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Saturday, 28 April 2012


Some family stories are proved or even unearthed in the course of research. Others are disproved by the same process. Some remain beyond confirmation or debunking, the stuff of legend and speculation, a story good enough to tell whether or not it turns out to be true. With that in mind I’ll just tell this straight out and you can make up your own mind. Just the facts!

Hamnet Sadleir is reputed to be the grandson of my 11x great grandfather John Sadleir. That’s the part – admittedly a fairly fundamental part of a family story – that I can’t confirm. He was a baker in Stratford on Avon where another grandson, my 9x great grandfather (also John Sadleir) also lived. They may have been cousins, they may even have been brothers. (And yes, they may have been completely unrelated.)

Stratford on Avon, home of my ancestors and their friends

Hamnet married Judith. In 1585 the Sadleirs became godparents to the newborn twins of their friends Anne and William, such good friends that the new parents even named their new children Judith and Hamnet. When William, who died in 1616, wrote his will, Hamnet Sadleir was a witness.

One of the twins, Hamnet, died at the tender age of 11. His sister Judith married, in the year of her father’s death, Thomas Quiney, a tobacconist and vintner in Stratford on Avon born around 1589. Meanwhile my 8x great grandfather (yet another John Sadleir) married Elizabeth Quiney, born in 1587. Elizabeth certainly had a brother called Thomas – I don’t know for certain that he was the same Thomas who married Judith, but Judith’s Thomas’s father was called Richard Quiney – and so was Elizabeth’s and her brother’s.

Both Thomas and Judith Quiney outlived all three of their children. Young Thomas (named after his father) and Richard (named after his paternal grandfather) died within a fortnight of each other at the start of 1639, aged 19 and 20. The third had died long ago, only six months old, in 1617. Named after his maternal grandfather, the baby’s name was Shakespeare Quiney. That’s WILLIAM Shakespeare.

19th century German engraving of the Shakespeare household
Hamnet standing to his right, Judith leaning on his left shoulder

SO! If everything I have read and connected is true: Shakespeare’s daughter Judith was the sister-in-law of Elizabeth Quiney, my 8x great grandmother. Her godfather Hamnet Sadleir, witness to her father’s will, was a cousin, perhaps brother, of my 9x great grandfather. But only if.

Oh, and Hamnet Sadleir’s name on the will is spelled “Hamlett.”

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