We are of the opinion that the listing of Mary Bentley as grandmother of John Bunyan (and thus the mother of William (G1) in his bio is HIGHLY LIKELY, and that the "theory" of Cameron Stewart in regard to Robert and Mary Bentley buried in the Elstow courtyard as the parents of William (G1) is VERY POSSIBLE.
Although we shall list Mary Bentley as the mother of William (G1), genealogists follow the family line through the documented Bentley men. So for now, our Bentleys begin in the late 16th Century England with the proven William (G1), rather than his unproven father Robert Bentley.
Chapter 1: WILLIAM BENTLEY (G1) (b prob. betw. 1578-1581; d bef June 27,1632, poss 1628); husband of MARY GOODWIN BENTLEY (b prob. 1580 or 1584; d 1632); father of John Bentley; grandfather of William Bentley, Sr.; g grandfather of William Bentley, Jr.; gg grandfather of Greene Bentley, Sr.; ggg grandfather of Green Bentley, Jr.; ggg g grandfather of George C. Bentley; ggg gg grandfather of George E. Bentley; ggg ggg grandfather of Wilbur D. Bentley; ggg ggg g grandfather of Adelia Bentley Burger; ggg ggg gg grandfather of Corinne Burger Glover; ggg ggg ggg grandfather of Robert H. Glover
THE PROGENITOR OF OUR BENTLEY FAMILY
William Bentley key data:
BORN: prob 1578-1581, poss 1573, in prob. Ampthill, Bedfordshire Co, Eng.
MARRIED: May 18 or 20, 1601, St Paul’s Church, Bedford to Mary Goodwin
DIED: before June 27, 1632, poss. in 1628 in prob. Elstow.
Genealogist Cameron Stewart (11) documents the key links for the early generations of our Bentleys. He wrote to the Records Department of Bedfordshire Co., Eng. on Feb 12, 1978 inquiring as to the Bedfordshire Bentleys. He received a response dated Feb 20, 1978 from A. F. Cirket, Senior Records Officer, Bedfordshire Council, County Hall, Bedford, Eng. which reads in part (11—page 1631):
“Wm. Bentley (G3) was baptized in Ampthill church on 13 Sep. 1640. He was the son of Jn. Bentley (John—G2) who married Mary Betts, also in Ampthill church on 3 Oct. 1630………Jn. Bentley above….was the son of William Bentley (G1) who married Mary Goodwin in St. Paul’s church, Bedford on the 18 or 20 May 1601 (parish register and transcript do not agree on the day).
…….I enclose a list of persons who do professional searches in our County, as requested, as we cannot undertake further research on the subject. I also enclose a rough outline pedigree of the Bentley family of Elstow and Ampthill.”
Stewart then lists from the pedigree:
“THE BENTLEYS OF BEDFORDSHIRE
Bedfordshire progenitor William Bentley, m May 18/20, 1601, Bedford, St. Paul’s, to Mary Goodwin, bur July 1, 1632 (widow)………….”
This letter thus establishes William (G1) as the father of John (G2) and the grandfather of William, Sr. (G3), as well as the husband of Mary Goodwin. Further, it documents that Mary was buried in Bedfordshire Co. as a widow on July 1, 1632. Thus, it establishes that William died prior to that date.
BIRTH AND DEATH DATES OF WILLIAM BENTLEY AND MARY GOODWIN
William Bentley (G1), all seem to agree, was born in Bedfordshire Co., Eng, but there is no agreement or documentation as to what town. Bedford is the choice of Cowan (6); Elstow is the choice in several LDS files. Allan Bentley (23) lists Dorchester, but he likely has the wrong William, son of Captain James.
Stewart wrote in 1986 (p. 1552): “Contrary to the statements of most Bentley-family genealogists and most of the so-called “knowledgeable descendants,” this searcher INSISTS that the home in England, where the progenitor was born, was AMPTHILL, BEDFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND. Corroborating evidence in Bedfordshire is being examined.” Both Ampthill and Elstow are presently smaller towns a bit to the south of the large town of Bedford in eastern England, and their boundaries are very close--- and may have changed over the years. Likely Mary Goodwin was also born in this area of Bedfordshire Co. She may, in fact, have been christened at St. Paul’s Church in Elstow.
Sean Bentley (27) wrote at genforum.genealogy.com in 2005:
“I recently visited the Ancestral Home of the Bentleys (at least as far back as I've been able to trace somewhat definitively so far) in Bedfordshire, England.
The county records had much peripheral documentation of local Bentley descendents (birth, marriage, death, and tax records) transcribed from Elstow and Ampthill parish and legal records, but these only went back to about 1602.
I walked around Elstow, where William was born (Stewart notes as nearby Ampthill), as well as John Bunyan. A pretty little suburb of Bedford with much Bunyaniana in it. The actual "Slough of Despond" still runs through it! And we visited Ampthill, also a charming village. Graveyards in both places had no Bentley stones in evidence, and any stones older than about 1790 were eroded and illegible.”
But when were William and Mary born?
William Bentley was b. abt 1581 according to Cowan; Marlin Criddle (7) lists his birth as abt 1578; the Gayle King Repository with LDS lists 1580 as does Allan Bentley (23). LDS files note he was born in 1573. The problem is that none of these birth dates are documented.
Scott Rode wrote Bob Glover: “My date of William of 1578 are taken originally from the documented pages I got from George and Violet Bentley, they lived in Clearwater, MN and they did all of this with the help of Betty Sonnek of Waldorf, MN in May of 1999. I got it from my mom who got it from her mom who was Merle Viola Bentley and a direct descendent of William Bentley of 1578.
There were no sources sited.”
A 1573 birth would mean he was age 28 when married in 1601, which is possible but unlikely. Most men in those days married abt age 20-22. William’s son John (G2) married at age 22. Birth dates of abt 1578 and abt 1581 would yield a marriage age for William of abt. 20-23. So it is most likely that the various birth dates noted in family histories is based on the “assumed” age of William upon his marriage. But what if it was his second marriage at age 28?
What of Mary? Criddle lists Mary as born abt 1581; Cowan as abt 1583; Dreyer (22) lists Sep 1580. The Gayle King Repository has Aug 2, 1573 as born to John Goodwyne (b 1510) and Alice (b 1512). How did Stewart handle it in his book? For birth dates for both William and Mary he notes: “?”
The transcription of Mary’s will (below) was preceded by this note, indicating that Stewart uncovered key information well after his book was published:
“Correspondence from Cameron R. Stewart dated Sept. 18, 2002
From the Bedfordshire Archives Record Office, Bedford, England Transcript of the Will of Mary Goodwin
`Mary Goodwin Bentley--Widow-- Will ABP/W1632/52 -- 6 Apr. 2001--4cc”
This seems to indicate that Mary died at age 52, meaning she was born abt. 1580. If it can be verified that this was her age in 1632 then this would solve the puzzle. But wait, this Stewart note followed the transcription of the will:
“See St. Paul’s Church records, Bedford, for Mary’s baptism in 1584.”
So was Mary born in abt 1580, born and baptized in 1584, or perhaps born in abt 1580 and baptized in 1584? At this point we lean toward 1584.
When did William die and where were William and Mary buried?
It seems some researchers misunderstood Stewart’s note on the death date for Mary, confusing it to be that of William. Some list 1632 as the death date for William. On page 1632 of his book Stewart notes: “Mary Goodwin, bur Jul 1, 1632 (widow).” But since it follows text about William it seems some misunderstood this as the burial date for him. It certainly was confusing. But on page 1062 Stewart lists Mary’s burial date and widow status on a separate line from William so this was clearly his ruling. Some LDS files list his death date as 1628 but provide no documentation.
According to Mary’s will (below), she instructed that she be buried in the churchyard of Elvestoe (Elstow). According to LDS files, Mary was buried July 1, 1632 at the Elnestae Church Yard, Bedfordshire, Eng. The will did not mention that she was to be buried with William but it was likely. Since William was not listed in the will, we assume he died prior to the date of the will (June 27, 1632).
Elstow, Elvestoe and Elnestae are likely the same as the handwriting of records was hard to read. As Mary noted that she was from Elstow in the will dated a few days before her death then most likely she died in Elstow.
SUMMARY ON BIRTH, DEATH OF WILLIAM AND MARY
For now, we will go with:
William: “b prob. betw. 1578-1581 in prob. Ampthill; d. before June 27, 1632, poss. 1628, in prob Elstow; prob bur. in the churchyard at Elstow.”
Mary: “b prob 1580 or 1584 in prob. Elstow; died betw. June 27, 1632 after reading of her will and before July 1, 1632 burial in the churchyard at Elstow.”
WHO WERE THE PARENTS OF WILLIAM BENTLEY: ROBERT AND MARY?
As noted in the introduction, the Captain James Bentley as the father of William theory was not accepted by genealogists Emilie Sarter and Cameron Stewart. Sean Bentley notes on his site (27): “William's father may have been Robert Bentley (d. 1605); his mother was Mary (surname unknown) d. 1613.”
Sean visited Bedfordshire in 2005 and noted at genforum.genealogy.com: “Visiting the John Bunyan Museum in Bedford (his mother was Mary Bentley's daughter Margaret) afforded one hitherto factoid unknown to me, that William's mother was also named Mary (surname unknown as well as husband's name). This data came from a John Bunyan family tree they had.” Sean thus did not find a Robert Bentley as the father of William from this source.
The fact that William Bentley’s (G1) wife was named Mary (Goodwin) and that his son John’s (G2) wife was named Mary (Betts) leaves us to wonder if three straight generations of our Bentley’s married a Mary. Perhaps there was some confusion in the records?
As noted in the introduction to this section, Cameron Stewart wrote to Lawrence H. Bentley (28) on Sep 18, 2002: “that Robert Bentley, buried June 30, 1605 in Elstow Churchyard, Bedfordshire, England may have possibly been the father of William Bentley. This has not been proved.”
MARY GOODWIN BENTLEY’S WILL
The will of Mary Goodwin Bentley is described in “Dictionary of National Biography,” London: Smith, Elder, & Co.,1886: http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/bbunyan.html
“The will of John Bunyan's maternal grandmother, Mary Bentley (d. 1632), with its "Dutch-like picture of an Elstow cottage interior two hundred and fifty years ago," proves (J. Brown, Biography of John Bunyan, to which we are indebted for all these family details) that his mother "came not of the very squalid poor, but of people who, though humble in station, were yet decent and worthy in their ways."
Sean Bentley notes at genforum.genealogy .com:
“I visited Elstow and Bedford England last month (2005) and looked at the Bedfordshire county records. When you get back as far as William and Mary of Ampthill, there's nothing in the transcribed church records - too early! EXCEPT: incredibly they had the Will of Mary Goodwin Bentley (d. 1632), which they photocopied for me. Here’s a copy:
The will is also posted at the Scott Rode sites (5).
Sean wrote in 2007:
When I visited the Bedford archives I was just casting in the dark, hoping actually to find anything at all about William. It was a surprise to me to have them find Mary's will.
I had communication only from Larry Bentley after I'd returned and posted the graphic.”
Sean wrote to Scott Rode: “So, here`s what I have re: the transcribed will of Mary Bentley, from Larry Bentley. It looks pretty close to me, but yeah, that original is practically unintelligible! “ Scott posted the below transcription at:
The transcription of the 1632 Will of Mary Goodwin Bentley:
Correspondence from Cameron R. Stewart to Lawrence H. Bentley, dated Sept. 18, 2002:
From the Bedfordshire Archives Record Office, Bedford, England Transcript of the Will of Mary Goodwin
`Mary Goodwin Bentley--Widow-- Will ABP/W1632/52 -- 6 Apr. 2001--4cc
(1) In the name of God, Amen. This 27th day of June 1632 I, Mary Bentley,
(2) of Elvestoe (Elstow) in the county of Bedford, widow but being sick in body but of perfect mind and memory I thank my heavenly father.
(3) I do make this my last will and testament in manner and form following that is to say first I bequeathe
(4) my soul unto almighty God my Maker in whom I hope to be saved through Jesus Christ my Savior and my
(5) Body be buried in the churchyard of Elstow aforesaid. Item, I give and bequeath to John Bentley, my son
(6) one brass pot, one little table, and all painted cloths about the house and the standing bed in the
(7) loft. Item, I give to my daughter Margaret the joined stool in the chamber and my little .... Item, I give to
(8) my daughter Rosse the joined form in the chamber and a hogshead and the tumblestole. Item, I give to my daughter Elizabeth
(9) the little kettle and the big platter, a flaxin sheet and a flaxin pillowbeare, a trundle bed and a
(10) copper in the chamber and the ..... Item, I give to my daughter Annie my best ...., my best cuffe, my gowne, my best
(11) petticoat, the presse in the chamber, the best bolster and blanket and the coffer above
(12) and the kettle, the mortar and pestle, platter, and the other trundle bed, a harden sheet and pillow beare. Item, all my other goods
(13) and chattels whatsoever I unbequeathed I give and bequeath to my daughter Mary whom I appointed
(14) to be soul executrix of this my last Will and testament whom I will se honestly buried and my
(15) burial discharged in witness whereof I have hereunto set my and and seal the day and year
(16) above written.
In presence of John Welle, Clerk The Mark of Mary Bentley The Mark of Margerie Jaques, widow (Latin) The Will proved Oct. 6, 1632`”
“See St. Paul’s Church records, Bedford, for Mary’s baptism in 1584, Mary’s marriage to William in 1603. Mary also the maternal grandmother of John Bonionn or Bon(n)ion(n) known more popularly as John Bunyan, author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” b 1628, d. 1688. Margaret Bentley, chr. Nov 13, 1603 married Thomas Bunnion, May 23, 1627.”
NOTE: The will was written June 27, 1632 and Mary was buried 4 days later on July lst, so likely she knew that she was close to death. The Will proved Oct. 6, 1632. Mary signed the will with her mark, an “X,” indicating that she was likely illiterate (although she could have been too weak to sign). Interesting that her son John Bunyan, the famous writer, had a mother that could not write. But then his biography indicates that he had little formal education and educated himself by reading books, including those passed on to him by his first wife after her death.
And what of William Bentley’s will and the tombstones of William and Mary? Sean Bentley wrote:
“If the records office in Bedford didn't pull out William's will when I asked them
to look up him and Mary, I must assume that his is not in existence there.
My understanding is that the local church records have all been collected in
Bedford, so his probably either is nonexistent after half a millennium or
is stuffed in someone's trunk somewhere! The gravestones I saw in
Elstow/Ampthill from that period were so weathered that they were
That said, it's fascinating to prowl around the old homestead.”
THE 7 CHILDREN OF WILLIAM BENTLEY AND MARY GOODWIN BENTLEY
The number of children of William and Mary and their names is somewhat of a mystery, but then going back 400 years one must expect that.
Children from the Bedfordshire Records
The Feb 20, 1978 letter from the Senior Records Clerk of Bedfordshire Co. to Cameron Stewart noted in regard to William Bentley and Mary Goodwin:
Their seven children appeared on the chart in this order:
1. MARGARET, baptized November 13, 1603, at Elstow;
2. Elizabeth, baptized October 23, 1605, at Elstow;
3. Thomas, baptized July 12, 1607, at Elstow;
4. JOHN, baptized November 5, 1608, at Elstow;
5. Rose, baptized July 12, 1612 at Elstow;
6. Emma, baptized February 8, 1617, at Elstow;
7. Mary, executor of mother's Will. Note: Is Mary the eldest (no birth date)?
Stewart assumes that the mother would choose the oldest child as the executrix of the will, but perhaps she was chosen because she cared for her mother to the end?
Children from Mary’s will of 1632
Mary’s will lists 6 children in this order: John, Margaret, Rosse (Rose), Elizabeth, Annie, and Mary. It seems she listed the women after the men, and Thomas is missing. So did he die by 1632 or did Mary leave him out of the will? Margaret, Elizabeth and Rose are next in the same order as the baptisms. Named last in the will is Annie, but it was Emma in the will. Likely she either went by both names or the handwriting of the will was misread.
What then of Mary, the last daughter listed in the will? In both the Parish Records and the will she is listed as the executrix. Is Mary the eldest child, as usually the executrix would be? If so she would have probably been born abt 1602 as her mother married in 1601 and had Margaret in 1603. Emma (or Annie) would have been but abt 15 yrs old when her mother died, leaving her parentless. So Mary, the daughter, listed last in the will could not have been the youngest child---as she is listed on some websites. Most likely then Mary was the oldest and born in abt 1602.
Thus it seems that William and Mary had 7 children, two boys and five girls. Note that the dates of the christening prove only that the children were born prior to those dates---we don’t know their exact dates of birth but it was likely in those times within a week.
1. MARY BENTLEY was prob born in 1602.
2. MARGARET BENTLEY BUNYAN was c. Nov 13, 1603. See below for more.
3. ELIZABETH BENTLEY was c.
Oct 23, 1605.
4. THOMAS BENTLEY was c. July 12, 1607 and presumed to have died prior to his mother’s death in 1632 as he is not listed in her will.
He may have married Priscilla Weathers (b abt 1609) in abt 1625 and had child John Bentley (abt 1627) (22)
5. JOHN BENTLEY was c. Nov 5, 1608. The Bedfordshire pedigree also states in regard to William’s son John: “m Oct 3, 1630, Mary Betts at Ampthill; John was bur March 26, 1666, at Ampthill.” See Chapter 2 for more on John Bentley (G2).
6. ROSE BENTLEY BUNYAN was c. July 12, 1612. According to the letter from the Senior Records Officer: “Their third daughter, Rose, married Edward Bonnionn, born before 1602, brother of Thos. and uncle of John the writer.” They married Aug 31, 1629 in Elstow (22, 23). That is, the Bentley sisters Rose and Margaret married the Bunyan brothers Edward and Thomas . Rose and Edward had children Rose (1633) and Anne (1634). (22)
7. EMMA (or Annie) BENTLEY was c. Feb 8, 1617.
MARGARET (MARY) BENTLEY BUNYAN, DAUGHTER OF WILLIAM AND MARY, MOTHER OF FAMOUS AUTHOR JOHN BUNYAN
The letter from the Senior Records clerk also noted: “Margt. married Thomas Bunnion, jun. (himself baptized at Elstow on 24 Feb. 1602), on 23 May 1627 (she being his second wife). Their eldest son, John (baptized on 30 Nov. 1628), was the author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”
Margaret Bentley and Thomas Bunyan, Jr. had two children other than John, the first-born: (22, 23)
1. Margaret (c. Mar 7, 1630 in Elstow; bur. July 24, 1644 at age 14 in Elstow). Note: Stewart had the same dates.
2. William (c. Dec 1, 1633 in Elstow).
Thomas married his first wife, Anne Pinney (b abt 1605) on Jan 10, 1623 at the Elstow Church (28). She died Apr 13, 1626 in Elstow. (22) Died 1627 childless (28)
Margaret died June 10, 1644 in Elstow (11, 22); Thomas was bur. Feb 7, 1676 in Elstow (22, 23)
Thomas Bunyan, Jr.’s father was Thomas Bunyan, Sr. (b abt 1575 in Elstow; d. 1641 in Elstow). Thomas, Sr. first married abt 1600? (wife unknown.,b abt 1583) and had 3 children including Thomas, Jr and Edward (who married Margaret Bentley’s sister Rose); she died perhaps abt 1603 after birth of John as Thomas Sr married later in 1603
and then married Elizabeth Leigh Nov 18, 1603 and had 7 children. (22)?????? B abt 1585?
Had 3d wife Anne named in will
See John Brown
Allan Bentley (23) notes of Thomas, Jr.:
"Thomas married when he was 19 and was a widower four years later. He then married Margaret Bentley and their firstborn was John.
Thomas was a brasier and had a forge at the home place. He would mend leaking pots, kettles and pans from the surrounding area. John would sit and watch his dad as he worked soldering and repairing these utensils, or else play in the field that sloped down to a small stream in the front of cottage. The basic needs of life were met, but little more could be provided for John."
Edmund Venables writes of Margaret in “The Life of John Bunyan” (23):
“The mother of the immortal Dreamer was one Margaret Bentley, who, like her husband, was a native of Elstow and only a few months his junior. The details of her mother's will, which is still extant, drawn up by the vicar of Elstow, prove that, like her husband, she did no t, in the words of Bunyan's latest and most complete biographer, the Rev. Dr. Brown, "come of the very squalid poor, but of people who, though humble in station, were yet decent and worthy in their ways."
John Bunyan's mother was his father's second wife. The Bunyans were given to marrying early, and speedily consoled themselves on the loss of one wife with the companionship of a successor. Bunyan's grandmother cannot have died before February 24, 1603, the date of his father's baptism. But before the year was out his grandfather had married again. His father, too, had not completed his twentieth year when he married his first wife, Anne Pinney, January 10, 1623. She died in 1627, apparently without any surviving children, and before the year was half-way through, on the 23 rd of the following May, he was married a second time to Margaret Bentley. At the end of seventeen years Thomas Bunyan was again left a widower, and within two months, with grossly indecent haste, he filled the vacant place with a third wife. Bunyan himself cannot have been much more than twenty when he married. We have no particulars of the death of his first wife. But he had been married two years to his noble-minded second wife at the time of the assizes in 1661, and the ages of his children by his first wife would indicate that no long interval elapsed between his being left a widower and his second marriage.”
“Dictionary of National Biography,” London: Smith, Elder, & Co,, 1886: http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/bbunyan.html
Thomas, Jr. …later had a third wife, Ann, after Margaret died in 1644. Thomas, Jr. was buried at Elstow on Feb 7, 1676. “In his will, while leaving a shilling apiece to his famous son and his three other children, he bequeathed all he had to his third wife, Ann, who survived him four years, and was buried in the same churchyard as her husband on 25 Sept. 1680.”