Yesterday, I introduced Benjamin Fenn and outlined his English origins that were about as clear as mud. I’d say the only certainty right now about his ancestral home is that he almost 100% was from Buckinghamshire, England, given the bequest left to him by Agnes Seare, a “kinswoman,” but exact relationship unstated, and the number of Fenn families that lived in the area.
Benjamin left a bit more of a paper trail in the colonies, although not tons more. Online information states that he came to the colonies about 1630 probably in the Mary and John. However, there are known passengers on that ship and, not only is Benjamin Fenn not among them, his name never appears in colonial records until 1637. That is highly unusual if he had arrived seven years earlier.
A group of passengers from the Buckinghamshire area apparently arrived in late 1637. It is much more likely that Benjamin Fenn traveled with this group of family and friends.
After a short stay in Dorchester, Benjamin Fenn moved on to Milford, New Haven, Connecticut, where he spent the rest of his life. He married Sarah Baldwin, reportedly the daughter of Sylvester Baldwin, about 1638 and likely in Milford. Sarah was reportedly born on 21 April 1621 in Aston Clinton, not far from the villages where the Fenn families lived.
References are made to marriage registers for Aston Clinton as early as 1560, but I have found no baptismal or burial registers at all and they appear to have been lost. Therefore, I have found no documentation for Sarah Baldwin’s birth date.
Sylvester Baldwin wrote his will on 21 June 1638 on board the ship “Martin” while crossing the Atlantic. It was admitted to probate in Boston shortly after the ship reached shore. Sylvester left a wife, Jane, and six children – Richard, Sarah, Mary, Martha, Ruth and John.
References have been made to his will being nuncupative (oral) and not being found in the Boston records. I haven’t been able to determine whether the oral will was ever written down and/or if its contents exist today.
Benjamin and Sarah lived in Milford. They were both admitted to the church there on 20 September 1640 and had a family of five known children, all baptized by Rev. Peter Prudden in Milford:
- Benjamin, baptized 1640
- Joseph, baptized 1642
- Sarah, baptized 1645
- Mary, baptized 1647
- Martha, baptized 1650
Sarah likely died in 1662 as Benjamin married (2) Susanna Ward on 12 March 1663 in Milford.
Benjamin and Susannah had three children of their own:
- Samuel, born 4 September 1667
- Susannah, born 4 May 1669
- James, born 14 May 1672
Here again is Benjamin’s will, probated on 1 February 1674:
Benjamin Fen, Sr. of Milford in the Colony of “Conecticott” in New England, 14 Sept 1672, proved 1 Feb. 1674. I give to my eldest son, Benjamin Fen, as an addition to his portion that he hath already received, to the value of 300 pounds and upwards, that farm that I formerly bought of Mr. samuel Bach, late of New Haven, lying on the East side of East River, consisting of 18 acres of meadow, more or less, with all the upland that is laid out thereto, he paying, or causing to be paid, thirty pounds towards the purchase, as was agreed upon, besides what he hath already paid. To my second son, Samuel Fen dwelling house that I now inhabit, within the town of Milford, with housing, uplands and meadows belonging, with that piece of upland and meadow that I bought of the Indians, above Pagasick, called Plum meadow, and the uplands adjacent there on. To my youngest son, James Fen my house in New Haven, with the warehouse and all the land belonging theto, on this side East River, and that parcel of meadow belonging to the house, on the other side of the River, and all my right & etc. in that farm that the Ho. Gen. Assembly gave to me. To my three eldest daughters, Sarah, Mary and Martha, besides what they have already received from their portions, 20 pounds apiece to be paid with in one year after my decease out of my estate in New England. To my youngest daughter Susanna fen, for her portion, one hundred twenty pounds, to be paid at eighteen years old or day of marriage. To my grandchild, Benjamin Fen, son of my eldest son Benjamin, the house, orchard and land formerly Joseph Fenn’s, in the town of “Norwalke.” To all the rest of my grandchildren respectively I do give one ewe sheep to each of them. My will is that my grandchild Benjamin should enter and possess his house and lands at Norawake at the end and period of the lease that it’s now let ?. My tow youngest sons, Samuel and James shall come to enter and possess their legacies at their accomplishing of the age of one and twenty years, but, in case my dear and loving wife should see it her way to dispose of herself in marriage before then, it’s my will that they should enter upon the one half of their housings and lands at eighteen, and at one and twenty the whole but their mother’s third. To my son Samuel my dwelling house, lands and meadows in the parish of Chiddington, Masworth, Ivingho, ?, all of them in Buckinghamshire, given to me by the will of the late deceased Agnis Seare of the same parish & Shire. My said son, if he ? to the full possess of it at one and twenty, to pay to his brother forty pounds at one and twenty and to his sister Susanna twenty pounds at one and twenty, and twenty pounds to his eldest brother, Benjamin within five years after his entrance and posession. All the residue, whether in New England or old, I give to my wife Susanna Fen and I make executrix. My will is that within five years after my decease she pay to each of my three eldest daughters, Sarah, Mary and Martha, ten pounds apiece, to be laid out in old England in pewter and brass for money pay and sent over for their several and respective uses, they bearing the charge of transportation and the danger of the seas. I entreat my honored, loving friends, Mr. James Bishop of New Haven, Mr. Robert Treat, Thomas Wheeler & Daniel Buckingham to land and afford their best help, council and advice as overseers & etc.
Notice that Benjamin’s son is not an heir, but he made a bequest to his grandson, Benjamin, son of Benjamin “ the house, orchard and land formerly Joseph Fenn’s, in the town of “Norwalke.” That would seem to indicate that Joseph Fenn lived to adulthood, died sometime between 1663, when he would have turned 21, and 1672 and likely was unmarried when he died. His estate reverted to his father. Norwalk, Connecticut is not far from Milford.
I am still no closer to proving the parentage of Benjamin Fenn of Milford and Buckinghamshire, England. However, there are three other possible sources that might help. There are wills filed for William Seare, 1632, and Thomas Seare, 1626 and both were carpenters. If one is the husband of Agnes, perhaps there are other Fenn clues to be found. There is also a will for a James Fenn of Stewkley, 1626. Perhaps this is the reputed father of Benjamin. However, it will take a bit of doing to obtain these files as they aren’t readily available online.
Look for more in a future post!