A quick look at the family tree shows a couple of ancestors that were reported to have become centenarians: Jacques Caudebec of Bolbec, Pays de Caux, Normandy, France and Owen Aston of Ettingshall, Sedgely, Staffordshire, England. As I have already written about Jacques Caudebec, it's definitely Owen Aston's turn.
I'm descended from Owen and his wife Isabell (Fullwood) Aston twice, through his grandsons Joseph and Robert, the son of Robert, son of Owen. Grandson Robert had a son John, who had a son Joseph, who married Mary Aston, the daughter of Edward, the daughter of Owen's grandson Joseph. In other words, my ancestors Joseph and Mary (Aston) Aston had a common set of great-grandparents, Robert and Ann Aston.
Back to Owen...
We don't know a whole lot about his life. But so it often is with genealogy. However, We do know a few things that do give a couple of clues about who he was as an individual.
He does appear in legal records. My mother, on her Aston ancestors page, writes, "Owen is mentioned in the Sedgley Manor Rolls twice: On 8 October 1633, "Richard Whitehouse vs. Owen Aston in a plea of trespass upon the case", and 5 June 1634, "Richard Whitehouse vs. Owen Aston in a plea of trespass upon the case". This is a phrase from English Common Law - it is a tort which alleges a civil injury without force or violence, such as libel or slander, fraud or breach of duty."
|A view of Sedgley Beacon (with the tower on the horizon) |
taken from the eastern side
by Ron Baker (http://www.sedgleylocalhistory.org.uk/Views.asp)
I'm not sure what was passing between Owen and this Richard Whitehouse or if the two mentions were related to two separate cases or one ongoing case. But apparently, Richard and Owen were at odds with each other for over six months.
We also know that he was a nailor. Yes, a person plying this trade did just what you might think--make nails.
On my mother's page on Mary Aston's line, she gives more information about nailors: "An article on the nail trade in the Black Country says: "The beginning of the nail trade in the Black Country and other parts of the surrounding areas are lost in antiquity. Reference to nails being made go back as far as the 12th century. The trade was always domestic in character, the nails being made in small workshops either attached to, or close to, the nailer's house. In the early times, that is up to about the 17th century, the nail trade would have been mainly a part-time occupation along with agriculture, with nails being made in times of bad weather and in winter. The improvement of slitting the iron into bars early in the 17th century helped stimulate the nail trade. Improvements in the blast furnaces and the change from charcoal to coal made the nail trade competitive. Richard Reynolds wrote in a letter about 1760 and said that, 'The nail trade would have been lost to this country had it not been found practical to make nails of iron made with pit-coal'...(The Black Country Nail Trade by Arthur Willets, online at www.sedgleymanor.com) Often the entire family would be involved in making nails, including children seven years old and up."
Finally, we know about his death and his reported lifespan. My mother reports, "Owen died and was buried 24 April 1679 in Sedgley: 'Buried Old Owen Aston, Ettingsole, aged above 100 years'."
|Beacon Tower, Ettingshall|
"This has been the site of a beacon for over 400
years and a tower was placed there before 1700.
The present tower was erected in 1846."
What is remarkable is that Owen would not have been a wealthy man with access to the best care, best diet, and best et cetera and so forth. He would have performed a great deal of physical labor in lifetime, potentially wearing himself out working with iron and pit-coal. He lived in the 1500s and 1600s, at a time when there much disease and other less than favorable conditions but less medical knowledge than today. And yet, he made it long enough to be called "Old Owen Aston." He may truly have lived as long as reported but even if the report was a bit exaggerated, he still must have attained an admirable age to have earned the entry he had in the burial records.
Next week's challenge from No Story Too Small: "Week 17 (April 23-29) – Prosper. Which ancestor has a rags-to-riches story? Which ancestor prospered despite the odds?" Next week, I'll be going even further back in time...to the 1400s and the green sheep-covered hills of Fairford, Gloucestershire.