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.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

James Skiffe ca 1610-1685 and his Wife Mary of Sandwich, Mass.

James Skiffe was born about 1610 in England, possibly in Kent.  His surname is also seen as Skeff and Skiff. He is my 10th great-grandfather on my grandfather Arthur Washburn Davis’ side of the family. He served in various public offices, clearly an important citizen of the town of Sandwich, and was a cooper by trade. My favorite thing about James is that he wasn’t involved in persecuting Quakers, and seems to have risked his own reputation in doing so.

James was one of the early European settlers of Sandwich in the 1630s. He married a woman named Mary, whose surname isn’t known with certainty (I’ve seen it as Reeves but without sources). Author RA Lovell refers to him as one of the hardworking business-like settlers who kept Sandwich going during its early years through continuous public service. James and Mary had nine children whose births are listed in the Sandwich Vital Records.

Children of James Skeff listed, no wife's name:

James Skeff 12 September 1638

Steven 14 April 1641

Nathanniell 20 March 1645

Sare 19 October 1646

Bathshua 26 April 1648 (shown as 21 April in PCR V8:6).

Mary 25 March 1650

Pacience 25 March 1652

Beniamine 15 November 1655

Nathan Skeff and son of James born 27 May 1658

I descend from his daughter Patience who married Elisha Bourne. I wrote about that couple here.  His five sons and four daughters all survived to adulthood and married; several removed to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. James' son Captain Stephen (1641-1710) was the only son to remain in Sandwich and he continued his father's tradition of local civic and military duties and became a county magistrate. James Jr. married Elizabeth Neighbor in 1659, but after 11 childless years he sued for divorce, as Elizabeth had run off to Virginia with another man. James remarried, lived on Nantucket and had six children with his second wife.

According to the 1667 house survey, James Skiff lived in the central village while his son Captain Stephen built on what is now Route 6A opposite Chipman Road. In RA Lovel's book, a depiction of a  1667 map of the village and Spring Hill shows James Skiff's home on what is now Main Street, between Thomas Tupper Sr. and William Bassett, who are also my direct ancestors. The so-called "Skiff House" in Spring Hill has no early connection with the family, but was built by a son of John Nye.

James Skiffe home is no. 9 source: Sandwich A Cape Cod Town

In 1638 Henry Ewer and his wife were ordered to depart from Sandwich for some violation of law, and "Mr. Skeffe is required to send them back because he encouraged their coming."

Richard Handy was apprenticed to Skiffe to learn the trade of cooper. He transferred to Plymouth in 1639.

James was on the 1643 list of Men Able to Bear Arms.

James Skiffe had a great interest in serving his community. In 1658 he was an administrator in town before there was a Board of Selectmen. James Skiff was appointed Deputy to the General Court and served for 13 years. First mention of selectmen found in records was in 1667 when Thomas Burgess, James Skiff and Thomas Tupper Sr. were serving.  He served for 9 years. In 1672 both he and his son Stephen were Selectmen.

At the 23 June 1651 Town Meeting, James Skiff and four other men were chosen to make a levy of six pounds for the payment of the Clerk and the Committees. On the first of March 1654/5 James Skiff and three other men agreed with the town to build a mill, after the original grist mill became inoperable. Skiff and another signed their names; other two used a mark.

In 1653 James Skiff was engaged to buy "Pistols Powder Bullets Drum Cutlass and Half Pikes" for the Sandwich militia. James Skiff and Richard Bourne were appointed to lay out land to townspeople to plant at the Common for six years, 22 Jan 1657/8.

John Ellis, William Swift, William Allen, and James Skeff were engaged to build a mill, the town of Sandwich paying £20. This sum was subscribed by 22 of the freemen and the mill was completed early in 1655.

In September 1673 Richard Bourne and James Skiff were appointed to lay out lands they think necessary and to lay them out near the Town House, some of the land to lie above the House and the rest below the House, and as much of the swamp which lies by the ford as they shall think good for to belong to the House for the use of the Ministry.

James Skiff Sr. is on the 1675 list of Sandwich men allowed to vote at town meeting and who would be fined for non-attendance.

In June 1676 a special committee of four, including James Skiff, was formed to take an account off what ought justly to be satisfied and...all the town's debts that appear justly due to be paid. The resulting taxes were not recorded.

In 1658 James Skiff of Sandwich, was summoned to court for criticizing the law concerning the oath of fidelity. This was during the time of punishment of the Quakers in town, something he didn’t personally participate in.

James Skiff, the deputy to general court in 1659, was rejected because he was friendly to his neighbors holding other than orthodox ideas, meaning Quakers.

Transcriptions of multiple land deeds concerning James were published in various issues of The Mayflower Descendant.

On 14 January 1636 Court of Assistants granted James Skiffe 10 acres next to land granted to Thirston Clarke, between the lands of Phineas Pratt and widow Billington, five acres of this due to him for his serve to Mr. Isaack Olverton and the other five are in the right of Peter Talbott for service by indenture to Edward Doty.

On 3 June 1650 James Skiffe paid 30 pounds to William Wood for land in Sandwich, including a dwelling house, barn, stalls for cattle, upland, meadows.

Plymouth Colony Records of 1654, mention five freemen of Sandwich, including James Skiffe, who desired some several parcels of land by Marshpee Pond and 10 acres of meadow; 100 acres at Santuit Pond; a neck of land by Cotuit River to keep cattle; certain meadow at Mannamuch Bay. No further mention of these desired land grands.

A July 1655 deed mentions James Skiffe for his former service to Thomas Burgis, granting him a small parcel of land at Monnomett, directly over the land of Thomas Burgis, which was formerly the company's where they had a trading house (probably Apucxtet), with all the meadow bordering the said neck or lying on the skirts there, to James Skiff, his heirs and assigns forever.

On 3 July 1656, the court gave liberty to James Skiff to purchase the land granted to him at Manomet of the Indians there.

He purchased land that was recorded years later, in 1657, from Nicholas Wright sometimes of Sandwich, house and 8 acres of upland with orchards, bound to the south by William Bassett Jr., and on the other side by Thomas Launder, as well as two acres of meadow in the Common Field.

James Skiffe’s name is often found in records for witnessing wills and conducting estate inventories. John Green’s 1659 will mentions James Skiffe Sr. being given power of attorney to recover debts to the estate and was made sole executor.

Because of dissension in the Sandwich church by 1688 James Skiff was one of only five active male members remaining.

Mary Skiffe the wife of James Skiffe Sen died the 21 of September 1673 (Sandwich Vital Records). James died about 1685.

I read a book called Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard, by Nora Ellen Groce. She wrote that a name that appeared in 63 of the pedigrees of 72 deaf individuals she investigated was James Skiffe, a hearing man who settled in Sandwich, Massachusetts, with his family in 1633. Skiffe himself never moved to Martha's Vineyard but a number of his children eventually settled in Tisbury and Chilmark. It is likely that Skiffe carried the gene for deafness. They were from the Weald in Kent, lived in Scituate from 1634-44, then to Sandwich, then some to Martha's Vineyard. Once the initial deafness gene occurred, it was perpetuated by the ingrown nature of rural English villages, particularly in the Weald of Kent.

Sources Not Listed Above:

RA Lovell Jr., Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town, 1984

Deyo, Simeon L., editor, History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts," HW Blake & Co., New York, 1890


  1. I was wondering if you could tell me where you got the information on James Skiffe's land grant in 1636 as he resides near my ancestor Phineas Pratt :) I've been browsing through History of Barnstable County for mention of my ancestors but its definitely a long book.

    1. Hi Katie, A transcription of that land grant is from the Mayflower Desccendant, Volume 4, April 1902. Chris

  2. I'm also related to James Skiff! My father is named James skiff

    1. Very cool, Margaret, that your dad carries on that name! Chris

  3. Thank you for posting all of this! Stephen Skiffe was my 10th great-grandfather. I'm descended through Mercy Skiffe and John Chipman down through their son James Chipman and through his son Perez Chipman who moved with the Nicholites into NC.

    1. Glad you found it helpful. That's an interesting line you descend from! Chris

  4. Interesting. Fair number of family names have popped up on your list. Snow, Chase, Freeman, Cole, Rider, Sears, Howes, Eldredge and Nickerson. I am just starting to learn about the family history. I had no idea there was history on Cape Cod. Thanks for sharing your information.

    1. Hi Carrie, That is a lot of common surnames. Cape history is so interesting, I'm sure you'll enjoy your research. Let me know if there's anything I can help with, Chris

  5. Dear Chris . . . we are researching genealogical material of NEIGHBORS in Sandwich, 1667. My line is that of Quaker, John Jenkins, who was a neighbor of the above mentioned James Skiffe. I have a very similar map and I'm wondering about the source of the map you have posted above (James Skiffe home is no. 9 source: Sandwich A Cape Cod Town). Is this map from Russell A. Lovell Jrs publication entitled "Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town". If so, it would give me a strong clue as to the origin of the map I have but do not know the origin of same map. Mine is SO similar . . . I will send you an email with both maps. My name is Marcia. Please respond to me at hronbp1@msn.com

  6. I just stumbled onto this page. This is so cool! My maiden name is Skiff. My grand father is G.H. Skiff. There is a letter circulating in the family, I have a copy of it, but it's a detailed family tree of James Skiff. I would love to post it here. I'm related to Nathan or Nathaniel. On our family letter I think it says Nathan born 1658. My skiff side was in Detroit, Michigan. Later settled in Southern California, where we are today.

    1. I should clarify that my skiff side of the family was in Michigan in the late 30's early 40's. My grandparents married there. Had my dad and uncles. Left to CA. I don't knkw of any other Skiffs in Michigan. But in recent years my dad connected with his Skiff cousin in Montana. Not sure what line he is with James Skiff Sr.

    2. Hello, Nice you have that family letter. If you want to email a copy to me I could post it as past of the blog entry, tessiecami then @ then gmail.com

  7. Do any of you know the Skiffs of Gypsum in Eagle (and also Garfield) County Colorado beginning in 1886?

    1. I don't but hopefully someone else will read this who does! Chris

  8. Thank you so much for your extensive research I am related through Nathan Skiffe and then the Mayhew line. Martha Julina Matyhew being my last Martha's Vineyard ancestor to live there. Also related to Nickerson's and Hollands. I find the link to genetic deafness interesting because idiopathic deafness runs in my family. My family have a long line of ancestors who called the Vineyard and Nantucket home and frequently married 2nd and 3rd cousins which would only make this genetic anomaly more prevalent. I have just started down the Skiffe road.

    1. Thank you, Stacy, for your comment. That would be so interesting to find out if the deafness that runs in your family is genetically tied to your early Vineyard and Nantucket ancestry. Best of luck in your research, Chris

    2. My brother was born deaf and I was able to trace our genealogy through Coffin Bearse and now Skiffe lines

    3. I can never quite wrap my head around the science behind hereditary traits but do find it very interesting.

  9. Hi, Chris. It seems we are cousins. I'm curious about your note about the "so-called Skiff House" in Spring Hill not actually being a Skiff house. People have posted a drawing of the house on Ancestry and referred to your note. Do you have a source for this?

    Also, are you aware of any family homes still standing? I spend a few weeks each year at Provincetown and could drive over and tour them.

    Thanks for your great research!

    1. Hi Jeff, That comment about the "Skiff House" not being connected to the early Skiffe family is from "Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town" by RA Lovell Jr., 1984, but I haven't done research on that myself but I should. I don't know of houses still standing connected to the Skiffe's but maybe someone at the historical society would know. There are some 17th century homes operating as museums that could give a feel for the type of home James may have lived in: The Benjamin Nye Homestead, Wing Fort House Museum, and the Hoxie House Museum.

  10. Thank you. And thanks for the tip about the historical societies. I'm also connected to several of your listed Mayflower lines, plus Bourne (Elisha's daughter, Mary), who has a historical society in his name, and Rev. Lothrop, whose house is now the Barnstable library. Your story of Bourne’s son’s wife running off to Virginia is funny—my Percival line begins with James Percival who arrived on the Cape in about 1670 on a boat he stole in Virginia. That colony was in bad shape at the time.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Finding those human stories like your ancestor stealing a boat make family history research so entertaining!

  11. Great article. I'm also a descendant from the branch that settled in Easton, NY. My great grandmother was Verna Skiff (misspelled Berna in records). Interestingly, she married a Bassett who is descended from William.


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