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Who was Humphrey Belt?
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As you’ll have read Simon had a family connection to the Wharton family and must have had a very close friendship with Humphrey Wharton who provided the double living for him on his land.
I believe “our” Humphrey was named for one of the Humphrey Whartons, probably the one in Westmorland who died on January 1st 1635, if only because they are the only Humphreys I’ve ever discovered in Westmorland, Co. Durham et al.  I have a hunch “our” Humphrey’s departure might be something to do with Humphrey Wharton’s death. He may have been within his protection and relied on him for financial or subsistence support which could have died with him – could have been a godfather perhaps, which was an important relationship then and taken very seriously.
There are unquestionably links between Belt, Birkbeck and Wharton. If you look at the map below, you’ll see what a comparatively small area they all lived in.
The case for Humphrey being part of this family circle is:
1.       Proximity
2.       Name
3.       Period
4.       Poverty
5.       Education; we deduced about decade ago Humphrey had to have been literate which was a feature of strongly non-conformist groups.
6.       Non-conformist religious leanings.  The Whartons and Birkbecks, by extension, have been part of studies at a university and in the period 1615-1635 they were the leading extremist Protestants in the area Westmorland, Co, Durham and North Yorkshire. There is an extract included here below on Humphrey’s religious inclinations, and literacy, from an email dating from 3rd March 2010 which I wrote to Beltteam when this subject arose again. I’ve amended the text to take account of the latest information.
Finally, regarding the coat-of-arms, only one person could have introduced it into the Belt family and that was Humphrey who must have had something – a coloured drawing, some kind of artefact with a representation of the design.  There is one subtle difference between the recorded design with the College of Arms and Colonel Joseph’s and that is the colour change of dark blue to black of the chequerboard part of the Arms design.
 
            Edward had this checked out with an expert on paint and the simplest and most likely explanation is ageing.  By the time anyone got around to making a new image, the colour change had taken place. Woodcock in his letters states the difference in the two colours is so slight it’s interchangeable and of no importance.
 
            Something that needs to be taken into consideration is when Humphrey left England in 1635 he may have arrived at Dartford as Humphrey Birkbeck or Humphrey Wharton and landed in Virginia as Humphrey Belt.  This would explain why, after hundreds of searches by all kinds of people through at least five decades no one has found even a hint of any Humphrey Belt in any parish record in UK so far.
 
            But, it’s just as likely Humphrey’s birth was recorded in a family bible belonging to a family wealthy enough to support its own church on its own land and one which kept the parish records once they were completed. It’s only since the 1950’s these have been passed to record offices.  With the almost continuous destruction of manor houses, granges and home farms since the end of WWII many of them will have been lost. This means, when they are unavailable, looking for property records, memoirs and local biographies will be the best way, perhaps the only way forward.

© Dione M. Coumbe  9th June 2012


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