Where There’s a Will: John Warren

I’ve decided to spotlight the head of a family of one of my earliest arriving colonial ancestors, John Warren. The family arrived in the Winthrop Fleet of 1630. The fleet was made up of eleven ships, which sailed from Yarmouth, England to Salem, Massachusetts.

In those very early days of colonial settlement, it is likely that most of the settlers chose to leave England because of discontent with religious institutions along with perhaps those who also longed for a chance at an improved life in Massachusetts.

John Warren, my 10x great grandfather, who was baptized on 1 August 1585 in Nayland, Suffolk, England, the son of John and Elizabeth (Scarlett) Warren.

John’s wife, and the mother of his seven children, was Margaret. Although there are references online to her maiden name, I have never found any evidence to support even a hint of it. The NEHGS Great Migration Study includes a sketch of John Warren and family, but does not suggest possible maiden names for her.

It is likely that Margaret came from a nearby village and was not baptized in Nayland. Her last child was born in 1629 so she was likely a bit younger than husband John, whose birth is recorded in the Nayland church book in 1585. John would have married his bride in her home parish and it may be one which does not have surviving records before 1615. It is even possible that Margaret’s family was in Essex County, as Nayland is less than five miles from the Essex-Suffolk county line.

Wherever the marriage took place, it likely happened in late 1613 or early 1614, as their first known child was baptized at the Nayland village church of St. James in April 1615, followed by the baptisms of their other six children, all at St. James Church.


1. Mary, baptized 23 April 1615; buried 17 December 1622
2. Elizabeth, baptized 25 June 1618; buried 25 November 1622
3. Sarah, baptized 20 April 1620; buried 7 September 1621
4. John, baptized 12 May 1622; died about January 1702; married Michal (Jennison) Bloise, widow of Richard Bloise and daughter of Robert and Grace Jennison on 11 July 1667, Watertown, MA
5. Mary, baptized 12 September 1624; married John Bigelow on 30 October 1642, Watertown, MA
6. Daniel, baptized 25 February 1626/7; married Mary Barron, daughter of Ellis Barron, on 10 December 1650, Watertown, MA
7. Elizabeth, baptized 21 July 1629; married James Knopp/Knapp before 1655

When John and Margaret set out from Nayland to sail with the Winthrop Fleet, they had four very young children, with baby Elizabeth only about nine months old. The trip was long and dangerous so John seems an excellent fit with the theme “Where There’s a Will.” He was unhappy in England and was quite determined to start a new life, no matter what obstacles might prevent them from attaining that goal.

John Warren left England because he did not subscribe to mainstream religious beliefs of the time. East Anglia, of which Suffolk was a part, was a hotbed of Puritan beliefs in the early 1600’s and many of these Puritans migrated to Massachusetts in the 1630’s.

However, John didn’t appear to hold strictly traditional Puritan beliefs either. He was not only charged in 1629 in England with failing to kneel for communion, which was a common Puritan offense, but was also fined in Massachusetts for failing to attend public worship on six or more occasions and was fined 5s. for each missed service. Henry Bond, who authored Family Memorials. Genealogies of the Families and Descendents of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, Including Waltham and Weston; to Which Is Appended the Early History of the Town.. Vol. I. Boston, MA, USA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1855, presented the idea that perhaps John Warren was a Baptist. However, on 17 May 1661, his home was ordered to be searched on the suspicion that he was harboring Quakers.

In spite of his religious non-conformity even among non-conformists, John must have been a somewhat esteemed member of the community as he  was made a freeman on 18 May 1631. He later served as a Watertown selectman and on committees charged with laying out highways and dividing land, all positions of responsibility.

No record has been found as to how his family financed their voyage across the sea. Indentured servitude common, but John’s land holdings pointed to more wealth than what was typical at the time. He may have had money outright to pay the fare.

Margaret pre-deceased John, dying on 6 December 1662, in Watertown, Massachusetts. John died five years later on 13 December 1667, also in Watertown.

There are few other records in existence that would provide other enlightening details as to John Warren’s personal beliefs. However, there might be one more clue to be had in the marriage of his youngest daughter, Elizabeth, to James Knopp/Knapp. James was the son of William and Judith (Tue) Knopp and William, himself, ran afoul of the authorities more than once.

One thought on “Where There’s a Will: John Warren”

  1. I enjoyed your posts on John warren and Joseph Eveleth who also were ancestors of mine. I am trying to determine how to follow your blog. I cannot determine how.
    H Evans
    could you add me? Thanks!

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