The immediate family of FRANCIS and WILLIAM WEBSTER'S mother MARY GOWARD were probably small farmers or laborers in the parishes of Easton and Brandon Parva (Little Brandon) in central Norfolk county. We see this social background in FRANCIS GOWARD, the father of MARY GOWARD (and the namesake of FRANCIS WEBSTER). On his death certificate and that of his wife MARY RADE/READ (obtained by Amy VanCott from the General Registry Office in Somerset House, London), FRANCIS GOWARD was called a "labourer" on his own certificate (No.372) and a "husbandman" on his wife's certificate (No.487). Though the family were likely small farmers, a cursory reading of the Brandon Parva Manorial Court records starting in 1721 did not show land leases of anyone named Goward (Film no.1471881). Perhaps an economic history of central Norfolk and the towns where the GOWARDS lived may supply information on their social status.
The book Generations of Websters lists four generations of early GOWARDS (pp 6-7), which makes this the longest line in FRANCIS and WILLIAM WEBSTER'S pedigree. I could not confirm the birth of our FRANCIS GOWARD in that line, however, so these early GOWARDS are listed here as "likely." They lived in Barnham Broome parish (not Brandon Parva as shown in "Generations") for almost a century (Film no.1526810 item 13), and they make up the only complete and consistent Goward family I found in any parish records of central Norfolk.
Since the earliest GEORGE GOWARD was labelled "Sen'r," I numbered him as (I) and assumed the younger GEORGE GOWARD was a son, so he became GEORGE (II). Likewise by name and date the third GEORGE appears to be a first-born son, so he was numbered GEORGE (III). In turn, his son, the fourth George, was christened on 13 October 1765, but I did not find any interaction with our FRANCIS so did not try to follow him further. No birth or christening record was found for FRANCIS GOWARD, but his death certificate dated 26 July 1847 gave his age as 85 years, so his birth year may have been 1762. This could possibly make him the youngest son of GEORGE (II) GOWARD, but I have listed him as an early son of GEORGE (III), as he was listed by Amy VanCott. Only further evidence will settle this question of these two Georges who may have been FRANCIS GOWARD'S father.
Besides lacking a birth or christening record for FRANCIS GOWARD, we also are uncertain where he lived and worked before his marriage to MARY RADE/READ in Easton on 13 June 1791 (Archdeacon's transcripts on Film no.1526811 and parish records on Film no.1657203). At his marriage FRANCIS was said to be from nearby Honingham parish, but those records too had no GOWARD reference (Film no.1526811 item 12). The seven known children of FRANCIS GOWARD and MARY RADE/READ are well identified by their mother's maiden name as well as their father's name in the parish records of Easton for the first child and of Brandon Parva for the rest (Film no.1526810). Two other children were possibly theirs, as no other Goward family appeared in the records at that time.
The Goward name was not common, but it also appears four times in the Wymondham church records, with a Thomas Goward and his wife Mary christening their son Thomas on 26 Feb 1636/7, a Matthias Goward and wife Charity christening their daughter Susan and son Matthias in 1756 and 1757, and Richard Goward marrying Helen M/Norton in January 1759 (Film nos.1526812, 1911510). These people are probably at least our distant relatives.
© Copyright Norma Leigh Rudinsky