Edward Spalding’s Wives

See update here.

. . . .

An enduring genealogical source for the Spalding/Spaulding family is the Spalding memorial (1872). It provides numerous verifiable facts while it assumes too many not in evidence.

For example, the memorial’s author presumes that Edward Spalding arrived in the Massachusetts Colony sometime between 1630 and 1633, based on Edward’s first recorded appearance in Braintree. While this is true–that he is first found in New England at this time–it is neither when nor where he first appeared in the New World.

It is known, however, that Edward Spalding arrived April 19, 1619, in Virginia aboard the ship Gift with Sir George Yeardley, the governor and captain general of the Colony of Virginia. It is probable that his brother, Edmund, came to Virginia at the same time.

It is known that on February 16, 1623, via documentary evidence in Virginia Colonial Records, four members of Edward Spalding’s family are found in the “Lists of the Living and the Dead in Virginia” then living at James Citie subsequent to the March 22, 1622, James Citie Indian massacre. They are Edward Spalding, Ux. Spalding (his wife), Puera Spalding (his son) and, Puella Spalding (his daughter). Edmund Spalding, presumed Edward’s brother, who lived unmarried at Elizabeth Citie, also survived. The List of Dead following the massacre does not mention any Spalding family members.

It is unknown exactly when Edward Spalding relocated his family to Braintree, Massachusetts. The first census taken in the New World was the census of Virginia taken in February 1624. Neither Edward nor Edmund Spalding were enumerated. However, their names are found on a list for Virginia Pioneers dated 1624; Edward Spalding was at James City County and Edmund Spalden at Elizabeth City County. We can only speculate that they both left Virginia some time between 1624 and 1630; Edward and his family went to the Massachusetts Bay Colony while Edmund presumably joined Lord Baltimore’s Maryland Colony.

It is unknown when Edward Spalding and the wife of his two children in James Citie were married. He did not arrive in Virginia until spring 1619. By February 1623, when the list of the massacre was compiled, Edward and his wife had two children and no children born to them had been killed. These two, then, if their parents were married after April 1619, were likely born between the end of 1620 and February 1623. If we assume that both “living” children survived the massacre, and not born afterwards, then they were both born between the end of 1620 and February 1622.

Nothing is known about events between 1623 or 1624 and when the Spalding family appears in Braintree about 1640. Edward’s wife, Margaret Spalding, presumed born as Margaret Elyot, died August 10, 1640, at Braintree. Edward and Margaret’s daughter, Grace, perhaps born about 1637, also died at Braintree, in May 1641.

However, here’s where speculation enters the game: Edward and Margaret are presumed to have married in 1631 in Massachusetts. Their son John was born about 1633 and son Edward in 1635 in Braintree or Chelmsford.

These dates come from the 1656/7 town records of the new town of Chelmsford. Resident Brother Spalding’s children included

John abt 23 y old [b. abt 1633]
Edward abt 21 y old [b. abt 1635]
Benjamin 14y old on 4 of 2nd 56 [b. abt 1642]
Joseph 10 y old on 25 of 8 56 [b. abt 1646]
Dinah 7 y old on 14 of 1 56 [b. abt 1649]
Andrew 4 y old on 19 of 9 56 [b. abt. 1652]

What happened to Edward’s first wife, the mother of his two children, all of whom survived the March 22, 1622, James Citie massacre? It would appear that all three perished after the February 1623 accounting of the living and the dead. There are unsubstantiated rumors that they removed to Bermuda or the “Summer Islands” and no indications that they accompanied Edward to the Plymouth Colony.

Then we have the matter of wife number 3, the mother of Edward’s last four children, about whom there is much speculation.

The unproven claim is that she was Rachel Needham. While the Sprague Project identifies her as Rachel Alger of Needham (1610-1685), no records for this Rachel Alger have been found.

Let’s follow some pretzel logic to see if there is any case for Rachel being Rachel Needham.

John Needham was born between 1639 and 1643 in Billerica, and died January 14, 1689/90 in Boston. His marriages were, first, in 1669, to Hannah Saville, daughter of William Savil and Hannah Tydd; second, in 1679, to Elizabeth Hicks, the daughter of Zechariah Hicks and Elizabeth Sills (Scill, Skill).

John may have been the son of John Needham, born about 1619, died unknown. He may also, however, have been the son of Thomas Needham, of Derbyshire, whose brothers were William and Andrew. William Needham married Hannah Tidd (Tydd).

All of this is easily verifiable.

William Needham made his will June 10th and died December 26, 1690. Bequests were made to William and John Needham, children of his deceased brother John of Boston; his brother Andrew Needham, a tailor living in London; his son Thomas; to a Boston church; to Samuel Willard, a teacher; to Joseph Thompson Sr., of Billerica — and to “Edward Spaulding.”

This bequest ties a Needham to a Spalding. As Edward Spalding Sr. died in 1669, and Rachel Spalding died in 1670, this bequest could have been to their son Edward.

This raises the possibility, then, that Rachel may have been a sister to William, John, and Andrew Needham.

This entry was posted in Great Migration, Immigrant Ancestor, Needham, Spalding and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Edward Spalding’s Wives

  1. Susan Tait Porcaro says:

    From what I’ve read by Robert Charles Anderson, he does not believe the Edward in Virginia and Edward in Braintree are the same person. It would be great if we had hard proof he was.


  2. Brenda J. Elliott says:

    Please see my updated post about the Virginia and Massachusetts settlers.


  3. Michael Hogan says:

    Hello, I am also trying to untangle (or tie together) the various threads associated with Edward of Braintree & Chelmsford. (Edward is my 10th great grandfather.) I struggle with the assumption made here and in the Spalding Memorial that the Edward Spalding enumerated in the Virginia census of 1623 with a wife & 2 children was the same Edward Spalding in Braintree years later. Edward Spalding would not have been an uncommon name among the English of that time. The apparent fact that Edward of Braintree’s youngest recorded child is John from Margaret in 1633 is difficult to square with the idea that he’s the Edward Spalding who had a wife and 2 children in 1623. Not only would those 2 children have to have died but he would have either had to have no children between 1623 and 1633 or had children during that time who also died. This is all possible – it’s possible he had a wife before Margaret who died sometime after 1623 along with their 2 children (and perhaps others), and that he did not re-marry until Margaret sometime around 1631. But it’s far more plausible to conclude that in fact they were two different Edward Spaldings. It’s also noteworthy that no authoritative genealogical source of which I’m aware has corroborated the claims found in the Spalding Memorial. Until evidence is presented that proves otherwise I will observe the precautionary principle and assume that they were two different Edward Spaldings. It’s even possible the Edward Spalding of Braintree was the boy in the Virginia household in 1623, that is, that Edward Spalding of Virginia was the father of the Edward Spalding of Braintree. If not, it’s possible they were related in some other way, since as we’ve seen from the Massachusetts Spaldings the name Edward was pretty popular in the family. But these are all nothing more than intriguing possibilities, as is the idea that Edward of Virginia and Edward of Braintree are one and the same person.


    Michael Hogan


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