Kelsey #3624

William Kelsey (1600-1676)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1632, later settling in Connecticut and

Unknown Spouse


Kelsey #3624

A useful source for the early generations of the Kelsey line in America is Claypool, Edward A.; Azalea Clezbee; Elias Isbell Kelsey; Harry Norman Kelsey; Kelsey Kindred of America; and Earl LeLand Kelsey. A Genealogy of the Descendants of William Kelsey: who settled at Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1632 at Hartford, Connecticut in 1636; and at Killingworth, Connecticut in 1663. (Clinton, Connecticut: Kelsey Kindred of America) originally published 1928, rev. 1972.

William Kelsey, the first of our Kelsey line in America, was born in Chelmsford, Essex County, England in the year 1600.  The family generally spells the name Kelsey, but in the early records Kelso was common also, which may suggest Scottish origins.  His ancestry is speculation, but he is thought to be the son of George Kelsey (1572-1599) and Elizabeth Hammond (1574-1631) and had two known brothers: John and Henry, both of whom died in England.  There is a tradition that the wife of William Kelsey was named “Bethia Hopkins”.  However, this is based on Hinman’s[1] misreading the 1663 record regarding William Kelsey‘s daughter Bethia and her husband David Phillips.  This confusion was further compounded by attempts by zealous genealogists to link this “Bethia Hopkins” to the pilgrim Stephen Hopkins[2].  There is no mention of William Kelsey‘s wife in any known records.  Several false leads regarding the identity of the wife of William Kelsey have been carefully examined and discarded by George E. McCracken and Gale Ion Harris [TAG 37:38-42, 68:211-14].

Plaque honoring Hooker’s ministry at the First Church of Cambridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts

William Kelsey was one of the original followers of the Rev. Thomas Hooker[3], who come to New England in advance of their leader and were among the first settlers of “New Towne” (now Cambridge), Massachusetts in 1632.  While in England, these settlers had attended the ministry of the Rev. Hooker, who, to escape fines and imprisonment in England for his non-conformity, had previously fled to Holland.  Hooker joined them in New England the following year after slipping out of Holland under an assumed identity[4].  In 1633 Hooker arrived in Boston and settled in Cambridge, where he became the pastor of the First Parish Church.  His parish became known as “Mr. Hooker’s Company”.

“Hooker’s Company reach the Connecticut” (published by Estes & Lauriat, 1879)

Voting in Massachusetts was limited to freemen, individuals who had been formally admitted to their church after a detailed interrogation of their religious views and experiences.  Hooker disagreed with this limitation of suffrage, putting him at odds with the influential pastor John Cotton.  Owing to his conflict with Cotton and discontented with the suppression of Puritan suffrage and at odds with the colony leadership, Thomas Hooker (along with his assistant the Rev. Samuel Stone) and about a hundred men, women and children, composing the whole of Mr. Hooker’s church and congregation, left Cambridge in 1635 and traveled over a hundred miles, through a hideous and trackless wilderness, to Connecticut.  According to one account, “They had no guide but their compass; made their way over mountains, through swamps, thickets and rivers, which were not passable but with great difficulty.  They had no cover but the heavens, nor any lodgings but those which simple nature afforded them.”  Among this group was our ancestor William Kelsey and his family, and they subsequently founded[5] the settlement of Hartford, named for Stone’s place of birth (Hertford, in England).

The plaque reads: In Memory of the Courageous Adventurers Who Inspired and Directed by Thomas Hooker Journeyed Though the Wilderness from Newton (Cambridge) in the Massachusetts Bay to Suckiaug (Hartford) – October, 1635

William Kelsey is one of the original proprietors listed in the “Book of Distribution of Land”[6] as being those who settled in Hartford before February 1640.  As such, his name appears on the “Founders Monument” in Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground[7] of the First Congregational Church of that city, presently known as “Center Church”.  The original brownstone Monument erected in 1837 was replaced by one of pink Connecticut granite in 1986.  The cemetery is located at the rear of the church at the corner of Main and Gold Streets.  As one of the advance party which scouted the location for the Hartford settlement, William’s name is also found on the “Adventurers Boulder[8]” plaque, placed in 1935 and located near City Hall (corner of Main and Arch Streets), Hartford, Connecticut.  The plaque reads:

In memory of the courageous


who inspired and directed by

Thomas Hooker journeyed through the

wilderness from Newton (Cambridge)

in the Massachusetts Bay to

Suckiaug (Hartford) – October 1635

Because it lay outside the authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Hartford assemblage needed its own authority to govern.  In 1638, the General Court (legislative body), meeting in Hartford, adopted the Fundamental Orders, often described as America’s first written constitution and the reason why Connecticut’s official nickname is the Constitution State.  The Orders, inspired in part by Hooker’s assertion in a sermon that “the foundation of authority is laid, firstly, in the free consent of the people,” set up an independent government and established Connecticut as a commonwealth.

In the Hartford land inventory of February 1639 “Will[ia]m Kelsy” was credited with twenty-one parcels: one acre with dwelling house, outhouses, yards & gardens; three acres “lying partly in the neck of land”; one rood in the Little Meadow; two roods eighteen perches in the North Meadow; five acres, three roods and thirty-eight perches of meadow and swamp in the North Meadow; one acre eight perches on the east side of the Great River; five acres in the Cowpasture; nine acres three roods in the Middle Oxpasture (annotated “sold Wm. Spencer”); five acres of meadow on the east side of the Great River “which he received in exchange of William Spencer”; one acre, two roods and fourteen perches in the neck of land; three roods thirty-seven perches in the neck of land; seven acres, twenty-four perches in the Cowpasture; two acres, one rood and thirty-one perches in the neck of land “part whereof he received of Edward Ellmer”; threescore perches in the neck of land; three acres, three roods and twenty perches in the neck of land; one acre, thirty-three perches in the neck of land “which he bought of John Maynord”; three acres in the neck of land “which he bought of Richard Goodman”; one acre in the neck of land “which he bought of John Tayllcott”; five acres on the east side of the Great River “part of which he bought of William Edwordes”; thirty perches of swamp on the east side of the Great River “which he bought of William Edwordes”; and two roods “that he bought of William Williams and did sometime belong to John Beddell” (annotated “sold G. Granis 1664”).  (Five of these parcels were marked as given to “Steven Callsey” in 1670/1.)

William Kelsey monument in Clinton, Connecticut

In March 1663, William Kelsey and 26 others migrated to the “Hammonasset Plantation” and founded the Town of Kenilworth, later changed to Killingworth, Connecticut. It is uncertain why William wanted to move from Hartford.  In the first volume of the Kelsey Genealogy, it is said that he may have left because of a dispute on theological matters in which he had “recieved the worst of the argument”.  In 1838, the town was separated into the towns of Killingworth and Clinton.  A stone monument erected to William Kelsey‘s memory now stands to the east of the ancestral home at 90 East Main Street in Clinton, and this parcel remained in the family for over 300 years.

William Kelsey had nine known children (his wife or wives have not been verified), listed as follows, along with their estimated dates of birth: Mark Kelsey (about 1628-1634), Bethia (1636), John (1638), Priscilla (1640), Mary (1644), Abigail (1645), Stephen[9] (1647) and Daniel (1650).

Mark Kelsey lived in Windsor and Wethersfield, Connecticut. He married in 1659, as his first wife, Rebecca Hoskins and as his second wife Mrs. Abigail Atwood (widow of Capt. Thomas Atwood; surname unknown).  Rebecca was the daughter of John Hoskins and Ann Fyler, discussed under their own heading.  Rebecca was born about 1634 in Dorchester, Massachusetts and died 28 Aug 1683 in Windsor, Connecticut.

From A Genealogy of the Descendants of William Kelsey by Claypool et. al.:  The records relating to Mark are very meager.  We have nothing to prove his place of birth nor the date, nor even that he was the son of William, but as there was no other Kelsey family among the first settlers of Hartford, and as he was apparently too young to have been William’s brother, we assume that he was a son, and in all probability the eldest child, probably born in England about 1628 before his parents came to Cambridge.  The place and date of death of Mark are not recorded, but that it occurred between 1715-1723 can be inferred from other documents that are available.

Mark Kelsey and Rebecca Hoskins had eight or more children: Rebecca, John, Thomas, a son, William, Joseph Kelsey, Ruth and a child of unknown sex.  Mark had an additional four known children (Abigail, Andrew, Jonathan and Josiah).

Joseph Kelsey was born about 1673 at Windsor, Connecticut, removed to Elizabethtown, New Jersey and died there about June 1742.  In 1698 he married Joannes Decamp, born about 1675 in New York or New Jersey and died about 1742 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey.

There is no absolute proof that Joseph Kelsey of Elizabethtown, New Jersey was a son of Mark Kelsey of Windsor, Connecticut, but it is very probably that he was, according to A Genealogy of the Descendants of William Kelsey by Claypool et. al.  Mark is said to have had three other children besides the five of whom records are found at Windsor, and there are no records, aside from this statement, of these three in Connecticut.  Elizabethtown, New Jersey, was mainly settled by Connecticut families, including several from Milford, where Mark’s sister Bethia (Kelsey) Phillips lived, these families coming directly from Connecticut or else by way of Southold, Long Island, New York.  It seems fairly certain that James Kelsey of Monmouth, New Jersey was James (son of Thomas, Thomas, Mark, William), and it is very likely that Thomas (father of James), with his wife, Hannah Douglas and his family, emigrated to Elizabethtown, New Jersey, or not far below that in Monmouth County, New Jersey about 1730, because he had an uncle already settled there, this uncle being Joseph of Elizabethtown in the same state.  The name of “Ruth”, which is found all through the family of Joseph of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, is also strong evidence, as this name is found only in the family of Mark and his immediate descendants of the period.

Joseph Kelsey, planter, bought one hundred acres of land at Elizabethtown, New Jersey from Robert Morse on 13 Dec 1700.  This is the first record we find of him in New Jersey, and it is probable that it was shortly after his arrival there.

Joseph Kelsey and Joannes Decamp had three sons and six daughters, probably all born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, including Hannah Kelsey, born about 1700 and died 18 Jul 1777 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey.  No birth records of the children of Joseph have been found.  He made his will on 13 Feb 1739, and it was proven 1 Jul 1742, so presumably he died shortly before that date.  In the will he names his sons: Joseph, Benjamin and Daniel; daughters: Marcy Cutter, Hannah Badgley, Mary Oliver, Ruth Kelsey, Phebe Wood, Lidia Winans and “cousin” Laurens Decamp[10].

In 1726 Hannah Kelsey married James Badgley was born about 1700 in Flushing, New York and died 17 Jul 1777 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey.  James Badgley and Hannah Kelsey had four children, and their lineage is continued under the heading of Anthony Badgley (1660-1715).

[1] Royal Ralph Hinman. A catalogue of the names of the first Puritan settlers of the colony of Connecticut (printed by E. Gleason) 1846.

[2] Stephen Hopkins (about 1582-1644) was a tanner and merchant who was one of the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620, settling in Plymouth Colony. Hopkins was recruited by the Merchant Adventurers to provide governance for the colony as well as assist with the colony’s ventures. He was a member of a group of passengers known to the Pilgrims as “The Strangers” since they were not part of the Pilgrims’ religious congregation. Hopkins was one of forty-one signatories of the Mayflower Compact and was an assistant to the governor of the colony through 1636.

[3] Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) was a prominent Puritan colonial leader, who founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts. He was known as an outstanding speaker and a leader of universal Christian suffrage. Called today “the Father of Connecticut,” Thomas Hooker was a towering figure in the early development of colonial New England. He was one of the great preachers of his time, an erudite writer on Christian subjects, the first minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the first settlers and founders of both the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut and recognized by many as the inspiration for the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut,” cited by some as the world’s first written democratic constitution that established a representative government. Thomas Hooker strongly advocated extended suffrage to include Puritan worshipers, a view which would lead him and his followers to colonize Connecticut. He also promoted the concept of a government that must answer to the people, stating: “[T]hey who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power, also, to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them” through “the privilege of election, which belongs to the people according to the blessed will and law of God”. Thomas Hooker argued for greater religious tolerance towards all Christian denominations. Hooker also defended the calling of synods by magistrates, and attended a convention of ministers in Boston whose purpose was to defend Congregationalism. He later published A Survey Of The Summe Of Church-Discipline: Wherein The Way Of The Churches Of New England Is Warranted Out Of The Word (1648) in defense of Congregationalism, and applied its principles to politics and government. Thomas Hooker was a strong leader of the contrition doctrine, believing that God’s favor needed to be re-earned by men. To Hooker, sin was the most crafty of enemies, defeating grace on most occasions. He disagreed with many of the predecessor theologies of Free Grace theology, preferring a more muted view on the subject. He focused on preparation for heaven and following the moralist character.

[4] Rev. Thomas Hooker arrived on the Griffin voyage of 1633. Several historical and genealogical references show the Griffin making such journeys in 1633 and 1634.  The 1633 voyage also included my 9th g-grandfather, Edward Hutchinson (1613-1675), the eldest son of my 10th g-grandparents, William Hutchinson (1586-1641) and Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson (1591-1643) and the noted English minister John Cotton (1585-1652), who is my 11th g-grand uncle.  William and Anne Hutchinson later arrived as passengers on the 1634 voyage of the Griffin, along with William’s mother, Susanna Wheelwright (1564-1645) and my 10th g-grandparents, Ralph Earle (1606-1678) and Joan Savage (1609-1679).

[5] Calling the original proprietors “founders” is a bit of a misnomer.  Dutch fur traders from New Amsterdam (now New York City) set up trade on the site as early as 1623, following Adriaen Block’s exploration in 1614.  The Dutch named their post Fort Goede Hoop or the ‘Hope House’ (Huys de Hoop) and helped expand the New Netherland colony, roughly analogous to the modern-day New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Tri-State Region, to the banks of the Connecticut River.  Prior to the Dutch arrival, the Native Americans who inhabited the area had called it Suckiaug.  By 1633, Jacob van Curler had added a block house and palisade to the post and New Amsterdam had sent a small garrison and a pair of cannons.  The fort was abandoned by 1654, but its neighborhood in Hartford is still known as Dutch Point.  The first English settlers arrived in 1635, when Rev. Thomas Hooker and Governor John Haynes led 100 settlers with 130 head of cattle in a trek from Newe Towne (now Cambridge, Massachusetts) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and started their settlement just north of the Dutch fort.

[6] His home-lot in the distribution of 1639 (16 acres) was on the road from Centinel Hill to the North Meadow (now Village Street).

[7] The Ancient Burying Ground is the oldest historic site in Hartford ,and the only one surviving from the 1600s. From 1640, four years after the arrival of the first English settlers, down until the early 1800s, it was Hartford ‘s first and foremost graveyard. During that period anyone who died in town, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnic background, economic status, or religious faith, was interred here. The oldest gravestone is believed to be that for Timothy Stanley (my 10th g-grandfather), who died in 1648. Approximately 6,000 men, women, and children are believed to have been interred in the Ancient Burying Ground, which was originally considerably larger than it is today. Over the centuries commercial buildings, as well as the First Congregational meeting house, were erected on Burying Ground land, whittling it down it to its present size of four acres. Since gravestones were expensive, the vast majority of people interred in the Ancient Burying Ground – perhaps as many as 90 per cent – never had one to mark their final resting place. In 1835 there were 563 stones in the Ancient Burying Ground; by 1877, 526 stones were left. Today, approximately 415 stones still stand. Efforts to preserve the Ancient Burying Ground began with an 1836 campaign spearheaded by Daniel Wadsworth, whose father, Jeremiah was one of the last to be buried here. As part of that project, a concrete obelisk, faced with brownstone inscribed with the names of the first settlers of Hartford, was erected.

[8] Several of our ancestors are named on the “Adventurers Boulder”: Stephen Hart, William Kelsey, Matthew Marvin andTimothy Stanley.

[9] Stephen Kelsey (1647-1710) married Hannah Ingersoll (1652-1718), the daughter John Ingersoll (1615-1684) and Dorothy Lord (1629-1657), my 9th g-grandparents. We are descended from Hannah’s sister, Margery (1656-1697)

[10] Actually his father-in-law and my 8th g-grandfather


One comment

  • Karen A. Moody

    Stephen Kelsey (1647-1710) married Hannah Ingersoll (1652-1718) is also my related to me as they are my 8 g-grandparents.

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