Who Might Have Come to the Christening of Giles Carter in Cirencester?: A Speculative Essay

I suspect that a number of genealogists and family historians would generally agree with my opinion that a close study of 17th century wills, legal documents and various vital statistics records in Gloucestershire England could yield insights into the English immigration into Virginia in the 17th and 18th centuries.

That sentiment expressed, I will concede that sometimes that newly discovered or interpreted documents can disrupt widely held beliefs. A case in point is that of Gyles Carter of Gloucestershire and Giles Carter, an immigrant to Virginia who lived and died on Turkey Island in the James River, in the area of Richmond [See my timeline at Giles Carter (1634-1701) of Henrico County (Turkey Island).

To this day, some family histories identify Giles as the son of Gyles and through Gyles’ father and mother-in-law a long lineage of celebrated Englishmen and Normans.

The discovery of a small plaque in a Gloucestershire church memorializing Gyles and his wife Elizabeth Tracy as a childless couple created much confusion.

Subsequently, there surfaced the parish record of the  christening of a Giles Carter (who without question had both  a son and a grandson  named Theodoric) whose Gloucestershire dates matched dates imputed from Virginia records, thereby convincing many researchers that the correct lines of descendancy had been identified.

THe interior of Saint John the Baptist Church in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England

The interior of Saint John the Baptist Church in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England

A record of a Giles Carter being transported to Virginia (apparently when he was between 16 and 19 years of age), living and working on, marrying a girl named Hannah, and later dying on Turkey Island seemed convincing that Cirencester Giles became Turkey Island Giles in his teenage years.

Even so, the “case” for Cirencester Giles becoming Turkey Island Giles involves speculation, and, even more so, speculation surrounds such issues as to what Giles did on Turkey Island and who were Hannah’s parents.

Some who have wrestled with this question have concentrated on several documents, particularly passages in wills granting Giles and Hannah substantial gifts.

In each of these cases attempts have been made to impute some insight from how the language was phrased conferring the gifts and bequests into conclusions about Giles and Hannah’s employment, socioeconomic status, even their political leanings.

I think for the time being, we need more information, or need new strategies for analyzing what we already know, to move ahead.

My intention is to try an intellectual exercise, with no preconceived idea of what we might learn from it. The exercise will be to try to reconstruct a christening ceremony for the infant Giles of Cirencester, which presumably would have taken place at the imposing Saint John the Baptist Church, and to figure who in Gloucestershire might have been invited to it.

In attempting to collect some information on what each of these persons were doing at the time and whether there were matters with which any of the guests were wrestling in 1635 that would be useful to consider.

Anyone who has suggestions or information that would be relevant to this intellectual exercise, please contact me at ffvsearch@yahoo.com.


Alexander Gregory, at this time is minister of St John the Baptist in Cirencester (which five years later King Charles I will recognize as underfunded, and will order the Bishop of Gloucester to install Gregory as Rector with proper funding and support. Gregory was, however, a supporter of the Parliament (as was much of Cirencester) and was imprisoned by Prince Rupert seven years later.

Guests of Honor

1) Theodore Carter, infant Giles Carter’s father. His first child Mary was baptized 26 October 1633. Three more daughters would be born afterward: Joane (2 Apr 1637), Elizabeth (24 Feb 1638), Margery (2 Dec 1641).

St Andrew Church in Cold Aston, restored in 1875, although West Tower is medieval; resized image of a Philip Halling photograph, from goegraph.org.uk.

St Andrew Church in Cold Aston, restored in 1875, although West Tower is medieval; resized image of a Philip Halling photograph, from goegraph.org.uk.

2) Gyles Carter, eldest son of John Carter of Netherswell. Gyles Carter is age 51 (calculated from a plaque in Cold Aston dated 1664 establing Gyles’ age as 80 at that time.) Gyles married Elizabeth Tracy, daughter of Sir Paul Tracy,  in 1606. Fifteen years earlier (1620) Gyles Carter travelled on the ship Supply, of whose outfitting Sir Paul Tracy was a financier, and on which four of his relatives were passengers, sailed to Jamestown, but  Gyles returned to Gloucestershire.

[WHB Note: Joy Carter Johnstone, a long-time Carter researcher, in 2007 posted his copy of a inscription on a plaque that is on the walls of the church in Cold Aston, where Gyles Carter’s manor was located. Guests 2 through 5 are all referenced on the Cold Aston plaque. Zieman’s copy appears below:

“Anno Dom 1664-Giles Carter the eldest son of John Carter of Netherswell
Co. of Gloucester, Esq. his two brothers being John Carter of Charlton Abbots
and William Carter of Bressnorton in Oxford married Elizabeth the daughter of
Paul Tracye of Standwell and DIED WITHOUT ISSUE.” Capitalization is Johnstone’s.]

3) Elizabeth Tracy Carter, Gyles Carter’s wife of 29 years (no children). Elizabeth was one of 21 children of Sir Paul Tracy. That she did not accompany Gyles Carter on the Supply might suggest that Gyles was assessing the prospects for Virginia enterprises, rather than intending to stay permanently. Four of Elizabeth’s Tracy relatives did take part in the voyage of the Supply and one, Joyce, with her husband, Nathaniel Powell, perished in Indian Massacres that took place there.

Charlton Abbots manor (right) and farm buildings. Reconstruction of a manor, originally built by Carter family. Only two gables are original.

Charlton Abbotts manor (right) and farm buildings. Reconstruction of a manor, originally built by Carter family. Only two gables are original. Photo by Philip Halling, as part  of the Geograph Britain Creative Commons

4a) John Carter, Gyles Carter’s brother of Charlton Abbotts. He and wife Ann are parents of the deceased Mary (Carter) Slaughter, wife of  the deceased John Slaughter, gent.; and Alice (Carter) Clarke, wife of Thomas Clarke of Charlton Abbotts

4b) Ann Partridge (Partriche) Carter, John Carter’s wife of 24 years

xxxx) William Carter, Gyles Carter’s brother, residing in Bressnorton in Oxford  [WHB-Brize Norton, Oxfordshire?]

[WHB – Subsequently, Ms Elizabeth Viney of Don, Tasmania, brought to my attention to following historical record “Mr William Carter of Brisenorton was slaine by one Jacob Byshopp, a stranger, in the street in the towne of Burford and was buried in the church of Burford”. That murder took place in 1627/8 and therefore William Carter must be removed from the list of possible guests at the christening.  See My Speculations on the 1635 Christening in Cirencester: A Response from Tasmania.]

However, in his place , Ms Viney names two other Carter relatives:

5a) Eleanor Carter Colles, daughter of John and Ann Partridge Carter.

5b) Humphrey Colles, son-in-law of the late John Carter and of Ann Partridge Carter.

[That a Carter daughter was married with someone with the same name as Humphrey Colles (1510?-1571), knighted by Catholic Queen Mary and member of parliament for Somerset during the reign of Mary I, suggests another line of research.]

The names of other Gloucestershire residents in 1635  known to have had or who arguably might have had some tie with Theodor and Giles Carter before, after, or at the time of the Christening will be added to this post.

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