Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and love that this blog helps with that. I consider much of my research as a work in progress, so please let me know if you have conflicting information. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My male Mayflower ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, and John Howland.
Female Mayflower ancestors: Mary Norris Allerton, Eleanor Billington, Mary Brewster, Mrs. James Chilton, Sarah Eaton, and Joan Hurst Tilley.
Child Mayflower ancestors: Giles Hopkins, (possibly) Constance Hopkins, Mary Allerton, Francis Billington, Love Brewster, Mary Chilton, Samuel Eaton, and Elizabeth Tilley.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thomas Lettice and his Wife Anne, 17th Century Plymouth, Mass.

Thomas Lettice (sometimes spelled Lettis) is my 13th great-grandfather on my grandfather Arthur Washburn Davis’ side of the family. He was likely born in England, came to live in Plymouth before 1637 and married a woman named Anne (or Ann), whose maiden name is not known (although it’s sometimes given as Savory but I’ve seen no solid proof of this).

Savage thought Thomas might have been the Thomas Lettyne, age 23, who sailed from London for New England in the Elizabeth on 15 April 1635, but there is no way to confirm this. Thomas Lettice is first mentioned in Plymouth records on 7 March 1636/7 when Francis Cooke brought charges against Thomas Lettice, James Walker, John Browne the younger, and Thomas Teley, who being in the service of John Browne the elder and Thomas Willet, who were also charged, for abusing Cooke's cattle. Cooke was awarded 3 pounds damages and 13 shillings six pence for costs (PCR 7:5). Apparently there were no leftover feelings of ill will as Francis Cooke’s son Jacob married Thomas’ daughter Elizabeth.

 On 25 March 1640 Willm Pontus, Thomas Lettice and John Greemes were assigned to repair the herring weir and draw it and deliver the shares for the ensuing three years (PTR 1:1).

In several 1641 actions against James Luxford, Thomas Lettice (twice) and other complainants were awarded property belonging to Luxford which was in the hands of others (PCR 7:25, 27).

Thomas Lettis was on the list of those able to bear arms in Plymouth in 1643.

Thomas Lettice became a freeman in 1654 (PCR 3:48).

I know of four children born to the couple, order and birth years uncertain:

Anne who married Samuel Jenney
Elizabeth who married first William Shurtleff (who was killed by lightning), second Jacob Cooke (son of Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke) and third Hugh Cole; she died 31 October 1693
Dorothy, married first Edward Gray, second Nathaniel Clark whom she divorced; she died in 1728
Thomas who died 3 November 1650

I descend through their daughter Dorothy who married Edward Gray. I wrote about that couple here.

Thomas was a carpenter by trade. In Plymouth probate records there are multiple instances of estates owing him money. On 17 March 1651, the estate of Webb Audey of Plymouth owed Thomas Lettice 1 shilling 6 pence for an undisclosed service and 6 shillings for a coffin. (The Mayflower Descendant, volume 11).

Jacob Cooke's Plymouth estate owed Thomas Lettice 4 shillings. Exhibited to court 8 March 1675/76. (The Mayflower Descendant,  3;239) Jacob was Thomas' son-in-law.

On 2 August 1653 Thomas and Anne Savory put their five year old son Thomas Jr out as an apprentice with Thomas Lettice, carpenter, until he reached 21. Young Thomas was to receive meat, drink, apparel, washing, lodging and all other necessities and was to be taught the trade of house carpenter and be taught to read the English language. In turn he was to give his master faithful and respectful service, not absent himself by day or night without license, not marry during his term, not embezzle, purloin or steal any of his master's goods, not give away any of his secrets and to be obedient. On completion of term he would be given two suits of clothes and various specified tools.

Thomas was somewhat active in town affairs.  He served at times on juries and as surveyor of highways. In 1651 a John Lettice was constable for Plymouth (PCR 2:167), but this may have been a clerical error for Thomas, since no John is known.

In 1659 Thomas Lettice brought charges against Thomas Pope for abusive carriages at the mill at Plymouth, and Pope was fine 10 shillings to the use of the colony (PCR 3:173).

On 3 July 1666 Elizabeth Shurtleff of Marshfield, widow, and Thomas Lettice of Plymouth, carpenter, gave bond to administer on the estate of William Shurtliff of Marshfield, late deceased (The Great Migration Begins).

Thomas died after 25 October 1681, when he made oath to a document being his last will and testament. Anne died after him as she’s mentioned in his will.

Thomas Lettice’s will was dated only with the year 1678, he of Plymouth, signed by a mark. The will was very succinct. He left five shillings each to his three daughters: Anne wife of Samuel Jenney, Elizabeth Cooke widow, and Dorethy the wife of Edward Gray. The rest of his real and personal estate, after payment of debts was bequeathed to wife Anne who was made executrix. Witnessed by Jonathan Barnes and Joseph Howland. On 25 October 1681 Thomas Lettice did declare the above to be his last will and testament in presence of Nathaniel Thomas. Lt. Joseph Howland made oath to the will at court. (PCPR Volume IV, part II, page 11)

His will seems to indicate a man without much by way of money and property, but records show that Thomas was involved in multiple purchases of land, so perhaps he had already disposed of them to his children before his death. On 2 December 1639 William Fallowell, Robert Finney, John Finney, and Thomas Letttice were assigned garden places near Webb's Field (PCR 1:136). Thomas Lettice bought a house and seven acres of land in Plymouth from Thomas Cushman on 24 March 1641 (PCR 12:77). On 2 August 1653 John Cooke Senior of Plymouth sold to Thomas Lettice of Plymouth for the sum of three pounds a house and garden with a house standing on it where Thomas now lives (The Mayflower Descendant Vol 3, p. 139).  On 20 March 1657 William Browne deeded a garden place to Thomas Lettice next to where he now lives as well as about an acre of meadow called Doten’s Meadow in exchange for two ewe sheep. The garden was bordered by James Cole on one side (The Mayflower Descendant vol. 12). On 27 August 1679 he was living on New Street (now called North Street) in Plymouth (PCR 6:161).

North Street is a pretty road near Plymouth's waterfront. One historical structure to note there is the 1749 Spooner House, which is open for tours in the warmer months.

Sources Not Listed Above:

Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, 1995

Eugene Stratton, Plymouth Colony, Its People and History, 1986

James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, 1860

Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, 1860


  1. I've just learned that I descend from Thomas Lettice and Anne through through Anne Lettice and Samuel Jenney. Thomas and Anne are 9th great grandparents.

    1. What a wonderful discovery! Congratulations, Chris

    2. I also just discovered that I am descended from Thomas and Anne through Anne Lettice and Samuel Jenney. Hello cousin!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thomas Lettice is my 9th great-grandfather. His daughter Elizabeth married Benjamin Shurtleff. My great grandmother was May Shurtleff. My grandfather was Verne Shurtleff Montgomery.

  4. I'm also desc thru the shurtliff line my great grandparents were Erza Noble Shurtliff and Mary Cheney


I'm now moderating comments on this blog. My apologies for any ensuing delays, but the large number of "spam" comments have made this necessary. ~Chris