Working With the New England Historic Genealogical Society

(By William T. Endicott, JEFA President - Vol. 12, No. 1)

As Samuel Endicott describes in the previous article, the John Endecott Family Association (JEFA) has recently entered into a relationship with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), which affords our membership the right to access NEHGS online research services, by using a passcode. In this article, I will explain how former JEFA president Teddy Sanford is beginning to work with NEHGS to have them publish Teddy’s groundbreaking new findings about the early life of John Endecott.

What Teddy Is Doing With NEHGS

In a nutshell, Teddy Sanford, working with another former JEFA president, the late Gordon Harmon, discovered many new facts about the early life of John Endecott that had either been unknown to scholars or even contradicted what some scholars said about him. Now, Teddy will soon start to work with NEHGS to refine and then publish these new findings. Among the findings is that John’s whole line of descent is now proven. For hundreds of years, writers have said that essentially not much was known about the early life of John Endecott.

To take just one example, look at these excerpts from the Wikipedia article about John (see box):Based on Teddy’s work, it now turns out that most of this is wrong; to the contrary, we know a great deal about John’s early life in England. For example, thanks to Teddy, we now know the following:•Based on court records Teddy found, he was able to establish John’s pedigree going back many generations. It’s on page 25 in his article “Out of the Mist of Times Past,” which is on the JEFA website

•John Endecott was definitely born in 1588, and it was in Chagford. Teddy found church warden records that prove this, thus laying to rest past speculation that since 1588 was the year of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, it was too good to be true that John was also born in that auspicious year and so he probably was not born then. •John’s mother died shortly after John was born. Teddy found church warden’s records showing that John’s father, Thomas Endicott, ordered a burial shroud for his deceased wife right around the time that John was born, and this proves the assertion.

•It seems highly probable that John Endecott was taken in and raised by William Endecott (1543-1630) and William's wife Anne Ellis (died February 13, 1637). William was the younger brother of Governor John’s grandfather, John Endecott (1541-1630). William, Anne, and young John all lived at Middlecott Manor along with Governor John’s father, Thomas Endecott (1566-1621), and William and Anne’s other children. •Anne Gower was not the name of Governor John Endecott’s first wife, contrary to what historians have claimed for hundreds of years, and the real name was Jane Francis. Teddy and his colleague Gordon Harmon co-authored an article about this called “Family Legends and the Search for Anne Gower.”

•John had a half-brother, also named John! Teddy found Latter Day Saints’ records showing that after Governor John’s mother died, John’s father, Thomas, married again many years later and he and his new wife had a son also named John. As strange at that seems today, it apparently was common in the 1500s. But not surprisingly, it has caused a lot of confusion among historians. Not only did John have a half-brother named John, but also that half-brother had three sons named John, Gilbert, and William, and they all came to America, too. In other words, these were Governor John’s half-nephews, and they started Endicott lines in America that do not descend from Governor John.

•Governor John was probably not disinherited by his grand-father, again contrary to conventional wisdom. Thomas, John’s father, died before John’s grandfather did. Since the grandfather’s will left very little to John, there has been much speculation that a big reason John came to America was because he had been disinherited by the grandfather, probably over a religious dispute. Teddy shows that to the contrary, it’s more likely that the grandfather gave John the money with which to purchase John’s share in the Massachusetts Bay Company and that John wanted nothing more for his inheritance.

Detective Story

In a telephone call, Teddy explained to me some of the fascinating details of how he and the late Gordon Harmon met each other, combined a research interest in their ancestor, John Endecott, and then set in motion a series of events that led to Teddy’s new interpretation of John’s early life. In many ways, it’s also the history of the JEFA.Teddy and Gordon Get TogetherTeddy’s research today really stem from the book written in 1943 by Mabel McFatridge McCloskey (1881-1967), called Some Descendants of John Endecott, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. This was the first time that anyone outside of New England had done a genealogical account about the part of the Endicott family that had moved out of New England.“A lot of people had that book from early on,” Teddy said, “but didn’t really know what to do with it. There are 8,000 accounts in there.” Teddy and Gordon, both retired Army officers and Vietnam vets, started exploring the book around 2000. Then Gordon wrote a genealogical work on his own family and asked Teddy to edit it and that firmed up their relationship. After that, they decided to start the Endicott Family Association (EFA), now called the John Endecott Family Association (JEFA). For various reasons, it was advantageous to register it in Kentucky where Teddy lives, so he became the president of the association “but only for a year or so” because he “was up to his neck in Army stuff.” So, then Gordon became president.

Some Details of the Search

The process whereby Teddy and Gordon assembled their understanding of John Endecott’s early life is very complex, but here are some parts of it: In 2012, he and Gordon decided to send a researcher to England to look for records pertinent to John Endecott. They knew that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) were experts in genealogical research, and Teddy and Gordon reached out to one of their researchers, Lindsay Bayless. It turned out that she was already planning to go to England in 2013 for another project, so they didn’t have to pay for her trip, only her research time, which was by the hour. “So we were able to get her cheap,” Teddy explained. Gordon and Teddy put together a list of questions asking Lindsay to check in England and sent it to her. So she was following a “script” that Teddy and Gordon had written.

Among the things she found was a will in Exeter that proved who the second wife of Thomas Endecott, Governor John’s father, was. This is how the evidence of Governor John’s half brother and the half nephews came out.Lindsay also found some land deeds that helped flesh out the story of John Endecott’s early life. And when she returned from England, she wrote a report for Teddy and Gordon. Teddy said it then took him “a year” to sort out some of the connections with John. It was a process of Teddy studying all kinds of resources he now had and tying them together.

Unfortunately, it was while all this was going on, in 2014, that Gordon Harmon died, so he never saw the final result of all the work he did.Another key resource that Teddy used was The Church Wardens’ Accounts of St. Michael’s Church in Chagford 1480-1600,which came into his possession late in 2014. It includes a partial list of the people who lived in Chagford in the late 15th century and all of the 16th century. The backstoryabout these Accounts is intriguing, and Teddy has written about it in his articles Out of the Mist of Times Past, and The Living and the Dead in Chagford 1480-1600, both of which are on the JEFA website. The accounts were originally begun in 1480, and all of them before 1543 were written in Latin. Furthermore, there was no uniform style from one year to the next. In some years the entries were very sparse, in other years they were quite extensive. The Reverend G. H. Hames, the Rector of St. Michael’s Church, discovered the Accounts in a chest in the church in 1856.

A translation of the Accounts was begun in 1914 by Miss Ethel Lega Weeks, and was also worked on by Francis Mardon Osborne and his wife Winifried. It took 58 years before the translation was completed in 1979 when Winifried finished it after her husband had died. Winifred then had the Accounts privately printed. But then they sat on a bookshelf for 36 more years before Teddy got them a cool 159 years after they were discovered. Teddy printed them in his article “The Living and the Dead.” It takes up 100 pages. As Teddy put it “Their impact on the family history is profound..." we now have a work that fills many of the gaps in our understanding of the older generations. Coupled with some logical thinking, we can now bring our history to life and are able to bring our ancestors out of the mist of times past and into a story that we can all understand.

Gov. John’s First Wife

Another gripping backstory is how Teddy and Gordon learned that John’s first wife was not Anne Gower, as historians had thought, but Jane Francis.Lindsay Bayless was very instrumental in determining the first part of this. She found information that suggested that it wasn’t Governor John who married an Anne Gower, but his grandson, also named John, who was a doctor and who had moved back to England. During her 2013 trip to England, Lindsay found the record of this marriage that had taken place in 1688, long after the Governor had died. Teddy discovered the second part, the real name of the first wife. Teddy has long used the archives of the Church of Latter Day Saints; and through that, he was able to obtain early marriage records for England. He concentrated on the timeframe 1600-1628 and painstakingly checked each county for those years. That took about five months. He wanted to know how many John Endecotts there were who got married between those dates. It turned out there was only one John Endecott who fit the bill. And the woman he married was not Anne Gower but Jane Francis, and she grew up only 12 miles from Chagford, where the future governor grew up. Their marriage was on November 26, 1621 in Bridford, 9 miles from Chagford.

The Half-Brother’s Lawsuit

A final example of all the time consuming twists and turns Teddy went through involved Governor John’s half-brother again. In 1636, there was a lawsuit in England by a John Endecott contesting the will of his grandfather, also named John (everybody’s named John!), who had died the year before. Some scholars thought this was the Governor suing his grandfather and was further evidence that the grandfather had virtually disinherited the Governor and the Governor was now trying to get more money. But we now know it wasn’t the Governor, it was his half-brother, also named John, who filed the suit (unsuccessfully) against their grandfather. So, another myth exploded. But there’s more: in litigating this suit, the half-brother listed his descent all the way back to his great-great grandfather, John Endecott (1490-1562), and in so doing, provided Teddy with proof-positive of the lineage of the Governor! With such research and more now at his disposal, Teddy was able to put together a family tree of Governor John Endecott, and it is found on page 25 in “Out of the Mist of Times Past.”

What Happens Next NEHGS has studied “Out of the Mists of Time” and agrees that much new information pertaining to Gov. John Endecott has now been unearthed. They say they have questions, though, and would like to do more research, and JEFA has paid them a fee to do it. The hope is that after all is said and done, in the coming year, a document will emerge with NEHGS’s blessing that corrects the historical record about John Endecott; and with this in hand, we will be able to update many other sources, such as the Wikipedia article on John Endecott.

From Wikipedia

The current text needs to be improved: Most of what is known about John Endecott's origins is at best circumstantial. Biographers of the 19th century believed he was from the Dorset town of Dorchester because of his significant later association with people from that place.

In the early 20th century, historian Roper Lethbridge proposed that Endecott was born circa 1588 in or near Chagford in Devon...

However, more recent research by the New England Historic Genealogical Society has identified problems with Lethbridge's claims, which they dispute. According to their research, Endecott may have been born in or near Chagford, but there is no firm evidence for this, nor is there evidence that identifies his parents. They conclude, based on available evidence, that he was probably born no later than 1600...

Very little is known of Endecott's life before his association with colonization efforts in the 1620s.

Article from Our Endicott Heritage Trail® | Vol. 12, No. 1