Ann Cookes of West Bromwich

Ann Cookes, a widow of West Bromwich, left a will in 1645 that lists a large number of bequests that cover important family lines discussed on this site. She was evidently childless but the list of legacies indicates that she was a close relation to the Darby and Finch families. She is very likely the widow of Henry Cookes of Handsworth, who left a will in 1642, and the marriage date would appear to be before 1607.

The proposition here is that Ann Cookes was the sister (or very close relation to) both Elizabeth the wife of Jeffrey Finch of Dudley and Alice the wife of Thomas Darby of Oldbury. Elizabeth Finch died and left a will in 1625 where she names her ‘cozen’ ie nephew as Edmund Darby as overseer. Edmund was the oldest son of Thomas Darby as named in his will of 1607.

Ann Cookes lists the known children and grandchildren of Thomas Darby in near perfect order but without stating her relation to them.

Firstly the children of Edmond Darby are given as John Darby (bap 29 Mar 1619, Rowley Regis), Alice Darby (bap 1616) Marie Darby (bap 1620) and the wife of William Russell who would be Ann Darby (bap 25 Apr 1613).

We know from the will of Edmonde Darby, his father, that Thomas Darby and his wife Alice only had three children . The only daughter was Amy, the wife of John Jesson. Again Ann Cookes names all six of the Jesson children in order. Amy was clearly still alive at the time of will and she had remarried Thomas Grove, the heir of Edward Grove. Both are mentioned in the will.

The third and final child  of Thomas Darby was Thomas Darby, whose two sons are mentioned Edmund and Thomas, although other children mentioned in Thomas Darby’s will of 1659 are omitted.

Ann Cookes goes on to mention the living children of Jeffrey Finch and his wife Elizabeth. That is to say Richard (bap 22 Sep 1577), Henry (bap 2 Nov 1580) and Joseph. It does not mention the daughter Alice Finch who had died in 1644 and was the mother of Gilbert Jellians of Dudley, but these are her known brothers all tied in by the wills of her two parents.

Unfortunately amongst all these details there is little to help us glean the maiden name of Ann or her sisters, which continues a point of research. The date of her death is late and suggests that she is much younger than Alice and Elizabeth.

Other bequests include one to John Hodgetts and his wife Katherine and their two children John and Susanna. A John Hodgetts marries Katherine Darby in 1618 but this has yet to be firmly placed. She also mentions two William Darbys which is equally opaque at this point in time. Another Darby relative would appear to be Alice James, wife of John James, again reflecting a 1632 marriage in Sutton Coldfield.

Also mentioned is ‘Ann the late wife of William Cartwright’ Of note here is the marriage of William Cartwright and Ann Darby of 1610. This is part of the jigsaw between the descendants of John Cartwright and Edmonde Darby who probably intermarry on at least two occasions, culminating in the marriage of Edmund Darby and Alice Cartwright in 1660.

One further significant point is that Ann Cookes states that she is a member of ‘the Elect’ . This would tie in with the radical Puritan beliefs that we know the Darby family held in and around the Chapel at Oldbury. Indeed John Darby the oldest grandson of Thomas Darby is in all reckoning the ancestor of Abraham Darby of Ironbridge, whose family’s religious non conformism rapidly transmuted into Quakerism.

The Finches were based in Dudley and were more circumspect about their religious beliefs. Dudley was a Royalist town until it was besieged and taken by Parliamentarian forces in 1646. Henry Finch was a significant manufacturer of nails, employing a considerable number of people, so whilst he may have considered himself chosen by God to be wealthy he had to heed his political masters in the town.

Ann Cookes’s burial is neither recorded in the Handsworth nor the West Bromwich register, so perhaps indicating her allegiance also to the Chapel in Oldbury.


  • Will of Ann Cookes, Probate 24 Apr 1645, PCC
  • Will of Henry Cookes, Written 6 May 1637, Probate 1642, PCC
    • No named children and wife Ann.
  • Will of Thomas Darby, Probate 1607, Worcester Record Office
    • Witnesses: Jeffrey Finch and Henry Cookes
  • Will of Jeffrey Finch, Yeoman of Dudley, Probate 12 Oct 1615, Worcester Record Office
    • Witnesses: Henry Cookes and John Jesson
  • Will of Elizabeth Finch, Probate 31 May 1625, Worcester Record Office
    • Overseer: ‘Cozen’ Edmund Darby
  • Will of John Jesson, Probate 1625, PCC
    • Overseers: Henry Cookes, ‘my unkle’, and Edmund Darby, ‘my brother-in-law’
    • Witnesses: Henry Cookes, Edmund Darby and Thomas Darby
  • Will of Edmonde Darby of Oldbury, Probate 1598, Worcester Record Office
  • One of the William Darbys mentioned by Ann is likely to be the son of Edmond Darby from a first marriage. This William Darby is alive at the time of Edmond’s own will in 1668
  • Edward Grove had a half brother William Cookes (d 1617), who is the father of Henry Cookes, Ann’s husband. This is because Edward’s father Henry had married Ellen Cokes, the widow of Thomas Cookes in about 1542 – see Henry Grove of Handsworth’s will of 1589.



Last updated on 19 April 2022 by JJ Morgan