Whether this Ray family's forebears came to England with the Normans in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, or with the Huguenots in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries - or indeed acquired the name another way, remains to be researched. There is a River Ray in Buckinghamshire that might bear investigation.
Bert's grandfather was in fact, Thomas Ray, his great-grandfather Robert Ray and back through two generations of John Ray's to William Ray, 1675-1727. William was born in Piddington, Oxfordshire, probably a farm worker, and married Margery Mukell, born in Buckinghamshire in 1677.
Their son, John seems to have married Sarah Coxhead, of Buckinghamshire, by licence in St Mary Magdalen, Beckley, Oxfordshire and the couple settled in Marsh Gibbon, Buckinghamshire in 1836 where they had seven children, all of whom lived their lives either in Marsh Gibbon or the neighbouring Edgcott as agricultural labourers.
Their son John drew the attention of authorities in 1806 at the age of 57, when he was accused of stealing a rail fence, an accusation dismissed by proclamation.
|St Mary's Twyford|
Robert and Mary had eight children, at a time when enclosures and urbanisation were forcing people off the land. Mary died aged 61, but Robert lived into his 80s, a pauper for the last decade, taking in lodgers to make ends meet.
|the ground of Bucks lace|
At least 16 of the women in Robert and Mary's extended family in these three villages were lacemakers in the nineteenth century: Susannah, Ann, Fanny, Mary, and two Sarah Rays, Rebecca, Martha and Mary Ann Lamburn, Ann, Mary and Martha Parker, Sarah and Elizabeth Badrick, Mary North and Anne Neary.
As the century drew to a close, machine-made Nottingham lace put the cottage industry out of business. In 1880 legislation made primary schooling compulsory, speeding up the closure of lace schools.
There was a lot of hardship and exploitation associated with Bucks lace. It did, however, enable families on or below the poverty line a tiny margin that gave them options they would not otherwise have in a society that was shedding the agricultural way of life on which so many depended.
The one who saw his chance and seized it, was Thomas Ray, Robert and Mary's eldest son, and Bert Ray's grandfather.