TUSLE: Heald

It’s time for TUSLE #3 (a.k.a. tying up some loose ends).

One claim repeatedly found, even among reputable sources, is that the immigrant John Heald, an early settler in Concord, Massachusetts, came to New England about 1640 from Berwick-upon-Tweed, where he was allegedly christened about 1615.

Berwick-upon-Tweed is in the county of Northumberland and is the northernmost town in England. It is located a mere two-and-one-half miles south of the Scottish border at the mouth of the River Tweed on the east coast.

According to Heald family tradition, John Heald’s wife, Dorothy Royle, was born about 1615 in Alderley in Cheshire county. Alderley is located south of Manchester and to the west of what is now called the Peak District.

It is possible the daughter of John Royle was the Dorothie christened May 25, 1606, in Mobberley. It is likewise possible she was the Dorothea Royle, daughter of Thomas, who was christened January 1, 1615, in Sandbach, Cheshire. Sanbach is less than fourteen miles from Alderley.

The suggestion that John and Dorothy met and married in New England is disproved by fact. They wed in Cheshire county.

Parish registers show John (Johannes) Heald and Dorothy (Dorothea) Royle married December 3, 1636, in Alderley.

John and Dorothy’s first child, John Heald—transcribed as “Hebareo Heald” in one parish record—was christened March 19, 1637, in Alderley. The father is named as Johannes Heald, the mother as Dorothei. A second report of the christening is recorded as Johannes Heald, son of Johannes Heald and Dorothie.

The Alderley, Cheshire connection is strong. The most likely explanation is that John Heald came from Cheshire county, not from faraway Northumberland.

There were three John Healdes christened around the appropriate time in Mobberley. The Diocese of Chester parish registers show the christening for John Helde, son of James Helde, as June 9, 1611. A second John, the son of a James Healde, was christened February 11, 1615. A third John, the son of William Healde, took place September 29, 1617.

The earliest date, in 1611, seems the most likely. However, while also registered in the town of Mobberley, the slight difference in the spelling of the surname—Helde and not Healde—suggests that these were two different branches of the same family tree. This is a not an uncommonly found phenomenon. All non-conforming spellings are not due to error or ignorance.

Also, the birth of a second John, also the son of a James, presents the possibility that John 1611 died prior to the birth of John 1615, if James Helde/Healde is the common father. The second John Healde would also have been of age in 1636.

The circumstantial evidence for Mobberley as the home town for both John and Dorothy is strengthened by the fact that Mobberley in Cheshire is only a little more than five miles’ distant from Alderley.

It is therefore fairly safe to say that John Heald, like his wife, came from Cheshire county. The identity of his parents is in question but the home of his birth is no longer—and it is not Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland.

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