Isaac (5) & John (13) Sheldon: Were they brothers?

Isaac (5) & John (13) Sheldon: Were they brothers?


When I joined the SHELDON DNA project back in 2014 I quickly realized that rather than 5 DNA lines (one for each of the progenitors) we had only 2. Isaac (5) of Windsor Connecticut AND John (13) of Newport and later Kingstown, Rhode Island were closely related. We did not know if they were cousins or brothers or something else. The past couple of years Dale SHELDON and I have speculated that they were brothers. The estimated birth date for Isaac (5)’s birth is 1629 and for John (13) 1630. A few months back I plotted this route to see the feasibility of John traveling from Windsor to Newport.

Windsor to Newport Map

Possible route by water from Windsor to Newport

Back in the 17th century it was much easier to travel by sea or water way than it was to travel overland. The trip down the Connecticut River from Windsor to the Atlantic Ocean is about 45 nautical miles and I am guesstimating that might have taken about 8-9 hours. It is about 58 1/2 nautical miles from Old Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River to Newport Rhode Island at 7 knots would take about 8 1/2 hours.  So it would be a two day journey by ship if one did not travel at night perhaps spending the night in Saybrook. This seems quite reasonable.

New Find

As our blog post Isaac Sheldon is not from Derbyshire shows Isaac (5) also known as Isaac Jr was the son of Isaac Sr.(1). We know very little about Isaac (1) but we estimate he was born before 1610. Some sources have him born 1596 in England. If Isaac (5) Jr was the eldest child and thus destined to inherit the majority of his father’s estate perhaps son John (13) set out to Newport, Rhode Island in search of other opportunities. Or perhaps he stayed back in England and emigrated later. In any event this has been our working theory for some time, but other than DNA evidence there was not much to confirm it. Then today while searching for more information on Isaac’s connection to the Rev Ephraim Hewitt I stumbled across a letter written in 1841? (paper torn away) by Samuel SHELDON of Suffield. This Samuel was born 10 Mar 1766 in Suffield, Connecticut and his line would be Isaac 1, Isaac 2, Thomas 3, Thomas 4, Simeon 5, Samuel 6.  I am not sure who the intended recipient was, but the letter as a whole is full of great genealogical information.

I found it in the Connecticut State Library’s Digital Archive.  When I read it I practically fell out of my chair. E. Hortense SHELDON in her Sheldons before 1700 doesn’t mention this Letter and she spent some time at the State Archives. This is from what looks like a series of Genealogy file folders, which in some cases are no more than single bits of paper. According to the state archives “Manuscript items originally filed in the History & Genealogy Reading Room but transferred to the Archives between 1990 and 1994, arranged alphabetically by family name.” Some of the records have accession cards which note the date but this one does not. The earliest accession card I noted was 1937 so I would suspect this was donated before that. What I think is they were probably in a file drawer and seldom accessed. Now that they are digitized I was able to find them. Mind you I didn’t find them through using a Search function. I found them by going to a category and then going by hand to the “S’s” (many pages of them). Remember the days of flipping through library card catalog? Takes more time but you often stumble across things you would otherwise have missed.

Excerpt Samuel Sheldon letter

Excerpt from 1841 letter of Samuel Sheldon Courtesy of the Connecticut Digital Archives

Here is the transcription of this key part of the letter:

Isaac Sheldon the son of the second Isaac settled in Hartford.

it is handed Down by tradition that this

Isaac Sheldon that first settled at Northampton

was Brother to the first Sheldon that emigrated

from England and settled in Rhode Island.

So let’s break this down the first “Isaac that settled at Northampton” is Isaac (5) so his father was Isaac (1). Isaac (5) “was brother to the first Sheldon that emigrated from England and settled in Rhode Island.” We know of two early SHELDENs in Rhode Island: John (8) and John (13). We have YDNA tested as follows:

  • 20 John (13) descendants
  • 13 John (8) descendants
  • 21 Isaac (5) descendants

All twenty of the John (13) descendants are a perfect or near -perfect match for the twenty-one Isaac (5) descendants. None of the John (8) descendants is a match at all. It is safe to conclude that the brother of Isaac (5) mentioned above is John (13) of Kingstown, Rhode Island! The way the above entry was written it is not clear whether Isaac’s brother came with him to Connecticut or emigrated separately to Rhode Island.

Let’s take a closer look at what we can piece together about Isaac Sr. (1) and the date of immigration. For this I am drawing heavily upon E. Hortense Sheldon’s research which is second to none. She pulls together 26 quotes from an abundance of sources. The earliest one from John Farmer’s 1829 The Genealogical Register of the first settlers if New England:

The next source is from the Historical Collections…of Every Town in Connecticut by John Warner Barber c 1836 where we find Isaac SHELDEN in the fourth column.

Chronologically next is the letter written in 1841? by Samuel Sheldon I found in the Connecticut State Archives, followed by History of the Town of Dorchester which was published in 1859 by the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society. This book has a very small entry about Isaac:

There are a couple of things interesting about this entry. First is the spelling of SHELDEN with an “e” which is consistent with how John (13) and his son John Jr ‘s names are consistently spelled in the Kingstown records. Also is the likelihood that this entry pulls off the earlier one from Farmer’s book. I remain skeptical of whether Isaac was ever in Dorchester before coming to Windsor. He is variously put in one of two different groups. Those that came to Dorchester and were with Rev John Wareham and thence to Windsor in 1635 and those that came with Rev. Ephraim HEWITT directly to Windsor in 1639. In the book “Col. Joshua Porter, M.D., of Salisbury, Litchfield county, Conn., with some account of the families into which they married” we get an interesting list. Some of those in the second list Are likely to have either come with Rev. HEWITT or followed him shortly thereafter as they are from parishes in and around Wroxall, Warwickshire (ie GRISWOLD, TILTON and WHITEFIELD).


Of the more than twenty books, volumes and manuscripts that E. Hortense SHELDON pulled her quotes from there are many obvious errors. There are conflations of the various families like the mixing up of John (8) of Providence with John (13) of nearby Kingstown, Rhode Island.

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does the truth become error because nobody will see it.” Mahatma Gandhi Young India 1924-1926

I have always loved this quote and in genealogical research we see how errors propagate and often take on a life of their own. Of the 24 quotes there are a couple I want to draw attention to beyond the ones above. These two are from the “notorious” for errors Joel Munsell’s “American Ancestry”.

And the second one published a few years later

In the last one the assertion that Isaac SHELDON (1) came from Weymouth is not unreasonable particularly if he was at Dorchester first as this is the path of the Rev John Wareham and many others. But if Isaac was placed in the wrong group then this may be incorrect. More research on this is needed.

However this newly discovered letter along with the DNA evidence and 7 mentions collected by E. Hortense agree that Isaac (5) and John (13) are indeed brothers. I am going with that until new evidence comes along to prove otherwise. There is a long discussion in E. Hortenes’s book about whether there was an Isaac (1). She proved to me that there was one. The following excerpt from the History of Deerfield by George SHELDON published in 1895 is particularly interesting.

This is another perfect example of the controversies that surround Isaac (1). This one has him coming with Rev. WAREHAM, but I tend to believe this is incorrect and that his association is with the group from Warwickshire that accompanied Rev. HEWITT. Maybe like the letter on which this post is based—we will discover some new information that will shed more light on the truth.


Please note that the Rev. Henry Olcott Sheldon who wrote the Sheldon magazine was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on 15 September 1799 and was descended from John (8) of Providence, Rhode Island.  Whereas Samuel Sheldon of this letter was born 10 Mar 1766 in Suffield. So Samuel was at least one generation closer to the information and of the Isaac (1) & (5) line.

PKelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved

By |2022-01-26T11:54:27-05:00January 25, 2022|Genealogy|1 Comment

About the Author:

50 years of Genealogical Research experience and 11 years with DNA & Genetic Genealogy. Author of and the Beginner's Guide to Genetic Genealogy. Enjoys writing, genealogy related travel, research, "gophering" for genealogy, gardening, photography and being a grandma.

One Comment

  1. […] If we look closer we can see that some members of Group B1 (Isaac) and Group B2 (John) have identical YSTR markers. They share the same BY35166 and other non-DNA evidence suggests that John of Kingstown is likely the son of Isaac of Windsor—thus brother to Isaac Jr of Windsor. You can read more about that here. […]

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