So who was Asty George?

So who was Asty George?

Since my visit to East Dereham church in Norfolk I have been wondering about Asty George.  To have been buried in the Lady Chapel he must have been reasonably wealthy.  And what about the name Asty?  It’s certainly unusual.

Asty George
Memorial for Asty George Lady Chapel

On my return from my travels I decide to create a separate tree on Ancestry from ‘my’ George tree, piecing together what I know of Asty and his descendants.  Although he’s not currently ‘one of mine’ (and for all I know he may never be!), I am intrigued to know more about him.

I know from his grave that his wife was Elizabeth, dying nine years after him in 1732.  I also know from the East Dereham parish records of the baptisms of seven children, born between 1707 and 1716.  Two sons called Ast(e)y did not live beyond the age of three years old and another son Peter died as an infant.  The grave inscription says “near this place lye 4 of his sons”, and alhough I have found no baptism, there is the burial of John, son of Asty, in 1716, making four sons.  The oldest son Thomas lived to adulthood and married a Mary Rash, with five children baptised at East Dereham.  Asty and Elizabeth also have a daughter Elizabeth and another called Frances.

East Dereham
Inside East Dereham church

Adding the tree to Ancestry enables me to check for ‘shaky leaves’.  Bingo!  A marriage record for Asty and Elizabeth – in Norwich Cathedral!  Wow!  They married at the Cathedral on 10 July 1705 and the record furthermore indicates  that Asty was a widower and a weaver by trade.  That’s interesting!  The East Anglian cloth trade would be another whole avenue to explore.  A widower – so somewhere there may be another marriage record and the burial of his first wife.

What else does Ancestry suggest?  Another researcher has Asty on her tree with a sixth child born to Thomas – a son John in 1740, marrying a Sarah Knapp.  Now, that’s exciting as I have another so far unconnected tree with a John and Sarah who must have a connection with Asty somewhere along the line as there is a grandson with the name Astey.  But in my trawling through the parish records I have never found a baptism for this John.  I wonder what the source is?  I send a message to the fellow Ancestry researcher and await a response.

I search the records for Asty, and another suggestion appears:  A…. George, baptised 10 September 1672 in Ovington, Norfolk, father Petri and mother Annae.  How strange.  Did the transcriber struggle to read the writing?  Ovington records this far back are not on the Norfolk Family History Society site, so not much further progress to be made there, but that baptism date would certainly work.

Another day, and another opportunity presents itself in the form of the FindMyPast free weekend!  This is not a site I am familiar with, so a good chance to see what it can offer.  I search for the name George in Ovington, and result!!  This time the marriage of Peter George and Anne ASTY on 11 June 1663 in Ovington.  Of course!  Asty is his mother’s maiden name.  I should have guessed.  Ok, so it’s not absolutely proven – I still need to check out that baptism record somehow – but it very much looks as though I have found Asty’s parents and solved the mystery of his name.

But another thing about Asty the weaver:  why did this not occur to me before?  He has a coat of arms on his grave.  A coat of arms carved on his grave after he died in 1723.  He therefore had the right to bear arms.  Now there’s a thing.  Heraldry is an area I know little about.  How do I find out when he was granted these arms?  Was it granted to him or to a forebear?  This requires further investigation and potentially I might be able to find out a lot more about dear Asty and family.  Wouldn’t it be nice if he turned out to be ‘mine’!

George; East Dereham
Asty George coat of arms
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