Sunday, September 25, 2016

Samuel Thornton of Abbeville, South Carolina; Who Was He? Was he the brother of Matthew Thornton of Londonderry, NH?

If the Thornton Project at FamilyTreeDNA is an accurate  reflection of the Thornton men who immigrated to North America then there are two large groups of  related descendants. The largest by far are the Virginia descendants of William and Luke Thornton. The next largest group seems to be the Thorntons of Rhode Island. Many of the other Thorntons have no match; my father's YDNA has one match.

My father was a descendant of the Thorntons who immigrated from the North of Ireland to New England in about 1720. They first established themselves in Maine, but were forced out by the Native Americans. They moved on to Worcester, Mass before settling in New Hampshire. His ancestors were James Thornton and his son William who died in Thornton, NH in 1790. The YDNA match was from a man who descended from Samuel Thornton who died in 1797 in Abbeville, South Carolina. So who was Samuel Thornton of Abbeville?

the simonton family of conestoga manor
Theophilus Simonton, believed to have immigrated from Ireland, purchased land in what was called the Conestoga Manor in Lancaster County, PA. Sometime around 1754 brothers William and Robert Simonton, sons of Theophilus, bought land in what was then Anson County, North Carolina. [1] Samuel Thornton purchased his land grant on 7 May 1757. He was married to Theophilus' daughter Mary Simonton. There is no record of their marriage so we cannot be sure where this marriage took place, in Pennsylvania or in North Carolina.

The map above shows the location of the Samuel Thornton land. It's interesting to note that his closest neighbors were Wassons. The Thornton family of Londonderry had close family ties with a Wasson family as well.

who was samuel?
Some folks claim that Samuel was the brother of Matthew Thornton who signed the Declaration of Independence. Another thought is that he was the son of Robert Thornton of West Bradford, Chester, PA. Robert did have a son named Samuel. He also had a daughter Hannah Thornton Freeman who is said have immigrated with her husband John to Cane Creek, North Carolina. Thornton/Freeman families were Quakers and they belonged to the first Quaker church in North Carolina. I do not think that Samuel of Abbeville is the Samuel son of Robert in this family for two reasons. First Samuel Thornton of Abbeville was a Presbyterian and was one of the founders of the Forth Creek Church in Anson/Rowan/Irdell County North Carolina. The other problem is that Samuel Thornton was still on the tax rolls for West Bradford, Chester, PA in 1789.

was samuel the brother of matthew?
If Samuel was the brother of both Matthew Thornton and my ancestor William Thornton, then the common ancestor between my father and the matching YDNA kit would have to be their father James Thornton. James would be my father's fourth great grandfather. Below is the chart showing the probability of our common ancestor.

I am only a novice when it comes to deciphering DNA results, but to me it seems that our common ancestor is more likely further up the chain. What we need is more Thornton descendants to take a DNA test to solidify the results. With only two tests it's simply not possible to tell. So, that being said, Hey all you Thornton males, get tested!

related story: The Mysterious Samuel Thornton

[1] North Carolina, Land Grant Files, 1693-1960, database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 25 September 2016), Anson County, Robert Simonton, 20 February 1754.

Friday, September 16, 2016

John Partridge of Navestock, Essex; not the ancestor of John Partridge of Medfield or William Partridge of Salisbury

Many people believe that John Partridge who immigrated from England and lived in Medfield, Massachusetts was the son of John and Jane (Hogg) Partridge of Navestock, Essex, England. This is not correct. The origins of John of Medfield and his siblings is unknown.

The idea that these were the same men comes from the Visitation of Essex which had the family tree of Bartholomew Partridge and includes his son John who married Jane Hogg. [1] The visitation shows that Captain John Partridge had four children: John (age 14 in 1634), William, Jane and Margaret.

There is a marriage recorded in the parish of St. Gregory by St. Paul in London. [2] Jane Hogg and John Partridge were married on 11 May 1619. This is quite likely the marriage of John. In the visitation John and Jane Partridge are said to have four living children: John, William, Jane and Margaret. In the Navestock parish register there are baptismal records that would correspond to Jane and William. [3] There is also a burial record for William Partridge son of John on 12 September 1636.

On 1 Oct 1652 John Partridge of Navestock wrote his will. He made his son John and his wife Jane his executors. He left bequeaths to his daughter Margaret, married to Unknown Hudson and to the children of his daughter Jane, who had married John Lake, it would seem that she was dead. The will was probated in 1663 by his wife Jane. [4]

Jane wrote her will in 1666. She named her Lake grandchildren, Thomas and Jane, her Hudson (Hutchin) grandson Robert. He daughter Margaret Hudson, her daughter Ann Partridge (wife of her son John) and her Partridge grandson John. [5] The bulk of the estate went to Ann Partridge, as her grandson John was still under the age of 21.

In the church of St. Thomas the Apostle in Navestock, Essex is a memorial stone for several men named John Partridge. The stone reads: John Partridge, Gentleman died 24 March 1653 age 34. John Partridge the son died 18 December 1671 age 23. These are the son and grandson of Jane Hogg Partridge. Another stone is for John Partridge Gentleman heir to John Partridge Citizen and Cutler of London who died 25 October 1683. These are the son and grandson of Gabriel Partridge who was the brother of John Partridge of Navestock.

Clearly the children of John and Jane Hogg Partridge are not the Partridge siblings who settled in Medfield Massachusetts.


[1] Walter Charles Metcalf, The Visitations of Essex by Hawley, 1552; Hervey, 1558; Cooke, 1570; Raven, 1612; and Owen and Lilly, 1634. To which are Added Miscellaneous Essex Pedigrees from Various Harleian Manuscripts: And an Appendix Containing Berry's Essex Pedigrees, Part 1, (London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1878) 465, digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 14 September 2016).

[2] "England Marriages, 1538–1973 ," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 December 2014), John Partridge and Jane Hogge, 11 May 1619; citing Saint Gregory By Saint Paul, London,England, reference ; FHL microfilm 375,028.

[3] Navestock Parish Register, St. Thomas the Apostle, database, FreeReg2 ( : accessed 15 September 2016) Jane Partrech baptized 24 Oct 1622, daughter of John Partrech.

[4]"London, England, Wills and Probate, 1507-1858," digital images, ( : accessed 16 September 2016) John Partridge, Essex, 1663, citing London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London, England; Reference Number: DCP/K/C/06/MS 25628/3; Will Number: 14.

[5] "London, England, Wills and Probate, 1507-1858," digital images, ( accessed 16 September 2016) Jane Partridge, Essex, 1666, citing London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London, England; Reference Number: DCP/K/C/06/MS 25628/7; Will Number: 19.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hugh and Mary Parsons; Witches of Springfield

My book on Hugh and Mary
Most people are familiar with the Salem Witches of 1692. Many books and articles have been written about them. Plays and movies have made about these unfortunate souls and whole websites devoted to their stories. But there were many other early New Englanders who suffered the same fate. This is a brief story of Hugh and Mary Parsons of Springfield who were accused of Witchcraft in 1650. 

Hugh Parsons
Hugh was most likely born in England and arrived in Springfield by 1645. His ancestry in unknown. He was a brick maker by trade and on 20 October 1645 he agreed to make bricks for a chimney for William Pynchon, founder and leading citizen of Springfield.[1] He also felled trees and sawed lumber. Hugh was given a land grant and in 1647 he was recorded as having 37 and 1/2 acres. His was, at that time, one of the last lots in the small outpost of Springfield. The lots stretched along the Connecticut River. Immediately behind their house lots each man was assigned a woodlot and directly across the river they had a planting lot. His planting lot was just north of the confluence of the then Agawam, now Westfield, River and the Connecticut River. His neigbor to the south was John Lombard and Jonathan Burt lived on the north side of him. three lots to the north was Reice Bedortha who married Blanche Lewis, believed to be the sister of his wife's first husband.[2] Nothing remains today of those long ago homes.

Mary Lewis
October was  busy month for Hugh. On the 20th he signed a contract with the town leader and on the 27th he formed a contract of a different sort, one he would surely regret a few years later. On that day he married Mary ____Lewis. Mary was originally from Wales. [3] Her husband has run off, abandoning her. William Pynchon called him a 'Papist' and said that they had been separated for some seven years. What she did prior to her marriage to Hugh is unknown. She possibly worked as a servant for a Springfield family. 


Hugh and Mary are known to have had three children. It does not seem as if she had any with her first husband.
Hannah b. 7 August 1646, nothing more known
Samuel b. 8 June 1648, b. end of September 1649
Joshua b. 26 October 1650 d. 4 March 1651

name calling 
On 29 May 1649 the Widow Marshfield brought Mary Parsons to court and charged her with slander. Mary had made a serious accusation against the widow and had called her a witch. John Matthews and his wife were called to testify. He said that Mary had told him that the Widow Marshfield was a witch. She had started coyly by saying she was taught to know a witch by a widow now living in Springfield who had lived in Windsor, that this woman had three children, one of whom was married. I'm sure it was not hard for John and his wife to guess who she was talking about, but she admitted that it was the Widow Marshfield.

Mary was found guilty of slander and sentenced to 20 lashes or a payment of 3 pounds to the widow. Hugh paid the fine in Indian corn.

Hugh is not nice
It seems that Hugh was not a very nice man, nor was he a caring husband, at least that is what can be gleaned from the public records of the time. He argued with his neighbors, he failed to hold up his side of business dealing, usually having to do with bricks. When angered he insulted and used verbal threats against the offender. His neighbors were it seemed fed up with him.

the accusations are reversed

In 1651 Mary was accused of being a witch and she in turn accused her own husband. No less that 35 neighbors turned out to testify against him. Today the supposed acts of witchcraft for which he was accused seem pretty silly. From exploding sausages to missing knives and trowels to men falling off their horses, the actions for which he stood trial are laughable today, but were deadly serious in 1651. During the trial their third child died and Mary claimed that she had killed it. When the magistrate, William Pynchon had gatherer all the testimony, Mary and Hugh were taken to Boston to await trail by the General Court.

Mary's case was heard right away. She was indicted and charged with witchcraft and murder of her child for which she was found guilty. She was sentenced to died by hanging. She was given a reprieve on the 29th of May. Nothing more is known about her fate. It is presumed that she died in prison as her execution was never recorded.

Hugh's trial did not occur for another year. On 12 May 1652 Hugh was found guilty of witchcraft by the court of Assistants, but two weeks later the verdict was rescinded by the General Court. John Pynchon sold his lands in Springfield and forwarded him the proceeds.  What he did after the trial is also unknown as is the fate of their daughter Hannah.

Where did he go?
Hugh was still in Boston in May 1654. He was not the Hugh Parsons who lived in Watertown. That Parsons was granted land there in 1649 too soon to be the Hugh of Springfield. There was also a Hugh Parsons who lived in Rhode Island. He had a daughter Hannah, like the Springfield Parsons but he also had a daughter named Grace who seems was born about 1637, too early to be his daughter. [5] The Rhode Island Hugh married and seemed to have some responsibility in community where he lived. I would think that Hugh Parsons of Springfield, would be something of a pariah, not to mention that he was not a very nice fellow.

Mary Bliss Parsons
In a bizarre twist of fate, a second Mary Parsons was accused of witchcraft by her Springfield/Northampton neighbors. Many of the same names are found in depositions from the slander case she brought against her accuser, Sarah Bridgeman. Read about Mary Bliss Parsons here.

weave a web of witchcraft
WEAVE A WEB OF WITCHCRAFT is my novel built on the lives of Hugh and Mary. It uses actual testimony given at their trials to reconstruct their world. Using meticulous research I bring the their world to life, the day to day struggle to survive on the Massachusetts frontier. WEAVE A WEB OF WITCHCRAFT is a window into the world of our 17th century ancestors; what they ate, their houses, their work, what they believed, from birth to death.

My book is available on Amazon in paperback and kindle and on Smashwords where you can buy it for Nook, ibook and many other formats. Please consider giving it a read. It will make you happy to be from the 21st century!


[1] Gerald James Parsons, "The Early Parsons Families of the Connecticut Valley," The New England Historic and Genealogical Register, Vol. 149 (January 1995) 69-70, digital images, American Ancestors ( : accessed 5 September 2016).

[2] Henry M. Burt, The First Century of the History of Springfield, Vol. 2 (Springfield, Mass: H. M. Burt, 1899), digital images, Internet Archive ( : accessed 5 September 2016).

[3] Parsons, "The Early Parsons," 69.

[4] Parsons, "The Early Parsons," 69

[5] Parsons, "The Early Parsons, " 69.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Evolution of William Smith Bryan from Irish Rebel to Virginia Planter

Search the internet for William Smith Bryan and you will find a plethora of information about him. He is said to be the progenitor of many a Bryan/Bryant in America. He has also be the subject of many biographies, beginning in the late 19th century up until very recent times. Over the years his story has evolved, becoming more and more fanciful as the years go by. Here is a breakdown of his evolving story.

In 1832 Samuel Bryan of Marion County Indiana applied for a Revolutionary War pension. He had relocated from North Carolina to Indiana late in life. His wife applied for a widow's pension after his death. Included in their pension application was a document supplied by their son Luke which contained the following:
[Luke Bryan submitted the following with his mother’s application for a pension, and he deposed that it was written by his father, Samuel Bryan.]
My great grandfather Bryan was a Dane born in Denmark & rais’d in that Kingdom where he married a wife & lived untill he had a sone born whome he called Morgan after which he remov’d to Ireland where he lived untill said Morgan came to manhood who left his father in Ireland & came to Pensylvania in Amerricia where he Married a woman by the name of Martha Strode the daughter of a man by the name of Strode a Hollander who had moved to France where he resided with his wife untill he had three children, he & his wife being protestants, in time of a great persecution fled for their lives, bound for Pensylvania in Amerricia but himself & wife sickened on the seas & died before they arrived to the end of their voige....
Samuel's great grandfather was not named in the application. Nor was the name of his grandfather or father. This would change and by the time this genealogy was found in print Samuel's ancestors had aquired some names.

William Smith Bryan is an interesting character. He is first written about in a book published in 1876 called The Pioneer Families of Missouri, written by William Smith Bryan, his descendant. [1] Mr. Bryan wrote that his ancestor landed in Virginia by way of Ireland in 1615, saying he "arouse the hostility of the British Government by a too ardent Irish patriotism and was deported as a rebellious subject." He also claims that William Smith Bryan was the only living lineal descendant of Brian Boru, a high king of Ireland from the 10th century. Mr. Bryan goes on to say that William Smith Bryan had eleven children but the name of only one was known; Francis, who returned to Ireland to reclaim the family lands.

This Francis was unsuccessful in his attempt to regain the old family land and for whatever reason is said to have fled to Denmark. In Denmark two sons were born; Morgan and William. Morgan inexplicably became the Standard Bearer for William of Orange and was present at the battle of the Boyne in 1690. He then left Europe and immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1695, where he married Martha Stroud. [2]

On page 132 of the Pioneers of Missouri, a second William Bryan is introduced. He is said to have come from Wales with Lord Baltimore in 1650 and settled in Maryland. His wife was Irish and they had three children; William, Morgan and Daniel. A descendant of this William, another William, settled in Roan County, NC and married a woman named Sally Bringer. The had eleven children, one of whom, a daughter named Rebecca, married Daniel Boone. [3]

By 1915 the story had changed quite a bit. In the book The Shearer and Akers Family, by J. W. Shearer, William Smith ? Bryan, his question mark, was a descendant of Sir Francis Bryan. No wife is identified. William Smith Bryan is said to be a landowner in Ireland, probably County Clare. In 1650 he and his family were deported by Cromwell for being a rebellious subject. Accompanying him were eleven sons, but only two are given in this book, Morgan and Francis. [4] This newer version sets the action forward by 35 years into the Cromwell era.

Again, Francis is said to have returned to Ireland to reclaim the family land but was persecuted by the English and fled to Denmark. Morgan is identified only as a possible son and is said to have been in Norfolk, Virginia in 1663. His son Morgan married a woman named Martha Stroud and ended up in Davie County, North Carolina. [5]

In a 1917 publication William is described as an Irish land owner with eleven children who was deported by Cromwell's forces in 1650 for being a rebellious subject. Francis returned to Ireland in 1677 and fled for Denmark where his sons William and Morgan were born. William married a Margaret and they lived in Ballyrooney, County Down, Ireland. William and Margaret and their son John left Ireland after John was arrested for poaching. [6]

In 1922  a book called Notable Southern Families was published. [7] William Smith Bryan is also discussed in this book, in which he is said to be the son of Sir Francis Bryan. He was deported in 1650 for being an undesirable citizen. He arrived in Virginia in 1615 with his family and a boatload of household goods. This book makes the amazing claim that William Smith Bryan was the ancestor of the O'Briens who were the Lords of Inchquin. The book repeats the story of Francis' return to England and the troubles that led him to Denmark, his marriage to Sarah Brinker. This version of the story says that Francis eventually returned to live in Ireland. It also supposes that Morgan Bryan was a son of William Smith Bryan.  Morgan, this time, left Ireland for Pennsylvania. [8]

Another book published in 1922 was a history of the Boone Family. This book gives two versions of the story of Morgan Bryan. In the first, Morgan grew to manhood in Ireland and then left for America, settling in Pennsylvania where he married Martha Stroud. [9] The second version is the William Smith deported version but has Francis returning for his land in 1650. Again Francis goes to Denmark where son Morgan is born. Morgan of the battle of the Boyne comes to Pennsylvania in 1695. Francis died in Belfast in 1694. The author says that he does not know which if either were the correct story.

A 1962 article in the Virginia Magazine perpetuates the story of Francis Bryan returning to Ireland to reclaim the family estates. His son Morgan, then living in poverty, sailed, possible under indenture to Pennsylvania. [10]

In 1965, in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Volume 53, it is Francis that is the standard bearer for William of Orange in 1690.

Skip forward a few decades to the age of the internet. In 2011 this was posted on a message board:

Sir William Smith BRYAN, 8th Great-Grandfather. PMC" Prince William of Ireland", Deported in 1650, to Gloucester Beach, Virginia as a "Rebellious Subject." Marriage 1: Countess Of Ormond Catherine MORGAN, b: 1594 in , Claire, Ireland.
Married: 1620, in , Claire, Ireland.
 Note: In 1650, William Smith Bryan, the Grandson of Sir Francis Bryan, declared himself Heir-to-the-Throne Of Ireland, and fought against Cromwell, from the back of a White horse. Defeated by sheer numbers of the Puritan army, Bryan was deported to the Colony of Virginia in America, together with "twenty-one sons and grandsons." Declares himself Heir to the Throne of Ireland. 
So in about 150 years William Smith Bryan has gone from a Danish man to 1615 Irish rebel to a full on pretender to the throne, a knight no less, seated on a white horse, battling the forces of evil Cromwell. He is now married to the Countess of Ormand! And, he has accrued 21 sons, but still only two that can be identified.

William Smith O'Brien
So where did this William Smith Bryan stuff come from and is any of it real, or is William a mythical fantasy ancestor. My vote is that he is an imaginary character. I believe that he is based on a real life man named William Smith O'Brien. William was the younger son of Sir Edward O'Brien and his wife Charlotte Smith, daughter of William Smith. Sir Edward was also Baron Inchquin. William Smith, despite being a member of the upper class and a protestant took the side of the poor roman catholic Irish population. He encouraged the use of the Irish language and sought relief during the famine. In 1848 he was charged with sedition as the result of a ill executed 'rebellion.' Sentenced to death, the country took up a petition to spare his life. He was deported to an island off of Tasmania in exile. Eventually he was release, spent some time in Brussels before returning to Ireland.

Doesn't that sound familiar? A son of a Lord, Irish rebel, deported, spent time in a European country before he eventually returning home to Ireland. William Smith Bryan and William Smith O'Brien. I believe that the life of O'Brien was transferred to a unknown ancestor by a Bryan biographer in the past. This fable has been added to over the years, resulting our knight in shining armour, riding a white horse.

More Research on William Smith Bryan


[1] William Smith Bryan, Pioneer Families of Missouri, (St. Louis, MO : Bryan Brand & Co., 1876) viii; digital images, Archive ( : accessed 2 September 2016).

[2] Bryan, Pioneer Families, viv.

[3] Bryan, Pioneer Families, 132.

[4] J. W. Shearer, The Shearer Akers Family, (Sommerville, N.J : Press of the Somerset Register, 1915) 11; digital images, Archive ( : accessed 2 September 2016).

[5] J. W. Shearer, The Shearer Akers Family, 11.

[6] George Norbury Mackenzie, Colonial Families of the United States, (Grafton Press, 1917) digital images, Google Books.

[7] Zella Armstrong, Notable Southern Families, (Chattanooga, Tennessee; The Lookout Publishing Co., 1922) 33, digital images, Google Books, ( : accessed 2 September 2016).

[8] Zella Armstrong, Notable Southern Families, 33.

[9] Jesse Procter Crump, The Boone family: a genealogical history of the descendants of George and Mary Boone, who came to America in 1717 : containing many unpublished bits of early Kentucky history : also a biographical sketch of Daniel Boone, the pioneer, by one of his descendants
(Buffalo, New York: Tuttle Co., 1922) 505-506, digital images, Google Books, (

[10] Charles W. Bryan, "Morgan Bryan; Pioneer of the Opequon and Yadkin," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 70. no. 2 (April 1962) 154-164, digital images, JSTOR : accessed 2 September 2016).

Roles of Men, Women and Children in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts

In 17 th century pur itan Massachusetts , the roles of men , women and children were very clearly defined . Men were the ...