Austin Walker- The Identification of the Mother of Benjamin Keach

The Identification of the Mother of Benjamin Keach

This addition to Keach’s biography is brought to light here by Austin Walker.

The testimony of Keach’s Regester

In the Regester of Keach’s Horselydown congregation we find the following entry relating to the year 1640, Benjamin Keach son of John Keach and Joyce his wife was born at Stockhamon in Buckinghamshire on the twenty ninth of February.[1] This Regester is the fullest and most accurate account we have of the family of Benjamin Keach. It lists not only his parents but also the three surviving children from his first marriage to Jane Grove and the five children from his second marriage to Susannah Skidmore.[2] Keach clearly identifies his mother as Joyce Keach.

Fedora or Joyce?

Despite Keach’s clear testimony to the name of his mother there has been considerable speculation and confusion about her identity. Surely Keach could not be mistaken about the name of his mother even if the Regester was drawn up many years later when he had moved to London. However confusion has arisen because of the record in the Stoke Hammond Parish Register.[3] Keach’s oldest brother Henry clearly has John and Joyce listed as his parents. His brother Joseph, born in 1637 has what appears to be a different name. The same is true for Benjamin. He was baptised in the church on 6 March 1640.[4] The baptismal entry for Henry is in English, Joseph and Benjamin are recorded in Latin. The script is not easy to read. It was of course written with a quill pen, and it is now evident that it has been misread. When The Excellent Benjamin Keach was published I had been influenced by previous researchers who listed the name as Fedora or Foedora.[5] More recently I have returned to the subject with the help of Dr David Noy, a resident of Winslow.[6] His expert knowledge of Latin correctly identified the name of Benjamin’s mother as Joyce. Thus Benjamin Keach’s record in the Regester is correct.

Joyce the correct name 

The actual entry reads Beniamin Keeche filius Johannis et Jodacae Keeche Martii 6.[7] The spelling Jodacae needs to be carefully deciphered by comparing it with other entries in the records. Clearly, the supposed ‘F’ at the beginning of the name is in fact a ‘J’. I am indebted to Dr Noy for the correct identification of Keach’s mother. He translated Jodoca as an alternative Latin form of Joyce. English had no standardised spelling at that time and perhaps this was also true of Latin names. It is possible that Jodoca was a ‘Stoke Hammond’ Latin version of Joyce.

Four decades of mistaken identity

The name Fedora has found its way into a number of biographical accounts of Keach in the last forty years or so. Some have speculated that Joyce had died and that John Keach had taken a second wife. However, there is no evidence that this was the case. Keach would have entered that in the Regester if this were true. Most seem unaware that there is any problem with the name Fedora. So, for example, her name is found in the article on Keach in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as well as other reference works such as Greaves and Zaller’s Biographical Dictionary of British Radicals in the Seventeenth Century. It also appears in D. B. Riker’s book on Keach, A Catholic Reformed Theologian, as well as both editions of my own work on Keach. The error is likely to be perpetuated unless researchers either read this article or go and carefully study the original Stoke Hammond parish records for themselves and see that there is no contradiction between the Regester and those baptismal records.

Postscript

Benjamin Keach thus began his life as a member of the Church of England. Like all his other brothers and sisters he was baptised and was expected to be a regular attender at the services. His father had served as the church warden Stoke Hammond parish church in 1627 and again in 1640. Quite how long Keach remained within the Anglican church is not known but by 1655 he had reached the conviction that his baptism as an infant was invalid and certainly did not make him a Christian. Having been converted through the ministry of Matthew Mead, Keach professed his faith in Jesus Christ. He was baptised by immersion by John Russell, a pastor among the General Baptists. In 1664 when he was brought before the Assizes in Aylesbury one of the charges levelled at him was his rejection of the teaching of the Church of England on infant baptism. It was the rector of Stoke Hammond parish church, Thomas Disney, who had reported Keach to the authorities. One of the reasons Disney gave was Keach’s non-attendance. However, the die was cast and in due course Keach became a preacher, first among the General Baptists in his native Buckinghamshire, and then among the Particular Baptists shortly after he had settled in London in 1668.

Some years later, in 1696, Keach expressed his convictions about baptism clearly,

the Baptism of the Adult, or that of Believers, is that one or only Baptism of Christ’s Visible Church; for those Members of the visible Church in the Primitive times, that were washed in Baptismal Water, professed themselves washed in Christ’s Blood, and they that were sincere had the thing signified, as well as the Sign when they were baptized, but Infants never made any such profession, therefore Infant Baptism was not the first and one Baptism that Christ left in his Church.[8]

________________________________________________________________________________

[1] A perfect and Complete Regester of Marrages, Nativities and Burials belonging to the Congregation that Meeteth on Horselydown, over whom Benjamen Keach is Overseer, PRO, RG4/4188.

[2] Keach married Susannah in 1672. Her maiden name was Skidmore. She was a widow when he married her. Her name then was Susannah Partridge.

[3] Parish Registers 1537-1758 (Stoke Hammond, Bucks Record Office, PR195).

[4] In the Parish Register the old dating is used, so the entry appears as 1639.

[5] Austin Walker, The Excellent Benjamin Keach, (ON: Joshua Press, Second revised edition, 2015).

[6] Dr David Noy, Honorary Associate in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Open University. He is a resident of Winslow and has a Winslow History website: www.wwinslow-history.org.uk

[7] The entry and its translation was recorded in correspondence with Dr Noy in a private email, 20 September 2017.

[8] Benjamin Keach, Light broke for in Wales expelling darkness, (London: 1696), 251.

 

January 2018

Submitted to the Journal by the author Austin Walker

©BenjaminKeachJournal

 

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