Elizabeth Greentree

Elizabeth was the second of James Greentree and Margaret Bates’s daughters. An unsourced family tree gives her birth on St. Helena as 20 February, 1746. Once again, nothing is known of Elizabeth’s life until her marriage.  Sometime before 1769, when she is described as “Elizabeth Dent” in her father’s will, Elizabeth became the second of three wives of Digby Dent[1], at the time a ship’s commander in the Royal Navy. It is possible that the two met on St. Helena, as the island was a regular stop for Royal Naval vessels.

I give unto each of my Daughters Elizabeth Dent and Margaret Skottowe twenty five Pounds and as I have already paid their Portions at the Rate of four hundred pounds each of them, I hereby exclude them or any of them from any further Share….[2]

The Dents made their home in Fareham, Hampshire, an obvious choice for a naval officer, as Fareham is a village at the north-west tip of Portsmouth harbor. They were there by 1776, as it is in this year that Elizabeth’s young niece, Margaret Skottowe, was buried in the village’s St. Peter and Paul’s Church.

In May 1778, Digby was knighted and judging by the fact that one child was baptized in Fareham in June that year and there was a multiple baptism of four of their children in August, Digby may not have been at sea for part at least of that year. Added weight is given to this conclusion by the fact that the ship he was to be given command of in August of that year, the ‘Vigilant,’ was being completed in the Portsmouth Dockyards during this time.[3]

It is not known where most of Digby and Elizabeth’s children were born, although many were baptized in Fareham. There is record of ten children of the marriage. For considerably more information on the descendants of these children, see the extensive Dent Genealogy website. [Update: Sadly this website no longer exists. Some information on Sir Digby Dent, by the same author is still available at: https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_crewman&id=4936]


Elizabeth. Date and place of birth unknown. Married Benjamin Sullivan, in Madras, India, on 17 May 1790. They had at least five children. Died 13 November 1824 in Clifton, Gloucestershire, England.

Nov. 13. At Clifton, Lady Sulivan, relict of the late Sir Benjamin Sulivan. She was daughter of Admiral Sir Digby Dent, kt. and was married to Sir Benj. Sulivan, kt one of the Puisne Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Madras. (Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 94, p. 1, 1824, p. 85)

James, born 3 October 1772, baptized 2 August 1778 in Fareham, Hampshire.[4]

Charles Michael, born 15 March 1775, baptized 2 August 1778 in Fareham, Hampshire.[5] Married Sophia Holloway, 28 February, 1794, at Portsmouth.

Margaret Mary, baptized 2 August 1778 in Fareham, Hampshire.[6]

Charlotte, baptized 2 August 1778 in Fareham, Hampshire.[7] Married William Sandys of the East India Company (later Lieutenant-Colonel) in India on 10 January, 1793. Died 22 July, 1802 in Calcutta. Had three children.

Challoner Baptized 25 June 1778 in Fareham, Hampshire.[8]  12 May 1801 married Elizabeth Whettam in Fareham. Had two children.

Frances, born about 1782. Married Lieutenant John Burke, who in 1820 is described as “of Clarville, Loughrea, County of Galway” in his father-in-law’s will. Her date of death is unknown.

Sophia, baptized 17 November 1786 in Fareham, Hampshire.[9] July 7, 1804 married John Bayley or Bailey. Had six children.

July 7, 1804. At Edinburgh, John Bailey, Esq. cornet of the 5th Dragoon Guards, to Miss Sophia Dent, daughter of Admiral Sir Digby Dent. (The Scots Magazine 1804, p. 565)

 Elizabeth died 7 November, 1786. The date suggests her death was as the result of the birth of her last child, Sophia.

…. On Tuesday last died, at Fareham, near Portsmouth, Hants, Lady Dent, wife of Sir Digby Dent, Bart. of His Majesty’s Royal Navy… (The London Times, 15 November, 1786)

There is a memorial to her in St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Fareham.

In memory of Elizabeth, wife of Sir Digby Dent, Knight, Captain Royal Navy, who departed this life 4th November 1786 aged 59. [The age should be 39. This memorial has only been seen in transcription].

Her husband survived her for many years, marrying another Elizabeth (surname unknown) after her death. He died on 15 March, 1817, in Ireland.

Feb. 15. Near Dublin, Rear-Adm. Sir Digby Dent. (Gentleman’s Magazine, 1817, p. 279)

 Digby left a short handwritten will, mentioning only his third wife, Elizabeth, a son William (from his third marriage, who receives the proverbial shilling) and Frances Burke and her husband, John, whom he names executor.[10]

[1] I am indebted for much of what I know about Digby Dent and his descendants to the extensive Dent family web site maintained by Gearoidin Dent at http://dentfamlinx.1apps.com/

[2] James Greentree’s will, East India Company Office (St. Helena). Council Consultations, 1678–1836. Microfilm no. 1259068, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[3] Sir Digby Dent’s entire naval career is outlined on the web site, Three Decks-Warships in the Age of Sail. Available: http://threedecks.org/

[4] Parish Registers for St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, Fareham. Microfilm no. 0918892, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Digby Dent Will, PROB 11/1673/327.

7 comments to Elizabeth Greentree

  • John Cosgrove

    Thank you for a fascinating blog. I have loved reading about the Greentrees, and Elizabeth in particular. James Greentree and Margaret Bates were my direct ancestors through Elizabeth, her son Challoner, his son William Digby, then Frank Gray Dent and Digby Charles Dent, who had two children, one of whom, Cora Joan Dent (1914 – 2010), was my mother. A few years ago I came across the links2dent website which you mention above, and which was a tremendous source of information, but unfortunately it seems to have vanished.

  • I found your work that I have read online fascinating. I have quoted it in my own work: Vol 2 of “They Stood Tall,” a 700 page work I published late 2021 in which I have detailed the history of the first three generations of the 8 different Greentree family lines that came to Australia between 1801 and 1879. My work even included the stories of the three Greentrees by name who left Australia for NZ between 1905 and 1910. At the same time, a cousin completed Vol 1 “They Stood Tall – The Genealogy” which lists the family tree of over 16,000 descendants in Australia and New Zealand.

    I have now commenced research into Vol 4 of my work titled “They Stood Tall: The Great Greentree Diaspora,” which will cover the origins of the Family Greentree in the 14th to 15th Centuries in the area adjacent to the Forest of Bere astride the border of West Sussex and Hampshire. The work will look at where the Greentrees either migrated to or were transported to during subsequent centuries. We know the origins of the Greentree who left for Canada, the one, possibly two Greentrees who went to the USA, and, of course, the families who went to Australia. What my research assistants and I have found is that Ancestry DNA has proven ALL Greentrees World-wide are related; except that is, for those on St Helena and in south Africa. The Greentrees in South Africa appear to have descended from two Greentrees who migrated from St Helena to South Africa mid-19th Century. The reason we know not of the DNA relationship with St Helena is for no other reason than not finding such details listed on the Ancestry dot com website.

    It was during the final years of my research that I discovered the St Helena Island link. I can only wonder at what John Greentree and his wife thought when they arrived on the island in 1677(?). The great difficulty I have is communication. Having written that, the Internet has revolutionised communication and I am now contacting relevant people connected with St Helena such as yourself. I believe it will be a wonderful achievement if my team and I are able to prove that all members of the Family Greentree work-wide are related and proven so by DNA matching. If other family members read this post, they are welcome to contact me by email at philip@greentree.com.au.

    I will be eternally grateful for any assistance you are prepared to offer me in researching the St Helena Island connection

  • Your website is absolutely fascinating. I am descended from Sir Digby Dent’s eldest son Digby and had assumed the mother was Susanna, but evidence quoted on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digby_Dent_(Royal_Navy_officer,_born_1739) raises some doubts. A pedigree in the College of Arms Bigland MSS certainly implies that young Digby was Elizabeth’s son. It also gives as her father ‘Thomas Greentree, Esq., of the Island of St Helena’, rather than James. According to the Muster Roll of Nelson’s ship ‘Boreas’, young Digby was born, in Hampshire, c.1761-2. Sir Digby’s marriage to Elizabeth took place in April 1762. Sir Digby is described in the record of that event as a ‘bachelor’, so Susanna can only have been a mistress, as stated in the Wikipedia article. His simultaneous affair with Susanna is therefore a detail that would add colour to your article about Elizabeth. I should love to know your thoughts.

  • David Gibbs

    Great read. Thank you. I (believe I) am desended from Elizabeth Whettams sister Harriett (b.1783). My question to you is whether any DNA tests have been done – as far as you know? William Digby Dent would then share dna with me. It would at lest confirm – or otherwise my quests.

    • marian

      I am not aware of any DNA tests among Dent descendants, although there has been born done of the wider Skottowe name. I will email you the details.


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