Tag Archives: Sylvester Baldwin

Sylvester Baldwin, Buried at Sea

Not exactly the future he had in mind. Sylvester Baldwin’s nuncupative will was filed in Boston soon after the new colonists arrived in Massachusetts in 1638. He fell ill during the long voyage and dictated his wishes to fellow passengers, dying shortly thereafter and buried at sea. Sylvester was only 43 years old and a man of some means. He also was a man of conviction to give up his comfortable life in England for the uncertainty of the Massachusetts Bay Colony far across the sea.

Sylvester Baldwin was the father of Benjamin Fenn’s wife, Sarah Baldwin. Benjamin was the subject of two of my posts the other day, outlining clues about his parentage and English origins.

What is known about Sylvester’s origins? Although I have seen exact dates of births and baptisms for Sylvester’s children in Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire, England, the parish registers for the early 1600s seemed not to be readily found online, either as full images or even as extractions. However, Sylvester Baldwin’s uncle, Richard Baldwin, died in 1636, naming Sylvester as one of his many heirs and identified him as being of Aston Clinton. Therefore, his English home is clearly identified.

In July 1872, Charles C. Baldwin wrote an article, Notes on the Baldwin Family, which was published in the New England Historical Genealogical Register (26:294-303).

He later published The Baldwin Genealogy from 1500-1881 (Cleveland, Ohio: Leader Printing Co., 1881), which greatly expanded on his Notes. The digitized Baldwin Genealogy is available on Google Books.

If you have a subscription to American Ancestors and are a descendant of Sylvester Baldwin, Mr. Baldwin’s lengthy article is well worth reading, as he visited Aston Clinton in person to complete his research. (NEHGR 26:294 (July 1871))

Sylvester Baldwin, nephew of Richard, who died in 1636, was the executor and residuary legatee, which means he inherited anything not specifically given in bequests to others. Richard Baldwin was a wealthy man, owner of the manor at Dundridge and his will was lengthy, with many relatives being mentioned. Richard Baldwin left no surviving children of his own, but did leave a widow, Christian. It is likely that Sylvester was able to finance his family’s voyage to Massachusetts at least in part from what he received from his Uncle Richard’s estate.

Sylvester married Sarah Bryan, who was likely related to Alexander Bryan, also an early settler in Milford, Connecticut and they had the following children, all baptized in Aston Clinton:

  1. Sarah, baptized 22 April 1621
  2. Richard, baptized 25 August 1622
  3. Mary, baptized 28 February 1623/24
  4. Mary, baptized 19 February 1625/26
  5. Martha, baptized 20 April 1628; mentioned in her father’s 1638 will, but not in her mother’s 1669 will, nor are any of her heirs, so she likely died young.
  6. Samuel, baptized 1 July 1632; buried 4 January 1632/33
  7. Elizabeth, baptized 25 January 1633; buried 31 January 1633
  8. John, baptized 28 October 1635; later lived in Stonington, Connecticut
  9. Ruth, born ?, mentioned in her father’s 1638 will, but not in her mother’s 1669 will, nor are any of her heirs, so she likely died young.

The Baldwin family must have been full of hope when it came to the decision to leave Aston Clinton and Buckinghamshire, which had been the family home for centuries.

Instead of landing in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his family, Sylvester Baldwin would have been buried at sea, as there was no way to preserve a body on board the ship, especially when they were weeks from arriving in Boston.

I have been unable to find notes for Thomas Dudley, Deputy Governor of Massachusetts in 1638, as it is said that Sylvester’s oral will was proved before him. Chad Brown, Francis Bolt, James Weedon and John Baldwin (likely Sylvester’s cousin, but definitely not his toddler son) are said to have witnessed the will on 21 June 1638. I have also not been able to find evidence of the wording of Sylvester’s oral will, but have seen notes that he devised his lands in England to his wife, Sarah.  The will was proven about 3 July 1638, soon after the ship Martin reached shore.

While Sylvester never lived to see Boston, his family settled first there and then continued on to Milford, Connecticut. Four of his children married and left descendants.

Daughter Sarah married Benjamin Fenn, had five children – Benjamin, Joseph, Sarah, Mary and Martha –  and died about 1663, aged only about 42.

Son Richard married Elizabeth Alsop on 5 February 1642, and had children – Mary. Elizabeth, Sylvanus, Richard, Sarah, Temperance, Mary, Samuel, Theophilus, Zachariah, Martha and Barnabas – two of whom died young and the last was born after his death. He died on 23 July 1663, aged about 41.

Daughter Mary married (1) Richard Plumb, 9 January 1642 and (2) William East, 16 March 1675/76, in Milford, Connecticut. She had six children with Richard Plumb, at least two of whom died young: Mary, 1645; John, 1646; Robert, 1648; Samuel, 1650; Samuel, 1652; and Joseph, born 10 July 1655, days before the death of his father. I find no documentation for Mary’s date of death, but I have seen the date 1708 mentioned.

Son John, born c1635. He married (1) Unknown (2) widow Rebecca Cheeseborough, 24 July 1672, New London, Connecticut and reportedly had five children with her, including daughters Rebecca, born 1673, Mary, born 1675 and  one son, Sylvester, born 4 March 1677.

Many of the Baldwins in the United States today can trace their origins to Sylvester, who never saw the land of his descendants.