The Craxford Family Magazine Orange Pages

{$text['mgr_orange1']} Anker 1

The origins of the Anker family

By Daniel Hewitt
Additional Research: Alan D Craxford


The van Dyck portrait of King Charles I

King Charles I (1)

Cornelius Vermuyden

Vermuyden (2)

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell (3)

The Anker lineage can be traced back to 17th century Cambridgeshire. It is believed that the Ankers are descendants of Huguenot immigrants who came over to England to help drain the fens. In his book, David Anker (4) writes that "the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden (1595-1677) was awarded a contract to drain the fens by King Charles I (1600-1649) in the late 1620's. Over the next ten years or so, a number of families were brought over from Holland to assist in the drainage work. The initial influx settled in Hatfield and Sandtoft (in South Yorkshire near Doncaster). However after numerous attacks on this community by the locals during the wars of the Commonwealth (5) - the interegnum between Charles I and Charles II presided over by Oliver Cromwell(1599-1658) - , these families started moving to places further south in the Cambridgeshire Fens including Thorney and Whittlesey where there were Huguenot/Walloon communities which were beginning to be established". One of these immigrant families was named Hancar.

There was a French church at Thorney Abbey, which was established in 1652, and continued until 1727. The register of baptisms begins in 1654, and contains particulars of the names of the sponsors as well as parents of the children baptized. An abstract of the Sandtoft register (now lost) (6) is given by the Rev. Joseph Hunter in his History of the Deanery of Doncaster, from which it would appear that out of seventy-one families at Sandtoft, fourteen removed to Thorney, bearing the names of Bentiland, Blancart, Descamps, Egar, Flahau, Le Haire, Hardieg, Harlay, De la Haye, De Lanoy, De Lespierre, Massingarbe, Du Quesne, and Taffin ; as well as members of the following families: Amory, Beharelle, Blique, Du Bois, Clais, Le Conte, Coqueler, Desbiens, Desquier, La Fleur, Fontaine, Frouchart, Gouy, Hancar, Le Lieu, Marquillier, Renard, Ramery, Le Roux, Le Roy, Le Talle, and Vennin. Over time, Hancar gradually became anglicized with the name Anker first appearing in Whittlesey in the 1680's.

Marriage in 17th Century England [A, B, C, D]

The 1600s was a tumultuous century in English history punctuated by wars (three against the Dutch and the English Civil War), invasions, pestilence, famine and the ongoing conflict between church and state. No fewer than six monarchs sat on the throne punctuated by a two decade period as a republic.

The regulations surrounding the custom and practice of marriage (7) had been defined by the Church and written into Canon Law as early as the 13th century. Pronouncements in 1597 and 1604 specified that to conform with ecclesiastical law, marriages had to take place in the parish church of one of the parties, had to have been preceded by either the granting of a licence or the calling of banns and could not take place if one of the parties was under 21 and had not obtained the consent of his parents or guardians.

Marriages were, however, conducted by ministers in churches and chapels away from the place of residence. These were defined as clandestine or illicit marriages. The most notorious example of this were the so-called Fleet marriages (carried out at the Fleet Prison and nearly chapels) in London (8). It has been estimated that by 1740 over half the marriages in the capital took this form.

It was, however, also possible (and indeed valid) to enter a form of marriage by consent by verbal agreement (a 'spousal') or by publicly declaring a long term habitation (common-law marriage). The Protestant Reformation in Europe of the 16th century rejected the prevailing concept of marriage along with many other Catholic doctrines, asserting that the administration of marriage was a matter for the State, not the Church. The English Puritans during the Commonwealth even passed an Act of Parliament asserting 'marriage to be no sacrament' and soon thereafter made marriage purely secular. It was no longer to be performed by a minister, but by a justice of the peace. The Restoration of the monarchy abolished this law and reverted to the old system.

The established church deplored these 'non-Canonical' unions and the policing of violations was an important function of the ecclesiastical courts. They were very active in 17th century England prosecuting cases of fornication, adultery, incest, and illicit cohabitation. Offenders were summoned to the court by the means of a Presentment Bill. The archives of the neighbouring archdeanery of Nottingham [A] contain the details of 21,556 bills issued between 1587 and 1756. Although the number relating to illicit marriages is fairly small (456 or 2% overall), 98 were issued in the 1670s. Although the effectiveness of these ecclesiastical sanctions varied by region and period, there were examples of devastating consequences in which 'the victim was hounded by his fellows, deprived of his living by a community boycott, and treated as an outcast'. It is perhaps little wonder that the ordinary man was either perplexed by the issues or chose to ignore them.

Isaac Anker

Our story begins with Isaac Anker of Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. Born sometime in the 1650's, it is thought he is the son of Isaac Hancar and Jenne LeGrand, the first generation born in England to Huguenot immigrants who left Flanders and settled in Hatfield in the 1620's. Over the course of time, the name Hancar gradually became anglicized with the name Anker. Although there are no records proving they are the parents of Isaac, there is some circumstantial evidence. As mentioned earlier, there was movement of the Anker family from Hatfield and Sandtoft to Thorney and Whittlesey in the late 17th century. Isaac and Jenne Anker lived in Hatfield and Sandtoft and had several children, one of them, a daughter named Rachel, was born in Sandtoft in 1672 but later moved to Ramsey in 1700 where she married Thomas Coyson. The younger Isaac was already living in Ramsey at this time and had been since at least 1682 and was probably Rachel's older brother. The name Anker first appears in Whittlesey in 1685 with the death of Isaac Anker who is likely the father of Rachel and Isaac.

Cited for cohabitation

Buckden Palace

Buckden Palace in Bygone Times (9)

In 1682 Isaac Anker and Elizabeth Ashley were living in Ramsey. There is no record of their marriage and it seems that news of their 'living in sin' reached the ecclesiastical authorities. On 5 February 1682, Isaac and Elizabeth and two other couples, possibly friends of theirs, received a citation for illegal cohabitation that was personally delivered by John Durant who represented the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon (10). Part of the citation reads as follows:

The citation of 1682

The citation of 1682 (10)

"To you (we) order and firmly, (by) attachment, command that (you) should summon, or should cause to be summoned...Richard Whitlesey and Janit Marsh of Ramsey, Ambrose and Lettice Roe of the same, and Isaac Ancher and Elizabeth Ashley of the same, that they appear at court, and anyone of them appear at court, before us, or our Surrogate, or another Judge in this matter competent, whomsoever, at the Parish Church of Buckden, and (at) the Same judicial Place (on) the day of Mars [i.e. Tuesday] the thirteenth, that is to say, day of the month of February, this (month), between the hours (of) nine and twelve of the same day, before noon, (by) established articles held or detained for an account of their lives and released by me, and the excess belonging to them, concerning...the long cohabitation of husband and wife, (by) no lawful matrimony before their preceding cohabitation, At least according to the Statutes and Canon (Law)s of this glorious Kingdom, in this matter appointed and provided for, when (they) should come (for) judging of the accusation, answering, and furthermore, for taking action and recovering, that justice should exist in this matter, and indeed in making provisions, you shall cause us, or another Judge in this matter competent, whomsoever, together with (these) presents, (you) duly should certify."

St Mary's, Buckden

St Mary's Church, Buckden today (11)

The village of Buckden lies by the side of the Great North Road between St Neots and Huntingdon, 60 miles north of London. Originally in the County of Huntingdon, for centuries it was the seat of the Bishops of Lincoln. The medieval parish church, dedicated to St Mary, stands next to the ancient bishop's palace and was built during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Buckden is also about 20 miles away from the Ankers' home in Ramsey.

The "trial" of Richard Whitlesey and Janit Marsh, Ambrose and Lettice Roe and Isaac Anker and Elizabeth Ashley took place on 13 February 1682 at Buckden parish church. All three couples had been cohabiting for a long time, however this does not mean that they weren't married by their own church, only that they weren't married by the Church of England. In later years, the Huguenot community gradually assimilated into the Protestant faith due to intermarriage and other influences. Although we don't know the outcome of the trial, we do know that the couples in question had further trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities.

Continued in column 2...

Married, but not in the eyes of the church

Some six months later, word got back to the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon that two of the couples cited previously, Richard Whittlesey and Janit Marsh, Isaac Anker and Elizabeth Ashley and another couple, William Drage and his wife, had secretly married without having the banns read out in church or applying for a marriage license. The apparator John Durant who delivered the previous citation also served the following citation for clandestine marriage to the unnamed wife of William Drage (12). All three couples were ordered to report to the parish church of Buckden, Cambridgeshire, on 6 September 1683 between the hours of 9 and 12pm. An extract of the citation is shown below:

The citation of 1683

The citation of 1683 (12)

"Richard Whitlesey and Janit Marsh, his provisional wife, of Ramsay (in) the County of Huntingdon, and Isaac Ancher and Elizabeth Ashley, his provisional wife, of the same, and William Drage and his provisional wife, of Upwood (in) the County aforesaid, [should] appear at court...(for) judging of the accusation, and serving according to justice (by) answering. That is to say, against the said Richard Whitlesey and Janit(?) Marsh, his provisional wife, and Isaac Ancher and Elizabeth Ashley, his provisional wife, with regard to the solemnizings, or more, for before-celebrating(?) the marriage, without the lawful license previously by them (they) should obtain, or without Banns lawfully published according to the law, in this matter appointed and provided for, against the said William Drage and his provisional wife, for whichever purpose between them having been performed and joined before their nuptials (itself a lawful marriage, according to usage). And furthermore, for taking action and recovering, that justice should exist in this matter, and indeed in making provisions, you shall cause us, or another Judge in this matter competent, whomsoever: (at) the said day, hour, and place, together with (these) presents, (you) duly should certify; given under the seal of our office (on) the fifth day of August (in) the Year of (our) Lord 1683."

"D Salmon, Registrar"

"This citation was duly executed by personally serving of the writ in named Will Drage of Upwood and by seeking of his wife upon the 29th of August by me John Durant "

We don't know the reason why Isaac Anker and Elizabeth Ashley secretly married. Clandestine marriages were not recognized by the Anglican Church. There are no records concerning the outcome of this case and we do not know if the couples in question complied with the ruling. The Lord Hardwick Marriage Act of 1753 ended the practice of clandestine marriage by requiring all couples, except for Jews and Quakers, to marry in the Anglican church after the publication of banns or by obtaining a marriage licence.

Family life

Isaac and Elizabeth Anker settled in Ramsey and started a family. Isaac was a husbandman or free tenant farmer. Their first child, a son named John, was born in 1683. He was baptized in the Anglican Church so we can only assume that Isaac formalized his marriage to Elizabeth in order to baptize their children in the Anglican faith. The following year Elizabeth gave birth to another son and named him Isaac. Their daughter Ann was born two years later, followed by their son James, who was born in 1688 and is a direct line ancestor.

Tragically, Elizabeth died two years later. She was buried on 18 February 1690. Faced with the task of raising four young children was daunting enough let alone working as a full time farmer but things were about to change. Isaac remarried Joan shortly thereafter and they were together for almost 30 years.

On 24 October 1719 Isaac made a will and named his son Isaac as executor. Below is an extract of the will:

"I give & bequeath to my loving wife Joan Anker the sum of Twenty pounds of lawful money of Gt. Britain to be paid to my said wife Joan Anker by my hereafter named Executor within twelve months after my decease. I give and bequeath to my Grandson James Anker the sum of Ten Pounds when he shall arrive at the age of twenty one years and if James dies before then the said ten pounds I give to my hereafter named Executor"

James, the grandson, was the son of James and Susanna Anker of Whittlesey. The witnesses to the Will were William and Robert Upland. Isaac died within a few days of making the will and was buried on 28 October 1719 in the burial ground of the Parish Church of St. Thomas a Becket, Ramsey. His wife died the following year and was buried on 28 February 1720.

St Thomas A Becket Parish Church, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire;

St Thomas A Becket Parish Church; from an old postcard about 1906

The move to Whittlesey

In 1709 Isaac's youngest son, James, married Susanna Bevil of Whittlesey. Born in 1689 she is the daughter of Frances Bevil. The couple were married in Stanground by licence since both parties to the marriage were minors. Isaac Anker provided the marriage bond. It is of interest to note that the bond mentions that Isaac was also living in Whittlesey, so perhaps he moved there with his family for a time.

James and Susanna decided to make their home in Whittlesey. In 1711 Susan gave birth to a son named James. He was followed by his sister Elizabeth who was born in 1713. Sadly, both mother and daughter died while Susanna was in labour. Elizabeth was buried on 14 January 1713 and her mother, three days later. James lived on in the village for a further eleven years, looking after his son. He passed away in November 1724 at the age of 36 years. He was buried later the same month in Whittlesey.

At the time of his death, his only surviving child, James, was thirteen years old. Now an orphan and with no other siblings, it is difficult to figure out what happened to him. He was probably looked after by relatives. There is no further mention of James until the 1740s where he appears in Peterborough with his wife Ann. There is no record of their marriage but we know they had two children, James (1745) and Robert (1748).

The story continues ... To Part 1 of Whittlesey Ancestors


We would like to thank the Senior Archivist and her staff at the Huntingdonshire Archives (Huntingdon Library and Archives) for their help in producing the copy of the will of Isaac Anker and the copies of the Buckden citations from their microfilm records. Copyright is held at the Archives Office and are reproduced here with permission.Thanks, too, are due to Transcription Services Ltd., Douglas, Isle of Man for their help in the transcription of these records.

Further reading on Marriage in England

The following is offered as a suggested by non-exhaustive list of reference material on this fascinating subject:

A: Ingram, Martin: "Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570-1640" at Google Books © 1987; Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 0 521 38655 1
B: Archdeanary Resources: Presentment Bills: Examples of Offences: Manuscripts and Special Collections The University of Nottingham
C: Kevin MacDonald: Socially Imposed Monogamy in Evolutionary Psychology:California State University
D: History of Marriage in Western Civilization: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive of Sexology


1.Portrait of Charles I in his robes of state at wikipedia (detail) as painted by Antoon van Dyck: Image is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Commons is a freely licensed media file repository.
2. Portrait of Cornelius Vermuyden Nederlandse landschappen in Engeland Hollandschap Export
3. Portrait of Oliver Cromwell at wikipedia as painted by Samuel Cooper: Image is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Commons is a freely licensed media file repository.
4. Anker David, The History of the Ankers: Personal communication
5. Cornelius Vermuyden at wikipedia: a synopsis of his life
6. Smiles, Samuel: The Thorney Register in The Huguenots: Their Settlements Churches and Industries in England and Ireland at Google Books Pg 397 Harper and Brothers, New York 1868
7. The Marriage Licence at Wikipedia: Its history, customs and practice.
8. Fleet Marriage at Wikipedia: a history of Irregular and Clandestine Marriages
9. A preview page can be seen at "A New Display of the Beauties of England" at Google Books Printed for R. Goadby, and sold by J. Towers, Cripplegate, London, 1773
10. The Archdeaconry of Huntingdon Citation paper against Richard Whittlesey, --- Marsh his wife; Ambrose and Lettice Roe; Isaac Ancher and Elizabeth Ashley in a cause of co-habiting in an illegal manner. Citation served personally 7 February 1682/3 by John Durant, Apparitor. 5 February 1682/1683 AH4/251/60/7 © Huntingdonshire Archives - reproduced with permission
11. Buckden, St Mary's © Robin Peel The Churches of Britain and Ireland: Cambridgeshire © Steve Bulman
12. The Archdeaconry of Huntingdon Citation paper against Richard Whittlesey, --- Marsh his wife; Isaac Ancher and Elizabeth Ashley his wife; and William Drage and his wife of Upwood, Co. Hunt, in a cause of clandestine marriage. Citation served personally 29 August 1683 by John Durant, Apparitor. AH4/251/60/8 © Huntingdonshire Archives - reproduced with permission

Page added: July 1st 2011
Last updated: April 21st 2012

Please contact us

email If you have any questions or comments about the information on this site in general, or you have further information regarding this article, please Get in touch by leaving a message in our Guestbook. If you don't want the message to be added to the Guestbook, just say that in your text. We look forward to hearing from you.

Return to Top of Page

Translate this page:

SSL Certificate

Internet Beacon Diamond Site - 2010

© The Craxford Family Genealogy Magazine and individual copyright holders.
Edited and maintained by Alan D. Craxford 2005 - 2022. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.
You are not authorized to add this page or any images from this page to (or its subsidiaries) or other fee-paying sites without our express permission and then, if given, only by including our copyright and a URL link to the web site.

Search the Craxford Family Magazine powered by FreeFind
Optimal screen resolution is 1680 x 1050 and above
This page has been designed to display on mobile phone screens
- landscape orientation recommended
Background texture - Courtesy of GRSites
Crafted on a machine from chill Computers, Poole, Dorset, UK and hosted By eUKhost logo UK Web Hosting

This site powered by The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding ©, v. 10.1.3cx, written by Darrin Lythgoe 2001-2022.