He immigrated at age 20 on the ship Confidence of London, leaving Southampton, England on 24 April 1638. He came to Barnstable with the first company in 1639 and was admitted freeman there in May 1653. He was a member of Rev. Lothrop’s church and listed as a member there on 29 April 1643. His name rarely occurs in records, which shows he wasn’t overly involved in public service but that he also wasn’t the subject of legal squabbles which were so common. He served as a grand juror in 1653 and 1662 and a surveyor of highways in 1674.
His wife’s name is not known, but some say her first name was Mary.
The couple had 11 children, born and recorded in Barnstable:
Mary b. 1640, baptized 6 May 1643
Martha b. 1642, baptized 6 May 1643
Priscilla b. 10 March 1643/4, baptized 11 March 1643/4, married Deacon John Hall Jr of Yarmouth
Sarah b. 28 March 1646, baptized 29 March 1646, married John Hamblin of Barnstable
Abigail, born 18 Dec 1647, baptized 19 Dec, 1647, married Allen Nichols of Barnstable
Hannah b. 16 Nov 1649, baptized 18 Nov 1649
Joseph b. 25 Jan 1651/2, baptized the same day, m. Martha Taylor. He was probably a soldier in King Philip's war as his sons had land rights in the town of Gorham (later Maine)
Lydia born end of Sept 1655
Rebecca b. Sept 1657
James born end of July 1660
I descend from his daughter Priscilla.
There have been stories that Austin was a Gypsy (his mother called a gypsy princess) and that he was deported as a criminal from England. The story goes that none of the white women were interested in him because of his dark skin, so he married Native American Princess “Little Dove” Hyanno, daughter of Chief Iyyanough. This is always a subject that gets a lot of people fired up, as they strongly believe the legend or feel it’s just a myth. It seems to me that since he was a church going man, living in Barnstable, with children who married into the best English families, that it is impossible he was a gypsy and his wife was a Native American. Whenever I read “princess” to do with an ancestor, I immediately see red flags. There is also no evidence the ship Confidence held any prisoners. The early settlers weren’t exactly an open minded lot and wouldn’t have accepted a gypsy who married a Native American, who by the way was a criminal, into their church and community!
|Centerville house attributed to Austin Bearse from geni.com|
The Cape Cod Genealogy Society Bulletin, Spring 2003, has a map showing locations of first century houses in the town of Barnstable which shows the home of Austin Bearse, a full Cape, at 38 Church Hill Road, Centerville. A post on geni.com says the house still stands but I’ve also read that only the house cellar and remains of an orchard mark the site. A walking map of historic Centerville by the Centerville Historic Society Museum does indicate the house at 38 Church Hill Road was built by Bearse ca 1686, which would've been very late in his life. Something I need to investigate further. A road from his house to Hyannis is still called Bearse’s Way. His house lot contained twelve acres of rocky land and was in the westerly part of the East Parish. He also owned six acres of meadow and two thatch islands.
There is no record of his death or estate settlement, but he Otis wrote he was living in 1686 and died before 1697.
I haven’t read it, but researcher Dale Cook said there is a thorough but hard-to-find work on this family is an unpublished typescript by Fanny Louisa (Steed) Meadows, assisted by Jennie M. Ames, Genealogical Records of Austin Bearse (or Bearce) of Barnstable, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.A. A.D. 1638 to A.D. 1933 ... (Cleveland, OH: 1933; Supplement 1939).
Sources Not Listed Above:
Vernon R. Nickerson, From Pilgrims and Indians... manuscript
Charleen Bearce Lambert, Cape Cod and Main Connections: A Bearce/Bearse Example, Cape Cod Genealogy Society Bulletin, vol 2., no 1, Spring 2012
Amos Otis, Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families, being a reprint of the Amos Otis Papers, originally published in the Barnstable Patriot, revised by CF Swift, Volume 1 and 2, Barnstable, MA, The Patriot Press, 1888
Donald Lines Jacobus, Austin Bearse and His Alleged Indian Connections, The American Genealogist, Vol. 15, 1938