3. The Jolliffe Family Descent from Barbara Blaugdone, Quaker Sufferer

A genealogist constantly judges the relative worth of varying lines of evidence, sorting and sifting in an attempt to arrive at the truth. One excellent example of this is provided by the descent of the Jolliffe family of Frederick county, Virginia, from Barbara Blaugdone, Quaker sufferer and entrant in a number of books on women’s history.

Jolliffe, J. gravestoneI descend from John Jolliffe through my grandmother Audra Foster Boles.  John was born in Frederick county in 1768, and died in Johnson county, Indiana, in 1851 (though his gravestone, possibly placed at some delay after his death, says 1850).  John was the son of James Jolliffe (ca 1734?-1771).   The Quaker connection can be traced backward in time beginning with that generation. In 1759 James was disowned by Friends, as the Quakers were known, probably for marrying “out of unity” — in other words, to a non-Quaker (in this case Hannah Springer).

What is less certain is whether James’ father William Jolliffe, Sr., was also a Friend. William was placed on the roll of attorneys in Frederick county in 1743, and was subsequently known as the “Quakers’ lawyer”, having the law business of the local Hopewell Monthly Meeting. However, while a number of his family members were clearly in membership, William does not appear in that capacity in the meeting’s records. He is nevertheless said to have been buried in the meeting’s cemetery.

According to the much-cited Historical, Genealogical, and Biographical Account of the Jolliffe Family of Virginia, published by W. Jolliffe in 1893, William Jolliffe, Sr., was the son of Joseph Jolliffe and wife Ruth, of Norfolk county, Virginia. This assertion, however, rested on only the slimmest of evidence, specifically a then-existent family legend that Joseph and Ruth had a son James who had a brother William — who in turn had left the area and had never been heard from again. As the author noted, he was otherwise unable to find any record of William in Norfolk county. Nor does there appear to be a record of James there.

The assertion is troubling for two other reasons as well. First, Norfolk and Frederick counties are about 220 road miles apart, a long distance to bridge with an assumption that the same surname in both places indicates relationship. Second, the names of Joseph and Ruth do not appear among the known children of William (William, John, Edmund, and James), or the children of his son James (William, Ann, Drew, Elizabeth, John, and Margaret), an unusual circumstance at a place and time when namesakes were considered important.

A competing account of William Jolliffe’s origins was provided in more modern times by the discovery, published by Cecil O’Dell in 1995, that a William Jolliffe sold land in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, in 1736. This was only a year before William of Frederick county is first known to have appeared in Virginia, as he witnessed a deed in Orange county, one of two parent counties of Frederick county, in 1737.

Could these have been the same men? Further information published by O’Dell showed that one Cuthbert Hayhurst was an adjacent land owner when William Jolliffe sold the Bucks county land. And in what must surely have been a “Eureka!” moment, O’Dell found that Cuthbert Hayhurst witnessed a mortgage of William Jolliffe in Frederick county in 1767.

Which line of evidence should be believed? The 1893 account, recycled through countless publications and web pages, including a 1994 book by my father and myself? In other words, the account with a large geographical discrepancy, no record of William or his putative brother in Norfolk county, and no repetition of parental names? Or the account in which an adjacent landowner in Pennsylvania became William Jolliffe’s witness in Virginia? Clearly the latter, as otherwise the coincidence is astonomically improbable.

The Jolliffe Descent from Barbara Blaugdone

O’Dell also learned that William Jolliffe had a wife named Mary Sheppard, of New York City, who in 1726 had bought the land sold in 1736. His account stopped there, but in short order I was able to work out a descent from Barbara Blaugdone. Mary was the daughter of John Sheppard, a cooper in New York City, and his wife Mary Watts. That Mary, born 1677, was of Bristol Friends’ Monthly Meeting in Bristol, England, and was the daughter of John Watts by his wife Mary Blaugdone, daughter of Barbara Blaugdone. John, the name of Mary Sheppard Jolliffe’s father, was a name found among her children, and among those of her son James. While the name Mary is not known to appear among the children, the names of the daughters of William and Mary are unknown.

Barbara Blaugdone, Quaker Sufferer

Barbara Blaugdone, born Barbara Brock in 1609 but widow of a Blaugdone husband whose given name is not known, died in 1704 in London, England. Toward the end of her life, in 1691, she published a remarkable autobiographical sketch, An Account of the Travels, Sufferings, and Persecutions of Barbara Blaugdone. In her highly readable account, she noted that she was a teacher in Bristol, England, when she converted to Quakerism in 1654. After losing most of her students because of her “dangerous” beliefs, she became a preacher. She obtained the release of Quaker prisoners at Basingstoke in 1655, and over the following two years undertook missionary trips to Ireland, meeting at one point with Henry Cromwell, then major general of forces but later Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Preaching in western England in 1657, she was imprisoned at Marlborough and went on a short hunger strike. She did the same in Exeter and was whipped in prison. During these early years she was at least twice in mortal danger, once when stabbed and once when a bystander narrowly prevented a butcher from striking her head with his cleaver. She also suffered shipwreck and piracy. While imprisoned in Dublin a man confessed to her that he had borne false witness against 5 men and women. However, the judge would not hear her and hanged them all, causing her to recall, “And a heavy day it was, and I bore and suffered much that day”. In 1681 she was again imprisoned, in Bristol, and in 1683 was fined the large sum of £60 for failure to attend the Anglican church.

Barbara’s life and writing have been included in a number of books on women’s history. They include A Historical Dictionary of British Women (2005); Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain (2014); Life Writings (2001), a volume of the series Early Modern Englishwoman; and Reading Early Modern Women: An Anthology of Texts in Manuscript and Print, 1550-1700 (2003). Her monograph is also frequently cited in Quaker histories.

What Was Barbara Blaugdone’s Background?

As forthcoming as Barbara was about her sufferings, she was remarkably circumspect when it came to her own family background. Yet sprinkled throughout her writing are references that suggest she may have been of the upper class, and that she consorted with nobility prior to becoming a Quaker. Thus, writing of a trip to Devonshire in 1654/5, she stated, “I went to the Earl of Bath’s, where I had formerly spent much time in vanity”, and that when she asked to speak to the countess, she “never asked me to go into her house, although I had eaten and drank at her table, and lodged there many a time”. Then of her imprisonment in Dublin, Ireland, which occurred about 1656, she wrote “there were some friends of mine, namely — Sir William King, Colonel Fare [sic, Fane?; see below], and the Lady Browne … came to see me, and they would needs go to this judge, to get me released . . . [they] told him they had known me from a child, and there was no harm in me at all”.

These references highlight a second aspect of genealogy, i.e., that it is never complete. The classical example is that every generation traced provides two parents to be further traced. In this case real persons were named in Barbara’s account to whom, potentially, she may have been related. The “Earl of Bath’s” must have been the Devonshire estate of the recently deceased Henry Bourchier, 5th (or 6th) Earl of Bath, whose widow was Rachel Fane, daughter of the Earl of Westmorland. Rachel had a brother Col. George Fane, whose son Sir Henry Fane was confirmed an estate near Limerick, Ireland, in 1668. Also near Limerick were the substantial lands of Sir William King and his wife Barbara Boyle, widow of Sir John Brown.

Barbara herself hinted that she may have been from Ireland, for she noted of her visit to Cork that “I was made to call to my relations and acquaintance … I came to witness that a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country”. It is possible that somewhere among the repeating names of Fane, King, and Brown, in Ireland, lies the origin of Barbara Blaugdone. Perhaps it merely awaits an enterprising genealogist to discover.


All references for the above statements are given in two volumes. The first is the all-in-one ancestry, The Omnibus Ancestry. That work updates and corrects, in brief form, material in the much more detailed volume, Ellis Ancestors: Some Immigrants, Colonists, and Pioneers (1994). Both books are available for download through Lulu.

You may also be interested in visiting the Bolesbooks website or the Bolesbooks Facebook page.

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6 thoughts on “3. The Jolliffe Family Descent from Barbara Blaugdone, Quaker Sufferer

  1. I found your blog post when researching the Jolliffe family’s history with the Quaker religion. I am a Jolliffe descendant and was raised in the same Quaker church as my maternal grandfather and his descendants in Muncie Indiana. I am trying to find out how far back my branch of the family goes with the Quaker religion and when they left England but I find many roadblocks. If you have any advice I’m all ears

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    • I like working on Quaker lines because the documentation is often very good. You’ve probably been using FamilySearch (the LDS site) and Ancestry.com (if not, libraries often have access to it), both of which have indexed quite a few Quaker vital records. Are you aware of the Hinshaw volumes of record abstracts? There is a published series, but also many unpublished typescript volumes that can be found at the Allen County Public Library in Indiana. The libraries at Swarthmore and Haverford Colleges are treasure troves of Quaker materials — at Swarthmore I even found Irish Quaker records.

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  2. Thank you for providing such detailed accounts. It makes fascinating reading. As a traveller myself, I am interested in Barbara Blaugdone, particularly in her travelling history. Apart from her commitment to Quakers, did she travel within the ‘exploring’ category? Where can I find details?
    She was quite a woman wasn’t she? I’d love to know more!
    Thank you,
    Jacqui Furneaux

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