ENGLISH ORIGINS

The next logical step in seeking the origins of John and Thomas Drake would be the examination of published lists of immigrants. Admittedly incomplete, these offer only one likely entry. Amid emigrants from the English port of Bristol, who were bound to the mariner Andrew Ball on 6 September 1658, there appear five Drake names clustered into what appears to be a family group:(23)

Richard Drake of Bristol, serge maker, to serve 3 years
Thompson Drake, to serve 4 years
Mary Drake, to serve 4 years
John Drake, to serve 10 years
Thomas Drake, to serve 12 years

It was felt by a number of researchers that the "Thompson" referred to above was actually a female named Thomasine, pronounced Tomzin or Tamsin--a common name in Englandís West Country. From the lengths of indenture, it would appear that Richard, Thompson (or Thomazine), and Mary were adults--whereas John and Thomas were probably children. Varying terms of servitude reflect their relative worth as servants; an adult male with a trade would need to indenture himself for fewer years in exchange for his transportation, while less-valuable children would be indentured for longer. The differing periods of servitude would not necessarily mean that the family would become separated; under prevailing custom, they could still reside together--especially if attached to some large landowner.

Working under the assumption that this entry in Bristol and America represented the Isle of Wight family, efforts were undertaken to find where they came from in England.

The first place searched was Bristol, the port of departure, using the name Edward Gibbs as a clue. Nearly a century ago, an early Virginia historian noted a large number of "Bristol names" in Isle of Wight;(24) and the word-by-word reading of that county's early documents yielded repeated encounters with Bristol references. A search of published Bristol records yielded no reference to John and Thomas Drake of Virginia nor any to Richard or Thompson (Thomazine); but Gibbs did appear in a 1652 deposition, in connection with Stephen Warren (master of the Virginia Merchant of Bristol) concerning the capture of the Flemish Golden Lyon "at James River, Virginia."(25) (Isle of Wight County lies at the mouth of the James.) A search of Bristol's church registers placed Gibbs in Saint Stephen's Parish in the 1640s and 1650s.(26)

Finding Gibbs in Bristol was felt to further connect the Isle of Wight Drakes to the Bristol emigrants, but the stated origin for Richard Drake, said to be "of Bristol," was found to be a dead end. A search of the parish registers of Bristol for the period 1600-1700 yielded no obviously relevant individuals. However, it did reveal one Drake family in the city--that of Roger Drake, who resided in the same parish as Gibbs (Saint Stephen's).(27)

After the failure in the records of Bristol (county Gloucester), the search widened to the adjacent county of Devon and its neighbor, Somerset. The extension was made into these counties to the south and west rather than those to the north and east of Gloucester, because of the frequent occurrences of West Country settlers in Isle of Wight(28) and because there were known to be large and established Drake families living in those counties.(29) However, the breadth of the area to be covered required that some geographical priorities be established. Appropriate parishes were targeted by using the Lay Subsidy and Protestation Oath Rolls of 1641.(30) Particular attention was given to parishes in which there was a Richard Drake in that year. Even so, a large number of parishes had to be examined; and, in the end, the attempt was fruitless.

Another clue employed to narrow the area of search was occupation. Richard Drake's occupation, serge maker, suggests a residence in an area involved with the woolen industry. Social and economic histories of the West Country identify the area around Tavistock in Devon as a prominent serge-making center.(31) However, because of the association with the Sir Francis family, the registers of that city already had been examined with negative results. A similar area was Taunton in Somerset;(32) thus a radius search was made there, focusing upon the large number of baptismal registers dated between 1640 and 1650. In the parish of South Petherton, Somerset, were found two crucial entries: (33)

Baptized 3 May 1647 John son of Richard and Thomazine Drake
Baptized 7 June 1650 Thomas son of Richard and Thomazine Drake

The agreement of the names Richard, Thomazine, John, and Thomas and the compatibility of the birth information on the children leave no reasonable doubt that the family of South Petherton is identical with the Drake family "of Bristol" that was indentured for transportation to the New World in 1658. The agreement of those ages with the ones approximated for John and Thomas Drake from the records of Isle of Wight is felt to be equally conclusive. There have been found no earlier entries regarding this family in the parish records of South Petherton, suggesting that they came from elsewhere. It is noteworthy that South Petherton is rather near the large concentration of Drakes in East Devon, significantly nearer than the West Devon area of the Drakes who were akin to Sir Francis.