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to a Social Study of a Yeoman Family

Of all the families from whom I am descended, the MAY family are, perhaps, the most interesting. For the past thirty year, my father has been researching their history, and twelve years ago, I too joined in the hunt. At first, they were seen as merely a family of country farmers living in the Woodley area of Berkshire in the nineteenth century. About a decade ago, however, it began to become clear that, in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, the family had been in possession of a large property in North-east Hampshire: Huish, a farm in Nately Scures parish, but detached, lying between Mapledurwell and Basing. subsequent investigation showed that the MAYs were a long line of yeoman farmers descended from one Thomas MAY (d. 1718) of Nately Scures and Elizabeth (CLAPSHOE) (1658-1740), his wife. Contact with Mr. Peter STEVENS of Teddington prompted further research, to try and establish a relationship with his ancestors, the MAYs of Brimpton (Berks) and Basingstoke (Hants). Further to this, it was hoped to establish a link between Charles MAY (1670-1714) who was Mayor of Basingstoke from 1711-14 and the four MAYs who were successive mayors of the same town throughout the nineteenth century. Basingstoke local historians have consistently assured their resders that this link was undeniable, and that Charles MAY (1670-1714) was the ancestor the the later MAY mayors. In fact, just a little research could have shown the latter point to be impossible: Charles MAY (1670-1714) of Basingstoke had only one surviving son, Daniel, who himself left no children. Eventually the family tree (fig.1) that we see today emerged: the MAYs of Brimpton and Basingstoke are also descended from Thomas MAY (d. 1718) of Nately Scures, and Charles MAY (1670-1714), Mayor of Basingstoke, was his brother. All these relationships were fitted together independently of, and confirmed by, the writings of Emma Elizabeth THOYTS (1860-1949) of Sulhamstead House (1). This lady wrote extensively about the family at the end of the nineteenth century, being a descendant of Charles MAY (1670-1714) of Basingstoke’s youngest daughter. She was a well known local historian and wrote, the still recognised standard work, How to Decipher and Study Old Documents. She had corresponded with Mrs. T.H. Delabere MAY (b. 1848) who appears to have been the true MAY researcher. The writings of the latter, known today to her near relatives by the affectionate name of just Mary Anne, had, up till recently, alluded us. Now, contact with her great nieces and nephews has given access to a wealth of wonderful material which tells of both statistical and personal information. These and my own researches have all shown that the known members of the MAY family were prosperous and wealthy people, worthy of a much more intense survey, especially between the births of John MAY of Worting in 1630 and William MAY of Sandford in 1830.


    © David Nash Ford 2001. All Rights Reserved.