Ancestors from Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely

The CUSTANCE Family of the Fenlands
Courtesy and Copyright © Norman Custance 2002


The Fenland Custance’s

In tracing my family history on the principle 'From the Known to the Unknown' and having examined original baptism, marriage and burial registers of Stretham, Chatteris and Sutton in Cambridgeshire, I make the following notes.

Through several generations I have gone back to a 'Thomas Custance' who married in Stretham June 9th 1609 to a Francis Francis. This would indicate a birth of appx 1585-1590.

It has been accepted by other Custance's researching the family name that Thomas was the younger son of Edmund and Cicely Palmer who married in Barningham Norwood in Norfolk on the 23rd April 1570. The parish records there give only two children of Edmund & Cicely, Katherine, baptised on Nov 1st 1571 and Robert, baptised Aug 20th 1573. The Custance family in Norfolk is well documented in this area.

No further records or references have been found for Edmund & Cicely, or to a Thomas in this period.

Coincidentally in Cambridgeshire a Robert was married in Stretham to Mary Moggs on Dec 20th 1604, and a Katherine married a Thomas Salter on Jan 22nd 1614, also in Stretham.

While it is probable that Katherine, Robert & Thomas are siblings it would appear that if they were born in Norfolk, Katherine would have been 42, Robert 31 and Thomas about 34. Their ages for marriage are unrealistic for that period.

It is only the Christian names of these three persons, which could possibly make a connection from Norfolk to Cambridgeshire, but it is much more likely that they were the named children of Roger & Agnes Custance of Chatteris.

Custance's are known to have lived in the Fens area as far back as a John Custance of Ely St Mary, his will of 1508, Roger of Chatteris will of 1591, Agnes, of Chatteris, widow,of 1592, Robert of Sutton, will of 1581 and his son Robert's will of 1589 and many others, including Thomas's own will of 1631.

There are 37 Custance wills in Chatteris, Stretham and Sutton alone dated 1569-1851, and I am at this moment engaged in the transcribing of all these wills. [see list of wills]. What has emerged is that the presumed father of William Custance of Somersham, Thomas Custance, who died in 1707 had no sons, only daughters !! More research is needed to find the baptism/parents of this William. So the family records now stop at the estimated birth of William in 1690/5.

[A William, son of the Thomas Custance above was baptised in Chatteris 25th December 1698 and buried 16th August 1699, and a William son of Thomas & Hannah Custance was baptised in Sutton January 12th 1704, but would be too young as William’s first child, Frances, was baptised January 25th 1715 in Sutton.]

It was common for a marriage to take place in the brides own parish in those days, as it is to-day, and as only half of the Cambridgeshire parish records have been transcribed and published it is hoped that further information will become available.

Parish Records transcription for the Cambridgeshire Family History Society is an ongoing activity on a voluntary basis, in which I participate.

Norman Custance. August 2000 [Review 17]

CUSTANCE Historical Document - Revision No 9, 11th August 2001

Ancestral name probably CUSANCIA. The name was introduced into England in 1290 by a family of lawers and ecclesiastics from Burgandy who subsequently held various positions in court circles, in particular a William de Cusancia. He was given the Prebend and instituted Rector of Northrepps in 1315 and held the post till June 1323 when succeeded by his brother Peter de Cusancia, who was also given the Prebend of Northrepps. Another brother, James, was Prior of Thetford, Norfolk from June 1337 till his last mention in February 1356.

On September 11th 1320 William, who was also the Kings Clerk, was appointed buyer for the Great Wardrobe to King Edward 11. Other appointments were as Treasurer to the Exchequer to Edward 111. In this position he is also referenced as William Custance.*

He was deceased by 7th May 1360.

A Bishop Geoffrey of Coutances is another contender for the origin of ‘Custance’. He, with his Army, landed on the Essex coast in 1066 and met up with Duke William at Berkhampstead Castle and then proceeded to Westminster where William was crowned King. Geoffrey was later chief arbitrator in compiling the Doomsday Book. His career spanned 1049 to 1093. However, his family name was ‘de Mowbray’.

Bishop Walter of Coutances and Lincoln in 1191 is also a contender, but his family name is not known to me, another possibility is a William de Costenciis referred to in 1150.

A list of Huntingdon names in 1327, records ~ Will’º Custance, listed as a taxpayer under ‘Twentieth of 1, Edward 111, [P.R.O. E179, 122/4] Offord Cluni’.

[*This is probably the same William as above mentioned]

In 1361, Robert Custaunce “ paid by fine, oath or property to receive liberty into Godmanchester “ . Purchase of the liberty saw an economic venture to gain access to the land of the royal manor. Men invariably bought liberty and immediately invested in Godmanchester property, often in the same court session.

Robert Custaunce and his wife Emma are mentioned in the court rolls in 1362- 82.

[ref. A small town in late medieval England. ISBN 0-88844-053-7. by J.A.Raftis, 1982]

There is some doubt in my mind as to whether there is a definite connection from Norfolk to Cambridgeshire or vice versa. As there were already Custance families in Chatteris and Sutton in Cambridgeshire, in the early 1500's the possibility is that, Huntingdonshire / Cambridgeshire is the origin of our particular lineage.


If you think you are related then the person to contact is Norman Custance (email: or write to:

About Ancestors | Newspaper Reports | Wills | Families | Individuals | Previous Menu | Cambridgeshire FHS

© Copyright - 2000- -