Monday, August 22, 2011

Amanuensis Monday- John Burnham's Will 1708

John Burnham left a will proved on December 17, 1708.  He was born on 8 April 1671 in Ipswich, Massachusetts and died in October 1708 in Ipswich. He was the son of John Burnham (1648 - 1704) and Elizabeth Wells (1646 - 1731), and was married to Sarah Choate on 13 April 1693 in Ispwich.  Deacon John Burnham is my 8x great grandfather, but I am also descended of his two brothers, Thomas (1693 - 1748) David Burnham (1688 - 1770).  The Burnham family tree is a very tangled genealogy!  He names eight children in this will.


In the name of God, Amen. I John Burnam, Senr of Chebaco, in Ipswich In the County of Esix In the province of Massachusetts Bay in New England, Yeoman, being att this present time through Gods Goodness of Good understanding and firm and sound in memory and of a Disposing mind tho very weak and infirm of Body, not knowing how soon it may please God to call me hence to my long home.

I Do here by these presents make this to be My last will and Testament. I Committ My Imortall Soull into the mercyfull hand of that Gracious God who gave it and my Body to the Grave and to a Descent Buriall in hopes of a Glorious Ressurection thro Jesus Christ who i trust hath Redeemed my Soul from Death. And as to what Outward of this World God in the Way of his Good providence Bestowed upon me, I give and Bequeath as hereafter followeth.

1. I Do hereby Give & Bequeath as hereafter followeth. John Burnam & Thomas Burnam all my housing & upland & Marsh & Meadow Ground that i do now posess & Enjoy to be Equally Divided Between them Both for Quantity and Quality only my Son John Burnam Shall have my Dwelling house & homestead with the outhouses adjacent which i now inhabit and half of all my Land Lying most Convenient to it as aforesaid & my said son Thomas Burnam Shall have the Dwelling house that lyeth abut Southwest from my now Dwelling house & his half of the said Land to be to him as may be most convenent adjoining thereunto.

2. Also I Give my said two sons all my Quick Stock to be Equally Divid Between them & also my Carpenters tools & untensills husbandry all to be Divid as they Shall agree, or as judicious men Chosen Between them Both Shall Determine. They Equally paying the Legacies & performing the Severall Dutys that be hereafter Mentioned & they Equally to pay all Debts that my be Due from the Estate & Equally to receve all that my be Due to the Estate & my two Said sons John & Thomas Burnam to have their Equall Share of all my Common Rights.

3. I do hereby Give & bequeath unto my well Beloved wife Sarah Burnam all my household Goods & furniteur of Every Room in my House to be att her Dispose among her Chilldren as se may See cause or for her own use. also two Cow & then Sheep, ewes to be provided by my said two Sons Equally and from time to time to be Equally Maintained Both winter & sumer by them for her own proper use Behoff and Benefit also my Said wife shall have the use of one end of my now Dwelling house which She Shall Chuse & what priviledg She may have Occasion for In the Cillar & so as to the Ovens, well & other necessaries & convenenices that she may stand in need of; My said two sons shall Equally provide and maintain a good able horse Sutable for thir mother's use and also to pay her yearly Equally Between them the full sum of Seven pounds In money or in other species as money also they Equally are and shall provide firewood for one fire-room Drawn home and ready cutte fitt for her use and all these severall perticulars shall be continued and performed By my said two sons to my said wife Sarah so long as she remains my widdow.

4. I Give to my Eldest Daughter Sarrah wife of Jacob Brown what she hath allready had which is her portion also i give her ten shillings in, or as money as a token of my Love to be payd Equally by my two sons above named in one year after my Decese.

5. I give and Bequeath to my youngest sons jonathan Burnam & Robert Burnam forty pounds apice In money or other specie as money to be paid to them when they arrive successivley at the age of twenty and one years By my said two sons John & Thomas Burnam Each of them their Equall part which is forty pounds apice.

6. I hereby Give and Bequeath to my three youngest Daughters viz. mary Burnam Elizabeth Burnam & Hannah Burnam Each of them thirty pounds apice in money or other speces as money to be paid to each of them succesfully upon marrage or when they arrive succesfully att the full age of twenty and one years the three said Legacies which amount In the whole to Ninety pounds to be equally paid as abovesaid by my two sons John Burnam & Thomas Burnam.

7. I Do hereby constitute & appoint by trusty and well Beloved freinds Mr. William Thompson & Leutt John Cogswell to be overseers of this my Last will and testament & they to be satisfied for what trouble they are att in sevin herein & in witness that this is my last will and testament I the said John Burnam have thereto Set my hand and seal this seventeenth Day of December Anno Dom one thousand seven hundred & Eight.


Signed Sealed as the Last will & testament of the sd Jno Burnam Senior In presents of us three witnesses.
William Thomson
John Cogswell, Junr.
Mathe Rust Sen.

Copia Vera as on record
Attest Daniel Rogers, Regstr.

The Burnham Genealogy:

Generation 1:  Thomas Burnham,  born 1623 in England, died 19 June 1694 in the Chebacco Parish of Ipswich, Massachusetts; married abt 1643 in Ipswich to Mary Lawrence, daughter of Thomas Lawrence and Joan Antrobus, died on 27 March 1715 in Ipswich.  Fifteen children.  He erected a saw mill on the Chebacco river near the falls, and participated in the Pequot Expedition in 1636 and 1637.

Generation 2: John Burnham, born about 1648, died on 12 January 1704 in the Chebacco Parish; married on 6 June 1668 to Elizabeth Wells, daughter of Thomas Wells and Abigail Warner, born on 31 July 1646 in Ipswich, died on 9 June 1731.  Nine children.  He was the proprietor of a grist mill.

Generation 3: John Burnham, born on 8 April 1671 in Ipswich, died in October 1708 in Ipswich; married on 13 April 1693 in Ipswich to Sarah Choate, daughter of John Choate and Ann Unknown, born about 1672, died in June 1746.  Eleven children including those named in the will above.

See this link for more about Thomas Lawrence and Joan Antrobus

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I'm a Burnham descendant as well and Thomas is not the son of Robert Burnham and Mary Andrews. See the Great Migration Sketch of Robert Andrews (GM 1634-35, I:54).

    Thomas Burnham married Mary Lawrence not Tuttle. See Mary Walton Ferris, "Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines" vol. 1 (1943) and vol. 2 (1931)
    The Genealogist 10 (1989):3-30 and the Great Migration 1634-35, IV:258-59.

    Mary (Lawrence) Burnham is of royal descent see: The Genealogist 10 (1989):3-30 and other royal line compendia such as RD600.

    I descend from both Thomas Burnham (Sr.) and his brother Robert Burnham.

    Sadly, no one has done the definitive Burnham genealogy and sorted out the Ipswich Burnhams correctly. There is John-1, John1-2, John2 Thomas-1 etc., not to mention the Thomases.

  2. Thanks, Martin, I spent all night straightening out this line. I had Mary Lawrence, but under the wrong parents - thus Tuttle. I also see the Burnham mixup here, with all the Johns and Thomases- wow... Question, who are the parents of William Burnham who married Elizabeth Loomis?

  3. There was another entire Burnham family in Hartford, CT. I would guess that with a connecticut name like Loomis, this Burnham is from that family and not our Burnhams.

  4. My maiden name is Burnham, and the info I have is that Robert and Mary Andrews did have 5 sons, one of which was Thomas who married Mary Lawrence,whose stepfather was John Tuttle. See the site below, also added an interesting blurb I found.


    Benjamin Burnham (born in 1621), also a son of Robert Burnham, did not
    make the trip to America and eventually went to Madras, India where he
    lived from 1660-1684. He amassed a great fortune in real estate,
    including 150 acres which included a part of Burnham Road [which is
    now Regent Street, London], Burnham Beach Cottage and Burnham Wood.

    When Benjamin died in London, England about 1691, his will of June 8,
    1685 stated that everything would go to his 3 brothers in America.[Robert,John,&Thomas] The
    oldest brother, Edward, who had stayed in England, was quite upset and
    fought the will in courts. After a long battle in courts of England,
    the British Crown confiscated the entire estate, as they were noted
    for such practice in those days, and the Burnhams never regained the
    estate. Over the next 100 to 200 years, several Burnhams in America
    would make the long journey to England to contest the taking over of
    the estate, but were not successful. In 1860, Benjamin's total estate
    consisting of real and personal property was valued at $65,200,000
    giving an annual income of $2,392,000. We can only imagine what it
    would be worth today.

  5. Per Ipswich Vital Records (vol. II, p. 504), the John Burnam [sic] who died on 11 Jan 1708/9 was 59 years old, placing his birth circa. 1650. The John Burnham to whom you attribute this will was born in 1671. All of the secondary sources I have discovered have attributed the authorship of this will to John Burnham, son of John Burnham the brother of Thomas Burnham.

    I am not pleased with this, as it cuts me out of the royal lineage accorded to Mary Lawrence, wife of Thomas Burnham, but cannot find evidence dispositive one way or another. Both John (John) and John (John, Thomas) married women named Sarah (unknown but suggested Graves, and Choate respectively).

    If you have any evidence disproving these arrangements or otherwise demonstrating that this will was in fact that of John (John, Thomas) I would be very interested in them.



    1. This will was proved 17 Dec 1708. Usually wills are proved after all affairs are settled, with a few years after a death. The John Burnham you named died AFTER the will was proved. Wouldn't that be impossible? I may be wrong, but that was my working theory.

  6. I'm going to be at the NEHGS library all day tomorrow to work on this further. I REALLY want your attribution to be correct. At best, the primary records are ambiguous (pending my searching through a crap load of early Ipswich records on microfilm tomorrow).

    I'll be sure to double check all dates. Given that the two dates are so close, and as memory serves there are no other JBs dying thereabouts, I'd usually chalk that up to bad record keeping. We shall see. If this is an issue you're invested in I'd be happy to exchange emails so we can work on it further.


    1. Andrew, my email is in the right hand column or Good luck at NEHGS. Martin will be interested, too, since he is also a Burnham descendant.