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  • Reverend Jonathan And Simon Burr: Father & Son, or Brothers, or Were They Cousins?

    Ralph U. Heninger

    Published Date : August 1985
    Descendants of Simon Burr of Hingham and his wife Hester, many of whom are now prominent American families, have a more remote ancestry which is uncertain.  There is a difference of opinion as to whether Simon was the son of the Reverend Jonathan Burre (spelling differs), or if he was instead the son of Henry Burre of Stisted, Essex County, England.

    Dr. Chauncey Rea Burr, in his thoroughly researched book, Bures of Suffolk, England, and Burr of Massachusetts Bay Colony, New England (New York: privately printed, 1926), concludes that Jonathan Burre and Simon Burr were cousins.  Dr. Burr lists Henry Burre of Stisted and Much Canfeld, who married 3 June 1600 Ann Fisher, daughter of Gregory Fisher of Redgrave, as the father and mother of Simon Burr.  Simon was baptized 3 June 1618 and emigrated to New England prior to 1645.  He married Hester at Hingham 28 November 1648, and died intestate 7 February 1691/2.

    According to Dr. Chauncey Rea Burr (who died in 1923), Henry Burre and John Burre were brothers.  Their father was Symon Burre of Much Canfeld.  John Burre was the father of the Reverend Jonathan Burre and his mother was Mary Fowle.  Henry Burr and his wife Ann Fisher, daughter of Gregory Fisher of Redgrave, were the father and mother of Simon Burr.

    A different opinion as to the relationship of the Reverend Jonathan Burr and Simon Burr, the immigrant,” was presented by Charles Burr Todd in his A General History of the Burr Family in America, with a genealogical record from 1193 to 1902 (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1902). The following is quoted from Mr. Todd’s book, pages 327-28:

    It is held by some genealogists that Simon Burr was an original settler, and not the son of Rev. Jonathan Burr, of Dorchester. But after a careful study of the subject in all its bearings, the compiler became convinced that Mr. Savage and other eminent genealogists were correct, and that he was the son of Rev. Jonathan Burr, of Dorchester, hence himself and his descendants are included in the genealogy of the Dorchester Branch.

    He was a proprietor of land in Hingham. Massachusetts, as early as 1645. Mr. Savage says he settled there in 1646. He was made freeman in 1664. Of his first marriage we have no knowledge. The Hingham Parish [91]  Records merely inform us that on “July 23, 1647, Simon Burr’s wife died,” and that on 28 November 1648, he married 2d, Hester ____.

    Mr. Savage’s identification will be found in Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1860-62), Volume 1, page 308.

    The difference of opinion results from the conclusions of Dr. Chauncey Rea Burr in his book, page 29:

    Jonathan’s father was John Burre of Redgrave and Simon’s father was Henry Burre of Stisted. They were apparently brothers. At all events Simon Burre of Much Canfeld….had, among others, two sons named John and Henry. John Burre lived at Redgrave and married in 1593 Mary the daughter of Rev. Thomas Fowle, rector of Redgrave. Henry Burre lived at Stisted and married in 1600 Ann the daughter of Gregory Fisher of Redgrave.

    The reasoning and evidence upon which Chauncey Rea Burr based his conclusion that the Reverend Jonathan Burr and Simon Burr were not father and son but rather cousins, is set forth at pages 33 and 34 of his book.

    As to the descendants of Jonathan Burre and Simon Burr (who were among the first colonists to New England), genealogists appear to agree that current living descendants have as a common ancestor, Nicholas DeBures of Suffolk, England.

    Nicholas DeBures, of Norman ancestry, was born before 1230 and died after 1301. His grandson Sir Robert DeBures, of Acton, England, died September 1331, is often referred to as the Second Son of Sir Robert DeBures of Acton.

    Dr. Chauncey Rea Burr, in reference to his research, page vi, closes his introduction to the Burr family, with the following comment:

    To the descendants of Simon Burr of Hingham it should be a matter of gratification that they have been given a background….They are of English blood. Their fathers did their part in founding the American Commonwealth by bringing to the shores of Massachusetts Bay the English ideals of religion, justice and fair play

    The conclusion of Dr. Chauncey Rea Burr that Simon Burr of Hingham was a son of Henry Burre and Ann Fisher of Stisted, Essex (and not the son of the Reverend Jonathan Burr), has been accepted as “more likely,” by the Register, Vol. 81 (1927), page 202, footnote to Rev. Arthur Wilmot Ackerman’s “Memoirs of Deceased Members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society”:

    That Simon Burr of Hingham was a son of the Reverend Jonathan Burr of Dorchester, Mass., as is stated in the memoir of Miss Burr’s father published in the Register, Vol. 55, p. lxxxvi, is unlikely. For the probable English ancestry of Simon Burr of Hingham and his relationship to Rev. Jonathan Burr see Bures of Suffolk, England, and Burr of Massachusetts Bay Colony, New England, by the late Chauncey Rea Burr, a work edited by Henry Winthrop Hardon of New York City and printed in 1926.

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    Note:  As to those descendants of Simon Burr, who through Luther Burr and his wife Jane Howard trace their ancestry to James Chilton of the Mayflower, it is not material whether the Rev. Jonathan Burr and Simon Burr were father and son, or if they were cousins. Jane Howard was a great-granddaughter of Sarah Latham. a descendant of Mary Chilton whose father was James Chilton of the Mayflower, Jane Howard and Luther Burr were married 7 April 1784. Kathleen Huntress Heninger, wife of the author, is a direct descendant of Simon Burr and also of James Chilton of the Mayflower.

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