The emigration of puritans from England and their subsequent settling in and colonisation of the New World is a turning point in history for many inhabitants of the modern United States of America. Merchant Adventurers had travelled to the New World since the reign of Elizabeth, and a John Finch is known in Virginia from as early as 1620. In 1630, a fleet of English puritans under the leadership of John Winthrop set sail from Great Yarmouth in search of a better life in the New World. The subsequent records of the settlements indicate that three voyagers with the surname Finch (Daniel, John and Abraham) were among those passengers. No passenger lists exist for the fleet but from similar expeditions in later years (for which such documents do exist), it seems these expeditions were particularly attractive to settlers in their twenties who were physically fit enough to endure the long and hazardous voyage. It seems likely therefore that these three Finches were born around circa 1590 to 1610. It is highly likely they were related, possibly brothers or cousins. The majority of the settlers on the Winthrop Fleet were puritans who were disaffected with the lack of tolerance given those who exercised religious beliefs outside the Church of England. Another cause for discontent was the behaviour of the King with respect to Parliament and the eleven year sitting. The provenances of the American immigrants who have been traced seem to be in the South East of England, particularly the counties of Hertfordshire, Essex and Suffolk.
Around 1634, a Samuel Finch ventured to New England. It is not known whether he was a relative of the other three, but he did not settle in the same towns as John, Daniel and Abraham, indicating he may not have been close kin. How Samuel relates to the other Finches in New England is still unclear.
Sources in England – What to Look for
Tracing the provenance of American settlers who travelled nearly 5 thousand miles across nearly four hundred years is an interesting and demanding genealogical challenge. Using information gleaned in America we can estimate their ages and can get some idea of which part of England to search. The emigrants also needed to pay for their passage and subsistence whilst on board, and to equip themselves with enough cattle, seed and provisions to survive the winter in America. They were not poor, but most likely came from the landed ‘yeomanry’ class. We also know from the will of Daniel Finch (1667) in Watertown, New England that he had books and therefore was educated. The majority of the settlers were puritans seeking a life without persecution and punitive taxation in England, although some merely sought the wealth that the New World offered. The Finches were unlikely to have been ‘economic migrants’. Their names were typical of Old Testament names popular among puritans and many of the Winthrop fleet were indeed puritans. Therefore it seems we are looking for an English puritan family containing the names Daniel, John and Abraham, born 1590-1610. They were educated and possibly descended from the yeomanry. What is unclear is whether they also travelled with sisters who would have had the surnames of their husbands and therefore not be easily identifiable in later records. Studies of in-laws may cross-reference to marriages in England, and therefore a broad interest in the genealogies of other emigrants may demonstrate links to Finch. Also, given that it was common for children to be named after close relations, a search for the other Daniels and Abrahams in the period just before and after the sailing, may provide evidence for relations, a clue which may in turn lead us to the emigrants themselves. With these details in mind, we can now identify the English sources in which to begin the search.
Sources in England – Where to Look
Parish registers, largely indexed in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), are a central source, since the baptisms of (nearly) all individuals in England in that period will have been recorded. There are some difficulties with this as a source. Concerns have been expressed as to whether puritans would have baptised their children in Church of England churches. However parishioners were required by law to maintain their attendance at church and were subject to fines if they did not. ‘Recusants’, as those who did not attend church were know, were fined harshly and usually carried out alternative religious practices in addition to normal parish duties. However the ravages of time, and particularly the English Civil War (1642-1654) mean that the original records of many parishes have been lost. For example in Hertfordshire, the registers of Broxbourn, Little Berkhampstead, Essendon and Hatfield are all lost for the period of interest. Transcripts of some individual years survive for some of these lost registers among the records of bishops and some marriages can be reconstructed from marriage licence registers. The IGI is commonly considered to be a comprehensive index of all such baptisms. However, this is not true – there are many parishes for which early registers or bishop’s transcripts exist that are not covered by the IGI. In Essex for example, of the 409 ancient parishes, for the period in question only 85 have their registers indexed, and 159 have no surviving registers at all. 165 ancient Essex registers are unindexed by the IGI, i.e. only a third of the extant registers are covered by IGI. For these purposes, the IGI, whilst an invaluable source, is far from comprehensive.
Records of wills are another vital series of records. The emigrants were not poor (since they had to pay their passage) and their forebears are likely to have had land and estates. In searching English wills, we are clearly not looking for the emigrants themselves, but their parents, uncles, brothers who may mention relatives in New England thereby identifying them. There are examples of English wills in which relatives in New England are mentioned, thereby identifying their place of origin and allowing genealogies to be reconstructed. For example, the will of Katherine Morley (PCC, 1645) mentions ‘my poor son John Morley now living in New England’ and undoubtedly other wills with similar references wait to be discovered in sources other than the PCC. Furthermore, time has been kinder to records from the Ecclesiastical Courts, and the majority of will records extend back through the period of interest (1575-1675). In South East England, the Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex (London division) is the only major jurisdiction for which those records are defective. In Essex and Hertfordshire, the focus of our research, the records are nearly complete. On the negative side is a key issue: wills refer only to a part of the population. The population reflected in wills are those with wealth. In addition, it was the tradition of the time that wills were written only when death was near and those whose end was unexpected rarely left instructions. In such cases a nuncupative will (spoken by the deceased on his deathbed and witnessed by those present) or an administration remains – these leave the estate to the next of kin but rarely contain genealogical information about those relations distant either physically or by blood. There is also no single index of wills, and the interrelation of the various jurisdictions is complex. The records of a testator may appear in the records of several different courts now found in different record offices.
Records of Nonconformity exist among the governmental and local records of late Tudor and early Stuart England. The government was nervous about the influence of nonconformist thought on the behaviour of individuals and their potential to become involved in antigovernment activity. In 1605, Roman Catholic sympathisers had attempted to destroy both King James and parliament in the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ and nervousness about dissent preached from the pulpit by both Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant ministers was rife. Government monitored recusants closely and records of the fines imposed occur in the ‘recusant rolls’. Occasional reports of parishioners failing to attend church are also found among the miscellanea of individual archbishops. It may be possible to find reference to nonconformist activity by Finches in the period prior to the Winthrop sailing that would cross reference to will and parish records.
Equity Suits are a valuable and yet underused genealogical resource. These are records of disputes between individuals over money or land, which in some cases give detailed accounts of genealogies and individual biographies. They refer to a small proportion of the population, but the information within them is invaluable and they reflect a cross-section of society from the very poor to the landed gentry. Their rates of survival are good although they are very poorly indexed and understanding where cases will be heard is difficult to predict. Equity suits by families in New England are known and they have shed unprecedented light on the fates of some early settlers.
Manorial Documents refer to the ownership of the farming lands of England, which were divided into a series of manors. Manors rarely correspond exactly to parish boundaries and some parishes had several manors. A manorial court was held on a (usually) annual basis and the passage of lands between the different tenants of the manor is recorded. Each tenant would hold a copy of the entry in the court rolls (copyholders), which showed their entitlement to the land they farmed. As land was sold or passed from father to son, these changes were entered onto the court rolls, and so they record all the land transactions within the manor. These documents are not easy to use since they are in abbreviated Latin and understanding how the court functioned is not easy. However, they are the only historical documents protected by law and the Historical Manuscripts Commission holds a central index.
Bonds, deeds and other land transactions are also important sources, but their survival rates are poor and there is no single index of parties and locations. Deeds survive largely at local record offices, but ‘Feet of Fines’ are a series of documents among the national public records that represent official copies of private land transactions. There was no requirement for individuals to record their transactions in this way, and since it was a relatively expensive procedure, the fines tend to reflect the higher levels of society. The benefit to the parties was that a central copy of the transaction was held by the Exchequer should any disagreement about the nature of the deed arise. Feet of fines have contemporary indexes by quarter and county. Locally kept deeds are subject to the vagaries of the indexing systems of local record offices, but those of the PRO and Essex RO are computerised so that keyword and name searches are possible. Herts RO and most other record offices have more laborious card indexes.
The Results of Preliminary Searches
Despite the drawbacks of the IGI, this is clearly the place to start in the search for the American settlers in England. There are many dozens of candidates for John FINCH, but Daniel and Abraham are relatively uncommon names. For the period 1580 to 1630, the IGI records a handful of Daniel and Abraham Finch baptisms, listed below:
- 17 Nov 1583 Daniel FINCH son of Thomas FINCH at Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Corresponds to an infant burial (i. 1590).
- 29 Nov 1607 Daniel FINCH son of Roger FINCH at Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Corresponds to a burial at Dunstable in 1607.
- 27 Jan 1608 Daniel FINCH son of William FINCH at All Saints, Hertford, Hertfordshire
- 25 Jul 1617 Daniel FINCH son of Daniel FINCH at Great Burstead, Essex (a little too late for the emigrant)
- 29 Aug 1619 Daniel FINCH son of Isaac FINCH dyer out of My WYATT’s rents at St Benet and St Peter, Paul’s Wharf, London (too late for the emigrant).
- 27 Oct 1622 Daniel FINCH son of Daniel and Rebecca at Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire (too late for the emigrant)
- 2 Jun 1614 Abraham FINCH son of John FINCH at All Saints, Hertford, Hertfordshire. This entry corresponds to a burial in the same register (i. 1614).
- 8 Apr 1619 Abraham FINCH son of John FINCH at Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire (too late for the emigrant).
- 28 Nov 1630 Abraham FINCH son of Isaac FINCH dyer at St Benet and St Peter, Paul’s Wharf, London (too late for the emigrant).
- m. 8 Jun 1615 Abraham FINCH = Grissell BEENIE at St Mary at Coslany, Norwich, Norfolk.
From our own indexes (which include material not covered in the IGI), we add:
- c. 23 Mar 1595 Daniel FINCH son of Thomas FINCH at St Michael’s near St Albans, Hertfordshire (from a BT – original register lost)
In addition, published wills for Essex include the will of Ann ROGERS of Stanford le Hope in 1594, which states she has a son Daniel FINCH. Published indexes record wills for Abraham FINCH of Sible Hedingham, Essex in 1623 and a Daniel FINCH of Sproughton, Suffolk in 1611.
These initial studies identify a series of families that demonstrate individuals called Abraham or Daniel in the general period, although only two entries – those of Daniel son of William in Hertford 1608, and Daniel son of Thomas in St Michael’s in 1595 – are in the timeframe to correspond directly to the emigrant. It may be that these other entries do not refer to the emigrants themselves but to cousins, uncles or fathers after whom they are named. For that reason, we have focussed on understanding the broad genealogies of all these families and others nearby at the same period. In addition, we recognise that the coverage of the IGI is very poor in many areas, due to a combination of defective registers and incomplete coverage of those registers that exist, the latter particularly in Essex. For that reason, we have examined other Finch families in parishes without registers on the IGI.
Finch of Redbourn and St Albans, Herts
Finch of Hertford, Herts
Finch of Broxbourn, Herts
Finch of Cheshunt, Herts
Finch of Watford, Herts
Finch of Dunstable, Beds
Finch of Sible Hedingham, Essex
Finch of East Tilbury and Great Burstead, Essex
Finch of Sproughton, Suffolk
FINCH of Redbourn and St Albans
Finches have been in Redbourn since at least the thirteenth century and they are an important family. However, the baptism registers for Redbourn are absent before 1623 and Bishops Transcripts do not include years after 1600 – we have a weak understanding of their genealogies in detail between those dates. Miscellaneous records of the Archdeaconry of St Albans note that in 1575, a Nicholas Finch was censured for attending the church at Harpenden and not his own church at Redbourn. This may indicate nonconformist religious thought. No Finch will relevant to the period include reference to both a Daniel and an Abraham, but the will of Thomas FINCH of St Michael’s, St Albans parish in 1631 records his son as Daniel Finch. This corresponds to the entry in the Bishop’s transcripts (discussed above) of a baptism in 1595. Daniel had a brother Samuel (c. 1598) but no evidence for Abraham. Daniel was present in England to sign as administrator for his father’s estate in 1631, after the Winthrop sailing. Also deeds and an equity suit show that Daniel remained in England long after we know the emigrant was in New England. This is not our man. Our own studies of this family do not give evidence for other Daniels as cousins and the family tree as we know it is presented in Figure 1.
FINCH of Hertford
This family provides our most interesting lead. Daniel FINCH, son of William is baptised at All Saints Hertford in 1608, making him 22 at the time that the Winthrop Fleet sailed. The will of Thomas FINCH of All Saints in 1626 leaves a bequest to ‘Daniel FINCH… my godson’ who is undoubtedly the same man, demonstrating that he grew to adulthood. Thorough searches of the Quarter Sessions, Borough Records and Parish registers of Hertford show no evidence for a Daniel after this mention–Daniel seems to have left Hertford sometime after 1626. In 1614 in the same church, an Abraham FINCH was baptised, the son of John FINCH, although, tantalisingly, this baptism appears to correspond to an infant burial in the same year. Nevertheless, however fleetingly, this family did use the name Abraham and further searches may identify another Abraham who survived to adulthood.
The Finch family has roots in Hertford and the neighbouring hamlet of Brickendon that can be traced back to before the 1550s. Parish registers for All Saints Hertford go back to 1558, and wills (Hertford was part of the jurisdiction of the Archdeacon of Huntingdon) are also extant. Particularly important sources in reconstructing the genealogies of this family have been equity suits from the Court of Chancery (PRO), Court of Requests (PRO), Court of the Star Chamber (PRO) and Borough Court of Hertford (HRO), the latter of which, for the period in question, was part of the demesne of the Duchy of Lancaster. In addition, we have used copies of court rolls for Brickendon manor, which also survive for our period.
Thomas FINCH, who mentioned Daniel in his will of 1626, was the uncle of the John whose son was Abraham. We can reconstruct this with certainty from a series of equity suits between those parties in which they state their relationship to each other and also describe earlier generations who had left them land. The basic genealogy can be embellished from the parish registers, but it becomes clear that many individuals mentioned in wills and equity suits (such as Nicholas and Henry, the sons of Thomas who died 1594) are not to be found in parish registers. The resultant tree is given in figure 2. However, tantalisingly, what remains unclear is how Daniel and his father William fit into this genealogy! We know they must be close to Thomas, but exactly how they are related remains uncertain.
One interesting point is that Thomas (d. 1626) had two daughters, the elder of whom married John Finch of Broxbourn, a parish next to Hertford. This might suggest that the family of Broxbourn are related to Thomas and we have researched this family below. The younger, Sarah married John GRAVE of Nazeing, Essex and had a son (John) and a daughter (Sarah, b. 1624). Sarah Grave née Finch died in 1626 and Thomas left his granddaughter a bequest. In the records of Thomas Lechford, an attorney in New England, we find an affidavit by John Grave of New England asking for the bequest left his daughter Sarah Grave ‘by her grandfather Thomas Finch of Hertford in his will’. This demonstrates that Thomas’ granddaughter and son-in-law were indeed emigrants in New England. This is an important link between Finch of Hertford and the New England settlers.
Exactly how Daniel fits into the tree is crucial to understand. We know that his father was William and that Thomas (d. 1594) did indeed have a son William (I). However William (I) was born about 1550 and Daniel’s birth at 1608 would place his father at an unlikely age of 58. What is perhaps more likely is that William (I) is Daniel’s grandfather, and that he had a son William (II), born circa 1580. A baptism for William son of William does occur in All Saints in 1596, but this would have to be a brother to Daniel, rather than his father. The will of Thomas FINCH in 1594 shows that William (I) had a daughter Ann although no other children are mentioned. There is the baptism of an Ann FINCH in Bayford in 1572, but that register at this period does not include the names of parents. Analysis of the entries in Bayford indicates a single family with Ann as the eldest surviving daughter, and we suggest that William (I) is living in Bayford. The most likely reconstruction of William’s family is given in Figure 3.
We link a William FINCH of Little Berkhampstead with the family of Bayford, since we have an equity suit including Edward WHITEHAND and William FINCH (II) of Little Berkhampstead, demonstrating a close working link between them. Edward Whitehand married Ann Finch in 1593 at Hertford. However, the Bishop’s Transcripts of Little Berkhampstead show that William (II) had a son George baptised 25th September 1608. This is only 3 months before the baptism of Daniel at Hertford (29th January 1608/9) and therefore there must be two different Williams! These exhaustive studies show that, despite the attractiveness of this link, it is not possible for Daniel to be a direct descendent of William (I).
So who is Daniel? If we look across Thomas’ brothers, there are not many gaps. We have a poor idea of who Nicholas’ children were – William could possibly be his son. We have no evidence for John having a son called William, and Henry died a bachelor. However, an alternative is that Daniel/William and Thomas are not related closely at all. This is possible because Alice, Thomas’ daughter married John Finch of Broxbourn. Daniel was born two years after this marriage and Thomas’ standing as a Godparent to Daniel may have arisen from an introduction by John Finch of Broxbourn. If this is true, then we should look for William among the Finches of Broxbourn.
One key stumbling block to this Daniel being the emigrant is the fact that there is the baptism in Hatfield Bishop’s transcripts of a John son of Daniel FINCH and Mary in 25 Feb 1638. We know that Thomas FINCH son of Nicholas was a collarmaker in Hatfield and he is mentioned in Thomas FINCH (d.1626) will. Therefore, we can link Finch of Hertford to Hatfield, and now we have a Daniel Finch in the same parish. Is this Daniel the godson of Thomas who died in 1626, still in England in 1638? It is difficult to say, but it must remain a possibility. We have only a few fragmentary years of the parish records of Hatfield (they were destroyed in the Civil War), and those remaining pose more questions than they give answers!
FINCH of Broxbourn
Broxbourn is a small village on the Eastern border of Hertfordshire with Essex, about 3 miles East of Hertford. Reconstructing this family is a challenge since neither parish registers nor Bishop’s transcripts for Broxbourn parish have survived. Three wills exist among the records of the Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex (Herts and Essex division). The most illustrative source for this family has been the manor rolls of Broxbourn, which survive at Hertfordshire records office. However, where we rely on sources other than parish registers, our understanding of the family is unlikely to be comprehensive.
The first FINCH for which we find reference in Broxbourn (or the manor of Hoddesdon which is within Broxbourn parish) is John FINCH, blacksmith of Broxbourn whose will is proved in 1556 at ACM(HE). Of his three sons, we have further record of Richard and John, but the eldest, Robert (who received his father’s tools in 1556 and was therefore probably also a blacksmith), is untraced. The family tree as we know it is in figure 4. The last will for Broxbourn is that of John FINCH (d. 1609) who was the husband of Alice Finch and the son-in-law of Thomas FINCH of Hertford (d. 1626, see above). Two administrations for Broxbourn Finches also occur in the records of the Bishop of Essex, although Broxbourn is not within the jurisdiction of that court. This may indicate that the Broxbourn Finches also had land in Essex.
From our studies of the Hertford Finches, we proposed there might be a William Finch born c. 1585 and father to Daniel FINCH born Hertford in 1608. Our studies do indeed show a William around the correct time, the son of John Finch, blacksmith who we estimate died circa 1590. This may be our man. William received land from his mother around 1610 (had he just come to full age?) and died in 1646, when his land is divided between his three daughters Grace, Alice and Ann, who were then under age. There are no mentions of sons, but it is worth noting that at this point, our New England emigrants had been away for 16 years, and may have received their inheritance before they left. Interestingly, both William and his brother John sell land in 1629, immediately prior to the sailing although it is clear that William did not emigrate. Were there sons to William who received their inheritance early and used it to settle in New England? One piece of evidence against that suggestion comes from the will of Thomas Boreham in 1646. Boreham left substantial bequests of land to Grace, Alice and Ann, the daughters of William Finch and from the wording of the will, we suspect that Boreham is their grandfather, i.e. William Finch married one of Boreham’s daughters, deceased at the time of writing the will. Boreham was a relatively wealthy man, and yet there is no bequest to sons of William in the New World. One possible explanation is that Finch married twice – first circa 1605 with whom he had Daniel (and others?), and second circa 1625 to Thomas Boreham’s daughter with whom he had Grace, Alice and Ann. Note that Finch’s daughters were under age (i.e. <21) when he died, showing they were born after 1625. This would mean that William’s sons by his first marriage were not relations of Thomas Boreham.
FINCH of Cheshunt
Finches also lived in Cheshunt, Herts, about 5 miles SE of Hertford Town. Fortunately, Cheshunt registers exist for the period in question, and are supported with some wills. The earliest member of this family was John Finch whose will was proved in ACM(HE) in 1556. John died whilst his family was still young, and his widow remarried in 1560 Pierce DAY who probably brought the children up. John’s son (also John) died in 1579, and similarly was a young father with small children. His wife, already the widow of John COOK, remarried William HARRIS and had further children. We know the younger John had a son William (c. 1577) and was possibly father to Anthony who, from his freedom from the city of Hertford in 1600, would have been born around 1579. John’s will comments ‘if it shall please God that my wife be with child at the day of my death’ and it may be that Anthony was that child.
Anthony FINCH was made free as ‘Anthony FINCH alias LOWIN’ suggesting he had close links with the Lowin family in Cheshunt. Also in the rental of Hertford in 1611, Anthony FINCH is found sharing a tenement with a John LOWIN. Anthony moved back to Cheshunt around 1612, probably at the time of his marriage to Ann, and his 7 children are baptised there.
Further to Anthony, we have little idea what happened to William FINCH, son of John. He would have been the right age to be the father of Daniel in Hertford, and, if we are correct in making him the brother to Anthony, that William would have had connections to Hertford. What is unclear is the connection that would have had to have existed with Thomas FINCH of Brickendon (d.1626), who we know was godfather to Daniel. The family tree of the Finches of Cheshunt is in Figure 5.
Other baptisms are found in Cheshunt. In 1591, Thomas FINCH son of Nicholas FINCH was baptised at Cheshunt. He is to be found in Figure 1, as a member of the Finches of Hertford, indicating links between Cheshunt and Hertford. Furthermore, in 1638, a John FINCH of All Saints, Hertford, was ordered to be sent to Cheshunt to be provided for, whereas John SMITH of All Saints, father of Margaret, the wife of the said John FINCH shall relieve her and her children. This implies that John FINCH was born in (or at least had been a resident of) Cheshunt. John FINCH and Margaret SMITH were married in All Saints, Hertford on the 29 Sep 1628. Where John FINCH fits into this tree is unclear but it reinforces links between Cheshunt and Hertford.
FINCH of Watford
The Finches of Watford were one the most substantial families in Hertfordshire, rising to become landed gentry in Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Ireland. The first Finch in Watford was William Finch (d. 1534) and the family in Watford can be reliably linked back to him. The genealogy of this family has been published in Cussans and Burke’s landed gentry – I’Anson and the College of Arms also researched this family. Burke suggests that this family derive ultimately from Finch of Redbourn, identifying William (d. 1534 Watford) as the son of John Finch of Flowers, Redbourn (d. 1524). I have not been able to find any evidence to support this suggestion and I do not know where it is sourced. One branch of Finch of Watford established themselves in Redheath House by a marriage with heirs of the Baldwin family, who had held the land previously.
In our period, the Finches of Watford were wealthy artisans. Many subsequently were leather dressers and it may be that this trade was common to earlier ancestors. The tree of Finch of Watford, derived largely from Cussans and the College of Arms, is presented in Figure 6. In the period between 1590 and 1610, there is no evidence for a Daniel or Abraham, although John and William are common names. Importantly, we have sought a William Finch who might be connected to the family of Hertford and correspond to the baptism in Hertford in 1608. No possible candidate has been found at this time. Interestingly, there is a link between Finch and Hertford and Finch of Watford. In 1630, John Finch, previously Mayor of Hertford, died passing his lands to ‘Sir John Finch Attorney of the Queen’s Majesty’, who was a descendant of Finch of Watford. On Figure 6, he is John FINCH (1605-1677). Figure 6 also shows a John born 1580 who might correspond to the Mayor of Hertford. Cussans and the tree in the College of Arms show this John as dying in 1651 with unnamed children. The Mayor of Hertford died in 1630 without family that we can identify, but it is possible both these trees are wrong.
No connections between Finch of Watford and New England have been established.
FINCH of Dunstable
Around 1520, Thomas FINCH of Redbourn purchased land in Dunstable in Bedfordshire and established a branch of the family which subsequently enjoyed much wealth and status. He was derived from Finch of Redbourn, since Thomas Finch of Dunstable appears on Redbourn court rolls in the time of Henry VIII. Wills for Dunstable Finches and their descendants are relatively comprehensive, occurring in the records of the Archdeaconry Court of Bedford and the Archdeaconry Court of Buckingham. The family tree of this family is presented in Figure 6. It is interesting that this family uses the names Daniel, Samuel and John in the period prior to the Winthrop sailing. Baptisms for Daniel appear in 1583 and 1602 in Dunstable parish registers but both of these correspond to infant burials immediately afterwards. From the relatively comprehensive wills, we find no evidence for other Daniels, Johns or Abrahams at the same period, although Daniel was widely used a generation later. A Samuel FINCH did reach adulthood, baptised in Dunstable, the son of Roger Finch in 1608. However, this Samuel is not the emigrant to New England since he witnessed his father’s will in England in 1656. Despite the initial attractiveness of this family, this is not the source of the New England emigrants.
FINCH of East Tilbury and Great Burstead
John Finch, later to be vicar of East Tilbury, matriculated at Pembroke College, Cambridge in the Michaelmas term of 1569. The Alumni record does not give any information of where he came from nor who was his father, but we suspect from his later associations, he was born in Great Burstead. Matriculation took place when a boy was generally between 14 and 16 although some students may have been as old as 18. From this information his date of birth is estimated between 1550 and 1555. There is no record of his graduation, although a candidate for ordination named John Finch is recorded in the Lease books of Westminster Abbey for the year 1572. John Finch was presented to the living of East Tilbury in Norwich diocese, but did not take it immediately. In the Patent Rolls of Elizabeth I number 2502 he is described as a clerk presented to the vicarage on 27 April 1575 a post made vacant by the resignation of the previous vicar. His wife’s name was Ann, but no marriage has yet been found, so her maiden name is unknown.
In August 1573, John was witness to the will of William Raynould of East Tilbury, who is described as a husbandman. In December 1574 a John Finch is mentioned as brother-in-law to John Renolld in his will dated 25 December. John Renolld is of Little Burstead and described as a husbandman. John Finch vicar of East Tilbury is a witness to the will of Alice Thomson widow of East Tilbury, dated 6 December 1578 and similarly he witnessed the will dated 8 May 1581of William Tanner of that parish. John Finch vicar of Tilbury died about October 1583 leaving a will dated 14 October 1583 (in the Consistory Court of London, reference X19/15a f320). In it he wishes to be buried in the churchyard of East Tilbury. He leaves £5 to his daughter Rebecca at age 18 and a little house called Wades to his son Daniel after the death of his wife Ann. Ann was pregnant at the time and John made provision for this child of £2 at age 18 years. Ann was the executrix of this will and John’s good friends John Cumber and Thomas Attwood were the overseers. John’s will identifies that he had a son Daniel and a daughter Rebecca born shortly before 1583.
This Daniel has many attractions as the emigrant to New England. He is within the right age range to have travelled with the Winthrop Fleet, and since his father was a minister, we recognise he came from a religious background. It is most likely this Daniel was able to read. After his father’s death, Daniel received a bequest from one William Barnes of East Tilbury, husbandman, in a will dated 1 October 1590. Barnes leaves his a house, barn and yard in the occupation of John Moore until 1592, to Daniel and Rebecca Finch. This may suggest that William Barnes was their grandfather and thus father of Ann wife of John Finch. Alternatively, she may have been a Renolld since John Finch is described as brother-in-law to John Renolld in his will, equally a sister of John may have married John Renolld. However, it seems certain that the Barnes and Renolld families are linked in some way with John Finch.
John Finch’s widow Ann married John Roger of Stanford le Hope although again no marriage has been found. She and her children Daniel and Rebecca FINCH are mentioned in the will of John Roger dated 12 Jun 1594 and it is possible he brought them up. No other children of John are mentioned so it seems likely that the child she carried at the time of the death of John Finch did not survive. What happened to Rebecca is not known. There is a marriage of a Rebecca Finch to Robert Right at Stisted in 1593 but this parish is closer to Sible Hedingham than Tilbury might not be the same Rebecca.
For Daniel the son of Ann and John Finch we have more information. In 1605 he married Ann Arnold at Corringham, a parish close to East Tilbury. They had a daughter Ann. Ann Arnold died and he married on 28 May 1608 at Stanford le Hope Sarah Henbone of Prittlewell spinster, daughter of John Henbone late of the same parish deceased, by licence of the Commissary Court of London. Daniel is described as a yeoman of Fobbing, a parish close to East Tilbury. Although the marriage licence states that John Henbone her father was deceased, it appears from an equity suit (reference C8/19/31) Finch vs Henbone, that this was not the case. The bill of complaint dated 2 May 1615 tells that Sarah and Daniel FINCH had two daughters Sarah and Mary both aged 7 in 1615. The baptism of Sarah Finch has been found in the parish registers of Fobbing dated 30 April 1609 but no baptism has been found for Mary. This may suggest that Sarah and Daniel moved between the birth of one child and the other. Sarah Finch née Henbone was dead by 1615. She was also sister and heir to her brother John late of Shopland in Essex, a yeoman who was also dead by 1615. He had lands in Great Burstead called Champness, Sawpitts and Singer Grove. John Henbone wished to make Sarah Finch’s children Sarah and Mary his heirs as he had no children of his own. His father John Henbone, also therefore father of Sarah Finch nee Henbone, was still alive after the marriage of Sarah and John Finch. It would appear that Sarah and her brother John Henbone were alienated from their father since their father tried to trick his son into leaving the lands in Great Burstead to him. It seems quite probable that the marriage between Daniel Finch and Sarah Henbone took place without the consent of Sarah’s father, especially given later hostility between the two families. Daniel Finch took the Henbone family to court to try and settle the lands in Great Burstead on his and Sarah’s children Sarah and Mary. John Henbone the father was still alive in 1615 and answers Daniel’s complaint saying that Robert Henbone is now his son and heir and that he John Henbone senior (father of Sarah, John and Robert) bought the land with the help of William Freeman about 1 Jan 1607 and that it should be passed to Robert. Daniel FINCH at the time still occupied the land but John Henbone argued that occupation was illegal and requested that he should be evicted.
In the registers of Great Burstead are found further children of Daniel Finch. On 27 Jan 1610/1 a baptism for Rebecca daughter of Daniel is found. There is no burial for this Rebecca. Other children are: Joan (c. 18 Dec 1614), Daniel (c. 25 Jul 1617), Rebecca (c. 22 Aug 1621) and finally Charles (c. 24 Nov 1624). It appears from these entries that Daniel had married again to someone called Ellen who was buried on 18 Apr 1625. Daniel marries a fourth time to Joan Allin on 5 Sep 1636. Finally Daniel is buried on 14 Aug 1640 leaving a will. It appears that Daniel moved with his family to Great Burstead where he lived out his life.
In the Calendar of Essex County Sessions Records 1611-1624, reference Q/SR 212/139 dated 11 Jan 1616 Daniel was a witness for the King’s court in the case between Beatrice Haye alias Brook and John Potter. In this document Daniel is described as victualler of Billericay. There appear to be no registers, indeed there seems not to have been a parish of Billericay, which lies fairly close to Great Burstead so no confirmation of this area of residence can be shown.
The will of Daniel Finch of Great Burstead is now held at Essex Record Office (Ref D/AB/W56/227). It is dated 15 Apr 1640 and describes Daniel as a victualler. He leaves his eldest son Daniel £4, his son Charles £2, his daughters Ann £3.6.8d, Sarah 10/-, Mary 10/-, Joan £10 and Rebecca £10. His wife Joan is executrix and his kinsman John Finch is overseer. The witnesses are John Finch and John Foster, neither of whom could write. Daniel Finch signs his will (showing he was educated), which was proved on 5 May 1640. Curiously he leaves no land to his children. We know that he owned several portions of land during his lifetime, which he may have sold. If we are correct to identify Daniel son of John of East Tilbury with Daniel of Great Burstead, then the will shows conclusively that this Daniel was not the emigrant to America. Also, since Daniel Finch son of Daniel was baptised in 1617, this is also unlikely to be the emigrant since he would have only been 13 at the time of the sailing, and the will of Daniel in 1640 makes no mention of his sons being ‘beyond the seas’.
Daniel’s kinsman John Finch is probably the person whose will is dated 9 Nov 1649. This John is described as a yeoman of Great Burstead. He has an eldest son named Henry who receives money, a son Thomas who inherits land and a tenement called Lodgeland covering about 15 acres in the manor of Cambridge and 2 parcels of freehold land called Newland and Stockash Meade. There is a son John and daughters Alice, Elizabeth (who is married to Samuel Andrews) and Mary his late daughter (who was married to Jonathan Carpenter). There are also grandchildren from this marriage, Jonathan, Samuel and Marie Carpenter. John Wohner who was overseer was also a kinsman. The parish registers of Great Burstead indicate that there were several other Finch families in the area. The senior name seems to be Simon Finch who was producing children between at least 1596 and 1631 when he appears to have died. There are also two Thomas Finch’s producing children between 1631 and 1653, a Henry Finch between 1642 and 1654 and Charles producing children in 1649. However there is no mention of another Daniel Finch who we know was alive in 1640.
As a curiosity there is mention in the Calendar of Assize Records for Essex Indictments during the reign of Elizabeth I item 1336 amongst other entries, for 23 Apr 1582 at Great Burstead one Agnes Bryant or Bryan was accused of bewitching Daniel Finch so that he died on 5 May 1581. This shows that there was a Daniel living in Great Burstead in the 1580’s. Could this Daniel have been the father of John Finch vicar of Tilbury? It might explain why John Finch named his first son Daniel.
FINCH of Sible Hedingham
Analysis of the wills from Essex shows that there was a will of Abraham Finch of Sible Hedingham proved in 1623. This is the only Abraham Finch will prior to the Winthrop sailing we have been able to identify.
Abraham Finch of Sible Hedingham was baptised in 1590 and died in 1623. From his will dated 22 Nov 1623 held at the Essex Record Office at Chelmsford (Ref: D/ABW 45/171), we learn that his wife was named Ann and that he had a son John, a son Abraham (who was baptised in 1618 in Sible Hedingham) and a daughter Ann (baptised in the same parish in 1623). Abraham left the house called Peppers Wood to his two sons at the age of 21 years. The supervisor of the will was Robert Harrington of Sible Hedingham and also named are William Bellio alias Bust and Ambrose Brayge. The witnesses were Robert Harrington, William End and Edward Plebie.
Abraham born in 1590 was the son of George Finch of Sible Hedingham and had several sisters and brothers who all lived in the area. One sister was Mary who married one Francis Belleo on 1 Jul 1613. His brother Joseph who was a yeoman was married to Susan Bredg in 1613 and had two children, Joseph baptised in 1614 who died in 1625 and Edward who outlived his father. In Joseph’s will dated 10 Aug 1615 (ERO Chelmsford Ref: D/AB/W47/173), he mentions sons of his brothers Francis, William and Abraham. This shows that either John or Abraham, the sons of Abraham were still alive when the will was proved on 24 Sep 1625. The witnesses to this will were Francis Harris and Edmond Harrington. Joseph could not write.
Another of Abraham’s brothers, William was baptised in 1572 and died in 1633. He left a will wherein he is described as yeoman of Sible Hedingham. The document (ERO Chelmsford Ref: D/AB/W52/3) is dated 11 Jun 1633. William wished to be buried in the church of Sible Hedingham, and left to his wife Ann land called Bagges, Broomfield and Little Godwards. He had a son George and living children called Ann who inherited land called Hall and pasture land containing 6 acres, daughters Susan, Mary, Joan, Elizabeth and Rose and another son called John. The witnesses to this will were Edmund Harrington, William Butcher and Francis Bust alias Belleo who had married William’s sister Mary.
The parish registers of Sible Hedingham for the period after 1625 fail to show the fate of Abraham’s son Abraham (b. 1618). He and his brother John jointly received Peppers Woods from their father. This land is described in a rental of Sible Hedingham in 1592 (ERO Ref: D/DML M2) as:
“Peppers Wood lyeth between ye lands of Peppers Farm on ye east and a wood of the Demeanic lands of Great Yeldham called Rainspik land in part and land of John Wentworth & lyth parsel of his farm called Backen in ye parish of Wethersfield in part and ye Mannor of Old Hall in Wethersfield in part on the west on land therof abutells upon ye said lands of Peppers towards ye north ye other land upon ye lands of John Parker parsel of his farm called Lissen Hall”.
Despite our searches, we have been unable to trace court rolls for Peppers manor that cover the period of interest, so it has not been possible to trace the passage of Peppers Woods through Abraham’s hands. A later deed, however, shows that Peppers Woods was in the hands of a George FINCH in 1662. This George may be the son of William (see above). If Abraham and John died, their burials are not recorded in Sible Hedingham. It seems more likely that they sold the land and moved away. These two brothers appear attractive candidates for the emigrants to America. An Abraham and John FINCH associated in New England closely, consistent with them being brothers. However, we cannot find a candidate for Daniel in Sible Hedingham, a close ally to both in New England. Also problematic are the ages of these men. In 1630, at the departure of the fleet, Abraham would have been just 12, and John probably a few years older, say 15. Studies of the New England Finches have led some to suggest that John Finch was already married before he set sail, possible bringing a son John with him. Clearly John Finch of Sible Hedingham is too young to be the same man. Also, we know from the New England records that Abraham married in 1634 Dorothy Moulton, at which time Abraham of Sible Hedingham would have been just 16 years old. Is that too young for such a marriage? An Amerindian Nepaupuck killed Abraham Finch of New England in 1637. If this were indeed our man, he would have had an eventful but very short life, being married at 16, and dead by 19. Although we cannot rule this candidate out, I suspect Abraham of Sible Hedingham is marginally too young to be the emigrant to America.
FINCH of Sproughton, Suffolk
A single will of a Daniel FINCH of Sproughton, Suffolk in May 1611 is preserved at the Suffolk records office. This short nuncupative will leaves all estate to the children of Edith SMITH and mentions no relatives. We have been unable to trace this individual further, but it appears he had no close family living in 1611.
Summary to Date
Although we have covered many documents and followed several leads, we are frustratingly no closer to understanding the origins of the New England Finches. Daniel FINCH of Hertford born 1608 is a possible candidate, as is our only other candidate for Abraham, born 1618 in Sible Hedingham. Daniel of Hertford is difficult to trace, although he seems likely to be descended from Finch of Hertford. There is a tenuous link between Sible Hedingham and Hertford. John GRAVE (?-1644), son-in-law of Thomas FINCH of Hertford (1552-1626) and emigrant to New England, may well be related to Ann GRAVE of St Botolph’s Aldgate, London who in a will mentions sons George and John GRAVE of New England in 1675. Ann GRAVE had lands in Sible Hedingham. Importantly, we have no firm references to the Finches of America in documents in England – the key link that would prove their origins once and for all. The search continues.
Where to go now
We have exhausted all obvious leads, and so we reluctantly feel the only way forward is via systematic trawling of wills, equity suits and parish registers not on the IGI in the period 1575-1675, looking for suitable references. This is clearly an onerous task. Alternatively, we might look more closely at families that associated with the Finches in New England, and try to trace them back in England. We feel it highly likely that the Finches travelled with relatives or close friends that may be easier to trace and provide us with the breakthrough we need.