The origins of Katherine Simcoe have long remained a mystery. She was the wife of John Simcoe (Cook’s captain in HMS Pembroke1) and mother of John Graves Simcoe (the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada2). Details, though, have recently come to light.
John Simcoe married Katherine Stamford in Bath Abbey on 8 August 1747. She was 17 years old and from London. She had been baptised on 28 December 1729 at St. Sepulchre, London, the daughter of Charles and Jane Stamford. The Stamfords had at least five children, but Katherine was the only one to survive to adulthood. Charles Stamford was a grocer and salter. He had married Jane Tatnum on 3 November 1723 at St. John the Baptist, Clerkenwell. He was born in Maxey in Northamptonshire between Peterborough and Stamford in 1700, and died in London in 1742. Jane died in 1766 at Exeter having moved there with her daughter and family.
In searching for Katherine’s origins, the crucial document I discovered was the will of Jane Stamford in 1766 in Exeter. It was known that Katherine Simcoe had moved to live in Exeter after the death of her husband, so the Exeter connection seemed a good one to pursue. The will had several pieces that confirmed the link. It mentioned daughter Katherine as well as grandsons John Graves and Pearcy (it was written in 1763 before he drowned). It also stated that she was the widow of Charles Stamford, citizen and salter of London. Finally, it mentioned a friend in Cotterstock, Northamptonshire, where the Simcoes had lived.
Next, I located a will for Charles Stamford of London from 1742. In it, he stated that he wished to be buried with his father, another Charles Stamford, at Maxey. His wife, Jane, and daughter, Katherine, are also mentioned. Sister Susannah and brother Rich are there together with some nephews.
From this information it was a matter of checking births, marriages and deaths, and I found Katherine’s baptism in 1729. She was, therefore, only 17 when she married and 19 years younger than her husband.
The Maxey link was important as it placed the Stamford origins to a village only about 20 kilometres from Cotterstock (where the Simcoes lived for several years) and a few more kilometres from Aldwincle where John Graves Simcoe’s future wife’s (Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim) family lived.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 14, volume 36, number 1 (2013).
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