WREN FAMILY HISTORY
SOME NOTES ON THE POTENTIAL ANCESTRY OF WILLIAM WREN OF ILLINOIS
A William Wren married Elizabeth Steptoe in 1698, having children, apparently in Lancaster County, Virginia [* see footnote], before his death in 1710. His will of 10 May 1709 (W.B.10, pg 67, rec 14 Feb 1710) mentions his wife, sons (John, William and Thomas) and daughter Elizabeth, with his wife and her brother John Steptoe appearing as executors. Numerous US descendants appear to spring from this family. Various US researchers have attempted to propose parentage for William, estimating his birthdate as 1674 or 1679. It is unclear whether either of these hypotheses is correct.
The first proposal is that William was the documented 1679 son of Sir Christopher Wren. This is quite unlikely, for the reasons discussed on the page relating to Sir Christopher's descendants.
A second proposal is that William was the 1674 son of Nicholas Wren (1631-1701) and his 1670 wife Margaret Bell (1650-1702), the daughter of Henry and Eliza Bell. Nicholas was supposedly born in England and died in Lancaster County, Virginia. Nicholas is not immediately recognisable within the structure of the known English families. His will (3 Jan 1700, rec 12 Apr 1701, W.B.8, pg 101) mentions his wife and sons Nicholas and William. Nicholas apparently engaged in land transactions in Lancaster in 1671 and 1679, and may have been related (? son) to the Richard Wren senior mentioned in the will of Henry Bell, a party to several of those transactions. This Richard may in turn have been the carpenter whose 20 Apr 1676 will (Lancaster County, Abstracts 1653-1800, Ida J Lee) mentions his wife Grace. There is evidence that another early Virginia family, the Higginsons, claimed kinship to Matthew Wren, Bishop of Ely, and various Wrens appear in Virginia immigration passenger lists in the 1630's to 1650's, including a Nicholas in 1652-53 (transported by William Baldwin, Greer George C, Early Virginia Immigrants, pg. 379). All of this seems to point to the possibility that Nicholas arrived in Virginia in the mid-17th century, possibly with his parents and other kinsmen, and was a cousin of the family of Sir Christopher. The contemporary prevalence of the Higginson name in Warwickshire (but not in County Durham) suggests the likelihood that Nicholas and Richard were descendants of Cuthbert Wren (c.1500-1558), who established the Wren line in Warwickshire.
John Howard Wren published a History of the Wrens of Virginia 1652-1832 in 1993, and a copy of this (which expands on much of the above) can be found here.
[* this location was originally recorded as Logan County, Illinois, but this appears to be incorrect as it was not in existence at this time]
Anyone able to provide further background on this line is invited to contact the coordinator for this page, Ian Hall.
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