William Nelson is my 10th great-grandfather on my grandfather Arthur Washburn Davis’s side of the family. He was of Plymouth as early as 1636 since in March 1637 he was hired to keep the cows for the year, at the same wages he had been paid the previous year (Records of Town of Plymouth 1:3). Some family history folks have him born Barton-upon-Humber, North Lincolnshire, 21 June 1615, but I haven’t seen the source for this information and it isn’t included in any of the published sources I have seen.
William married Martha Ford on 29 October 1640 in Plymouth (Plymouth VR 1:153). Martha was born about 1620 (based on age at death), the daughter of “Widow Ford.” She came to Plymouth on the Fortune in 1621. Her father’s first name is not known but it I believe he would have come on the Fortune with his family and died on the voyage or soon afterward. It seems unlikely that a very pregnant woman (she gave birth to a son the day after she landed at Plymouth) would have made the voyage alone.
Martha and William’s children, born Plymouth, only Jane’s birth was recorded but all named in will:
Martha b. ca 1641, married John Cobb
John b. ca 1643, m. 1st Sarah Wood, 2nd, Lydia (Barnaby) Bartlett, 3rd Patience Morton
William b. ca 1645, m. Ruth Foxwell
Jane b. 28 February 1650, m. Thomas Faunce
I descend from Martha. I wrote about Martha and John Cobb here.
On 3 August 1640, William Nelson was granted six acres of upland at Plymouth (PCR 1:159).
William was on the Plymouth 1643 list of Men (age 16 to 60) Able to Bear Arms.
William was on the list of Plymouth freemen in 1658 but in 1670 he was one of just six freemen at Middleboro (although the latter could be his son William).
He was also on the 1662 Plymouth list of “first born children” because of his marriage to Martha Ford. I believe this list was of any needy child or parent of a child who were in Plymouth by 1627 but not certain.
On 3 June 1662 the Plymouth Colony Court granted William Nelson, by right of his wife “one of the first born children,” land at what is now Middleborough, Massachusetts (PCR 8:19). This seems to indicate she was born in Plymouth but her age at death and that Edward Winslow writes her mother gave birth to a baby boy in 1621 cast doubt on that theory. In Plymouth Colony Deeds (III:21), he received the twenty third lot in a land division.
On the second Tuesday of September 1668, "The Towne have (with the consent of John Everson) disposed of Richard Everson his son unto William Nelson senr of Plymouth to be and Remaine with him until he hath attained the age of one and twenty yeares hee being att the date hereof about two yeares old." (Records of the Town of Plymouth, 3 volumes, 1:105.) John Everson was a transient who was warned out of town a few months after giving up his son, but was he still in town six months later. He put out two additional children to local families.
William Nelson Sr of the town of New Plymouth in the Colony of New Plymouth wrote his will 31 October 1679. He names his wife Martha Nelson, sons John and William Nelson, daughters Martha Cobb and Jane Faunce (Plymouth Colony Wills 4;2;74).
William died between 31 October 1679 (when he wrote his will) and 15 Dec 1679 (date of inventory).
Martha Ford Nelson died at Plymouth 10 December 1683 in her 64th year (PChR 1:250).
There is an inventory for Martha Nelson’s estate, 7 March 1683/84, Plymouth Colony Wills 4(2):74, with John Nelson as executor. She left housing, upland, four acres of meadow, one acre of meadow at Doty’s Meadow, one acre of meadow on the northwest side of Cedar Swamp, four acres of meadow up Jones River. Her estate also contained two cows, one heifer, two calves, 13 sheep, one mare, two pigs, various tools, crops, household and personal items including a Bible and a Psalm book. The inventory totaled 98 pounds, 8 pence.
I have only seen partial transcriptions of William and Martha’s probate records. Seeing the originals is on my list of things to do.
William T. Davis, Genealogical Register of Plymouth Families, 1899
Thomas Weston, History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts, 1906
Robert Wakefield, Men of the "Fortune,” The American Genealogist, 1980