Mary Fones, Who Are Your Parents?

Mary Fones is a real sticking point for me. I mean, who wouldn’t love to claim a Mayflower descent and, after 36 years, this is as close to one as I’ve come in spite of having hundreds of early New England ancestors.

The Mayflower Society accepts her as a proven line, so why am I stirring the pot? Well, it’s because I see no way to reconcile several facts.

Here is what I’ve found:

  1. Mary Fones, daughter of Jeremiah and Martha, is entered in the Rhode Island Vital Records series with a birth date of 20 September 1707.


2. According to the same series, Jeremiah Fones married twice, the first time in 1694 and the second time in 1710.


Are you seeing a problem yet? If Mary was Martha’s daughter, then I highly doubt she was born three years before her parents married. That isn’t the only issue, either.

3. Most troubling to me, given that the widow of Capt. Ebenezer Hill, Mary Hill, was buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, RI on 27 February 1754, is that Jeremiah Fones mentions no daughter Mary or her heirs in his will, written in 1727 and probated in 1747.


Why wasn’t Mary mentioned? Jeremiah mentioned heirs of his deceased daughter, Margaret Davis. Or did his daughter Mary die young and predecease him???

4. The tombstone of Mary Hill in the North Burial Ground apparently notes her age at death (27 February 1754) as 42 years and 5 months. If so, that would place her birth around December 1711. That is more than 4 years off from the 1707 birth date for Mary in the Rhode Island records. Yes, I know ages can be off some, but taken with my other concerns, something is not right.

5. I read some comments online about the Fones family, which for the life of me I can’t now find, but the statement was made that Samuel and Meribah Fones had a son Samuel born in 1702 and died before November 1738 when his widow remarried. He left a will (of which I have found no trace in any online records) in which he mentioned “sister, Mary Hill of Providence.” Jeremiah and Martha also had a son Samuel, but he was born in 1714.

I don’t know for sure when this Samuel died (or if it was actually this man who wrote the 1738 will), but I do know that the Samuel Fones who died in 1757 was the brother of Jeremiah Fones who married Martha West. That is because Samuel is noted as being 90 years old in the record.

If it was really the son of Samuel and Meribah Fones who were the parents of Samuel who died in 1738 AND he named his sister, Mary Hill, then I would say that is pretty strong evidence that this line is flawed.

5. Yes, the Mayflower Society says it’s so – that Mary Fones Hill is a proven line of George Soule. I’m not so convinced.  My last concern is that when Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Family of George Soule (the source for Society approved lines, including Mary Fones Hill) was published in 1980, it was greeted by scathing reviews in The American Genealogist and, more shockingly, in The Genealogist (published by the American Society of Genealogists), which devoted 33 pages to picking it apart. I have no access to that article so I don’t know with exactly what they found fault, but there were obviously a lot of criticisms. The T.A.G. review actually suggested that the book be withdrawn and fixed by a team other than the current compilers.

There you have it. Am I right in thinking something is rotten in Denmark? Or am I looking a gift horse in the mouth?

The key to solving this mystery is in finding the supposed will of this Samuel Fones and determining who HIS parents were.

Are any of you George Soule descendants who can shed any light on this mystery?


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