Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Beeks line: John Gurney 1603-1663 Immigrant

It's fun to take a name that's on the family tree and try to place him in time and space, to think for a few minutes about his life and to realize that once again there are more questions than answers.  John Gurney is such a person.  Not much is known about him but I do want to give credit to the RootsWeb World Connect Project called "Genealogies of Families of Brantree, Quincy, Weymouth, Randolph, Holbrook, Mass. & Others".  I'd located maybe 20% of this information on my own, so it would have been slim pickings indeed for a post if I hadn't found this source.

As nearly as is known, John Gurney was born about 1603, since he gave a court deposition in 1652/53 saying he was 50 years old or thereabouts.  There is a John Gurney who was baptized at Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, England on February 21, 1603 and it is likely that this is our John.  If so, his father's name was also John, but that is as much family background as I have at present.  If this John Gurney is ours, then he came from an area identified as "Non-conformist" and he may have been a Puritan.  The church there is very old, dating to the twelfth century, so it is possible that generations on Gurneys worshipped there.  At present, we can't state that with any certainty.

I can't find documentation, but John was supposedly married to a woman named Mary, most likely in England.  He may have been an indentured servant but the dates don't match for the most commonly quoted master.  At any rate, either at home or in Massachusetts he learned the tailor trade.  He is reported as being in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636, but it's possible he arrived earlier.  His children have birth dates of from about 1628 to about 1640, which is puzzling to have so many "abouts" unless the family was moving frequently. 

We know that he was a tenant of rented land owned by Captain William Tyng in Brantree in 1653, which was 45 acres of upland and marsh.  As mentioned ealier, he was a tailer and lived within Braintree, with a house and five acres of land, until he sold it in 1661 to Richard Thayer.

John's wife Mary died September 20, 1661 and just a few weeks later he married Grizell Fletcher Jewell Griggs Kibbee.  It was his second marriage and her fourth.  It's only speculation but perhaps he was already in poor health.  To put a good face on it, Grizell seems to have bettered herself with each marriage, and she would have one final marriage soon after John died.  (I wonder if people then talked, or whispered, about a woman with five marriages.  Two marriages were common, three were somewhat frequent, four were occasional, but five?  Really?)

I've found no record of John being admitted as a freeman, and no record of church or civic involvement.  John may have been a man determined to keep his head down and just to concentrate on raising his family.  When he died, he left an inventory valued at 55 pounds, 14 shillings, and 6 pence.  He also had a long list of debts, so it is likely that there wasn't much left for the widow or his children to inherit.  Son John did get lands in Mendon, which is where our John had intended to move before his last illness.

This is a summary of the information I've been able to locate about John Gurney.  It's the unrecognized people who helped build America, and for that reason, I'm happy to introduce you briefly to John Gurney, immigrant and nation builder.

The line of descent is:

John Gurney-Mary
Mary Gurney-Daniel Shedd
Elizabeth Shedd-Daniel Pierce
Elizabeth Pierce-Samuel Smith
Shubael Smith-Prudence Fitzrandolph
Mary Smith-Jonathan Dunham
Samuel Dunnah-Hannah Ruble
Jacob Dunham-Catherine Goodnight
Samuel G Dunham-Eliza Matilda Reese
Margaret Catherine Dunham-Harvey Aldridge
Cleo Aldridge-Wilbur Beeks
Mary Margaret Beeks-Cleveland Harshbarger
Their descendants