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Further Observations on the Ancestry of Colonel Thomas Ligon of Henrico County

27 April 2009 Leave a comment

Source: Neil D. Thompson, “Further Observations on the Ancestry of Colonel Thomas Ligon of Henrico County,” Virginia Genealogist 38[1994].

[page 48]

Fifteen years ago there was published in this journal a useful correction to what had previously been published concerning the descent of the immigrant Thomas LIGON from the family of LYGON of Madresfield, co. Gloucester,1 and thus from the Lords BERKELEY and other notable medieval English families.  The authors apparently did not notice that John SMYTH of Nibley had covered the ground before them2 and omitted a number of important documents in their account.  Having been requested to review the proposed line by a descendant,3 and since the promised further account which had been planned never appeared, it seemed appropriate to review the line of descent from William LYGON of Madresfield to the immigrant with the additional information.

William LYGON of Madresfield, born in or about 1512,4 died at Madresfield 8 Sept. 1567 and was buried at Great Malvern “in the high chancel” 2 Oct. 1567.5 His will, dated 22 Aug. 1567 and proved 12 Aug. 1568,6 named his eldest son Richard as executor and entailed upon him the lion’s share of the family lands.  His second son Thomas was named in the remainder after Richard’s heirs male.  He did not mention his three younger sons, his three elder daughters (all married by then) or his wife, though she


1 Michael J. Wood and Gary Boyd Roberts, “Four Thomas LYGONs (LIGONs): An Abstract of New Findings,” The Virginia Genealogist, v. 22 (1978), pp. 353-55.  These notes do not concern themselves with the career and family of (Col.) Thomas LIGON in Virginia.

2 John Smyth, of Nibley, The Lives of the BERKELEYs … (3 v.; Gloucester, 1883-85), v. 2, p. 178, 183-84.

3 Brice M. Clagett, Esq., of Washington, D.C., who has kindly granted permission to publish the findings separately in advance of the appearance of his book on the ancestry of his children, to be published next year.

4 Inquisition post mortem of (Sir) Richard LYGON, Public Record Office, Chancery Ser. 2, 109:74 (Gloucester), 110:172 (Worcester), which shows William LYGON age 44 in 1556.

5 Great Malvern, Worcestershire, Parish register, unpaged.

6 Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 15 Babington (1568).

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did survive him.

As early as 1529 he contracted to marry Eleanor DENNIS,7 daughter of (Sir) William DENNIS of Dirham, co. Gloucester, by his wife Anne, daughter of Maurice, Lord BERKELEY.8 She was dead by 2 March 1585/6 when the administration of her intestate estate was granted to her three younger sons, Thomas, Hugh and Francis LYGON; the probate documents are lost but the act book preserves the date.9 She was probably residing on the LYGON dower lands in co. Gloucester.

As Richard LYGON, eldest son and heir, was age thirty years and more when his father’s inquisition post mortem was taken,10 thus born in or before 1537, and if three of Richard’s four sisters were married by 1567, so born by 1547, we pay [sic] place the birth of Thomas LYGON, second son, in about 1545.  He was buried at Elkstone, co. Gloucester, as “Thomas LIGON, Gent.,” on 14 Aug. 1603.11 No probate record appears to exist for him but there seems to be no reason to doubt the list of his seven children given by Smyth, who would have known his eldest son Thomas, receiver for his cousin Henry, Lord BERKELEY, personally.12

Thomas LYGON married his cousin Frances DENNIS, daughter of Hugh and Katharine (TRYE) DENNIS of Puchlechurch, co. Gloucester.13 She survived her husband and died at Caludon, co. Warwick, and was buried 30 Jan. 1634/5 at Walsgrave-on-Sowe in the same county;14 her will, dated 17 Oct. 622 [sic] and proved 1 June 1625,15 mentions only two children, her sons Thomas, named executor, and Richard.


7 William D. LIGON, The LIGON Family and Connections (2 v.; Hartford, Conn., 1947-57), v. 1, p. 45, dates the marriage contract to Autumn 1529, probably from the original in the Madresfield archives.

8 Smyth, op. cit., v. 2, p. 178.  For a family pedigree see also (Sir) John Maclean and W.C. Heane, ed., The Visitation of the County of Gloucester … (Harleian Society, Publications, Visitation ser., v. 21; London, 1885), pp. 50-51.

9 Consistory Court of Gloucester, Act Book, 1585.

10 Inquisition post mortem of William LYGON, Public Record Office, Chancery ser. 2, 148:1 (Worcester), 149:128 (Gloucester).

11 Elkstone, Gloucestershire, Parish register.

12 Smyth, op. cit., v. 2, p. 184.

13 Maclean and Heane, op. cit., p. 51.

14 Walsgrave-on-Sowe, Warwickshire, Parish register, unpaged.

15 Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 70 Clarke (1625), in which it is said that she is residing at Merson, co. Wilts.

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The son Thomas LYGON, born in or about 1577 (aged 44 “or thereabouts” in 1621),16 was buried at Walsgrave-on-Sowe as “Mr. Thomas LIGON from Stoke” on 20 Dec. 1626.17 He married there 18 Aug. 162318 Elizabeth PRATT (“Mr. Thomas LIGGINS and Elizabeth PRATT from Caludon”), baptized at Stoke-Biggin, co. Warwick, 10 Oct. 1602,19 buried at Walsgrave-on-Sowe as “Elizabeth LIGON” 19 Aug. 1631,20 daughter of Dennis or Dionis PRATT and his wife.  The nuncupative will of Denis PRATT, undated but proved 21 July 1614,21 left everything to his wife Ann “to bring up the children”; the estate was a small one and it appears that Elizabeth PRATT was well below the social level of her husband, for she is not called “Mrs.” at marriage, at burial or in her estate proceedings.  John Smyth does not mention any prior wife for Thomas LYGON and, given the short period of time between marriage and the birth of the son Thomas (less than five months) it is likely that Elizabeth PRATT had been a housekeeper or maidservant for Thomas LYGON and was impregnated by him.

Administration of the estate of Thomas LYGON “of Stoke in the County [sic] of the City of Coventry” was granted to his widow Elizabeth 16 Feb. 1626/7.22 Stoke and Walsgrave-on-Sowe are suburban parishes to the City of Coventry while Caludon was part of the ancient parish of St. Michael’s, Coventry; since the early registers of St. Michael’s are destroyed, it is good that the LYGONs seem to have had their baptisms, marriages and burials at Walsgrave-on-Sowe (sometimes “Sowe,” a short form, is found).

Administration of the estate of Elizabeth PRATT alias LIGGON of Aldridge, co. Warwick [Aldridge is in fact in co. Stafford] was granted 30 Aug. 1631 to Richard LIGGON, paternal uncle of Thomas and Joan LIGGON, children of the said Elizabeth.23 Thomas had been baptized 11 Jan. 1623/4 and Joan 3 April 1625 at Walsgrave-on-Sowe as “of Caludon.”24 While John Smyth


16 Chancery Depositions, Elizabeth I-Charles I, Group 3, Bundle E 20, Suit 23, one of several valuable discoveries made by Mr. Michael Wood for the previous summary.

17 Walsgrave-on-Sowe Parish register.

18 Ibid.

19 Stoke Parish register, unpaged.

20 Walsgrave-on-Sowe Parish register, unpaged.

21 Consistory Court of Lichfield, Original wills, 1614.  The register entries for 1614 in the Stoke Parish register are virtually illegible.

22 Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Admon. Act. Book 1625-27, p. 133.

23 Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Admon. Act Book 1631-33, p. 48.

24 Walsgrave-on-Sowe Parish register, unpaged.

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satisfies himself with saying that Thomas and Elizabeth “hath issue” and does not name or pursue the two orphans,25 the fact that the young Thomas LIGON was a cousin both to the Lord BERKELEY and to Governor (Sir) William BERKELEY [Margery (LYGON) BERKELEY, the Governor’s paternal grandmother, was the eldest daughter of William and Eleanor (DENNIS) LYGON]26 would go far to explain the patronage which brought him to Virginia, and, given the lack of any other qualifying Thomas LIGON/LYGON of the proper age in England, and the names that the immigrant (Col.) Thomas LIGON gave to his children and the positions of responsibility and authority held by the latter at an early age in Virginia,27 gives no reason to doubt the identification made by Messrs. Wood and Roberts as the correct parentage for the immigrant.


25 Smyth, op. cit., v. 2, p. 184.

26 Ibid., v. 1, p. 261; v. 2, p. 184.

27 The best summary of the life and career of (Col.) Thomas LIGON in Virginia is in John Frederick Dorman, ed., Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia, 1607-1624/5 (3rd ed.; Richmond, 1987), pp. 356-57.