This story could not begin, quite literally, without acknowledging the persistence, dedication, and professionalism of those persons within our immediate family that made the telling possible. For over thirty years, piece by piece, the tale of this Cole family was pushed back twenty-two generations. To Vera Cole Mulvihill, George Paul Cole Sr., and Peg Casey, who are no longer with us, we say Thank You for illuminating our past, brightening our lives, and providing depth and color and meaning to our future generations.




Our tale begins, as best we can now perceive it, in Elizabethan England, with the birth of James Cole. Born 28 July 1574 in London, James was delivered into a world of impending religious turmoil. The early stirrings of Puritanism are afoot, Catholics are heretics, and children are property.


Boys and girls were dressed alike until age six, when boys got breeches, and a coming-out party to go with them. Early education was a hit-or-miss affair for the average folk, but literacy (if not spelling) was the norm.


James’ parents remain unknown, despite the diligence of a number of researchers.


 A number of early researchers, following the lead of author Ernest Byron Cole, placed the progenitor of this branch of the Coles as William Cole, sire of James, who was husband of Mary Lobel, daughter of the famous botanist. This lineage has now been convincingly discredited.


Our James married Mary Feake 29 October 1598 in St. Vedast Church, London. Mary was the daughter of James and Parnella (Ward) Feake. We have a well established lineage for these “in-laws”. James Feake (~1534-1590) was the son of James Feake (1506-1539) and Agnes Framyngham, who, in turn, was the son of James (~1484-1523) and Marian (Brightmer), and who were descended from William Feake (~1450-1500) and Marianne ??? Other members of these families have also been described.


James and Mary had at least one son, James, born 25 July 1600 in Highgate, London.


Highgate in the 16th Century was a village set in the very hilly north of London. A satellite of rapidly expanding London, it was quickly swept up in the frenetic growth which would place London as the largest city in Europe. The population of Greater London tripled to nearly 600,000 during this Century. Highgate was known as a village of artisans and craftsmen. The Black Death struck in 1563, again in 1603, and yet again in 1625 – taking 20% of the population each time.


Young James was Christened at St. Giles, Cripplegate in London.










At the age of 25, on 8 May 1625, he was wed to Mary Tibbes in Barnstaple, Devonshire. Mary was born to John and Margaret (Harris) Tibbes on 15 June 1598 in Barnstaple. John and Margaret had been married 11 October 1593, also in Barnstaple. Barnstaple is located nearly 200 miles SW of London. That leaves us with the question how James wound up in Barnstaple. It remains unanswered.


We do know that their first two children were born in Barnstaple: James on 11 February 1626, and Hugh on __ June 1628.


Barnstaple (note that the proper spelling is with a p as opposed to the later Massachusetts colony Barnstable) was located on the moors adjacent to the River Taw. As such, it was an ideal environment for the raising of sheep and it’s export. The port flourished until the late 1600’s – especially on the early tobacco trade with North America.


Text Box: The origin of the name Cole is obscure, but probably arose in Saxon times. It’s original meaning was coal, black, or swarthy,and was used as a diminutive of Nicholas, but the use as a surname is more confusing. Some historians claim derivation from “Old King Coel” of nursery rhyme fame, but the historical figure was killed in 320, long before surname usage began in the 11th Century. King Coel was the 59th Monarch of the Britons, and the founder of the city of Colchester, as well as being the grandfather of Constantine the Great.

















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© James M. Mulvihill                                Updated: 1/11/03