Here in the village of Billesdon in Leicestershire, some time in the late 1500s, a lady named Ann (maiden name currently unknown) married Willyam Orland (this is the way it was spelt in the church records). Among their first children was Thomas, born around 1595, the approximate date of which we have established from his marriage to Elizabeth Atkins of Loddington in 1627 in nearby Quorndon, where they are both given an age of 32. It has been established, however, that Elizabeth was in fact 34 when she married Thomas, so we must be cautious about his true age, too. My sincere thanks go to Judith Mayoh (nee Meadows), whose discovery of this obscure record has helped us fill in these early details.
Unfortunately the Billesdon baptism, marriage and burial register doesn't appear to begin until 1599, so unless earlier records are revealed we must make a best guess at Thomas' year of birth and Willyam's marriage to Ann. We do have Willyam and Ann's burials to view though, from 1625 and 1633, which we can see above (note Ann's description as an "ould widow"!). The records do also tell us of nine additional brothers and sisters for Thomas, so Willyam and Ann's known children are:
The records for Loddington, however, stretch back a little further, and we find Elizabeth Atkins' baptism there on the 18th November 1592, along with three older siblings; Thomas, Richard & Edmond. Their father was Henry Atkins, and he had married Alice Snape on the 3rd September 1582. Alice sadly died in November 1593, but Henry remarried the following year to Elizabeth Ingle and had two more children.
Returning to Thomas Orland and his wife Elizabeth; having "run away" to Quorndon for their marriage vows in 1627, on the 28th October 1635 they were back in Billesdon to have their son Thomas baptised. He is currently the only child we can locate for them, although having been married for eight years it would seem unlikely that they had no other children. Hopefully further records will turn up to fill in the picture.
In his turn, Thomas also got married in this village, twice. His first marriage was to Margaret Nuby on the 18th January 1655, with whom he had six children:
Their mother Margaret sadly died young also, being buried on the 9th May 1672. But Thomas must've been anxious to provide a new mother to look after his youngsters while he was toiling away in the fields, so on the 30th January 1673 he married Sarah Davy, and they stayed in Billesdon to have eight more children:
Soon after this, the story becomes intriguing, because next Benjamin turns up in Belton in Rutland to marry Anne Parsons.... but he is recorded as Benjamin Ireland. It's not the first, and definitely not the last time that our name has been spelt incorrectly or mistaken for another name, but this mistake caused me to spend a few years believing that we had descended from the Ireland family, changing our name to Orland along the way. More about that on this page.
On the 8th October 1712, at this church in the peaceful hamlet of Belton in Rutland, can be found the record of Benjamin Ireland (baptised Benjamin Orland in 1684) getting married to Anne Parsons:
The first of their four children was another Benjamin, born in 1713, followed by Mary, William and George:
On the 5th November 1737, Benjamin Ireland wed Hannah Kilbourn here:
However, before baptising their first child, Mary, in 1739, it appears that Benjamin and Hannah had moved just two miles westwards, to East Norton, just across the border into Leicestershire. The tower and small spire of East Norton's tiny church can be seen in this photograph looking southwards across gently rolling countryside towards the village.
Here in East Norton the first eight of eleven children were born and baptised - the first four being recorded as sons and daughters "of Benjamin & Hannah Ireland", as one might have expected for a couple having been married under that name.
But take a look at this extract from the East Norton church register below - does something stand out rather prominently....?
And then this recording of George's baptism in 1745....
The baptism entries for all of their first four offspring were retrospectively corrected in the same way - but then from George onwards the register clearly shows "Orland" as we now know it should always have been. We can only assume that some time between December 1743 when Hannah was baptised as Ireland, and 1745 when George was baptised, the vicar realised the error, corrected the previous entries, and from then on correctly recorded our ancestors as Orlands once again.
Meanwhile, however, not everything was to be so straight forward. From 1598 all churches were required by law to make monthly copies of all parish registers, and send them to their bishop. These were known as "Bishop's Transcipts". So, although our name had been restored in the local church register, the incorrectly written transcripts had already been sent away and kept safely.
So, wind the clock forward two and a half centuries, and suddenly, with the invention of the internet, everyone in the late 20th century appears to be taking an interest in their ancestry. For the Leicestershire records at least, the transcribers appear to have taken their information from the Bishop's Transcripts, which in our family's case meant that the data held at the local Family History Centre still had us recorded with the name Ireland. I have explained the trouble this caused in much more detail on this page.
Continuing the family journey, Ben & Hannah's son William Orland (1742) next turned up in the Northamptonshire village of Creaton, with a marriage to Jane Farndon in 1774. His younger brother, John, appears to have followed William across the county border, and in 1781 was married to Prudence Simons in the tiny hamlet of Winwick. John, of course, was my great great great great great great grandfather. (See my ancestry tree.)
Here's John Orland's parish baptism record on the 6th November 1749:
Along with their reinstated family name, Hannah and Benjamin moved back to the home of so many early Orlands here in Billesdon, where they settled down to have their last three children, all girls:
The parents appear to have seen out their days here in this pretty little village, and the church records show that dozens of Orlands, and a few Irelands, too, were buried here in the 1700s. However, this churchyard and a separate cemetery on the east side of the village that serves Billesdon and nearby Rolleston, no longer contain graves early enough to bear the inscriptions of our family.