Monday, August 26, 2013

The Sneaker King, Marquis Mills Converse

Kristen Stewart
wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers
on the red carpet in Hollywood
UP photo 2009
When I was just a teen aged kid, I started tracing our genealogy.  I had some help from a night class I took, and then I was on my own in the genealogy stacks of the reading room at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.   I was lucky because it was the mid-1970s, and I had interviewed my grandparents, who had been born in the 1890s.  They knew all about their own parents and grandparents, which took me right to the “Tan Books”.  In those days (pre-internet), anyone doing Massachusetts ancestry used the Tan books, which are the published vital records for most of the towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.   The Tan books cover from the beginning of vital records in the early 1600s up to 1850.

I was also lucky because the AAS had, and still has, a great collection of compiled genealogies.  I was able to find a book on my MUNROE ancestors, and my EMERSONs, and then the CONVERSE family.  I carefully compared all the notes and dates to vital records.  I was sure that I was on the right track. However, the CONVERSE family had information on the family going back into the eons of time in England.  I took it all for granted and added it to my family tree.  There was no way of checking information pre-1620 in the Massachusetts Vital Records.

Still on the hunt for proof of my CONVERSE line led me to check the information I previously found with some books on heraldry and peerages.  All the Converse information matched, except for the leap from England to Massachusetts in the 1600s. Which is exactly where I found my first case of “trimming the family tree” a few years later.  As I advanced in my genealogy research experience, I learned about genealogy journals and using the latest available research.  The CONVERSE book I had read was published in the 1800s. Newer information in the NEHGS Register later in the 20thcentury straightened out the line and trimmed off my noble CONVERS line which had led to the knight Sir Roger de Coigneries, companion to William the Conqueror

Fast forward  - in the year 2001 a book was published called The Name’s Familiar II, a second volume of a book by Laura Lee which gives biographies and family histories on the inventors or historical figures who lent their names to brands, inventions, and other commonly used words.  This is the book for you if you are curious about the people and names behind CliffsNotes,  Bunker Hill, or Converse athletic shoes.   You can read this book online at Google Books.

The very first line of the sketch on Marquis Mills Converse, founder of the Converse athletic shoe company,  states “…was born October 25, 1861 into a family that traces its lineage all the way back to Edward III of England…”.   I wondered if they used his noble heritage in any early advertising.  And hey, that CONVERSE name sounded familiar?  Marquis Mills Converse turned out to be a relative. To me.  Not to any noble King in England.  If a fifteen year old could figure out that family history, why couldn't a book author?  (Did his parents name him "Marquis" after a mythical royal lineage?)

Did you ever wear a pair of Chuck Taylor basketball shoes? This is the same Converse shoe company, founded in 1908 in Malden, Massachusetts.  Our common ancestor, the Puritan Deacon Edward Converse first came to the New World and settled in Charlestown, and then Woburn, Massachusetts.  Malden was a great place for this famous sneaker factory since it is right in between the two towns where Deacon Converse lived in the 1600s.  These shoes are probably now made in China, but I don't know for sure.  Converse sneakers were wildly popular with both basketball players and teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s, until designer athletic shoes became the rage in the 1970s and 1980s.  The company is still making athletic shoes, and they are more popular today with skateboarders and red carpet actresses in Hollywood than with NBA athletes.

Here’s the real story!

The Converse Family genealogy:

          Richard Convers d. 1542 in Navestock, Essex, England m. Margaret Unknown
                                         John Convers m. Joan Fuller
                                         Anthony Convers m. Clemence Spady
                                         Deacon Edward Converse m. Sarah Parker
                                         b. 1590 Stanford Rivers, Essex, England
                                         d. 10 August 1663 Woburn, Massachusetts
                              I                                                                   I
James Converse m. Anna Long                                     Samuel Converse m. Judith Carter
                              I                                                                   I
James Converse m. Hannah Carter                              Samuel Converse m. Dorcas Pain
                              I                                                                   I
Robert Converse m. Mary Sawyer                                Thomas Converse m. Abigail Fay
                              I                                                                   I
Susanna Converse m. Caleb Simonds                           Joel Converse m. Elizabeth Bixby
                              I                                                                   I
Ruth Simonds m. Andrew Munroe                               Marquis Converse m. Electa White
                              I                                                                   I
Luther Simonds Munroe m. Olive Flint                        Peter Mills Converse m. Mary Spear Clement
                              I                                                                   I
Phebe Munroe m. Robert W. Wilkinson         Marquis Mills Converse m. Alice Houghton Sargent
                             I                                                   Founder of the Converse Shoe Company

Albert M. Wilkinson m. Isabella L. Bill                         
Donald M. Wilkinson m. Bertha L. Roberts
                (my grandparents)

Slightly inaccurate source:
The Name’s Familiar II, by Laura Lee, Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.  (See pages 83-84 for the sketch on Marquis Mills Converse)

Better sources for CONVERSE genealogy:
NEHGS Register, Volume 146, pages 130 -132
NEHGS Register, Volume 153, pages 81 - 96
Great Migration Begins, Volume 1, pages 459 - 463

Internet resources:
Converse Shoes official website


Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I love my Chuckie T's! Great story and a great reminder that printed genealogies are not always accurate and should be double-checked.

  2. It not a myth the Converse's are from the royal bloodline.

  3. This is another starting point pre internet you can check the Micro-fiche for your self and see what you find.

    CONVERSE CONNECTIONS BY MARLENE LAING There has been dispute over who the father of Edward Converse is. Is it Allen or is it Christopher? Using the LDS Micro-fiche from Northampton and Essex England I have checked all possible connections to Allen and to Christopher and Edward. The following, in my estimation clears it up very well. I find that Edward is the son of Christopher for the reasons shown. CHRISTOPHER CONVERSE married MARY HALFORD 1589 in Wakerly Northampton England Mary Halford b. abt. 1554 There is no Allen born to Christopher Converse in Wakerly. Children for Christopher and Mary Halford: Edward b. 30 Jan 1590 Wakerly Mary b. 1591 John b. 1593 Lucy b. 1595 Joshua b. 1596 EDWARD CONVERSE b. 30 Jan. 1590 Wakerly Northampton England married SARAH SMITH abt. 1613 Wakerly I found no other marriages as far as micro-fiche goes for Northampton or Essex for Edward Converse. I am sure they exist but none found there. Children for Edward Converse b. in Wakerly James b. 1620 Josiah b. 1632 Mary b. 1636 There are no children of these names in Essex. These are the children born to Edward son of Christopher. So if Edward was the son of Allen of Essex his children that came to America with him should be there also. ALLEN CONVERSE in NAVESTOCK ESSEX ENGLAND There are several Allen's born in Navestock , 1518-1555-1586 children for Allen Converse, no wife listed. ALLEN CONVERSE of NAVESTOCK ESSEX ENGLAND There are as I said other Allen's b. in Navestock, 1518-1555-1586 In alphabetical order by name not year. ANDREW b. 1591 Navestock ANNE b. 1599 ANTHONY b. 1562 DANIEL b. 1609 EDWARD b. 23 Mar 1588 I believe this is the Edward everyone gets mixed up. He is the son of Allen and he married SARAH PARKER 29 Jun 1614, Great Burstead, Essex England. GABRIEL b. 1605 HESTER b. 1612 JANE b. 1568 JOANNA b. 1559 JOHN b. 1530 and one in 1566 MARGARET b. 1500 RICHARD b. 1495 RICHARD b. 1600 SUSAN b. 1603 THOMAS b. 1560 WILLIAM b. 1574 Colonial Families of America: 12 June 1630, The Winthrop Fleet, Salem, MA: CONVERSE Edward, probably of Shenfield, Essex, settled Charlestown Mrs. Sarah Converse Phineas Converse John Converse Josiah Converse James Converse

  4. Capt. James Parker was married to Elizabeth Long, Anna Converse's sister. And Mary Converse married Nicholas Parker, great grandfather of NY Judge Amasa Junius Parker, a father -in- law of John V.L. Pruyn, Major Gen. Seldon Erastus Converse, brother -in -law of Dr Benjamin Franklin Goodyear; Erastus Corning Jr. and Langdon Parker Marvin, a law partner of Pres. Roosevelt. Nicholas Parker was a ancestor of Dea. Thomas Parker b. 1609, brother of Capt. James Parker b. 1617.