Phoebe Greene was born and brought up in Glentham, a village in the Lincolnshire countryside where the typically idyllic rural life can be imagined. In fact we have to use our imagination when looking at the early eighteenth century, because we are relying only on parish records. Phoebe’s birth record does not give the name of her father or mother, which is unusual but typical of this particular set of records.
William Greene is named as the father of Mary (1721), Elizabeth (1723) and Ann (1726). But then Phoebe (1728), John (1730), William (1731) and Alice (1733) do not have a parent’s name recorded. It seems very likely that they were all children of the same family, especially as they were given family names from the previous generation of Greenes.
The parish records do, however, give us the information that Phoebe’s grandfather was a husbandman. William Greene Snr died in 1717, just a few months after his son’s marriage, and his occupation is recorded. A “husbandman” – worker with animals – could be an employee or a farmer. Probably William Snr owned or rented a farm, and it would be passed on to Phoebe’s father, the eldest son. Phoebe would have helped out around the farm as she grew up.
When Phoebe was twenty-one, she married John Key and they settled in Hackthorn. This village is mid-way between their family homes in Glentham and Broxholme, only about 12 km from each. Presumably Phoebe’s husband John would have also been an agricultural worker at that time and place.
John and Phoebe had twelve children in the course of their nineteen years together and lost five of them. In 1768 John died at the age of forty-four. We do not know what caused his death.
We do know that Phoebe was left at the age of forty with seven children, four of them under ten. The youngest, Josiah, was only three months old. Her older boys Richard and Noah would have worked to support the family – Richard was eighteen and Noah fourteen. Eleven-year-old Phoebe would have been able to help her mother at home and maybe find some work at harvest time.
Sadly, Josiah died before he reached his second birthday. Our ancestor Kezia, the youngest surviving child, was five years old by now and hopefully the next few years passed tranquilly for Widow Key.
In 1779, at the age of fifty-one, Phoebe married Francis Ward. We do not know anything about him and perhaps some research into his life would be interesting. Maybe he was a relative of William Ward, who would later marry our ancestor Kezia?
In the course of the next few years all of the Key children were married. Phoebe Jnr was married in the same church almost exactly a year after her mother. Noah, Jemima, Naaman and Kezia all settled within travelling distance. We know from their funeral records that Richard and his wife Mary lived in Hackthorn. So Phoebe was able to watch her grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow during her long life.
She died in Hackthorn at the age of 86.
Mother of Kezia Key and daughter of William and Ann Greene
Baptised on 3 November 1728 at Glentham, Lincolnshire
Married John Key on 21 November 1749, and Francis Ward on 25 March 1779
Buried 27 December 1813