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John Holmes article published

Finally, Denwood Nathan Stacy Holmes’s article, ‘“The Black Sheep of Some Good Family”: The Essex Ancestry of John Holmes, Gentleman, Messenger of the Plymouth Court’ has been published in the Spring 2017 New England Historical and Genealogical Register. I’m not a member of NEHGS and haven’t seen the actual published article, but I’ve seen various drafts including a recent one presumably very similar if not identical to it. I’ve been awaiting this article since December 2014 when Denwood sent me a draft after I contacted him about his post at which sketches the arguments he makes more thoroughly in the new article.

Up until the more recent drafts the article was a good deal longer; NEHGS lately decided they wanted him to split it into two. So there’s a good deal more information about John’s Essex ancestry still to be published. More importantly, I think, there’s additional evidence connecting John of Plymouth with Thomas of Colchester. It seems incongruous to me that they didn’t want that in the first article, but that was their decision.

I’ve withheld discussion of Denwood’s findings in any detail while awaiting publication, and now I guess I’ll still not write about some of it until the second part appears eventually. But to give you the gist of it:

John of Plymouth arrived there by 1632, but after 1629. His son John is documented; Nathaniel is not identified in the records as his son but has generally been believed to be (and yDNA of descendants of both sons match.) Likewise the Sara Holmes who died in 1650 is believed to be John’s wife. John was Messenger of the Plymouth Court, a position whose duties included that of jailkeeper. He’s referred to as “Mister” and “gentleman” and was better off financially than the majority of the Plymouth colonists, but he apparently had a drinking problem and was the plaintiff in a couple of what now would be called nuisance lawsuits, leading to speculation he was “the black sheep of some good family”. But which family was unknown.

Mackenzie in 1912 asserted John was the son of a Thomas Holmes from Colchester, but didn’t offer any evidence. There was indeed a Thomas Holmes, maltster, from Colchester whose son John was baptized in 1603, but was this the same John? The only known connection between John of Plymouth and the town of Colchester was that he had an indentured servant from there. Thomas also was a “Mister” or “gentleman”, indicating elevated social status, and he was keeper of the Essex county gaol in Colchester Castle, an intriguing similarity, but not conclusive.

Then a few years ago Denwood found the will, dated 1652, of Susan Morton, daughter of Thomas and widow of Tobias Moreton. Her principal legatee was Thomas son of her brother John Holmes, but she also mentions two other sons of John: John and Nathaniel. John is a common enough name, of course, especially among sons of men named John, but the biblical name Nathaniel was uncommon at the time — and principally used in Puritan-leaning families of which Thomas the maltster’s seems to have been one.

Tobias Moreton’s will was written in 1629 and witnessed by both Thomas and John Holmes. This is the last evidence of John in England — meshing pretty well with the timing of the first appearance of John in Plymouth. The year before, the birth of John son of John and Sarah Holmes — another name match — was recorded; Thomas son of John was enrolled in Colchester School in 1641, but it appears by then he was being raised by his aunt Susan.

As for John’s black sheep status, that seems amply confirmed. In Thomas’s will his modest bequest appears to have been added as an afterthought, and Susan’s will has this juicy stipulation:

And my mind and will is that my said nephew Thomas Holmes shall yearly pay out of the premises to his father, my brother John Holmes during his natural life, the sum of five pounds of lawful money of England to be paid to him half yearly by equal portions, viz. at Michaelmas and at the our Lady Day each year, or within twenty days next after either of the aforesaid times. And if the said John Holmes my brother shall any way sue, molest, or trouble my said nephew his son, for any matter or thing whatsoever touching or concerning my estates other than for the non due payment of his yearly legacy aforementioned, then my mind and will is that the said John my brother shall be deprived of all benefit of this my will.

Whatever John did or failed to do to antagonize his sister is unknown, but it must have been serious. Serious enough to send him and his wife to America, leaving their son behind? Maybe.

So, comparing John of Plymouth and John of Colchester: Names of two sons match. Names of wives match (but see below). One was a jailkeeper and the other was son of one. Both were “gentlemen”. Both had Puritan connections. Both had Colchester connections. One disappeared from England shortly before the other appeared in America. Both seemed to be “black sheep”. If that’s not enough, as I said, wait for the second article for more evidence the two were the same.

Denwood mentions a couple of interesting possibilities in his article: First, though young Thomas’s mother was “Sarah” and John of Plymouth’s wife was “Sara”, were they the same woman? There was a gap of about eight years between the births of Thomas in Colchester and John in Plymouth, maybe accounted for by John’s marrying twice. There’s also the question of where John was when he died. There’s no record of his death or burial. He was last mentioned (as living) in Plymouth in 1651, and perhaps the wording of Susan’s will suggests he was back in England in 1652.


No relation

A Holmes researcher just wrote to call my attention to a new yDNA result. As seen here close to the bottom, ID H159, her father’s test result is haplogroup R-M269. He’s a descendant of George Holmes of Roxbury via Charles Holmes, born 1808 in Madison County, NY. Like my Madison County Holmes ancestors, Charles’s family came from New London County, CT (specifically Colchester), and like my immigrant ancestor John, George Holmes came from Essex County in England (specifically Nazing). But the descendants of John all test I-L160.

Of course one has to consider the possibility of a mistake in tracing H159 back to George, or of a non paternal event somewhere; confirming tests, preferably from people with no more recent common male line ancestor than George, would be needed to eliminate such caveats. But assuming this test is correct and it reflects George of Roxbury’s actual DNA, then he and John of Plymouth were unrelated.

No big surprise; Nazing’s not terribly close to Colchester in Essex, and there’s no evidence I know of to suggest any link between the two men beyond the Essex to New London to Madison counties migration routes. And we know a fair number of New London people went to Madison, so it’s not surprising two Holmeses did without their being cousins. Besides, Charles was in the 7th generation of George’s line and my approximately contemporary ancestor, Nathan, was in the 6th generation of John’s line — so even if they’d been cousins they’d have been quite remote ones.

But (if, again, there were no mistakes or NPEs) they weren’t cousins at all, not on the male line in genealogical time anyway. Apparently the Holmeses of Nazing and the Holmeses of Colchester were different families.

Nasty women

I don’t know what was going on here, but it sounds like it was an interesting day. But first this prologue, from the Essex [England] Records Office:

25 April 1577

Richard Broke comes in his proper person and after a hearing of his indictment, complains that he has been greatly and unjustly troubled therby, pleads that it is insufficient in law, and declares he is not guilty, and puts himself on the country. And Gilbert Gerrard, Attorney General of the Queen, follows in this behalf etc.

And then the main event:

5 August 1577

Wistan Browne, esquire, sheriff, Henry Graye and James Morice, esquires, justices, had notice that certain malefactors were unlawfully assembled at “Burntwood” [Brentwood], and approaching the said place we found there many other malefactors assembled in our presence, and by virtue of the Act of 13 Henry IV we record that on the above day Thomasine Tyler, Ann Woodall, Margaret Baneter, Alice Greatheade, Priscilla Prior, Margaret Bayford, Mary Maye, Alcie Degon, Dorothy Woodall, Ann Scoffeild, Katherine Kele, Margaret Gibson, Joan Bawsome, Rose Scoffield, Joan Pulley alias Homes, Katherine Mathie, Elizabeth Lumney, Elizabeth Collyn, Elizabeth Dixson, Joan Browne, Joan Hatter, Elizabeth Warner, Mary Cocke, Bridget Hatter, Agnes Nickson, Agnes Parker, Ann Hunt, Alice Hunt, Dorothy Ascue, Agnes Phipps alias Baysie, all of Burntwood aforesaid, spinsters, at the same, were unlawfully assembled in a certain place called Burntwood chapel and in the Steeple of the said chapel and around the churchyard of the same, and with force and arms they pulled a certain Richard Brooke, schoolmaster, out of the said chapel, and beat him, obstructing also the doors of the said chapel and locking themselves in the same, having and riotously useng and bearing against the servants of the said Wistan Browne and other the King’s subjects then present these arms, to wit, pitchforks, bills, a piked staff, two hot spits, three bows and nine arrows, one hatchet, one great hammer, hot water in two kettles, and a great sharp stone; and that they kept themselves in the said chapel until they were arrested and removed by us the sheriff and justices on the same day, and that afterwards the said Mary Cocke, Alice Greateheade, Mary Maye, Alice Degon, Katherine Kele, Margaret Gibson, Joan Bawsome, Elizabeth Collyn, Elizabeth Dixon, Agnes Nickson, Agnes Parker, Ann Hunt, Alice Hunt, Dorothy Ascue, Agnes Phipps alias Baysey, Elizabeth Warner and Bridget Hatter after the said arrest escaped so that they could not be committed to gaol; and further we the said sheriff and justices record that a certain John Mynto of Burntwood aforesaid, yeoman, being commanded by James Morice, one of the justices, to help in suppressing the aforesaid riotous persons, refused to do so; and moreover that wheareas we committed the said Thomasine Tyler to gaol as a riotous person, a certain Henry Dalley of Burntwood aofresaid, labourer, attempted in our presence to rescue the said Thomasine from our custody.
Each woman fined 4d.
Each man fined 2s.
Signed by Wistan Browne, Sheriff, and the Justices:- Henry Graye, Ja; Morice, John Dercy, Thomas Mildmay, Thomas Lucas, John Petre, Henry Capell, G. Nycolls, James Altham, Fra. Mildmay, Henrye Mdeley, Edward Ryche, Chr. Chiborne.

Looks like the women got a lot more for their money than the men did.

References: Q/SR 62/44 and Q/SR 64/46

Debt is forever

I finally took a deep breath and dug into the image archive at for documents relating to John Holmes of Ramsden Bellhouse. There are four there, plus another document listed (though no image) at the British National Archives. All five are suits for debt. John might not have been so good with money.

Here’s one of the items, the first, from 1512. 1512-debt-crop(Click for full size version.) If you’re not sure what language it’s in, you’re in good company. But squint hard and you’ll see the name “John Holme”— no final s — of “Ramston Bellous”, and according to the index it says he’s a tailor, though I sort of have to take the transcriber’s word for that.1512-debt-supercrop

In the other four documents the final s is there, though with some other variations: “John Holmes of Rammesdon Belhouse, tailor” in 1521, “John Holmes of Ramesdon Belhouse, yeoman” in 1529, and “John Holmys of Ramsdon Belhouse, yeoman” and “John Halmes of Ramsden Bellhouse” in 1531. Again according to whoever transcribed them; I can pick out the name of John and his village, and that’s about it.1521-debt-supercrop



Anyway, if you want your name to go down in history, borrow money.


The road not taken

And you know what else I missed, a stone’s throw from the Dinosaur Place?

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.44.19 AM

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.46.23 AM


No idea who this was named after. It’s not near the Oxoboxo River, so my guess is not Samuel.


Earlier Montville ancestors. Well, collaterals.

No way!

Four days after I get back from New England, this article appears, singling out five roadside attractions in the United States: Trees of Mystery in Klamath, CA; the Gum Wall in Seattle, WA; the Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK; Lucy the Elephant in Margate City, NJ… and the Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art Village in Montville, CT.

Northeastern roadtrippers will find 40 life-sized dinosaur figures on a 1.5-mile nature trail in The Dinosaur Place. And the best part is that they don’t have to worry about any real-life velociraptors.

And I somehow missed it. Passed about three miles from it not knowing it was there. Tragic!Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.33.50 AM


Stomping here, stomping there

I spent the past week on the Massachusetts North Shore, for reasons. On Wednesday I had some time, not really enough time to drive down to Plymouth and back, but I did anyway. I’d been there once as a small child, and near there a couple times in the early 1990s, but not since learning about my Plymouth roots.

I ended up with only an hour and a half or so in Plymouth, of which 52 minutes was spent sitting in a parking lot on the phone with my lawyer. Not much time to look around! That parking lot, though, was this one:IMG_0747Maybe you recognize it from the Google Maps link in this post. This is Plymouth Plaza, a strip mall built on or quite close to the location of the “Reed Pond” referred to in the old Plymouth records. These include the first mention of John Holmes in Plymouth, in 1632, when he bought a house and six acres of land adjoining Reed Pond. In Stratton’s article on John Holmes he also writes: “On 7 August 1638 Mr. John Holmes asked to be granted 10 or 12 acres adjoining his lot, and also a small parcel of meadow at Reed Pond.” In 1667 John Holmes, presumably the son of the immigrant, was granted “A privilidge of grasse or sedge… att the Reed pond in case hee can make meddow of the whole pond or any pte therof it is to be his owne”.

A short walk away is Nelson Memorial Park, on the water, from which you can get a glimpse of the Mayflower II.IMG_0751Further south on Court Street is the building addition on the location where John’s son Nathaniel built a house which may have been standing as recently as the 1990s.
IMG_0752 North of that building is an old brick wall. I suspect it was once part of Nathaniel’s house, though not an original part.IMG_0753 And north of Plymouth Plaza, here’s Holmes Terrace, named for, well, someone named Holmes.IMG_0754

So much for Plymouth; I had to get back to Gloucester.

This morning I left for home, but with a diversion to the south:IMG_1455_crop That’s the Post Office in Montville, CT, if you can’t read it.

I don’t know where Samuel Holmes lived. About all I know is that he had property on the “Sawmill Brook”. From what I’ve read this seems likely to be what’s now called the Oxoboxo River or Oxoboxo Brook. It flows very near that post office, though “flows” isn’t really the word, at least in this dry summer: it looked more like a wet piece of ground than a stream: IMG_1441 So Samuel might have lived close to that point, or not…

It was a somewhat longer drive than I’d expected to get to the neighboring town of Salem where, in the Wesley Brown Cemetery, Samuel’s wife Lucretia is buried. Daughter in law Lucy and (I think) grandson William share the gravestone with her:IMG_1460

So I’ve now been to the birthplaces of eleven consecutive generations of Holmeses: Newport News, VA (my son); Boston, MA (me); Schodack Center, NY (my father); Hamilton, NY (Clarence and Jerome); Montville, CT (Hiram and Nathan); and Plymouth, MA (Samuel, Elisha, Elisha, and Nathaniel). The ATM is planning on a trip to England in 2018, so maybe I can add Colchester (John, Thomas, and Thomas) and Ramsden Bellhouse (Thomas and perhaps John) to the list then.