Tag Archives: Israel Thornton

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!