Lawrence & Susannah Wilkinson, Early Settlers of Providence, RI

I’ve known about my Wilkinson connection for many years, as Joanna Wilkinson married Israel Thornton in Rhode Island and then, with many other Rhode Island families, headed to Nova Scotia, which today is New Brunswick, Canada.

I’ve neglected to share the earliest generations of the Wilkinson family, so I am rectifying that oversight today.

As far as I can determine, two books, both published a long time ago, provide the basis for most of the genealogical information found online today.

The first book, Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family, by Israel Wilkinson was written way back in 1869.

The second tome, Genealogy of Wilkinson and Kindred Families, by Marcellus McEwin Wilkinson, was published almost a century later in 1849.

The problem with both books is that some of the information in them has been debunked – particularly the royal descents – and claims are made about people, places and events that have no documentation to support them.

Therefore, I am not going to contribute to misinformation that multiplies like a rabbit online and will reference questionable details without discussing them in depth.

There is agreement that Lawrence Wilkinson was the immigrant ancestor of my Rhode Island branch of the Wilkinson family. It also seems generally accepted that Lawrence may have called Lanchester, County Durham, England home and that it is likely he was a Royalist during the English Civil War.

Lawrence’s date of birth is unknown. Church registers from Lanchester dating from 1603-1653 has been lost and no American colonial record, such as court depositions, in which Lawrence stated his age, has been found.

If Lawrence was around the age of 25 when he married AND if Susannah was his only wife, then he was probably born  around 1624.

Next, little is known about Lawrence’s wife, other than her name was Susannah and she predeceased him, not being named in his estate administration. However, if Susannah married at a typical age for young ladies in that time period, then she was probably born c1628.

Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700 posits that her maiden name might have been Smith and that her father MIGHT be Christopher Smith of Rhode Island, but no proof has been found.

Next, there is some doubt as to both the date that Lawrence Wilkinson arrived in the colonies and whether he was married before settling in Rhode Island.

Lawrence Wilkinson signed the Original Compact of the Settlers of Rhode Island, dated 1645, so many report that he was in Rhode Island by that time. HOWEVER, historians have noted that some men signed the document LATER than 1645. Therefore, it can only be said that Lawrence was in Rhode Island by 1651, when he first appears in Providence, Rhode Island.

This gap of years is important for a second reason. Lawrence and Susannah married c1649 and their probable first child, son Samuel, was born c1650.

Lawrence deeded the gift of his homestead to his son, Josias in 1691, the year before he died.

Lawrence passed away intestate on 9 August 1692 in Providence, Rhode Island.

It is thought that Lawrence and Susannah had about six children – there is also a question about the existence of one of them.

Also, many online trees have exact dates of birth for the children. I’ve not found primary records with those dates, so I am including only the years of birth. It is believed that all children were born in Providence, with the possible exception of Samuel.

Children:

1. Samuel, probably first born, c1650, but whether in England or Rhode Island is unknown; died intestate on 27 August 1727, Providence, Rhode Island; probably married (?Plain) Wickenden, daughter of Rev. William Wickenden, c1674.
2. Susannah, born c1652; died young.
3. John, born c1654; died 10 April 1708, Providence, Rhode Island, intestate; married Deborah Whipple, c1669. His estate inventory was completed on 30 April 1708 and wife, Deborah was the administratrix. Deborah was probably born c1658; died after 7 September 1713, when she is mentioned in a Providence Council meeting regarding the estate of her deceased son, Josias Wilkinson.
4. Joanna, born c1657,  called Joamia in the 1949 book, probably a publisher error. There is doubt as to whether Joanna ever existed. If she did, she apparently died young and without children.
5. Josias, born c1660, died 10 June 1692, Providence, Rhode Island, intestate; married Hannah (?Tyler). Note that Josias died only ONE DAY after his father. Hannah married (2) Joseph Tucker, before 24 December 1699. More on that in a moment.
6. Susannah, born c1662; married (1) Edward Boss, before 1685, possibly Newport, Rhode Island (2) James Angell

Before ending this family sketch, details need to be shared about the estate administration of Josias Wilkinson. It is peculiar that, as a young man, he died but one day after his father, Lawrence. His death date is found in the Providence estate administration records, which make no mention of his cause of death.

Initally, Edward Smith and John Williams served as administrators of Josias’s estate. However, by 24 December 1699, Joseph Tucker, stepfather to Josias’s only heir, daughter Hannah, and his wife, Hannah, widow of Josias, petitioned the court regarding the estate.

However, the administration of Josias’s estate continued for many years, likely because his daughter, Hannah, was very young when her father died.

Eventually, the court concluded that Joseph Tucker allowed the real estate that was little Hannah’s legacy to go to ruin and he was failing to even provide proper clothing.

Joseph Tucker died by 8 April 1707, when his wife Hannah was named adminstratrix of his estate. John Wilkinson and Sylvanus Scott completed the estate inventory.

As of June 19, 1710, Hannah Wilkinson, daughter of Josias, was still a minor and the Providence Council appointed Eleazer Arnold as her sole guardian.

By 7 September 1713, John Wilkinson was overseer of Josias’s estate.

Josias’s daughter, Hannah, married John Dexter.

Thus, there are many gaps in our knowledge of the origin and lives of Lawrence Wilkinson, wife Susannah, and their children.

If anyone has more recent, documented research, I would love to hear from you.

 

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