Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Percival Levett of York, England; Was he the father of John Leavitt of Hingham, Massachusetts?

Every good genealogist begins their research with a research question. This helps tighten the search and avoid distractions from interesting information that leads one astray. You know how it goes, you sit down to research your great grandfather in Maine and the next thing you know your looking at stuff on your Great Great Grandmother in Bolivia. At the end of the day you have reams of paperwork on a dozen people and your really haven't advanced your genealogy. I am going to try to craft a question every time I fire up this blog and really try to stick to it, I'm sure I'll still have my moments when I go 'offroading' but I hope this will improve my research. So here's my question of the day: Who were the parents of John Leavitt, 1635 immigrant to Hingham, MA.

the internet knows
St. Michael Le Belfrey by Philip Halling
I know, I know, all I have to do is google John Leavitt, and I will have any number of websites, from ancestry to wikitree and everything in between, tell me that the parents of John Leavitt were Percival Leavitt and his wife Margaret Linkley of York, Yorkshire, England. That was easy, but now lets take a closer look at the sources (proof) on which we can make this claim. Remember, genealogy without proof is called fiction. Sometimes I feel like that lady from the hamburger ad, "Where's the Proof"! Neither the Wikitree profile nor the werelate profile for Percival and John Leavitt offer anything that looks like proof.

what does anderson say
Since John Leavitt immigrated about 1634, my go to guy is Robert Charles Anderson and his Great Migration Series. John Leavitt's profile offers no clues as to his origins. Anderson tells us that his year of birth is estimated at 1612 based only on an age of at least 21, when he married in New England. Of course he may have been older than that but we don't know. A search of  the databases on American Ancestors give an ancestry for Percival, but do not name a wife or any children, it only says that he had nine.

hitting to books  
The first book I looked at was The Leavitt Family Book, vol. 1, by Emily Leavitt Noyes, first published in 1941. She says in her book that she believes that John of Hingham was the son of Percival Leavitt and his unknown wife. She also says although she believes it, there is absolutely no proof.  She gives a list of the children of Percival beginning with John, b. 1608. then goes on to say the birth year of John of Hingham is the same as the John in England. Below is a comparison of Noyes findings and mine. Boy are they different!
I could not find a single name and date that matched. Where did she get her birth dates from?

(1625) bp. 27 Dec 1625 St. Helen’s
(1628) bp. 27 April 1628 St. Helens
(1616) bp. 29 Nov 1616 All Saints Pavement
(1631) bp. 12 July 1631 St. Michael Le Belfry
(1649) bp. 15 Feb 1649 St. Michael Le Belfry
(1614) bp. 27  Sep. 1614 All Saints Pavement
(1624) bp. 1624 St. Helens
(1634) bp. 29 March 1634 St. Michael Le Belfry
(1630) bp.  11 June 1630 St. Michael Le Belfry
(1640) bp. 4 April 1640 St. Michael Le Belfry

why I think I'm right
Photo by Euan Nelson, The Merchant Adventurers Guildhall
Percival Levett became a Freeman of the City of York in 1611 by patrimony, which means by birthright. He was a son of the city of York. A man became a Freeman of the city at the age of 21 in order to become a member of a guild. You needed to become a member of a guild to ply your trade. The Levetts were Merchants. Percival could not work as a merchant until he was a guild member. His older brother, Christopher became a Freeman when he was 21. It is logical to assume that Percival was also 21 when he became a freeman.

A few years after becoming a freeman, Christopher Levett, who was born in 1586, married and began his family. Men did not marry until they had a trade and could provide for their family. Applying this same logic to Percival, who was younger than Christoper, their father's heir, he became a freeman in 1611 and then got married and then his first child was born in 1614. This timeline would make perfect sense. He gets his freemanship, begins working as a merchant, marries and starts his family. I do not see how he could marry and have children prior to 1611.

what's in a name
The Levett's seem to reuse family names. We know that Percival had siblings named William, Grace and Mary as did the Percival in my list. Noyes Levett family does not have any of these names. Noyes makes apoint of saying that many of the English family names are carried over in the American Levetts, including the names Jeremiah and Timothy. These two male names were the sons of Christopher Levett, brother of Percival. John of Hingham had the following children: John, Hannah, Samuel, Elizabeth, Jeremiah, Israel, Moses, Josiah, Nehemiah, Sarah, Mary, Hannah, Abigail. Where is Grace, Martha, Benjamin, or Joseph. How about a Percival. John of Hingham's children's names look more like a list of biblical names than family names.

two sons named John:
While it is not out of the question that Percival would  have two sons with the same name, it was an unusual practice. I know Percival had a son John baptized in 1625. Would he have two sons named John?
medieval street in York, Eric Voller

another thing about Percival
Records show that Percival was married at least twice. In 1648 he was made administrator of his wife, Jane__Wade Levett's deceased husband, Christopher Wade. She was most likely the mother of Samuel b. 1649.

I have seen on several websites information that Percival died in Hingham, Massachusetts. However, Mr. Percival Levett was buried on 16 September 1654 in St. Michael Le Belfry, York, along way from Hingham.

back to the question
So, back to my original question: who was the father of John Leavitt of Hingham, Massachusetts. My answer: I don't know.

Francis Collins, The Registers of St. Michael le Belfry, York, Part 1 1565-1653, (Leeds: Knight and Forster, 1899), digital images, Archive ( : accessed 31 December 2015).

Francis Collins, Register of the Freeman of the City of York 1272-1759, (Durham: Andrews and Co., 1900), digital images, Archive ( : accessed 31 December 2015).

Edward  Bulmer, The Parish Records of St. Martin cum Gregory, York, (York: DeLittle and Sons, 1897), digital images, Archive ( : accessed 31 December 2015).

"England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, Family Search ( : accessed 31 December 2015), John Levitt, 27 December 1625, citing York, Yorkshire, England, reference - 2:2GZGNPQ; FHL microfilm 1,068,431.

Emily Leavitt Noyes, Leavitt, Descendants of John the Immigrant Through His Son Moses, (Concord, New Hampshire: Evans Printing Co., 1941), digital images, Archive ( : accessed 31 December 2015).

"Sheriff of York," Geni ( of york/4815 : accessed 31 December 2015), 1597, Percival Levett.

 "53: Thomas Leavitt of New England," Lincolnshire Notes & Queries, Vol 3, (1 January 1904 to 1 October 1905), 245, digital image, Google Play ( : accessed 31 December 2015).

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