Birdseye #16124

John Birdseye (1571-1649)

Born in England.  It is uncertain whether he emigrated to New England and settled in Connecticut in about 1636 or if he remained in England when his sons emigrated and

Unknown Spouse

Birdseye #16124

I am related to John Birdseye (1571-1649) through his son, John, and also through a different son, Thomas[1].

The early generations of the Birsdeye family in Connecticut are obscure, and the “facts” that are generally reported are supported more by family tradition (recounted in secondary sources) than documentary proof.  There is obviously a complicated connection among the Birdseye, Wilcoxson and Hawley families (from all of which I am descended) that may reach all the way back to England.

The facts as I understand them are as follows:

  • The progenitor of the Birdseye line in Connecticut is John Birdseye of Reading, Berkshire, England.  He probably lived from about 1571-1649.  There is a tradition that two of his sons, John Birdseye and Joseph (or Edward) Birdseye came to America in about 1636 and settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut.  For convenience, I refer at times to the progenitor as John (Sr.) and the son as John (Jr.).
  • We do not know the name of John (Sr.)’s wife, nor do we known with certainty whether or not John (Sr.) came to New England with his sons or stayed in England.
  • In Wethersfield, John (Jr.) married Philippa Smith, and later the family moved on to Stratford, Connecticut in about 1649.
  • Margaret, who married William Wilcoxson[2] (1601-1652), may have been a Birdseye, but this is far from certain.  If so, she is most likely a sister (or perhaps a cousin) of John and Joseph.

John Birdseye (Sr.) is my 11th g-grandfather through his son John (Jr.) and my 12th g-grandfather through his son Joseph, and the path back to us branches here and does not reconnect until Joseph Hawley (1675-1752) marries Elizabeth Wilcoxson (1673-1762) in 1697.  Their lineage continues under the heading of Joseph Hawley (1603-1690).


Descent through John Birdsey (Jr.):

John Birdseye (Jr.) was born about 1616 in Reading, England and died 4 Apr 1690 in Stratford, Connecticut.  Tradition says he came to New England in 1636 with his brother, named either Joseph Birdseye or Edward (according to other sources).  John (Jr.) seems to have settled briefly in Wetherfield, Connecticut, where he married Philippa Smith, probably before 1640.  She is probably the daughter of the Rev. Henry Smith and his first wife (whom he married in England in about 1620), whose name we do not know.  In about 1633, Henry married (2nd) Dorothy Cotton[3], born about 1604 in England and died in Stratford, Connecticut before about 1688[4].  Another daughter of Henry Smith and Dorothy Cotton, Dorothy Smith, was the second wife of Mark Sension (St. John), my 9th g-grandfather, discussed under the heading of Matthias St. John (1604-1669).

Milford_CT-1646_planJohn (Jr.) and Philippa removed at some point to Milford, Connecticut, where they were admitted as members of the Milford Church on 23 Aug 1640.  In the apportionment in November 1639 of the land at Milford bought from the Indians on 12 Feb 1639 of that year, Andrew Benton was allotted parcel No. 16.  The couple lived in Milford for a few years, and here their son John was born in 1641 and daughter Joanna Birdseye was born in 1642[5].

On 19 Mar 1649, John (Jr.) and Philippa transferred their Church membership to the church in Stratford, Connecticut, thus it appears that they moved again around this time.  There is a story (the truth of which cannot be known) that John Birdseye (Jr.) of Milford was caught kissing his wife, Philippa, one Sunday in 1649.  On Monday the town officials sentenced him to be lashed.  Breaking loose from his captors, Birdseye swam the river to Stratford and thumbed his nose to his pursuers across the river.  According to the story, Philippa swam the river after her husband on the following day, and the Birdseyes remained in Stratford, where the laws were less restrictive.

John  (Jr.) later was Deacon of the Congregational Church in Stratford and acquired lot #16.  Deacon John (Jr.) is mentioned in the Stratford town records in 1650 along with Joseph Hawley, William Wilcoxson and others.  John Birdseye (Jr.) was made a freeman of Stratford in 1668.

The children of John Birdseye (Jr.) and Philippa Smith are listed as follows:

  1. John, born 28 Mar 1641 and died 9 Jan 1697.  On 11 Dec 1669 he married Phebe Wilcoxson[6].
  2. Joanna Birdseye, born 18 Nov 1642 and died 13 Aug 1713.  On 28 Dec 1664 she married Timothy Wilcoxson (possibly 1st cousins).

The lineage of Joanna Birdseye and Timothy Wilcoxson is continued under the heading of William Wilcoxson (1601-1652).


Descent through Joseph (or Edward) Birdseye

If there is truth to the tradition that Joseph (or Edward) Birdseye came to New England in 1636 with his brother, John Birdseye (Jr.)., then Joseph was presumably born in Reading, England.  We know almost nothing concerning him except for the received tale that his children were all daughters, that one of them, Katharine Birdseye, married Joseph Hawley (1603-1690) and that he supposedly came to New England with his brother, John Birdseye (Jr.).  This information is gleaned from the genealogical histories of other families which only mention Joseph in passing, and I am not aware of what documentary evidence there may be to support this theory.  Unlike John (Jr.), who seems to have settled only briefly in Wethersfield, Connecticut, researchers have speculated that Joseph lived in Wethersfield, Connecticut for the remainder of his life.  According to some sources, he married Abigail Dayton, who was a daughter of Ralph Dayton (1588-1658), an early settler of Connecticut and Long Island, New York.  However, these reports are probably incorrect, as the family of Ralph Dayton has been researched extensively, and he is not known to have had a daughter who married Joseph Hawley and/or settled in Connecticut.

I will state here as a working hypothesis only that the daughter of John Birdseye (Jr.)’s brother, Joseph Birdseye, is Katharine Birdseye, born about 1626 probably in Reading, England and died 25 Jun 1695 in Stratford, Connecticut, if traditional genealogies are to be believed.  More research is needed on these points as well as other questions involving the English origins and early generations of the Birdseye family in Connecticut.

In about 1646 Katharine Birdseye married Joseph Hawley (1603-1690), probably in Connecticut.  Their lineage continues under the heading of Joseph Hawley (1603-1690).

[1] John Birdsey is also my 12th great gradfather through his son, Joseph, as follows:

Birdseye #32228

[2] My 10th g-grandfather

Rev. John Cotton (1585-1652), engraving made in 1856 by H.W. Smith, copied from a painting

Rev. John Cotton (1585-1652), engraving made in 1856 by H.W. Smith, copied from a painting

[3] Dorothy Cotton is the sister of Rev. John Cotton (1585-1652), an English clergyman and colonist. He was a principal figure among the New England Puritan ministers, who also included Thomas Hooker, Increase Mather (who became his son-in-law), John Davenport, and Thomas Shepard and John Norton, who wrote his first biography. Cotton was the grandfather of Cotton Mather (see Appendix I – Notable Kin), who was named after him.

[4] After the death of Philippa, John married (2nd) Alice, widow of Henry Tomlinson in 1688.  She died 25 Jan 1698. In his will dated 22 Aug 1689, John names his wife Alice, and his children, John and Joanna, wife of Timothy Wilcoxson (our ancestor).

[5] The Stratford Town Clerk apparently recorded the birth dates of their children in the town records of Stratford after they moved there, which has led descendants to think that the children were born in Stratford, but it is likely they were born in Milford.

[6] Phebe Wilcoxson is my 9th g-grand aunt, i.e. the sister of Timothy Wilcoxson, my 9th g-grandfather, who married John Birdseye (Jr.)’s daughter Joanna.


One comment

  • Darcey Brooten

    Interesting stuff. I’m just starting to look into genealogy research, and my roots start the same as yours, but veer to Phebe Wilkcoxson when yours go to Elizabeth Wilcoxson.

Your comments are welcome. Keep in mind, however, all comments are moderated, and please no off-topic links.