Introduction

We are likely descendants of John Curling (1671–1721) and Mercy Long  (1673–1765) and we have been researching their ancestors and children for several years. We have written up our preliminary results on John and Mercy’s children – see here – and who we think Mercy’s husband, John Curling, was – see here.  We now report our findings on the earlier Curlings.

Charles Cotton provides the basis for many of the published family trees on the Curlings of Thanet in The History and Antiquities of the Church and parish of St. Laurence Thanet in the County of Kent, published 1895. We are fortunate to have one of the original 250 copies. The book covers the parish in considerable detail and the section on the Curling family of Chilton is only a small part of the total coverage. Cotton wrote in the preface: ‘I am fully aware that the work contains not a few faults and many imperfections. I trust that criticism may be disarmed when I state that though the work has been entirely a labour of love, yet would that it had been placed in abler hands, so that greater justice might have been done to a neighbourhood teeming with many and national associations, and full of a domestic history of most interesting character.’

The relevant part of Cotton’s record is:

‘The first record of the family of Curling of Chilton in the parish of St. Laurence is to be found in the will of Richard Curling dated the 26th of July, 1463, and proved in the Court of the Archdeacon of Canterbury; he names therein his brothers William and Stephen; also his sons Thomas, Robert, and William, and his daughter Johanna The next record is to be found in the Baptismal Register of St. Laurence Church, where we find that John Curling had a son also named John Curling who was baptized on the 15th December, 1594. This John Curling the elder, appears to have had a brother described by Mr. Philipott, Somerset Herald, (who made a visitation of the County of Kent in the year 1620 on behalf of William Camden, Esq., Clarencieux, King of Arms) as George Curling of the Isle of Thanet who married Mildred daughter of George Clarke alias Northorpe, the issue of this marriage was John Curling of Fordwich named probably after his uncle; he married Priscilla daughter of Nathaniel Powell of Bristol, and it was to him that a grant of arms was made.’

Cotton continues: ‘To return to John Curling, son of John Curling we find that he had a pass issued from the Privy Council in the year 1614, giving authority to go to France to learn the language, but not to go to Rome. He was married at St. Laurence on June the 4th, 1622 to Elizabeth Wood, and by her he had two sons and two daughters, William, John, Ann, and Jane. When his son William was about to marry he made a settlement dated Sept. 22nd, 1651, his son John and daughter Jane were living. Of his daughter Jane nothing is known; John died an infant; Ann died before 1651; William the eldest son appears to have been the only survivor. The father John Curling died Oct., 1652, his will was proved 1653, his wife was left sole executrix; he mentions no land, but he desires 10s. to be given to the poor of Ramsgate, and to the poor of St. Laurence, leaving all his possessions to his wife, he desires to be buried in St. Laurence Churchyard near the palm tree, which was probably near the great west door, where so many of the family are buried. Witnesses to the Will were George Long and John Evers. The surviving son William Curling married in 1651 Ann Maxted who was living in 1660, by whom he had issue one son and two daughters; his Will is dated 1660, and proved in 1662 at Canterbury; of the daughters Elizabeth and Ann nothing is known, but the son John Curling married Mercy Long on the 17th of January, 1693, by whom he had eleven children.

John Curling made his Will Feb. 27th, 1720, which was proved in 1721 by Daniel his son, sole executor. Of his eleven children, six were daughters, of whom Mercy married George Osborne of Lidden, near Dover; Elizabeth married William Harnett of Spratling Street, in the parish of St. Laurence; Ann married Henry Belsey, of Coldred, Walsingham; Mary married Peter Harnett, and Margaret married Capt. Martin Read; Jane died unmarried, before her father. Of the sons, John Curling married Elizabeth Kirby of Thanet; Daniel Curling appears to have succeeded his father at Chilton; Alexander Curling married Mary Rainier; Thomas Curling seems to have died unmarried; and William Curling married Ann Shepherdson.’

Methodology

Our aim has been to make a critical review of Cotton’s findings, using primary data where possible. A database of the Canterbury Probate Records (1396–1858) provides references to 106 Curling wills. We have fully transcribed 26 wills – for details see the Wills Section. The family relationships revealed in the wills provide a substantial part of our basis for a revised Curling family tree. We have used parish records for baptisms, marriages and burials to support and extend the relationships. Many of the original East Kent parish records are now online (the originals being held at the Canterbury Cathedral Archives, (CCA) via the subscription site findmypast.

Visits have been made to other archives, notably the College of Arms, which provided crucial information we have used in the section on Curling heraldry.

We have also used the Overseers Accounts (available at the CCA) especially for Chilton as these help to validate family relationships covered in the section on the Succession at Chilton.

We have used the spelling St Laurence throughout making no distinction between church and parish, but we are aware that the church is dedicated to St Laurence while the parish is St Lawrence.

We have avoided any work on family trees published online as their veracity is in doubt. Indeed we have found none that fit with our conclusions.

The Family Tree section provides a summary of the individuals we have researched and gives their relationships.

Conclusions

We have identified some significant errors in Cotton’s work. However it is remarkable that many of his conclusions have stood the test of time.

Our main conclusions are:

  1. George Curling, who Cotton refers to as brother of John, was not George but Gregory.
  2. We can find no evidence that Gregory had a brother John.
  3. John, who received a pass from the Privy Council to go to France, was not son of John but son of Gregory.
  4. John Curling, who married Elizabeth Wood in 1622, was the son of Gregory’s brother William and not son of John Curling (and Elizabeth Culmer).
  5. We agree that William son of John Curling and Elizabeth Wood married Ann Maxted. However, we find that William and Ann’s son John died in 1665 and could not have married Mercy Long.
  6. On the death of William Curling in 1660 his widow Ann married John Curling (Cotton does not refer to Ann’s second marriage) and we consider that John Curling, who married Mercy Long, was son of John Curling and Ann Maxted and not son of William Curling and Ann Maxted.
  7. Gregory occupied Chilton until he died in 1608. It then went to his brother William, who held it until his death in 1618. William’s son John then occupied it until 1652 when John’s son William took over. On William’s death his widow Ann occupied Chilton briefly and remained there after her second marriage to John Curling. On John Curling’s death in 1720 his son Daniel succeeded as Cotton concluded.
  8. There are many trees in the public domain based on Cotton’s work which we consider will need revision.
  9. We have been able to extend the Curling line a generation back to William who died in 1582.

These points are expanded on other pages of this site. Do please contact us if you have any corrections, suggestions or additions.

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