Select Bligh/Bly Miscellany

Here are some Bligh/Bly stories and accounts over the years:

Bligh Origins

The de Bloihons or de Bloins came from Brittany and had various spellings in England.  Blohin held land in Cornwall in 1086 at the time of the Domesday Book; and Ralph de Bloihon was recorded, having a writ of military summons, in Cornwall in 1350.

From a collateral branch came John Bloye or Blygh who granted his son lands in Cornwall in 1410.  They were said to be in Truro and Bodmin.  His wife inherited lands at Botadon on the border with Devon which stayed with the family into the 16th century.  Leonard Bligh of this family, recorded in the 1620 Visitation of Cornwall, died there in 1583.  As he had no heirs, the estate then passed onto his younger brother William.

Blighs and Blys

The following are the approximate number of Blighs and Blys in the world today.

Numbers (000's)

William Bligh's Reputation

In his time, William Bligh had a mixed reputation.  He was remembered, and of course forever more, for his role in the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789.  His antagonist Fletcher Christian usually gets the sympathy vote.  But Bligh should also be remembered for the extraordinary seamanship which enabled him to navigate in a 23 foot boat through almost 6,000 kilometers of open sea to make landfall at the island of Timor and bring his men safely home.  Bligh was exonerated at the Court of Inquiry held in London.  .

But Bligh was known for his temper and his possibly overbearing manner.   The Bounty was not the only instance when he was to face mutiny and rebellion.  There were two further cases.

The first occurred during the Spithead mutiny of 1797.  Mutiny leaders clashed with Bligh and insisted that he be removed from command of his ship.  He was.  Then in 1805 Bligh was sent to New South Wales as its Governor.  In 1808 he attempted to end the use of rum as a form of currency in the colony.  The British soldiers mutinied in what was called the Rum Rebellion and Bligh was deposed and imprisoned for two years.  That essentally marked the end of his career.

Ivo Bligh and the Cricket Ashes

After the English cricket team lost to the Australians at The Oval in London in 1882, the Sporting Times newspaper wrote the famous mock obituary to English cricket, noting that the body would be cremated and the ashes sent to Australia. 

The following winter's tour to Australia was billed as an attempt to reclaim the Ashes.  The captain of the English cricket team was Ivo Bligh, the 9th Earl of Darnley.  Bligh's team was successful, winning the three-match Ashes series two-one, although a fourth game, not played for the Ashes and hence a matter of dispute, was lost.

A small terracotta urn was presented to the England captain Ivo Bligh by a group of Melbourne women after England's victory in the Test series.  These ladies included Florence Morphy, a governess, to whom Bligh subsequently became engaged to and married.  The urn was reputed to contain the ashes of a veil, ball, and bail, symbolising "the ashes of English cricket." 

Florence Morphy, who became the Countess of Darnley, presented the urn to the MCC, cricket's governing body, after her husband's death in 1927.

Blighs in the 1881 Census


The main pockets of Blighs were in Kent (Ramsgate and Sevenoaks) and in Norfolk (Ashill).  John Bligh or Bly was born in Ashill near Swaffham in 1771 and the Norfolk Blighs probably represent many of his descendants.

Reader Feedback - Massachusetts and Rhode Island Blys

Just wanted to send you a note on the Bligh/Bly/Blythe/Blye ad nauseam variations of Bly.  I am doing my best to search out this family back to Salem, which isnít easy as the sons of John Bly tended to change their names and hide after the witch trials.   Anyway, in that light, I believe the Rhode Island Blys were descendants of John Bly or of his brother Thomas.   Both men arrived in Boston around 1630 -35.  I have found a number of name changes on the sons, but Iím having a fair amount of success tracking them into Rhode Island.  

There has been a recent movement in the genealogy of the family to discount the New England ancestry, due to the major fire in North Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1869.   It literally destroyed that generation of Bly vital records.   Iím attempting to get folks back in gear hunting for records in America instead of stalled and thinking our ancestor must have come from England because his birth records are missing.  

Savage, Pope, Arnold, and others all reference John Bly as the prominent patriarch of the Rhode Island Blys. I have found deeds, indentureship documents and other sources that, while they havenít put a full stamp on the connection, are making a very strong case of evidence that John and Thomas were patriarchs of the entire Massachusetts and Rhode Island clan.   

Philip Bley and His Bly Family in America

Philip Bley came from Hornbach on the Rhine and set sail with his family for America on the Phoenix in 1749.  They arrived in Philadelphia and lived for about twenty years in Lebanon, Pennsylvania where Philip had a blacksmith shop.  He sold this shop in 1768 and they moved to the Shenandoah valley of Virginia and there Philip had purchased land on Cedar Creek.  He built a gristmill and saw mill there and also maintained a blacksmith shop. 

Philip Bley died in 1786.  He always maintained the German spelling of his name.  But his children changed their name to Bly.

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