#52Ancestors: Where There’s a Will There are Valuable Clues

The ninth of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompts is Where There’s a Will.

A will, like any other public record, can be flawed and filled with misinformation or unfortunate misdirects. However, a will can be the source of valuable clues which, when followed, lead to incredible family history finds.

William Godfrey, my tenth great grandfather, was born about 1605 in Norfolk, England. After “several years” in Watertown, Massachusetts, where he was made freeman in 1640, he settled in Hampton, New Hampshire. He purchased land in Hampton in May 1648 and in May 1649, when he is said to still have been of Watertown. In 1654 he was selectman in Hampton, one of the few public offices he held there, and became a deacon of the Hampton church by 1660. William died in Hampton March 25, 1671.

The 1988 article, “Early Settlers of Hampton, New Hampshire” (NEHGR 142:267), states that William’s wife, a widow, brought her son, Thomas Webster, with them when they emigrated in 1638 to New England.

In his history of the town of Hampton, Joseph Dow speculates that William had probably married, about 1635, Margery (Margaret), the widow of Thomas Webster, who was buried April 30, 1634, in Ormesby, Norfolk, England.

An earlier article (NEHGR 9:159) on the Webster family reports that “from records at Salem [Massachusetts], it appear[s] that he [Thomas Webster] was a son-in-law of the said William Godfrey.”

The record to which the article refers is most likely the October 2, 1667, will of William Godfrey in which he refers to “my sone in law webester.” It is not infrequent at this time that the term son-in-law might refer to a stepson or even a brother.

With these clues at hand, the search for Margaret (or Margery), widow of a Thomas Webster Sr., who was buried in April 1634 in Ormesby, Norfolk, and mother of Thomas Webster Jr., who was most likely born in Ormesby, begins, especially in hopes of identifying Margaret/Margery’s surname.

1 nick

St Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England c1848

First of all, however, we have the baptismal date for William Godfrey — March 31, 1605, in Great Yarmouth, at St Nicholas with St Peter, St John, St Andrew, St James, St Paul & St Luke — son of William and Cicelye/Cicily/Cysseley ___ Godfrie. The date of William’s first marriage about 1632 to his first wife, said to have been Sarah, was not found. Also, baptismal information for their son, John, who came to New England with his father, has not been located.

Thomas Webster and Margaret Massy were married November 29, 1629, in Holt Parish, Norwich, Norfolk, England. Thomas Webster, baptized November 11, 1582, in Filby, Norfolk, was buried April 30, 1634, at Ormesby. He was the son of Bartram Webster (buried July 11, 1608, in Filby) and Agnes (___) Webster (buried May 17, 1608, in Filby).

Thomas and Margaret Webster had three children born to them and baptized in Ormesby: Thomas, baptized November 20, 1631; John, baptized September 22, 1633, buried November 1, 1633; and Thomas, baptized August 1, 1634, buried August 3, 1634. There is no question that these children were all sons of Thomas Webster the elder, as each burial says son of Thomas. The burial for Thomas the father, April 30, 1634, has no such identification. (See “Webster Family” in NEHGR.)

Although it appears unusual for a son to be named after a father while there is yet a living son bearing the same name, the “Webster Family” article suggests it was an homage by Margaret to her late husband.

William Godfrey and Margaret (Massy) Webster did not marry until after Thomas Webster’s burial in April 1634. There is no indication that they had any children prior to their arrival in New England around 1638.

This leaves us with some known knowns and some known unknowns.

. We have about a four-year gap following Thomas Webster’s burial and Margaret (Massy) Webster’s remarriage. As we do not know when William Godfrey’s first wife, Sarah, died, it is, therefore, quite possible that they did not marry until sometime just before departing England in 1638 — with two small children in tow.

. In fact, as there is no English marriage record available — and no ship’s manifest to show when exactly they came to New England — there is no proof when William Godfrey and Margaret (Massy) Webster married.

. The first child born in New England to William and Margaret was Isaac. His birth, April 15, 1639, is recorded in early Boston records. The birth of his sister, Sarah, May 15, 1642, in Boston, is likewise recorded. The third and youngest Godfrey child, Deborah, was most likely born in Hampton, as her name does not appear in Boston records.

. Margaret, widow of Thomas Webster and second wife of William Godfrey, was Margaret Massy. No further information prior to her appearing as the mother of three children born in New England, and of record as the wife of William Godfrey, is known.

. Following the passing of William Godfrey, Margaret (Massy)(Webster) Godfrey married for a third time, on September 14, 1671, very soon after the passing of William on March 25th.

Margaret’s third husband, John Marrian/Marion, and his first wife, Sarah, are my husband’s ninth great grandparents.

. There were two John Marrians found in Watertown and Boston. The first remained in Massachusetts and died in Boston; the second removed to Hampton by 1645, where he married the widow Godfrey.

. Isaac Godfrey, William and Margaret’s son, married Hannah Marrian/Marion, daughter of John Marrian/Marion and his first wife Sarah.

. Without the invaluable databases of English parish records found at FamilySearch, FindMyPast, and TheGenealogist, and research published in the NEHGR, piecing together the documentation for the Webster-Massy-Godfrey families would be nearly impossible. It is only in Norfolk Marriages at FindMyPast that the identify of Thomas Webster’s wife, Margaret Massy, is found.

. . .


. Henry Dow’s History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire, pp. 727-8.
. “Early Records of Boston” in NEHGR 7:161.

FH Map Hampton

. The top left-hand corner of the map of Hampton shows first Thomas King, followed by Anthony Taylor, Walter Roper, and then, fourth, William Godfrey.

Deborah Godfrey, youngest daughter of William and Margaret (Massy)(Webster) Godfrey, married as his first wife, December 6, 1677, in Hampton, John Taylor, son of Anthony and Philippa (Mingay) Taylor.

Deborah and John Taylor are my ninth great grandparents; Anthony and Philippa Taylor are my tenth.

This entry was posted in #52Ancestors, Immigrant Ancestor, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to #52Ancestors: Where There’s a Will There are Valuable Clues

  1. Anonymous says:

    Who really knows where William Godfrey came from? (The Norfolk link being unproven, and a case of finding someone with the same name.)
    See below link to work by Gregory J. Weinig in NEHGR vol.172, 2018; which has more details on William’s first wife and perhaps William himself. (Also re: Thomas Webster -see in footnotes about using the info on Ormesby families with caution.)

    Click to access GWeinig-2018-fall-free-article.pdf


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