John Benjamin and his wife, Abigail Eddy, were early immigrants to Massachusetts, having arrived in the Lion in 1632. The origins of John Benjamin are unknown, but he likely came from the area around Cranbrook, Kent, England, as Abigail was baptized there on 25 October 1601. Her father, William Eddy, was the vicar of the church and the family lived there for a number of years. Her mother was Mary Fosten, born c1566 and who died in 1611 in Cranbrook.
John Benjamin was born c1595 and likely married Abigail c1620. As her father was the local minister, and she would certainly have married in his church, it’s a mystery why their marriage record hasn’t been found even though the church registers exist well back into the 1500s.
Another mystery about the Benjamin family is why there are no births recorded for the children born in Massachusetts when church records from the era are extant. At least five children were born to this couple after they settled in Massachusetts.
John Benjamin died on 14 June 1645 in Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts. Abigail survived her husband by many years, although she never remarried. Her death date/place is reported to be 20 May 1687 in Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts. However, her death isn’t in found in the town records and it is thought that the date may have been found on a gravestone that no longer exists or is illegible.
John and Abigail were the parents of 8 known children. There is a big gap between the births of Mary and Joseph. It is possible that they lost three children born in that time period, but it seems to me that it is also possible that Abigail Eddy died and John Benjamin married a second time to another woman named Abigail.
Many men in this time period typically married near the age of 25 and the women near the age of 21. Yet in the birth year estimates assigned to these children in the Great Migration Project, Joseph would have been 27, Samuel 29, Caleb 33, Abel 31 and Joshua 40 at the time they married, apparently for the first time.
If there was a second wife Abigail and Joseph was born c1636, Samuel, c1640, Caleb, c1646, Abel, c1646 and Joshua, c1657, their age at marriage would make a lot more sense.
Another possibility, given the lack of vital records, is that one or more of the Benjamin men had a previous unidentified wife.
There is a statement in the Great Migration Project that the birth order and years of birth for this family are “problematic.”
It is what it is and, lacking any further documentation, at least the children have been identified.
1. John, born c1620, England; died 22 December 1706, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, aged 86 years.
2. Abigail, born c1624, England; died 30 October 1704, Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts; married (1) Joshua Stubbs, c1645 (2) John Woodward, between April 1657-November 1658.
3. Mary, born c1626, England; died 10 April 1646, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She was born no earlier than 1646 as she left a will that was not admitted to probate because she was under the legal age of 21 when she died.
4. Joseph, born c1634, Massachusetts; married (1) Jemima Lombard, 10 June 1661, Barnstable, Barnstable, Massachusetts (2) Sarah (MNU)
5. Samuel, born c1636, Massachusetts; died probably in Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut; married Mary (MNU), c1665
6. Caleb, born c1638, Massachusetts; married Mary Hale, after 8 May 1684, probably Wethersfield, Hartford, Connecticut.
7. Abel, born c1640, Massachusetts; married Aminathia Mirrick, 6 November 1671, Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts
8. Joshua, born c1642, Massachusetts; died 6 May 1684, Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts, aged 42 years; married Thankful Stow, 24 August 1682, Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts. She married (2) Ebenezer Austin, 8 July 1685, Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts.
Will of Mary Benjamin, 1646
Source: American Ancestors
John Benjamin left a 1645 will, but only named eldest son, John, with a double portion and “seven of my other children.”
Will of John Benjamin, 1645
Suffolk County, MA Probate Book 1:36-37
I John Benjamin being in pfect memory as touching my outward estate do give & bequeaath t omy sonne John a double portion of my estate & my beloved wife two Cowes fourty bushels of Corne out of all my lands to be allowed her towards the bringing up on my smale Children yearly such as grows uppon the ground one part of fower of all my houshould stuffe all the rest of my lands goodes & chattles I will shalbe equally divided betweene seven other of my children Provided that out of all my former estate my will is that my wife dureing her life shall enjoy the dwelling house I live in & three Acres of the broken up ground next the house & two Acres of the Meddowe neere hand belonging to the house That this will be truly pformed I doe appoint my brother John Eddie of Watertown & Thomas Marrit of Cambridge that they doe theire best Indevor to see this pformed
Witnes George Muninge
the 15 (4) 45
This was proved to be the last will & Testament of John Benjamin & that he did further declare (as an addition to this his will that his wife should have liberty to take wood for her use uppon any of his lands dureing her life uppon the Oath of John Eddye (5) 3 1645
Before Thomas Dudley Gov.
Jo winthrop Dep Gov