I’ve occasionally written about my Thornton family, but I have to admit it is one of the most poorly documented of my New England lines.
It’s also one of my families who left Rhode Island in the early 1760s and settled in Sackville, Westmorland, New Brunswick, Canada.
There is one mystery in Rhode Island that I hope to some day resolve.
Titus Thornton is my 6X great grandfather. He was born c1700 or so and married Mercy (MNU) around 1726.
Their children aren’t well documented, but are identified as Israel (my ancestor), who died on 10 March 1815 in Sackville, plus Benjamin who married Alce Cowen, 11 October 1767 in Glocester, Samuel, Bathsheba, Mercy, Mary and Nehemiah, who died 1 May 1761 in Gloucester.
Titus Thornton died on 28 September 1757 in Glocester, Providence, Rhode Island.
The given name of Titus doesn’t appear in the Thornton family until this man. Titus is also a surname and one which appears in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, which is only ten miles from Providence, Rhode Island.
I think there might be a familial connection between the Thorntons and the Titus clan, but I haven’t figured out where it is. However, there are two good prospects.
Titus Thornton is said to be the son of Benjamin Thornton, who married an unknown wife. Benjamin was born c1673; I’ve found no documented death date.
Benjamin and his unknown wife are reportedly the parents of Benjamin who married Elizabeth Herendeen, 2 November 1738, Providence, Rhode Island, Joseph, Titus, David who married Alice Thornton, 8 September 1747 in Providence, John, Sarah and Mary.
Benjamin’s wife could certainly be the origin of Titus’s name if she happened to be a Titus by birth. It’s also possible that her mother might have been the Titus with Benjamin and wife wanting to honor her by bestowing her name on their son.
The second possibility is that Benjamin’s mother was a Titus. He was reportedly the son of John Thornton and his wife, Sarah (MNU). Many online trees show her maiden name was Thurston, but I haven’t found a shred of documentation supporting that theory.
John and Sarah Thornton are reportedly the parents of Elizabeth who married Edward Manton, 9 December 1689, Providence, Rhode Island, John who married Dinah Steere, c1680, Sarah who married Zachariah Field before 7 March 1691/2, William, Thomas who married Margaret (MNU), c1693, Benjamin and Solomon.
There are many “reportedly”s and circas sprinkled throughout this family due to a dearth of records!
Let’s assume that Benjamin is, indeed, the father of Titus and that John and Sarah (MNU) are, indeed, the parents of Benjamin. Others have place birth years for John and Sarah Thornton well into the 1640s, but I believe that is at least a decade too late.
Typical ages for marriage in colonial New England were 25 and 21 respectively for the groom and bride. Occasionally, young ladies married at 18, but that wasn’t very common. Let’s assume, though, that their daughter Elizabeth who married Edward Manton in 1680 was only 18 years old. She would have been born in 1662. In reality, she was probably at least 20.
Either way, her parents wouldn’t have been born in the mid-1740s – say 1745. Her father would only have been 17 when she was born and then married at 16. That just wasn’t the reality. I have never, ever found a colonial groom who married at 16 or 17.
John was more likely born in the 1730s and Sarah perhaps c1738 or so.
Now, let’s look at the Titus family. Because we are looking at the earliest families in New England, it is only necessary to look at the first two Titus generations.
Robert Titus, born c1600, is the immigrant ancestor. He married Hannah (MNU) and she was born c1604. The family first settled at Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1635, then removed to Rehoboth, Massachusetts and finally settled in Huntington, Long Island in New York.
Robert and Hannah were the parents of:
- John, born c1627, England; married Abigail Carpenter, c1649. This couple remained in New England when the rest of the family removed to New York, c1654.
- Edward, born c1630, England; married Martha Washburn, by 1648. They became devout Quakers and lived in New York.
- Samuel, born c1636; married an unknown wife; lived in New York
- Susannah, born c1638; in her mother’s 1672 will; no further record but would have removed to New York with her family.
- Abial, born 17 March 1640/1, Weymouth, Norfolk, Massachusetts; lived in New York
- Content, born 28 March 1643, Weymouth, Norfolk, Massachusetts; lived in New York
Because Robert, Hannah and all their children except John removed to New York, I only need to examine John’s family to search out a connection to the Thorntons.
John Titus Sr., born c1627 in England married Abigail Carpenter, c1649. He died in 1689 and she married (2) Jonah Palmer, 9 November 1692, Rehoboth, Massachusetts.
John Titus Jr. was born 18 December 1650; He married (1) Lydia Redway, 17 July 1673 and (2) Sarah Miller, 3 July 1677, both in Rehoboth. He only survived his father by 8 years, dying in 1697, but he left a will, which confirms the names of his children. It unfortunately can’t supply the names of husbands for his daughters, as they hadn’t yet married. Marriage records help fill in the gap.
Children, all events in Rehoboth unless noted otherwise:
- Lydia, born 6 December 1674; alive when her father wrote his will in 1697; no marriage or death record found, but she sold land she inherited in July 1700 as Lydia Titus.
- John, born 12 March 1678; married Sarah Butterworth, c1701
- Samuel, born 29 July 1680
- Hannah, born 10 July 1682; married Nathaniel Willis, 24 June 1712
- Robert, born 23 February 1684; married Sarah Deering, 21 November 1710, Attleboro, Massachusetts
- Sarah, born 21 February 1687/88; married John Garnsey, 16 August 1716
- Elizabeth, born 5 May 1691; married John Garnsey Jr., 6 June 1717
- Timothy, born 16 September 1692; married Waitstill Garnsey, 27 June 1717.
- Abigail, born 25 April 1695; alive when her father wrote his will in 1697; no further record.
If you’ve lost track of the end zone, we are looking for a potential connection between Benjamin Thornton, born c1673 and his unknown wife through a connection to the Titus family, which could explain how my ancestor, Titus Thornton, came to be named.
IF, and this is a big IF, his wife was a Titus, the only candidate seems to be Lydia Titus, eldest daughter of John Titus who died in 1697.
Her father’s will says:
I give to my daughter Lidya twenty acres of land that is to be layde out in ye two thousand acre divission to her, her heires & Assignes for Ever & a feather Bed which was her mothers and a pott * two platters that was her mothers marckt with her maiden Name . . .
Although no husband or married name is given for Lydia, it sounds as if she was already married given that the land went to “her, her heires and assigns forever.”
The usual format followed is that if an unmarried person inherits real estate, the testator clarifies who should next get the land if the legatee dies unmarried or without heirs.
Having been born in 1674, Lydia would have been 23 when her father died and easily could have been married for 2 or 3 years. Unfortunately for me, there is a land deed (Bristol County, Massachusetts DB 9:700) in which Lydia sells her 20 acres on 15 July 1700 to Samuel Port and the will states that she came by the land per the will of her father, John Titus, deceased. For whatever reason, the deed was not recorded until January 1715.
That doesn’t eliminate Lydia as a potential wife for Benjamin, it just doesn’t confirm it. Benjamin’s birth year, year of marriage and the births of his children are all estimates. His children were probably born in the first decade of the 1700s and possibly into the second decade.
Next, I need to get a look at the land records for Glocester, Rhode Island, which are locked on FamilySearch.
The search goes on!