Parish Records

In 1639, John Sr. made the voyage to Connecticut with the Rev. Henry Whitfield's party to meet his son who'd made his trip to America five years earlier. For many years, researchers have puzzled over why they couldn't find Parmelee records with those the other members of Whitfield's congregation at St. Margaret's, in Ockley Parish in Surrey. Most of the flock that accompanied him came from the counties of Kent and Surrey -- but the Parmelees, as these parish records show, lived in the adjoining county of Sussex.

Five male names -- Henry, John, Richard, Robert and William -- were immensely popular in England of old, accounting for 38% of all those recorded in the 12th century, 57% in the 13th century and no less than 64% in the 14th century. This can make things slightly confusing.

But in all the Lewes parish records I've seen, no other male named anything but John appears to have lived to adulthood. In addition, I have yet to find a woman with our surname in Lewes to marry.

Most church records of this period were kept on loose sheets of paper, and, as you can imagine, many have been lost over the centuries. The first bound records have pages torn, damaged by mildew and mold, or missing. As a rule, second copy of records were made: The church kept its in a General Register, and a copy was made each year -- usually -- and sent to the archbishop. What I have reported here is culled from both sources.

Tombstones were of no help. They didn't appear in England until well into the 17th century, after our family had left. On a trip in 1997, the markers I saw -- even many of those made in the 20th century -- are in poor condition for the most part. I don't know whether it's the stone they are made of or if it's the elements, but I found older headstones in Connecticut that were in better shape than those in England.

Lewes has been served by at least 15 parishes over the centuries; just seven remain. (See the table at right) After the Reformation of the 1500s, the parishes of St. Nicholas-in-the-foro, St. Peter-the-Less and Holy Trinity were folded into All Saints. An 1804 or '05 drawing of All Saints shows the building to be mostly of 15th century construction; only the tower entrance on the west side survived a makeover done at this time. In 1975 the building became an arts and community center.

The earliest family entry at All Saints is the 1572 marriage of John and Alice Russell; the last found there is the 1620 baptism of Mary, daughter of John. It looks like our family switched to Lewes' new St. Michael church. Johns Satisfield, a merchant and Puritan sympathizer had bought the property in 1623 and built the present church, his grandson laying and consecrating the foundation stone in 1628.

The first of our family's entries at St. Michael is the 1610 baptism of Elizabeth, "daughter of John Parminy of All Saints in Lewes." No other family entries come until 1632, and then they continue into the fall of 1638, just before John Sr.'s arrival in Connecticut in the spring of 1639. The unaccounted-for time between the last All Saints entry in 1620 and the bulk of those at St. Michael is 12 years -- and, I fear, may among the many lost records of those two churches. (An additional record -- the 1629 burial of John Sr.'s first wife -- has turned up at St. Wulfran in Ovingdean, about eight miles south and west of Lewes.)

The strangest record is the 1637 birth of John to John and Elizabeth Parmelee. By this time our John Jr. would be in America, so this father must be John Sr. -- but why would he name another son John Jr.? One fellow genealogist has relayed to me that it was the custom in England at the time to name two sons John: one for John the Baptist and one for John the Evangelist. Another historian has told me it wasn't unusual to find two sons with the same name when there were multiple marriages -- which would be the case here. At any rate, this young John was buried a few months later.

These records at St. Michael confirm the family was still living in Lewes right up until the year John Sr. set sail on the St. John. And I was unable to find another Parmelee family entry in Lewes church records after 1639. (I quit looking at least a decade later in all registers).

With the evidence that I've collected, I believe there were three men who headed Parmelee families in Lewes from the 1550s through the 1630s -- our John Jr., our John Sr., and his father, yet another John who I'm calling "John of Lewes."

Links to
Parish Records

x*-All Saints
2 marriages,
8 baptisms,
5 burials
(Through 1700)
Holy Trinity --
St. Andrew --
x-St. Anne
(St. Mary, Westout)
x-St. John-sub-Castro
(St. John under the Castle)
x-St. John the Baptist,
St. Martin --
St. Mary-in-foro
(St. Mary's in the Forest)
NONE (1608-1684)
x-St. Michael 3 marriages,
5 baptisms,
7 burials
(Through 1650)
x-St. Michael the Archangel,
South Malling
St. Nicholas-in-foro
(St. Nicholas in the Forest)
St. Peter, Westout NONE (1679-1700)
St. Peter-the-Less --
St. Sepulchre --
x-St. Thomas-à-Becket, Cliffe NONE (1606-1700)

x - Church still exists.
* - Church exists but not functioning as a house of worship.
§ - Parish folded into All Saints



Further reading:
Sussex Parish Churches: Lewes history
Lewes All Saints: Parish history and photos
Lewes St. Michael: Parish history and photos

Search the site -- but remember,
"Parmelee" can be spelled dozens of ways.
If you aren't sure, use * as a wildcard:

- - - - -
The Home Page

Updated March 1, 2020