I'm sure you understand the inherent difficulty of trying to uncover
the identity of an individual born about 500 years ago.
The task is made all the more challenging by having no idea of where
Robert Brommell lived or practiced his surgeries, since so many of the
records that survive from the 16th century are organized locally by
parish, county, town, etc.
However, the fact of having an occupation, along with knowing that
Maister Brommell was distinguished enough to have his portrait done,
suggests that the task is not a hopeless one, and warrants further
digging. It also helps that the surname involved is not a common one,
which cuts down on the number of false leads to sift through.
I hope I've provided you with some clues, leads, and suggestions with
which to one day pin down the identity of Robert Brommell.
Let me cut right to the chase. The best hit -- pretty much the only
hit -- that I got for the unusual name of Robert Brommell was from a
very useful genealogy site called the Origins Network:
View records - Boyd's Marriage Index 1538-1840
Search criteria: Last name: BROMMELL + Close variants
First name: ROBERT + Close variants
Year Last Name 1 First Name 1 Last Name 2 First Name 2 Place County Misc.
1578 BROMEL ROB ANDREWS ELZ IPSWICH ST CLEMENT SUFFOLK
1597 BROMELY ROB COOK AN LONDON (ST BARTHOLOMEW BY THE EXCHANGE) LONDON
[Note: all first names are abbreviated...Rob for Robert, etc ]
From this, we can see that a Robert Bromel (all first names are
abbreviated) was married to Elizabeth Andrews in 1578 in Ipswich.
This seems a bit on the late side to be getting married for your man,
who was already middle aged in 1555, but perhaps it was a second
marriage. The spelling of the name is different, but quite close to
The marriage noted in 1597 seems rather late to be your fellow, and
the spelling of the name isn't as close, either.
Note that the Origins Network site offers several online
subscriptions, including a 3-day pass for about $10-15, in case you
want to do a bit more exploring here. The subscription information
can be found at:
Another hit, of sorts, was found here:
The oddly-titled "Guild of One Name Studies" site is a resource for
folks who are researching a particular surname, and have an interest
in both getting and providing information about the name.
If you enter [brommell] in the search box, you'll see that there is a
listing for a women who is researching the history of the name
Brommell (spelled with one 'm'), and the listing provides snail mail
contact information. I would suggest writing her, and letting her
know of your interest. I suspect she would be thrilled to see the
link to your painting, and could perhaps be a source of information
for your quest.
They're apparently big on guilds over there, because another resource
is the venerable Guildhall Library in London:
The library is noted for its genealogical resources. They offer a
free service for some very lightweight research on family histories,
and I emailed them asking about Robert Brommell. They promised to
reply, but said it may be a month or more before they get to it...I
will certainly update this answer if and when any information arrives.
They also provide a more in-depth fee-based research service. You may
want to contact them after finding out what their premlinary search
turns up. They are at:
I also contacted some medical colleges (no barber schools, though!)
with a long history, and have not yet heard back from them (my
experience has been that, eventually, I will hear back, but it may be
many weeks before I do...again, I'll update you with any new
information that comes along).
The contacts are:
The Royal College of Surgeons, who offers a research service as well:
Should you find that your ancestor had clear College connections,
please write to the following address enclosing a £15.00 search fee
and all the information that you have on him (or her). Please note
that there may be a 2-3 month delay in response.
Deputy Librarian (Historical Services & Collection Management)
The Royal College of Surgeons of England
35-43 Lincoln?s Inn Fields
London WC2A 3PE
You can also email enquiries to email@example.com. Please include
details as above and your full contact details.
Note that they also recommend the services of the Guildhall Library
that I mentioned above.
and I also contacted the Royal College of General Practitioners, who
offers a good backgrounder on searching for medical histories:
Tracing Your Medical Ancestors
By the way, both these institutions -- particularly the College of
Surgeons -- may have a real interest in knowing about your painting.
Worth reaching out to them, I would think.
Beyond that, there wasn't much. The follow sources came up empty:
RootsWeb Surname List
A-Z of Family Surnames From England
UK Genealogy Interests Directory
Family History UK
and to my surprise, there wasn't much that showed up at the motherlode
of genealogy sites, Ancestry.com:
Closest I got was this 1608 reference to what seems to be a marriage
record, though that isn't 100% clear:
England: Canterbury - Administrations in the Prerogative Court of
Index to Acts of Administration in the Prerogative Court of
Canterbury 1596 - 1608
Bromley, Bromle als. Brommell, Robt., Luccombe, Som. To Eliz. B. als.
B. als. Fuller, rel., 1608 , p. 126.
but again, a 1608 marriage would be awfully late in life for Mr. B,
but this might also be a reference to some other sort of event...I'm
afraid the record itself is a bit on the ambiguous side.
There's also a variant name that showed up:
Shropshire: Lichfield - Wills and Administrations, 1516-1652
Baptisms and Burials, 1769-1799.
Lichfield Wills and Administrations Registered in The Consistory
Court of The Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry. 1516 to 1652
1580 Bromwell, Robert, ad. 139
and a death in 1580 certainly seems plausible timing.
I did come across a listing of variant spellings for Brommell that may
come in handy. You can see it here:
Another terrific resource is FamilySearch.org:
which also came up empty on Brommell, although a variant name did pop up:
Spouse: SUSAN SHEPPAM Family
Marriage: 19 OCT 1589 Saint Thomas The Apostle, London, London, England
I know you had hoped for a positive identification...and who knows
what might come of the feelers I sent out. But I hope you feel this
was money well spent, and that the information here has opened some
pathways to further investigation.
Let me know if you need anything else. And by all means, let me know
what you ultimately find out, even if it's months from now. You can
always post an updated note here, and I'll be sure to see it.
All the best,
Clarification of Answer by
17 Feb 2006 06:53 PST
Hello there. I just now received a reply to one of my email queries
from last year. No new information, but some possible research leads.
Thought you'd like to see it.
I am sorry for the delay in replying to your enquiry concerning Robert
Brommell. This has been caused by pressure of work and shortage of
The term 'surgeon' traditionally described a person who performed
operations with the use of surgical instruments. However some
surgeons, particularly in the 19th century, also worked in other areas
of medical practice. Surgeons in London and the vicinity between the
early 16th and mid 18th centuries can often be traced at Guildhall
Library, in the records of the Barber-Surgeons' company or in
ecclesiastical licensing records.
I have searched the index to the freedom registers of the
Barber-Surgeons? company from 1522 to 1556 (Ms 5265/1) but failed to
find an entry for the surname Brommell. However, only those who
practised their craft in or around the City of London are likely to be
found in these records. In addition, many individuals who called
themselves surgeons (particularly those outside London, before the
19th century) did not belong to the company.
The Bishop of London was empowered by Act of Parliament in 1512 to
issue licences to any physician or surgeon residing within seven miles
of the City of London. However in practice very few, if any, of the
licences issued were to persons living south of the Thames. The
Bishop's licensing records cover the Diocese of London (Essex,
Middlesex, the City of London, parts of Hertfordshire and
Buckinghamshire). An index of all the surviving records 1529-1725 can
be found in J H Bloom and R R James, Medical practitioners in the
Diocese of London (1935). I have checked the index to this work but
again failed to find an entry for the surname Brommell.
Details of the careers of those medical practitioners who were
university graduates can often be found in published university
membership lists. Biographical registers of members of Oxford
University, c.1200-1886, and of Cambridge University, 1261-1900, are
available at Guildhall Library, together with some registers for other
English, Scottish and Irish universities. University membership lists
may also be available at other reference libraries. In the time
available I have checked the registers of Oxford and Cambridge for the
relevant period. No entries were found for Robert Brommell but the
Cambridge alumni has an entry which may be of interest: ?Hugh
Brommell, student of St John?s when ordained deacon (London) Mar. 30.
1560. Of York diocese.?
I am sorry that you have waited so long for such disappointing news.
If you have not already done so you could contact London Metropolitan
Archives (email firstname.lastname@example.org) to ask if Robert Brommell
appears in the City freedom archives. Another course of action would
be to check the Mormons online database at www.familysearch.org to see
if he appears or any clue as to a possible locality.
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Hope that's of interest!