BEDFORD-L ArchivesArchiver > BEDFORD > 2011-01 > 1294246677
Subject: Re: [BDF] Harrold parish registers
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2011 11:57:57 EST
Your question just hit the spot, so to speak. There is a group of BUTTON
researchers who are working together (in the U.S.--I am not sure where you
are--England?) on Matthias BUTTON. A few months ago, I wrote St. Peter's
Church in Harrold. Below is the answer I received from John Saul, who answers
such inquiries for the church. Another BUTTON researcher and I wrote Evelyn
Burgess (whose emails are included below) in hopes that she would have
more information, but she did not answer either one of us. Perhaps if you
email John Saul, he can tell you whether the vital records for Thomas BUTTON and
his family are in Latin or English. They were sent to me in English
almost 20 years ago by someone in the Bedfordshire County Office. That person
said nothing about whether the original record was in English or Latin. John
Saul's email address is
Date: July 31, 2010
Your enquiry [to St. Peter's church] has been forwarded to me.
The church records confirm the death of Thomas Button in 1617 and the
baptisms of his children - but all we have in the church is a typed
transcription made in 1946 of the registers kept in the Bedfordshire County Record
Office. There is no possibility of going back any earlier than 1598.
You are not the first person to ask us for information about Thomas Button.
In 2003 we were visited by a Russ Button of Alameda, California - he is
descended from Thomas Button via Thomas's son Matthias, who emigrated to
Massachusetts in the 1630s.
>From what he told me I was able to write a short article for the Harrold
village magazine - extract included below.
Then last year we received an enquiry from a Mrs Burgess:
From: _ev burgess_ ()
Sent: Friday, August 14, 2009 3:59 AM
Subject: St. Peters and the Buttons
I am from Michigan, United States. I am researching my family ancestry
with a friend of mine.
Three years ago I was fortunate enough to be in Harrold, England, and to
visit the church of St. Peters.
I had hoped to see my Great Great.....Grandfather's grave. I was only able
to wander thru the picturesque cemetery. No one seemed to be about that
day, though my family and I were able to enter the church St. Peters. What a
My ancestor William Button was buried in St. Peter's approximately 1637.
That really is about all I know. Would it be possible to look thru the
church archives online? Oh, that would be wonderful!! Is there someone who could
give me more information?
William's Great Great ..... grandson Albert Augustus Button (my
Grandfather) was born in Detroit, Michigan approximately 1881. Some time between the
mid 1600s and the mid 1800s the Buttons migrated to Canada/United States.
I would be happy to discuss any information with any one who can help me.
Thank you...........I really do hope to get back to Harrold some time, and
wander through my history.
Evelyn Burgess ()
Subject: The Buttons
Date: Mon, 24 Aug 2009 18:21:56 +0100
Dear Mrs Burgess (or may I call you Evelyn).
Revd Fox passed your enquiry to me as I am probably the nearest we have to
a church historian.
I am not surprised that you were unable to find any Button memorials in
the churchyard. There are no Button entries in the parish registers after
the death of his father Thomas Button, so we must assume that the other
Button children had all moved away by that time. We believe that the churchyard
contains the remains of some 7000 people, and 98% of them would have been
interred in unmarked graves - only the wealthiest would have been able to
afford a memorial. Also, I am sure that if there were a memorial, erosion
by wind and water over 375 years would have obliterated any inscription.
You are not the only descendant of Matthias Button to have made such an
In 2003 we were visited by Russ Button ( () ), his wife
and son, from Alameda, California. Later that year, I wrote a piece for
our parish magazine about Russ's researches, as follows:
"Matthias Button, Russ’s direct ancestor, was baptised at St Peters
Harrold on 11 October 1611, the fourth child of Thomas Button. Russ already knew
that Matthias emigrated to the American colonies in the early 1630s,
possibly (like the Pilgrim Fathers) via Holland. He may have married his first
wife, Lettyce, before he went to America, but no record of this marriage
has yet been found. She died young, and he remarried thrice more, in 1639,
1649 and 1663! He first lived in Salem, then moved to Boston where he was
one of the very first settlers. He next moved to Ipswich and finally to
Haverhill, Massachusetts, where he died in 1672. He accumulated a fair amount
of land during his life in Haverhill. The records also show that he
incurred the enmity of a certain John Godfrey when he testified at Godfrey’s
trial in 1665 on suspicion of witchcraft. Godfrey was charged with ‘not
having the fear of God before his eyes, did or have consulted with a familiar
spirit and being instigated by the divil have done much hurt and mischief by
several acts of witchcraft to the bodyes and goods of several persons’.
Testimony at the trial stated that Godfrey passed through locked doors,
appeared in two places at once and kept company with a retinue of strange cats
and noisy demons. He was found ‘suspiciously guilty’ but not ‘legally
guilty’! Four years later, Godfrey was found guilty - of burning down
Matthias Button’s house! All this took place only a few years before the
infamous trials of the ‘Witches of Salem’.
Could Matthias Button’s journey to Massachusetts have been linked with
that of Peter Bulkeley, the Rector of Odell, who was dispossessed of his
living by Archbishop Laud because of his Puritan views? Peter Bulkeley
emigrated to Massachusetts in 1635, where he founded and became the first minister
of the town of Concord. Certainly, large numbers of Englishmen and women
followed the Pilgrim Fathers to the New World in the 1630s in search of
religious freedom. However, Matthias Button is known to have identified
himself with the First Church of England in Boston; at least two of his children
were baptised there. So he was probably what we would now describe as an
economic migrant rather than an asylum seeker."
Odell is less than 2 miles from Harrold, so what went on in Odell would
have been well known in Harrold. It is believed that Archbishop Laud
actually visited Odell to dispossess Bulkeley - indicating that Bulkeley was
regarded as a more serious threat to Laud's vision for the Church of England
than his humble position at an obscure parish church would indicate.
Mrs Burgess replied as follows:
oh my goodness, what a wealth of information you passed on! I am
grateful....thank you so much. I am going to meet with a cousin next month and will
share this information with him. I am amazed the St. Peter's cemetery
holds so many people. I was told that the grave stones that were very old and
had fallen, were used to fence in the cemetery and to make room for new
The story of Matthias is very intriguing. I was told by my cousin that we
are direct descendants of Matthias, but we have no stories of the
witchcraft trials. The only thing my grandfather told me about ancestors still in
England, is that one man (no name, no date) was hung for hunting deer on the
I also did run across, in some of my ancestry searches, some of the family
tree line of Matthias, that was the first I'd seen references to Matthias
and Thomas being brothers.
Again, thank you so much, Mr. Saul, for sharing this information. I
really do hope to visit England again and stay several days in Harrold. My
husband's grandmother was born in Dufton, Scotland. Looks like a wonderful visit
to the past for us.
............sincerely, Evelyn Burgess
I find family history research highly intriguing - I have traced the Saul
line back to 1637, and one maternal line to the 1580s.
Let me know if there is anything else that I might be able to help you
In a message dated 1/5/2011 6:00:50 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
Would anyone have easy access to the Harrold parish register transcripts?
I am interested in the entry for the baptism of Matthias son of Thomas
Button on 11 October 1607. I would like to know whether the original entry was
written in Latin or in English. Thanks if someone can help. Peter Jones
The List Guidelines
The Bedfordshire Surnames List
To unsubscribe from the list, please send an email to
with the word 'unsubscribe' without the quotes in the subject and
the body of the message