Susannah Wookey (1771-1858)

Wife of Samuel Hares
Shipham, Somerset, England

by Jeffrey L. Thomas

The purpose of this page is to attempt to sort out the family of Susannah Wookey Hares of Shipham, Somerset, England. Parish records from St. Leonard's in Shipham, indicate that Susannah Wookey was the daughter of James and Mary Wookey, and that she was baptized into the church in late 1771. In 1793 she married the widowed Samuel Hares and the couple raised a family in Shipham. Parish records further indicate that Samuel and Susannah Hares died in 1815 and 1858 respectively, and were buried in the church cemetery. Although Susannah's baptism entry from 1771 leaves little doubt as to her parentage, the question as to her siblings remains unsettled. In other words, who were her brothers and sisters; who were the other children of James and Mary Wookey? We will begin by examining the aforementioned baptism entry for Susannah.

The baptism entry for Susannah Wookey actually quite curious. It is one of the three final entries (baptisms) written in the register for the year 1771, and inexplicably all three entries, though legible, have been lined through. The entry for Susannah's baptism appears to lack a date, although a date of 22 December found immediately below the 2nd entry in the group could conceivably be the correct for both baptisms. The third and final entry contains a baptism date of 24 November. Even with this bit of ambiguity surrounding Susannah's baptism date, most researchers (including myself) have adopted a date of December 1771 for Susannah's baptism.

Having identified Susannah's baptism date, the next challenge is to identify any mention of a James and Mary Wookey contained in the registers. In doing so, one finds the following entries:

1771 (Dec) Suzanah Wookey daughter of James & Mary was baptized
1774 (15 Nov) James son of James Wookey & Mary his wife was baptized(?) November 15
1777 (25 Feb) Hannah daughter of James Wookey and Mary his wife was baptized February 25
1779 (8 April) Mary wife of James Wookey was buried April 8

It should be noted that the three baptisms above are the only entries contained in the registers for children of a James and Mary Wookey. It should not surprise us that baptism entries for the couple cease in 1777, given the likelihood that the Mary Wookey who was buried in April of 1779 is our Mary. It should also be noted that with the entry for James baptized in 1774, there appears to be a blank space following the phrase "James son of James Wookey & Mary his wife was," meaning that the entry could be for a baptism or a burial. Nevertheless, the registers reveal that James and Mary Wookey were the parents of (at least) three children baptized at the church, Susannah, born ca. 1771, James, born ca. 1774, and Hannah, born ca. 1777. It furthermore appears that Mary Wookey died in April of 1779 and was buried in church cemetery. It is hoped that further research will reveal additional children of James and Mary Wookey, however, I would caution other researchers against adding children to this family based on entries found in the LDS IGI index. To date I have found at least two such entries that the registers have proven to be erroneous.

Next we turn our attention to James and Mary Wookey. The Wookey surname first appears in the registers of St. Leonard's in 1684, where we learn that a daughter of Will(iam) Wookey was baptized on May 29th of that year. Unfortunately the name of William's wife and daughter are not legible in the record. The Wookey surname is absent from the registers until the 2nd decade of the 18th century, after which the family appears regularly in the registers of St. Leonard's for the remainder of the century. Although we know very little about James and Mary, given what we do know, it seems reasonable to assume that James was born in the mid to late 1740s. The registers of St. Leonard's show that during this time period there were two couples in Shipham having children baptized at the church, a John and Mary Wookey, and a John and Jane Wookey, however James does not appear in the registers as the son of either couple. Nor does the marriage of James Wookey and Mary appear in the marriage records of the church, which commence in the year 1756.

As such, we have to consider the possibility that James and Mary Wookey began their lives in a parish other than Shipham. There are in fact family researchers who claim that James Wookey married a Mary Stone in Banwell, Somerset, in 1766. Banwell is a parish about 4 miles west of Axbridge situated at the northern foot of the Mendip Hills. If the aforementioned marriage entry is correct, then I have to question what research or record has been used to equate this couple with the James and Mary Wookey who appear in Shipham beginning in 1771. Perhaps one day this question can be settled, and, as always, I would very much welcome hearing from others researching this family.

Jeffrry L. Thomas
March 2006

Parish register entry: Susannah Wookey baptism
Parish register entry: Susannah Wookey burial
Samuel Hares (1763-1815) of Shipham
History of Shipham Parish, from The Heart of Mendip, by Francis A. Knight
Return to the Hares family web site
Return to the Thomas family web site

Web site copyright 2006 by Jeffrey L. Thomas, with all rights reserved