I have been able to find no record of the birth of Lettice Muffell under any variations of first and surnames. Nor have I found any Lettice, Letitia or Lett who could have been a widow when she married John Knights.
As a result her story, for us, begins with her marriage to John at Geldeston, Norfolk. He was seventeen, the child of a single parent, when they married. Lett may have been a similar age or younger; we have no way of knowing.
Whatever her age and maturity, Lett’s experience of motherhood was not easy. She had her first child, Matthew, four years after her marriage. He died at the age of eighteen months. Her second child, Letitia, survived to become our ancestor but the next two babies, another Matthew and Martha, died in infancy. Letitia was four when Martha died: how would her parents explain birth and death to her at that age?
Sometime in the next two years John and Lett took their surviving child to Kirby Cane just five kilometres away. There they had Lydia in 1753 and three years after that, another Martha.
A mystery at Stockton
We find nothing more about the Knights family until 1769, thirteen years later. By now our ancestor Letitia is twenty-three and her sister Lydia is sixteen. On the fourth of September at the parish of Stockton, there are three baptisms. First Lett, the daughter of John and Lett Knights; then Lydia, the daughter of John and Lett Knights; and finally Elizabeth, the base-born daughter of Lett Knights.
Stockton is only two km from Kirby Cane and these are the only records of any Letitia, Lettice or Lett Knights. For this reason I think it’s likely that they are our family. Is it possible that Lett Jnr and Lydia have been re-baptised as adults alongside Lett’s baby Elizabeth? Why they would do that is beyond me!
Perhaps if Lydia was going to be godmother, she and her sister, the child’s mother, would need to be properly baptised. They were originally baptised at a different parish, so the Rector of Stockton would have no records. This is a suggestion in this forum at Roots Chat, an excellent site for discussion with other researchers.
Sadly on the same page of the Stockton record we find the entry: “Lett, wife of John Knights was buried May the 13th 1770”. John survived her by ten years. He was buried back at Geldeston where this bittersweet marriage began.
Mother of Letitia Knights
No record of birth found
Married John Knights on 24 June 1741
Buried 13 May 1770