore people whose children were baptized in the normal course of events without delay. Delay often results in several children being baptized at the same time, but that was not the case here. Along with this "more normal" case would go the possibility that the name Blackmore in itself was not something to disown, there being a number of such people at Wiveliscombe leading unremarkable lives, who could well have come there, perhaps a generation or so earlier, from Devon to the West or South, so that our John must then have had reasons peculiar to his particular family and circumstances for a change of name to have occurred. If so, our John could still have been born John Blackmore and we would still have to find his parents, either the other Thomas and Ann from Bradford or two completely different people of whom we know nothing so far, who might or might not have had anything to do with those Blackmores who rallied to Monmouth's cause. If there were then no such direct connection with the momentous events of the time, the history of the Rebellion and its background in the Civil War would provide interesting insights into the social context of the family at Wiveliscombe rather than direct evidence of the life of our ancestors.

Many of the more than one third of Monmouth's men who were engaged in agriculture were yeomen, like the two Blackmore rebels from Colyton in Devon, while it has been claimed that many labourers were afraid to join for fear of their landlords. If Thomas Blackmore had land it would have been taken from his estate and sold after his execution - lists of those executed were sent to London for that purpose. Now that we know that Thomas and Ann Blackmore were at Wiveliscombe before 1685, any confiscation is less likely to be relevant although it might account for the later status of the family as landless labourers. There was also a major industry in textiles at Wellington and Taunton, and some also at Wiveliscombe, in which many were out of work at the time of the Rebellion, so for Thomas there are other likely alternatives for his employment, but the association with Bovet suggests at least a point of further inquiry about their origins in economic terms in the area very near Taunton. If there were any land held by their Blackmore ancestors it would seem never to have been recovered nor did any of the Featherstone descendants for several generations at Wiveliscombe rise in status as far as we know to that of a landholder of any kind. Neither were they literate, in cases where we have evidence, nor did they leave wills, and that might make one wonder if their earlier ancestors ever were literate or landed either. The ability to read and write might have been expected of an army officer if Thomas Blackmore were one as a colleague of Bovet, but he could have been a trusted servant of Bovet rather than a fellow landholder and member of the better off educated class to which at least some of the Devon Blackmores belonged. So there are still significant questions to answer, and as noted above the more likely link may be with a later generation Thomas Blackmore who married Ann Thorn in 1674. Thomas Blackmore who died with Richard Bovet is more likely to be a man of about his age who was active in Cromwell's army and administration. Indeed it would seem that what we have discovered leaves us with more questions than we had at an earlier stage.

David Beswick, 5 November 2000, revised 3 February 2001.

There is a little more to add after my research at Taunton and Wiveliscombe in 2004. The main point of interst in regard to a possible link back to the puritan Blackmore family of Bishops Hull or thereabouts is that name Thorn (the surname of the wife of Thomas, father of John, baptised in 1683) was prominant at Wiveliscombe and was later strongly associated with the independent church there. DB 2 July 2005

There is an update of February 2010 on the Featherstone Blackmore alias.

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Endnote: See Pauline Saul's book A to Z of Tracing your Ancestors (5th Edition) It gives Alias as 'The Master of the Rolls said in 1730 that he was "satisfied that anyone may take upon him what surname and as many surnames as he pleases". In 1822 Lord Chief Justice Abbot added " A name assumed by voluntary act of a man adopted by all who know him and by which he is constantly called, becomes as much and as effectively his name as if he had obtained an Act of Parliament to confer it upon him" Those statements are still pertinent if one considers entertainers (Frances Gumm was better known as Judy Garland) or a child who takes the surname of its stepfather but never the less there is still a widely held view that there were other reasons for using an alias. One of them related to copyhold land and occurred when the mother of a family remarried, having had children by her first marriage. Quite often, if the children were very young, they could take the surname of their step-father, but in order not to lose their claim to their natural father's copyhold land, they would use both names as their surname. Remember that the only place where the entitlement to the copyhold land could be registered was in the manor courts, and without birth certificates etc. to prove descent from a particular person it was easier to continue the surname, so the alias would continue for generations and would be used very much as a hyphenated surname of today. Aliases were also used on occasions (1) in cases of illegitimacy to indicate the father's name, (2) to distinguish between two possible spellings of a surname e.g. Shore and Shaw. (3)when a foreign surname was Anglicised. It can also indicate Catholicism or Non conformity, where couples had married in their own chapels, not an Anglican church, and therefore the marriage was not valid in law. Alias is often abbreviated to "als" and quite often the mark used to indicate abbreviation makes it look like "ats"' [From Paul Featherstone].