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Dear Reader #139

Dear Reader,

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I’ve always felt Welsh and European, and my updated DNA test result (covering seven generations) confirms that fact. The Welsh half of my family is very Welsh, 48/50% while the European half is made up of 37/50% from Belgium/England/France/Germany/Luxembourg/Switzerland/The Netherlands plus a further 8% from Scotland/Ireland, 4% from Scandinavia, and 1% from Wales.

The Wilder branch of my family tree starts with my 7 x great grandmother Lucy Wilder. Sadly, in the historical record women are usually recorded as little more than wives or daughters, so it’s difficult to discover many personal details about them. Lucy was born on 8 December 1714, married Thomas Stokes on 17 February 1736 and died on 17 October 1777, all in Pangbourne. She gave birth to at least three children, possibly more. The records for Pangbourne are fairly good, but it’s possible that some of her children’s births escaped the register.

Lucy’s father, my 8 x great grandfather, was Richard Wilder (1681 – 1731). Richard was a churchwarden at St James the Less in Pangbourne. Churchwardens were expected to set a good example, and maintain order and peace. They were responsible for almost everything in a church except those duties performed by a priest.

Churchwardens were usually elected to their office and served as volunteers in a part-time capacity. This suggests that Richard was a respected member of the community. It also begs the questions: how did Richard make a living, and how did the Wilders achieve a prominent place in their community? I’m hoping Richard’s parents and grandparents will provide the answers.

St James the Less, Pangbourne. Wikipedia.

My 9 x great grandfather Richard Wilder was a boat builder in Pangbourne, Berkshire with workshops on the River Thames. Born on 25 September 1648, Richard married Dorothy Fryzer on 30 May 1675 and within five years, 27 March 1676 to 15 May 1681, she gave birth to four children. The fourth child, Richard, was my 8 x great grandfather. Dorothy died eleven days after Richard’s birth. During the seventeenth century 1.5% of all births ended in the mother’s death as a result of exhaustion, dehydration, infection, hemorrhage, or convulsions.

Richard’s boat building business was a success because in 1703 he left that business, two houses and the equivalent of £43,000 to his second wife, Lucie. Here are highlights from his will.

I, Richard Wilder of Panborn in the County of Berks Boat Builder, being weak of body but of sound and perfect memory doe make and ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner and forme following.

I give and bequeath to my loving wife Luci Wilder being my executrix hereafter named 400l-00s-00d. Item I give and bequeath my house and land in Baswelldon to my said wife during her naturall life and afterwards to be divided share and part alike between my two sonns Richard and Edward and to their heirs forever. 

Item I give and bequeath my house and land at Streetly to my aforesaid wife during her naturall life and after her death to my sonn John and his heirs forever. 

Item give all my household goods to my wife except my wearing apparell and that I give amongst my sonns share and part alike equally divided.

Item I give and bequeath to all my brothers and sisters one shilling apiece except my sister Elizabeth and to her I give 40 shillings.

Item I give and bequeath to my daughter Dorothy Howard sixty pounds and to her daughter twenty pounds.

Item I give to the poor of Pangborn 50s in bread and to the poor of Basweldon 50s in bread at the day of my ffunerall.

Item I give and bequeath all the rest of my goods and chattells and money to be divided equally share and part alike amongst the rest of my children.

Item I doe make my loving wife Luci Wilder my full and whole executrix of this my last Will and Testament.

Item I desire that all of my Debts may be paid out of my [s?] without [doors?] and afterwards to be divided as before mentioned In witness hereof I have hereunto put my hand and seale this 4 day of August Anno 1703 The mark of Richard Wilder sealed and delivered with the 13 stamp being to the full effect in the presence of Richard Lyne, Ruth Lyne, William Woolford.

I doe make choice of Mr Thomas Burteridge of Baswelldon and of Mr John Wilder of Sulham to be my Trustees to see this my will performed.

My desire is that my wife and my two sonns carry on the Trade of building and that my wife may be got half shares with my two sonns in the trade and my two sonns the other half between them.

Probate granted to Lucie Wilder in London on the 19th November 1703.

Richard’s will makes mention of gifts of bread to the poor on the day of his funeral and his wish that his wife Lucie should continue with his business. The acknowledgment that women ran businesses in the 1600s and 1700s is rare, so this is a nice find.

Picture: River Thames Above Pangbourne by Harry Pennell.

Lucie died in 1730. She left a will and here are the highlights.

I Lucy Wilder of Pangbourne in the County of Berks

Widow being indisposed in body but of sound mind and

memory (thanks be to God) therefore doe this Twenty third

day of December in the year of our Lord One Thousand

seven hundred twenty and nine make publish and declare

this to be my last Will and Testament in manner ffollowing

I give devise and bequeath unto my son John Wilder All

those my two Messuages or Tenements with the appurts

lyeing and being in Streatly in the County of Berks and the

Land thereunto belonging and also my Messuage or Tenement

with the appurtenonites lyeing and being in Sutton in the said

County of Berks To hold to him his heirs or assigns forever

chargable nevertheless with the true payment of One hundred

pounds unto my son Edward Wilder in one year after my

decease and I doe hereby accordingly make lyable my said

Messuages and Land in Streatly and also my Messuage

and premises in Sutton with the true payment thereof

Item whereas my son in Law Thomas Howard who

Married my Daughter Lucy stands indebted unto me in the

Sum of ffifty pounds for Rent now I doe hereby forgive them

the said sum of ffifty pounds and likewise give unto my

said Daughter Lucy the Looking Glass that now stands in

my Parlour 

Item I give to my Daughter Anne Rawlins Twenty five pounds to be paid

unto her by my Executors hereinafter named in twelve months next after my


Item I give to my Daughter Catherine Giles five pounds

and that her receipt notwithstanding her Coverture shall

be my Executors sufficient discharge for the same 

Item I doe hereby forgive my Son Edward Wilder all moneys

he now owes me whether on Bond Bill or otherwise he

having promised me that his sister Giles shall Occupy

and enjoy the house at Wantage which he lately

purchased during her Life without paying any ffurther

or other rent than one Pepper Corn by the year and

keeping the said House and Premises in Repair and

that her receipt to any Tennant or Occupier thereof

shall be a good discharge notwithstanding her Coverture

I likewise give unto my said Daughter Giles the Quilt

Curtains and Vallance in my best Chamber 

Item as [touching?] my wearing Apparell and Rings I give equally

between my three Daughters namely Lucy Howard

Anne Rawlins and Catherine Giles share and part


Item as [touching?] all other my Linnen of all kinds

I give equally between my two Sons John and Edward

Wilder and my three Daughters Lucy Howard, Anne

Rawlings and Catherine Giles share and part alike

desiring them to be loving and kind to one to the other 

Item all other my Plate and all other of my household Goods not herein before

dispose of I give to my son John Wilder (except the

Bed Bolster and two Pillows on which I now lye on the

Rugg and Blankets which now cover me and the hanging

Press in my (room) I am now in which I give to my Son Edward


Item I give to my Son in Law Richard Wilder a Ring of Twelve shillings

value and to his sister Dorcas [Hersey] a Ring of the like Value 

Item I give to my son John Wilder and my son Edward Wilder all my Estate

Title term and Interest which I have of and in Messuage ffarme and Lands

lyeing in the said Parish of Pangbourne called

Slipers together with the Lease whereby I hold the same To hold to them their

Executors Administrators and Assigns for and during all the remainder of my

said Term therein 

Item I give to my said Daughter Giles the Chair she wrought now standing in

my best Chamber

Item all the rest residue and remainder of all and singular

my Goods Chattells moneys lent on any Securities

whatsoever and not by me herein disposed of after all

my just debts Testamentary expences and Legacies are

first paid off and discharged I give the same equally to

my said Sons the said John and Edward Wilder share and

part alike and I do hereby make them the said John and

Edward Wilder joynt Executors of this my last Will and

Testament hereby revoking all former and other Wills

and Testaments by me heretofore made and doe Publish

and Declare this to be my last Will and Testament In

Testimony whereof I have to this my last Will contained

in two sheets of Paper to the ffirst thereof Sett my hand

and the last sheet hereof Sett my hand and Seal the

day and year ffirst above written ~ Lucy Wilder. Signed

Sealed Published and declared by the Testatrix to be

for and as her last Will and Testament in the presence

of us who subscribed our names as Witnesses in her

presence ~ Joanna Leader, Dorothy Emans, Ral Guise

Picture: House at Pangbourne by John Belcher.

To date, I haven’t discovered many details about my 10 x great grandfather Richard Wilder (1628 – 1675). However, his father, my 11 x great grandfather, William Wilder, left a will. Here are the highlights.

I William Wilder of Basledon in the Countie of Berks being sick and weak in bodie but in good and perfect memorie first give and bequeath my Soule into the hands of God my Saviour and Redeemer trusting in Jesus Christ for the pardon and remission of all my sinns.

Secondlie I give unto Richard Wilder my sonne all the goods in the Shop the bedstead in the Loft and the great Chest in the Loft that was my wife’s and all the wood and lumber in and about the house and the [Farm?]

Item I give unto Elizabeth his wife all my wearing Apparell except that which I have given William [?] Elizabeth.

Item my wearing Apparrell I give to my sonne Richard and his children.

Item I give to my Daughter in Law Elizabeth Wilder all my bees in the upper fold And to my God Sonne William Wilder I give all the Bees in the Lower fold.

Item all the rest of my goods whole I give unto William my God Sonne making him my whole Executor.

And this is the Last will and Testament of me the said William Wilder Dated this two [&] Twentieth Day of August in the year of our Lord One thousand Six Hundred ffiftie Six.

The mark of William Wilder 

Witnesses: Robert Hulett Hanna Hulett

William was obviously ill when he made his will. The wood and lumber mentioned might relate to the Wilder’s boat building business, although mention of a shop might indicate that they ran a store of some kind.

Bees were clearly important to them. In medieval and later centuries beeswax was highly prized for candles while fermented honey was used to make mead in areas where grapes could not be grown for wine.

Little is known about my 12 x great grandfather Richard Wilder, born 21 October 1575, except that his parents Thomas Wilder and Joan Sharland married a month after his birth, 26 November 1575. Sometimes, especially when an inheritance was concerned, these birth-marriage patterns were deliberate, to ensure that the potential bride was fertile.

In the early 1600s members of my Wilder family emigrated to Charlestown, Massachusetts. However, my ancestor John Wilder remained in Berkshire where he married Alice Keats. John, Alice and later generations developed Sulham House, now a listed building. Picture: Wikipedia.

According to the Book of the Wilders written by Moses Hale Wilder in 1878 my branch of the Wilder family originated from Nicholas Wilder. “The first Wilder known in history was Nicholas, a military chieftain, in the army of the Earl of Richmond, at the battle of Bosworth, in 1485. The fact that it is a German name, and that it is quite common in some parts of Germany at the present time, would indicate that he was one of those who came with the Earl from France, and landed at Milford Haven.”

However, some modern genealogists think that the Wilders were farmers from Basildon. Wilder is of German origin, meaning “untamed” or “wild”, so I suspect both theories contain a grain of truth.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.


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