The history of William Rayner’s family in England is a mix of contradictory information, probably compounded by the fact that they were Quakers, as the typical birth, death and marriage registrations were minuted at Society Meetings rather than with the official state registration bodies. It is generally reported and accepted that William Rayner was the third son of William and Mary Rayner, of Long Alley, Shoreditch, in the east end of the City of London.1 Mary has been recorded as both Mary Taylor, and as Mary Evatt, with some researchers suggesting that the so called surname Taylor was in fact an occupation. Darryl James Rayner appears to be the source of this information, and it is probably based on typed research maintained in a correspondence folder at the Archives Office of Tasmania.2 The page reads, in part:
5. London and Middlesex Quarterly Meeting [of the Society of Friends] Births: 1767, Feb. 14th – WILLIAM, son of William and Mary (Taylor), at Long Alley, parish of St. Leonards, Shoreditch.
Another entry has the following:
Births: 1751, July 18th – Thomas, son of John and Ann (Peruke Maker), of Great Eastcheap, parish of St. Leonards.3
A Peruke Maker was a Wig Maker, and it is easy to see that someone might have thought that William’s entry was crafted in the same fashion. For this reason we cannot be sure of Mary Rayner's maiden name. Research in England required to review original Quaker Society Minutes of Meetings to determine Mary’s surname.
Given that these typed pages apparently represent transcriptions from the Westminster Quaker Meetings, they also record the births of four children in all to William and Mary Rayner of Shoreditch. Robert was born on 3 December 1763, Archer on 9 July 1765, William on 14 February 1767 and Isabella on 18 February 1770, all in the parish of St. Leonards, Shoreditch, London. The eldest boy Robert is also recorded as being buried the year before Isabella was born on 16 September 1769 of consumption, or Tuberculosis.4
The Shoreditch Area in London
According to some researchers the Rayner’s Quaker history was significant, and the Shoreditch family have been linked for some reason with the Yorkshire district in Northern England. At this point there is no evidence to suggest that the two families were linked apart from the fact that there is typed research presenting summary information about both families on the same page. According to a researcher on the Rootsweb WorldConnect Project William Rayner (Senior) was born in 1724 in Gildersome, Bartley, Yorkshire, England to another William Rayner and Mary Unknown. Mary was William Snr.'s second wife, his first being Mary Scott, b. 1683 in Gildersome. William Rayner and Mary Scott were married 11 July 1706 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, and had two children: John-b. 8 July 1707 in Gildersome, and Hannah-b. 16 April 1710 in Gildersome. William Snr. was born abt. 1683 in Gildersome, and died 5 August 1741 in Morley, Yorkshire, England.5 According to that summary then the family arrangement would look like this:
WorldConnect Submitter's Projected Rayner Family
The disturbing fact is that this arrangement is not substantiated, and yet has already been reproduced in countless other versions of the family history. Lou Daniels, another Rayner researcher, documents that the family had:
…a long history in that small but influential Christian community. Besse's compilation of "Sufferings" has three Yorkshire Rayners, Francis, Anthony and John all in prison for refusing to take the Oath in 1660, under the Commonwealth, and in 1683 at Rotherham, Yorkshire, Robert and Francis Rayner were heavily fined for non-attendance at the national worship. The Rayners continue to be mentioned in the records of Quaker Quarterly Meetings in Yorkshire, first appearing in the London and Middlesex Quarterly Meetings from 1722, when Richard Rayner, aged 26, late servant of Joseph Ayam, Philport Lane, London, died of consumption, and was buried at Whitechapel.6
This suggests that Yorkshire Rayner's were noted to be appearing in the London meeting, but it is all circumstantial in regard to the family of William Rayner the convict. At this stage it is believed that the linking of the William Rayner's family with the Rayner family in Yorkshire probaby stems from their association in the documentation produced by Mary Nichols as described on the Acknowledgements page. We don't know why Mary Nicholls arranged the documentation in this way but it doesn't constitute primary evidence of a link. Mary Nichols' efforts then follow:
19th 8mo 1784. William Rayner, late apprentice to Samuel Selfe, having been guilty of defrauding his Master and Mistress, for which he has been frequently laboured with in private without the desired effect, this meeting appoints Jos. Savory and Josiah Messer to visit him thereon and make report.
They soon reported that he had been visited and "he hopes to be more circumspect in future." Then the visitors "had further conference with William Rayner, from which some comforting hope arises." During the next year there were several brief minutes recording that the contact with was continuing, and also a reference to a letter received from him, presumably expressing remorse and good intentions whereupon "this meeting agrees to accept his Acknowledgment." But the improvement did not continue, and in the autumn of 1786 the Meeting made another long minute:
12th 10mo 1786. This Meeting being informed William Rayner has again been guilty of defrauding his Master and other Scandalous Practices, appoints John Motine and Josiah Messer to inform him (if he be met with) a Testimony of Denial will be given forth against him unless he appear at our next Meeting and show cause to the contrary, and should it not be practicable or he refuse to be seen, said Friends are directed to prepare a Testimony of Denial accordingly and bring it to our next Meeting.
He did not turn up at the next Meeting and the draft Testimony was accordingly brought in, twice read, and the meeting agreed to send one copy to the "Six Weeks Meeting" (the body on which all the London meetings were represented) and "If opportunity serve to hand another to William Rayner." Here is the text of the document:
9th of 11mo 1786. William Rayner lately an apprentice to a member of this Meeting, having associated with wicked company and been induced to defraud his Master, Friends were appointed to visit him thereon which they frequently did, with some satisfaction from an agreeable change in his conduct and in consideration of his Youth further proceeding was suspended in hope his future behaviour might manifest that tenderness had not been misapplied, but with concern this Meeting hath received information that his evil conduct had been repeated and in consequence he was absconded, wherefore it being incumbent on us to declare our abhorrence of such wicked conduct, we do hereby disown the said William Rayner as a member of our religious Society, desiring that he may become truly sensible of his present lamentable state of mind and experience that godly sorrow which worketh true Repentance. Signed on behalf and by Direction of the Abovesaid Meeting by Josiah Messer, Clerk.
In December 1786 came the last minute, "Jos. Savory reports copies of the Testimony of Denial against William Rayner have been delivered as directed”.7 If the typed transcript of Westminster Society of Friends Minutes of Meetings is correct the trial may have had a devastating effect on William’s family, as it records the burial of his mother at the same time as he was finally removed from the society:
Burials: 1786, Dec. 22nd – Mary, 62 yrs, fever, Wentworth Street, Christchurch, Spitalfields.8
Nor was the family’s transgressions against the Society over, as
William's sister Isabella also fell into disgrace with members of her religion, the following extract being taken from the Ratcliffe Monthly Meeting of 1st of July, 1790: Isabella Rayner, a member of this Meeting by unwatchfulness and inattention to that divine Principle which preserves us from Evil has fallen into vicious and reproachful conduct having had an illegitimate child to her own Scandal, the Trouble of her Friends and causing the way of Truth to be evilly spoken of; she was visited thereon by our Women Friends and also by appointment of this Meeting without the desired effect, wherefore we consider it as incumbent on us to testify against such gross wickedness and do hereby disown the said Isabella Rayner as a Member of our Religious Society. Never the less it is desired that by divine Grace she may be favoured to witness true Repentance and Restoration to the Unity of her Friends.9
To finish off the history of William’s direct family in England, that typed transcription of the Westminster Society of Friends Minutes of Meetings also records the burial of William’s brother Archer as follows:
Burials: 1792, March 26th – Archer, 27 yrs, fever, back lane, Spitalfields.10
- 1. AOT Rayner Family Correspondence Folder [quoting Minutes of the Society of Friends]
- 2. Rayner, Darryl James: The Rayner Family History; Privately Published; 1999
- 3. AOT Rayner Family Correspondence Folder [quoting Minutes of the Society of Friends]
- 4. AOT Rayner Family Correspondence Folder [quoting Minutes of the Society of Friends]
- 5. Murray, Beth: Rootsweb WorldConnect Project
- 6. Daniels, Lou: The Rayner Family; Privately Published; 1999
- 7. AOT Rayner Family Correspondence Folder [quoting Minutes of the Society of Friends]
- 8. AOT Rayner Family Correspondence Folder [quoting Minutes of the Society of Friends]
- 9. AOT Rayner Family Correspondence Folder [quoting Minutes of the Society of Friends]
- 10. AOT Rayner Family Correspondence Folder [quoting Minutes of the Society of Friends]