Friday, May 13, 2016

Holbrook line: Nathaniel Merrill 1601-1655, Immigrant

Like most of our immigrant ancestors, there are many mysteries about Nathaniel Merrill.  He was born in 1600 or 1601 (baptized May 4, 1601) in the very small village of Whersted, Suffolk, England, the son of Nathaniel Merrill and Mary Blaxall or possibly Blackwell.  He had eight siblings, so this was a large family to support in such a small community.  We don't know what Nathaniel Senior did for a living.  We do know that the immigrant was baptized at St Mary's Church, which dates from at least the 14th century.  We also know that Ipswich, the nearest large town, was the location of many Puritan believers.  We don't know how the beliefs in the next town did or did not influence the Merrill family.

There is controversy as to when Nathaniel Merrill came to America, when he married, and even who he married.  Some believe he came to America as early as 1633, lived in Ipswich, went back to England for his wife or to marry, and then had at least one child there, in 1638.  Others think he didn't come to America for the first time until at least 1639.  I haven't been able to find "proof" of any of this. As far as a marriage, his wife was known as Susannah but there seems to be no proof of her parentage 

We do know that his brother, John, held land for him in Newbury in 1638.  Whether this land is the first that Nathaniel owned is open to question, as I have also seen comments, but no documentation, that he owned land in Ipswich Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 and that he had earlier been at Salisbury.  Again, there is no documentation. 

We know that a child, Susannah, was born at Lawford, Essex, England in 1638, or at least baptized there, and the earlier children (Nathaniel, John, Abraham) are presumed to have been born there, also.  So how and why Nathaniel would have moved from Suffolk County to Essex County is a matter we are still pondering, as well as if he was in America during those years, how the children came with such regularity.  Based on his will, he is believed to have been a farmer but he only bequeathed five acres of land and some marsh, so perhaps he was a tenant farmer or perhaps he had already disposed of the land he had.  If he didn't arrive in America until 1639 or later, and died in 1654, then he had only had 15 years to build up his estate, and with six or possibly seven children, that would have been difficult. 

His children are Nathaniel, John, Abraham, Susannah, Daniel and Abel.  Some sites also give him a son, Thomas, but there seems to be no documentation for this, either.  

Nathaniel died about March 16, 1654/55, in Newbury and is buried at the First Burying Ground there. I've found nothing so far that would tell us more about his life  I've not found a reference as to whether or when he was made a freeman, nor anything about his religious views, nor what kind of public office he might have held.  I'd sure like to fill in the many blanks in his "dash", and especially to identify his wife.  Can you help?

The line of descent is:

Nathaniel Merrill-Susannah
Nathaniel Merrill-Joanna Kinney or Kenney
Hannah Merrill-Benoni Clough
Benjamin Clough-Faith Hart
Lydia Clough-John Whittemore
Josiah Whittemore-Lucy Snow
Josiah Whittermoe-Betsy Foster
Mary Elizabeth Whittemore-Joseph R Holbrook
Fremont Holbrook-Phoebe Brown
Loren Holbrook-Etta Stanard
Gladys Holbrook-Richard Allen
Their descendants