One of my more recently discovered ancestors is Benjamin Fenn, who ties into my family through the Burt and Lobdell families in colonial Connecticut.
There are all kinds of mentions of Benjamin Fenn and tons of links to him online. However, Benjamin appears to be one of those ancestors who was found, copied and pasted or copies and updated, without as much of a shred of documentation.
First, here is a map of the area important to Benjamin Fenn’s ancestry. These are all relatively small villages and towns northwest of London in Buckinghamshire.
Source: Bing Maps
Take note of Stewkley, Cheddington, Marsworth, Ivinghoe and Edlesborough. Travel from Point A to Point E is only 18 miles.
Now, let’s look at Benjamin’s birth. Most online information cites a date of 1612 in Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, England. His parents are named as James Fenn and Joan Turney. The only problem here is that, as far as I can tell, there is no birth or baptism recorded for Benjamin in Stewkley, Cheddington, Marsworth, Ivinghoe or anywhere else in Buckinghamshire.
Here is what is found, or not found, as the case may be:
- There is no marriage record for one James Fenn to Joan Turney or anyone else as far as I can tell in Stewkley or even in Buckinghamshire. Those records might be lost.
- There are baptisms for the following children of James Fenn, no mother mentioned:
- Thomas, 10 October 1600
- Agnes, 9 September 1604
- Joseph, 9 July 1612
- “Fenne Fenne”, 26 December 1614
Some online trees state that “Fenne Fenne” is the baptismal record of Benjamin, while others say this is a stillborn child. The baby might have died young, but it was not stillborn. If it was, there would have been no baptism. Could “Fenne Fenne” be a misreading of “Beni Fenne”? Possibly, as the letters “i” and “j” were often intermixed in this time period. However, no image is available for this entry.
Moreover, James isn’t the only Fenn in town. We also have Francis Fenn with the following children baptized in Stewkley:
1. Male, February 1602, Stewkley AND
2. Male, 11 September 1612, Edlesborough
I don’t know if Francis was the father of both sons, but he certainly could have been as these villages aren’t much more than a stone’s throw from each other.
Next, we have Thomas Fenn, also in Edlesborough:
1. John, 20 July 1606
2. John, 20 July 1607
That isn’t even the end of it because there are also Fenns in Ivinghoe. One or more men named Thomas had children baptized there:
1. Margareta, 29 July 1592
2. Gabriel, 11 June 1608
3. Thomas, 4 March 1609
In Ivinghoe, there is also Edward Fenne, with son Robert, baptized on 28 April 1605 and Michael Fenne with daughter Jane, baptized on 9 November 1595. There are also William, Jacob and Edmund with children baptized in Ivinghoe during the first decade of the 1600s.
The point is – there are obviously multiple men who could be the father of Benjamin Fenn, but not a one baptismal record is for a son named Benjamin.
There is one document, produced by Benjamin Fenn, written in 1672, that ties him to these villages. That is his will.
Benjamin Fen, Sr. of Milford in the Colony of “Conecticott” in New England, 14 Sept 1672, proved 1 Feb. 1674. I give to my eldest son, Benjamin Fen, as an addition to his portion that he hath already received, to the value of 300 pounds and upwards, that farm that I formerly bought of Mr. samuel Bach, late of New Haven, lying on the East side of East River, consisting of 18 acres of meadow, more or less, with all the upland that is laid out thereto, he paying, or causing to be paid, thirty pounds towards the purchase, as was agreed upon, besides what he hath already paid. To my second son, Samuel Fen dwelling house that I now inhabit, within the town of Milford, with housing, uplands and meadows belonging, with that piece of upland and meadow that I bought of the Indians, above Pagasick, called Plum meadow, and the uplands adjacent ther on. To my youngest son, James Fen my house in New Haven, with the warehouse and all the land belonging theto, on this side East River, and that parcel of meadow belonging to the house, on the other side of the River, and all my right & etc. in that farm that the Ho. Gen. Assembly gave to me. To my three eldest daughters, Sarah, Mary and Martha, besides what they have already received from their portions, 20 pounds apiece to be paid with in one year after my decease out of my estate in New England. To my youngest daughter Susanna fen, for her portion, one hundred twenty pounds, to be paid at eighteen years old or day of marriage. To my grandhcild, Benjamin Fen, son of my eldest son Benjamin, the house, orchard and land formerly Joseph Fenn’s, in the town of “Norwalke.” To all the rest of my grandchildren respectively I do give one ewe sheep to each of them. My will is that my grandchild Benjamin should enter and possess his house and lands at Norawake at the end and period of the lease that it’s now let ?. My tow youngest sons, Samuel and James shall come to enter and possess their legacies at their accomplishing of the age of one and twenty years, but, in case my dear and loving wife should see it her way to dispose of herself in marriage before then, it’s my will that they should enter upon the one half of their housings and lands at eighteen, and at one and twenty the whole but their mother’s third. To my son Samuel my dwelling house, lands and meadows in the parish of Chiddington, Marsworth, Ivingho, ?, all of them in Buckinghamshire, given to me by the will of the late deceased Agnis Seare of the same parish & Shire. My said son, if he ? to the full possess of it at one and twenty, to pay to his brother forty pounds at one and twenty and to his sister Susanna twenty pounds at one and twenty, and twenty pounds to his eldest brother, Benjamin within five years after his entrance and posession. All the residue, whether in New England or old, I give to my wife Susanna Fen and I make executrix. My will is that within five years after my decease she pay to each of my three eldest daughters, Sarah, Mary and Martha, ten pounds apiece, to be laid out in old England in pewter and brass for money pay and sent over for their several and respective uses, they bearing the charge of transportation and the danger of the seas. I entreat my honored, loving friends, Mr. James Bishop of New Haven, Mr. Robert Treat, Thomas Wheeler & Daniel Buckingham to land and afford their best help, council and advice as overseers & etc.
Benjamin likely died in late 1673 or early in 1674. We will take a look at his wife and children in the next post, but note the line in his will that is highlighted in blue:
To my son Samuel my dwelling house, lands and meadows in the parish of Chiddington, Marsworth, Ivingho, ?, all of them in Buckinghamshire, given to me by the will of the late deceased Agnis Seare of the same parish & Shire.
Benjamin inherited this land from Agnes Sear in 1645. Two men appeared in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury to prove this will – Christopher Mayne and James Fenn. I could not find a transcription of this will, or even an image of the actual will, so I purchased one online. The script is difficult to read and I haven’t made my way through all of it yet, but I did find “Beniamin FFen” mentioned first in the bequests:
“I give unto Beniamin ffen my kinsman”
Unfortunately, there is no marriage for a man named Seare to a woman named Agnes in Buckinghamshire. Agnes also made bequests to John Mayne, son of Christopher Mayne. There is no mention of how she was related to these people. However, she was a well-to-do widow, leaving lands in three villages.
I can’t vouch for the certainty of all the bequests, but I am pretty good about picking out names. Additional legacies were left to the following children of Thomas Fenn of Stewkley: James, Richard, Samuel, William, Benjamin, Jane/Joan and Sarah.
What isn’t clear, or at least I couldn’t make it out in the script, is whether Thomas’s son Benjamin named with his siblings is the same kinsman who received the real estate. I believe they are two different people, as I found baptismal records for James, Thomas, Samuel and Benjamin, sons of Thomas Fenn recorded in Stewkley between 1629 and 1640. They received legacies of £5 each, which would be fitting for young children.
Agnes also made bequests to Anna Samuel, daughter of John Samuel and Anna Seabrooke, daughter of John Seabrooke. Both Annas are described as “my kinswoman.”
There are more questions generated by Agnes Seare’s will than there are answers:
- What was Agnes’s maiden name?
- How is she related to Benjamin Fenn, Thomas Fenn, Christopher Mayne, James Fenn (who proved the will), Anna Samuel and Anna Seabrooke?
- Who is the father of Benjamin Fenn of Milford?
Getting help reading this will is on my “to do” list for my next visit to Salt Lake City!
More on Benjamin Fenn tomorrow!