Saturday, September 1, 2012

Surname Saturday ~ BROWNING of Topsfield, Massachusetts


This information was updated in April 2016.  See this blog post  

and I posted a new Surname Saturday sketch of the BROWNINGs in 2018   


Thomas Browning is an early resident of Topsfield, Massachusetts.  His origins are unknown.   He was born about 1587 in England.  In 1669 he gave his age as 73 years old in a deposition.

The earliest record of Thomas Browning is his freeman’s oath in Salem on 17 April 1637.  By 1657 he had moved from Salem to Topsfield.  There was a lawsuit by the town dated 1657 suing Thomas Browning for fencing a meadow owned by the town, where he had cut hay.  The church in Salem dismissed Browning to Topsfield on 8 November 1663.  He helped to found the church in Topsfield sometime around 1663.

Thomas Browning and his wife, Mary, had no surviving sons, and five daughters.  Thus the name Browning daughtered out early in Essex County, Massachusetts!

His will was found in the book Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, by George Francis Dow, 1920, on pages 108 – 109:

16 Feb 1670/1:

The last Will and testament of Thomas Browning of Salem being sicke in bodie yett of pfct understanding this 16th day if febewari: 1670 Imprimis I doe apoint my wife to bee my whole Executres and do giue my grandchild Thomas Towne twenty two pounds: which twelue pounds is in the hands of his father & ten pounds is in the hands of his uncle Jacob Towne: to be paid to the sd Thomas Towne aforesaidwhen he come to be twentie & one yeares of Age.
Itam I giue my wifes deseace All my land and housing at Topsfield, to my daughter Towne her husband & my daughter Simons & her husband during their lives. And after their deceace to be disposed by the two daughters abousd to the Children of their own bodies Laufully And there husbands All my land and Howsing at Salem. After my wifes deceace as aboue is Exprest And after their deceace as abouvesaid, And if anie of my daughters die without issew: Then the estate to be deuided among the Children of my daughters siruiuing And if my wife should dy without a will, whatsoever id Left to be deuided betwin my fowr daughters or there Children.

Thomas (his mark) Browning _____ Witness Joseph Grafton, sr., George Gardner.
Proved in Salem court 28: 4m: 1671 by the witnesses.

My lineage from Thomas Browning of Topfield, Massachusetts:

Generation 1: Thomas Browning, born about 1587 in England.  He died in February 1669/70 in Topsfield, Massachusetts; married to Mary Unknown. Four children:

1.      Elizabeth, born about 1635, married James Symonds (Salem furniture maker)
2.      Mary, born 7 November 1637 in Salem; married Edmund Towne (brother to three accused witches)
3.      Sarah (see below)
4.      Deborah, born 31 January1647 in Salem; married first John Perkins, second Isaac Meacham

Generation 2: Sarah Browning, born about 1640 married Joseph Williams on 20 November 1661 in Salem, Massachusetts, son of George Williams and Mary Unknown.  He was baptized on 10 May 1640 in Salem, and died about 1696. Three children and I descend from two of them:

1.      Abigail Williams (see below)
2.      Benjamin Williams, twin born 7 July 1663, no further information
3.      Daniel Williams (see below) 

Lineage A:
Generation 3: Abigail Browning, twin to Benjamin, born 7 July 1663; married on 17 March 1686 in Marblehead, Massachusetts to Samuel Allen, son of Samuel Allen and Sarah Tuck.  He was born 4 August 1663 in Manchester, Massachusetts and died about 4 February 1744 in Manchester, Massachusetts.  Nine children.

The following generations are descendants of Samuel Allen and Abigail Williams (not Browing)
Generation 4. Abigail Allen m. Nehemiah Preston
Generation 5: Hannah Preston m. Robert Woodbury
Generation 6: Molly Woodbury m. Westley Burnham
Generation 7: Henry Burnham m. Sally Poland
Generation 8: Sarah Ann Burnham m. Samuel Mears
Generation 9: Sarah Burnham Mears m. Joseph Gilman Allen
Generation 10: Joseph Elmer Allen m. Carrie Maude Batchelder
Generation 11: Stanley Elmer Allen m. Gertrude Matilda Hitchings (my grandparents)

Lineage B:
Generation 4: Daniel Williams m. Alice Allen (sister to Samuel Allen above)

The following generations are descendants of  Daniel Williams (son of Jenkin Williams) and Alice Allen (daughter of Samuel Allen and Sarah Tuck) 
Generation 5: Ruth Williams m. Moses Platts
Generation 6: Sarah Platts m. George Southwick
Generation 7: Mary Southwick m. Robert Wilson
Generation 8: Mercy F. Wilson m. Aaron Wilkinson
Generation 9: Robert Wilson Wilkinson m. Phebe Cross Munroe
Generation 10: Albert Munroe Wilkinson m. Isabella Lyons Bill
Generation 11: Donald Munroe Wilkinson m. Bertha Louise Roberts (my grandparents)

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Some Tufts in West Brookfield MA married Brownings. William Tuffs/Tufts married a Margaret Browning and his sister Sarah married her brother John in 1763 and 1761 respectively. They both left many descendents. William and Sarah were descendents of John Tuffs/Tufts whose records are unclear and may be fron James and James to Peter Tufts the immigrant. Dr. James Hayden Tufts claimed this family was from the John Tuffs/Tufts from Ireland of Scots-Irish descent. John's wife was Agnes Foote and her stone states "born in Scotland" but it is possible he was the John who shipwrecked on Sable Island or of unknown immigration. Could your Thomas Browning been related to James the father of these siblings of West Brookfield (born in Rutland MA)?

  2. The Brownings in my post lived 100 years before and left no male descendants to carry on the name. I have no idea if his orgins are English or from elsewhere. It is possible they are related, but it would be difficult to find proof.

  3. It’s really a great and helpful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this

  4. Heather, I came across the 1719 will of Abigail Williams of Salem, daughter of Sarah (Browning) Williams, on (NEHGS), which does not agree with Lineage A, Generation 3 above. Here are some of my notes, from the Essex County Probate File Papers:

    18 May 1719 #29965 will/probate of single woman Abigail Williams of Salem, daughter of Sarah Williams of Salem widow and granddaughter of Thomas Browning formerly of Salem.
    Abigail ill and sick of body, perfect mind and memory
    my dear tender mother Sarah Williams all my real estate in Salem, 10 acre lot in Southfield and my acre of marsh lying in Southfield also adjoining to Deacons Marsh. My homestead where my mother and I dwell together - to mother & her heirs
    all my personal estate to my 3 executors, my mother Sarah Williams, my kinsman Thomas Symonds, & Edward Norrice
    10 April 1719 her mark
    witnesses: William Buttolph, Isaac Frost? Mary Frost? Steph. Sewall

    31 March 1729 probate #30053 Sarah Williams d. intestate 1729, related to William Towne, Edmund Towne and his father Thomas Towne, nephew Joseph Symonds, etc.
    includes relatives paying for her support as well as mention of the Southfield lands from Daughter's will.
    she was "dark or blind"
    repay widow Gerrish for her daughter Abigal's funeral.

    Torrey gives death date for Joseph Williams as 1682 and his wife Sarah Browning as 1719+, which probably means he knew about Abigail Williams' death but didn't find her mother's probate.

    1. Wow, I'll have to relook at the Abigail Browning who married Samuel Allen. Apparently two Browning siblings did not marry two Allen siblings? This is interesting...