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  • #48 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: The Ancestry of Novelist Thomas Pynchon

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : July 31, 2000
    NEHGS members will soon receive the third (Summer 2000) issue of New England Ancestors, which contains among other items the last of my five columns on British, European and American descendants of the Lygons of Madresfield, Worcestershire. That article covers the noted progeny of two Deighton sisters whose descendants are largely associated during the colonial period with Taunton, Mass., and of their cousin Mrs. Amy Wyllys Pynchon of Springfield, Mass. Noticeably absent from it is the most famous Pynchon of the modern period - the novelist Thomas Ruggles Pynchon (V), author of V and Gravity's Rainbow, whom I have known since 1987 -- when he was covered in Current Biography -- to belong to this family. That notice indicated that he was born 8 May 1937 in Glen Cove, L.I., son of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon (IV) and Katherine Frances Bennett, and great-grandnephew of Trinity College president Thomas Ruggles Pynchon (III). I was unable to trace the intervening generations from sources in print in time for the Lygon articles, but shortly after completing them discussed the matter at some length with Henry Bainbridge Hoff, then of our staff, one of whose New York genealogical colleagues had identified the father of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon (IV) and his brother Joseph as William H. Pynchon, a Trinity College graduate of 1890. I then contacted Peter J. Knapp, archivist at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., who kindly sent me a form prepared by the widow of W. H. Pynchon for a biographical directory of the college that was never published. Mrs. William Henry Chichele Pynchon was Carrie Susan Moyses, daughter of Joseph L. Moyses, banker, and Elizabeth A. Woodworth; her husband, born 16 April 1867 in Plainfield, Conn., was the son of William Lyon Pynchon, a Union College graduate of 1850, and Annie Payne Cogswell. W. H. C. Pynchon and Carrie Susan Moyses were married in Oyster Bay, N.Y. 5 Sept. 1896, and their son Thomas Ruggles (IV) (the novelist's father) was born there 9 March 1907. William H. C. Pynchon had prepared at Rogers High School in Newport, RI, was "second in class standing and valedictorian" at Trinity, received an M.A. from Harvard in 1893, was an instructor in geology at Trinity for several years, and moved to Oyster Bay as its "civil engineer and surveyor," dying there 2 Jan. 1910. After the line "miscellaneous notes," Mrs. Pynchon added "nephew of Rev. Thomas R. Pynchon, D.D., '41." The form was received 20 May 1910.

    Based on this form and other data received from Mr. Knapp, I was able to trace almost half of the novelist's ancestry from readily available printed sources (I have made no attempt to trace the novelist's mother). The immigrant Amy Wyllys and her husband John Pynchon, the Springfield leader and successor to his father William, themselves left a son, John Pynchon, Jr., who married Margaret Hubbard and in turn left a son William. This last married Catherine Brewer, daughter of Rev. Daniel Brewer and Catherine Chauncey, daughter of Nathaniel and Abigail (Strong) Chauncey and granddaughter of royally-descended (RD) immigrant Rev. Charles Chauncey, 2nd president of Harvard College (and Catherine Eyre), and of John and Abigail (Ford) Strong, these last ancestors of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and of Princes William and Henry. Joseph Pynchon, son of William and Catherine (Brewer) Pynchon, was a Yale graduate of 1757 and married Sarah Ruggles, daughter of Rev. Thomas Ruggles, Yale graduate of 1723, and Rebecca Hart, daughter (by Rebecca Hubbard) of Rev. John Hart, Yale graduate of 1703, son of Thomas and Ruth (Hawkins) Hart and grandson of another couple in the ancestry of the late Princess of Wales, Stephen Hart of Farmington and his unknown wife.

    Joseph Pynchon and Sarah Ruggles were the parents of the first Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, whose first wife was Mary Tomlinson of Guilford (see Alvan Talcott's Families of Early Guilford, Connecticut [1984], p. 1024), whose children included the second Thomas Ruggles Pynchon and William Henry Ruggles Pynchon (b. 1786), husband of Mary Murdock and father of Trinity College president T. R. Pynchon (III) (1823-1904) and William Lyon Pynchon, mentioned above. W. H. R. Pynchon is the "Henry R." whose death, 14 Dec. 1831, aged 46, is covered in the published New Haven vital records, and William L. Pynchon is included in a published 1907 list of Union College graduates. Annie Payne Cogswell, wife of William Lyon Pynchon, mother of W. H. C. Pynchon, grandmother of T. R. Pynchon (IV), and great-grandmother of the novelist, appears on pp. 445-46 of E. O. Jameson, The Cogswells in America (1884), the daughter of 1823 Yale graduate William Henry Cogswell and his second wife Lucretia Anne Payne, and granddaughter of William and Mary (Brewster) Cogswell and Elisha and Anna (Dyer) Payne.

    William Cogswell was the son of Nathaniel and Bridget (Cleveland) Cogswell, grandson of Edward and Hannah (Brown) Cogswell, and of Joseph and Deborah (Butterfield) Cleveland, and great-grandson of William, Jr. and Martha (Emerson) Cogswell and Josiah and Mary (Bates) Payne. The parents of William Cogswell, Jr. were William and Susanna (Hawkes) Cogswell, another couple in the ancestry of the late Princess of Wales, and Mary Bates was the daughter of John and Mary (Farwell) Bates and the granddaughter of Henry Farwell and RD immigrant Olive Welby, whose mother was a Bulkeley. Mary Brewster, wife of Daniel Coit and William Cogswell, was the daughter of Simon and Anne (Andrus) Brewster, great-great-great-grandparents of poet and playwright Archibald MacLeish. Simon Brewster was a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Witter) Brewster, grandson of William and Lydia (Partridge) Brewster and of Ebenezer and Dorothy (Morgan) Witter, and great-grandson of Love and Sarah (Collier) Brewster and of Princess of Wales forebears Joseph and Dorothy (Parke) Morgan. Love Brewster was the son of Elder William and Mary (----) Brewster of the Mayflower, and Dorothy Parke was a daughter of Thomas and Dorothy (Thompson) Parke and a granddaughter of John Thompson and RD immigrant Mrs. Alice Freeman Thompson Parke.

    Elisha Payne (1757-1802) of Canterbury, Conn., a Yale graduate of 1779, appears on p. 264 of H. D. Paine, Paine Family Records, vol. 2 (1883), son of Solomon, Jr. and Mary (Bacon) Paine, grandson of Solomon and Priscilla (Fitch) Paine, great-grandson of Elisha and Rebecca (Doane) Paine, and great-great-grandson of Thomas Paine and Mary Snow, this last a daughter of Nicholas Snow and Constance Hopkins, and granddaughter of Stephen Hopkins of the Mayflower. Josiah Paine, the historian of Harwich and contributor of the "Eastham branch" genealogy in Paine Family Records, left his manuscript collection to NEHGS. Included therein (in carton 2 of SG PAI 11, #222), on p.184 of "Descendants of Thomas Paine of Eastham, Massachusetts," Anna Dyer (c. 1762-29 Feb. 1848, married 19 May 1780) is called a daughter of John, and was thus one of three first cousins with her name (the other two were born in 1766) in Canterbury. Anna (Dyer) Paine was an unrecorded daughter of John, Jr. and Anna (Payson) Dyer, granddaughter of John and Abigail (Fitch) Dyer, and great-granddaughter of James Fitch, Jr. and Mrs. Alice Bradford Adams. Fitch was a son of James Fitch and Abigail Whitfield, daughter (by Dorothy Sheafe) of Guilford, Conn. founder Rev. Henry Whitfield, whose descent from a sister of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer is fully documented in John Brooks Threlfall, The Ancestry of Reverend Henry Whitfield and His Wife Dorothy Sheafe (1989). Alice was a daughter of William and Alice (Richards) Bradford and a granddaughter of Mayflower passenger Gov. William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony and Mrs. Alice Carpenter Southworth. Some of the ancestry of Elizabeth A. Woodworth, wife of Joseph L. Moyses, requires further research. The 1898 Walter Woodworth genealogy identifies her (p. 95) as a daughter of Giles Woodworth (b. Bozrah, Conn. 28 Aug. 1798) and Philena Hyde, and granddaughter of Elisha Woodworth (of mostly traceable ancestry - see Jeanette Woodworth Behan, The Woodworth Family of America, vol. 1 [1988], p. 367) and Mary Harris (b. 1774), about whom I should like to ask Gale Ion Harris. Philena Hyde is unfortunately not covered in the 1864 William Hyde of Norwich genealogy.

    This quick survey, not yet exhaustive, of the ancestry of one of the major American novelists of the last half-century, adds another major figure to the Lygon of Madresfield progeny and highlights the value of college alumni records -- often unpublished. Thomas Pynchon also shares Cogswell, Ford, Hart, Hawkes, Morgan, Parke and Strong ancestors with the late Princess of Wales and her sons, and is of royal descent via not only Amy (Wyllys) Pynchon, but also Olive (Welby) Farwell, Rev. Charles Chauncey, and Alice (Freeman) (Thompson) Parke. Mayflower forebears were Bradford, Brewster and Hopkins, and distant literary kin, besides various notables in the large Lygon progeny, include Archibald MacLeish and Geoffrey Chaucer. I shall undoubtedly treat the Pynchon line itself (plus the Ligon of Va. descent of a newsworthy political figure) and perhaps some further additions and corrections to the Lygon series, in a future "Notable Kin" article. Next herein I will consider further additions to RD600 developed since columns #s 43-44. One preview note: Paul Reed recently argued in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly that Amy de Gaveston's maternity is unknown, and Douglas Richardson now disclaims the Plantagenet-Holand-Fiennes connection. Thus I am now deleting the latter descents from RD600, and substituting alternate lines for Amy de Gaveston descendants, but noting on what pages of PASCC2 the descent from Amy de Gaveston is outlined. I also eagerly await any word on whether Amy's father, Piers de Gaveston, the favorite of Edward II, was himself of major noble or Carolingian descent.

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