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


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