Catherine Grey

Catherine Grey
1629 – 1695
Baroness of Kirtling and Governess of Barbados
Died at sea
1st cousin 12x removed

A couple of days ago I published a post about my 10x great grandfather Thomas GREY of Plymouth, Massachusetts, I have researched his family tree on and off over the last few years but only recently have I begun looking more closely at his family members.
There are so many interesting and well recorded people in his tree that I could easily devote a whole blog to them, but instead I’m going to concentrate on just a few.

This post is about Catherine Grey, my 1st cousin 12x removed, for me she stood out from the crowd, her return journey from Barbados to England met with her untimely end.

Catherine was born in Northumberland, England in the year 1629, King Charles I was king of England and it was a time of unrest, The English Civil War was close at hand.

Catherine Grey was born into a very wealthy and powerful family ‘the Greys of Chillingham’ who’s ancestral seat was Chillingham Castle. Her father was William Grey ‘1st Baron Grey of Warke’ (b. 1593 – d. 29 July 1674) her mother was Cecilia Priscilla Anne WENTWORTH (b. 1601 – d. 20 January 1667), she was one of eight known siblings all of which married well.

In the summer of 1634 when Catherine was no more then five years old her father was imprisoned in the Tower of London for refusing to take arms with the King, he was later released.

Catherine was married twice, her first husband, Charles North ‘5th Baron North of Kirtling’ (b. 1 October 1635 – d. 1685), they married shortly before 1662 and had five children; Charles, Catherine, Dudley, Cecily and Frances. Six years after her first husbands death she married for a second time, Francis Russel ‘Govenor of Barbados’ (b. 1624 – d. 1 October 1696). He was appointed Governor in 1694 and remained so until his death two years later.

Catherine would have lived on the island of Barbados for at least one year. In January 1695 on her return voyage to England a trip which took anything from between 8-12 weeks to complete, tragedy struck. Like so many people who traveled the seas during this time, and like many who emigrated to the New World, they just simply didn’t make it.

Catherine Grey now rests an eternity at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The following is an account of sickness and death on ships travelling across the Atlantic written in 1758 by ‘Gottleb Mittelberger’

during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of seasickness, fever, dysentery, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply-salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably.

Add to this want of provisions, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, anxiety, want, afflictions and lamentations, together with other trouble, as e.g., the lice abound so frightfully, especially on sick people, that they can be scraped off the body. The misery reaches a climax when a gale rages for two or three nights and days, so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all human beings on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously.

No one can have an idea of the sufferings which women in confinement have to bear with their innocent children on board these ships. Few of this class escape with their lives; many a mother is cast into the water with her child as soon as she is dead. One day, just as we had a heavy gale, a woman in our ship, who was to give birth and could not give birth under the circumstances, was pushed through a loophole (porthole) in the ship and dropped into the sea, because she was far in the rear of the ship and could not be brought forward.

Children from one to seven years rarely survive the voyage; and many a time parents are compelled to see their children miserably suffer and die from hunger, thirst, and sickness, and then to see them cast into the water. I witnessed such misery in no less than thirty-two children in our ship, all of whom were thrown into the sea. The parents grieve all the more since their children find no resting place in the earth, but are devoured by the monsters of the sea. It is a notable fact that children who have not yet had the measles or smallpox generally get them on board the ship, and mostly die of them.

Today we have trouble relating to this kind of hardship, but at the same time I feel very sorry for all the lives lost during these audacious journeys and for all those now resting at the bottom of our sea.

Francis Russel - Governor of BarbadosFrancis Russel – Governor of Barbados – 1694 – 1696


2 thoughts on “Catherine Grey

  1. It is amazing that anyone survived these journeys and that anyone was willing to take them. I guess it shows how much the immigrants who came to the US wanted to leave their homes in Europe that they were willing to risk this kind of travel.

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