This first genealogical post reviews the limited information available online about the earliest recorded Dracups in England.
Since 2010 I have built up a series of family trees using My Heritage Family Tree Builder. The most substantial covers both sides of my family in the UK. There are also far less developed trees devoted exclusively to Dracups in Australia, Canada, India and the USA.
I no longer sync these to the My Heritage website. The principal tree exceeds by a factor of ten the number of records now permitted for a free account. That limit was imposed retrospectively, which has disinclined me to pay this provider a premium rate.
Instead I have an Ancestry account which I have used exclusively for research purposes. In compiling my trees I have only used public records and published family trees, though some of the latter are no longer available. I have relied exclusively on material available online.
To mark this new phase in my interest I have begun a fresh tree on Ancestry called ‘Dracup (family dracup)‘. This will trace the development of the Dracup lineage starting with the oldest known records.
I am using my existing tree as the basis for this new one, supplementing where possible with additional information newly available through Ancestry records and elsewhere, including details in other family trees where those are supported by evidence.
This new Ancestry tree is a work in progress, intended to shape and influence the offline research I now plan to conduct. I hope to establish a symbiotic relationship between the tree, these posts and my offline activity.
I very much welcome advice and information from those that have gone before me, but this is primarily an excuse to track down the original records and visit the relevant locations. I doubt that that I shall unearth anything new, but I shall gain satisfaction from the attempt.
Ultimately I’m interested in exploring trends in social history through the lives of individual Dracups and writing those up as posts on this blog. I’m not sure yet whether that is feasible.
Dracups reach England
The first recorded Dracup on these shores is one George Dracoppe. Several family trees record his birth in Ripley, North Yorkshire, around 1562, but I have found none that provides a source for this assertion.
There is, however, a record of George’s marriage to Barbara Atkinson in Ripley’s All Saints Church on 11 August 1583, as well as to the birth of several children (of which more below).
It seems likely that this is the same George Dracoppe who was buried in the parish of Guiseley St Oswald, Yorkshire on 7 April 1618.
So George was most probably alive for most of Elizabeth I’s reign and much of James I’s reign too. He is an almost exact contemporary of Shakespeare, who married one year ahead of him and died two years earlier.
Thomas Cromwell ordered parishes to record baptisms, marriages and burials in 1538, but the early records were flimsy and often haphazard.
When parchment books were introduced from 1598, the earlier details were supposed to be transcribed, but clergymen were inconsistent in doing so. Many began their books in 1558, the year that Elizabeth I was crowned.
This might help to explain why George Dracoppe has no known ancestors but, on the other hand, he has no peers either, in Yorkshire or anywhere else in England.
In contrast, his wife is from an established Ripley family. Surviving records show that four other women with that surname were married in All Saints Church between 1578 and 1583, while at least three different fathers called Atkinson were siring children in the area in the 1580s and 1590s.
Even allowing for the more common surname, this comparison is stark. It would support the hypothesis that George was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant family but, if so, where did they originate?
The most probable answer is that they were Flemish Protestants escaping religious persecution. It is possible that they were engaged in the wool trade and that is what attracted George to settle in Yorkshire.
But I have no concrete evidence to support this. I have been unable to trace any information about the employment of the earliest Dracoppes. I can find no contemporary reference to that surname in the Low Countries, nor any place with that name.
The etymology of the surname has long intrigued me. Does ‘-coppe’ mean ‘head’ (middle English ‘coppe’) or cup/basin (old English ‘copp’; Dutch ‘kop’)?
Is it too fanciful to suggest ‘spider’ (middle Dutch ‘koppe’ or ‘kobbe’) and posit a connection with spinning yarn?
What of ‘dra-‘? Does that derive from the Dutch ‘dragen’ meaning to carry or wear? Or could it mean to drag, draw or pull? I cannot resist the temptation to hint a potential association with dragons!
One possible meaning is ‘cup-bearer’. This might describe a servant responsible for serving wine, but also an honorary position in a medieval court often awarded to a trusted adviser of noble birth.
Another contemporary of George’s – poet Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) – was Queen Elizabeth I’s cup-bearer, succeeding his father Sir Henry Sidney in what had by then become a purely ceremonial role.
All this is highly speculative.
The Dracups move into the West Riding
Some family trees record that Barbara Atkinson was born in Ripley in 1563, but that event does not feature in the online database of All Saints parish records. A few claim that she survived until 1655, dying at the age of 92, but the source is again unclear.
We do know that Barbara bore several children. Four are recorded in the online database for All Saints:
- Johna, a girl, baptised in December 1583. (Some trees suggest this was a male called John.) What became of her is a mystery.
- George was baptised in March 1589. He married Margaret Thruscrosse in Ripley in October 1611. Up to six children are included in my tree but I have a year of birth for only one and a spouse for one other. This family seem to have been located in Ripley, however.
- Barbara was baptised in January 1592. She died in Calverley in February 1674, at the age of 82 or thereabouts.
- John (again) was the youngest son, baptised in October 1596. Three different spouses are recorded. One wedding took place in Guiseley, the other two in Otley. All four children are attributed to the first wife, Agnes Eastburne. The first is recorded as being born in Idle; the remainder were born in Calverley between 1629 and 1631. The second and third wives both died in Calverley, in 1643 and 1655 respectively. John survived until 1673 and also died in Calverley.
Several family trees also include:
- William (1585), apparently the eldest son. He married Ellen Wilkinson in 1612 in Guiseley. Six children are included in my family tree, but I have nothing more than the years of their births/baptisms – and the fact that two at least were born in Guiseley. It seems feasible that George was living with his oldest son at the time of his death, some six years after the latter’s marriage.
- Margaret (1587). She married Henry Douglas in Ripley in November 1625, but I could find no further details of her life.
So in these early years, the records suggest that some of the Dracoppes remained in Ripley while others relocated to a triangle of locations in the West Riding, some 15 miles south-west, principally Guiseley, Calverley and Idle.
We are heavily reliant on information from parish records:
- The Ripley parish registers are mostly complete from 1562 for baptisms, marriages and burials (Genuki records a gap from 1636 to 1649, though there is a bishop’s transcript for 1637) and held by the North Yorkshire County Record Office located in Northallerton.
- Guiseley St Oswald parish registers provide baptisms, marriages and burials from 1585 (though FreeReg says there are records from 1523) and are held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Leeds.
- Calverley St Wilfrid parish records include baptisms from 1574 plus marriages and burials from 1596. The records include baptisms in Idle. (Genuki mentions the existence of bishop’s transcripts for 1600-03, 1626, 1631-39, 1661-69 and occasional years thereafter. CalverleyInfo says that marriage records for 1607-1629 and burial records for 1607-1624 are lost or destroyed, however). These registers are also held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service.
The next post in this series will provide some historical background on these locations gleaned exclusively from online research, preparatory to my first visit to the area.
- All Saints Ripley by Tim Green (Flickr: All Saints, Ripley) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
- Posthumous portrait of Sir Philip Sidney (the Bolton Portrait), after a painting by John De Critz c. 1585. Possibly by Thomas De Critz; after John de Critz the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons