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  • Notable Kin: Massachusetts and Connecticut “Signers”

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : October/November 1986
     The recent Liberty Weekend and the forth-coming bicentennial of the Constitution in 1987 both serve to remind us of the paucity of scholarly coverage to date, at least in compendium format, of the entire known American ancestry of the signers of the Declaration of Independence - simply the “signers” to most historians - the signers of the Constitution, and other revolutionary leaders.  This article is an initial, admittedly partial, effort to fill that gap.  Listed below, without dates or places but with citations to the best printed sources covering the persons involved, are the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and for Elbridge Gerry, great-great-great-grandparents, of the nine signers of the Declaration of Independence who represented Massachusetts or Connecticut.  A later column will treat the five “signers” who represented New Hampshire or Rhode Island - Josiah Bartlett, William Ellery, Jr., Stephen Hopkins, Matthew Thornton (a native of Ireland, the only New England “signer” with no 17th century American -forebears) and William Whipple, Jr. - plus the five New England representatives who signed the Constitution but not the Declaration.  These last were Nicholas Gilman, Jr., Nathaniel Gorham, Jr., William Samuel Johnson, Rufus King, and John Langdon, Jr.

    The nine representatives from Massachusetts or Connecticut who signed the Declaration of Independence were John Adams, Jr., Samuel Adams, Jr., Elbridge Gerry, John Hancock (III), Samuel Huntington, Robert Treat Paine, Roger Sherman (the only New England representative who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution), William Williams, and Oliver Wolcott.  Their average birth year was 1731 and in almost all lines each was the great-, great-great-, or (in a few cases, some noted below) great-great-great-grandson of [236] immigrants.  Only Elbridge Gerry, the youngest, was the son of an immigrant, and his mother, a native of Marblehead, had only three great-grandparents whose ancestry can be further traced.  Their parents, Gerry’s six known great-great-great-grandparents, are listed below.  These immediate forebears, including most of the known American ancestors of the nine Massachusetts and Connecticut “signers,” bore over 90 surnames.  Most NEXUS readers and most Americans with considerable New England ancestry will share at least one forebear with one of these “signers”; many readers will share several.

    Fifth-generation New Englanders born in the 1720s, 1730s, and 1740s, sometimes earlier, were beginning to have a very wide net of colonial kinsmen.  Descendants of the over one hundred 17th century immigrants of royal descent and of the 23 Mayflower “sires” were also now so numerous that any small group of New Englanders was likely to include a few of each.  Of the Massachusetts and Connecticut “signers,” John and Samuel Adams were second cousins, Samuel Adams and Samuel Huntington were third cousins (through the Thurstons), and Robert Treat Paine and Roger Sherman were fifth cousins once removed (through the Shermans).  John Adams was a great-great-grandson of Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, and Paine, a great-great-great-grandson of Stephen Hopkins, their shipmate (Paine was also a great-great-grandson of a brother of Governor Edward Winslow).  Royal descents were borne by John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Wolcott (through, respectively, both Rev. Peter Bulkeley of Concord and Jane Allen, his first wife; Mrs. Mary Launce Sherman of Watertown; Dr. Richard Palgrave of Charlestown; and John Drake of Windsor, Connecticut).  John Adams, as a Cogswell and Hawkes descendant, and William Williams, as a Parke and Cooke descendant, both share ancestry with H.R.H. The Princess of Wales and her sons.  Among other families well known in colonial or later American history I might note Greenleaf among Gerry’s ancestors, Otis and Lincoln among Hancock’s, Willard and Treat among Paine’s, Stoddard and Warham among Williams’, and Pitkin among Wolcott’s.

    The ancestry of the wives of these nine “signers,” kinships between the “signers” or their wives and other revolutionary-era notables, and historically prominent descendants of these “signers” could all be subjects for entire columns or articles.  A few sample “highlights,” however, should suggest the wide range of “signer” kindred and to some extent also the centrality of these revolutionary leaders to New England genealogy generally.  Mrs. Abigail Smith Adams, wife of John, was not only a Winthrop and Downing descendant (see NEXUS 3 [1986]:134).  She was also a great-great-great-granddaughter of the royally-descended Mrs. Elizabeth Coytmore Tyng of Braintree, a third cousin of her husband (through the Boylstons) and a half fourth cousin of William Williams (through the Downings).  Mrs. Elizabeth Checkley Adams, wife of Samuel, was a sister-in-law of Mrs. Mary Cranston Checkley, wife firstly of William Checkley and secondly of Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College from 1778 to 1795.  Mrs. Dorothy Quincy Hancock Scott, wife firstly of John Hancock, was a half second cousin once removed of Mrs. Abigail Smith Adams (through the Quincys) and a fourth cousin, through the Hoars, of both Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Rebecca Prescott Sherman, second wife of Roger Sherman. Mrs. Martha Devotion Huntington, wife of Samuel, was both a second and third cousin of Benedict Arnold (IV), the traitor (through the Lathrops).

    William Williams, a kinsman of Abigail Adams, as noted above, was also a double second cousin of Bunker Hill hero Joseph Warren (III), through Williamses and Parkes, and through Cookes and Strongs both a half fourth cousin of martyr Nathan Hale and a half third cousin once removed of Mrs. Joanna Strong Floyd, second wife of “Signer” William Floyd of New York.  Williams’s wife, Mary Trumbull, sister of patriots Jonathan (Jr.) and Joseph Trumbull arid of the painter John Trumbull, daughter of Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, (Sr.), and great-great-great-granddaughter of the above-named John Drake, John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins, was also a third cousin once removed of both John Adams and Oliver Wolcott.  And Mrs. Laura Collins Wolcott, wife of Oliver, was a great-great-granddaughter of the royally descended Governor William Leete of Connecticut.

    Among descendants of these “signers” the John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Wolcott progenies are particularly notable.  Adams was the father of John Quincy Adams (I), grandfather of Charles Francis Adams (I), and great-grandfather of Henry and Brooks Adams.  Sherman descendants include Secretary of State William Maxwell Evarts, editor Max(well Evans) Perkins, Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox, Jr., and wives of Yale presidents Jeremiah Day and Timothy Dwight II, and of Secretary of State Henry Lewis Stimson: Oliver Wolcott, Jr., was the second U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and later governor of Connecticut; his daughter, Laura Wolcott, wife of scientific patron George Gibbs (III), was the maternal grand-mother of Lucy Tuckerman, wife of lawyer and author Arthur George Sedgwick and maternal grandmother in turn of Lilian Louisa Swann, first wife of architect Eero Saarinen.  Descendants of siblings of Oliver Wolcott, Sr., include world systems designer (Richard) Buckminster Fuller (Jr.), [237] Yale president Alfred Whitney Griswold, and West Virginia senator (formerly governor) John Davison Rockefeller IV, plus wives of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, British novelist (Joseph) Rudyard Kipling, Harvard president Abbott Lawrence Lowell, American novelist John Phillips Marquand, and Missouri senator (William) Stuart Symington (Jr.).  Rev. Josiah Sherman, a brother of Roger, was a great-great-grandfather of railroad magnate and New York senator Chauncey Mitchell Depew.

    In the following list of the nine signers of the Declaration of Independence from Massachusetts or Connecticut, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents are covered consecutively, in genealogical order (as per preceding columns), with semi-colons separating generations and commas separating sets of grand, great-, or great-great-grandparents.  As in “New England in Hollywood,” “RD” indicates an immigrant of royal descent and “MP” a Mayflower passenger. “PW” indicates an ancestor shared with The Princess of Wales.

    1.  JOHN ADAMS (JR.), 1735-1826; John Adams & Susanna Boylston; Joseph Adams, Jr., & Hannah Bass, Peter Boylston & Ann White; Joseph Adams & Abigail Baxter, John Bass & Ruth Alden, Thomas Boylston, Jr., & Mary Gardner, Benjamin White & Susanna Cogswell; Henry Adams & Edith Squire, Gregory Baxter & Margaret Paddy, Samuel Bass & Ann Savell or Savil, John Alden (MP) & Priscilla Mullins (MP), Thomas Boylston & Sarah ____, Thomas Gardner & Lucy Smith, John White &  Frances ____, William Cogswell (PW) & Susanna Hawkes (PW).

    2.  SAMUEL ADAMS (JR.), 1722-1803; Samuel Adams & Mary Fifield; John Adams & Hannah Webb, Richard Fifield & Mary Thurston; Joseph Adams & Abigail Baxter (great-grandparents of John Adams, Jr., above), Christopher Webb, Jr., & Hannah Scott, Giles Fifield & Mary Perkins, Benjamin Thurston & Elishua Walker; Christopher Webb & Humility , Benjamin Scott & Hannah ____, Abraham Perkins & Mary John Thurston & Margaret , Robert Walker & Sarah ____.

    3.  ELBRIDGE GERRY, 1744-1814; Thomas Gerry, an immigrant to Marblehead, & Elizabeth Greenleaf; Enoch Greenleaf & Rebecca Russell; Joseph Greenleaf & Sarah Beal, Samuel Russell & Elizabeth Elbridge; Enoch Greenleaf & Mary ____, Nathaniel Beal & Martha ____, Thomas Elbridge & Rebecca ____; Edmund Greenleaf & Sarah Moore, John Beal & Nazareth Hobart, Giles Elbridge & Elizabeth Aldworth.

    4.  JOHN HANCOCK (III), 1736/7-1793; John Hancock, Jr., & Mary Hawke; John Hancock & Elizabeth Clarke, James Hawke, Jr., & Mary Gill; Nathaniel Hancock, Jr., & Mary Prentice, Thomas Clarke & Mary Bulkeley, James Hawke & Sarah Jacob, Samuel Gill & Ruth Lincoln; Nathaniel Hancock & Joanna ____, Henry Prentice & Joanna ____, Jonas Clark(e) and Elizabeth Clark, Edward Bulkeley (son of Rev. Peter Bulkeley & Jane Allen, his non-immigrating first wife lboth RD]) & Lucian ____, Matthew Hawke & Margaret John Jacob & Margery Eames, Thomas Gill & Hannah Otis, “Husbandman” Thomas Lincoln & Margaret Langer.

    5.  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON, 1731-1796; Nathaniel Huntington & Mehitable Thurston; Joseph Huntington & Rebecca Adgate, John Thurston & Hannah Cary; Simon Huntington, Jr., & Sarah Clark, Thomas Adgate & Mary Marvin, Thomas Thurston & Sarah Thaxter, John Cary & Elizabeth Godfrey; Simon Huntington & Margaret Barrett, John Clark & possibly Elizabeth ____ Matthew Marvin & Elizabeth ____ John Thurston & Margaret - (great-great-grandparents of Samuel Adams, Jr., above), Thomas Thaxter & Elizabeth ~ Francis Godfrey & Elizabeth ____

    6.  ROBERT TREAT PAINE, 1731-1814; Thomas Paine & Eunice Treat; James Paine & Bethiah Thacher, Samuel Treat & Abigail Willard: Thomas Paine, Jr., & Mary Snow, John Thacher & Rebecca Winslow, Gov. Robert Treat & Jane Tapp, Samuel Willard & Abigail Sherman; Thomas Paine & ____, Nicholas Snow & Constance Hopkins (daughter of Stephen Hopkins IMP] & ), Anthony Thacher & Elizabeth Jones, Josiah Winslow (brother of Gov. Edward Winslow [MPI & Margaret Bourne, Richard Treat & Alice Gaylord, Edmund Tapp & Jane ____ Simon Willard & Mary Sharpe, Rev. John Sherman of Watertown, Mass. & Mary Launce (RD).

    7.  ROGER SHERMAN, 1721-1793; William Sherman & Mehitable Wellington; Joseph Sherman & Elizabeth Winship, Benjamin Wellington & Elizabeth Sweetman; John Sherman, Jr., & Martha Palmer, Edward Winship & Elizabeth Parke, Roger Wellington & Mary Palgrave, Thomas Sweetman & Isabel Cutter; John Sherman of Dedham & Great Horksley, Essex (a first cousin once removed of Rev. John Sherman of Watertown, Mass., above) & Grace Ravens, later of Watertown also, William Palmer & Mary Stamforth, Lionel Winship & Richard Parke & Margery Crane, Dr. Richard Palgrave (RD) & Anna ____, (probably) (Samuel?) Cutter & Elizabeth ____

    8.  WILLIAM WILLIAMS, 1731-1811; Solomon Williams & Mary Porter; William Williams & Christian Stoddard, Samuel Porter, Jr., & Joanna Cooke; Isaac Williams & Martha Parke, Solomon Stoddard & Esther Warham, Samuel Porter & Hannah Stanley, Aaron Cooke III & Sarah Westwood; Robert Williams & Elizabeth Stalham, William Parke (son of Robert Parke of Stonington, Conn., & Martha Chaplin, both PW) & Martha Holgrave, Anthony Stoddard & Mary Downing (half-sister of Sir George Downing, 1st Bt., for whom Downing Street in London is named), John Warham & Jane (Dabinott?), John Porter & Anne White, Thomas Stanley & Bennett Tnitton, Aaron Cooke, Jr. (son of Aaron Cooke & Mrs. Elizabeth Charde Cooke Ford of Windsor, Conn., [PW]) & Mary Cooke, William Westwood & Bridget ____.

    9. OLIVER WOLCOTT, 1726-1797; Gov. Roger Wolcott of Connecticut & Sarah Drake; Simon Wolcott & Martha Pitkin, Job Drake, Jr., & Elizabeth Clark; Henry Wolcott & Elizabeth Saunders, William Pitkin of Berkhamstead St. Peter, Hertfordshire, & Elizabeth ____ Job Drake & Mary Wolcott, Daniel Clark & Mary Newberry; John Wolcott of Tolland, Somersetshire & Joan ____, Thomas Saunders of Lydiard St. Lawrence, Somersetshire & ____, William Pitkin of Berkhamstead St. Peter & ____, John Drake (RD) & Elizabeth Rogers, Henry Wolcott & Elizabeth Saunders (above), Thomas Newberry & Joan Dabinott.

    Notes on Sources: Most sets of grandparents and all known American great-grandparents and great-great grandparents of these nine signers” are listed in Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700 (book version, 1985; microfilm, 7 reels, 1979).  [238]  “Signer” descendants through the early 20th century are covered in Frank Willing Leach, “Genealogy of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” typescript (1927), 20 vols. at the Filson Club Library and the Sons of the American Revolution Library in Louisville, Kentucky, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and the Library of Congress. Mr. Leach’s 53-volume manuscript collection is at the Filson Club.  Notable Adams, Sherman, and Wolcott descendants are charted in my own “The Mowbray Connection,” 23 vols., mss. at the Society, American charts (indexed), pp. 553-55, 565-66, 569, 1306, 1308, 1312, 1315, 1319, 1323, 1329, 1334, 1336-37, 1339, 1347, 1349, 1354, 1358, 1360, 1363, 1365, 1367-68, 1377, 1380, 1402, 1404, 1414-15, 1604,1880, 2400, 2409, 2447, 2851, and several addenda pages.  In addition, the following sources cover the American ancestry of these nine “signers” plus the Checkley, Quincy, Hoar, and Lathrop connections and Winthrop, Downing, Tyng, Boylston, Drake, Alden, and Leete descents of several of their wives.

    1-2.  The Adamses: Burke’s Presidential Families of the United States of America, 2nd ed. (1981), Appendix C, ancestral charts for John Adams & John Quincy Adams; The American Genealogist (TAG) 21 (1944-45):167-69, 54 (1978):216, and C. A. Torrey’s notes for the J.Q. Adams ancestor table, in the Torrey mss. collection at the Society; Waldo Chamberlain Sprague, Genealogies of the Families of Braintree, Massachusetts, 1640-1 850 (microfilm, 198A) (Adams, Baxter, Webb, Scott); Register 50 (1896):35-35, and Sybil Noyes, C. T. Libby, and W.G. Davis, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire (1928-39), (reprint 1972), p.233 (Fifield, Perkins); Hamilton Andrews Hill, History of the Old South Church (Third Church), Boston, 1669. 1884, vol. 2 (1890), p.248, and Brown Thurston, Thurston Genealogies, 1635-1892 (1892), p. 357; D. L. Jacobus, History and Genealogies of the Families of Old Fairfield, vol. 1 (1930) (reprint, 1976), p. 637 (Walker).

    3.  Gerry: E.E. Salisbury, Family Memorials, vol. 1 (1885), pp. 103-42 and Aldworth-Elbridge pedigree; James Edward Greenleaf, Genealogy of the Greenleaf Family (1896). pp. 190-94; E.B. Sumner, Ancestry of Edward Wales Blake and Clarissa Matilda Glidden with Ninety Allied Families (1948), 131-34, 35-37 (Greenleaf, Beal); the Register 122 (l968):28-36 (reprinted in English Origins of New England Families, 2nd series, 1985, 2:114-22) (Mrs. Sarah Moore Greenleaf).

    4.  Hancock: William M. Fowler, Jr., The Baron of Beacon Hill, A Biography of John Hancock (1980), p. 4 - a five-generation ancestor chart compiled by David Curtis Dearborn using largely D. L. Jacobus, The Bulkeley Genealogy (1933), various volumes of Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, and the histories and “town genealogies” of Cambridge, Hingham, and Lexington, by L.R. Paige, George Lincoln and Charles Hudson respectively.

    5.  Huntington: Huntington Family Association, The Huntington Family in America (1915), pp. 11-12, 419-20, 535, 543-50; D. L. Jacobus & E. F. Waterman, Hale, House and Related Families (1952) (reprint, 1978), pp. 647-51, 492-96, 712-15 (Huntington, Clark, Marvin); Dwight Brainerd & D. L. Jacobus, Ancestry of Thomas Chalmers Brainerd (1948), pp. 8-9 (Adgate); Brown Thurston, op. cit., pp. 357-59, 362; E. B. Sumner, Ancestry and Descendants of Samuel Bartlett and Lucy Jenkins (1951), pp. 120-22 (Thaxter); Seth C. Cary, John Cary, The Plymouth Pilgrim (1911), pp. 62-63.

    6.  Paine: Sarah Cushing Paine & Charles Henry Pope, Paine Ancestry: The Family of Robert Treat Paine, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Including MaternalLines (1912).

    7. Sherman: Thomas Townsend Sherman, Sherman Genealogy, 1920 (especially good on the “signer’s" descendants), Bertha L. Sherman, Transatlantic Shermans (1969), and correspondence with Michael I. Wood of London; E.B. Sumner, Descendants of Thomas Farr of Harpswell, Maine, and Ninety Allied Families (1959), pp. 24.4-51, 214-15, 320-21, 218-29 (Sherman, Palmer, Winship, Parke); Elizabeth Day McCormick and Robert Hall McCormick III, McCormick-Hamilton-Lord-Day Ancestral Lines (1957), pp. 1067-70, 797-803 (Wellington, Palgrave); Henry Bond, Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, 2nd ed., (1860), pp. 627-28 (Wellington); Benjamin & W.R. Cutter, A History of the Cutter Family of New England (1871), pp. 1-18 (Sweetman, Cutter).

    8.  Williams: F. L. Weis, “Robert Williams of Roxbury, Massachusetts, and Some of His Descendants,” typescript (1945), pp. 5-15, 18-21, 37~IiO, 97-99, 257-58; Selim Walker McArthur, McArthur-Barnes Ancestral Lines, (1964), pp. 97-99 (Parke); TAG 40 (1964):71-76 (Stoddard, Downing, and Warham from an ancestor table of Vice President Aaron Burr, Jr., whose maternal grandfather, the theologian Jonathan Edwards, was a first cousin once removed of Williams and a half third cousin once removed of Mrs. Abigail Smith Adams): TAG 16 (1939-40): 49-53, and Henry Porter Andrews, The Descendants of John Porter of Windsor, Conn., 1635-9, vol. 1 (1893), pp. 1-5, 16-17, 71-73, 205-7; Ernest Flagg, Genealogical Notes on the Founding of New England (1926) (reprint, 1973), pp. 299, 341-45 (Stanley); TAG 56 (1980):155, 230, 233 (Cooke, Charde, Westwood).

    9.  Wolcott: Wolcott Genealogy (Chandler Wolcott [1912]; A.B. Rudd 119501; and R.C. Griffen and M.R. Alegre [1986]; E.B. Sumner, Blake-Glidden, as above, pp. 27 1-73, 200-1 (Wolcott, Pitkin); Frank B. Gay, The Descendants of John Drake of Windsor, Connecticut (1933), pp. 1-3, 7-10, 25-26, 43; J. Gardner Bartlett, Newberry Genealogy (1915), pp. 35-45 (Clarke, Newberry).

    10.  Checkley, Quincy, Hoar, Lathrop, Tyng, Drake, Alden, Leete: C.K. Shipton, ed., Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, Volume XIV, 1756-1760 (1968), pp. 4-5 (Checkley); E.E. Salisbury, op. cit., vol. 1, pp. 295-371 and Quincy pedigree; Register 53 (1899):92-101, 186-98, 289-300, reprinted in English Origins of New England Families, 2nd series, 1985, 2:344-78 (Hoar); Rev. E.B. Huntington, A Genealogical Memoir of the Lo-Lathrop Family, 1884 (reprint, 1971), and E.F. Waterman and D.L. Jacobus, The Waterman Family, vol. 1 (1939), pp. 45-49, 123-24.  (Lathrop, Arnold); TAG 32 (1956):13-18 (Tyng); Frank B. Gay, op. cit., pp. 16-17 esp., and A Genealogical Chart of Some of the Descendants of John Trumbull (n.d. - TP Tru 224A at the Society); V.M. Turner and E.H. Woodworth, “Alden Genealogy,” typescript, 2 vols. (1935), pp. 4-36, 72-73, 159-60, and the Register  8 (185A):172-75; Alvan Talcott, Families of Early Guilford, Connecticut (1984), pp. 767, 223-24 (Leete, Collins).

    For the royal descents of Rev. Peter Bulkeley, Mrs. Jane Allen Bulkeley, Mrs. Mary Launce Sherman, Dr. Richard Palgrave, John Drake, Mrs. Elizabeth Coytmore Tyng, and Governor William Leete, see the Weis and Sheppard works cited in “New England in Hollywood” (Ancestral Roots of 60 Colonists and Magna Charta Sureties, 1215) plus volume 22. (the bibliography, arranged by immigrant) of “The Mowbray Connection.” John Drake’s ancestry has been considerably revised in the last decade by Mr. Charles Fitch-Northen, who also developed alternative royal lines.  For the Cogswell and Hawkes descents of John Adams, the Parke and Cooke descents of William Williams, and this latter’s kinship br Joseph Warren, Nathan Hale and Mrs. Floyd see G.B. Roberts and W.A. Reitweisner, American Ancestors and Cousins of The Princess of Wales (1985).

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