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|The Minalls were scattered for centuries among villages close to Mildenhall, Wiltshire. That is an awkward name to pronounce, and to this day, the village name is contracted locally to Minall. The surname appears in records as Minall, Mildenhall, or numerous other variants. This connected family history begins with William Myldnall, born c.1515, who lived in Little Bedwyn, probably at Chisbury.|
It was John Minol who spread his wings and landed in Bucklebury, Berkshire, abt. 1643, and there the family settled and flourished for over 200 years, as yeomen farmers, churchwardens, overseers, etc., respected pillars of the community.
In the 1830's, George Samuel Minall, a carpenter-journeyman moved to Tring, Hertfordshire, where four generations lived until after the second world war. I was one of that fourth generation.
From Ramsbury, Wiltshire, several of the children of Thomas Minall, of Marridge Hill, emigrated to America in 1682. They were Quakers, and travelled to Pennsylvania with William Penn, from whom they bought 300 acres of land. They changed their surname to Mendenhall, thus founding today's extensive Mendenhall dynasty. (There is at the present time an active Mendenhall Family Association in the States.) It is suspected that there is a connection between the Minalls of Little Bedwyn and the Minalls of Ramsbury, but it has not yet been possible to establish this.
My recent research concentrated on the intriguing story of John Midnall, or Mildenhall, the merchant adventurer who travelled through Persia and India for about ten years, claiming to be an ambassador of Queen Elizabeth, and died in Ajmer, India, in 1614. He is buried in Agra, the first recorded burial of an Englishman in India.
He appears in several accounts of those times, e.g. in chapter xvii of "England's Quest of Eastern Trade"(pub. 1933 by A & C Black), Sir William Foster writes that Midnall "managed twice to reach India overland, and was the only Englishman who is known to have visited the courts of both the great Akbar and his successor, Jahangir".
It has been claimed that he was one of the Bedwyn Minalls, but the hard evidence of this has eluded us so far. I have recently been trying to get to the bottom of this puzzle.
15th July 2001
The suggestion that John Mildenhall/Midnall originated from Wiltshire has taken a blow! In a document written by Mildenhall himself, quoted in William Foster's book "Early Travels in India" (1921), he says, " . . .which I may compare to our herring time at Yermouth [Yarmouth], where the countrey-people doe resort from divers places and catch the said fish in great abundance, which they salt and dry and keepe them all the yeare for their food. . .".
This has the hallmark of a personal reminiscence, and suggests strongly that John Mildenhall came from those parts, the east of the country. We know that there were Mildenhalls who took their name from Mildenhall, Suffolk, and it seems to me more likely that John Midnall drew his ancestry from them rather than from the Mildenhalls of Wiltshire.
Mildenhall, Suffolk is only 30-40 miles from the East Coast, with shipping galore crossing to the Lowlands, an excellent introduction to a life of merchant trading.
Add to this the complete absence of any documentary evidence that John was born, lived, married, or died in Wiltshire and the decision, for me, has to go to Suffolk. A pity!