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  • #21 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: 'Fun'and 'Ur' New England Ancestors, Plus English Origins and Likely Medieval Ancestors

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : August 15, 1987
    In this third and last installment of observations gleaned from reviewing the charts of members and library patrons, we begin with a list of immigrant New England ancestors from whom your descent is clear and adequately documented. After a sizable quantity of your New England colonial research is completed you should have a list of often between fifty and two hundred immigrant ancestors – or their siblings, nephews or nieces, uncles or aunts, or near cousins who also immigrated and with whom you share mid-16th century ancestry. Each pioneer forebear born say 1740-70 will have 25 or so such immigrant ancestors or immigrant kinsman. Many of these last will be duplicates, and the quantity of such ancestry depends of course on whether you are fully, half, one-quarter, one-eighth, one-sixteenth or less of Yankee background. Between 50 and 200 New England immigrant forebears, however, is average for many sets of charts that I review.

    Among these 50 to 200, there are almost certainly a half dozen or more of what I call "fun" ancestors. Repeating somewhat from the last paragraph of my last column, these 300 or so "fun" forebears are firstly immigrants shared with two or more presidents (often three or four, five only through Henry Squire, English father-in-law of the immigrant Henry Adams of Braintree; there are over 110 such New England or English ancestors of at least two presidents). A second group of "fun" ancestors are New England immigrants of royal descent – again over 100. Three further groups can be considered together – passengers on the Mayflower (23 families left descendants, with Mullins absorbed into Alden, Tilley absorbed into Howland and Moses Fletcher descendants only in Holland), immigrant forebears or kinsman of the late Princess of Wales and her sons (and thus we hope of all future British kings – also a group of about 25); and 15 executed witchcraft victims of Salem in 1692 (many genealogists like to note descents from other witchcraft victims, from those accused who survived, from the judges, or from the families of local girls who instigated the delusion). Descents from several multiple presidential forebears, from one or often more immigrants of royal descent, and from either a Mayflower passenger, an ancestor of Princes William and Henry, or a witchcraft victim, can be expected. I have written about and listed each of these groups – in Ancestors of American Presidents (1989, 1995); The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States (1993, with additions and corrections in the summer 1996 issue of NEXUS); the bibliographical introduction to Genealogies of Mayflower Families (1986), plus my essay on new sources for 17th century research in the October 1996 Register; American Ancestors and Cousins of The Princess of Wales (with W. A. Reitweisner, 1984, with additions in Notable Kin, Volume One, 1998); plus an essay on Salem witchcraft victims (with a bibliographical listing of all 15 and some notable descendants of George Burroughs, Rebecca Nurse, Mary Esty, and the Towne siblings of these last two) in the summer 1992 issue of NEXUS.

    A fourth group of "fun" ancestors frequently encountered are "ur-fathers" or "ur-mothers"of various New England towns – the early founder or settler most frequently in the ancestry of a town’s population by the end of the colonial period. The late Princess of Wales was descended from two "ur-mothers" – Mrs. Elizabeth Charde Cooke Ford (of Windsor but "ur-mother" of Northampton, mother-in-law of a Lyman, a Clapp and the immigrant John Strong) and Mrs. Alice Freeman Thompson Parke (of Roxbury and possibly New London, but "ur-mother" of Stonington and Preston), the ancestors of Princes William and Henry most often found among forebears of living Americans. Several "ur-ancestors" were of royal descent – William Wentworth of Exeter, plus much of New Hampshire and northern New England generally, Mrs. Frances Deighton Williams of Taunton, Mrs. Anne Lloyd Yale Eaton of New Haven, Griffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen (of Roxbury but "ur-ancestors") of Woodstock, and for Brahmin Boston, Governor Thomas Dudley, the famed Mrs. Ann Marbury Hutchinson, and Samuel and Judith (Everard) Appleton. For Nantucket there seem to be two "ur-fathers", among the eleven settling families – Tristram Coffin, and Edward Starbuck. For Martha’s Vineyard there is Gov. Thomas Mayhew. For Hampton, N.H. there is Rev. Stephen Batchelder and for Windsor, Conn. and much of the Connecticut Valley generally there are the English Robert and Bridget (Allgar) White, parents of John White of Hartford and parents-in-law of the immigrants Joseph Loomis and John Porter. Robert and Bridget are also thought to be the ancestors most frequently found in Mormon ancestry – i.e., among forebears of the Yankee followers of Brigham Young. One or more "ur-ancestors" can also be expected among Yankee forebears of the probably 100 million living Americans with some New England colonial ancestry.

    Having divided your own ancestry into chunks or sections of various ethnic or colonial strands, having then divided your New England colonial ancestry into several likely areas or clusters of towns, having realized and accepted as expected a considerable amount of cousin intermarriage, and having identified and enjoyed some of your "fun" ancestors (and read about them in my Notable Kin columns and volumes –I have just completed proofing the index to volume 2), you are now ready to consider immigrant origins. Forebears of royal descent or of Princes William and Henry, Mayflower passengers, and witchcraft victims – plus their known origins - have been noted in the above listed works by me, in Robert Charles Anderson’s The Great Migration Begins, or in the 15 volumes to date of Mayflower Families Through Five Generations. Bob Anderson suggests that of the 5,000 or more Great Migration heads-of-family or their wives we now know the origins of over 40%, fast rising to 50% as new discoveries are reported in virtually every issue of the Register, The American Genealogist(TAG) or The Genealogist (TG). Of the remaining half or slightly more – 25-30% he thinks can and will be found as more English records are transcribed and published. The remaining 25-30% of all English origins are probably forever lost. With the immediate local background of almost half of your New England ancestors known, you will thus have much yeoman or sometimes minor gentry ancestry often traced to the 1530s and the beginning of Protestantism and parish registers. Manorial records will sometimes extend such ancestry further and of course you can expect an immigrant or two of royal descent – usually via Elizabethan merchants, office-holders, ministers, or middling gentry, back to 15th century upper gentry, then to lesser nobility, then to the late medieval high nobility, and then to Plantagenet kings. Before 1450 or so, almost certainly before 1400, your known ancestry will consist only of such gentry, noble, or royal ancestors – shared by much of the modern American middle class.

    I hope this survey of observations has proved useful to many readers in examining their own charts. Next week’s column will be a surprise – either bibliographical notes gleaned from a recent lecture, or the result of some recent research into notable descendants of a cluster of immigrants whose English origins appeared in the 75th anniversary issue of TAG.
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