One of my husband’s only non-Southern and non-German ancestral lines is his Woodruff family that began in New Jersey and then headed south long before the American Revolution.
John Woodruff married Eleanor Donnington sometime before 3 June 1731, when her father, Thomas Donnington, wrote his will. The original isn’t available to read, but it has been abstracted in the Calendar of New Jersey Wills.
Source: Google Books
Thomas Donnington is first identified as a mariner. He named wife Thankful and then the following children: Abigail, John and one unborn. Lastly, he named daughter Elinor, wife of John Woodruffe.
His executors were Charles Townley and Nathaniel Mitchell. Witnesses were John Chandler, Stephen Crane and Absolem Ladner.
Thomas left both real and personal estate. His will was proved two years after he wrote it on 12 June 1733.
New Jersey isn’t the easiest of places to do genealogical research. The land deed index for Essex County doesn’t include any Donningtons before 1802.
I haven’t found any church records of baptisms for any Donningtons and tax records begin too late.
I found one mention of John Donnington in a 1738 court minute record, which is helpful:
John is called the orphan of Thomas Donnington, deceased, on 1 February 1738, when he was about 15 years old. That would put his birth roughly around 1722, if he hadn’t yet had his birthday that year.
Further, John Megie (McGhie?) was named as his guardian. A preliminary seach of this man has found a couple of mentions in town service, but no family information.
John Donnington lived to adulthood, as he was mentioned in the will of Moses Chandler on 4 September 1762 when Moses described his land as “my house and land, formerly purchased by uncle. . .John Chandler of (from?) John Donnington. . .
Abigail is mentioned only once in any record I’ve found and that is her father’s will. She is named before John, so we can likely assume she is at least two years older than he is, so born no later than 1720.
Elinor was already married by 3 June 1731. John Woodruff is thought to have been born about 1700-1704. Elinor was probably born in close to the same time frame. If she had married, say, a day before her father wrote his will and married at the young age of 16, her birth year would have been about 1705.
I’ve not found any record of Thomas Donnington’s unborn child surviving. He/she might have, I just haven’t found anything to confirm his/her birth and life.
I found just one other mention of Thomas Donnington in New Jersey records. On 7 February 1722/23, he was one of the witnesses to the will of John Crane of Elizabeth. The other two were Daniel Crane and Jeremiah Craine.
Was Thomas related to the Crane family in some way? I don’t know.
I suspect that Thomas Donnington might have married at least twice, given the gaps in the birth years of his children.
1. Elinor, born no later than 1705 if married in 1731 at age 16.
2. Abigail, born no later than 1720
3. John, born about 1722
4. Child, born about 1731
Most online information names Thankful as the mother of Elinor/Eleanor and I’ve seen at least three surnames credited to Thankful. Not wanting to perpetuate wishful thinking, I am not going to repeat them here.
At a minimum, we have a gap of 17 years between the births of Elinor and John, perhaps more. Either Thankful gave birth to many children over many years who didn’t survive or Thomas had at least one previous wife.
Readers, do you have any suggestions for further research? Better yet, are you a Donnington descendant who owns the family Bible? (I can only wish!)