Thursday, December 29, 2011

John Heard and Elizabeth Hull

Between the year 1620 and 1640, the period known as The Great Migration, approximately 20,000 colonist landed on the shores of New England.  Two of those brave immigrants were men, both named John Heard, and both of whom lived in Maine at at least some point. Unfortunately, the lives of these two men have become intertwined and some false information added to the mix, making for confusion as to who is who.  My ancestor is the John Heard who married Elizabeth Hull.  Here is what I know about him.

John Heard of Maine
Official seal of Kittery, MaineJohn Heard, who was not my ancestor, was supposedly a sea captain and known as Captain John Heard. His wife' s name was Isabel (Warwick) and they lived in Kittery, Maine.  They had two sons, Warwick and  Ensign James Heard. James married either Shuah Starbuck or Shuah Conley.  This family remained in Kittery, ME well into the 1700s. 

John Heard of Dover, New Hampshire
The second John Heard was a master carpenter who lived for a while in York, Maine, a bit further up the coast from Kittery, but eventually settled in Dover, New Hampshire. The English origins of this John are unknown, neither his birthplace nor his parents have been identified. Multiple trees and websites list the parents of John as Luke Heard and Sarah Wyatt. This is not true.  John was born around 1610 and married Elizabeth Hull in 1643.  Sarah Wyatt was born in 1623 and married Luke Heard in 1642. Now it doesn't take to much analysis to see that it is impossible for Sarah and Luke to be John's parents, yet there they are in hundreds of trees.  The old cut-and-paste genealogy at work! Luke and Sarah did have a son named John, he died in 1696, unmarried, in Andover, Massachusetts. 

Hull Association opinion on John Heard:
Luckily for us, Elizabeth Hull, John's wife had a famous, or infamous, if you please, father. He was a well-known minister whose history is well charted.  The Hull Family Association has done a lot of research on the Hull Family and have issued the following statement:

 HFAm #6, Elizabeth Hull, who married John Heard, has some erroneous information on Elizabeth’s husband. There were two John Heards and Elizabeth did not marry the one designated as Captain John Heard, of Kittery, York County, Maine, who was a sea captain, and married Isabel [_?_]. Elizabeth married the John Heard who was a carpenter of Dover, Strafford County, New Hampshire. Also, the parents of Elizabeth’s husband, John, were not Luke and Sarah (Wyatt) Heard. Elizabeth Hull Heard’s husband’s parents are unknown.

This statement seems to clear up the issue of John's parents, however, it adds to the confusion of which John did what.  The John of Kittery and Sturgeon Creek, Maine called himself "yeoman" in his will and is also called a carpenter.  In the book History of Dover, John of Dover is said to have been in the shipping business and therefore called Captain. I am not sure which of these statements is correct.

Elizabeth Hull
Elizabeth Hull was born in approximately 1628 in North Leigh, Devon, England. Her DOB is based on the age given in the ship manifest when the family left for New England in 1635. Her father was the Reverend Joseph Hull.  Joseph was married twice, at the time of the sailing his wife was listed as Agnes.  She was his second wife, the name of the first is unknown.  Some claim that the first wife was called Joana Coffin, but this is not true.  If fact Robert Charles Anderson does not think there is any reason to believe that her name was even Joana.

Anyway, Elizabeth sailed with her family and multiple members of her father's congregation, leaving Weymouth, England on March 20th and landing in Boston on May 6th, 1635. 

John and Elizabeth
John Heard and Elizabeth Hull married about 1643 and their son Benjamin was born within a year.  A John Heard signed the Dover Combination in 1640 and although I have read that it was the other John Heard who was the signer, it doesn't make much sense as it was our John who lived and died there. 

Dover was first settled by William and Edward Hilton, brothers, and fishmongers from London.  It was established for purely economic reason, not religious.  In 1631 there were only three houses in the settlement. The plantation of Cochecho was bought in 1633 by a group of English Puritans who wanted to establish a hereditary aristocracy in New England. This pursuit failed to be popular with the people and in 1641 the plantation was sold to Massachusetts. 

According to "The History of Dover" John was not taxed in 48, 49, or 1650 and the tax records are missing until 1657 when he is taxed. He was assessed various rates through the years, especially for payment for the minister. In 1648 he was assigned a lot in the Cochecho Marsh.  In 1665 John was chosen to be on the grand jury. He was also given a grant of land in the Cocheco settlement on which he built a garrison house, it was known for many years as "Heard's Garrison". A garrison house was a fortified house that was used to shelter from Indian attacks. 

Children all born in Dover
Benjamin b. 20 Feb. 1644 m. 1. Elizabeth Roberts, 2. Ruth Eastman d. either 1703 or 1710
William b. ? , d. Nov. 1 1675, leaving widow but no children
Mary b. Jan 6 1650, m. John Hamm of Dover May 6 1688, d. 1706
Abigail b. Aug. 2 1651, m. Jenkin Jones
Elizabeth b. Sept. 15 1653, m. 1. James Nute, 2. James Furber, d. Nov. 9 1705
Hannah b. Nov 22 1655, m. John Nason
John b. Feb 24 1659, not mentioned in his father's will
Joseph b. Jan 4 1661, d. young, not in his father's will
Samuel b. Aug 4 1663, m. Experience Otis, she was scalped by Indians on July 26 1696, she survived for a while, later dying on Feb. 8 1700.
Tristram b. March 4 1667 m. Abigail, d. 1734
Nathaniel b. Sept. 20 1668 m. Sarah, d. April 3 1700, she married William Foss.
Dorcus b. 1670 m. Jabez Garland

John wrote his will on 2 April 1687 and he died 17 January 1688/89.  His will was not probated until 1692 because of the Indian troubles.  He named in his will his wife Elizabeth and his children: Benjamin, Tristram, Samuel, Dorcas, Nathaniel, Mary, Abigail and Elizabeth.  In 1703 Tristram petitioned that there had been no will and that he was the only surviving son.  His brother Nathaniel's widow, now Sarah Foss, testified that the will had indeed been probated, and the estate divided.  This has led to come confusion over the date of death of the eldest son Benjamin, who seems to have been alive he died in 1710.

Indian attack on Dover
After years of peaceful co-existence with the local Indians, trouble began brewing in the 1670's.  In 1676 a large number of Massachusetts Indians arrived followed shortly by soldiers who, in what is called "the Sham War", separated them from the locals and returned them to Massachusetts where many were imprisoned or hung. This did not sit well with the local Indians.  By 1684 the Governor of New Hampshire ordered that the meeting house be garrisoned and that each local neighborhood fortify a house to be used as a garrison. The home of John and Elizabeth Heard was chosen because of its position on a knoll. The garrisons were built to withstand bullets and attacks by fire.  They were surrounded by a log palisade.

On June 26th, 1689 the Indians launched a coordinated attack on the Garrisons of Dover. With help from Indian women who slept inside, the Indians were let into the Garrisons. Twenty-three colonist were killed and twenty-nine captured.  One, a three-month-old child was taken to Canada and was raised by Catholic Nuns, she eventually returned to Dover a married 45-year-old woman.

Elizabeth Heard and her family (three sons, one daughter, and their families) had been in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for unknown reasons and were returning to Dover on the very morning of the attack. Their garrison was being guarded by William Wentworth, who was awakened by a barking dog, got up and closed the palisade gates. The Heard family made their way up the river in the dark and upon smelling smoke and hearing the cries of the attacking Indians realized what was happening.

Elizabeth became incapacitated by fright and begged her family to abandon her and head for their garrison. They deposited her in some bushes and left her.  After the attack she made her way home and found her house and family intact.  Her story was recorded by Cotton Mather.

Elizabeth died 30 November 1706.


The Maine Historical and  Genealogical Recorder, Vol. 9

The Maine Historical Magazine, Vol. 6, p. 130-131

Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Study

John Scales, History of Dover, N.H.

Hoyt, Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury

Related Posts:
Benjamin Heard
Joseph Hull

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Nathaniel and John Merrill of Wherstead, England and Newbury, MA

earliest merrills
If you have seen genealogies for the Merrills that go back to a John Merrill 1400-1452 and his wife Katherine John 1402-1451, erase them from you database as they are fictitious. They can be found on many ancestry trees and other genealogy websites. 

Many websites claim that the Merrill family pedigree has been confidently traced directly back several centuries to Thomas Merrill b. 1444, this is not necessarily true.  The first Thomas Meriell  left a will dated January 1463, if he was born in 1444 he would have been only 19 years old.  Since Thomas left about 10 children, he must have been born much earlier. Thomas, or possibly and earlier ancestor started a family tradition which would and still does make life miserable for genealogist 400 years in the future. [1]

too many johns 
Cottage in Wherstead photo by Nigel Chadwick
How, you ask, did they do this?  Thomas had not only two sons, both living at the time of his will, named William, but also two sons who survived childhood named John. One of these two Johns is usually cited as the John Merrill whose will was dated 1528. There is a 65  year gap between the death of Thomas in 1463 and a John in 1528. If either of the sons of Thomas named John was this man, he lived to a great age. The more likely explanation is that there is a generation, or two missing.  [2]

To confound matters even more the John Merrill of the 1528 will also had two sons named John. A subsequent John, possibly one of his son, will dated 1551, continued with the two Johns tradition.  This makes it impossible to pinpoint which man was the direct ancestor of Nathaniel and his brother John. 

This leads us to the last John Merrill whose will was dated 1600. The problem with drawing a line from this John to Thomas is that there is no way to tell who his father was or who his father's father was.  Each of these men had sons with names other than John, any of which could have been the father of a John.   Oh, it's too confusing, but what I am trying to say is, despite seeing trees with each man directly linked to the next, there is nothing to back up their claims. [3]This argument for direct descendancy is also made by Mary Lovering Holman in her Pillsbury Ancestry book, but she does not offer concrete proof.[4]

thank you, john for naming your son nathaniel
Blessedly, the John of the 1600 will named one, and only one, of his sons Nathaniel. This John is Nathaniel the immigrant's grandfather, and this we can prove. We know that his wife was named Prudence, and they had at least three sons, John, of course,  Michael and Nathaniel. Some family history's claim Prudence's surname is Bird, I do not know what their source is for that.  See this page for the complete will of John Merrill proved December 1600.

St. Mary's Wherstead by Adrian S. Pye

Nathaniel, son of John and Prudence
On  27 Feb 1591/2 Nathaniel  married a Mary Blacksell at St. Mary's in Belstead. Her name is variously spelled Blackwell/Blaxell/ Blacksoll. Here is a link to the transcription on FreeReg.. The baptisms of Nathaniel and Mary's children are transcribed. John Merrill was baptized August 16, 1599 and his brother Nathaniel, baptized 4 May 1601 at St. Mary's Wherstead, a year after his grandfather passed away. [4]

Below is are a list of births/deaths in Wherstead and Belstead as found by Samuel Merrill. Notice that here Mary's name is Blacksoll.

1593/4 Jan.21 Merrell, dau. of Nath Merrell & his wife was buried.
1594/5 Feb.23. Mary Merrell, dau. of Nath Merrell & Mary his wife was baptised.
1596. Sep.21. Matthew Merrell dau. of Matthew Merrell & Mary his wife was baptised. (Sic.) 1598. ) Francis Merrell dau. of (???) Merrell & Mary his wife was baptised.
1599. Aug. 16. John Merrell son of Nath Merrell & Mary his wife was baptised.
1601. May 4. Nathanaell Merrell son of Nath Merrell & Mary his wife was baptised.
1602. Aug. 23. Rose Merrill dau. of Thomas Merrill & his wife was baptised.
1603. Apr. 3. Mychell Merrell, son of Nathaniel Merrell & his wife was baptised.
1605. Mar. 29. Elizabeth Merrell dau. of Thomas Merrell & his wife was baptised.
1628/9 Jan. 24. John Merrill & Anis Bishope married.
1595/6 Jul. 15. Thomas Merrill & Rose Pearson married.
1598. Aug. 1. Fraunces Merrell, dau. of Nath Merrell & Mary his wife buried.
1626/7 Mar. 17. Nathaniel Merrill buried.
1602. Oct. 10. Mary dau. of John & Susan Merrill baptised.
1603. Apr. 9. Elizabeth dau. of Nichaelis Merrill & Margaret his wife.
1604. Aug. 4. Francis Merrill, dau. of Michael Merrill & Margaret.
1607. Apr. 19. Michael son of Michael Merrill & Margaret.
1608/9 Feb. 19. John son of Michael Merrill & Margaret.
1610/1 Mar. 10. William son of Michael Merrill and Margaret.
1615. Sep. 10. Anna Merrill dau. of Michael Merrill & Margaret.
(Baptisms and burials, hiatus to 1653.)
1583. Sep. 15. Robert Andrew & Joane Morrell married.
1592/3 Feb. 27. Nathanaell Merrill & Mary Blacksoll married.
1601. Dec. 29. John Merrill & Susan Plumley married.
1602/3 Mar. 7. Michael Merrill & Margaret Scrivener married.
1637. Jul. 3. William Merrill & An. Bond married.
1608. Dec. 22. Prudence Merrill buried.
1609. 1616. Aug. 20. Michael Merrill buried.

Nathaniel Jr.
Nathaniel and his wife Susanna were married in England possibly at St. Mary's in Lawford, Essex.  Lawford is about eight miles due south of Wherstead. Three of their children: Susan, Abraham and John were baptised there. See this transcription. Daughter Susan was baptised in December of 1638, making it unlikely that Nathaniel immigrated prior to that date as is claimed by many people.

Susanna's last name at birth is unknown. A 2009 article in the Connecticut Nutmegger by professional genealogist Nancy L. Dodge lays out the case against her begin a Wilterton/Wolterton. Her second husband was a Jordan. She should be known as Susanna Unknown. 

Susanna is said to be the daughter of Susanna Unknown and unknown father.  Her mother remarried a Gregory Wilterton or Wolterton.  Susanna's maiden name is unknown. According to a Merrill Family Website, the the baptism of four of his children also took place at St. Mary's in Lawford.  The last record of this Merrill Family is the baptism of Susan Merrill, which took place on 12 December 1638. 

It is not clear to me exactly when the brothers arrived, whether together or separately or on which ship they traveled, but they were both settled in Newbury by 1639. Nathaniel was then a married man about 40 years old with four children.    He took the freeman's oath in 1640.  Not much else is written about him until his death in 1654/5.  

Children of Nathaniel and Susanna
Nathaniel, baptized 25 May, 1634 in Lawford, Essex, England d. 1 January 1682/3 Newbury, MA
John bapt. 16 Feb 1635/6 Lawford d. 18 July 1712 West Hartford, Hartford, CT
Abraham, bapt. 9 april 1637 Lawford, d. 28 November 1722.
Susanna, bapt 12 December 1638 Lawford d. 10 Oct 1690 Suffield, Hartford CT
Daniel born 20 August 1642 Newbury, MA d. 27 June 1717 Salisbury, MA. My ancestor
Abel born 20 Feb. 1643/44 Newbury, d. 28 Oct 1689 Newbury
Thomas, born 1648 Newbury, d. unknown

Nathaniel died March 16, 1654/5.  His estate,worth only 86 pounds, was to go to his eldest son Nathaniel. Susanna his widow had a lifetime interest in the estate.  On August 16, 1661 Susanna married Stephen Jordan.  She died Jan 25, 1672. 

Daniel Merrill married Sarah Clough, daughter of John Clough. See his bio here.

my descent from Nathaniel Merrill
John Merrill and Prudence Unknown
Nathaniel Merrill and Mary Blacksoll
Nathaniel Merrill and Susanna Unknown
Daniel Merrill and Sarah Clough
Martha Merrill and John True
Ruth True and Benjamin Baker
Benjamin Baker and Sarah Norris
Katherine Baker and Samuel Thornton
Samuel Thornton and Chloe Blanchard
John C. Thornton and Jennie Clover Rowell


[2] Merrill, Samuel, 1855-. A Merrill Memorial: an Account of the Descendants of Nathaniel Merrill, an Early Settler of Newbury, Massachusetts. Cambridge, Mass, 1917-1928.

[3] Samuel Merrill, A Merrill Memorial.

[4] Holman, Mary (Lovering), 1868-, and Helen Pendleton (Winston) Pillsbury. Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury And John Sargent Pillsbury. [Concord, N.H.: Priv. print. at the Rumford press], 1938. Merrill can be found beginning on page 1029 of Volume II. 

[5] "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ( : 11 February 2018, Nathl. Merrell, 04 May 1601); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 496,781.

[6] The Connecticut Nutmegger. Glastonbury, CT: Connecticut Society of Genealogists, 1970-. (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009.)

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