I am not related to John Elwell in any way, shape or form. However, because he had a daughter named Susannah born in the right time period to be a potential wife of Thomas Burnham (1673-1749) of Ipswich, I researched this family.
It was immediately apparent that a very modern phrase perfectly described the online jumble of misinformation found about John and his family – it is a hot mess!
There are many Elwell descendants out there today so I thought it was worthwhile to share the documented information I uncovered in my search.
Generally, when one is researching a colonial New England family and particularly one from Massachusetts, a great starting point is the New England Historic Genealogical Society (AmericanAncestors.org) and their publication, The Register. Although NEHGS is a membership society, many issues of The Register are out of copyright and can be found online.
A quick search turned up The Elwell Family in America, published in volume 53, pages 25-32 in the 1899 Register. Robert Elwell was the immigrant ancestor, livingin dorchester, Massachusetts in 1634 and John Elwell, subject of this post, was one of his children.
The Register, 53:29
Today’s Register articles contain full source citations. Although many of the 19th century articles have no explicit source citations, I have found that exact dates frequently come from town vital records, mentions of land ownership can be verified in deed records and probates can be located in county records. Therefore, this blurb about John and his family was quite easy to document through primary records.
John Elwell was baptized at Salem, Essex, Massachusetts on the 23rd day of the 11th month (probably January) 1639/40. He married Jane Durin on 1 October 1667, also in Salem, where he continued to live until 1677. He was given a grant of land in Gloucester that year and moved his family to their new home.
Given the gap in birth years for the children, John and Jane probably lost one or two young ones.
1. John, born 14 October 1668, Salem
2. Jane, born 23 November 1671, Salem
3. Susannah, born 21 April 1678, Gloucester
4. Mary, born 9 February 1680, Gloucester
5. Christian (female), born 16 May 1685
6. Penelope, born 6 August 1688, Gloucester; died aged 4 days old on 10 August 1688
John and Jane’s only son was their eldest child, John, born 14 October 1668. Another quick look online found the entire genealogy book about the Elwell Family in America, which included this small section about John Jr.
The Elwell Family in America, page 13
by Elwell & Pope, 1899
John Jr. married (1) Mary Robinson, said to be the daughter of Abraham Robinson, probably c1693, based on the birth of their first known child in 1695. [T here is an obvious typo in the Elwell book above with his marriage date as 1660] and (2) Mary Joslyn, 7 January 1709 in Gloucester. Mary died 26 December 1717, aged about 48 years old. No death record has been found for John Elwell, although reference is made to his 1729 land deed.
Children by both wives, all born in Gloucester:
- Mary, born 8 October 1695
- Abigail, born 6 August 1697
- Rachel, born 14 June 1699
- Deborah, born 7 August 1702
- Andrew, born 22 April 1704
- Dorcas, born 24 June 1706
- Abraham, born 16 December 1710
- Lucy, born 3 July 1714
Unfortunately, The Register article is short on information about John Elwell Sr’s daughters, with the exception of Christian, who married (1) William Sampson/Samson of Newbury, where intentions were filed on 18 July 1702 and (2) James Smith, 26 February 1712/13, Newbury, who was from Preston, Connecticut.
William Samson/Sampson and Christian were the parents of two known children:
1. Jonathan, born 22 September 1703, Newbury
2. William, born 24 December 1705, Newbury
However, there is a huge clue in the statement that John Elwell sold land to his SON-IN-LAW, John Smith Jr., at Long Beach (part of Gloucester) on 6 February 1702. The deed is found in Essex County Records, DB26:103. Since John Smith Jr. was buying the land, there is no wife mentioned for him. A quick check of the Gloucester vital records produced this family:
John and Susannah Smith likely married about 1700. They had the following children, all born in Gloucester. There are no birth recorded for the first two children, who maybe were twins that only lived for a couple of days. John Smith died before 18 May 1713, when widow Susannah was his administrator. Susannah died 2 March 1724/25, aged about 46 years old, in Gloucester
1. Abigail, died 26 August 1701
2. Joseph, died 28 August 1701
3. John, born 2 November 1702
4. Abigail, born 25 August 1704
5. Rebecca, born 25 December 1706
6. Joseph, born 20 March 1708/09
7. Susanna, bon 6 November 1711
Jane Elwell married cousin Ebenezer Elwell on 2 January 1694/95 in Gloucester. Ebenezer was born on the 29th day of the 12th month of 1670, the son of Samuel and Hester Elwell so they were first cousins.
There is a death record for Jane Elwell, widow, on 5 April 1723. However, she was aged about 48 years, unless that was in error and should read 38 years old.
Children, all born and died at Gloucester:
1. Charles, born 3 May 1695; died 5 May 1695
2. Jean, born 31 May 1696
3. Penelope, born 29 January 1697/98
4. Joseph, born 22 July 1699; died 9 May 1721, aged about 22 years
5. Ebenezer, born 1 March 1701/02; died June 1720, at sea, aged about 20 years
6. Susanna, born 5 July 1709
7. Anne, born 15 April 1711; there is also Ann, child of Ebenezer, who was baptized on 15 October 1721. It isn’t known whether these are the same person.
As for Mary Elwell, there is a Mary who married Samuel Tubbs in November 1713 in Gloucester. However, this Mary is more likely the daughter of John and Mary (Robinson) Elwell, who was born in 1695.
Now, back to John Elwell Sr. Gloucester records state that John Elwell was captured by Indians and died in captivity in February 1710. One record in his probate administration seems to say that he died the 30th day of the 12th month of 1709:
John Elewell Sener of gloster Deseased ye 30 12/m 1709
File 8845, Page 14
It isn’t clear from that whether he died soon or was held for months, nor does it state how the family knew he had died.
In any case, an estate administration was begun for John Elwell SENIOR by 15 May 1712 in Essex County Court. His only son, John, was appointed administrator, but the estate was declared insolvent on 7 April 1713.
The death date of John’s wife, Jane (Durin) Elwell is unknown, except that she died sometime after the birth of her youngest child, Penelope, on 6 August 1688.
I hope this helps Elwell descendants who should be able to clear up their family tree based on these records. 🙂