Sorting out the Skulls


March 22, 2016 by auntkatefirmin

There are claims out there on the internet that those with the surname Skull are descendants of a Norman knight. I’d be happy if I was certain about the grandparents of Sarah Skull of Tockenham. Right now I’ve got a patchwork of guesses put together that I cannot yet quite prove or disprove.


The church in Tockenham. © Copyright Roger Cornfoot, Creative Commons License.

While the parish records of Brinkworth, Lyneham and Tockenham are far from comprehensive and complete, Charles was not a common name in the Wiltshire branch of the Skull family in the mid-1600’s so I’m willing to assume that Charles, son of Jeffery (I will mostly standardize the spelling as Jeffrey after this), baptized in Tockenham in 1654 was the same person as the Charles, father of Sarah, baptized in Tockenham in late 1696 based on the name and location alone. That gives us three generations: Sarah, Charles & Jeffrey. Whose child was Jeffrey, who did he marry, and where did he live?


If Jeffrey was between 20 and 40 when Charles was born, then he was born between 1614 and 1634 and married between 1635 and 1654. Looking at the index to the transcribed parish registers, the only Jeffrey/Geoffrey Scull/Skull with a baptism recorded prior to 1667 was Jeffrey son of John baptized in Brinkworth in 1624. Based on other evidence he cannot be the only Jeffrey of the correct generation; I am currently guessing there were two men named Jeffrey of this generation. A similar problem occurs in the marriage registers – no marriages at all were recorded in Tockenham between 1634 and 1654 and only three in Brinkworth between 1623 and 1654.

The adult Jeffrey of Tockenham does not appear in the tax lists in 1697 so my working conclusion is that he died some time between 1654 and 1697. Of the indexed records, the possibilities are that he died in 1654 in Tockenham, 1684 in Brinkworth, or 1696 in Tockenham. If Charles’ father was the man buried in Tockenham in 1654 that would explain why Charles has no known siblings, though it seems more probable that Charles’ father died in 1696. That leaves an adult Jeffrey who died in 1654 (who I will propose as the grandfather of Charles), and the Jeffrey of Brinkworth who left a will dated 1684 who I will discuss below (and rule out as the direct ancestor of anyone).


Because both Charles and Christian Skull lived in Tockenham in 1697 and Christian lived in Tockenham prior to her marriage to “Geoffrey” Skull (some time before 1646 and thus before the assumed birth of Charles based on his baptism), I am working based on these assumptions:
-Christian/Christiana (born Gleed) was the mother of Charles
-Christian was the only wife of this Jeffrey Skull
-Christian and Charles lived in Tockenham between 1654 and 1705 (when Christian had died and Charles was living in Wootton Bassett).

There was a least one other Jeffrey nearby as Elizabeth, wife of Jeffrey, was buried in Brinkworth in 1685. I’m beginning to suspect she was married to the Jeffrey who wrote his will in 1684 – at least that would minimize the number of Jeffrey Skulls needed to fit the various facts, though it doesn’t explain why she is not named in the will.


There is a gap in the Tockenham baptism register after 1624; the time in which Jeffrey was most likely born. Possible fathers in Tockenham during 1614-1634 were:

-John Skull, clerk of the parish of Tockenham, who was buried in 1664; I will assume he is the same person as John who had two children baptized in 1620 and 1624 in Tockenham.

-Jefferie Skull, whose known children were William (1620) and Francis (1624).

Based on the very helpful abstracts of wills of Skull family members of Brinkworth and Grittenham, the two men below have also been considered as possible ancestors.

-Jeffrey, son of Jeffrey who wrote a will in Grittenham in 1616; I think the son Jeffrey was an adult in 1616 and thus would have been nearly 60 when Charles was born about 1654. The son Jeffrey is thus a possible candidate for Charles’ grandfather, and for the man who died in Tockenham in 1654. Grittenham is quite close to Tockenham Wick.

-Jeffrey, son of John Skull the elder of Grittenham who wrote a will in 1659. John the elder’s children were Francis, Jeffrey, John (who married Joyce Lewen), and Alice (Mrs Day). Jeffrey, son of John the elder, wrote a will in 1684 which did not name any children or a wife; all his (sizeable) estate was left to siblings, nieces and nephews. I think this man is a good fit for the Jeffrey son of John baptized in Brinkworth in 1624, and a candidate for the husband of the Elizabeth who was buried in 1685. My interpretation of the will is that this man had no children.

Based on the parish baptisms, there were also Skull families in Brinkworth headed by men (not sons of John the elder above) named Thomas, William, Giles, Henry, and George who may well turn out to be cousins of some sort.

Until more details are filled in, or sources uncovered, it’s all guesswork at this point. I’ll be surprised if evidence turns up to show that Charles wasn’t the child of Jeffrey Skull and Christian (born Gleed) or that Sarah was the daughter of a previously unknown Charles. With Jeffrey it’s a little more murky, I’ve already concluded that he is the man who married Christian before 1646 and guessed that he died about 1696. I will go further out on a limb and make a working guess that Jeffrey was the son of the Jeffrey who had other children in Tockenham before 1625 and that the family consisted of Jeffrey, an unknown wife, and three children William (1620), Francis (1623) and Jeffrey (about 1625).

Matching the guess to the surviving parish/tax records of Tockenham gives the (partly supposed) children and grandchildren of this Jeffrey as follows:

  1. William (1620): William (1654) and Adam (1656) – no tax traces in 1697.
  2. Francis (1623), married several times: Katherine (1666-1668), Jeffrey 1667, John (1670), Mary (1672), Francis (1676) – Francis appeared in Tockenham with wife Jone in 1697, with Jone & young Francis in 1701, and with young Francis in 1700 (Jone/Joan died in 1700).
  3. Jeffrey (~1625-1696?), [married Christian Gleed Willis]: Charles (1654) – both Christian and Charles (with all his family) were listed in several Tockenham tax lists.


I like this solution. To summarize: it implies that Jeffrey of Grittenham (wife Margery, will 1616) had a younger son Jeffrey who moved down the road to Tockenham Wick to take advantage of an as yet undiscovered opportunity, perhaps based on his inheritance or family connections. Based on the will transcription, Jeffrey received 20 shillings, one cow, and a brass pot from his father. I propose that Jeffrey married an as yet unknown woman and was the father of three surviving male children (William, Francis & Jeffrey as listed above), dying in 1654. Thus the immediate ancestors of the Skulls of Tockenham were not fabulously wealthy, unlike some of their cousins in Brinkworth, which seems to fit what is known about the descendants.

Next – to see what can be proved or disproved!


2 thoughts on “Sorting out the Skulls

  1. Andrew Ferrier says:

    Just started trying to piece together the branch of my family that is the Skulls from Brinkworth – which I visted this week. I’ll be heading to the Wiltshire records office soon to see if I can turn up anything new.
    Keep up the good work AK!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: