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The Humphrey Jennings Fraud

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1798 [unknown]
Location: Acton, Suffolk, England, United Kingdommap
Surnames/tags: Jennings Jennens
Profile manager: Anne Guglik private message [send private message]
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A Fortune? Who doesn't want to inherit a family fortune?"
Henry VIII, King of England, appointed his friend, Robert Jennens, game warden of Shottle, near Duffield in Derbyshire, England. Robert married Ellen Beard and when he died he was buried in the Derbyshire Churchyard. Robert and Ellen had William. William, of Mobourne Hill, moved to Birmingham and married Joanna Elliot. He died 6 December 1602, and she died 10 Dec 1621. They are buried in St. Martin's Church in Birmingham. They had John Jennens.

John Jennens of Warwickshire (1579-1653) became a "distinguished" Birmingham iron master. Evidently a very wealthy one also. He owned Aston Hall. John had Humphrey.
Humphrey Jennes was born in Warwickshire, 23 August 1629. He was and iron master in Birmingham, like his father. He owned Erdington Hall. In 1659, he married Mary Milward (1637-1708). They had 10 children including Robert (1671-1725), Hester, Ann and William.

Robert Jennens (1671-1725) married in 1700, Ann Guidotte, daughter and heir of Carew Guidotte (-1761). They had one son, William Jennens (1701-1798).
William Jennens (1701-1798), of Acton Place, Suffolk, and godson of King William, was a miser, who had acquired a large estate. He died unmarried and without a will, leaving his estate to be settled by the British court. ["They declared that the inheritor of the real property was George Augustus William Curzon, a descendant of Robert Jennens’s eldest sister Hester. George’s mother, Sophia Charlotte Howe, took possession of the estate for him. After his early death she continued to hold the property for her second son, Richard William Penn Curzon (1796-1870). They later alleged, however, that the second son was the illegitimate son of a single woman named Ann Oake
The court divided the personal property of William Jennens between the living next of kin. They were Mary, Lady Andover, a granddaughter of Humphrey Jennens’s daughter Ann and William Lygon (1747-1816), the Earl of Beauchamp, a grandson of Hester Jennens, and a descendant of Thomas Lygon [14080].']

Nevertheless, controversy arose. William Jennens, born 15 November 1676, the youngest son of Humphrey Jennens and Mary Milford, was a British officer who had came to America to fight in the Indian wars. If it were he who was the William Jennings who wed Mary Jane Pulliam, then many Americans were coheirs. Litigation on behalf of the American descendants commenced around 1850. Every descendant of anybody who had an ancestor named ?Jenningsâ€? was solicited. The accumulation of funds for litigation was initiated in England. Virginia descendants helped collect large sums of money. Many individuals named â??œJennings,â€? even ones with no relation to William Jennings, sent money in hopes thatthey might share in the inheritance.
Yet the claim was a fraud perpetrated on the Jennings of America. We believe the American descendants who helped in the solicitation were misled, as well. A mail fraud of similar nature deceived individuals who believed they werethe descendants of the brother of Sir Francis Drake. The great Drake mail fraud was tried in New York and resulted in conviction

The controversy continued in 1931 when some Jennings heirs produced the following marriage certificate that purported to prove William Jennings was the son of Humphrey Jennens, and thus an heir to the Jennens fortune:

Sussex County Circuit Court
Below is a copy of record from Sussex County, Virginia, relative to the marriage of William Jennings (1676-1775) and Mary Jane Pulliam:
United States of America
State of Virginia
County of Sussex

I, Jesse Hargrave, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Sussex County, in the State of Virginia, aforesaid, do certify that said Court is a Court of Record, do hereby certify that the following is a true and correct copy of the marriagerecord of William Jennings and Mary J. Pulliam as of record in my said office.
Married January 24, 1724, William Jennings and Mary J. Pulliam, wife’s parents Joseph and Mary Pulliam, husbandâ??™s parents Humphrey and Mary Milwood Jennens. Copy from Albemarle Parish Record.
In testimony whereof I have hereto set my hand and affixed the Seal of said Court, this Fourteenth day of January, A.D. 1931, in the 155 year of the Commonwealth.
Jesse Hargrave, Clerk
State of Virginia
County of Sussex
I, M.R. Peterson, sole Judge of the Circuit Court of the County of Sussex, in the State of Virginia, do certify that Jesse Hargrave, who hath given the proceeding certificate is now and was at the time of giving the same, Clerk ofthe said Court, duly elected and qualified; that his signature to said certificate is genuine, and his attestation in due form. Given under my hand, this 14th day of January, 1931.
M.R. Peterson, Judge of the Court aforesaid.

A lawsuit was filed in London on 5 November 1931 based on the above marriage certificate. This claim had been presented often before in the British courts and each time it failed for the same reason: William Jennens, the son of Humphrey Jennens, died in London in 1744 leaving a will in which he mentioned no wife or children. Further, the marriage certificate above has several problems.

1) The marriage could not have occurred in Sussex County in 1724 for that county was formed from Surry County in 1748.
2) It purports to be the record of a man of forty-eight years of age who had ten children in thirteen years and then lived to be ninety-nine, an extreme age for those days.
3) No record of such a marriage is in the Albemarle Parish Register.
4) It gives the names of the grooms deceased parents. This probably makes it the only marriage certificate of its kind in Virginia.
5) It is probably inadmissable as court evidence as it was not recorded at the time of the wedding.

Someone probably inserted the record in the Sussex record book without the knowledge of the court’s officers Hargrave and Peterson.

Perpetrators of the fraud even went as far as to erect a gravestone at the ancient site of (Sunnyside), the one-time home of the family.

1704 - 1774
Of Hanover County

1676 - 1775
Born in England
Retired British Officer

The Chancery Court of England in 1933 threw out the Jennings inheritance claim again. As reported in the New York Times on 5 February 1933 the Court characterized the claim as (frivolous, vexatious, and an abuse of the court.)
Ironically, several Jennings family genealogists still describe Mary Jane Pulliam’s husband as William Jennings, the son of Humphrey Jennens of Warwickshire. The grave stone even deceived A.B. Cummins, the author of Nottoway County, Virginia. He rediscovered it and reported in his book as a legitimate part of Nottoway County history.


See Also


A Genealogical History of the Jennings Families
William Jennings, Mary Jane Pullman in England and America[1]
Name: William Jennings
Birth: 10 NOV 1676 Recorded: Leipfield Cathedral, Yorkshire, England
Death: 1775 Nottoway County, Virginia

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This page has been so helpful in my research! Oral tradition for Robert Flanagan has him married to an Elsie Jennings, daughter of the wealthy Lord Humphrey Jennings. Finding this page has come a long ways in explaining that story, which always sounded exotic and fantastical to me. I added this case and my thoughts in a Research Notes section of Robert's profile: Flanagan-1100
posted by Jane Alexander