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, April 23, 2023

John Jenney born ca 1589 England, died 1643/44 Plymouth, Mass.

John Jenney was born about 1589 at Norwich, Norfolk, England, to parents whose names I have not yet learned. He is my 11th great-grandfather on my grandfather Arthur Washburn Davis’ side of the family. His name is sometimes spelled Jenne, Jenny, and Jennings. 

He migrated to Leiden, Holland, where he was a member of the Separatist Pilgrims. It was there he married Sarah Carey/Cary on 1 November 1614. I wrote about Sarah Carey here. In their marriage record he is identified as being of Norwich, working as a brewer’s mate, living in Rotterdam. Edward Winslow wrote: "As for the Dutch, it was usual for our members that understood the language and lived in or occasionally came over to Leyden, to communicate (i.e., take religious communion) with them, as one John Jenny, a brewer, long did, his wife and family, &c. and without any offense to the church.” Interesting to know that the Jenney’s at least understood Dutch.

John Jenney, wife Sarah, and children Samuel and Abigail came to Plymouth, arriving in August 1623 after a three-month journey on the Little James, of which John was part owner. Sarah gave birth to a son on the voyage. There is no passenger list, but Emmanuel Altham, master of the Little James, wrote in a letter to his brother in September 1623 that Goodwife Jenney gave birth to a son on board. After a long passage, the Jenney’s must have been dismayed by what they found in the new Colony as conditions were poor, with food and clothing lacking.

Children of John and Sarah Jenney:

  1. Samuel born Leiden about 1616; called “eldest son” in father’s will;  m. (1) Susanna Wood; m. (2) Anne Lettice 
  2. Unnamed child, buried St. Peter’s Yard, Leiden, 1618
  3. Abigail, born say 1621; called “eldest daughter” in father’s will; m. Henry Wood
  4. Son, born 1623 aboard Little James, died before the 1627 Plymouth cattle division
  5. Sarah born about 1625; m. Plymouth 29 May 1646 Thomas Pope [PCR 2:98].
  6. John born by 1627; in 1643 list of men able to bear arms; named in father’s will but not in mother’s will; no further record
  7. Susanna, born say 1634, m. Benjamin Bartlett

The 1618 burial record for their unnamed child states the John Jenney family lived on Veldestraat (Field Street) in Leiden.

I descend from Sarah and her husband Thomas Pope. I wrote about that couple here.

John Jenney is on the “1633” Plymouth list of freemen among those made free before 1 January 1632/33 [PCR 1:3]. Also on the Plymouth section of 1643 list of men able to bear arms [PCR 8:188]. In the 1627 Plymouth cattle division “John Jene…his wife Sarah Jene” and Samuell, Abigail, and Sara Jene were the first five persons in the twelfth company [PCR 12:13].

John was a miller, owning the grist mill on what is now Spring Lane in Plymouth along Town Brook. It is a short walk from the water front and close to Burial Hill. There is a re-imagining of the mill on the property, Plimoth Grist Mill, previously called the Jenney Grist Mill. I’ve visited the mill and it helped bring John and Sarah to life for me. I also love seeing the herring run on the site each spring as the fish go against the current from the ocean, up Town Brook, up the fish ladder installed at the mill, all to spawn in Billington Sea (a pond, named after another of my Mayflower ancestors Francis Billington who first spied it).

John was well off financially and was at times called “gentleman” in records. In 1633 the earliest tax list shows only two men paid a higher tax than Jenney—Isaac Allerton (my 12th great-grandfather) and Gov. Winslow. On 4 September 1638 “Mr. John Jenney” purchased one-sixteenth share in a bark of 40 or 50 tons soon to be built [PCR 2:31].

The Plymouth court kept a close eye on the operation of the mill as it was such an important service in town and apparently the Jenneys didn’t always run things as the court expected. On 5 March 1638/9 “Mr. John Jenney [was] presented for not grinding corn serviceable, but to great loss & damage, both in not grinding it well, as also causing men to stay long before it can be ground, except his servant be fed…and also for not keeping his stampers going, which is much to the detriment of all.” [PCR 1:118] On 20 August 1644 “Mrs. Jenney, upon the presentment against her, promiseth to amend the grinding at the mill, and to keep mortars clean, and bags of corn from spoiling and loosing.” [PCR 2:76]

Public service was obviously important to John and he must have been a valuable, respected member of the community. He was:

  • Plymouth Assistant to the Governor in 1637, 1638, 1639, 1640 [PCR 1:48, 79, 116, 140]
  • Deputy for Plymouth to General Court, 1 June 1641 [PCR 2:16]
  • On committee to assess the colony 2 Jan 1633/4, 2 March 1635/6 [PCR 1:26, 38)
  • On committee to lay out highways 1 Oct 1634 [PCR 1:31]
  • On committee to control wages and prices 5 Jan 1635/6 [PCR 1:36]
  • On coroner’s jury on body of John Deacon 2 March 1635/6 [PCR 1:39]
  • On committee on reuniting Plymouth and Duxbury 14 March 1635/6 [PCR 1:41] 
  • On committee on revising laws 4 Oct 1636 [PCR 1:44].
  • On committee to apportion hay grounds 20 March 1636/7 [PCR 1:55]
  • On committee to survey meadows 5 May 1640 [PCR 1:152]
  • On committee on providing soldiers against the Indians 27 Sept 1642 [PCR. 2:45] 

John Jenney was in the Plymouth section of the 1643 Plymouth Colony list of men able to bear arms [PCR 8:188].

Nathaniel Morton (my 10th great grandfather), in writing about the arrival of the Little James, noted one of “the principal passengers that came in her was Mr. John Jenny, who was a godly, though otherwise a plain man, yet singular for publicness of spirit, setting himself to seek and promote the common good of the plantation of New Plymouth, who spent not only his part of the ship (being part owner thereof) in the general concernment of the plantation, but also afterwards was always a leading man in promoting the general interest of this colony. He lived many years in New England, and fell asleep in the Lord, anno 1644.”

John Jenney had a brief feud with Samuel Chandler. On 20 May 1637 Jenney complained “against Samuel Chandler, in an action upon the case to the damage of 20 pounds, whereupon a parcel of beaver of the defendants was arrested aboard the said Mr. Jenney’s bark.” [PCR 7:6] On 2 June 1640 “Samuell Chandler complains against John Jenney, gent., in an action of trespass upon the case, to the damager of” 40 pounds, and the jury found for Chandler. [PCR 7:15-16] In 1642 and 43 he also had a dispute with Joseph Ramadan. [PCR 2:38-39, 57, 7:33-34]

Some of John Jenney’s land transactions:

  • In the 1623 Plymouth land division “John Jenings” was granted five acres as a 1623 arrival [PCR 12:5].The Jenney family of five drew “land beyond the Brooke [Town Brook] to Strawberry Hill.” Described as abutting the swamp and reed ponds. Strawberry Hill was later known as Watsons. 
  • Assigned hayground described as “the grounds from Job. Winslow downward to Mr. Allerton’s house, or the creek there,” 14 March 1635/6 . [PCR 1:40]  On 20 March 1636/7 assigned hay ground “where he had the last year, and to edge more upon the sedgy place, that there may be hay also got there for the team of the town.” [PCR 1:56]
  • In 1635 “Mr. John Jeney” sold to George Watson “the dwelling house & garden with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging, which was sometimes Richard Maisterson’s.” [PCR 12:51] On 6 Jan 1636/7 it is “agreed that the six acres of the lands of John Jenney, and the two acres of Mrs. Fuller, lying at Strawberry Hill, enclosed by Mr. Ralph Smyth, shall be yielded up unto them this year, that they may improve them to the setting of corn, provided that the said John Jenney shall erect a dwelling house near or upon the six acres, which are to belong unto the said house as long as it sell be a dwelling.” (PCR 1:50]
  • On 5 March 1637/8 “one hundred and fifty acres of lands are granted unto Mr. John Jenney, lying on the east side of the Six Mile Brook, in the way of Namascutt, to be a farm belonging to the town of Plymouth, and to be called by the name of Lakenhame. And whereas there was not enough found on the East side of said brook, the Court granted unto him a certain neck which is hundred as lowest, viz: by Lakenham Brook on the one side, and with a swamp on the other side, with a small brook in it.” [PCR 1:77]
  • Webb Adey sold on 29 August 1638 to Mr. John Jenny for 17 pounds 12 shillings his house and garden in Plymouth, together with three acres of lands in the New Field. (Great Migration Begins)
  • On 24 Jan 1638[/9] “Mr. John Jenney” sold to John Howland “all that his house, barns & outhouses at Rockey Nook [Rocky Nook is current day Kingston] together with all the lands thereunto belonging laid forth for the said Mr. Jenney’s shares with the which was Phillip Delanoy’s allowed him for want of measure and the five acres of meadow adjoining,” receiving as partial compensation “three acres of lands of the said John Howland lying at Caughtaughcanteist Hill.” [PCR12:41, 42]
  • On 10 June 1639 “Richard Cliff of Plymouth, tailor,” sold to “Mr. John Jenney of the same…all that his house & garden with the fence about the same all that the said Richard Cluff bought of Samuell Eddy.” [PCR 12:44]
  • On 16 Sept 1641 “Mr. John Jenney is granted as much more upland as will make his farm at Lakenhame two hundred acres, and when that is used, then to have more added to it, in lieu of some land he hath yielded up at the town to Gabriell Fallowell.” [PCR 2:26]
  • “Mrs. Jennings” received one share in the Dartmouth lands [MD 4:187] after her husband’s death [John was involved in the negotiation of this large purchase but did not live to see it completed].

John had some education as the inventory of his estate included a small globe and a Bible and other books valued at 1 pound 1 shillings. The inventory of Sarah Jenny included “a [p]salme booke, ”Cartwright on the Remise,” “Downham’s Works,” “four old books, “Mr. Ainsworth on Genesis & Exodus,” and “a great Bible & a small one.”  

In his will dated 28 December 1643 and proved 5 June 1644 John Jenney of New Plymouth bequeathed to “my eldest son Samuell Jenney” a double portion of all his lands; to “Sarah my loving wife” for life “my dwelling house and mill adjacent with all he lands thereunto belonging”; and to the rest “of my said children John, Abigall, Sarah and Susann” a single portion; “whereas Abigail my eldest daughter had somewhat given her by her grandmother and Henry Wood of Plymouth aforesaid a suitor to her in way of marriage my will is that is she the said Abigail will dwell one full year with Mr. Charles Chauncey of Scituate before her marriage…that then my said daughter Abigail have two of my cows and my full consent to marry with the said Henry Wood.” [MD 6:169-70, citing PCPR 1:50]

The inventory of the estate of “Mr. John Jenney” was taken 25 May 1644 and totaled 108 pounds 3 shillings, 3 pence, real estate not included; a list of debts owed the estate was appended. [MD 6:171-74, citing PCPR 1:50-52]

John Jenney’s death isn’t recorded but he died  between 28 December 1643 (date of his will) and 25 May 1644 (inventory taken), at Plymouth, Mass. He was about 54 years old. His widow took over the running of the mill, followed by his son Samuel and son-in-law Thomas Pope. Samuel Thomas eventually sold their shares of the mill and surrounding property as they had moved to Dartmouth.

In her will, dated 4 April 1654 and proved 5 March 1655/56, “Mrs. Sarah Jeney of Plymouth being sick and weak in body” bequeathed thinking it “good to dispose of some small things that is my own proper goods leaving my husband’s will to take place” to “my daughter Pope” a bed and household goods and “further I bequeath to my daughter Sarah Pope all my wearing clothes to dispose of them to my daughter Abigail Wood and to my grandchild Sarah Wood for their use as they have need excepting two of my petticoats which have not been worn which I give to my daughter Sarah Pope for her pains”; to “my son Samuell Jeney and to my daughter Abigail Wood my mare equally to be divided between them”; to “my son Benjamin Bartlett all my …cattle…in the hands of Joseph Warren at the Eel River”; “my sheep be kept together till my legacies be paid”; to “the teacher Mr. John Reyner one ewe lamb”; to “the Elder Mr. Thomas Cushman one ewe lamp and the Bible which was my daughter Susanna’s”; to “my loving friend Goodwife Clarke” one ewe lamb”; “also I give one ewe lamp to Thomas Southworth.” In a codicil dated 18 August 1655 she bequeathed “that which is my own since the death of my husband I give to my tow daughters and the children of my son Samuel, excepting what I give as followers, one cold I give to the three daughters of my children viz. Sarah Wood, Susanna Pope and Sarah Jeney if she come hither to abide, or else not to have any part of this cold or anything else of my estate”; “if my son Samuel take away his children that are now here with me, then my will is that none of them shall have anything of mine…but it shall be reserved for the two boys if they do well when they come to age”; “I give unto Benjamine Bartlett only the starred cow which is at Thomas Pope’s recalling whatsoever else is mentioned in my former will”; to “my daughter Sarah Pope” household goods”; “my loving friends Capt. Standish, Elder Cushman, Thomas Clarke and Thomas Pope” overseers. [MD 8:17, citing PCPR 2:1:17-18]

The inventory of the estate of “Mrs. Sarah Jeney” was taken 18 February 1655[/6] and totaled 248 pounds 5 shillings 8 pence, including 131 pounds in real estate: “the land & meadow at Lakenham,” 7 pounds; “all the land at Strawberry Hill and meadow at the Salthouse Beach,” 14 pounds; “the Purchasers’ land” 10 pounds, and “the mill with the land belonging to it and dwelling house” 100 pounds. [MD 8:173-75, citing PCPR 2:1:18-21]

Sarah Jenney died between18 Aug 1655 (will codicil) and 5 March 1665/6 (probate of will).


Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, 1995

Johanna W. Tammel, comp.,The Pilgrims and other people from the British Isles in Leiden, 1576-1640, 1989

Edward Winslow, Hypocrisie Unmasked, first published in 1646, as reprinted in Alexander Young, Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, 1841

Bertha W. Clark, The Jenney Book: John Jenney of Plymouth and his Descendants, manuscript published by Gateway Press Baltimore, 1988 

Nathaniel Morton, New England’s Memorial, 1669


Monday, April 17, 2023

Patriot Ancestor: Shubael Baker b. 1741, of Yarmouth (now Dennis) and Harwich, Massachusetts

I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, and attended the Patriots Day parade annually, sometimes rising early enough for the re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington. Since then I sometimes get caught up in more modern day celebrations of Patriots’ Day—it’s a holiday from work, vacation week for the kids when they were younger, and the Boston Marathon. But today I’m thinking of my many times great grandfathers who served in the Revolutionary War—I have a handful although I have never had any of the lines approved by the DAR.

One of those Patriots is Shubael Baker, my fifth great-grandfather; others have joined DAR and SAR with Shubael Baker as their Patriot ancestor. He was born 11 November 1741 to Shubael and Lydia (Stewart/Stuart) Baker. He was born in Yarmouth, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, in the part of town called the East Precinct that became Dennis. 

On 15 November 1764 Shubael married Rebecca Chase in Harwich. Their marriage was the first performed by Rev. Nathan Stone. Rebecca was born 24 August 1747, the daughter of Richard and Thankful (Berry) Chase.

Shubael and Rebecca had 11 children and I descend from their daughter Rebecca/Rebecah, born 18 December 1770, who married David Howes. Some people give him a second wife Elizabeth, but Rebecca is named in his will so this seems unlikely.

Shubael was an officer in the militia rather than the Continental Army. Most Yarmouth militiamen served in town-based companies attached to Barnstable County regiments. When his company marched on the alarm on 19 April, the assumption has always been that they reached Marshfield, heard the battle at Lexington and Concord had ended, so returned home. Jack Duggan offers another possible scenario—that Marshfield, a south shore town where many residents had strong loyalist sympathies and where stood a small British garrison, was the destination all along in case those British soldiers went on the attack.

Information from Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors: Shubael Baker, Jr., of Yarmouth. Sergeant in Capt. Jonathan Crowell’s company, which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775, service 3 days; also Ensign in Capt. John Nickerson’s (3d Yarmouth) company, Col. Joseph Vose’s (1st Barnstable Co.) regiment; list of officers of Massachusetts Militia; appointed 29 Sept 1775; also 2d Lieutenant, Capt. Nickerson’s (9th) company., 1st Barnstable Co. regiment; chosen by co. 11 April 1776; commissioned 21 April 1776; Capt. Nickerson’s co., Col. Nathaniel Freeman’s regiment, service 10 days, in Sept 1778; marched to Dartmouth and Falmouth on an alarm; also, Capt. Elisha Hedge’s company; marched on an alarm at Falmouth 13 Sept 1997; discharged 17 Sept 1779, service 5 days; company detached from militia. 

Regimental Orders, 21 October 1777, show Shubael’s leadership abilities: Lt. Baker to take command of Capt. Lewis' company, he being dismissed unfit for service; ... Oct. 25 [1777], Capt. Higgins, who had command of Capt. Lewis' company, being also sick, Lt. Baker was directed to take command of the company from Barnstable; and Capt. Higgins' company, consisting of men from Chatham, Wellfleet and Eastham were joined to Capt. Bang's company. 

Massachusetts Revolutionary War Index Cards to Muster Rolls 1775-1783: 

Lexington Alarm Roll: Shubal Baker Jr. sergeant, Capt. Jonathan Crowell’s Co, in response to 19 April 1775 alarm, from Yarmouth, 3 days, allowed 16 miles travel (vol 12, page 27)

List of Officers, Shobal Baker Jr., returned as sworn by officers appointed for that purpose 29 Sept 1775. Rank: Ensign, Capt. John Nickerson’s (3d Yarmouth) Co., Col Joseph Otis’s (1st Barnstable Co.) Regiment. (Vol 154, page 147)

List of Officers, Shubael Baker Jr., chosen in 9th (3d Yarmouth) co., 1st Barnstable Co. regiment of Mass. militia, as returned by Lt. Col. Enoch Hallet, dated Yarmouth 11 April 1776. Ordered in Council 20 April 1775, that said officers to be commissioned. Rank 2d Lieutenant. “Autograph signature.” (Vol 43, page 235)

A List of Officers, Shubael Baker Jr., as 2nd Lieutenant, 3rd co., of 1st Barnstable Co. regiment of Mass. Militia. Commissioned 21 April 1776. Capt. John Nickerson. (Vo. 28, page 109)

A List of Officers, Shubael Baker Jr. as 2nd Lieutenant, in 9th co., of the 1st Barnstable Co. Regt. Of Mass. Militia. Capt. John Nickerson. (Vol 28, page 31)

Muster and Pay Roll, Shubael Baker, rank of Lieutenant, of Capt. John Nickerson’s Co., Col. Nathaniel Freeman’s Regt, no town of enlistment, discharge or which town belonged given. Served 10 days. Service on an alarm at Dartmouth and Falmouth in Sept 1778. (Vol 21, page 142)

Muster and Pay Roll, Shubael Baker, rank of Lieutenant, Capt. Elisha Hedge’s Co., marched 13 Sept 1779, discharged 18 Sept 1779, service of 5 days. Company detached from militia for service at Falmouth on an alarm. (Vol 36, page 73)

Muster and Pay Roll, Shubael Baker, Lieutenant, of Capt. Elisha Hedge’s Co., Col. Freeman’s Regt, entered service 13 Sept 1779, discharged 18 Sept 1779, served 5 days, company detached for service at Falmouth on an alarm. Sworn to in Barnstable Co. Marched 52 miles (no mileage allowed). (Vol 36, page 67)

I haven’t found Shubael or Rebecca’s death records or burial information. Shubael died after (likely not long after) 20 October 1814 when he wrote his will. He was of Harwich, weak of body but sound of mind, named his wife Rebecca, his six sons (Michael had predeceased him) and four daughters.

I wrote a more complete sketch about Shubael here. . 

Sources Not Listed Above:

Burton N. Derick, Dennis Source Records, Volume 1: Church Records, 2004, Diaries of Rev. Nathan Stone

Shubael's will: Ancestry’s “Massachusetts, US, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991,” image 91, citing Probate Court, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, Probate Records 1686-1894

Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War,  A Compilation from the Archives prepared and published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston, 1899 

Jack Duggan, “Old Yarmouth’s Soldiers of the Revolution,” https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5696af0869a91ac18543a463/t/62d6fe02a138047aa857a8ed/1658256913324/OLD+YARMOUTH%E2%80%99S+SOLDIERS+OF+THE+REVOLUTION.pdf

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Ancestors on the Early Ships: the Fortune, the Little James, and the Anne

I watched a webinar offered by The Alden Kindred of America, “After the Mayflower, A Struggling Colony Expands, 1621-1623,” where W. Becket Soule talks about the arrival of these early ships. It is a very worthwhile watch! A recording of the webinar is available at alden.org under the "virtual"  or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIhnzpyteag

This got me motivated to organize which of my direct ancestors arrived on these ships. There are no official passenger lists, but they have been pieced together using a variety of sources, including William Bradford's Of Plimoth Plantation. 

At Caleb Johnson's Mayflowerhistory.com, there are assembled passenger lists:

http://mayflowerhistory.com/anne (and Little James)


My ancestors by ship:

The Fortune 1621:  55 tons, 1/3 the size of the Mayflower, carried 33 passengers. She departed London in fall 1621 and arrived off Cape Cod on 9 November 1621, arriving at Plymouth by the end of November.  Stayed for just a few weeks while it loaded cargo. On the return trip a navigation error led to the ship being captured by a French warship, the crew kept under guard for about a month and the cargo taken. 

  • Mrs. Martha Ford and her daughter Martha who is my ancestor; Mrs. Ford gave birth to a son on board who must have died soon thereafter; her husband whose first name is unknown likely died during the voyage
  • William and Elizabeth (__?__) Bassett
  • Edward Bumpas/Bompasse 
  • Robert Cushman and son Thomas Cushman who is my ancestor
  • Philip Delano
  • Thomas Prence 
  • Moses Simonson/Simmons 

The Little James and the Anne, 1623:

The Little James 1623: 44 ton pinnace, brand new, sailed in the spring, left same time as the Anne, arrived Plymouth probably a few weeks later than the Anne. Carried about 15 passengers. Crew agreed to spend six years in Plymouth and would share in ship’s profits from fishing and trade. From Plymouth the crew went to Maine and mutinied because of poor conditions. They sent Capt. Altham in a small boat to Plymouth for food. It capsized in a storm, Master John Bridges was drowned and two crew were killed when mainsail crashed onto their boat as they abandoned ship. It was eventually towed to shore and repair took six weeks. Bradford sent ship back to England because of all the losses. It was useful in that it bought over the first cattle and sheep for the colony. 

  • John Jenney, wife Sarah (Carey), and children including my ancestor Sarah; that they came on the Little James is known because the master of the ship, Emmanuel Altham, wrote in a 1623 letter to his brother that Mistress Jenney gave birth to a son on the voyage

The Anne 1623 total 90 passengers between both ships although most were on the Anne, 140 tons, a supply ship, arrived Plymouth on July 10th. 

  • Edward Bangs
  • Patience and Fear Brewster, both my ancestors and daughters of William Brewster who came on the Mayflower
  • Hester Mayhieu Cooke, wife of Francis Cooke who came on the Mayflower, with children including my ancestor Hester
  • John Faunce
  • Bridget Lee Fuller, wife of Samuel Fuller who came on the Mayflower
  • Robert Long
  • George and Juliana Morton and children including my ancestors Nathaniel, Ephraim, and Patience
  • Abraham Pierce/Peirce 
  • Mary Bucket/Becket —unusual she came as a single woman on the voyage, must have had some connection to others on board or in Plymouth, eventually married George Soule who came on the Mayflower
  • Joshua Pratt
  • Christian Penn who married Francis Billington of the Mayflower 
  • Nicholas Snow who would marry Constance Hopkins of the Mayflower 
  • Stephen and Tryphosa (Lee) Tracey and their daughter Sarah who is my ancestor
  • Mrs. Elizabeth (Walker) Warren and her five daughters, she was wife of Richard Warren who came on the Mayflower

Monday, April 3, 2023

John Cary ca 1610 England, died 1681 Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and his wife Elizabeth Godfrey

John Cary was born about 1610 in England.  His name is sometimes spelled Carey, Carye and Carew. He is my 9th great grandfather on my grandfather Arthur Washburn Davis’ side of the family. 

Some of John’s descendants were admirably passionate about honoring his memory, but unfortunately most of the information they shared by way of published books and stone memorials is not cited other than the author of the 1874 Cary Memorials writing he had access to a 100 year old manuscript written by one of John’s grandsons. Some of the claims are exaggerated, such as calling him a Pilgrim of Plymouth Colony. According to family tradition, he was born at Somersetshire, educated at Oxford or Cambridge, and his father William Cary sent him to France for further study. He returned to England when his father passed away and disagreed with his brothers on the settlement of their father’s estate. They reached a compromise which resulted in John accepting 100 pounds and leaving for New England. He was the first to teach Latin in the Colony and may have taught Hebrew to William Brewster. I personally have no idea if any of this is true.

What I do know is that as a young man John migrated to Plymouth Colony in the 1630s and settled at Duxbury where he was allotted 10 acres on 2 October 1637 and that he became a well-respected man and large land holder in the colony. At the Court of Assistants on 2 October 1639 John Carew was allowed to be for himself upon the continuence of the good report of his carriage & demeanor; & at a Court of Assistants held the fourth of November next after, Edmond Weston is licensed to live with John Carew, and to be a pattern with him in working and planting upon the sd John Carew’s land, upon their good demeanor together. The Colony leaders kept an eye on young bachelors in case they turned out to be rowdy men who were intemperate and skipped church on Sundays.

In June 1644 John married a woman named Elizabeth (Plymouth VR vol 1, pg. 655).  That she was Elizabeth Godfrey is shown in Francis Godfrey of Bridgewater’s 1666 will where he mentions his daughter Elizabeth Carye, grandchildren John and Elizabeth Carye, and son-in-law John Carye. 

The births of John and Elizabeth’s twelve children, six boys and six girls, are recorded  by John himself in Bridgewater Vital Records, although some are noted as born in Duxbury and Braintree: 

John Cary being his first (worn) the fourth of November in Duxbour (worn) [1645]

the second Ffrauncis was bor(worn) and place the ninteenth of Janu(worn) [1647]

the third Elizabeth (worn) Twenteth day of Desember 1649 in (worn)

the fourth James was bor(worn) Brantree the eight and twenteth day of March 1652

Fifth Mary born Bridgewater 8 July 1654

The sixth Jonathon Bridgewater foure and twenteth day of January 1656

the seventh David born Bridgewater the seven and twenteth day of January 1658

the eighth Hannah Bridgewater the last of April 1661

the ninth Joseph at Bridgewater the 18th of April 1663

the 10th Rebecka 30th day of march 1665

The11th Sarah 2 August 1667

The 12 Mahitabell was born the 24th of the last month 1670 [this would be February]

Remarkably all twelve of their children survived childhood, growing up to marry and have children. I descend from their son Francis who I wrote about here. 

It would seem that if Elizabeth was John’s only wife and the mother to all of his children born over a 25 year period, she must have been considerably younger than him. There is no obvious gap in the births of the children, though, to indicate the death of one wife and a marriage to a second. Unfortunately his 1681 will does not mention his wife by name. 

On 23 Oct 1648 John Cary sold to James Lindell all the Duxbury land, both upland and meadow granted him and at the same time “testified and affirmed” that his father-in-law Francis Godfrey, “did acknowledge and confess that he had sold his present right and interest of his said land lying upon Green Harbor River” to James Lindell.

By 1652 John and Elizabeth were living at Braintree where their son James was born, but they didn’t stay there long. John was one of the original Proprietors of Bridgewater and was living there by 1654 when his daughter Mary was born. He had found his place and lived there for the remainder of his life. 

On 3 June 1656 John was appointed Constable at Bridgewater, the first appointed position in the new town (PCR, vol. 3, pg. 99). At the time there were just ten freemen in town. He was the first Bridgewater Town Clerk and served in that position from 1656 until his death in 1681. He would have had some education to have a position that required reading and writing.

Records indicate he was an active and well-respected member of the Bridgewater community.  He was often appointed to lay out lands and other tasks that would only be given to someone trustworthy and competent. He was appointed to collect charges from townspeople for the expenses of King Philip’s War and was responsible for seeing the minister was paid and determining how much he was owed. Seth Cary quoted the History of Plymouth, without mentioning the author: “John Cary was a man of superior education and had great influence in the colony and as an officer of the church.”

From General Court at Plymouth in March 1658: On the 4th of March by the intelligence of an Indian, at a place a little below Namaskett Indians found an unblemished body of an English man in the Tetacutt River. John Cary was among the men to investigate and it appeared the man drowned accidentally so they buried him and paid the Indians for their pains. The report to the court was signed by John Carew and eleven others from Bridgewater. 

At the 4 June 1661 General Court at Plymouth, John Carye is admitted by the Court to have equal interest in the grant made to Arthur Harris and others of Bridgewater for accommodation of lands. Report on this task given to the court on 7 June 1668 and John Cary and the eleven others signed the document. 

On 16 March 1676/77 the town of Bridgewater granted to John Cary Sen. 10 acres on condition that he would book all the 106 acres then laid out and the three meadow lots to each. He was granted additional Bridgewater land on 7 June 1665 and 3 June 1668.

He was named to a “jury” of twelve men on 5 June 1667 to lay out ways requisite to the township of Bridgewater. He served on grand inquests 3 June 1662, 5 June 1672, and 5 June 1678.

John and Elizabeth lived in what is now West Bridgewater, about one-quarter mile east of the old church [a 19th century notation] and near the Old Graveyard and Old Town House.

John did own at least one horse as the mark of his horse is recorded in Bridgewater records: the markes of the young horse of John Carey Sey., having a crop on the right eare, & a faire starr in his forehead, the crop on the right ear being his mark. His will shows he owned other livestock as well. 

John Cary senior of Bridgewater died the last day of October in 1681 [Bridgewater Vital Records vol 2, p 445 has the year as 1680 but a note states it must be a mistake and should be 1681 which must be referring to the fact that he wrote a codicil to his will on 31 October 1681].

Bridgewater vital records have Elizabeth Cary’s death as the 1st of November 1680. Is this also an error and should be 1681 since John mentions his wife in his will? He names her executrix with his son John to assist, but it is John Jr. who is appointed to administer his father’s estate, so is possible she died soon after her husband. 

A monument was erected in 1905 at the intersection of South Street and Bryant Street in West Bridgewater, near where his homestead stood. It reads:

Near this spot was the home of

John Cary

Born in Somersetshire, England

He became in 1651 an original Proprietor

and honored settler on this river.

Was clerk of the plantation

when the town of Bridgewater was

incorporated. He was elected

constable, the first and only officer

of that year.

Was town clerk until his death in 1881

Tradition says

he was the first teacher of Latin in

Plymouth Colony.

This tablet is erected by his descendants

in memory

of their historic and noble ancestor.

There is also a cenotaph in Ashland Cemetery in Brockton to the memory of John Cary. He never lived in Brockton but his son Jonathan, grandson Recompense, great-grandson Jonathan, and great-great grandson Jonathan did and are also honored on the cenotaph. It states that John Cary was one of the original Proprietors of Bridgewater in 1654, one of the first settlers, and the first town clerk from 1656 to 1681, he died 1681.

Nahum Mitchell wrote: “Mr. Cary was among the most respectable of them [the first settlers] and his family one of the most influential in the town.” 

7 March 1681/82: Court Orders, Letters of administration are granted unto Sergeant John Carey to administer on the estate of John Carey, Sr., deceased. (Records of the colony of New Plymouth, in New England, v. 6 1678/1691, page 81)

His will, codicil and inventory are very difficult for me to decipher. The ink bled through from the opposite side of paper, a corner is torn off, and the handwriting is a challenge to read, so it is possible there are errors in my interpretation. 

His will was written 15 October [perhaps 1681]; codicil written 31 October 1681, the day of his death. His will and codicil show he was a very large landowner. He leaves bequests of land in Bridgewater, TIticut (a parish of Bridgewater), and Matfield [I’d imagine this is Marshfield which spun off from land originally part of Bridgewater]. Some of the markers he mentions are Titicut River, Jones River, the Plain, Town River, and lands of Arthur Harris, Caleb[?] Loary, Nicholas Byrum, and John Howard. He bequests multiple lots of 50, 30, 20, 15, and 10 acres; I wish I could decipher the will better to total the amount of land he mentions. He does mention his dear and loving wife, but not by name. He mentions his sons John Cary Sr, Jonathan, Joseph, Francis, James, and David. He mentions his four youngest daughters, Hannah Swift, Rebecca, Sarah, and Mehitabel who were each to receive 10 pounds 50 shillings, and two older daughters Elizabeth and Mary. In addition to land he left bequests of his dwelling house and barn, cows, pigs, sheep, a loom and looming tackling, and his guns. His wife is named sole executrix with son John to assist her. Thomas Hayward and Joseph Hayward were witnesses. He signed his will “John Cary Senir.”

Excerpt from John's codicil, a copy made by a clerk so not his own signature

His son Sergeant [John] Cary made oath to his inventory taken 4 November 1681. It included five Bibles and other books, guns and swords, pewter/brass/iron, new cloth, wool flax, pigs, cows, oxen. There is no total; the highest value is the livestock totaling 37 pounds 5 shillings. 

Letters of administration for John Cary’s estate were granted by the Plymouth court held on 7 March 1681/82 to his son Sergeant John Cary.


Seth C. Cary, John Cary the Plymouth Pilgrim, 1911

James Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of First Settlers of New England

Loring W. Puffer editor, Records of John Cary, the first town clerk of Bridgewater, Mass., from 1656 to 1681,  1889 

Torrey’s New England Marriages to 1700

S.F. Cary, Cary Memorials, 1874

Nahum Mitchell, History of Early Settlement of Bridgewater, 1897

Register, “Abstracts of the Earliest Wills Probate Office at Plymouth,” vol 7, p 179, 1853 (Francis Godfrey)

Plymouth County Probate Records, 1633-1967, Wills 1633-1686 volumes 1-4, State Archives in Boston available on Family Search https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-997D-V371?i=529&wc=M6BX-F29%3A338083801&cc=2018320  

Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England, volume 6 1678/1691, p. 81 (letters of administration)