Mailing List:1996-11-09 06, Re: Pierce's book, by Robert L. Ward

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Mailing List Archives > 1996-11-09 06, Re: Pierce's book, by Robert L. Ward

From: "Robert L. Ward" <rlward1 -at-> Subject: Re: Pierce's book Date: Sat, 09 Nov 1996 13:38:55 -0800 oz -at- wrote: > > Wulf wrote: > >Dear Whitney researchers: > >MRJ79 recommends the Pierce genealogy of the Whitneys. Could the > >members of this list comment on the authenticity of the information > >extracted below? -- especially in light of the challenge to Thomas > >Whitney's parentage (mentioned in passing by Allan Green in his recent > >posting). > Thanks, > --Wulf > > MRJ79 -at- wrote: > <snip > > >> July 20, 1592, John Whitney was baptized in the St. Margarets Church, London. > >> He was the son of Thomas, who was the the grandson or great-grandson of the > >> last Sir Robert Whitney. > > I have just signed on to this list and would be interested in the consensus of > opinion on the matter of Thomas's parentage, I know that the statement by MRJ > is in Pierces' book, but there has been some disagreement in the past. If it > has been discussed, could someone give us a brief summary of what was decided? While I cannot state what the consensus of this group might be, or what "was decided," I can quote a recent scholarly discussion of the problem. My view is that the parentage of Thomas Whitney of Westminster is still unproven, and probably unknown. ----- Begin Included File ----- Reed, Paul C., "Whitney Origins Revisited: John-1 Whitney of Watertown, Massachusetts, and Henry-1 Whitney of Long Island and Norwalk, Connecticut," _The_American_Genealogist,_ vol. 69, No. 1 (Jan 1994), pp. 9-14. It has been claimed that John-1 Whitney, of Watertown, Massachusetts, is of illustrious and royal descent. The strongest argument for such a connection was put forth by Henry Melville in his _Ancestry_of_John_ _Whitney_..._ ([New York, 1896], hereafter _Whitney_Anc._). Melville cited pedigrees found in the Harleian manuscripts, now at the British Library, London (MSS 1442, fols. 66, 67), that had been drawn up on behalf of John Whitney, apparently a cousin of the New England immigrant. This John claimed to be the male heir of the Whitney family of Whitney, Herefordshire, and stated that his grandfather, Thomas Whitney, gentleman, of Westminster, was a son of Robert Whitney, a younger son of Sir Robert Whitney by Sibel Baskerville--and thus the royal descent. Melville also supplemented his genealogy with many transcriptions of wills, chancery records, inquisitions _post_mortem_, and other primary sources, making his work appear to be highly trustworthy. Donald Lines Jacobus challenged this line in an article published in 1933 (_TAG_ 10[1933-34]:84-88). Jacobus tentatively accepted the conclusion that John-1 Whitney of Watertown, Massachusetts, was a son of Thomas Whitney of Westminster, but he argued that the latter was not the son of Sir Robert. Jacobus concluded that the pedigree was either incorrect or fraudulent, and that chronology made such a connection implausible (_TAG_ 10[1933-34]:87). The burden of proof was therefore unmet. Some descendants still cling to the hope that the immigrant descends from royalty, however, and the connection is still appearing in new publications. It is argued that, though Sir James Whitney died on 31 May 1587, aged forty-two, his younger brother, Robert (supposed father of Thomas Whitney of Westminster), could have been born about 1548-9 (given ten- to fifteen-month birth intervals). His alleged son, Thomas Whitney of Westminster, married Mary Bray on 12 May 1583. Assuming that both Robert and Thomas were about seventeen when they married, the connection still seemed chronologically possible, even if unlikely. It should be pointed out that, although John Whitney made such a claim, it was unsubstantiated and not accepted by the College of Arms. We can now show that the claim is not only unlikely, it is certainly false. The allegation for the marriage license of Thomas Whitney and Mary Bray is recorded in the first act book of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster (fol. 94, Family History Library [FHL], Salt Lake City, film #94,507: Joseph Lemuel Chester and Geo. J. Armytage, eds., _Allegations_for_ _Marriage_Licenses_Issued_by_the_Dean_and_Chapter_of_Westminster,_1558_ _to_1699_..._, Harleian Soc. Pubs., 23[London, 1886]:8). Though it did not specifically state the ages of the groom and bride, it must be concluded that Thomas Whitney was at least twenty-one on 10 May 1583, the date of the record, because no mention of consent is made. This would push his birth date back to at least 1562, probably earlier (a point not made by Jacobus). James Whitney, Thomas's alleged uncle, was found to be aged twenty-three at the inquisition _post_mortem_ of his father, taken 18 September 1567, and aged forty-three at the time of his own death on 31 May 1587. He was therefore born about 1544. The Robert Whitney who was younger brother of Sir James and Eustace would therefore be born no earlier than the beginning of 1546, and more probably 1548 or later. Robert Whitney would not have fathered a son at age thirteen! That Robert was definitely third, not second son is proved by the entail of land made in Sir James Whitney's will (Prerogative Court of Canterbury [PCC] 38 Spencer), which agrees with _Llfyr_Baglan_, a collection of pedigrees compiled by the Welsh scholar, John Williams, between 1600 and 1607 [Note 1]. The administration of Sir Robert Whitney, their father, was granted to his relict, Dame Mary, and son James Whitney on 5 February 1567/8 (PCC Admons. Act Book, 1559-1571, fol. 128). At James's death, and administration _de_bonis_non_ was granted to Robert's son, Eustace Whitney, on 1 February 1588/9. Sir Eustace Whitney died in 1608, heir of his elder brother James. Eustace's four granddaughters eventually became coheirs of the estate. Thomas Whitney of Westminster had a son Robert, whose son John claimed to be male heir in 1676, about the time that the Hereford estate was settled among the female coheirs. It is most likely that the claimant was trying to obtain some sort of inheritance to make his life less burdensome. The wills of both the claimant's parents were proved in the Archdeaconry of London. Their residence was the parish of St. Peter Cornhill, London, where Robert Whitney, merchant tailor, was buried on 3 Apr 1662. Robert Whitney's original will was dated 19 January 1661/2 and proved 16 April 1662 (FHL Film #94,280). He was of a very low estate, though a citizen and merchant tailor. He gave his loving children John and Mary Whitney 5s. each. He also gave John the great ring he had had from his father. His daughter, Mary, was to receive the lesser ring he usually wore. Robert gave his wife Mary the lease of the house they lived in for the remainder of the term during her widowhood. Mary was made sole executrix. Though the will was sealed with a small seal which appeared to be in good condition it could not be made out on the microfilm copy. The original will of Mary Whitney was dated 23 October 1667 and proved 11 February 1667/8 (FHL Film #588,057). She left her son, John Whitney, and his wife, Elizabeth, 5s. each, to be paid within a year and a day after her decease. She gave her loving grandchild, Jane Whitney, one silver gilt spoon. She also mentioned her cousin Mary West, daughter to Edward West, to whom she left 12s. The residue was left to her daughter Maryfrances [sic] Whitney, whom she made sole executrix. Lastly, she gave 12d. to her friend Anne Stockinhall, who was to be overseer. In the following records, Mary was stated to be relict of Robert Whitney, of St. Peter Cornhill, London, deceased. William Parker, parson of St. Peter Cornhill, was assigned to administer the estate on 13 February 1667/8 during the minority of the executrix, Mary Frances Whitney. Neither will made any reference to a connection with the Whitneys of Whitney, county Hereford. If John Whitney, the claimant, were male heir of the Whitneys of Whitney, it would seem inconceivable that the female heirs would have allowed him to fall into such relative poverty. Some legacy or settlement would have been given to him if he had any proof for his claim. As it is clear that the parentage of Thomas Whitney of Westminster is unknown (though examined by Horatio Gates Somerby in 1871), we present a clue to the actual origin of the family in the marriage entry of Robert Whitney, son of Thomas of Westminster. He married Mary Towers at Stepney, county Middlesex, on 18 January 1635/6 (original register on FHL film #579,245; Thomas Colyer-Fergusson, _The_Marriage_Registers_of_St._ _Dunstan's,_Stepney,_in_the_County_of_Middlesex_, 3 vols. [Canterbury, 1898-1901], 1:239: "Robert Whitney of Westminster merchantailor & Mary Towers of Tarvin [the printed transcript says "Tarring," but is in error] in the Coun[ty] of Chester maid maried by licence from the Office of Facult[ie]." [There is a gap in the marriage allegations of the Faculty Office during this period.] The pedigree made by John Whitney, the 1676 claimant, states that his mother was a daughter of John Towers, of Chester or Shropshire (_Whitney_ _Anc._, 272-73). It seems likely that Robert Whitney, Thomas's father, had close connections in Cheshire. Only one prominent Whitney family was situated in Cheshire, seated at Coole Pilate in the parish of Acton. Howell Whitney held land there in 12 and 17 Richard II [1388-1394] (George Ormerod, _The_History_of_..._Chester_..._, 2d ed., 3 vols. [London, 1882], hereafter Ormerod, 3:389) and in 1404. The male representative of the family when Thomas was at Westminster was a Robert Whitney, gentleman, of Coole (married 1574/5), who is found in 1593, 1600, 1614, and died 24 January 1615/6 at Coole, leaving his grandson Hugh (son of Hugh), his heir (born January 1601) (R. Stewart-Browne, ed., _Cheshire_Inquisitions_..._, Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 91[n.p., 1938]:169-71). The fullest purported account of the Cheshire Whitney family is found in S. Whitney Phoenix's _The_Whitney_Family_of_Connecticut_..._ (3 vols. [New York, 1878]). It traces the ancestry of Henry-1 Whitney of Long Island and Norwalk, Connecticut, from the ancient family by way of counties Hertford, Essex, and Chester. Such a connection would have provided a better royal descent than the main branch of the Whitneys had. Unfortunately, the work is based on many false and dubious sources. A careful examination found that nine key documents used to prove connections do not exist. Had they been real, their discoveries would have presented one of the most brilliant compilations in the field. The purported English ancestry was the work of Harriet A. Bainbridge DeSalis; and after he had published the book, S. Whitney Phoenix became suspicious. He commissioned the distinguished Anglo-American genealogist, Joseph Lemuel Chester, to examine the accuracy of Mrs. DeSalis's work. Chester quickly noted the fraud. [MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE FRAUDULENT DOCUMENTS PURPORTING TO PROVE THE ANCESTRY OF HENRY-1 WHITNEY OMITTED -- RLW] Actual sources for the early Cheshire family are meager and scant, and provide no hint or illustrious royal descent such as the Parry and Vaughan matches would have provided. It is most likely that Thomas Whitney of Westminster descends from the Cheshire Whitneys at Coole Pilate, in Acton, near Nantwich. A Thomas Whitney, found in 1505, 1510, and 1517, and earlier in the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509), married Anne Brooke, daughter of John Brooke, of Leighton, Cheshire, and Jane Meverell, of Throwlegh, county Stafford (Ormerod, 3:454). It would be through this connection that the only possible royal descent for this family might present itself. That the family spread beyond Cheshire is clear from the will of Geoffrey Whitney, son of an earlier Geoffrey. Born at Coole Pilate about 1548, he attended both Oxford and Cambridge, was under-bailiff of Great Yarmouth, county Norfolk, 1580-86, and admitted to the university at Leyden 1 March 1586 (Joseph Foster, _Alumni_Oxoniensis_..._1500-1714_, 4 vols. [London, 1887-92], 4:1623]; John and J. A. Venn, _Alumni_Cantbrigiensis_, Pt. 1, 4 vols. [Cambridge, 1922-27], 4:396]; and _Dictionary_of_National_Biography_). His will, dated 11 September 1600 and proved 28 May 1601 (PCC 33 Woodhall), mentioned many relatives, including his brother, Brooke Whitney, of Oxford and Berkshire (PCC 100 Byrde) [probably a great-grandson of the Whitney-Brooke alliance], Geoffrey Whitney, of Draiton, Shropshire (citizen and merchant tailor of London, PCC 15 Bolein), and Walter Whitney, citizen and plasterer of London (Commissary Court of London, Orig. Will, 1608), but no possible reference to Thomas of Westminster was noted. [MORE ABOUT HENRY-1 WHITNEY OMITTED --RLW] ... Cheshire, Hereford, Lichfield, Gloucester, Norfolk, Essex, and Suffolk wills have been exhausted. Other records are still being searched, but the parentage of Thomas Whitney, gentleman, of Westminster, still remains to be found. ----- End Included File -----

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