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Henry (Henrie) Mort and the Elizabethan Morts of Eccles

Henry Mort may well be the oldest known ancestor that many members of this website have in common. Until we find someone born earlier than Henry, perhaps we owe him some respect due to the fact that many hundreds of us share his genes.

Henrie Mort was born in Eccles (near Salford, Manchester) before 1557. It may have actually been a few years prior to 1557, since a Henry Mort was married in Eccles in 1566, and it is unlikely he would have married at just 10 years of age. Perhaps a guess at 1548 as a year of birth maybe nearer the truth?

The note from St Mary’s in Eccles state:

Marriage: [blank] 1566 St. Mary, Eccles, Lancashire, England
Henrie Mort - Register: Marriages 1565 - 1632, P 187, No 26.

We know that Henrie had at least three children, if not more. Ralph Mort was born in 1573 in Eccles and was christened on the 25th February. He married Agnes Pinington in 1586 and they settled in Tyldesley where they raised their nine children. Many of the members of this website are direct descendents of Ralph Mort.

Henry Mort was christened on the 12th January 1571 in Eccles.

Thomas Mort is a mystery, as he was christened on the 9th February 1573 (which was just 16 days earlier than his brother Ralph). Were Thomas and Ralph twins, and if so, why were they christened over 2 weeks apart? It makes little sense. We know that Ralph died before Thomas, because Ralph left his brother his ‘workday suit’ in his will.


Queen Mary I may have reigned for a short period at the time of Henry’s birth, but for the majority of his life Queen Elizabeth I would have been the ruling monarch. We do not know when Henry died, but if he had lived to his mid fifties he would have seen King James 1 of England (James VI of Scotland) rule Britain.

Henry Mort lived in exciting times and during his life span the following events occurred:

Michelangelo would have died in 1564.
Shakespeare would have been born in 1564.
Sir Francis Drake would have sailed around the world in 1577.
Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587.
The Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588.
The Elizabethan poor law was introduced in 1601.
The Gunpowder plot occurred in 1605.
The first authorised version of the bible was published in 1611.
Finally, in 1616 Shakespeare died.

If we want to envisage the Elizabethan era in which Henry lived, we need to do nothing more than think of Shakespeare and for those of us in the UK, remember ‘The Black Adder’ comedy series on British TV.


Lots of them by the looks of things. Interestingly, most of them seem to have congregated around the area of Lancashire known as ‘The Salford Hundred’. This is an area of land between the Ribble Valley in Preston and the River Mersey in Cheshire and contained 9 large parishes.

This area was mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book of William the Conqueror. It makes reference to Salford as being "held by Rogier de Poitou". The so-called Salford "Hundreds" (an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "district"), included most of modern Manchester, as far as Heaton Mersey in the south, Bolton and Bury to the north, Oldham and Rochdale to the east, and Warrington and Wigan to the west.

Between 1550 and 1610, Adam Mort of Dam House would have lived in the near vicinity to Henrie, having been born in 1540 at Highfield House in Farnworth ( a mere distance of 8 miles away from Eccles). Thomas Mort born 1587 and son of Adam and Jennet Mort, would have lived at Peel Hall, Little Hulton (which was just 7 miles away from Eccles). Meanwhile the wife of Adam ‘Jennet Mort’ was the daughter of Thomas Mort of Tyldesley (a small town about 6 miles from Eccles). Neighbouring Mort families were never very far away.


Out of curiosity, I cast a very wide net on the IGI database just to see what came back with regards to the Mort surname. Despite not selecting any country beforehand (making this a global search), all the early Mort’s from 1500 to 1800 did seem to live in England. In fact, I did not find this surname outside of England in the period of Henrie Mort’s existence.

We all think of Mort as being a ‘French word’ and as such must surely be a French surname. I would be interested to know if anyone knows anything more about this. When I searched the early French records for a Mort surname, I drew a blank. This would then lead to the question of ‘would any family deliberately name itself after ‘death’? I had heard some speculation that English families called ‘Death’ actually changed their names to ‘De’Arth’ and then later to ‘Mort’ in the hope that few people in England understood French. I have no idea how true this is or otherwise.

Additionally, the ‘wide net search’ I experimented with failed to produce many early Mort’s who lived outside of Lancashire. I think I found one Mort from London, a few from Leicestershire and an odd sprinkling in the Staffordshire area. I can conclusively state that 85% of the Mort’s I found on record between the mid 1550’s to mid 1650’s, did seem to live around Leigh, Astley, Tyldesley, Eccles, Preston, Bolton and Manchester, in other words ‘The Salford Hundred’.

Something else I noted, was that the ‘Mort surname’ only became popular in the IGI search results from about the mid sixteenth century onwards. So again this begs the question ‘from were did the Lancashire Morts of Henrie’s era originate from’?

The French connection is always an interesting and romantic idea. Certainly, the earlier Mort’s pictured on canvas, had the long faces and dark features we often associate with the French. However I have found no evidence that they descended from Norman Barons, but would love to be contradicted on this matter.

Another branch of my family tree are direct descendents of a Norman Baron, and the contrast in research results cannot be more marked. These French Barons were well rewarded and became very wealthy landowners. In 1090 William Le Norreys crossed over the English channel from Normandy alongside William the Conqueror and his family audit trail from then until now has been well documented. The Norris family owned many large estates including Haigh Hall and Speke Hall. A simple search in ‘Burke’s Peerage’ returns many well connected Norris families. A similar search on the Mort family, returned zero. From my experience with the ‘Norris’ line, I would have expected the ‘Mort’ line to at least return something if in fact they were also the descendents of the greedy Norman Barons.

Something I must acknowledge about the Elizabethan Mort’s of Lancashire, is that whether they be French or English, Barons or humble workers, they were industrious, successful and intelligent. By today’s standards, we would call them the ‘Nouveau Riche’ - the new rich.

Next to the Land Barons (who let’s face it, were basically thieves who invaded England and took land away from hard working Anglo Saxon families who had worked their plots for hundreds of years), the new rich were home grown Merchants. The Textile Merchants, the Spice Merchants, hard working thinking men who did an honest days work and reaped the rewards for his productivity. Maybe Lancashire held some promise for such career opportunities in 1550?

There is some evidence that Henrie Mort was such a man. His children left wills, and without being too simplistic ‘if you don’t leave a will, it means that you have nothing of value to leave’. His Grandchildren were intelligent, and to be educated back in the days when most people were illiterate is surely an indicator of success.

If we have any historians reading this who could share with us the secrets of social mobility, population demographics and migration patterns in 16th century Britain, we would welcome your contribution. If we have any expert genealogist amongst us who could shine more light onto the origins of the Mort name, you too would be more than welcome.

In the meantime, at least we all now know a little more about Henrie and the Elizabethan Mort’s of Eccles.

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