I love, love, love New England records! What does that have to do with a colonial New Jersey family? Everything!
Sometimes answers come in the most unexpected places, like New Haven, Connecticut court records.
My husband is the Larrison descendant, as Elsie Larrison married Revolutionary War soldier John Stufflebean. There is still one missing link, but circumstantial evidence and eliminating other men leads me to believe that Elsie Larrison Stufflebean and George Larrison, both living in Kentucky by the 1790s, were children of George Larrison of New Jersey. Family genealogies state that George Larrison reportedly went to Pennsylvania.
With the exception of finding George in Pennsylvania, the Larrison family history goes back to John and James Larrison who lived in Middleburgh and Newtown, Long Island, New York, by the 1660s.
Early Larrison family historians came up with a fanciful story about John being a Danish lord that has long since been debunked. Given that the Dutch controlled New York in its infancy, it seemed more likely that the Larrisons might have been Dutch.
Now, however, thanks to some New England research, I think the truth is that John Larrison was English, through and through.
Sometimes, genealogy gifts appear out of nowhere. A Canadian Larrison cousin, Jim, found my blog and we began exchanging Larrison notes and ideas. He mentioned that a researcher placed John Larrison in New Haven, Connecticut before he removed to New York.
Although the earliest Larrison generations are long gone, I feel like I’ve gotten to know them fairly well. They were a contentious lot, not easy to get along with, not even with each other.
How can I be sure of that? Well, the Larrisons’ second home was the court room. I am thankful that they spent years filing complaints, suing and counter-suing because without those court records, we would know almost nothing about them.
Once I heard that a researcher had identified John Larrison in Connecticut, I set out to find the records. It turns out that Frederick C. Hart, Jr., FASG, completed a research project for the Seeley Genealogical Society. The society, in turn, posted the report on its website.
The first list of attachments to the report contained clues that I think have solved the mystery of the Larrison family origins:
A. “Lawre(n)son – Seeley Events,”
A quick summary of the details state that Richard Malbon was a signer of the New Haven agreement in 1639. By 1 March 1643, the New Haven Court found “John Laurence and Valentine, servants to Mr. Malbon, guilty of embezzling their masters goods, keeping disorderly night meetings with Will Harding, plotting with him (Harding) to carry off their masters’ daughter “to the farms in the night,” and concealing all these misdeeds, “all of which they confessed and was whipped.”
On 4 January 1643, John Lawrenson was fined a shilling for being late to military training.
In May and June 1647, John Lawrenson was back in court for being late to watch and was fined 2 shillings.
On 1 February 1647/48, John Lawrenson and his wife were fined 20 shillings for selling “strong waters.”
That was the last Lawrenson appearance in the New Haven Court.
The family apparently moved on to Stamford, where they were back in court once again, on 3 December 1648, for selling wine without a license.
On 1 March 1651, “James Leareson,” who Mr. Hart says might or might not be the same man as John Lawrenson, was an “adjoining resident” in Stamford, Connecticut.
The final mention of John Lawrenson in Connecticut was recorded on 5 May 1651 when Obadiah Seeley states that John Lawrenson had paid all his debts.
Mr. Hart continues on, noting that John and James “Lorison” appear to be the same two men found in the Stamford, Connecticut records in 1651, but by 9 March 1661, were residents of Newtown, Long Island, New York.
Mr. Hart’s Seeley research, by coincidence, has provided several clues to the English origin of the Larrison family of New Jersey, who are all descendants of this John “Lawrenson.”
The biggest clue is the discovery that John Lawrenson was a servant of Mr. Richard Malbon, who returned to England c1648. Malbon is a unique surname in New England and is not a common surname in England. For him to have the social status to be a signer to the original New Haven agreement in 1639, I would guess that he was likely born before 1600.
A quick check of English church records includes the baptism of one Richard Malbon in 1585 in Prescot, Lancashire, England. FamilySearch adds the full date of 1 March 1585 and includes the church – St. Mary’s.
Out of curiosity, I also looked for the baptism of John Lawrenson. There were two, one baptized on 9 January 1608, the son of James Lawrenson and a second baby baptized 13 Janaury 1611, the son of George Lawrenson, both in – – – – – drum roll – – – – St. Mary’s Church, Prescot, Lancashire, England!
Both James and George are names that continue in the New Jersey Larrison family well into the 1700s, so are not much help in guessing which John, if either, is the man who lived in Connecticut and New York.
More work needs to be done on both the Malbon and Lawrenson families because the name appears often in the late 16th and early 17th century, both in Lancashire and next door in Chester towns.
The 1585 Richard Malbon and 1608 or 1611 John Lawrensons might or might not be the men who lived in New Haven, Connecticut.
However, I’d say the evidence points quite strongly to not a Danish or Dutch origin for the Larrison family, but instead to English origins in either Lancashire or Chester.