Two Pence for Your Thoughts…

Getting to Know the Origins of the Lowthorpe/Lo-Lathrop Family Line

My maternal grandmother, Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford came from the Lowthorpe/Lathrop family line. To put into context her family’s origins, we need to better comprehend the geographies and the commmunities in which our ancestors lived before arriving in the colonies. And, this required more study on my part–much like learning a new language. For example, Wapentake, from Old Norse vápnatak, is an administrative division of the English counties of York, Lincoln, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, and Rutland. Wapentake corresponds to the hundred in other parts of England and Wales.


Originally, when introduced by the Saxons between 613 and 1017, a hundred had enough land to accommodate about 100 households, and was defined as the land covered by one hundred “hides.” Each Hundred was headed by a hundred-man. The head of fifty families was a vil-man. A head of ten families was called a tithing man. And, the head of a thousand families was known as an eolderman. Later, the eolderman title was changed to Earl. Each man in his geographic area was responsible for administration, justice, and supplying military troops, as well as leading its forces. Within each hundred there was a meeting place where the men of the hundred discussed local issues, and held judicial trials. Hundreds could be broken down further (half hundreds, tithings, parishes, etc.) as seen in the image that follows:

Subdivisions of British Isles

Subdivisions of British Isles

The "hundred" subdivisions of Cornwall-19th Century

The “hundred” subdivisions of Cornwall-19th Century

Further, studying the monetary system used centuries ago helps us better understand the value people placed on their belongings, their real estate, crops, and animals. In terms of amounts of inheritances, we can even better understand how decedents valued their relationships with surviving family members by the amount of inheritance left to each of them. In the excerpt of Robert Lowthorpe’s 1474 will below, you can see that he first thought of his wife, Catharine, leaving her his estate, (they had no children), and that he appears to pay for his funeral arrangements with “my best animal for my mortuary.” Following on, he leaves various “pence” to clergy members who attend his funeral, based on the levels of their participation. He goes even further to bequeath his wife’s jewelry (“one silver gilt zone with 80 pearls and 10 silver gilt pendants”) to the St. John of Bridlington Church, upon her death.

Rober tLowthorpe Will Excerpt

Rober tLowthorpe Will Excerpt

Money and exchange rates in 1632 according to author, Francis Turner:
In England the familiar 1:12:240 ratio was made official by Henry II in 1158 who also defined the weight and purity of the penny, (plural of penny is pence), and it lasted until 1971.
This meant that an Englishman used to Shillings and Pence (20 Shillings to a pound, 12 pence to a shilling, or 12 x 20 = 240 pence to a pound) would find it easy when he traveled to other places with the same ratios such as France (20 sou to a livre, 12 denier to a sou) or Italy (1 Lire = 20 Soldi or 240 Denari) but not so easy elsewhere. Kings, Princes and other rulers also issued coins with names like “crown” or “angel”, which had a value of some number of pennies or shillings (or their equivalent) but generally a different number in different places. These coins added confusion in casual usage, e.g., “I lost 3 crowns at cards last night”.

My excerpts from the will of Robert Lowthorpe for this post came from:
LowthorpeBookCover The book was written by Rev. E. B. Huntington just before he died in the 1870’s and wasn’t pubished until 1884 by Mrs. Julia M. Huntington.

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