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The Apocryphal Noble and Shakespearean Ancestry of the American Webbs

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The Genealogy: Fact and Fiction

A genealogical line that has been widely adopted in Webb family trees and Webb family websites shows that a number of the Webbs who immigrated to the United States in the 17th century were descended from a line of noble Webbs of Warwickshire and were related to William Shakespeare. As discussed below, no reliable sources for most parts of that genealogical line have ever been cited or found, and a number of crucial links in it have been proven false.

History of the Genealogy

The genealogy seems to have been first published in Selleck's 1896 history of Norwalk, Connecticut, which contains genealogies of prominent local families.[1] The genealogical information was apparently submitted by members of the local families, and Selleck himself disclaimed any responsibility for their accuracy in regards to any English ancestry.[2] No sources were cited for any part of the English portion of the Webb genealogy contained in Selleck's book.[1] The genealogy next seems to have appeared in a 1923 article about the ancestry of the Dorr family.[3] This article, again, does not cite any sources for the Webb genealogy, not even Selleck. A third printed version of the genealogy appears in the 1927 Winthrop-Babcock Genealogy.[4] The genealogy is almost identical word for word to the one published by Selleck, and again was provided with no source citations. (It is interesting to note that the Winthrop-Babcock Genealogy has the distinction of having been singled out by Donald Lines Jacobus as an example of the type of genealogy book that should not be trusted.[5])

No subsequent printed version of the genealogy seems to have been published, but it appears to have lived on in unpublished family trees and at least one unpublished Webb family manuscript. The "Webb Family" site on skinnerweb.com cites as a source the "Descendants of Richard Webb," a 1943 unpublished manuscript by Lewis Bailey Skinner, photocopies of which were apparently in the hands of many of Lewis Bailey Skinner's descendants.[6] Based on the marked similarities between the Selleck genealogy and the genealogy on skinnerweb.com,[7] either Lewis Bailey Skinner's genealogy was based on Selleck or the two genealogies had a common source.

Of the online genealogy pages that are currently commonly cited as a source for the genealogy, based on earliest save date on the Wayback Machine, the earliest was timjanzen.com, which was first archived in November 2003. It is 100% consistent with the genealogy in Selleck but adds some dates, places of birth and death, changes the name of the Webb born in 1484 from Alexander Webb to John Alexander Webb, and adds a John Webb as a father for him.[7] timjanzen.com was followed by skinnerwebb.com,[7] themorrisclan.com,[8] and jimwebb.rootsweb.com,[9] all about 2010, and all of them fully consistent with Selleck except they added "Sirs" to a couple of the later generations and turned the second generation "Henry Webb" to "Henry Alexander Webb." None of those websites cited any sources, except, as noted, skinnerwebb.com cited an unpublished manuscript and themorrisclan.com cites the other three contemporary websites. (themorrisclan.com also refers to "Webb Family History with Name Origin and Lineage Lines" by Heraldry, P.O.Box 365, Carpinteria, California, but does not cite it in support of any parts of the genealogy.) Finally, there is gen.com, which cites timjanzen.com, themorrisclan.com and jimwebb.rootsweb.com,[10] and christianshakespeare.blogspot.com, which adds some legitimate, sourced peripheral information but provides no reliable sources for the core genealogy.[11]

First Generation: Sir John Alexander Webb

Claimed Biography:

  • Sir Alexander Webb[1][3][4]or Sir John Alexander Webb,[12][7][13][14][15] was born in 1474,[3] in 1484[1][4] or on January 11, 1484[12][7][13][15] or on January 16, 1484.[14]
  • The only older, printed genealogy that says where he was born or lived is the 1923 Dorr genealogy which says that he was "of Gloucestershire."[3] The newer only genealogies, however, say that he was born in Stratford, Warwickshire,[12][14] in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire[15] or in an unspecified place in Warwickshire.[13]
  • He was an officer in the army of King Henry VIII[1][4][14][15] or a general in the armies of King Henry VII and King Henry VIII[3] or served in the armies of both Henry VII and Henry VIII and later as an usher in the Privy Court of Queen Catherine Parr.[7][13]
  • He had children named Henry (or Henry Alexander), Mary and Abigail.[1][3][4][12][7][13][14][15] Some of the online family genealogies, starting with skinnerwebb.com, say that he also add a son named William.[7][13][14][15]

Evidence/Discussion:

  • No reliable source has been cited or found that provides any evidence for the existence of a person meeting the description of Sir Alexander Webb or Sir John Alexander Webb.
  • Since two-part first names and middle names were not commonly used during that time period, the creation of "Sir John Alexander Webb" from the "Sir Alexander Webb" found in the earlier printed genealogies, suggests a fabrication based on trying to merge two different genealogies. timjanzen.com appears to be the first website that adopted "John Alexander Webb," and the fact that timjanzen.com adds a John Webb "of Oldsrck, England" as his father[16] suggests that it was trying to graft Selleck's Sir Alexander Webb genealogy onto the established pedigree for the Webbs of Oldstock, which included a lot of Johns in their early generations.[17]
  • The claim found on skinnerwebb.com[7] and copied into themorrisclan.com[13] that Sir John Alexander Webb was an usher in the Privy Court of Queen Catherine Parr, seems to be the result of a confusion between him and his purported son Henry. As discussed below, the earlier versions of the genealogy say that it was Henry Webb who was the usher, and there is solid evidence that a Henry Webbe was a gentleman usher for the Privy Chamber of King Henry VIII and his wife Catherine Parr.

Second Generation: Sir Henry Alexander Webb

Claimed Biography:

  • Sir Henry Webb[1][3][4][18] or Sir Henry Alexander Webb[7][19][20][11][21] was born on May 11, 1510.[1][4][18][7][19][20][11][21]
  • The older, printed genealogies do not specify where he was born or lived,[1][4][3] but the newer, online genealogies say that he was born in Stratford, Warwickshire,[18][20] Bearley, Warwickshire.[19] or Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.[21]
  • The older, printed genealogies say he was an usher of the Court of Catherine Parr, Queen of Henry VIII, and a gentleman of Worship, and lived at Hampton Court after 1544.[1][4]The newer, online genealogies do not mention his status as an usher, but several instead refer to Queen Catherine Parr having written a letter asking that a grant to "Henry Alexander Webb"[7][19] or to her "friend Sir Henry"[11][21] be fulfilled.
  • He married Grace Arden, the sister of Robert Arden.[1][4][18][7][19][20][11][21] One online website states that Grace was his second wife and that he first married Grace's cousin Margaret Arden,[11] but this seems to be a confusion with the marriage of Henry's purported son Alexander Webb and Margaret Arden.
  • He had children named Alexander and Agnes.[1][4][7][18][19][20][11][21] Some of the newer online genealogies say he also had a son named Robert,[7][19] while one says he also had a son named Henry.[20]
  • Several of the newer, online genealogies say that he was granted a coat of arms on June 17, 1577.[7][19] However, the geni.com profile for Henry (apparently quoting "Webb's Ancient Family of England"[22]) states that, since Henry's father was the 3d Baronet of Oldstock and Henry was known to wear his arms in battle, it makes no sense that he would have received a grant of arms in 1577.[21]

Evidence/Discussion:

  • As presented in detail in the profile for Henry Webbe, there was indeed a real Henry Webbe who was gentleman usher to the Privy Chamber of King Henry VIII and his wife Catherine Parr and who, with the aid of a letter written by Catherine Parr on his behalf, acquired the property that later became Burbage's Theatre, at which Shakespeare's troupe performed. However, as discussed in that profile, that Henry Webbe was not known as Henry Alexander, his only known wife was named Barbara, and his only surviving child was a daughter named Susan.
  • No reliable sources has been cited or found that provide any evidence for the existence of any person meeting the description of Sir Henry Webb or Sir Henry Alexander Webb, as a separate person from Henry Webbe, gentleman usher, including no reliable sources that support his parentage, his date of birth, his marriage to a Grace Arden, or his parentage of children named Alexander or Agnes. His purported children, Alexander Webb and Agnes (Hill) Arden, were real people. However, no reliable source has been cited or found that provides credible evidence as to the identity of their parents.
  • No reliable sources have been cited or found that provide any evidence for the existence of Henry's purported wife, Grace Arden. None of the reputable Shakespeare scholars who have studied the Arden family mention that Thomas Arden had a daughter or that Robert Arden had a sister. The only mentions of her found in an exhaustive search on the web are in online family genealogies which do not cite reliable sources for her.
  • The Webb coat of arms granted on June 17, 1577 and pictured on skinnerweb.com[7] was the coat of arms for Webb of Montcomb, Dorset,[23] while the Webb coat of arms pictured on the geni.com profile for Sir Henry Alexander Webb appears to be the coat of arms of Webb of Oldstock, Wiltshire.[23] The main difference between the two is that in the coat of arms of Webb of Montcomb, Dorset, the cross is "humettee," meaning that the cross does not extend all the way to the edge of the shield.[23] The similarity of the coats of arms is not accidental, as the recipients of both coats of arms were descended from a William Webb of Sarum (Salisbury), Wiltshire, a merchant at the time of Henry VIII, who married Catherine/Katherine Barrow/Aborough, the daughter and heir of John Barrow/Aborough.[24][17] The coat of arms of Webb of Montcombe, Dorset were awarded to William's second son, William, in 1577,[24] while the coat of arms of Webb of Oldstock appear to have been awarded at a later date to the son or grandson of William the merchant's first son, John.[17] Based on Henry's supposed date of birth, if he existed, he would have been too old to have been a descendant of the recipient of either the coat of arms. The assertion that Henry's father was the 3d Baronet of Oldstock is ridiculous since the baronetage was not created until 1644.[17]

Second Generation: Mary Webb

Claimed Biography:

  • The older, printed genealogies do not specify when or where she was born,[1][4] but many of the modern, online genealogies say that she was born on February 5, 1512.[25][26][27] in Wilmcote, Aston Cantlowe, Warwickshire[25][27] or Stratford, Warwickshire[26]
  • Mary married Robert Arden and was the mother of the Bard's mother, Margaret Arden.[1][25][7][26][13][11][27] timjanzen.com says that they were married in 1526,[25] while jimmwebb.rootswebb.com said that they were married about 1530.[26]
  • Some of the modern, online genealogies state that Mary died before 1550 in Stratford, Warwickshire,[25][26] while geni.com states that she died in February 1550 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.[27]

Evidence/Discussion:

  • As discussed in Robert Arden's profile, Robert had two wives and the first one was the mother of all his children, including the Bard's mother, Mary Arden. However, as discussed in Robert's profile, despite the best efforts of Shakespeare scholars combing through all available records, no evidence has been found that identifies who his first wife was. There is therefore absolutely no reliable evidence that supports the proposition that she a woman named Mary Webb.
  • No reliable source has been cited or found that provides any evidence for the existence of a person meeting the description of Mary Webb.
  • As discussed in Robert Arden's profile, Robert and his first wife were probably married about 1520, which is inconsistent with the 1526 and 1530 dates of marriage claimed by timjanzen.com and jimmwebb.rootswebb.com, respectively, and very inconsistent with the February 5, 1512 date of birth claimed for Mary Webb by many of the modern, online genealogies.
  • The February 1550 date of death for Mary Webb claimed on her geni.com profile is inconsistent with the fact that Robert Arden's second wife obtained a marriage license to marry him on April 1, 1548.[28]



SECTIONS BELOW THIS LINE ARE UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Second Generation: Abigail Webb

Claimed Biography:

  • Abigail married Richard Shakespeare and was the mother of the Bard's father, Richard Shakespeare.[1][3][20]
  • The newer, online genealogies say she was born on June 6, 1515 in Stratford, Warwickshire.[12][20]

Third Generation: Sir Alexander Webb and Agnes

Fourth Generation: Sir Alexander Webb II

Sources

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Selleck, Charles M. Norwalk. 1896. pp. 402-403 interpage. Link to pages at archive.org.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Selleck, Charles M. Norwalk. 1896. p. 81. Link to page at archive.org.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Finley, Mrs. Herold R. "Dorr Family". Americana. Vol. XVII, No. 4 (October, 1923). The American Historical Society, 1923. pp. 467-468. Link to page at books.google.com.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 Frost, Josephine. Ancestors of Henry Rogers Winthrop and His Wife Alice Woodward Babcock. 1927. pp. 540-541. Link to page at archive.org Link to page at ancestry.com ($).
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jacobus, Donald Lines. Genealogy as Pastime and Profession. 1930. p. 75. Link to page at hathitrust.org.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Research Sources," webb.skinnerwebb.com. Accessed March 29, 2019.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 "The Early Webb Families," webb.skinnerwebb.com. Accessed March 29, 2019.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Alexander Webb," themorrisclan.com. Archived July 20, 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Descendants of Sir Henry WEBB", jimwebb.rootsweb.com. Archived February 20, 2016.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Sir Alexander Webb Jr.", geni.com.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 Enos, Carol Curt, "Shakespeare and Queen Catherine Parr," christianshakespeare.blogspot.com.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 "John Alexander Webb," timjanzen.com.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 "(Sir) John Alexander Webb," themorrisclan.com. Archived 29 Nov 2010.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 Descendants of Sir Henry WEBB, Sixth Generation", jimwebb.rootsweb.com. Archived 3 Apr 2017.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 "Sir John Alexander Webb, Jr.," geni.com
  16. 16.0 16.1 "John Webb," timjanzen.com.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Burke, John. A General and Heraldic Dictionary or the Peerage and Baronage of the British Empire. Fourth Edition, corrected to M.DCCC.XXXIII. In Two Volumes. Vol. II. 1833. pp. 594-595. Link to page at hathitrust.org.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 "Henry Webb," timjanzen.com.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 19.7 19.8 "(Sir) Henry Alexander Webb," themorrisclan.com. Archived 29 Nov 2010.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 20.7 20.8 Descendants of Sir Henry WEBB, Seventh Generation", jimwebb.rootsweb.com. Archived 3 Apr 2017.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 21.6 21.7 "Sir Henry Alexander Webb," geni.com
  22. 22.0 22.1 Gianotti, Gary. "Webb's Ancient Family of England." Star's & Stripes-Origns-Rediscoverd. 2015.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Burke, John and Burke, John Bernard. Encyclopaedia of Heraldry or General Armory of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Third Edition, with a Supplement. 1851. Link to page at hathitrust.org.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "Grants of Arms to Somerset and Dorset Families". Notes & Queries for Somerset and Dorset. Vol. IV. 1895. pp. 258-259. Link to pages at books.google.com.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 "Robert Arden and Mary Webb," timjanzen.com.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 26.5 Descendants of Sir Henry WEBB, Seventh Generation", jimwebb.rootsweb.com. Archived 3 Apr 2017.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 "Mary Agnes Arden (Webb)," geni.com
  28. 28.0 28.1 See the profile for Robert Arden.




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