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Celebrating 350 years of Samuel Pepys

Samuel PepysAs we enter a New Year and decade, many of us have been thinking of New Years resolutions, of new projects and new beginnings.  350 years ago Samuel Pepys was also thinking the same thing and began writing a diary on 1st January 1660.  He continued writing his diary on a daily basis for almost ten years, and this diary is now one of the most important documents of the period.

Samuel Pepys was born in London in 1633 and experienced first hand the horrors of the Great Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London which followed in 1666.  He was present at the execution of Charles I and saw five different monarchy’s during his lifetime.   

As an influential civil servant who later became an MP and Secretary to the Admiralty Commission, he was also heavily involved in politics and foreign campaigns, providing valuable accounts of events such as the 2nd Anglo-Dutch War of 1665 to 1667. The diary also records details of his personal life and his experiences with family and friends. He recorded in January 1661 that he planned to give up drinking wine, but his good intentions had lapsed by February, which I’m sure many of us can sympathise with as our own resolutions begin to waiver.

Various records which detail aspects of his life are available online at TheGenealogist.co.uk. Our School, College & University Registers list him as a scholar in the Admission Registers of St Paul’s School, London, where he studied from 1646 until 1650.  The record gives details of his life, from his birth through to his death, including his marriage and career and also gives the occupation of his father John.

Entry in St Paul’s School Admission Register for Samuel Pepys

Above: Entry in St Paul’s School Admission Register
Below: Burial record for Elizabeth St Michell

Elizabeth St Michel Burial Record

The Cambridge University Registers show Samuel’s brother John and their cousin Richard Pepys at Christ’s College. Richard was also an MP and became the Chief Justice of Ireland in 1655.  These entries again give detailed information on their lives, and John Pepys’s entry refers to his relationship with Samuel, stating how Samuel paid off large amounts of debt which John left behind when he died in 1676.

The burial of John Pepys is also recorded in the registers of St Olave, London, available in our online collection of Parish Records.  There are now over four million individuals in the Parish Records on TheGenealogist, available either as fully searchable printed books or transcripts.  John Pepys’s burial is found in the printed books section, but Samuel Pepys’s marriage to Elisabeth St Michel, a descendent of French Huguenots, is recorded in the London Parish Record Transcripts.  The original image is available as well as a full record, and gives his surname as ‘Peps’ rather than Pepys.  The original image contains detailed footnotes on both Samuel and Elisabeth, with information about their parents and also grandparents.  The burial of Elizabeth Pepys is recorded in the printed books, in the parish of St Olave on November 13th 1669, as the wife of Samuell Pepys.

Marriage of Samuel Pepys Elizabeth St Michel

Left: Marriage of Samuel Pepys 1655. Right: Elisabeth St Michel.


Will of Samuel Pepys

Above: Will of Samuel Pepys (click to enlarge)

On his death in 1703, Samuel Pepys had no children and left his estate to his nephew John Jackson.  The will of Samuel Pepys is available in the PCC Wills collection on TheGenealogist.  This dataset covers the years 1384 to 1858 and is an on-going project for us, with 100 years worth of wills currently online and over 570,000 records.

Samuel’s diary is now held at the Pepys Library in Magdalene College, Cambridge, where Pepys obtained his own Bachelor of Arts Degree. 

It’s hard to believe that the personal day to day writings of a tailor’s son have survived 350 years and become one of the most significant accounts of the period, but reminds us how important it is to record our own experiences for future generations, as the past can only be remembered when we take the time to record it.

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