Tag Archives: Israel Thornton

Documenting the Thorntons of RI, 1600s-1700s, Part 1 – Will of Thomas Thornton

Do you have Thorntons living in Rhode Island in the 1600s and early 1700s? I do and it took very little time for me to realize that not only isn’t there much written about John Thornton of Rhode Island in the 1600s, the small tidbits and online family trees are all a hot mess. That description is actually quite generous!

The sad situation led me to my leave no stone un-turned research process and will be publishing not only facts from the few primary documents created by the family, I will also be sharing the sources of pieces of information that appear accurate but are totally lacking source citations every place they are found.

Because of the non-chronological order of much of the information, I’ve decided to being sharing the easy documents, working back into the more complicated multi-source data and then closing the series with an updated family sketch of the first three Thornton generations in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, our puzzle pieces documenting our ancestors’ lives don’t always fall together neatly. the early Thornton family is an excellent example of this conundrum.

The earliest Thornton probate found in Rhode Island unfortunately is not that of John Thornton, patriarch of this family. It is the will of Thomas Thornton, who died a young married man, in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island in 1711. He was the son of Benjamin Thornton and an unknown wife and the grandson of John Thornton.

The original will recorded by the clerk, along with the inventory of Thomas Thornton’s estate, was transcribed at a later date and published in books which have been filmed by FamilySearch.

The above images are found on FamilySearch Film #7649768, Images 235-236, found in Volume 7:56-59 in the Providence, Rhode Island Probate Records. Most Rhode Island records are locked and must be viewed at the FamilySearch Library or at a FamilySearch Center/Affiliate.

From this, we learn that Thomas Thornton wrote his will on 24 March 1710/11, not long before he died, because the will was proved at the Providence Town Council meeting less than one month later on 20 April 1711.

Thomas chose as overseers of his estate his “loving brother Solomon Thornton” and friend John Sheldon. Witnesses were Thomas Harris, Nicholas Harris and Josiah Westcot. His estate appraisers were Thomas Harris and Resolved Waterman.

Notice that we now have one proven family relationship – Thomas Thornton had a brother named Solomon Thornton.

Family Sketch of Thomas Thornton:

Thomas Thornton was born c1678, place unknown, but possibly Providence, Providence, Rhode Island and died between 24 march 1710/11 and 20 April 1711 in Providence. He married Margaret (Bulman?), whose marriage is found recorded in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts on 29 September 1703.

Although nothing in the record connects our Thomas to this marriage, Thornton is an uncommon name in the area at the time, Thomas in Boston married a Margaret (with wife Margaret named in the will) and a 1703 marriage fits with Thomas of Providence dying as a relatively young married man.

Thomas Thornton left four surviving children, all named in his will: eldest son, Thomas, not of legal age in 1711, daughters Patience and Elizabeth, not of age in 1711, and William, not of age in 1711.

Thomas and William Thornton were each to inherit their father’s real estate when they came of age. Daughters Patience and Elizabeth were each bequeathed £10. If one died before she came of age, then the surviving sister was to inherit £20.

Having married in the latter part of 1703, we can closely estimate the birth years of the children of Thomas and Margaret (Bulman) Thornton, as it seems Thomas named his children in apparent birth order:

  1. Thomas, born c1704
  2. Patience, born c1706
  3. Elizabeth, born c1708
  4. William, born c1710

From this now documented family, we have Thomas Thornton, a good approximation of his birth year, given that many New England men in this time period were about 25 when they married, his marriage record to wife Margaret Bulman, the names of his four children with good estimates of their birth years, and his date of death within a one month period of time. We also have documentation of one of Thomas’s siblings – his brother Solomon Thornton.

Next in this series, we will look at what information can be gleaned from the will of John Thornton, who died just a few years later in 1716.

More Thorny Thorntons of Colonial Rhode Island

WARNING: Undocumented Clues

A couple of days ago, I wrote about my problem ancestors, Israel Thornton and his wife, Joanna, allegedly Joanna Wilkinson, living in Rhode Island in the early 18th century.

Today, I’ll outline the several Thornton generations before Israel, back to the immigrant ancestor, John Thornton, who died after 1695 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island. He married Sarah, maiden name unproven, before 1648, probably in Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, as listed in Clarence Torrey’s New England Marriages Before 1700. The same source reports that Sarah died after 1692.

  1. John and Sarah reportedly had a number of children for whom no birth records have been found. If they married by about 1647/48, then their children reasonably could have been born from about 1650 to 1670:


My supposed line is through the reportedly youngest child, son Benjamin, who married an unknown wife. Benjamin would have been born c1670.

2. Benjamin and his wife reportedly had children:

Benjamin, born c1698; died 5 October 1761, Glocester, Providence, Rhode Island
Joseph, born c1700
Titus, born c1702; reportedly died 1757, Glocester, Providence, Rhode Island; married Mercy/Mary
David, married Alice (MNU)
Sarah, married Stephen Paine
Mary, married Mr. Vallett

3. Titus who married Mercy/Mary and is said to have died in 1757 is my ancestral line. Their children were:


Titus’s son, Israel, is my Israel who then scampered off to New Brunswick, Canada.

Has anyone noticed one, or two, or three (or more) problems here?

This is all heresay with no documentation found, at least not online by me. There are no Thornton vital records in the 1600s recorded in Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island, the AmericanAncestors website has very little on early Thorntons and, while there are a fair number of family trees online, none of them has any attached sources. Probate records show nothing for Thorntons before 1713, when there is a probate entered for Solomon Thornton. None of the later probates seem to be for any of my direct line and only the index date is online, not the records themselves.

I have found various exact dates of birth, claims of a 1757 will for Titus Thornton and spouses named for many of these people, but no primary sources to go with them.

Are there any Thornton descendants out there who have actually researched this family themselves? (and maybe even live in or near Rhode Island and visited an archives in person?)

I would love, love, love to hear from you if you are also a cousin of these thorny Thorntons!




Israel Thornton of Rhode Island: A Thorny Problem


I have a thorny problem and his name is Israel Thornton. Israel is my 5X great grandfather. Although he lived in Rhode Island, one of those great record keeping New England states, there is a dearth of documentation about Israel Thornton, reportedly born in 1728 in Glocester, Providence, Rhode Island.

I began researching this branch of my family many years ago, having been able to piece together a lineage for Israel’s parents, Titus Thornton and Mercy/Mary (MNU). I will be writing about the Thornton line back several generations to the immigrant within the next few days, albeit they are almost as much of a problem as Israel.

The dearth of information about Israel was that he was born about 1728 and married a woman named Joanna. Somewhere I found a clue that her maiden name might be Wilkinson. This was before the internet age and I duly noted her surname in my paperwork as Wilkinson?, which was my code for NO PROOF.

I’ve been revisiting some of my early colonial lines hoping that others have extended some of the lines with documented research. Woe to me, though, as my search turned up no vital records, but quite a few XXX public member trees with no sources except someone else’s public member tree, which, of course, had no sources either.

Today’s search shows that Israel Thornton has been given the birth date of 18 April 1728 in Glocester, Providence County, Rhode Island. There is just one problem with that:

Rhode Island Vital Record Extracts

Not only is there no Israel Thornton listed, or even a family for Titus and Mercy Thornton, but John and Abigail Thornton had a son, John, born on 14 April 1728. I have a question here – has some researcher taken John’s birth date, adjusted it a bit, and created a birth for Israel or is there a record somewhere that Israel was really born on 18 April 1728?

I have an even bigger question than Israel’s birth date. Was his wife, reportedly Joanna, really Joanna Wilkinson? Looking online, my possible maiden name with a ? has multiplied like rabbits online. Almost every record I found attributes her name as Joanna Wilkinson WITH NO PROOF.

I have nothing to indicate that she was NOT Joanna Wilkinson, but nothing to prove she was.

Israel and Joanna are a bit difficult to research because they became part of a group known as Pre-Loyalists. There was an active effort to recruit Rhode Islanders to the wonderful lands of Canada about the time of the French and Indian War. Several of my Rhode Island ancestors accepted the offer, removed to New Brunswick before 1770 and settled their families in their new homes.

Israel Thornton is one such man who decided to make his way northward. No records indicate his exact year of arrival, but he appears in Sackville Township, Westmorland County, New Brunswick, Canada by 1770. There are several early land deeds in his name, along with three “et. al.” deeds, along with probate films, that have been added to my “to do” list on my next trip (RootsTech 2018) to Salt Lake City.

One other big issue with online information is that both Israel and his son, Titus, are given a death date of 10 March 1815. It’s certainly possible, especially if there was an epidemic of some kind, but Israel would have been in his late 80s by 1815. I am hoping that New Brunswick probate records or land deeds will solve this mystery.

Israel and Joanna, who probably married c1754, were the parents of four known children, although the source/proof of this list is also UNKNOWN:

  1. Miriam, born c1755; died 15 April 1839, Dorchester, New Brunswick, Canada; married (1) William Ayer (2) William Estabrooks. He was born 18 November 1752, Warren, Bristol, Rhode Island (documented) and died 21 December 1838.
  2. Titus, born c1758; died 10 March 1815; married Mary Hicks, 18 April 1782, Sackville, Westmorland, New Brunswick, Canada.
  3. Daniel, born c1761
  4. Sarah, born c1763;  died after June 1830, when her husband’s estate was probated; married Ira Hicks, c1785. Ira was born 30 March 1761, Warren, Bristol, Rhode Island; died about June 1830, probably in Sackville, Westmorland, New Brunswick, Canada.
  5. Mercy, born c1765; married Mr. Harper

So, what help am I looking for? I would love to locate two documents:
1. Some record that proves the birth date of Israel Thornton
2. A record that proves his wife was Joanna Wilkinson. If I can prove who she is, her lines go back to original proprietors of Rhode Island.

If you are related to the Thorntons and/or the Wilkinsons and can provide sources that answer either of my questions, I would gratefully LOVE to hear from you.

My line of descent from Israel Thornton and Joanna (Wilkinson?):

  1. Israel Thornton and Joanna
    2. Ira Hicks and Sarah Thornton
    3. Israel Hicks and Abigail Carlisle
    4. Elida Ann Hicks and Charles Augustus Stewart
    5. Annie Maude Stewart/Stuart and Charles Edwin Adams
    6. Vernon Tarbox Adams and Hazel Ethel Coleman
    7. Doris Priscilla Adams and George Michael Sabo
    8. Linda Anne Sabo Stufflebean – me!