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William Death 1527 - 1590
Posted by: Doug Deeth Date: October 27, 1999 at 20:49:55
  of 443

Some people have asked for information about William Death. Here is a summary of what I have been able to find out.

Several families with family trees posted on the Internet trace their roots to William Death. Most accept a date of birth of 1527. WFT estimate is 1471 to 1525.

Some family histories give William's date of birth much later. Geddex af18 (John Death), ab14 and aw08, each give his date of birth as about 1583, and his marriage to Vaughn (from whom these families descend) at about 1612. This is inconsistent with other, known facts, particulary the founding of Dartford School. This discrepancy in the birthdates and marriage dates may mean that there is a generation missing on this side of the William Death family. (Some family histories shown the John Death who married Mary Peabody in about 1675 in Mass. as the grandson of William Death; others, probably more correct, show him as the great-grandson of William, with both the son and grandson of William being named John, as well.)

It appears clear that William was married at least twice. Some confusion arises from his two marriages. His first wife is commonly known as Elizabeth Crane, but at least one family tree (Broderbund WFT 2364) refers to her as Elizabeth Thatcher. Elizabeth died about 1581-2, and William married Anne Vaughn about 1582-3. The family trees referred to above put the date of the marriage to Vaughn at about 1612, with the first child of that marriage, John, born in about 1613.

There are certain facts that help with some of these dates.

William Death is buried in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Dartford, south east of London. There is a brass plaque mounted on a large stone in the aisle of the church. Originally the brass showed William, his two wives and fifteen children. The small portion of the plaque showing the children has apparently been lost during a restoration of the Church in 1925. On the brass is the inscription:

"Here under lyeth buryed, the bodye of Willyam Death, Gentylman, Principall of Staple Inne, and one of the Attorneys of the Common Pleas at Westminster, who had two wives Elizabeth and Anne, and had yssue by Elizabeth X sons and sixe daughters. Which Willyam beynge of the age of 63 years deceased ye fyrste of March 1590 and Anne beynge of the age of XL years deceased ye XIII of April 1582, unto whose soules Almighty God grant a joyfull ressurection."

(Note that despite the archaic English (and the mixed use of Roman and Arabic numbers, William's name is spelled Death, and not the somewhat pretentious D'Eath or D'Aeth found in some genealogies). This form of the name was adopted only by one branch of the family after Thomas Death, son of Thomas Death, Merchant of London, was created Sir Thomas Death, or D'Aeth

Dartford School was founded by William Death (then of Dartford), William Vaughn (described as one of the Yeomen of the Guard) of Erith (Anne's father?) and Edward Gwyn, described as a Mercer of London, in 1576, according to the School's history, and to "Dartford Further Historical Notes by S.K. Keyes.. (See The 1527 birth date would make William a 49 year old barrister at this time; the 1583 datesuggested by some is inconsistent with the founding of the School at this time.

William Death was also instrumental in the eatablishment of Staple Inn, an Inn of Chancery still located on the High Holborn in London, England. Staple Inn is referred to in a "Description Of Elizabethan England, 1577" referred to as Holinshed's Chronicles. In a history of Staple Inn written by E. Williams, William Death is referred to as the Principal of Staple Inn in 1585 and again in 1589

According to the records of the Society of Actuaries, who are now located in Staple Inn, " Staple Inn is a magnificent hall dating back to 1581 that houses one of London's finest hammerbeam roofs, priceless Elizabethan and Jacobean stained glass windows and original minstrels' gallery. The earliest record of a building on the site dates back to 1292."
The founding of Dartford School and the building of Staple Inn would tend to confirm the time period 1527 to 1590 for William Death.

Our own family history contains a reference to the Manor of Charles, said to have been built for William Death in the reign of Edward the Sixth.


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