Vassal: A Biographical Sketch
William Vassall was born ca. 1593 in Ratcliffe, Stepney, County Middlesex, England (just east of London). William's father John Vassall was a London alderman who served under Queen Elizabeth I and who equipped and commanded two ships in the fight against the Spanish Armada.
William's grandfather was also named John and had been sent into England by his father (yet another John) to escape persecution in France. The French Vassalls were Huguenots, and France was leading up to the horrible St Bartholomew's Day Massacre (1572), when thousands of Huguenots were killed by rioters and troops under orders of the Catholic king. Fortunately John (William's grandfather) emigrated to Protestant England from Normandy before the persecution reached fever pitch, and settled near London.
William never knew his mother, Anne Russell Vassall; she died shortly after he was born. She was 45 years old and may have died in childbirth. It wasn't until William was about 24 (and already married himself) that his father married again, this time to Anne Hewes. We don't know if there was a mother figure in William's life in the intervening years, but, as an alderman, John would have been wealthy enough to afford governesses and other servants. We also know William was well educated, which means he may have received education in a noble's house as a boy or some other opportunity for learning. William grew up with his two surviving siblings (two brothers, both named John, died before William was born), Judith and Samuel.
We don't know anything more about William until 1613, when he married Anna (or Anne) King on 09 June. They were both 20 years old and they would have 10 children together—eight of them surviving childhood. We have no death date for Anna, but as she was not mentioned in William's will, it seems likely she predeceased him. [Note: I've found numerous online pedigrees that show a death date of 01 Dec 1670 in Barbados for Anna, but they do not give their source for this date. It seems unlikely she would have been left out of William's will were she still alive.]
Anna became pregnant almost immediately, giving birth to a girl they named Anna. But the infant died within three months. William and Anna did not have another child (though there may have been unrecorded miscarriages) until ca. 1619 when daughter Judith was born. Four years later, when William and Anna were about 30, daughter Frances was born. The following year, their first son, Samuel, was born, along with twin Mary. Samuel died fewer than six months later, and Mary seems to have died either as an infant or while still a child.
The next year (1625) another son was born, John. His namesake, William's father John, died the same year at age 81. The following year, when William and Anna were 34, they had their third son, William. Another daughter, again named Anna, was born the year after (1628), but a five-year gap appears before their final child, Mary, was born (perhaps due in part to their travels to and from the Colonies).
Part II: Establishing a Colonial Home >