|Notes on the two John Drakes in New England in the 1630s|
by David Copus
April 17, 2003
Re: Identity of JOHN DRAKE of Windsor, CT
I descend from John Drake, Windsor, CT through his daughter Elizabeth.
I understand that for many years learned researchers generally agreed that John Drake of Windsor, CT probably came to the colonies from England in 1630 on the Mary & John and was the son of William Drake of Wiscomb, Southleigh parish, co. Devon, who was unquestionably a member of the royally-descended Drake family of Ashe, Musbury parish, co. Devon. The pedigree of that royally-descended family has been heavily documented.
Recently, however, this "traditional" lineage has been disputed by two very prominent American genealogists, Robert Charles Anderson, of Salt Lake City, UT, and Douglas Richardson, of Tucson, AZ. I believe that their rejection of the "traditional" ancestry of John Drake of Windsor, CT may ultimately prove to be correct. However, the issue must be considered at least somewhat unsettled until more definitive evidence is collected.
The evidence supporting the "traditional" ancestry linking John Drake of Windsor to the Drakes of Ashe is well known and can be briefly stated as follows: (1) His granduncle, Richard Drake, mentions John, son of William Drake, in a 1603 will as being under twelve years of age; (2) The 1619 will of his father, William Drake, mentions his son John; (3) An Oct. 1630 Massachusetts Bay Colony record mentions John Drake as applying to be free; (4) John Reading, of London, refers to John Drake as being in New England in a May 26, 1631 letter to John Winthrop; (5) Francis Drake (John Drake’s first cousin once removed) mentions John Drake, son of William, in his will of 1634 as being in New England; (6) records of Tauton, Plymouth, show a John Drake owning land around 1638 or 1639; (7) Windsor, CT records show John Drake owning land in 1640; (8) most of the passengers on the Mary & John had settled in Windsor, CT by 1635/36; and (9) three children of John Drake of Windsor married children of adult passengers on the Mary & John. See Frank B. Gay’s The Descendants of John Drake of Windsor, Connecticut, The Tuttle Co. 1933, pp. xiii-1, Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, New England Historical and Genealogical Society, Boston, 1995, Vol. 1, p. 581, and Burton Spear, Search for the Passengers of the Mary & John 1630, Toledo, OH, 1985, Vol. 1, p. 17.
In my admittedly limited and amateurish search, I have found no scholar who seriously questions the notion that John Drake of Wiscomb, Southleigh parish, co. Devon [an undisputed member of the royally-descended Drake family of Ashe] emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony on the Mary & John in 1630. Nor has my search found any scholar who disputes the proposition that the John Drake who (a) applied to be free in Oct. 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and (b) was referred to in John Reading’s May 26, 1631 letter was the same John Drake of Wiscomb, Southleigh parish, co. Devon. Indeed, Anderson himself declares this conclusion to be "sound and acceptable." "Some Doubts About the Parentage of John Drake of Windsor, Connecticut," The American Genealogist, 63:193-206, 193 (Oct. 1988). In addition, all scholars appear to agree that the John Drake who owned land in Tauton, Plymouth, is the same John Drake who appears in Windsor, CT, in 1640.
The agreement stops there, however. Anderson and Richardson, at least, hotly contest the "traditional" conclusion that the John Drake of Tauton, Plymouth/Windsor, CT is the same John Drake who applied to be free in Oct. 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They assert that there were two John Drakes in New England in the 1630s and that John Drake of Windsor was not the John Drake of Wiscomb and, therefore, was not a member of the Drake family of Ashe.
More recently, Douglas Richardson has joined Anderson in challenging the traditional link of the John Drake of Windsor, CT to the Drakes of Ashe, Musbury parish, co. Devon. According to Frederick Lewis Weis, Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America before 1700, with Additions and Corrections by Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr., 7th ed., 1993 [formerly, Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England between 1623 and 1650], p. 197, in 1993 Douglas Richardson was preparing for publication an article showing that the John Drake of Windsor, CT was from Hampton-in-Arden parish, co. Warwick, and not connected with the Drakes of Ashe, Musbury parish, co. Devon. According to Ancestral Roots, Richardson’s forthcoming article would show that "in the local parish registers [of Hampton-in-Arden, John Drake had] by a first wife, children of the same names and ages as John Drake of Windsor and at the time of his appearance in the New England records a wife of the same given name as that of John of Windsor." Ancestral Roots further noted that Richardson’s forthcoming article would document John Drake of Warwick’s status as a tradesman, thus matching the social status of the John Drake of Windsor, CT. In addition, according to Ancestral Roots, Richardson surmised that John Drake of Warwick emigrated to New England in 1638 with "Rev. Ephraim Hewett of the adjacent parish of Wroxall, co. Warwick, along with the Griswold and Bissell families." Finally, Ancestral Roots stated that Richardson’s imminent article would be "complete with full evidences on this matter and the identity of the first wife."
Unfortunately, Douglas Richardson has never published his article on John Drake. However, a review of the on-line IGI index provides the following information from the parish registers of Hampton-in-Arden, co. Warwick: (a) John Drake, whose mother was Lettic and whose father was John Drake, was christened on Aug. 25, 1616; (b) Ester Drake, whose mother was Lettice and whose father was John Drake, was christened on Jan. 18, 1618; (c) Job Drake, whose mother was Lettice and whose father was John Drake, was christened on March 5, 1620; and (d) Elizabeth Drake, whose mother was Elizabeth and whose father was John Drake, was christened on Jan. 9, 1625.
Three of these children – John, Job, and Elizabeth – match the children’s names and approximate ages of the children of John Drake of Windsor, CT. There is no record in Windsor, CT of a child named Ester. Conversely, there are no records in the IGI Hampton-in-Arden parish register index for Jacob or Mary Drake, two other children of John Drake of Windsor, CT. Although the IGI index does not list the surname of Lettice, Richardson has informed me in a recent private e-mail that her surname was Shakespeare. He did not cite a source for that opinion. The only information that I have found on the surname of John Drake of Windsor’s wife Elizabeth is Henry R. Stiles, The History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut, Hartford, CT, 1892, Vol. 2, p. 178, which says that "The Rockwell Geneal. gives her name before m. as Elizabeth Rogers." I have not tracked down the "Rockwell Geneal." referenced by Stiles.
Further, the IGI on-line index records at least two Jacob Drakes in co. Devon, albeit at a later date and in parishes different from Musbury and Southleigh, the core parishes for the Drakes of Ashe: (a) Jacob Drake, son of Henary Drake, was christened on April 29, 1655 in Barnstaple parish, co. Devon; (b) Jacob Drake, son of Francis Drake, was christened on Oct. 16, 1673 in Ide parish, co. Devon; and (c) Jacob Drake married Susanath Hockaday on March 8, 1691 in Ide parish, co. Devon.
I am working on two avenues in an effort to show the correctness of the traditional link between John Drake of Windsor, CT and the Drakes of Ashe, Musbury parish, co. Devon. First, I am searching for evidence that Job or Jacob Drake was in New England before the Hewett party arrived in 1638. So far, I have found only an undocumented statement that Jobe Drake was present in Windsor in 1635/1636. R. R. Hinman, A Catalogue of the Names of the First Puritan Settlers of the Colony of Connecticut; with the Time of their Arrival in the Colony, and their standing in society, together with their place of residence, as far as can be discovered by the records, Hartford, 1846, pp. 11, 22. Second, I am searching for evidence that the John Drake of Hampton-in-Arden, co. Warwick is actually the son of William Drake, of Wiscomb, Southleigh parish, co. Devon, and thus a bona fide member of the family of the Drakes of Ashe, Musbury parish, co. Devon. I have found nothing yet to support this premise beyond the ambiguous appearance of two Jacob Drakes in co. Devon. I have not yet tried to connect those Jacob Drakes to the Drakes of Ashe.
Because neither of the two approaches discussed immediately above has born fruit, I have – at least temporarily – abandoned my effort to establish the correctness of the traditional link between John Drake of Windsor, CT and the Drakes of Ashe, Musbury parish, co. Devon.