Monday, April 25, 2016

The Mystery of Jenkin Williams

Over the past few years I have written 214 “Surname Saturday” blog posts.  Each one starts with whatever information I can find on an immigrant ancestor, and then I show my lineage from that ancestor.  This is my version of the “Genealogy Do Over”.  I researched some of these ancestors over 35 years ago.  Before home computers. Before  Before instant access to genealogy journals and books online.  Every week I pick a new immigrant ancestor and re-research the sources I have for that person.  Then I write it up and present it online.

Back in 2012 I wrote a blog post for Thomas Browning (1587 – 1669/70), an early settler in Topsfield, Massachusetts. I had written that his daughter, Sarah Browning married Joseph Williams in 1661 in Salem and had three children born in Manchester, Massachusetts.  I thought descended from two of these children, Abigail Williams and Daniel Williams.  These two siblings married two ALLEN siblings.  This is how I wrote up the blog post in 2012. 

Just this month I received an email (and a comment on the BROWNING post) from Robin C. Mason, author of the Genealogy Ink blog .  She had been looking at the Essex County Probate File Papers on the NEHGS website and made the following notes:

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

Apparently Abigail Williams, daughter of Joseph Williams and Sarah Browning died as a single, unmarried woman.  The vital records still showed the two Williams siblings marrying the two Allen siblings.  Who were these two Williams children, Abigail and Daniel?

Unfortunately, WILLIAMS is a common name, and it took me a long time to unravel this mystery.  My big clue came from Robin.  Look in the court records!  What I found was that there was another WILLIAMS family headed by a man who did not appear in any vital record in New England.  I still don't know his birth date, marriage date or his death date. But he left a lot of deeds that spelled out the family relationships.

Although WILLIAMS is a common name, the man missing from the vital records had the unusual first name of “Jenkin”.   Jenkin Williams had seven children born in Manchester, Massachusetts, too, and he had two named Abigail Williams and Daniel Williams – the siblings who married the two ALLEN siblings!

How did I find out about Jenkin Williams and all his deeds?  Through the Boston Evening Transcript Genealogy queries column, published on January 18, 1909, page 14.  I have used the Boston Evening Transcripts queries many, many times for clues to my New England ancestry.  Years ago I remember sitting on the floor at the NEHGS library and carefully unfolding the old newspapers to read the genealogy query columns.  They weren’t indexed, but they held a lot of genealogy gold treasures.  This post was written by a mysterious person with the initials of C.H.A. in answer to a query posted by E. W. L on August 24, 1903 about the WILLIAMS family.

In this very long answer, C. H. A. carefully gives examples from over a dozen deeds for land in Maine and Massachusetts.  He/she “examined every deed till I secured nearly the complete family”.  Many of the deeds were both Daniel and Alice buying and selling land that was formerly their father’s estate.  Other siblings were named, as well as grandchildren and their mother, who was Abigail Cloyes (not Sarah BROWNING).   Her brother Peter Cloyse married Sarah Towne (1637 – about 1703), who was accused of witchcraft along with her sisters Rebecca (Towne) Nurse and Mary (Towne) Estey.  Unfortunately Rebecca and Mary were hanged.  Fortunately for me, there was a lot of information on the TOWNE and CLOYSE family to help me unravel more clues about the WILLIAMS family.

Apparently, Jenkin Williams first settled in “the east” (Maine) near Falmouth and Casco Bay.  During King Philip’s War the destruction of the villages in this area by the French and Natives was so terrible that the inhabitants fled to Massachusetts for safety.  On January 11, 1675/6 Jenkin Williams was admitted as a Salem resident.  He was still selling Maine timber to men in Salem and Beverly as late as 1695, although he was described as a fisherman in most deeds.  Essex Deeds 25:17 Daniel Williams, his wife, daughter of Samuel Allen, deceased sold land to William Hurst in 1712.  William Hurst is the informer against Sarah Cloyes in the 1692 witch trials.

All the deeds were interesting when I looked at them online, but one deed that really shows the family relationships, as an example, was Essex Deeds 49:187.  In it Nathaniel Williams, husbandman, and John Williams, husbandman, both of Beverly, Thomas Ayres [ relationship?], Samuel Allen, shoreman, and wife Abigail Williams, daughter of Jenkin, he of Manchester, George Cross, coaster and wife Jane Williams, also of Manchester, lawful heirs of a part of the estate of their father Jenkin Williams, late of Manchester, sell to Daniel, their brother, then of Manchester, husbandman, and shoreman, all claims on the estate, June 25, 1725.  

We Nath’l Williams Husbandman and John Williams Husbandman being both … of Beverly … & Thomas Ayers Samuel Allen & Abigail ^his wife^ & George Cross & Jane his wife being all of us of … Manchester … Thomas Ayers Weaver Samuel Allen ^Shoreman^ & George Cross Coaster and Our sd Wives before mentiond being lawfull Heirs to our due parts or portions in the Estate both real & personal the which our hond Father Jenkin Williams late of sd Manchester Deceased was Lawfully in possession of as his Own property Estate att his Death And Now We as Heirs … Have Remised Released & quitt Claimed … for Ever … unto our Brother Daniel Williams of sd Manchester Husbandman alias Shoreman …"
“Excepting the within named Nath Williams and He the sd Nathaniel Williams both by these presents reserve to himself his Heirs and assigns forever his due part & portion of and in all the Lands that his Father Jenkin Willims within named was the Legall Owner of Att his Death or of right ought to have had in the County of York … Main .. This above was written before the sd Nathaniel Willims did Sign, Seal & Deliver in the presence of us [--] Robert Woodbery Mary Woodbery"
Grantors executed as (marks and seals), John Williams, Thomas Ayers, Samuel Allen, Abigail Allen, George Cross, Jane Cross, Nathaniel Williams

Below, I have puzzled out the genealogy of the WILLIAMS family.  I’m posting it here as a sort of “cousin bait” to see if anyone else is working on this lineage:

Generation 1:  Jenkin Williams, of unknown origin; married before 1667 to Abigail Cloyes, daughter of John Cloyes and Abigail Mournings.  Seven children born in Maine or Manchester, Massachusetts – order unknown.  (My 8th great grandparents)

1. Daniel Williams, born 5 February 1672, died 1758 in Beverly, Massachusetts; married about 1695 to Alice Allen, daughter of Samuel Allen and Sarah Tuck (my 7th great grandparents) .  She was born 20 September 1674 in Manchester. Six children.

2.  Abigail Williams, married on 17 March 1686/7 in Marblehead, Massachusetts to Samuel Allen, son of Samuel Allen and Sarah Tuck. (also my 8th great grandparents) He was born 4 August 1663 in Manchester, and died about 4 February 1744 in Manchester.  Ten children.

3.  John Williams, born about 1688, died before 1743; married on 9 October 1674 to Martha Knight, daughter of John Knight and Emma Unknown.  She was born 11 August 1657 in Lynn, Massachusetts and died after 1743. Four children.

4. Jane Williams married George Cross.
5. Jonathan Williams (no further information)
6. Sarah Williams  (no further information)
7. Nathaniel Williams (no further information)

For the truly curious:

My original BROWNING blog post September 1, 2012 (revised)

My original WILLIAMS blog post September 12, 2015 (revised)

A blog post by Diane MacLean Boumenot on how to use the Boston Transcript Genealogy Query columns in your genealogy research... 

Robin C. Mason, Genealogy Ink blog,

Also see these sources:

History of Salem, by Sidney Perley, Volume III, page 93

The Allens: from William Allen (1602 – 1679) of Manchester, England, and of Salem, and Manchester, Massachusetts, in the direct line of descent through Nathaniel Allen (1744 – 1789) of Beverly, Massachusetts, and Sedgwick, Maine, to Lt. Raymond Frederick Allen, Jr. (1931 - ) of Rochester, New York, with certain other descendants and collaterals,  by Raymond Frederick Allen, 1958, pages 20 – 23 for a sketch of Samuel Allen. 

Boston Evening Transcript, January 18, 1909, Genealogy Queries, page 14, “Answers”

York Deeds, Volume 14, page 694 (and other deeds in this book) 


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "The Mystery of Jenkin Williams", Nutfield Genealogy, posted April 25, 2016,  ( accessed [access date]).


  1. Old deeds and probate are the best! I also wish ALL the Boston Transcript columns were made available online somehow - it doesn't seem like an insurmountable problem. As you noted, some extremely competent genealogists made a point of reporting on their findings there, making it a unique resource.

    1. Yes! And I'm sure that C. H. A. is a famous genealogist, but I just haven't figured out who he/she is quite yet.

  2. This is what is online for the Boston Transcript

  3. I have no connection whatsoever, but still a fascinating read!

  4. Heather, I believe my distant cousin Charlotte Helen Abbott who wrote a genealogy column for the Andover Townsman in the early 1900s. The North Andover Memorial Library has a website of her genealogy research at

    1. Good sleuthing, Bill! I've used her Abbott genealogies online many times and didn't consider her as the author of this "answer" on the genealogies query column. Thanks!

  5. Sorry, that should be the Andover Memorial Hall Library, not North Andover.

  6. I love deeds and you certainly found a gold mine in these.

  7. I love how you are doing this "do over" & posting your results family by family. And, what a wonderful source of both "cousin bait" and for others to chime in on your research! I am trying to blog more, and hope this both helps my research & helps me find more cousins & the information they possess!

  8. What a wonderful mystery to unravel! A fascinating story and for it to have come from a simple comment on your blog... It epitomizes why our blogs are so important to us!

  9. Thanks so much for this. I'm pretty sure that Daniel Williams and Alice Allen are my 8th g-grandparents. Time to start digging in those deeds.

  10. Jenkin is also written up in the Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire.

  11. Researching the Chateaugay,Quebec,Canada line of Williams family that I am related to,and found a Honorable Jenkin Williams in court papers, at Alburgh, VT. The first name was so unusual that I googled it and found this site. Wondering if the VT Jenkin Williams is related to your Jenkin Williams. I don't have any dates for him, except court papers dated here:
    It looks like Jenkin Williams "took the oath" in Quebec and received 400 acres of land, Lot 4-He was one of Henry Caldwell's men. Caldwell Manor. So does this mean he was a Loyalist? My Williams family is Isaac Williams b. 1795 Iberville,QC and his son, John Williams b. abt 1843 Iberville d. 1926 Saranac Lake,NY and married to Mariah Iby. I believe Isaac's father was James Williams b. 1766 and buried in UEL cemetery at Third Concession cemetery, St Thomas Parrish,Quebec.Don't know who James Williams father was. Isaac Williams was married to Deborah Brown d. abt 1849 Iberville, and I believe her family may have been UEL , also. I've seen a plot map somewhere that showed the Williams, Iby and Brown's were all neighbors above Alburgh,VT, on the Canada side. John and Mariah Williams were married at Alburgh,VT.Anyone know if these Williamses came from MA or CT before living in Canada? Did they go to Canada because their allegiance during the Revolutionary War? There are documented UEL Williamses, but I cannot find the link to my line. Any help?

  12. This book contains the 1819 diary of Jenkin Williams and two other former soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Might be of interest to someone else, too.