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The Double-Jointed Fletchers of Burnley

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In 1737 a baby named John Fletcher was born in Ightenhill Park Burnley. His family had lived in Burnley from the time records were first kept by the parish churches and there were even Fletchers in Burnley before that.

John was a farmer and when he was twenty two he married the heiress of the Whitaker estate of Healey in Habergham Easves. They continued to live at Ightehill and between the years 1760 and 1783 they had fifteen children!.

At least three of the children died in childhood and there were two sets of twins. At least two of the surviving children must have had the genetic recipe for "double jointedness". The correct term for "double-jointed" is hypermobility of the joints and in this family it is inherited in a direct line from parent to child if one parent has the hypermobility recipe. The type of hypermobility has been identifid as that of the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

Of course the joints are not actually double but the range of joint movement can be nearly double than normal. The extra work done by "double" joints can wear out the joint surfaces and thus cause early osteo-arthritis.

There are some undoubted advantages in being hypermobile too, especially for dancers and acrobats!

John died in 1792 and it is believed that he spent the whole of his life in the Burnley area. Of his children it is Nicholas,born in 1762 and Robert,born 1764 who have been found to have hypermobile descendants but it is likely that there are others tracing back to their siblings.

There are now hypermobile people tracing back to the Fletchers of Lancashire in many parts of the world and although it was once thought that the condition could have come from either the 18th century Fletchers or Whitakers it is now apparent that it is a Fletcher characteristic and that the ancestry many hypermobile Fletcher descendants alive today may prove to be amond those living many years before John was born in 1737 .

Details of families with Fletcher ancestry and particularly of "Flexible Fletchers"will be welcomed and readers who think they may be able to help are invited to post in the guestbook or on the message board. Please provide a return email address if a reply is wanted.

There is also a discussion mailing list and resource files for descendants and possible descendants of this family at

The great variation in the degree and extent of hypermobility in affected individuals and the fact that many family members have passed on the recipe without any apparent hypermobility themselves is now known to be explained variation in expression of the recipe. This variability is discussed in "Information for Fletcher Descendants" in the Fletcher Family Album at

The Fletcher Family tree is on the web

The Fletcher family tree- as far as I know it - is on the web at Gencircles and is updated whenever more information is available .
A link to Gencircles is below:-

At the Gencircles site individuals known,by pedigree or medical history,to have inherited and/or passed on the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome hypermobility are noted. Details of living individuals are not published although with permission of the persons concerned further information may be available.

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