[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #3 1917-1923]



18th December, 1919.

The romantic story of the life of Myles Standish, one of the Pilgrim Fathers who set sail for America in the ship 'Mayflower,' in the year 1620, should be particularly interesting to Manx people.

It has never been claimed, as far as I know, that he was a Manxman but it is generally assumed that he married and brought out to America with him a Manx girl, and that when she died he married her sister a few years afterwards.

That is as far as our Manx claim has gone.

I now, in all seriousness, claim that Myles was of Manx parentage, as were also his parents.

I think the proofs are quite unquestionable, notwithstanding the important fact that tip to the present we have been unable to trace Myles' name in our records.

The text for my paper is the last will and testament of Myles Standish, dated in the year 1655. It is, in fact, the only record we have on the American side, as to Myles' parentage. It is indeed the only clue to his ancestry. The will reads as follows (and I wish you to note the properties mentioned)

'I give unto my son and heire aparént Alexander Standish all my lands as heire apparent by lawful decent in Ormistick, Borscouge, Wrightington, Maudsley, Newborrow, Crawston and the Isle of Man and given to mee as right heire by lawfull decent but Surruptuously Detained from mee my great G(ran)dfather being a 2cond or younger brother from the House of Standish of Standish.'

In this necessarily compressed paper I need not deal with any point in the career of this great figure in American history which does not closely touch upon my subject.

I would point out, to begin with, that there are, as far as I am aware, no documents whatever, in England or in America, referring to Myles until he was about 35 years of age,

This was when in the year 1620, three hundred years ago, he embarked at Plymouth in the 'Mayflower,'. with the object of shepherding the Pilgrim Fathers.

During very many years, American and English historians have been indefatigable in making investigations as to the ancestry of Myles Standish, and they have been especially active during the past few years in view of the fact that the tercentenary of the 'Mayflower' Expedition occurs in 1920,

There were in the 15th and 16th centuries several prominent families of Standishes in Lancashire.

The three most important families of the name were, first, the Standishes of Standish Hall; second, the Standishes of Duxbury; and third, the Standishes of Ormskirk.

All the available records in England have been investigated, but no one has been able to determine the relationship of Captain Myles Standish to the Standishes of Lancashire, until a few years ago the Rev. T. C. Porteus, B.A., of Chorley, who is perhaps the highest authority on the subject, discovered a sel ies of documents, which prove beyond doubt that Myles was a descendant of the Ormskirk family.* {*Some Recent Investigations concerning the Ancestry of Capt. Myles Standish, by Rev. Thomas Cruddas Porteus, B.A., B.D., reprinted from the New England Historical and Genealogical Record for October, 1924,}

I am now enabled to give positive proof that he was born into the Manx family of Standish, who were unquestionably descended from the Ormskirk branch.

It is needless to critically examine Mr. Porteus' proofs; they are the result of authenticated records.

For the same reason we must take it for granted that Myles was not literally correct when he 'claimed that ' his great grandfather was a second or younger brother from the House of Standish of Standish.'

The term 'great grandfather' could only have been used in a general sense as a remote ancestor.

And Longfellow was, of course, simply taking a poet's license when he wrote

'He was a gentleman born; could trace his pedigree plainly
Back to Hugh Standish of Duxbury Hall. in Lancashire, England,
Who was the son of Ralph, and the grandson of Thurstan de Standish,
Heir unto vast estates, of which he was basely defrauded.'

As I have indicated, Mr. Porteus has discovered 28 authenticated deeds from which the history of the Ormskirk lands has been traced.

Two of these documents, dated in 1572, are signed by Johannem Standishe de Insula de Mane'-John Standishe of the Isle of Man.

He in the deeds, for divers considerations and sums of money paid him by a William Stopforth, releases to Stopforth ,all his rights in all those messuages lands and tenements in Lancashire which lately were in the possession of Robert Standish his father,'

This was ten years before Myles is supposed to have been born.

I will have something to say later regarding the purchaser, William Stopforth, for he was an eminent official in this Island. In the meantime, let us see, if possible, who was this John Standish who described himself as 'of the Isle of Man.'

Mr. Porteus has provided us with a skeleton pedigree of the Ormskirk family down to 1540.

We find that the first reference to the family estate of Ormskirk occurs in 1481.

At that date the family owned properties only in Ormskirk and Newburgh.

It is well to keep that in mind in view of the fact that Myles in his will claimed lands not only in Ormskirk and Newburgh, but also in Burscough, Wrightington, Maudsley and Croston. We now come to a very important incident.

In the year 1502, the family estates of the Ormskirk Standishes were materially enriched, Robert Standish, the head of the family, in that year married a Margaret Croft, a wealthy heiress.

She brought with her lands situate in Burscough, Wrightington, Maudsley and Croston-the very places, you will note, mentioned in Myles' will as the properties he laid claim to.

Now, for the first time, some 60 years before Myles was born, all the Lancashire properties mentioned in his will are named in conjunction with the family of Ormskirk.

This important fact makes it clear and definite that in order to rightly claim the lands in the various places mentioned, he must have been descended from Robert Standish and his wife Margaret Croft,

It also indicates the direction in which to look for Myles' parentage and birthplace.

When Robert Standish and Margaret Croft were wedded, a marriage settlement was made dated 1502, and I find the remarkable fact that of the three signatories to the deed two were Isle of Man officials.

The first is Henry Halsall, knight, Steward of Thomas, the first Earl of Derby, and the fourth of the Stanley line who held the Lordship of Man.

And the second signature is that of Thomas Hesketh, Esquire, his Lordship's Receiver-General.

Both of these signatories, of course, resided in Man during a portion, at least, of their term of office.

Sir Henry Halsall's family at the time held considerable properties in and around Ballasalla. portions of which are still known as 'Halsall's Land' and ' Halsall's Ground,' and many descendants of the family are still amongst us.

These facts are very interesting, and show at least, that at that early date the Ormskirk family and the official life of the Island were intimately associated.

Another fact of considerable moment, also pointing in the same direction, is that in our earliest Manorial Roll, that for the year 1511, there is an entry showing that Edward Standysh was the owner of a house in Castletown for which he paid a freehold tax of 2/4 per annum.

I think it can reasonably be assumed that this Edward Standysh was another of the Ormskirk family who had come over as a retainer of the Stanleys, in view of the facts which I give later. He was probably a younger brother of Robert who married the heiress Croft, and an uncle of ' Johnanem de Insula de Mane,' and also of Huan of Ellanbane, to whom I will afterwards refer.

Reverting back once more to the estates of the Ormskirk family and to their extensive character after the marriage of Robert with Margaret Croft.

This pair, according to a deed dated 1540, had three sons (shown opposite the figure 5 in the skeleton pedigree).

They were Thomas, the eldest, who came into the family estates in 1539, about 45 years before Myles was born.

John, his next brother, was the ' Johnannem Standishe de Insula de Mane ' mentioned in the document already referred to.

And the youngest brother of the three was Huan Standish who owned Ellanbane, in the Abbey lands of Lezayre, in the year 1540, about 45 years before Myles was born.

It is presumably from Huan of Ellanbane that Myles was descended, for that is the only estate in the Island to which a Standish is set down in the Records. If Myles was right in his claim to Manx real estate he must have claimed by virtue of descent from Huan of Ellanbane.

Going back once again to the Ormskirk family estates in Lancashire, I want to point out that Thomas, the head of the family, and brother of Huan of Ellanbane, in the year 1540, made a very strange marriage settlement which further proves the Manx connection.

He gave his estate (curiously enough consisting of all the Lancashire properties mentioned in Myles' will) to trustees. The estate was for the use of Thomas himself for life . after which it was to be held for the use of the right heir legitimately begotten; in default for the use of John (the one described as John of the Isle of Man), and his legitimate heirs; in default for the use of Huan (of Ellanbane) and his heirs. It is suggested that those who afterwards sold the estates may have infringed this trust; and it is here where the grievance expressed by Myles in his will, that the Lancashire lands in question were ' surreptitiously detained ' from him, may have arisen.

It is in the highest degree probable, as Mr. Porteus has pointed out, that Myles made his claim to the properties by this identical deed,- and, I would suggest, as the grandson of Huan of Ellanbane.

In the meantime, the Lancashire properties were the subject of dramatic developments.

Four years after Thomas, the eldest of the three brothers came into possession, He commenced, in the slang phrase, to play ' ducks and drakes ' with the properties.

He sold in parcels from time to time nearly all the estates to one individual, William Stopforth, Esquire, the Secretary of Edward, Lord of Mann. Stopforth was one of the Commissioners of his Lordship resident in Mann in 1561.

He was evidently a man of great influence in Lancashire and was of considerable wealth. He was a memoer of Parlia- ment for Liverpool at the time, and attended as one of the chief mourners at the funeral of Lord Derby.

As one of his Lordship's Commissioners, I find that Stopforth, as directing his Lordship's official affairs in the Island, signed what is called the 'Book of Orders' at Castletown, in 1561, a very important historical document, making regulations for the Government of the Castles of Rushen and Peel.

Taking up the thread of the Manx Standishes again. Ellanbane was one of the farms in Lezayre which belonged to the Monastery of Rushen, and in 1540, when Huan owned it, it had just been transferred from the dissolved Monastery; and the rental was thenceforward paid to the civil authority. In the year 1579 certain adjoining Intacks were owned by John and Huan Standish.

I take it that they were the ' John of the Isle of Man ' and Huan of Ellanbane, I have previously mentioned.

The next entry I have is that of Gilbert Standish of Ellanbane, in the year 158-, marked in the pedigree in the 6th generation.

' I have in my possession a very old Setting Quest Book, which was long ago the property of a Moar of the Setting Quest of the Parish of Lezayre.

In the Book are several references to the Standish properties, . one of which reads as follows:-

'Parish of Lezayre, 1629. Gilbert Standish to William Standish. A surrender of his goods, Comons, Easements, and Chattels for two little crofts of viijd rent. ' And William gives his grandfather's brother two days' mowing of hay one during his life and the other for ever in Close Knappan.'

I attach a great deal of importance to this document, which I take is only a brief note of the transaction. It is dated in 1629, nine years after Myles had gone to America.

The document appears to indicate a deed of gift from a grandfather named Gilbert Standish to his grandson William, of his properties.

There is no mention of William's father: he is ignored. There is a side reference to the 'grandfather's brother.'

I suggest that as the William Standish in this writing became the owner of Ellanbane, and was a member of the House of Keys, that his grandfather Gilbert had also been owner of Ellanbane.

Now who was William Standish's father? And why is his name not mentioned in the writing?

I suggest that the unnamed father of William Standish is either Myles the Puritan Captain himself or a brother of Myles who had been deceased before the deed was made.

The grandfather in the writing was probably an old man when the gift was made in 1629. The grandson was then young, for he was a Member of the House of Keys as late as the year 1661, when his son John of Ellanbane (who was concerned in the insurrection against the Derby family) followed him as a member.

The peculiar circumstances of the remote Ellanbane home at the date of this deed of grant must be remembered.

Myles had left his home for America, so tradition states, a married man; and nine years before the date of the deed. He was old enough to have had a son long before he left for America, for he was then 35 years old.

Assuming the unnamed son to be Myles, is it not exceedingly likely that the grandfather, Gilbert, being grieved at the continued absence of tidings of his son who was in foreign parts, and thought perhaps to be dead: is it not likely that in his old age he transferred Ellanbane to his grandson, presuming him to be his next heir? I think it is very likely indeed.

William's son, John, died in 1672,

John's daughter, the heiress of the Ellanbane property, married Captain William Christian, one of the Milntown family, and she died 200 years ago, the last of the Manx Standishes who held Ellanbane.

It is very easy to imagine that in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in the parish of Lezayre the important land-owning families there would be on intimate terms.

These were the Christians of Milntown, the Garrets of Ballabrooie, the Curpheys of Ballakillingan, the Casements, the Crows, the Skillicorns of Narradale, the Caleys of Cooilbane and Ballacaley, the Corletts of Glentrammon, and it is probable the Standishes intermarried with some of these families,

Before closing, and in reference to the Lancashire properties claimed by Myles, I have a most interesting piece of information recently received from Mrs, Christian of Milntown.

She informs me that one of the Christians of Milntown, an ancestor of Illiam Dhone, was in the year 1540, contemporary with the first Standish of Ellanbane, registered for property in 'Parbold and Wrightington' in the Leyland Hundred, in the County of Lancashire.

The introduction of the Milntown Christians into our story adds another touch of mystery, and excites our imagination. It is a further proof, too, of the remarkably intimate association of the Ormskirk Standishes with the Isle of Man.

One might reasonably put the question: How comes it that a Milntown Christian, a near neighbour of Huan Standish of Ellanbane (who, we are now entitled to presume was the grandfather of Myles Standish), how comes it that he was entered for a property which Myles, over l00 years afterwards, claimed was his by lawful right?

The explanation probably is that he was a near relative of the Deemster Christian of the period, or possibly the Deemster himself; and that he had secured the properties through his contemporary in office, the powerful William Stopforth, the head of the Government in Castletown, who had obtained, by fair means or foul, the rest of the Standish properties in Lancashire.

There is a deal of romance about the history of Myles Standish. The story is one of a man who not for gain, not from necessity, not even from religious zeal, but purely in the knightly fervour of his blood, forsook his remote country home to company a helpless band of exiles, and to be the Great Heart of their Pilgrimage to the country that they sought. And must not the story be more interesting to us, if we felt sure that the Great Heart of the Pilgrim Fathers was really and truly a Manxman-as I sincerely do.

[note later research suggests that this tree is erroneous]

                                            THE STANDISHES OF ORMSKIRK.
1. WILLIAM, 1444
2. HUGH, 1437-1483
3. GILBERT, 1502
4. ROBERT = Margaret Croft, 1502
          |                  |          |
5. THOMAS = Joanna Stanley JOHN 1540  HUAN of
             1539-1558     de lnsula  de Ellanbane 
                 |         Man 1540 
6.         HUGH, 1566-1606
4. EDWARD of Castletown 1511
probably younger brother of 
Robert and Uncle of Huan of 
5. JOHN, 1540-1579                                HUAN of Ellanbane, 1540-1579
    de Insula de Man                                     (See above) 
     (see above)                                               |   
6.                                                       GILBERT, 1582-1629
7.                                                   un-named son of GILBERT 
                                                     Query : Deceased before entered 
                                                      in Roll, or is he Myles ?
      |                               |       |       |
  Died 1633   |     of Ballabrooie               Ellanbane, 1629 
              |                                  M.H.K. to 1661
    +---------+-----+                   +------------------+
    |    |    |     |                   |       |          |
9. John Wm. Jane Kathrin              WILLIAM JONEY      JOHN, 1642
                                       1660     |         M.H.K. 
                                        |       |         1661 to 1667 
                                        |   +---------+    Died 1672
                                        |   | | | | | |    |
                                        |     Six          |
10.                              ? WILLIAM   Children      |
    |                                         |            |
10. CHRISTIAN = Capt. Wm. Christian        KATHRIN       EWAN living
     STANDISH | of Milntown                               in Ireland
              |                                          1670-1709 (illeg.)
    |     |      |     |    |      |     |      |
11. John Ewan Elizth. Wm. Margt. Mary Leonora Standish
                                       Born    Born 1696
                                       1699 ? decd. before father's will made.

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