Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury, Massachusetts

I started writing this blog a little over two years ago. It began as a way for me to record my family history for a small circle of my own family.  Since I began, I have been surprised by the number of people who have read my blog, over 88,000 and counting.  I get frequent comments from readers, mostly positive, thank goodness, but I have had the occasional negative comments as well. One thing that I have come to realize is that to defend my writing against those who disagree with my content, I need to do a much, much better job of annotating my findings. With that in mind, I have decided to rewrite almost all my blog postings and include a bibliography.  So to all you folks who having been dying for my next installment of the Munning family, (VBG) I'm afraid you will have to waiting until I get this mess cleaned up.

My first blog article was about my ancestor Mary Perkins Bradbury who lived in Salisbury, Massachusetts. In 1692, after being accused of being a witch, she narrowly escaped with her life during the Salem Witch Trials. I decided to begin this rewriting of my blog with her husband, Thomas Bradbury of Wicken Bonnet, England and Salisbury, Massachusetts.  So, here goes.....

english origins
Thomas Bradbury of York, Maine and Salisbury, Massachusetts was identified as early as 1869 as the Thomas Bradbury who was baptized at Wicken Bonhunt, Essex, England on 28 Feb. 1611. (1) Although there are no documents that tie Thomas the Colonist to the Bradbury family of Wicken Bonhunt, there are multiple factors that make this identification possible.

Thomas Bradbury traveled without any apparent family member to New England by 1635 and his May 1636 marriage to Mary Perkins, implies that he had reached his majority by that time, making him the right age.(2) Thomas Bradbury of Wicken Bonhunt was the son of Wymond and Elizabeth Whitgift. (3)  The first child, a son, of Thomas and Mary was also given the highly unusual name of Wymond.(4) Each of their subsequent children share the name of a family member of either Thomas or Mary.

A third argument for Thomas’ identity is his relationship to his employee, Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Robert Charles Anderson and John B. Threlfall, both noted genealogists, believe that Thomas and Sir Ferdinando Gorges were second cousins, three times removed through marriage. Gorges’ first wife was Ann Bell, the daughter of Margaret  Barley who was the daughter of Phillipa Bradbury and John Barley. Ann Bell Gorges’ brother, Edward, was well known to Wymond Bradbury.(5) Anderson and Threfell do not believe that Margaret Bell, the wife of William Whitgift and possibly Elizabeth’s mother, was the sister of Ann Bell, but rather it seems, her mother. All very confusing! John Threlfall writes that Margaret Bell, whatever her identity, was probably a second wife and therefore not the mother of all of William’s children. A third Bradbury Family researcher, Marshall K. Kirk, believed that Margaret Bell might have been a sister of Sir Robert Bell of Norfolk, he points out that the Visitation of Essex calls her Margaret, daughter of Unknown Bell of Norfolk. (6 )

wicken bonhunt
Wicken Bonhunt, also know as Wicken Bonnant, is a small village to the south of Saffron Walden, bordering the villages of Newport and Claverings.  In Saxon times it was two separate manors, Wicken and Bonhunt, but it was combined into a single unit in Elizabethan times for tax purposes.(7) The Manor of Wicken was purchased in 1557 by Matthew Bradbury, Thomas’ great-grandfather and would become the family seat for several generations.

The parish church of Wicken Bonhunt is St. Margaret’s, but the village is also home to the Chapel of St. Helen, a 10th century building that  one of the oldest surviving buildings in the east of England. The chapel would have been over 500 years old when Thomas was born. The family also made use of the parish church in the nearby village of Newport Pond; Thomas’ siblings William and Anne were both baptized there.  

The Chapel of St. Helen on Bonhunt Farm
© Copyright Robert Edwards and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

About 1600 William Bradbury built a house on his property for his son Wymond, it was and is called The Brick House. On 24 June 1605, Wymond married, in London, at St. Michael’s church on Crooked Lane, the twice widowed Elizabeth Whitgift Cole Gill. Wymond’s brother Matthew was married to Jane Whitgift, her sister.

The Whitgift girls have an interesting ancestry which has been traced to Whitgift, Yorkshire, England. Elizabeth’s ancestor John Whitgift, Gentleman, is said to have established his sons in various careers.  His son Henry, Elizabeth’s grandfather, became a wealthy merchant in Great Grimsby, Yorkshire. Another son, Robert, found a career in the church and was the last abbot of the monastery of Wellow in Yorkshire which was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1536. (8) Henry Whitgift married Ann Dynewell and had sons John, William, George, Phillip, Richard and Jeffery.(9)  

John Whitgift 
Henry’s eldest son John is said to have begun his education at Wellow Abbey and later attended Cambridge University. Like his Uncle William he chose a career in the church, not the Catholic Church of his uncle but the newly formed Protestant Church of England. He became an ordained minister and would rise through the ranks, eventually becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1583. As Archbishop he would be the confessor to Queen Elizabeth I and was at her bedside when she died.  He also crowned her successor King James I.  John Whitgift never married and he shared the wealth he accumulated with his family, including Elizabeth Whitgift.

children of Wymond and Elizabeth
Wymond and Elizabeth had at least four children who were named on her tomb, they were:

1. Jane b. 1606 believed to have died in childhood(10)
2.William b. 1607 m. Mary Rogers, d. prior to 1650 (11)
3. Anne b. 1608/9 m. 1. Nicholas Troughton and 2. ____Stubbs, she was the executor of her father’s estate in 1651(12)
4. Thomas b. 1610 m. Mary Perkins, d. 1694/5 Salisbury, Massachusetts

thomas bradbury in england
Nothing much seems to be known about Thomas’ life prior to his emigration to New England. We do know that his mother died when he was quite a young child.  There is no indication that his father remarried, but that doesn’t rule it out.  His parents married in London and his father was living in London when he died, so it is entirely possible that Thomas too lived in London. It is also not known how or when Thomas met and became employed by Sir Ferdinando Gorges.

Gorges' signature
Gorges was a career soldier who was knighted for his service at the Siege of Rouen in 1591. He was the Governor of the Fort at Plymouth for many years. In 1606 King James I founded the Plymouth Company with the intent of establishing settlements in New England, Gorges became a shareholder in the company.   In 1622 he and John Mason were given an enormous land grant which they split between them.  Gorges’ half became the state of Maine.  Sir Ferdinando Gorges never traveled to New England but employed several men to act there as his agents. Thomas Bradbury was one of those men.

in america
Sir Ferdinando Gorges’ interest in New England seems to have been for financial gain and not religious fervor. Was that the same for Thomas? The first evidence of Thomas in York, Maine is a deed he wrote on 5 May 1636.(13) It is not known when or where he met Mary Perkins or when or where they married but, their first child was born 1 April 1637, so they were at least married by mid 1636.(13) It is probable that at least the first two of their children were born in York, Maine. By 1640 he was living in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the newly founded plantation of Salisbury.

On 13 May 1640, Thomas swore an oath and became a freeman of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (14) In order to become a freeman, Thomas had to have been a member of the church. It would be interesting to know if he had previously been of the puritan persuasion, had he come to believe it or did he just recognize the need to belong to the church in order to get ahead. It is interesting to note that his Great Uncle, the Archbishop of Canterbury despised Puritans. In any event Thomas immediately became a  very active and important man in Salisbury and the Colony itself.  He was the town clerk and recorded some of their earliest documents.  He was a school teacher, soldier, justice of the peace, juryman, judge and county recorder.(15) He was known as Mr. Bradbury in deference to his status. In fact he seems to have been the ideal immigrant.

children of thomas and sarah

 1. Wymond b. 1 April 1637 prob. in York, Maine(16), m. 7 May 1661 Sarah Pike d/o Robert 
Pike, he   d. 7 April 1669 on the Island of Nevis, age 32.
 2. Judith b. 2 Oct 1638 prob. in York, Maine, m. 9 Nov 1665 Caleb Moody
 3. Thomas b. 20 Jan 1640/41 Salisbury, d. unmarried
 4. Mary b. 17 March 1642/43 Salisbury, m. 15 Dec 1663 John Stanyan of Hampton

 5. Jane b. 11 May 1645 Salisbury, m. 16 March 1667/68 Henry True in Hampton

 6. Jacob b. 17 June 1647 Salisbury, d. 1669 in Barbados age 22
 7. William b. 15 Sep 1649 Salisbury, m. 12 March 1671/72 Rebecca Wheelwright Maverick in  
 8. Elizabeth b. 7 Nov 1651 Salisbury, m. 12 May 1673 Rev. John Buss
 9. John b. 20 April 1654 Salisbury, d. unmarried 24 Nov 1678 age 24
10. Anne b. 16 April 1656 Salisbury, d. 1659 age 3
11. Jabez b. 27 June 1658 Salisbury, d. 28 April 1677 Salisbury age 19

As successful as Thomas and Mary were, they could not protect their children from the ravages of early death. Of their 11 children, six died by the time they were 32.  Two son died on islands in the Caribbean in the same year. Although this was not unusual for the time, it must have been extremely difficult to bear.

Unlike some of their children Thomas and Mary both lived to a great old age. Thomas died first on 16 March 1694/5 at the age of 85.  Mary outlived him by five years and died on 20 Dec. 1700, she too was 85 years old at her death.

I deliberately left out Mary's ordeal during the Salem Witch Trials as she is the subject of my first blog article, which I will like to once I have rewritten it. 

If you think I have anything wrong here, please let me know, in a nice way! Thank you for reading and please do not copy this article.

(1) Bradbury, John M. Esq, "The Whitgift Bradbury Family", The New England Historical and Genealogical Register,  Vol. 23, 1869, p. 263.

(2)  ibid
Robert Charles Anderson and John B. Threlfall in their article, Ancestor Table for Thomas Bradbury, state that Thomas and Mary Perkins were married about 1636.  
(3) ibid

(4) Anderson, Robert Charles and Threfall, James B. “Ancestor Table for Thomas Bradbury of Agamenticus and Salisbury (1611-1695)”, The American Genealogist, Vol. 55, January 1979, p.2

(5) ibid, p. 3.

(6) Kirk, Marshall K. “A Probable Royal Descent for Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury, Massachusetts”, The New England Historic and Genealogical Register, Vol 161, 2007, p. 27-36

(7) "Local History of Wicken Bonhunt Village in Essex." Local History of Wicken Bonhunt Village in Essex. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.

(8) Rivington, J. G. and Rivington, F., Ecclesiastical Biography: Or lives of Eminent Men, Connected with the History of Religion in England from the commencement of the Reformation to the Revolution, Vol. 3, 1836, p.553

(9) Ibid

(10) Threlfall, John Brooks. The Ancestry of Thomas Bradbury (1611-1695) and His Wife Mary (Perkins) Bradbury (1615-1700) of Salisbury, Massachusetts. Madison, WI: J.B. Threlfall, 1988. Print.

(11) Ibid (there are no page numbers in this book)

(12) Ibid

(13) ibid

(14) Anderson, Robert Charles, George Freeman Sanborn, and Melinde Lutz. Sanborn. The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999. Print. Vol 1, A-B, p. 375-381

(15) Hoyt, David Webster. The Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts: With Some Related Families of Newbury, Haverhill, Ipswich, and Hampton, and of York County, Maine. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub., 1982. Print.p.70-72

(16) Ibid 14, Anderson says that on 13 May 1637 Thomas Bradbury and William Hooke wrote to Governor John Winthrop asking for a Minister for York, Maine.


Learn how to cite your sources like a professional with Elizabeth Shown Mills Stripped Bare Guide to Citing Sources available at by clicking the link. 



Unknown said...

Hi there

I would love to get in touch with the author of the above blog relating to Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury Mass. (Feb, 2014)

My name is John Bradbury (aged 48) currently living in London.
I am the great grandson of Lord Bradbury, born John Swanwick Bradbury, who was presented with a book on the American branch of our family in the 1930’s by a descendant of the aforementioned Thomas Bradbury who emigrated to Mass.
We have only recently begun exploring the family’s older history in more depth. So it would be great to be able to connect with Bradburys in the US. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Hi there,
I'm a descendant of Thomas Bradbury, I'd love to see your book; come through Judith m. Caleb Moody. I am not the author but I'd love to be in contact with my English cousins.


Unknown said...

To the author
I think you have a "typo" you have Judith Bradbury as the d/o of Thomas and Sarah. She is the d/o of Thomas and Mary.

Also, have you written your blog about Mary?


Unknown said...

Seems we are distant relatives. On DNA shows I am related to Mary (Perkins) Bradbury - I am glad to have found your page! Bryony Smith, Amherst, MA (

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on Bradburys.
I've been well aware of the history as we had The Bradbury Memorial Book at our house,after being given to my father from Harvard, when they acquired new copies. And he told us about the history when we were kids.( I bought one from Wal-Mart a few years ago!)I did get some new insight into the family tree.from your article, thank you.
I visited the Brick House,St. Margaret's Church Wicken Bonant,St Helens Church, 1991 and 1997.Got to see the interior of Brick House,(the coat of arms over the door)Wicken, and St
Margaret's. Yes the stone font is there from Norman times.
Thank you so much for taking the time to sort this out. Hope you get there soon

Scott Bradbury said...

Hello Scott Bradbury here.
Thank you for putting out this info,and filling in some blanks.
My father had The Bradbury Memorial book that he got from Harvard Library when they got new copies and he made sure we knew the history.I visited The Brick House(coat of arms over the front door)St. Margaret's Church( Norman font still there)
Wicken Bonant,St Helen's Church in 1991 and 1997. Viewed the interiors except for St.Helen's.
Hope you can get there soon. I was able to get copies of The Bradbury Memorial from Wal-Mart!
Thank you for all your illuminating information.

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