Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Great Blogs: Boston 1775 and Nutfield Genealogy

I thought I'd write about some of my favorite blogs that I go to for information or just to see what everyone else is up too. Here are two great blogs, one history and one genealogy. 



Nutfield Genealogy by Heather Wilkinson Rojo. 

Nutfield was the original name of Londonderry, New Hampshire. It was settled by Scots-Irish immigrants in the 1700s. My ancestors lived there so I enjoy this blog a lot. Heather and I have some common ancestors which is fun. She writes about the early inhabitants of the town, history, current genealogy events, such at the 400th anniversary of Plymouth and other great topics. Blog posts are well labeled and easy to search. She does not advertise on her blog so it is clutter-free which makes for very easy reading. I have posted comments on her blog and gotten swift replies. The research is sound and reliable. 

If you are researching ancestors in New Hampshire this is a great place to look for information. You can find Nutfield Genealogy here.




Boston 1775

Boston 1775 is the work of author and historian J. L. Bell. The blog has a very narrow focus: the start of the American Revolution and Boston. Bell is a prolific blogger, posting almost daily. The site is well laid out and easy to navigate. Subject range from people, place, politics and gossip. The list of labels is massive. Bell also lists a great list of his favorite blogs such as 18th c. American Woman and other websites for historical places such as the Old North Church in Boston. Along the left hand side of the blog is a lengthy list of resources with links. This is a great help for those looking to expand their research. He has links to the National Archives, The British National Archives, lots of historical societies and genealogy research sites such as American Ancestors. 

My only complain about his site is that the print is very small and squished together, otherwise it's the bomb. You can find Boston 1775 here.  J. L. Bell is also a contributing author to the great site Journal of the American Revolution. A fantastic website that is all things American Revolution, written by top notch experts. You can find the Journal of the American Revolution  here. 

I have read one of Bell's books: The Road to Concord and found it highly entertaining and very informative. 


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Review: The Swan's Road by Garth Pettersen




The Swan's Road by Garth Pettersen Book #1 in a series called The Atheling Chronicles, published by Tirgearr Publishing in 2017. I recieved a free copy of this book from the author. I was not paid to write this review. All opinions good or bad are my own. 













My Review

The plot in brief: The Swan's Road is the story of Harold, son of King Canute of England and Denmark. After securing his hold on England, Canute travels to Rome to attend the coronation of Conrad, Holy Roman Emperor. He is accompanied by his son Prince Harold. Their journey follows the Rhine River and at one point Harold rescues a damsel in distress, Selia,  and he becomes separated from his father and his retinue. Canute, concerned for his son's safety sends Harold's friends to look for him. Together this group makes its way along the Rhine, and over the Alps, eventually arriving in Rome where they must foil a plot to kill King Canute. Along the way they meet various rouges and like minded wanderers.

The book reads like a Three Musketeers meets Robin Hood and his Merry Men. The good guys are good, they bad guys are bad. All that is missing are white and black hats. The women are beautiful, feisty, and can fight like a man when needed. Various 'providential' meetings occur throughout the book which aid the travelers in their most dire moments. No coincidence is too unlikely and the result is a predictable ending. Which I won't spoil for you.

The Characters: Harold and his band of friends are one dimensional, they are the good guys. Harold can be a little moody and at times jealous, but he is loyal to his lady. Selia is a strong, defiant woman with her own ideas about who she should marry. She is brave, inventive and a born leader. Their enemy is Duke Robert of Normandy and he is a very bad man, who surrounds himself with other knaves and blackguards. King Canute is one of the good guys, of course. Harold collects friends along the way, instantly recognizing the good in his potential friends.

The History: Pettersen has done his research and has a firm grasp on the history and terminology of the era. But the setting of the story is a superficial one. The 11th century was a dirty gritty place full of pain and suffering. Pettersen glosses over the ugliness as Harold encounters happy serfs, jovial inn keepers serving laughing customers. Everywhere he goes, Harold manages to speak or understand the language, despite the fact that Europe was awash with regional dialects.

The Writing: For a story about youthful abandon and high adventure the writing is heavy, formal and pedantic. I felt like I was reading my way through a thesaurus. There were times when I felt his use of archaic words ruined the scene. Ex. : waves laving the beach. His use of the dialogue tag, 'said I' drove me to distraction. I often had to stop and reread sentences to decipher his meaning.

In conclusion: If you are looking for a  rollicking adventure this is the book for you. Aside from the stiff language it's a predictable fun read.


If you are interested in Viking/Anglo Saxons I would also recommend Bernard Cornwell's Anglo Saxon Series called The Saxon Tales of which I believe there are now eleven. Below is the first one called The Last Kingdom. I read it several years ago and it is very good. I have not read all eleven!



Sunday, March 10, 2019

Thornton, Wasson and Clyde Families in the Mohawk Valley, New York during the American Revolution

In 1753, my ancestor William Thornton, born 1713 in Ireland, left his New Hampshire home and headed about 125 miles west to Schenectady, in the Mohawk Valley of  New York. Today it's a scenic three hour drive, then it was an arduous journey that might have taken weeks. Little did William know that in less than 25 years this remote, fertile valley would be the site of some of the bloodiest fighting of the American Revolution. The combatants were English Loyalist, Native Americans, American Patriots of Dutch, English and Scots-Irish descent.

Traveling with William was his wife Dorcas Little Thornton and their children; William, Matthew, James, Mary, and Thomas, all under the age of 10. More children would be born in their new home. Also making the trek to the Mohawk Valley was Thomas Little, father of Dorcas, and William's sister, Agnes Thornton Wasson, and her husband, John Wasson Sr. and  their children; Catherine Wasson Clyde wife of Samuel Clyde, John Wasson Jr. who married Dorothy Little, Thomas Wasson, Thornton Wasson and George Wasson. These families were intimately bound to each other through the bonds of marriage. In fact, William Thornton's son John, born in 1753 in Schenectady, married Anne Clyde, daughter of Catherine and Samuel Clyde. She was born in 1764.

So, why did they go and what was life like in the Mohawk Valley? And how did they survive living in one of the most dangerous places to be during the American Revolution? Let's start with some background on the area.

The Dutch
Arriving in 1661, the Dutch were the first European people to permanently settle in the Mohawk River Valley. You only have to look at a map of the area to see the Dutch influence. Towns such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, revel their Dutch origins in their names. The Dutch, of course, established Dutch Reform Churches in their new settlements. After the French and Indian Wars, English and Scots-Irish settlers began to move into the fertile valley to establish farms. These groups intermarried, forming new bonds. During the American Revolution many men of Dutch descent fought for the American cause.  [ 1 ] 

The Natives
The Mohawk Valley takes it's name from it's original inhabitants, the Mohawk Indians. The Mohawk was one of five Iroquois tribes that inhabited a vast area of New York and Canada. One Native American in particular played a key role in the response of the people of the Mohawk Valley to the American Revolution. That man was Joseph Brant, a member of the Mohawk tribe whose Indian name was Thayendanega. He was born in March of 1743 in Ohio, during a hunting trip. He was raised at Canajoharie on the Mohawk River in New York. His father was not a chief, but was a member of some standing in his tribe. [2]

Sir William Johnston, Superintendent of the Northern Indians, made Joseph a protegee of sorts. Joseph's sister Molly was Johnston's mistress, whom he married after the death of his wife Catherine in 1759. Sir William recommended him to the Moor Charity School for Indians, at which he studied Western history among other subjects. The school is now known as Dartmouth College, in Lebanon, Connecticut.  After completing his education he went to work for Sir William and was his assistant during the French and Indian Wars. [3]

Joseph married and settled on a farm in Canajoharie. He converted to Christianity and became a member of the Anglican church. He translated parts of the bible into his own language. Brant was also a Freemason. When the war came, he was a Loyalist. [4]

In 1776 Joseph Brant was chosen as Principal Chief of the Confederacy of the Six Nations and a Captain in the British Army. He would wage bloody brutal war on his rebellious friends and neighbors, and was responsible for the destruction of their property and the death of hundreds. [5]


The English
The major players for the Loyalist side of the American Revolution were the Johnsons and the Butlers. Sir William Johnson, who so influenced the life of Joseph Brant, was succeeded in his lands by his son, Sir John Johnson and his position as Superintendent by his son in law, Colonel Guy Johnson, upon his death in 1774. John Johnson lived at Fort Johnson, his father founded Johnstown. Guy Johnson was a nephew of William's and he married his first cousin Mary, William's daughter. [6] Guy and Mary lived in a mansion called Guy Park in the city of Amsterdam.

The Butler family, like the Johnsons, were wealthy and held positions of power in the Mohawk Valley. John Butler and his son Walter were loyalist who formed their own militia company; Butlers Rangers. Walter Butler was among the most hated of the loyalist, following the massacre at Cherry Valley, for which he was blamed. [7]

The Thorntons
The Thornton's left New Hampshire and settled in the fertile river valley near the town of Schenectady in a place called Curries Bush. There is no town there now, only a road called the Curry Bush Road, but it was near modern day Princetown. Thomas Little and his family also settled near Princetown. The records are thin for this era so there is not much in the way of documentation for them. But we do know a few things about the family.

In his bible, James Thornton, son of William and Dorcas wrote that his mother died in Curry Bush in 1763. James who recorded her death in his bible was nineteen at the time, William's  youngest was John, age ten. [8] Dorcas is said to have buried on her father's father, which eventually came into the hands of the Wasson Family, through the marriage of Dorcas's sister Dorothy to  John Wasson. [9]

As the older boys grew to manhood they began to take on the duties of adult life, including military duties. In 1767 the local militia was headed by Captain Daniel Campbell. On his muster roll dated 12 May 1767 are the names William Little, Thomas Little Jr., William Thorenton, James Thornton, and Matthew Thornton. Also on the list, but I think misspelled, is John Wasson Sr. and his son Thomas Wasson. [10] I have two questions concerning the list. The first is why was William's surname spelled differently and second was William the 54 year old father or the 22 year old son?

Matthew was the first of the boys to get married. On 30 March 1768 he married Mary Crawford. [11] James married Antje Schermerhorn in the Dutch Reform church on 19 February 1769. [12] Both couples had a daughter born in June of 1770 and both girls were called Dorcas. [13]

This is confirmed by a land deed in which William sold land in New Hampshire, the deed places him in Curries Bush in 1771.


The Wassons
William's sister Agnes married John Wasson. Like William they immigrated with their family to Schenectady, leaving Chester, NH in about 1753. John Wasson found work in Schenectady as a butcher. Eventually he too moved to Curries Bush.

His only daughter married Samuel Clyde, also from New Hampshire, they moved to Cherry Valley in 1761.  The remainder of the children, all boys, stuck close to home, now Curries Bush.


Sources:


[b] William Maxwell Reid, The Mohawk Valley, it's legends and it's history, (New York, NY : GP Putman and Sons, 1902).

[1] Jonathan Pearson, Contributions for the genealogies of the descendants of the first settlers of the patent and city of Schenectady, from 1662 to 1800, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1976).

[2] George L. Marshall Jr. "Chief Joseph Brant: Mohawk, Loyalist and Freemason," Varsity Tutors (https://www.varsitytutors.com : accessed 5 November 2016).

[3] Richard Berleth, Bloody Mohawk,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Reid, The Mohawk Valley.

[6] Berleth, Bloody Mohawk


[7] Ibid.


[8] James Thornton's Bible

[9] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dorcas Little Thornton (1725-1763), Find A Grave Memorial no. 95382890, citing Wasson Family Cemetery, ; this is a private cemetery on the old farm owned by Thomas Little. Many Wasson's are said to be buried there, but the headstones are degraded and cannot be read.

[10] New York State Historian, New York Colonial Muster Rolls, 1664-1775, Vol 2, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2000) 824.

[11] Thornton book

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[h]

[i] "U.S. Dutch Reformed Church in Selected States, 1639-1989," database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Novemeber 2016) citing Schenectady Baptisms, Vol. 2, Book 42, entry for Dorcas Thoornton.



Monday, March 4, 2019

James Philbrick (1619-1674) Bures St Mary, Suffolk, England to Hampton, New Hampshire




english origins
The Philbrick Family of Hampton, New Hampshire has been traced to their English home in Bures St. Mary, County Suffolk. There they lived in a world of Manor Courts and rolls, a way of life which evolved over hundreds, if not thousands of years. James was born into this life and christened at St Marys on  2 December 1619. [1] At some time after the 1631 christening of a daughter, [2] Thomas Philbrick and his family sailed to New England and a newly invented way of life. 

hampton
After a few brief stops in Massachusetts the Philbrick family settled in the New Hampshire town of Hampton.  James was  a mariner by trade. The waters of coastal New Hampshire were akin to today's highways, bringing exports, especially wood products such as pipe staves and masts for ships, to the larger ports in exchange for English imports of cloth and other goods. In addition to working on the water, James farmed, buying marsh land in 1650 with his brother Thomas Jr. The rich marsh salt grass was cut and used as fodder for cattle.

12 : 10 mo : 1650, James ffilbrooke and Tho: ffilbrooke jr bought of Edward Colcord marsh in Hampton, bounded by Jno Wedgwood, Will: Cole and Willi ffifield, way to landing place.

12 : 10 mo : 1650 Edward Colcord mortgages to James ffilbrick and Tho: ffilbrick jr marsh which was formerly possessed by Walter Roper, adjoining Rob: Page and the beach.

On 12 Feb. 1667/8 James Philbrick of Hampton, mariner, sold to Nathaniel Batcheller of Hampton, five acres of pasture in Hampton, bounded by the highway against land of John Huggins, and Moses Coxe, called the hop land, 6 Feb. 1667. Witnessed by Henry Down, Judith Philbrick. James' wife Anne signed and released her dower. James' brother Thomas had sold to Moses Cox a similar five acres at "ye old hop ground" bounded by the highway, Nathaniel Bacheller and James ffilbrick on 1 Mar. 1663/4. [3] 





























In 1670 he was chosen to run the line between Exeter and Hampton and in 1671 he was granted lot no. 52 of 40 acres in the south of the town called “The new plantation” which became Seabrook.


family
James married Anna Roberts, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca Unknown Roberts of Dover by 1650.  According to Torrey, he had married in 1644 a Jane? Roberts, but nothing more is known about her. [4] Their first child was born July 1651. More children followed and by 1668 they had eight children. [5]

1. James PHILBRICK b: 13 JUL 1651
2. Apphia PHILBRICK b: 19 Mar 1654/55         
3. Esther PHILBRICK b: 1 Mar 1656/57 m. Sylvanus Nock and James Beard
4. Thomas PHILBRICK b: 14 Mar 1658/59
5. Sarah PHILBRICK b: 14 Feb 1660/61 d. young
6. Joseph PHILBRICK b: 1 OCT 1663
7. Elizabeth PHILBRICK b: 24 JUL 1666 (This Elizabeth may have been the Elizabeth PHILBROOK who married Nathaniel BERRY, son of Joseph, on 2 July 1691.

8. Mehitabel PHILBRICK b: 19 JUL 1668 died young

It was once believed that Bethia Philbrick who married Caleb Perkins in 1677 was also a child of James and Anna. [6] The Hampton Lane Memorial Library genealogy site does not include her as a child. Her profile on the genealogy site WikiTree also disputes her parentage and lays out a compelling case for her to be the daughter of Thomas Jr. [7] Thomas and his wife are recorded as being the parents of Bathia Philbrick how was born on 15 December 1654.

death
James died on 16 November 1674, he drowned along with another man in the Hampton River. [6] His widow Anna probated his estate. The following year she married widower William Marston on 5 July 1675. Between them they had 15 children.


sources:
[1] https://www.freereg.org.uk/search_queries/5c742b1d4325a6c1515a04aa?locale=en

[2]https://www.freereg.org.uk/search_records/5a7dbd8cf493fdbb8f6a5380?locale=en&search_id=5c742c104325a6c1515a066f&ucf=false

[3] Old Dover Records

[4] New England Marriages to 1700. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008.) Originally published as: New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015.
https://www.americanancestors.org/DB1568/i/21175/1178/426899539
[5] The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2018.)
https://www.americanancestors.org/DB202/rd/11683/281/241826069

[6] The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2018.)


https://www.americanancestors.org/DB202/i/11683/281/241825813

[7] https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Philbrick-17

[8]Sanborn, George Freeman, Jr., and Sanborn, Melinde Lutz. Vital records of Hampton, New Hampshire : to the end of the year 1900. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1992. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2016)
https://www.americanancestors.org/DB1701/rd/40198/116/1085551776


*Moriarty, G. Andrews, "The English Connections of Thomas Felbrigge or Philbrick of Hampton, N.H.," (NEH&GR, Oct. 1954), v. 108, p. 258

*Noyes/Libby/Davis, "Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire," (1939), p. 545.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Major John Thornton (1753-1819) Schenectady, New York

early life
John Thornton is my 4x great uncle. Born in Schenectady, in the Colony of New York to my great grandfather William Thornton and his first wife Dorcas Little Thornton. Shortly after the families arrival in New York the last of the French and Indian Wars broke out. As they had left their home in Dublin, New Hampshire on account of the Indian troubles, I'm sure they were wondering what they had gotten themselves into. Fort William Henry, made famous by the book and movie, Last of the Mohicans,  was only about 100 or so away from their home.

After the war ended, the Thornton's get on with the business of life. William purchased land in Curriesbush, now called Princetown. John's mother Dorcas died there in 1763. William purchased additional land in 1771. Life seemed to be on track, until a small event called the American Revolution began to pick up steam. At some point before 1773 William and his new wife, Eleanor and their small children, Dorcas and Samuel, returned to New Hampshire to settle in the new town, named by his brother Matthew; Thornton, New Hampshire. Two of his older children returned with them, William and Matthew. Four of his children stayed behind, James, John, Thomas and Mary. 

war years
James, the eldest of the sons to stay in New York was 29 years old in 1773 and married to a wife of Dutch descent. He had a young family. I suspect that he took over William's farm in Curriesbush. Thomas and John were nearing maturity and chose to stay as well. I'm surprised that Mary Thornton, a young lady of 19, also stayed behind. The Thornton's had a large extended family in the area, there were numerous Wasson and Little cousins, perhaps they were well settled and did not want to leave. For whatever the reason, the family split in two. 

The Mohawk Valley saw some of the most brutal fighting during the long eight years of the war. Bands of Tories and their Indian allies swept through the Valley wreaking havoc as they passed. John's oldest brother James served several times with the local militia as did his Wasson cousins. John did not enlist until 1781, two years from the end of the war. He joined the 9 month levies raised by Colonel Marinus Willett. In 1782 he signed on for three years. The war was winding down, but the fighting continued in New York. In 1783, now promoted to Major, John Thornton took command of Fort Stanwix in far western New York. He remained in command until May of 1784. 

The highlight of his career, in my opinion, was the tour of the Mohawk Valley with General George Washington and General Clinton. Major Thornton escorted them from Fort Plain, commanded by his future father-in-law, Lt. Colonel Samuel Clyde, to Cherry Valley and Ostego Lake. Washington was interested in the future of the valley, he saw it had great potential and John was his guide. 

civilian life 
In July of 1784 John traveled to Philadelphia to be officially discharged from the army and to seek payment in arrears. In 1786 he purchased a 100 acre farm in Curriesbush, home to his brother James and his cousins. He married cousin Anna Clyde on 9 March 1789 in the Dutch Reformed church in Fonda, he was 36 years old.  


In 1790 John is listed in the census, living in Schenectady. 1810 he is recorded as living in Schenectady Ward 2. Ann, his widow lived in Schenectady Ward 1 in 1820. It seems in 1800 he lived in Albany and is recorded on the census there. 

John and Anna had five children. 

1. John Clyde Thornton b. 28 July 1793 b. 27 Feb. 1818 age 25 unmarried
2. Adelia b. 28 Aug 1797 d. 1897 age 100,  m. Volney Freeman
3. William Anderson Thornton b. 29 Aug 1802, d. 6 April 1866 Governor's Island, NY.
4. George J. C. Thornton, b. 1810 d. 1825, age 15.
5. Catherine Agnes b. 31 October 1806 d. Unmarried 17 November 1880. 

John Thornton applied for and received a pension for his service in during the American Revolution in 1818. He died the following year. Anna filed to receive his pension and was successful. She died in 1841. John, Ann, their sons John Clyde and George, and daughter Catherine Agnes are all buried together in Vale Cemetery in Schenectady. Their daughter Adelia is buried nearby with her husband and two infant children. I had the pleasure of standing beside their burial place. I have not been able to find a will or probate for John or Ann. 





John is featured in my book BLOOD IN THE VALLEY. The story of his first cousin and  mother-in-law Catherine Wasson Clyde and her family. 



Saturday, February 23, 2019

Joshua Thornton of Uxbridge, Massachusetts and Plymouth, New Hampshire; Fifer in the American Revolution

origins
Joshua Thornton was a young boy from Uxbridge, Massachusetts who joined in the fight against England during the American Revolution at the tender age of eleven. He was a fifer. Uxbridge is near the Rhode Island border so it is possible that he belonged to the Rhode Island Thorntons. He does not appear to be related James Thornton of Londonderry, New Hampshire, although he ended up a neighbor of some of his descendants. He was adopted as a baby by Jonathan Penniman and his wife. 

April 1775
Immediately following the battles of Lexington and Concord, young Joshua Thornton enlisted with a group of Minutemen under Captain Wyman and Colonel Patterson. They marched to Charlestown, where he was present during the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775. His unit did not participate in the fight but were guarding a redoubt between the hill and the river. 

Joshua was part of the Music Levies, the Fife and Drum Corp. The fife is an instrument similar to a piccolo. Fifers were noncombatants and ranged in age from 10 to 18. Along with the regimental drummers the fifers played musical signals to direct soldiers before, during and after battle.  Still, Joshua was just a child, what was his mother thinking!

At the end of eight months Joshua returned home to Uxbridge. He states that in December 1776 or January 1776 he left Massachusetts and settled in Moultonborough, New Hampshire with the Adna Penniman Family. 

March 1777
In March of 1777 Joshua reenlisted, again as a Fifer under Lieutenant Adna Penniman, his brother. He was still very young, only about 13 years of age. His company marched to Fort Ticonderoga in New York. Ticonderoga was soon evacuated in the face of General Burgoyne who was on the march from Canada. Joshua was in Skenesborough on guard duty, protecting vital stores when his company was forced to evacuated to Fort Ann, then Fort Edward and finally Fort Edward.  They were pushed as far as Cohoes Falls before General Gates ordered them into battle against Burgoyne at the Battle of Bemis Hills. 

Valley Forge
Immediately after the Battle of Bemis Heights Joshua's regiment marched to Valley Forge to join General George Washington. He and his fellow soldiers endured a terrible winter under exacting circumstances. During this time he was promoted to Fife Major. 

Sullivan Campaign
The 3rd New Hampshire returned to New York in support of General Sullivans expedition against the Indians of Western New York. Joshua was present at the Battle of Newtown and other skirmishes with the Indians and their Tory allies. In 1780, after three years of battle, Joshua returned home to Moultonsborough. What tales he must have told. The Penniman Family left Moultonsborough and Joshua with them, to settle in Plymouth, New Hampshire where he lived until 1805.

Plymouth
Joshua married in Plymouth on 24 November 1790, Hannah Nevins. They had four children, including two sons; Adna and William. She died in 1828 in Lyman. Joshua remarried a much younger Sarah Converse in 1830. She was 36, he was 66.  He was very successful, served as Justice of the Peace, Selectman and other civic positions. 

Pension
Following an act of Congress, men who could prove they fought during the American Revolution were awarded a pension. Joshua, applied on 14 August 1832, now an old man, 68, living in Lyman, New Hampshire with his wife Sarah Converse Thornton. For his service he was awarded $88.00 per year. 

Death
Sarah continued to draw a pension after Joshua's death in 1843. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

William Smith Bryan: A lesson in Fantastic 17th Century English/Irish Genealogy Sources

Sir Francis Bryan by Hans Holbien
I have been researching a man named William Smith Bryan, supposedly born in 1599 in Ireland who was deported by Cromwell in the mid-1600s during the Irish Rebellion. He is said to have been dropped off on the coast of Virginia with his family, belongings and the first horses in Virginia. His death is reported as sometime in 1667. Along the way I have been introduced to some 'new to me' sources for researching this period of time in England and Ireland. I thought I'd share them with you.

William Smith Bryan, (WSB) to be the son of Sir Francis Bryan #2, supposed son of the Sir Francis Bryan (1490-1550) English courtier and diplomat whose second wife was Joan Fitzgerald, widow and Irish heiress. They married in 1548 and he died under mysterious circumstances two years later. There is said to be little love lost between the pair whose marriage was one of strategic politics and had little to do with affairs of the heart. 

Houses of Parliament Online [1]
The William Smith Bryan ancestry claims that his father was a son of Sir Francis Bryan and possibly Joan Fitzgerald. Sir Francis Bryan married twice, his first wife was Penelope, daughter of Humphrey Spice. She died apparently childless sometime before Francis' marriage to Joan. According to his biography on the History of Parliament Online, Sir Francis Bryan was succeeded only by an unnamed illegitimate child. So here is our first great source on 17th century, and more important English personages. Here is their blurb about themselves:
This site contains all of the biographical, constituency and introductory survey articles published in The History of Parliament series. Work is still underway on checking and cleaning the data that has been transferred into the website from a number of sources, and the current version of the site is still provisional. In order to find out more about the articles produced by the History, click on the links in the 'Research' section above. Additional material - explanatory articles, and images of Members, Parliaments and elections - have been produced specially for the website, and can be found through the 'Explore' and 'Gallery' sections above. For more information on the History, see the About us section, follow us on Facebook and Twitter or read the HistoryOfParliament, Director and VictorianCommons blogs.
The History of Parliament online version is not yet finished, it covers members of Parliament from the year 1386 until modern times. The bios are brief but chock full of information.

What does this source tell us about Sir Francis Bryan #1 and his possible relationship to the father of Sir Francis Bryan of Ireland? Not much, it confirms that Sir Francis had a son, but he was illegitimate and unnamed.

Old Journal articles: Unpublished Geraldine Documents: The Earls of Desmond [2][3]
This is a small book, published in the 1800s, comprised of letters and other documents related to the Desmond Family. Included in this manuscript is a transcribed letter from Sir John Allen, Lord Chancellor to Ireland, to his brother, Thomas Allen. He sent instructions concerning the widow Joan Fitzgerald to the English Government. The letter describes a deathbed conversation between himself and Sir Francis Bryan. He claims Sir Francis said, "when he bade me farewell, he desired me to have him commended to all his friends in England, and especially he said to My Lord Privy Seal (Lord Cromwell), my Lord of Warwick and Mr. Herbert, and pray them to be good to my son, the poor boy, which my charge I commit to you to do, if you can attend to their presence to declare it." 

It seems clear that Sir Francis had a son. However, the need to recommend him to English nobles seems to confirm that he was not a legitimate son as he would inherit the estates of Sir Francis. To my mind this reads like the son would need the patronage of important men to help his career as his social standing based on birth was limited. 

Books in other languages: Odet de Selve [4]
Odet de Selve was a French politician/statesman who served in England 1546-1549 as Ambassador. he kept a journal which has been published. It is, of course, written in French. Thank goodness for Google Translator,  He wrote in September 1548:
Stratham, September 16th. - Selve received three days ago the dispatch that the admiral sent to him by the son of Sir Francis Bryan, who arrived safe and sound with and except with one of the people of Selve in London, from where he departed to go find his father. Earl of Bryant has for a short time been marrying an Irish citizen named the Comtesse de Ouarmont and is going to Ireland to party to see the good of his wife, but chiefly as I am sorry for the affairs of this king. 
Lesson learned, never overlook books in other languages! What this particular books tells us is that Sir Francis appears to have had a grown son, unnamed by Odet in 1548. He would likely to have been at least 21, so he could not have been a son of Joan Fitzgerald.

Wills, Probates, IPM [5][6]
Wills, probate records, and IPMs, (Inquisition Post Mortem) can add a lot to the genealogical record. The only problem with most of these 17th century wills is that they are either written in latin or if written in English they can be very difficult to read. No will has been found for Sir Francis Bryan and the disbursement of his land is unknown. I have seen mention made of Joan's will but have not seen the actual document or a transcription. This is a shame as it might have settle this dispute immediately or perhaps it would never had occurred in the first place. The one will I could find was for Margaret Brian, the mother of Sir Francis Bryan.

This will is written in English, but 17th century script is difficult to decipher, it's fun to try though, like putting a puzzle together. Margaret outlived all her children. She does not mention any grandchildren, not even a poor son of Francis.

A Wee bit O' Irish History
According to the story of WSB his father was Sir Francis Bryan #2. I have been unable to find any proof that this man was the son of Sir Francis #1, but that doesn't mean that he didn't exist. Let's look a litter closer at his story. According to his profile on both Wikitree and Geni, he was born in 1549 in County Clare in Ireland. Both websites agree he died in County Clare in 1640. Before I go on I have to same something about all these dates for births and deaths in the Bryan family. Did you notice, as I did, that everyone is born and dies on the 1st of June? This is a bright red flag that tells me someone is 'making this shit up', pardon my French.

Anyway, back to County Clare. Sir Francis #1 lived with his reluctant wife in Clonmel in Tipperary in the Province of Munster, a seat of power of the Earls of Ormond. Joan Fitzgerald's first husband was James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond and her son Piers was his heir. After the death of Sir Francis, Joan married her powerful cousin, Gerald Fitzgerald, the 15th Earl of Desmond. The Desmond family also controlled a huge swath of Munster. Joan's father was the 10th Earl of Desmond. Joan's life was firmly planted int the Desmond/Ormond lands of her father and her son.

County Clare, despite it's Norman name, was part of the Kingdom of Thomond and home to the powerful Irish family the O'Briens.  No child of Sir Francis Bryan #1 would have been born in County Clare. He would not have inherited land in County Clare as his mother would not have inherited land in what was if not enemy territory certainly adversarial.

Knighthood [7]
According to his bio Francis father of WSB was a knight. This claim should be pretty easy to sort out. I reference a set of book called The knights of England : a complete record from the earliest time to the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of knights bachelors, and guess what, there is no Sir Francis Bryan other than Sir Francis Bryan #1.

Land Owners of County Clare [8] [9]
From the story of WSB we are told that he was a land holder in County Clare. He married Catherine Morgan and had a large family at the time of Cromwell's invasion in 1641. County Clare has an amazing library which has a significant amount of content available online. One of the database which is searchable is the Book of Forfeitures and Distributions. Here is an explanation of this database:
The Books of Survey and Distribution were compiled by the English government at the end of the 17th century to establish a reliable record of landowners in Ireland for the purpose of imposing rent (the Quit Rent). The Books incorporate information collected during earlier surveys – the Strafford, Civil and Down Surveys – detailing the names of proprietors who forfeited their land under the Cromwellian Settlement of 1641 and the amount and quality of land they held. The names of those to whom this land was granted, under various Acts between 1662 and 1703, is also given. 
Guess whose name is not found on this survey of land owners whose lands were confiscated by Cromwell. There is no Sir Francis Bryan and there is no William Smith Bryan or just plain William Bryan. If WSB held extensive land in County Clare in 1641 his name would be on this survey.

There is also a book called The Irish And Anglo-Irish Landed Gentry, When Cromwell Came to Ireland: Or, a Supplement to Irish Pedigrees. Surely if WSB held land in Ireland which he lost when Cromwell busted him to Virginia, his name would appear somewhere in the 792 pages of this books, alas he is not to be found.

No WSB can be found on The Down Survey for Ireland., nor is he mentioned in the 1641 Depositions. 

Reclaiming forfeited land [10]
Francis Bryan, son of WSB returned to Ireland to reclaim his fathers hereditary titles and lands. So far we have seen no such land but there are books and data on those who did make a claim to recover their confiscated estates. There is a book aptly named Lists of the Claims as they are Entered With the Trustees at Chichester House on College Green Dublin On or Before the 10th of August 1700. This is a list of over 3100 claimants to lost land. There is no William Smith or Francis Bryan on this list.

What's the big deal with Denmark?
WSB married Catherine Morgan in Denmark. Why? What was he doing in Denmark, what was she doing in Denmark? This is so weird.

Francis Bryan #3, son of WSB goes to Ireland to reclaim his father's land. Somehow he ends up in Denmark where he marries Sarah Brinker. FB#3 dies in Belfast? Does no one else think this is crazy?
I think the Denmark references are an attempt to make a connection to Morgan Bryan whose grandfather was Danish as per his son's American Revolution Pension Application.

WSB in Virginia
So, WSB is sent by Cromwell to Virginia. The Prince of Ireland is dropped off and that's it. No record of this man in Virginia exists. Why? I believe it's because he did not exist in the first place.


Sources:

[1] Houses of Parliament Online

[2] Daniel MacCarthy, "Unpublished Geraldine Documents", The Journal of the Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1869), pp. 499-559, 570, 1-2 (86 pages).

[3]  Hans C. Hamilton, editor, Calendar of the State Papers Relating to Ireland, of the Reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, and Elisabeth: Preserved in the Public Department of Her Majesty's Public Record Office. 1509 - 1573, Volume 1, (London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1860) 106.

[4] Odet de Selve, Correspondance politique de Odet de Selve, ambassadeur de France en Angleterre (1546-1549) (Paris: F. Alcan, 1888).

[5] London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London, England; Reference Number: MS 9172/2A; Will Number: 49

[6] John Kennedy,  A History of the Parish of Leyton, Essex, (London: Phelp Brothers, 1894) p.344; transcription of her will.

[7] William Arthur Shaw, George Dames Burtchaell, The knights of England : a complete record from the earliest time to the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of knights bachelors, Vol 2, (London, 1906).

[8] James Frost, The History and Topography of County Clare, (Dublin: Sealy, Byers and Walker, 1893.

[9] John O'Hart, The Irish And Anglo-Irish Landed Gentry, When Cromwell Came to Ireland: Or, a Supplement to Irish Pedigrees,(Dublin: James Duffy, 1892).

[10] Great Britain. Trustees for the Sale of the Forfeited Estates in Ireland, Patrick Campbell, and Joseph Ray. A List of the Claims As They Are Entred With the Trustees: At Chichester-House On College-Green Dublin, On Or Before the Tenth of August, 1700. Dublin:: Printed by Joseph Ray, and are to be sold by, 1701.