I am lucky to have several names in the family tree that are unique – all known Americans with that particular surname are descended from but one immigrant. Tarbox is one of those names. My grandfather always signed his name as Vernon T. Adams and when I got interested in the family history, I realized that I never knew what that T stood for. My mother said it was Tarbox – I thought that was a really strange name to give someone, but it was the beginning of my love of the Tarbox family. Grandfather was given that name because of the love that his parents had for his maternal grandmother, Nellie F. Tarbox Adams.
While looking at my pedigree chart for a new person to write about, I saw Tarbox and thought I had written all about them during my six years of blogging. I was surprised to find that, although I have written about Nellie many times, and her father, George, there was only one other Tarbox I had covered – Samuel, father of the most kids of anyone in the family tree (18!!!).
Therefore, today begins a short series on the Tarbox family. First of all, the origin of the name is unknown. Some claim it is Danish (Thorbeck), others French Huguenot (Tarbeaux) and still others say it is very English (Tarbock), but the bottom line is that no one really knows.
What is certain is that just one Tarbox immigrant became the patriarch of all Tarboxes in America today. That person was John Tarbox, born c1618, and who hailed from Ippollitts, Hertfordshire, England.
I am doubly lucky because Rev. Increase N. Tarbox published a lengthy article in the NEHGS Register in January 1888 (pages 27-39), which covered four generations of the Tarbox family.
Then, in 2000, Marcia W. Lindberg published an updated look at the Tarboxes in The Essex Antiquarian 20:132-149.
John had a rough start to family life. He was likely born c1618 in or near Ippollitts, Hertfordshire, England, although no further records have been found for his parents or any siblings. He married (1) Mary Overall, 1 May 1633 in Ippollitts.
Three known children were born to them, all baptized in Ippollitts:
1. Thomas, baptized 9 February 1633/34; died young
2. John, baptized 28 April 1636; died young
3. John, baptized 31 December 1637; died young
4. Jonathan, born c1640? (See commentary below.)
The reasons John had for leaving England are unknown. They might have been religiously or economically based, but he might just have wanted a new start to life after burying his three young children.
In any case, John is first mentioned in Massachusetts in the Essex County Court records in June 1639 when he was awarded 38 shillings against Daniel Salmon for a debt plus court costs. Because it takes time for debt collection, it seems likely that John may have sailed to New England sometime during 1638.
When Mary (Overall) Tarbox died is unknown. Lindberg places John’s son, Jonathan who died on 16 June 1654, as a child of Mary, born c1640. That is certainly possible and narrows the gap in years between John’s children born in England and the first born of his second wife, the widow Andrews, in 1645. However, the death record gives no indication of Jonathan’s age when he died so it is possible that his birth was simply not recorded and he was a child of John’s second marriage.
John Tarbox married (2) the widow Andrews, probably about 1644. Neither her name is known (although some say it was Rebecca, no proof found), nor that of her first deceased husband, but she had at least one child, Ruth, before he died. In 1646, John and his wife, not named, were allowed 6 shillings for court costs against Matthew Stanley. He was fined for “drawing away the affection of the daughter of John Tarboxx his wife” without her parents’ permission. Ruth Andrews and Matthew Stanley were to be fined 50 shillings or whipped in December 1649 unless they married, which they eventually did.
Children with the widow Andrews with all events in Lynn or probably there:
5. John, born c1645; died c1729; married Mary Haven, 4 July 1667.
6. Samuel, born c1647; died 16 August 1715; married (1) Rebeckah Armitage, 14 November 1665 (2) Experience Look, 16 October 1678
Samuel’s birth record has not been found. However, in 1670, he gave a court deposition, aged “about 22.” Very few New England men in this time period were married at the age of 18, which would be the case with Samuel and Rebeckah. I have to wonder if he was born at least by 1644 and then aged 21 when he first married.
The widow Andrews survived her husband, John, but her exact date of death is unknown. John Tarbox died on 26 May 1674 in Lynn, but left a will, Essex County Court 2:410-411.
This 25th of 9th month 1673 the last will & Testament of John Tarbox senior of Lyn in the County of Essex beinge in his right mind and havinge his understandinge.
Imprimis I bequeath my soule to God as into the hands of my faithfull creator and my body to the dust from whence it was taken.
I bequeath my house and housings with orchard and all my land and meadow with a green rugg and a great iron kettle & a joyne table to my sonn John Tarbox and his heires forever after mine and my wifes decease.
I bequeath unto my sonn Samuel Tarbox and his heires twenty-five pounds to be paid unto him by my sonn John or otherwise to have that three acres of land yt was my wifes before I marryed her and two acres of salt marsh in Rumley Marsh if my sonn John shall not pay this twenty five pounds in one year and a halfes time after mine & my wifes decease and it is to be understood this twenty five pounds given to my sonn Samuel is not till after one year & halfe after myne and my wifes decease.
I bequeath unto my grand child Samuel Tarbox one younge steere to be put out for his only use and benefitt.
I bequeath unto everyone of my sonn John Tarbox his children and my sonn Samuels children one ewe sheep a peece.
Lastly I bequeath unto my lovinge wife all the rest of my estate to be dispossed of by her what shall bee of it att her decease left equally to my son John Tarbox and his heirs and my sonn Samuel Tarbox and his heirs.
Also I leave my wife my only executris and my lovinge friends Capt. Marshall & Thomas Laughton senior my overseers of this my will and hereunto I have sett my hand.
John his mark (N) Tarbox senior
Witnesses: Thomas Laughton Sr.
Therefore, all American Tarboxes today claim descent from either John’s son, John who married Mary Haven and had six children who reached adulthood, or John’s son, Samuel, who had 17 children by his two wives.