Saturday, February 9, 2013

Surname Saturday ~ Converse of Woburn

This post was updated in 2016 with new information.  Please see it at this link:  

This is the one of the first surnames I seriously tackled as a beginning genealogist back in the 1970s.  I was about fifteen years old, and I used to ride my bike from Holden to Worcester to use the genealogical resources at the American Antiquarian Society.  I didn’t know how lucky I was to be able to use one of the best libraries in the USA.  To me it was just the nearest place to work on my new hobby.

I had carefully traced my family back using the “tan books” at AAS.  These are sets of hardcover books containing the vital records up to 1850 of most of the Massachusetts towns where my ancestors lived, but the series does not cover all the towns in the commonwealth.  Fortunately, the Woburn, Massachusetts book was included in this series.  I worked my family back to Edward Convers, who was born in 1590 in England.   Along the way, using some of the old compiled genealogy books and “brag books” on the shelves, I carefully copied in my first false lineage.  Many genealogies in the 1970s attributed the Convers/Converse family of Massachusetts to a medieval English noble line going back one thousand years to the knight Roger de Coigneries.  It was a good lesson for me to learn and to untangle.  Untangling was much more difficult in the days of pencil and paper records than it is now with computer genealogy data bases.   

The truth is that Edward Convers’s English origins have been well documented by several major genealogists since I was a teenaged genealogist.  You can read about his ancestors in the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Register volume 146, pages 130 – 132 and his wife’s English origins in the Register, volume 153, pages 81 – 96.   There is a sketch about Edward Convers in Volume 1 of the Great Migration Begins on pages 459 – 463.  There is much exciting information on his life, and I no longer regret not being related to an English Knight!

Edward Convers arrived with his wife Sarah and three of his children with the Winthrop Fleet.  The family lived first at Charlestown, Massachusetts.  He ran a ferry between Charlestown and Boston.  In the journal of Governor Winthrop it spells out the agreement between Edward Convers and the Colony.  He could charge two pence per person, six for a man and a horse.  By 1640 he lost the ferry business when the right to operate the ferry was granted to Harvard College as a fund raiser.  About this time he removed with Sarah to the new settlement of Woburn. 

His Epitaph in the First Burial Ground, Woburn [note the birthplace, which is incorrect]:

In Memoriam, Deacon Edward Convers, Born: Wakerly, County of Northampton, England, January 30, 1590
Landed: Salem, Mass. June 12, 1630, In Company of Governor Winthop, Died: Woburn, Mass. August 10, 1663.
Founder: City of Woburn, Mass. and First Church, Woburn.  Forefather of The Converse Family in America.
Erected In His Memory By His descendants - The Converse Family In America - 1961.

My Converse genealogy:

Generation 1:  Edward Convers, son of Anthony Convers and Clemence Spady, born 30 January 1590 in Stanford Rivers, Essex, England, died 10 August 1663 in Woburn, Massachusetts; married first on 29 June 1614 in Great Burstead, Essex, England to Sarah Parker, daughter of John Parker, died on 14 January 1662; married second in 1663 to Joanna Warren, daughter of Richard Warren, widow of Ralph Sprague. Five children with each wife.

At the First Burial Ground, Woburn
1715 IN THE 59TH
Generation 2: James Convers, baptized on 29 November 1620 in South Weald, Essex, England, died on 10 May 1715 in Woburn; married on 1 January 1669 to Hannah Carter, daughter of John Carter and Elizabeth Kendall. She was born 19 January 1651 in Woburn, died 10 August 1691 in Woburn. Nine children.   (Please see the new post  for updated information on the Generation 2 James Convers m. Anna Long and the Generation 3 James Converse, Jr. m. Hannah Carter. )

Generation 4: Robert Convers, born 29 December 1677 in Woburn, died 20 July 1736;  married on 19 December 1698 in Woburn to Mary Sawyer, daughter of Joshua Sawyer and Sarah Wright.  She was born about 1681 and died 1766. Twelve children.

Generation 5: Susanna Converse, born 18 June 1724 in Woburn, died 29 October 1771 in Woburn; married on 26 March 1746 in Woburn to Caleb Simonds, son of James Simonds and Mary Fowle.  He was born 27 August 1720 in Woburn and died 4 January 1811 in Woburn.

Generation 6: Ruth Simonds married Andrew Munroe

Generation 7: Luther Simonds Munroe married Olive Flint

Generaiton 8:  Phebe Cross Munroe married Robert Wilson Wilkinson

Generation 9: Albert Munroe Wilkinson married Isabella Lyons Bill

Generation 10: Donald Munroe Wilkinson married Bertha Louise Roberts (my grandparents)


Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. It is wonderful that you have been doing genealogy since you were 15. You certainly have a rich lot of details! I am very jealous of the "Tan Books." I'm not sure we have anything like those in SC. I think New Englanders must have been a sturdy bunch who kept lots of records and survived well in the bracingly cold weather. Seriously, I'm finding many children who died young in the hot climates of SC and Barbados in my family tree. You chronicle large families.

    My family had traced us to an infamous "Lord Lovat" of the Fraser clan. But we are actually descended from a "cadet" (illegitimate) line from somewhere in the MIddle Ages. Funny how so many want to use genealogy for status.

  2. How funny! I used to ride my bike between Worcester and Holden all the time when I was in high school. I actually lived close to the Antiquarian Society, but did not appreciate it until I had moved away. One of my high school friends had an internship there one summer during college.

    1. I wonder if we ever passed each other on Salisbury Street? Isn't that a funny thing to think about?

  3. Converse family motto: In Deo Solo Confido (“In God Alone I Trust”)

  4. I believe James (Edward) Convers born 1620 married Anne Long not Hannah Carter. Woburn vital records state he married Anne on 24 OCT 1643 Woburn and Hannah married James Jr. on 01 JAN 1668 Woburn. This is also confirmed in the New England Marriages Prior to 1700 and Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of the First Planters.

    Thoroughly enjoy your site!

  5. Thank you for your sharp eyes. This post has been up for more than four years and no one caught this mistake. Yes, you are absolutely correct, and I have skipped a generation and combined the two James. I updated this post in 2016 but forgot to tag this older post with the new information. Please see the newer post