Category Archives: Thornton

Documenting the Thorntons of Rhode Island, 1600s-1700s, Part 14 – Loose Ends and Closing Thoughts

Congratulations if you’ve stuck with my Thornton saga through this lengthy series. I don’t think I’ve ever “live” blogged in so much detail as I worked through a genealogical research project.

There were several reasons why I took this path:

  1. Not all genealogical quests are straightforward.
  2. Most definitely not everything is online and, even if it is digitally available, the record set might be locked, as are some FamilySearch items.
  3. Not all genealogical questions can be answered because the records just don’t exist.
  4. Last, but not least, and probably most importantdoing one’s own original research can sort out fact from fiction from clues found in others’ online trees.

The Thorntons left many gaps in their family information, but did leave a handful of clues in what I call loose ends. Because my line begins with John Sr. and continues through son Benjamin and grandson Titus Thornton, I’m only going to discuss two of those loose ends.

First, is the mystery of the maiden name of Sarah, wife of John Thornton Sr. There is NO document that provides Sarah’s maiden name, but the Clarence I. Brown collection of index cards has an entry that poses a good question, which I shared in an earlier post:

Richd Borden, it will be observed, was a land owner in Providence nearly twenty years before John Thornton bought a farm there. the fact is noticeable. As son as the Indian War was over and conditions for settlement safe in “the outlands,” John Thornton lost no time in changing his residence to where Thos. Borden was living. Why should he do so?

My research uncovered a second, important tie to the Borden family. John Borden, son of Lt. Mercy Borden, died c1757. He left a will which included his “cousin and nephew” Solomon Thornton.

Although there were at least four Solomon Thorntons, there is really only one who fits to be the person named by John Thornton. Here’s an overview of the family lines:

Thomas Borden & Mary HarrisJohn Thornton & Sarah (MNU)
Mercy Borden & Meribah TurpinSolomon Thornton & Unknown
John BordenRichard Thornton & Patience Sheldon
Solomon Thornton, b. c1736

John Thornton Sr.’s son Solomon died in 1713, leaving an underage male heir, daughter Amey, and possibly other minor children. Lt. Mercy Borden and Thomas Harris both administered the estate AND agreed to care for the children. This would indicate a close family relationship.

More than 40 years later, Mercy’s son John calls the younger Solomon his cousin and nephew. Using both terms wouldn’t have been unusual because, according to a colonial dictionary, “nephew” as we know it didn’t come into widespread use until the 1750s. Before then, a nephew was called a cousin.

Now, look at the table above. Maiden names are unknown for both the wife of John Thornton Sr. and his son, Solomon. My current thoughts are that (1) Solomon’s wife was a Borden since John Borden was apparently unmarried, but his uncle and (2) that John Thornton Sr.’s wife might also have been a Borden or possibly a Harris since Thomas Harris was co-guardian of Solomon’s children and the Bordens and Harrises had ties by marriage.

The second loose end is a name for the wife of Benjamin Thornton, son of John Thornton Sr. and Sarah (MNU). Online trees and the Clarence I. Brown collection posit Gurney as the maiden name of his wife because there is a reference to John Gurney being the brother-in-law of Benjamin Thornton. While it’s possible that his wife might have also been a Gurney, I tend to doubt it. John Gurney was the second husband of Benjamin’s sister, Sarah Thornton, which also makes him a brother-in-law to Benjamin.

I do have one idea, which I’ve never seen anyone else propose. Rehoboth, Bristol, Massachusetts is a mere ten miles from Providence, Rhode Island.

Benjamin named one of his sons, who happens to be my ancestor, TITUS. That is a very unique name for any time period and I believe may well be in honor of Benjamin’s wife’s family – that she was a TITUS by birth.

This is strictly conjecture, but the given name of Titus appears nowhere else except in Benjamin’s branch of the family.

Now, why did I mention Rehoboth, Massachusetts? Guess who lived there – the Titus family! I’ll even go one step further and guess that Benjamin’s wife might have been an Elizabeth Titus, since he had two daughters and the other, Sarah, was probably named for his own mother.

Whether or not I’ll ever be able to prove my hypothesis, I doubt, given the lack of vital records.

Readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my loose ends and closing thoughts.!

Documenting the Thorntons of Rhode Island, 1600s-1700s, Part 13 – 3 Generations Documented!

It’s time to review the progress made in documenting the descendants of John Thornton Sr. of Newport and Providence, Rhode Island in the 1600s.

What Resources and Records Did I Consult?

Although no source citations are listed in this series, there is a very short list of records that I used. Almost no birth or marriage records were found and the handful of death dates were mostly recorded in probate records. That leaves a lot of “circa” dates, which I think are reasonable when compared to other records.

  • Town of Providence land and probate records
  • Town of Glocester land and probate records
  • The Early Records of the Town of Providence, multi-volume series, by Horatio Rogers, George Moulton Carpenter and Edward Field, Record Commissioners, Snow & Farnham City Printers, Providence, Rhode Island, 1896
  • The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island by John Osborne Austin,, Printed by Joel Munsell’s Sons, Albany, New York, 1887
  • Thornton Genealogy: An Alphabetic Account of the Descendants of John Thornton of Providence, Rhode Island: together with records of many other Thorntons in England and America, by Clarence I. Brown
  • Field Genealogy: Being the Record of All the Field Family Whose Ancestors Were in This Country Prior to 1700, by Frederick Clifton Pierce, F.C. Pierce, Chicago, Illinois, c1901

All of these resources are found on FamilySearch. Note, however, almost all Rhode Island records are locked, which means a trip to a local FamilySearch Center or the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City. The exceptions are the books – Field Genealogy and The Early Records series, which are out of copyright and can be read online.

Generation 1:

John Thornton, born say 1634, place unknown, married Sarah (MNU), unknown date and place. John was a freeman of Newport, Rhode Island by 1655. John and Sarah likely married in Newport about the time that John was made a freeman. they were members of the First Baptist Church and friends with Roger Williams.

The Thornton family removed from Newport to Providence about 1679, after the close of King Philip’s War.

John Thornton died sometime after 13 August 1695 when he and John Jr. petitioned the Providence Town Council that his Field grandchildren, to be bound out, be educated in good places.

Children:

  1. Elizabeth, born c1658, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died after 7 August 1723, the date of her husband’s will; married Edward Manton, 4 December 1680, Providence County, Rhode Island
  2. John, born c1660, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died 9 January 1716, Glocester, Rhode Island: married Dinah Steere
  3. Sarah, born c1662, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died shortly before 31 March 1714, the date her will was proved in Providence County, Rhode Island; married (1) Zachariah Field, c1684 (2) John Gurney, about January 1695/96
  4. Solomon, born c1658, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died 18 September 1713, Providence, Rhode Island; married Unknown
  5. William, born c1666, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died 16 August 1741, Providence County, Rhode Island. His estate inventory gave no evidence of a wife or children.
  6. James, born c1668, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died c1742. No further record
  7. Benjamin, born c1670, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died after 1741, probably Glocester, Rhode Island; married Unknown
  8. Thomas, born c1672, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died 27 March 1712, Glocester, Rhode Island; married Margaret (MNU)

Generation 2:

Elizabeth Thornton (John1) was born c1658, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died after 7 August 1723; married Edward Manton, 4 December 1680, Providence County, Rhode Island. Elizabeth and Sarah were called “poor, helpless” in Edward’s 1723 will.

Children:

  1. Shadrach, born c1682; died 21 October 1754, Providence County, Rhode Island
  2. Edward, born c1684; died 12 September 1755, Providence County, Rhode Island
  3. Ann; born c1686; married Lott Tripp, c1708. Lott was born 26 December 1684 and died 22 September 1720.
  4. John, born c1688
  5. Katharine, born c1690; died before 7 august 1723 – not in father’s will
  6. Mary, born c1692; died before 7 August 1723 – not in father’s will
  7. Elizabeth, born c1694; died after 7 August 1723, apparently unmarried
  8. Sarah, born c1696; died after 7 August 1723, apparently unmarried

John Thornton (John1), born c1660; died 9 January 1716, Glocester, Rhode Island: married Dinah Steere. Although John left a will, he named no wife and only two sons, but mentioned “my children,” indicating he likely had other children. His sons were of legal age at the time he wrote his will, so both were born no later than c1694.

Children:

  1. John, born c1690
  2. Josiah, born c1692

Sarah Thornton (John1) was born c1662, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died shortly before 31 March 1714, the date her will was proved in Providence County, Rhode Island; married (1) Zachariah Field, c1684 (2) John Gurney, about January 1695/96.

  1. Zachariah, born 30 January 1685; died between 1715 and 26 October 1731; married Abigail (MNU), before 1706
  2. John, born c1687; died 2 April 1737, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island; married Hannah (MNU), c1712
  3. James, born c1689; reportedly died c1718 and is mentioned in his mother’s 1714 will. He likely died at sea, unmarried.
  4. Daniel, born 7 August 1690. He removed to White Plains, New York by 1719 and to Dutchess County, New York before 30 October 1745. If he married, the name of his wife is unknown.
  5. Joseph, born c1693; died before 23 June 1768, when his estate inventory was recorded; married Zerviah Carey
  6. Sarah, born c1695; died after 31 March 1714; reportedly unmarried

Solomon Thornton (John1) was born c1664, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died 18 September 1713, Providence, Rhode Island; married Unknown. The administration of Solomon’s estate mentions a male heir and “children.” His inventory also mentions a daughter, Amey Thornton. However, no other family members have been identified.

  1. Son, born c1694; living at the time of his father’s estate administration on 18 October 1713, apparently under 21 years of age
  2. Amey, born c1696; married Jonathan Whipple, 24 October 1717, Providence, Rhode Island

William Thornton (John1) was born c1666, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died 16 August 1741, Glocester, Rhode Island. There was an inventory of William’s estate completed and filed. However, there are no clues whatsoever as to any wife or surviving children.

James Thornton (John1) was born c1668, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died after 10 August 1719, when he sold land to Joshua Turner; married Sarah (MNU) before 23 March 1706, when he and his wife sold land to Ebenezer Eddy. No children have been proven for this couple.

Benjamin Thornton (John1) was born c1670, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died after 1741, probably Glocester, Rhode Island; married Unknown.

Children, probably all born in Providence:

  1. Joseph, born c1700; died between 9 April 1742-12 May 1742, Glocester, Rhode Island
  2. Titus, born c1702; died 28 September 1757, Glocester, Rhode Island; married Mercy (MNU), c1726
  3. David, born c1704; died between 23 May 1772- 19 October 1772, Glocester, Providence, Rhode Island; married Alce (MNU)
  4. John, born c1706; died 27 August 1780, Glocester, Rhode Island; married (1) Unknown, mentioned his former wife in his will (2) Esther (MNU), who survived him
  5. Sarah. born c1708; died before her husband; married Stephen Paine, 15 July 1739, Providence County, Rhode Island
  6. Benjamin, born c1710; died 1 May 1761, Glocester, Rhode Island; married Elizabeth Herendean, 2 November 1738, Providence County, Rhode Island
  7. Mary, born c1712; died after David’s 1772 will; married Jonathan Vallett, 25 January 1738/39, Providence County, Rhode Island

Thomas Thornton (John1) was born c1672, probably Newport, Rhode Island; died 27 March 1712, Providence, Rhode Island; married Margaret (MNU), c1697. She survived him. It is possible that the Thomas Thornton who married Margaret Bulman on 29 September 1703 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts is this couple, but it’s not a certainty. Thornton was not an extremely common colonial surname, nor was Thomas a common given name in the family. All children were under 21 years old in 1712.

If this Thomas is the man who married Margaret Bulman, then the children were probably born c1704, 1706, 1708 and 1710.

Children :

  1. Thomas, born c1699; died after 27 March 1712
  2. William, born c1701; died after 27 March 1712
  3. Patience, born c1703; died after 27 March 1712
  4. Elizabeth, born c1705; died after 27 March 1712

Although birth/marriage and death years and, sometimes spouses, vary wildly in online trees, for the most part, the family groupings are on target. After reviewing all these documents and family histories, I’m fairly confident that I have been able to narrow down those vital record dates to create a reasonable timeline.

There are still a few loose ends – potential clues – to be reviewed in the final post in this rather lengthy series about the early Rhode Island Thornton family.

 

Documenting the Thorntons of Rhode Island, 1600s-1700s, Part 12 – Daughters of John Sr. & Sarah (MNU) Thornton

Today’s family sketch will begin with Elizabeth Thornton, who may have been the first born child, or at least one of the older children born to John Thornton Sr. and wife Sarah (MNU), first of Newport, Rhode Island and later of Providence, Rhode Island.

The year of Elizabeth’s birth is not found in records, but given her marriage date, a guesstimate year of 1658 probably isn’t too far off the mark.

The date of her death is also unknown, except that she survived her husband, being mentioned in his will dated 7 August 1723.

Edward Manton was born 11, December 1658, the son of Shadrach and Elizabeth (Smith) Manton and died 14 August 1723.

Edward Manton and Elizabeth Thornton married on 4 December 1680, Providence County, Rhode Island. Elizabeth’s marriage record is one of the few found for the early Thornton family members.

Edward and Elizabeth (Thornton) Manton were parents to eight children, although little is known about four of the daughters:

  1. Shadrach, born c1682; died 21 October 1754, Providence County, Rhode Island
  2. Edward, born c1684; died 12 September 1755, Providence County, Rhode Island
  3. Ann; born c1686; married Lott Tripp, c1708. Lott was born 26 December 1684 and died 22 September 1720.
  4. John, born c1688; died 15 March 1767; married Phebe Latham, 12 March 1727, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island
  5. Katharine; born c1690; died before 7 August 1723 – not in father’s will
  6. Mary; born c1692; died before 7 August 1723 – not in father’s will
  7. Elizabeth, born c1694; died after 7 August 1723, apparently unmarried
  8. Sarah, born c1696; died after 7 August 1723, apparently unmarried

Interestingly, Shadrach, Edward, John, Katharine and Mary inherited the homestead, but were to care for their “poor, helpless” sisters, Elizabeth and Sarah.

Please note that the birth years are complete guesstimates, as is birth order. However, if Ann married at the age of, say 21 or 22 years, typical for the era, then her birth year is probably quite accurate.

Let’s move on to Sarah Thornton who married (1) Zachariah Field, c1684 and (2) John Gurney, c1696.

Zachariah Field was born c1650 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island and died on 12 August 1693, also in Providence. Most of what is known about their children comes from Town Council records pertaining to his estate administration, although the births of two of his sons are found in early records.

Children:

  1. Zachariah, born 30 January 1685; died between 1715 and 26 October 1731; married Abigail (MNU), before 1706
  2. John, born c1687; died 2 April 1737, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island; married Hannah (MNU), c1712
  3. James. born c1689; reportedly died c1718 and is mentioned in his mother’s 1714 will. He likely died at sea, unmarried.
  4. Daniel, born 7 August 1690. He removed to White Plains, New York by 1719 and to Dutchess County, New York before 30 October 1745. If he married, the name of his wife is unknown.
  5. Joseph, born c1693; died before 23 June 1768, when his estate inventory was recorded; married Zerviah Carey
  6. Sarah, born c1695; died after 31 March 1714; reportedly unmarried

There was a bit of a rumpus regarding Sarah’s handling of her husband’s estate. On 4 February 1696, she was removed from the estate administration and given to John Thornton because she “wasted the estate and did not improve it as it ought to be, had not appeared before the council and was refractory in her actings.” Her sons were bound out.

I have to wonder why she was removed as administrator when she was i n the process of remarrying. Often, the new husband stepped up. However, there are a couple of most interesting entries in the same Early Records of Providence.

In the same February 1696 session, one John Gurney, a stranger with no means to maintain himself, was warned out of town. The Touwn Council meeting on 31 March 1696 noted that John Gurney had not only been warned out, but he was back in Providence. The council ordered a fine of £5 or be “whipped on his naked back” with 12 stripes and then for the sheriff to escort him out of town once again. This was Sarah’s new husband! It’s an interesting social commentary that she wasted her husband’s estate and then married a man who was clearly unwanted in Providence.

Although Sarah married (2) John Gurney, about January 1695/96, her own will, proved 31 March 1714, named her Field children. John Gurney reportedly a 1723 will indicating that he had no children.

This concludes the family sketches of John Thornton Sr. and Sarah (MNU), along with those of their children. Next, we’ll summarized and assemble these pieces into one family and review any loose ends.