(image above of the Collegiate Church, Manchester, 1820 – now Manchester Cathedral)
I am VERY excited about this! Perhaps more than I should be, but this helps to hammer the last nail on the coffin of a century old contentious mystery over the origin of Isaac Sheldon (1629-1708) of Northampton, Massachusetts, and the assumption of many that he was the son of Ralph Sheldon and Barbara Stone of Derbyshire, England. You may want to read my last blog post on the subject for part of the puzzle: English Origins – Best Guess?
For this post we need to go back to 1926. Prior to that time it was generally agreed that Isaac (born c1629) was the son of an earlier Isaac of Windsor, Connecticut who had arrived as part of the Dorchester Company before moving onto Windsor, and a brother of a John Sheldon in Rhode Island. These stories had been passed down through various lines and many generations of Isaac’s descendants. Some stories also included a third brother, William. However, there was disagreement over the validity of the original land record in Windsor in 1641 for the earlier Isaac, due to an assumption that all of the land listed on the page was from a single point in time rather than a series of purchases over time. They were also unsure which of the two John Sheldon’s in Rhode Island – either John of Providence or John of Kingstown – was the brother. These questions prompted Frank Merritt Sheldon (1865-1935) of Newton, Massachusetts to hire a professional genealogist, J. Gardner Bartlett of Boston in about 1919. Bartlett was an impressive researcher, he conducted extensive work in England for the Sheldon’s of Derby through 1920/21 and published his findings in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register in Oct 1926. His findings were convincing, and while not solidly conclusive, he did come to the conclusion that Isaac Sheldon of Northampton (born c1629), was the same as the Isaac Sheldon, listed as the son of Ralph Sheldon in the will of his grandfather Arthur Sheldon of Ashford, Derbyshire (died 1651). His primary reason for coming to this conclusion was that the name Isaac was extremely uncommon and the general timeframe seemed to line up. He also noted that Ralph had received permission to travel “beyond the seas” – although no record of a Ralph has ever been found in the colonies, and that he could not find a record of Isaac later – specifically in the 1663 hearth tax for Derbyshire where Isaac’s brothers, Solomon and Samuel, could be found. BUT, that only accounted for Derbyshire, not the rest of England. Bartlett stated “his grandfather’s will is the only record of him that has been found in England”. This statement was true for over a century, until now.
This morning Kelly was doing one of her wonderful random searches, and she found the golden ticket and sent me a copy. It is pictured here with my transcription.
Transcription: “Isaac Sheldon of Manchester, sadler, sonne of Raphe Sheldon late of Sheldon in the county of Derby, Gen’t, and Mary Venables of Selford, daughter of William Venables of the same, chapman, were married at Manchester, the seventh day of Aprill, 1656 before Richard Haworth, Esq. one of the Justis of Peace in this County of Lancashire.”
First, let’s just appreciate the beautiful fact that this clearly demonstrates that the Isaac Sheldon, son of Ralph Sheldon of Derbyshire, was still in England and getting married in Manchester, England in 1656 – while our Isaac Sheldon was indisputably in Windsor, Connecticut in 1652 (see early blog referenced above).
For some, this might STILL not be enough proof. After all, playing devil’s advocate, there are several examples of people travelling back and forth between the colonies and England. So perhaps Isaac had been in Windsor in 1652, went back to England to get married in 1656 (even though we believe he was already married to Mary Woodford by that time), and returned to Connecticut and moved on to Northampton? Perhaps Mary Venables was later confused with Mary Woodford somehow? So we needed to look further, and we found more. While Isaac Sheldon and Mary Woodford were busy having 13 children in Northampton, Massachusetts – Isaac Sheldon and Mary Venables were busy having 8 other children in Manchester, England. They were as follows:
- Isaac, baptized 10 Jun 1655
- Esther, baptized 18 Aug 1657
- Samuel, baptized 10 Aug 1659 (buried the same day his sister Sarah was baptized, 8 Feb 1666, age 6)
- Martha, baptized 23 Feb 1661
- Mary, baptized 16 Oct 1664
- Sarah, baptized 8 Feb 1666
- Joseph, baptized 6 Dec 1668
- Hannah, baptized 16 Jul 1671
We also found a burial record for Isaac Sheldon at the Collegiate Church (pictured above) in Manchester on 27 Apr 1672, and Mary Sheldon, “widow”, was buried at the same church on 21 Jul 1677. This was also the same church where their son Samuel was buried in 1666. Meanwhile, back in Northampton, Isaac Sheldon and Mary Woodford had already had 9 children during the same period and were still having additional children – Eleazer (1672), Samuel (1675), Ebenezer (1677), and Mercy (1681). Mary Woodford died 17 Apr 1684 in Northampton and Isaac remarried to Mehetable Gunn (after her famous divorce from David Ensign), and a final child was born, Jonathan (1687). Isaac died 27 Jul 1708 in Northampton.
So it is now beyond doubt that the Isaac Sheldon, son of Ralph Sheldon of Derbyshire, had a completely separate family in Manchester and died in 1672 – and was NOT the Isaac in Northampton, Massachusetts who had 14 children between two wives and died 1708. It is really beautiful when the records lay out a clear picture. I hope this finally puts that question to rest without any doubt.