Friday, January 11, 2019

Holbrook line: Thomas Whittemore, Immigrant

I'm pleased to be writing about Thomas Whittemore (Whitmore), not just because he is our immigrant ancestor and not just because there's quite a bit of material readily available about him.  It's also the completion of a promise I made myself early in this genealogy journey.  Mary Elizabeth Whittemore, my great great grandmother, was a brick wall for me in the early days of my genealogy search, and I remember promising her that I would find her family and tell their story.  It's satisfying to me to be able to do that now, with the help of a lot of other family historians along the way. 

Thomas Whittemore was born or christened on June 6, 1593 in Hitchin, Herefordshire, England.  His parents were Thomas and Mary Meade Whitmore. and our Thomas was one of at least ten children born to his parents.  Hitchin is or was a market town and a wool center, so it is quite possible that the Whitmores were involved in that somehow, whether raising sheep or working in mills.  It seems to have had a larger population than the towns that many of our ancestors were from, which may or may not explain why there are fairly good records there. 

Thomas married three times.  The name of his first wife is unknown.  His second wife was Sarah Deardes, whom he married in 1623.  No children are known from that marriage.  He next married Hannah Chawkley on October 26, 1632, and she is the mother of all of his known children, all thirteen of them!  Roger Thompson, in his book "From Deference to Defiance: Charlestown, Massachusetts 1629-1692" says that Thomas came to Charlestown in about 1639, aged about 43, in a party of eight.  That would be himself, his wife Hannah, and six children (Son John had died probably shortly after birth in 1635, but there were these six who came with them).  I'm not sure that Sarah, Mary, and Thomas were his, or else they did belong to one of his earlier wives, for those children are given birth dates well before his marriage to Hannah.  It's possible that they were other relatives that he agreed to bring to America, but it looks like more research needs to be done about those children.  Daniel, Nathaniel, and another John were the children of Thomas and Hannah, who accompanied them on the trip.

The family settled in Charlestown soon after their arrival.  In 1638 or 1639, this would have been quite a small town because in 1658 there were still fewer than 200 heads of household.  We don't know a lot about Thomas's life in Charlestown.  He had a farm that was situated on the Mystic River so he would have had easy access to fish and, likely, seafood, to supplement whatever he grew on his farm.  We don't know if he had another occupation.  I found no record of him in the applications for freeman, so apparently he never acquired the right to vote, and I found no record that he served in any sort of political or government post. 

Thomas died on May 25, 1661 at Malden, which was carved out of Charlestown.  Descendants lived on his property until the mid 1800's, which is pretty remarkable.  At his death, his estate was valued at 286 pounds.  He wanted Hannah to have the right to live in the house for as long as she lived (no language about "and remains unmarried") and gave the bulk of the estate to his son Daniel, with smaller bequests to Nathaniel and John.  Son Thomas had been given property of some type in England and had returned there to live, but "to save trouble" he was bequeathed five shillings if he came back to claim it.  The other children were to receive small bequests as they turned 18, or 21, or married.

Hannah married as her second husband Benjamin Butterfield in 1663 and lived until 1677.  

So that's what is known of Thomas Whittemore.  His children served as minor officials such as constable and hog reeve, but we don't know how active they were in church life, or more particularly, spiritual life.  I've not found anything that indicates whether or not Thomas could read, nor have I found an inventory of his assets.  I'll keep looking for those.   Thomas Whittemore, no matter how respected or not respected he was during his lifetime, deserves our gratitude for bringing his family here and for raising good citizens.  He helped make America.

The line of descent is:

Thomas Whittemore-Hannah Chawkley
John Whittemore-Mary Upham
John Whittemore-Elizabeth Annable
John Whittemore-Elizabeth Lloyd
John Whittemore-Lydia Clough
Josiah Whittemore-Lucy Snow
Josiah Whittemore-Betsy Foster
Mary Elizabeth Whittemore-Joseph Holbrook
Fremont Holbrook-Phoebe Brown
Loren Holbrook-Etta Stanard
Gladys Holbrook-Richard Allen
Their descendants