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American Marriage Records Before 1699

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American Marriage Records Before 1699, edited and compiled by William Montgomery Clemens, editor of Genealogy Magazine.

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The Colonies before 1699

The Colonies before 1699

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American Marriage Records Before 1699

Reprinted with a "Supplement" from "Genealogy Magazine," Vol. XIV, No. 4 (July 1929)--Vol. XV, No. 3 (July 1930)
Author: Clemens, William Montgomery
Publication Date: 1926
Reprint Date: 2007
Pages: 259 pp.
Format: Paperback, eBook.
ISBN: 9780806362526

This publication is a reprint of the original edition of 1926, to which they have added a “Supplement" from Genealogy Magazine, a journal edited by Mr. Clemens. The “Supplement" contains essentially the same type of data as found in the foregoing entries and covers an additional 250 marriages.

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Like setting forth to discover a River of Doubt, the compiler of this volume began, a score of years ago, to assemble the thousands of marriage records in this country covering the Colonial period, from the arrival of the first emigrants in James Town, New Netherlands and Plymouth, down to the year of 1700. The task was a long one, and wearisome, but the thought was uppermost that in our humble way we were producing something unique in Americana, adding a valuable chapter to the history of this land of ours, and giving to our fellow citizens a book to aid them in tracing their first emigrant ancestors.

Imagine if you will, what these thousands of marriages meant to the future of the Republic, for from these united husbands and wives were to come descendants now numbering many millions of Americans. The political conditions and the early governing agencies of these colonists are described elsewhere in a chapter on the colonies up to the year 1699. But visualize the domestic conditions under which these marriages were consummated. Marriage then was a sacred, religious ceremony with the thought of divorce as far away as the mirage of the desert. With the constant danger from hostile tribes of savages, these thousands of marriages were celebrated with the Bible and the musket lying in close proximity. The light that was shed at evening nuptials was the blaze of the tallow dip. The wedding feast was the meat of the deer and a pudding of maize. The bridegrooms in knee breeches and jackets of homespun; the brides in silk or linsley-woolsey. These were the simple, God-fearing days of the sacred marriage bond.

Picture the humble daily life and habit of these thousands of Colonial pioneers— these first white Americans, the forefathers of this great republic. It is not for us to alone idolize the fighting heroes of 1776 who made way for liberty—we need pay more devout reverence to those sturdy, brave emigrants of the Colonial period who brought to these shores the true Protestant Christian spirit of manhood and woman-hood, which made possible the Revolution of 1776. In cabins of rough hewn timber they lived and loved and worshipped the God of their fathers. Hear the crackling logs on the hearthstone, the whistling of the snowstorm, the fervent words of morning and evening prayer, the nightly reading from the Book of Books, and at early morn the echo of the axe and the gun. After three hundred years we sense the flavor of the smoking venison, and the browned loaf. We hear the bubbling of the kettle in the red glow of the fireplace, and the soft metallic voice of the family pewter. We note the kindly speech and the gentle love and affection of parents, and the quiet, thoughtful children, lending helping hands to ease the burdens of their elders. This was the epoch in our national life when divine love enveloped, encouraged and protected, the founders of Human Liberty. This was the Alpha of the real America.

Ninety per cent of the population of the American colonies in 1699 were persons of English birth or parentage. Counting the Swedes of the Delaware, the Dutch of New York, the handful of Germans in Pennsylvania, and the small group of French Huguenots in New Rochelle, there was still a vast percentage of English, New England and Virginia being populated almost entirely by them. One hundred years later, when the government took its first ce nsus, in 1790, we find that out of a total population of two million eight hundred thousand, some one million three hundred thousand were of Engush birth and parentage. The Scots came next with one hundred and eighty thousand, the Germans with one hundred and fifty-six thousand, the Dutch with fifty-four thousand, the Irish with forty-four thousand and the French with but a scant thirteen thousand. No doubt historians will agree that this has been an English country from its inception down to recent years when the Italian, the Russian Jew, the Pole, the Slav, the Armenian and the Asiatic, has made this nation a babel of many tongues, with its melting pot accompanied by crime, poverty and illiteracy.

Indicative of the character and profession of our earliest colonial ancestors, I have established facts concerning a group of seventy-five original planters in West Jersey who were given deeds by royal grant to property between the years 1670 and 1690. It is interesting to note that of the seventy-five, twenty-seven of the sixty-three came hither from Yorkshire, twenty-three from London, seven from Surrey and six from Sheffield. As to their professions fifteen were merchants, thirteen were yeomen, nine were gentlemen, four were planters, three were carpenters, while there were two tailors, shipwrights, chemists, shoemakers, innkeepers, tanners, weavers, skinners and salesmen. Other trades and professions were represented by a cheesemonger, a milliner, a distiller, a brewer, a haberdasher, a malster and a barber. Here we have a fairly good company fitted in every way to make up the population of a prosperous American village of 1926, rather than a colony in the wilderness of New Jersey nearly three hundred years ago.

Our great men and their ancestors are well represented in the succeeding pages. We have chronicled the marriages of the first Coolidge, the first Lincoln, the first Garfield, the first Grant, the first Cleveland (spelled in the old days Cleaveland), the first Benedict Arnold and a host of names representing the arts and sciences, like the Whittiers and the Emersons, and the Fords and the Wrights. Alas, there are no Woodrow Wilsons, who were very late arrivals, in 1810, from Scotland, or the Hoovers (or Hubers), who came from Berlin, Germany, in 1826.

The passengers on the Mayflower and on the ships arriving the same year and later are well represented in the marriages of the sons and daughters of the Pilgrims and in certain instances of the Pilgrims themselves. The early arrivals from England were largely men of families, and strange to relate, their children who accompanied them numbered more females than males. This may account for the many daughters in one family as compared with the sons. In many cases these daughters married single men who had made the long sailing alone from the other side.

There were three distinct groups of colonists arriving before 1699, first the English in Boston and vicinity, second the Dutch and English in New Amsterdam and the English in Virginia. Of the latter we have little if any records of value. Even history is vague as to the movements and conditions in James Town, which was peopled long before the Pilgrims landed in New England. The tide of migration from Massachusetts was to Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut. From Connecticut the New Englanders crossed the sound into Long Island and from thence to Staten Island and to New Jersey. Others of the Connecticut population moved into New York and settled in that section reaching from Westchester to Albany. Some of these early Yankees moved West of the Hudson and into New Jersey and intermarried with the sons and daughters of the Dutch settlers of Bergen.

The Virginians migrated into the Carolinas and in some cases to Maryland and Pennsylvania, where they intermarried with the Dutch and English from New Jersey and the North. But the genuine Virginia movement of population was always Westward, even to this day, first to what was to become Kentucky and Tennessee and thence on to the Missouri River and the Southwest in later periods of time.

Before 1699 only a handful of Celts and Scots made their appearance in the colonies as is proven by a glance at the Macs and the Mcs in the marriage lists. The Welsh came along in small numbers, but nine-tenths of the colonists were absolutely English. The Germans were early in New York and Pennsylvaina, but were missing in the New England sections. The Huguenots were early settlers in Westchester County, New York, obtaining a tract of land which they called New Rochelle.

The Society of Friends, more commonly called Quakers, established churches or what was termed “meetings" early in our colonial history, and to a great extent carefully preserved their marriage records. We are thus enabled to chronicle here the marriages before 1699 in the New Jersey Quaker meetings of Shrewsbury, Burlington and Chesterfield, and in Pennsylvania the marriages recorded at the Philadelphia, Middletown and Falls meetings. In Maryland the marriages are carefully recorded from St. James Episcopal Church in Ann Arundel County, St. George Episcopal Church in Harford County and the church of St. John's Parish in Prince George County. In New Jersey we find many marriage records in the Bergen Dutch Reformed Church in Hackensack, and in the books of St. James Episcopal Church of Piscataway, and the Baptist Church of Middletown.

In New York the records were available from the early Dutch churches of New York City, the church records in Long Island, and in Albany and Kingston. In Pennsylvania the records were obtainable but covering only a brief period from the Moravian Church at Bethlehem.

In the New England Colonies every town (they were called towns and not villages) had its town meeting place. Some of these became eventually established churches and we have still preserved the records of the earlier Boston congregations, the First Church of Charlestown, the First Church of Rowley, the First Church of Roibury, the churches of Beverly and Newton, and the First Church of Guilford, Conn. Likewise the Baptist Church in Newport, R. I., the First Baptist Church of Northwood, N. H., and many others of the Protestant religions. There was no established place of worship for Roman Catholics in this country until the year 1720.

The genealogist, or the one who may search for a missing ancestor, will be disappointed in not finding enrolled among the marriages some traditional name in the family. The name may appear in an old deed or even the family Bible and yet the official record of the marriage is not to be found. There are many and numerous reasons for these omissions. The church where the marriage was recorded in the original instance may have been destroyed by fire, or as in the case of a Virginian, the record was burned during the Civil War when numerous cities and their court houses and churches were destroyed in battle. Books containing lists of marriages have been lost or mislaid, some have been destroyed by storm and flood, and there are other reasons why they cannot be found.

Hundreds of marriages before 1699 have been discarded in the preparation of this volume, owing to mere guess work as to dates. To list the marriage with the statement that the couple were united “before 1660," or “after 1660," means nothing whatsoever to the true genealogist.

To err is human, and of necessity mistakes have occurred in the compiling of this volume, but such mistakes are no more numerous than those found in the publications of the two largest and oldest genealogical societies in this country, the New England Historical and Genealogical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

In reading over the marriages in this volume the reader will come across, unexpectedly and at times surprisingly, names that are familiar household words, like the Gortons of Rhode Island, suggestive of the first codfish purveyors, or the ancestors of Lydia Pinkham in New Hampshire. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania we find the names of Biddle and Lippincott, the two oldest and perhaps the most distinguished families in the City of Brotherly Love. In New York was the marriage of Captain William Kidd, the alleged notorious pirate, who probably was never in the pirate class. In New York, too, we find the marriage of a Livingston to a Schuyler, both historic names. In Boston there is the record of an Ann Praske, who married in 1661 an Indian of the name of John Wampony, so that the melting pot was beginning to boil a hundred years before the Revolutionary War of 1776. Elizabeth Foster, who was married to Isaac Ver Goose in Boston in 1692, was the original Mother Goose, and when she became a widow, in 1719, published the first edition of her melodies.

Many names found in this volume are now extinct, as for instance, that of Bonython. Captain Richard Bonython settled in Saeo, Maine, in 1629. His son, John, a man of ill-temper, was known as the Sagamore of Saco, and on his tomb was written the couplet, which represents John going to the evil spirit of the Indians:

"Here lies Bonython, the Sagamore of Saco;

He lived a rogue, and died a knave and went to Hobomocko."

In the spelling of the family name we have followed the records as accurately as possible. If a careless clergyman, or an illiterate sexton, or town clerk, registered a marriage with the names of the contracting parties spelled in an unusual manner, there is no more reason why this compiler should change the spelling, or correct it, than he should change a date or locality. In the case of the name Otis, the original records of Hingham, in Massachusetts, show the name as Otis, Ottis, Otys, Otes, Oates, Oattis and Outis. In our nomenclature we frequently find a Beet, an Onion, a Root or a Corn. In one line there comes to the surface a Turnip-seed. But recently was found a record of the marriage of Rhoda Bagger, and she was united to a Cook.

In the early days of the Dutch in New York the names of towns were spelled as they were in Holland, and thus we find Breukelen for Brooklyn, Boswyck for Bushwick, Schanhechtade for Schenectady, Flakbos for Flatbush, and Newwarke for Newark.

In England we find that the learned Dr. Crown, who, in the various books he published in the latter half of the seventeenth century, spelt his name indifferently Cron, Croon, Croun, Crone, Croone, Croune. The modern spelling of any particular name is a pure accident. Before the Elementary Education Act of 1870 a considerable proportion of English people did not spell their names at all. They trusted to the parson and the clerk, who did their best with unfamiliar names. Even now old people in rural districts may find half a dozen orthographic variants of their own names among the sparse documentary records of their lives. And so, dear reader, if you are of the Cousins family and fail in looking over these pages to find the name you are seeking, take a look at Cosins. Gould may be spelled Gold, or Gregg may be Grigg, Hoyt perhaps may occur often as Hoit, and Knowles will be found under Noales.

Naturally, omissions and missing marriage records will come to us in due course. A thousand correspondents will send in authentic records long since lost or hidden. In some obscure garret may be found a missing church record, and as the months pass hundreds of additional marriage records will find their way into our archives. These we promise to publish at a future time either as a supplementary volume or as volume two. But in the present publication we offer the result of our years of labor, applied with no little patience, industry and care, and trust the work will find due appreciation. W. M. C.

Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, September, 1926.