Born in England. Arrived in Massachusetts in 1634 or 1635 and returned to England in 1641 and
Born and died in England.
The information I have obtained on John Humphrey (sometimes spelled Humfrey) is culled mainly from a volume by Frederick Humphreys, M.D. entitled The Humphreys Family in America (New York, published by the author) 1883. In this book, Dr. Humphreys traces the ancestries of the most significant lines of the Humphreys (or Humphrey) name that migrated to America in the early colonial period:
- Michael Humphreys from Lyme Regis, who arrived prior to 1643 and settled at Ancient Windsor, Connecticut, through his sons, (Sergt.) John and Samuel
- Jonas Humphreys, who came from England and settled at Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1634, through branches in both Dorchester and Weymouth, Massachusetts
- Daniel Humphreys, who (with mother and sisters) Marionethshire, Wales in 1680 and settled near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Hugh Humphreys, who settled in New York State, upon the Hudson River
- The “New Jersey Humphreys” and “Southern Humphreys” of Tennessee, Virginia and Mississippi, who may have been offshoots from the Pennsylvania family
- Other “Humphreys”, not placed
These branches are mentioned to distinguish them from my immigrant ancestor, John Humphrey, who has no obvious connection to any of these families. Frederick Humphreys discusses my ancestor, John Humphrey, but did not trace his descendants, due to the fact that he settled only briefly in Massachusetts, from about 1635-1641, before returning to England, apparently leaving a couple of daughters behind in the care of others, but he left no sons of the Humphrey name in America. I am descended from John’s daughter Anne Humphrey. She married John Myles, who emigrated from Wales to Massachusetts in about 1662. Anne was born in England and presumably came to Massachusetts with her father in the 1630s. Whether Anne returned to England with her father in the 1640s and subsequently returned to Massachusetts with John Myles in the 1600s, or whether she may have remained in Massachusetts and met and married John Myles there, is not known with certainty. However, the available evidence suggests that she did not return to England and that Anne Humphrey and John Myles must have met and married in New England.
Additional information is taken from an impressively large tome (1098 pages) by Douglas Richardson entitiled Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company) 2005. John Humphrey’s connection to the Magna Carta is through his third wife, Susan Clinton (otherwise Fiennes), the daughter of Thomas Clinton, 3rd Earl of Clinton (otherwise Fiennes) and Elizabeth the daughter of Henry Knyvett, whom he married sometime after 1630. As we are not descended through John’s third wife, this connection will not be explored.
Despite the fact that John Humphrey was not the progenitor of a line of descendants bearing his name on this continent, he has significant connections to Massachusetts and even served as Deputy Governor of the colony during his brief sojourn there. He also has connections to the “Dorchester Company” of Rev. John White.
John Humphrey was born about 1596 at Chaldron, Dorset, England. He was married four times, and we are descended from his second wife, Elizabeth Pelham. The name of his first wife is unknown to us. His third wife is mentioned above. His fourth wife was named Mary [surname unknown].
Beginning with a document dated 31 Dec 1600, the name of John Humphrey (probably the father of the man born in 1596) is mentioned in records relating to the East India Company. Queen Elizabeth’s patent for the East Indies (i.e. the Charter of Incorporation of the East India Company) fills a number of pages and commences thus:
A privilege for fifteen years granted by Her Majesty to certain adventurers for the discovery of the trade for the East Indies; that is to say to Geo. Earl of Cumberland, and two hundred and fifteen knights, aldermen and merchants. [In the list of names that follows is John. Humphrey].
John Humphrey also appears in the following later documents:
- 21 Mar 1601 and 26 Apr 1602. Names of those to whom “Bills of Adventure” have been sealed in the East India Company, with the date of the bill of adventure and the amount – John Humphrey subscribes £240, which includes the bill and supplies.
- 5-21 Oct 1607. Court Minutes of the East India Company. Interest due by And. Bannyng, Executor of John Humfrey.
- 27 Jan 1609. Court Minutes of the East India Company. [Wm.] Adderley, Bartholomew Hollande, and John Humphrey to be charged 10 per cent, interest for money they owe the Company; the suits against them to be given up.
Frederick Humphreys, in the work cited above, explains his conclusions as follows:
“The question naturally arises, could John Humfrey who was a member of the East India Company in 1600 have been the same as the one who became of such importance to the Colony of Massachusetts Bay? If he was, he must have been born 30, or at least 25, years prior to that date. How does this harmonize with his later history? Supposing his date of birth to have been 1575, he would be in 1628, the time of his engaging in the New England enterprise, 53 years of age; while, on his embarkation to America, he would be 59, rather advanced in life for such an undertaking; in 1641, when he was made the first Major-General of the Colony, and was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, 66 years old. We should hardly conclude, from his letter, dated July 21, 1642, to John Winthrop, Jr., who was born in 1605, that he was thirty years his senior.
“This point must also be considered. What is meant by the expression under date 1607, Interest due by And. Bannyng, Executor of John Humfrey? Was the latter deceased; and is the allusion, under date Jan. 27, 1609, intended to be to the estate of John Humfrey[?]. We know that words were sometimes used in, what seems to us with our modern ideas, a rather singular manner, and with an unnatural signification. Is it possible that “executor” was employed In the sense of transactor of business, and if so, how came there to be such a necessity seven years after the incorporation of the company, if John Humfrey was still living[?].
“How shall we explain the silence between the years 1609 and ’25, if this connection with the East India Company was but the commencement of the career of such a prominent man as John Humfrey, the Assistant of the Colony[?].
“It seems more probable, although this is only conjecture, that John Humfrey of 1600 may have been the father of the John Humfrey of 1625, and that from him the latter may have inherited a taste for enterprises connected with other and distant lands.”
In 1625, the name of John Humphrey continues to be recorded in the documents related to the “Joint Adventurers”. Frederick Humphreys elaborates as follows:
“The earliest authentic record which we have been able to obtain of John Humfrey, who became an Assistant of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, and, at a later date, its first Major-General, is very brief; but associates him at once with New England and its interests. In “Hubbard’s Narrative” it is stated that, in 1625, ‘Mr. White engaged Mr. Humfrey, the treasurer of the joint Adventurers, to write to Mr. Roger Conant in their names, and to signify that they had chosen him to be their governor at Cape Ann, and would commit unto him the charge of all their affairs, as well fishing as planting.’ ”
Frederick Humphreys proceeds to cite many sources to narrate the activites of what became known as the “Dorchester Company”, an enterprise in which John Humphrey’s involvement is well documented. The Dorchester Company was sponsored by Rev. John White (referred as Mr. White in the quotation of Frederick Humphreys in the passage cited previously) of Dorchester, England, who provided the inspiration of a movement which culminated in the gathering of nearly one hundred and fifty persons and their agreement to emigrate in a body to Massachusetts, whither he had sent other groups in the previous six years. In describing this Company he said that scarce a half-dozen of them were personally known to each other prior to their assembling at the place of embarkation in Plymouth.
Most of the members of the Dorchester Company were from the English counties of Dorset, Somerset and Devon, particularly from the areas in and around Dorchester and Bridport, Dorset, Crewkerne and Taunton, Somerset and Exeter, Devon. The community they founded in Dorchester, Massachusetts was named after the town of Dorchester in the English county of Dorset, from which so many of the emigrants originated. Now Dorchester is a dissolved municipality and a neighborhood in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Dorchester claims the credit of having been the first plantation to establish the New England town meeting by selectmen, when on the 8 Oct 1633, it passed an order establishing that form of town government:
Imprimus. It is ordered that for the general good and well ordering of the affayres of the Plantation there shall be every Mooneday before the court by eight of the Clocke in the morning, and presently upon the beating of the drum a generall meeting of the inhabitants of the Plantation at the meeting-house, there to settle (and sett downe) such orders as may tend to the generall good as aforesayd; and every man to be bound thereby, without gaynesaying or resistance. It is also agreed that there shall be twelve men selected out of the Company, that may or the greatest part of them, meete as aforesayd, to determine as aforesayd ...
This act acquires some importance from the fact of its precedence, and that the example was followed subsequently by other settlements and led to the law of the General Court, passed in 1636, regulating Massachusetts town governments, which has continued in force to the present day.
Between 1625-29, it appears that John Humphrey was active in organizing the Dorchester Company expedition, and as he lived in the vicinity of Dorchester (England), we can only assume he would have conversed many times with Rev. White regarding the new plantation in which he was so deeply interested, and Mr. Conant who was awaiting reinforcements. An important milestone was reached on 29 Mar 1628, on which date Council for New England, established at Plymouth, sold
…to sir Henry Roswell, sir John Young, knights, Thomas Southcoat, John Humphrev, John Endicot, and Simon Whetcomb, gentlemen about Dorchester in England, their heirs and associates, that part of New England between Merrimack river and Charles river, in the bottom of the Massachusetts Bav; and three miles to the south of every part of Charles river and of the southernmost part of said bay; and three miles to the north of every part of said Merrimack river; and in length within the breadth aforesaid from the Atlantic ocean to the South Sea, &c…
After this, it appears that Rev. John White, the main promoter and chief organizer of this business, brought the Dorchester grantees into acquaintance with several other religious persons in and about London, who are first associated to them, then buy their right in the patent, and consult about settling some plantation in the Massachusetts Bay, on the account of religion; where nonconformists could transport themselves and enjoy the liberty of their own persuasion in matters of worship and church discipline.
According to Hutchinson, it is very likely that the three persons first named in the grant had nothing more in view by the purchase than a settlement for trade with the natives, and as soon as a colony for religion was projected, we hear no more of them. The other three remained. Mr. White then arranged an agreement between Sir Richard Saltonstall, Matthew Craddock, John Venn and others in and about London, and the original patentees. It seems the three first-named grantees wholly sold their rights, the other three retaining theirs in equal partnership with the said associates. The same summer Mr. Endicott, one of the original patentees, was sent to Naumkeag with planters and servants, and all the affairs of the colony committed to his care in the name of the Patentees, until they come over themselves.
On 20 Jun 1628, John Endicott, with his wife and children and those who had consented to engage in this perilous undertaking, commenced their voyage towards the unknown land, and they arrived safely on 6 Sep 1628. The instructions of Mr. Endicott were dated 30 May 1638, previous to his departure, and signed by John Humphrey and others. In the Company’s general letter of instructions, dated Gravesend, 17-21 Apr 1629, allusion is made to Endicott’s letter of 13 Sep, by which they take notice of his safe arrival
The patent from the council of Plymouth gave a good right to the soil, but no powers of government. For this, a royal charter was necessary, and Rev. White was now encouraged to plant the adventure on a broader, firmer foundation. The original company was but a voluntary, unincorporated partnership. This was now much enlarged by recruits from the Puritans, disaffected to the rulers in church and state. The next step was to get a charter. This was solicited, and after some little difficulty and delay was obtained on 4 Mar 1629, when a charter from King Charles confirmed the patent of the Massachusetts colony to the named patentees, among whom John Humphrey was included. Matthew Cradock was named as the first and present governor and Thomas Goff was named first deputy governor. Following this important milestone, John Humphrey and the other Adventurers began making preparations for the embarkation of fresh emigrants.
Rev. Francis Higginson of Leicester was invited by the Massachusetts Bay Company to lead the first expedition to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and establish preliminary settlements. Higginson led a group of about 350 settlers (including many of his own congregation) on six ships from England to New England. The Higginson Fleet set sail on the 25 Apr 1629, arriving in Salem harbor on the 24 Jun 1629. The fleet brought with them 115 head of cattle, horses and mares, cows and oxen plus 41 goats and some conies (rabbits), along with all the provisions needed for setting up households and surviving till they could get crops in. They would have to build their lodgings for the coming winter from scratch. These were some of the first settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the main body who would start coming in 1630 on the Winthrop Fleet. The ships in the fleet were: Talbot (carried 19 cannon), George Bonaventure (carried 20 cannon), Lyon’s Whelp (carried 40 planters + crew + 8 cannon), Four Sisters (carried 14 cannon), Mayflower (carried 14 guns; not the same as the famous ship of 1620 which carried the “Pilgrims”), Pilgrim (small ship with 4 guns that carried supplies only).
Higginson’s fleet was greeted in Salem, Massachusetts by the small group of settlers from the previous year, led by John Endicott. In the following winter, in the general sickness that ravaged the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Francis Higginson was attacked by a fever, which disabled him, and finally caused his death at the age of 43, leaving behind a widow and eight children.
I have family connections to Rev. Francis Higginson on both my father’s side and my mother’s side:
- In 1648, Francis’ son John Higginson (1616-1707) married Sarah Whitfield (1620-1675). Sarah’s sister, Abigail Whitfield (1622-1659), is my paternal 9th g-grandmother, discussed under the heading of Henry Whitfield (1597-1657).
- In 1677, Francis’ son John Higginson (1616-1707) married Mary Blakeman (1636-1709). Mary’s brother, Samuel Blakeman (1640-1668), is my maternal 8th g-grandmother, discussed under the heading of Adam Blakeman (1596-1665).
Meanwhile, as the Dorchester Company established the settlement in New England, plans were proceeding in England for an even larger embarkation and the transfer of the corporation itself from the Old England to the New. The principal objection seems to have arisen from a doubt whether such a transfer was legal. The issue was considered by a committee, whose report has not survived. We do know, however, that on 29 Aug 1629 it was determined by general consent of the company, that the government and patent should be settled in New-England. In consequence of this new resolution, the members of the corporation which remained in England were to retain a share in the trading stock and the profits of it for the term of seven years. On 20 Oct 1629, at a General Court at Mr. Goff’s house, new choices were made for governor and other offices, consisting of such persons as had determined to go to New England with the patent: John Winthrop was elected governor; John Humphrey, Deputy Governor; and several others were named Assistants, including John Endicott, Sir Richard Saltonstall, Thomas Goff and others.
John Humphrey was recorded as participating in several subsequent meetings of the company, including the meeting of Assistants of 18 Mar 1630. This is the last record of the Massachusetts Company in England. By early in the spring of 1630, ten vessels were ready to weigh anchor, among them the Arbella, which served as Gov. Winthrop’s flagship. Just before his departure with his company, Rev. John Cotton delivered a sermon on “God’s Promise to his Plantation.” This was afterwards printed as The Planter’s Plea (1630) and in the preface “I.H.” (supposed to be the initials of John Humphrey who, though chosen Deputy Governor of the Colony, remained behind) says:
Ere long, (if will) thou shalt see a larger declaration of the first rise and ends this enterprise, and so clear and full a justification of this design, both in respect of that warrant it hath from God’s word, and also in respect of any other ground and circumstance of weight that is considerable, in the warrant of such a work, as I hope there will easily be removed any scruple of moment which hither hath been moved about it.
The Arbella and the rest of Winthrop’s fleet reached Massachusetts in June 1630. More ships arrived in the years that followed.
We do not know why John Humphrey did not sail with the charter, but apparently he was unavoidably detained. He did not reach New England until about 1634-5, along with his wife, Lady Susan Clinton (daughter to Thomas, Earl of Lincoln) and his children: Ann, Dorcas, Sarah and possibly John. After his arrival, the family settled at Saugus (now Lynn), about 12 miles from Boston. Upon an invitation from Lord Say, he intended in the year 1640 to have removed to the Bahama islands; but the island of Providence being taken by the Spaniards, he gave over that design. Soon after, having met with great losses by fire and his estate being much impaired, he sold his plantation to Lady Moody and returned to England.
Lewis explains thus:
“He was one of the most influential in promoting the settlement of the colony, and the people of Massachusetts will ever regard him as one of their earliest and most efficient benefactors. In discharging the duties of an Assistant in the general government, he devoted his time and energies for seven years to the service of the state, and seems not to have been surpassed in devotedness to her welfare. But with all his honors and possessions, a shade of dissatisfaction had spread itself over his prospects, which his numerous misfortunes contributed to darken. The disappointment of the Bahamas must have been severely felt by a mind so ambitious of honor as his appears to have been; and it is not improbable that he experienced secret chagrin at seeing the young and uninformed Henry Vane promoted to the office of governor, above one whose years, knowledge and services entitled him to precedence. It is probable likewise that his affection for his wife, whose hopes were in the land of her nativity, had some influence in determining his conduct. Living so far removed from the elegant circles in which she had delighted, and having lost the sister who might have been the companion of her solitude, the Lady Susan was weary of the privations of the wilderness, the howling of the wild beasts, and the uncouth manners of the savages, and had become lonely, disconsolate and homesick. She, who had been the delight of her father’s house, and had glittered in all the pride of youth and beauty in the court of the first monarch of Europe, was now solitary and sad, separated by a wide ocean from her father’s house. The future greatness of America, which was then uncertain and ideal, presented no inducement to her mind to counterbalance the losses which were first to be endured; and the cold and barren wilderness of Swampscot, populated by its few lonely cottages, round which the Indians were roaming by day, and the wolves making their nightly excursions, had nothing lovely to offer to soothe her sorrows or elevate her hopes. What the misfortunes and disappointments of Mr. Humfrey had begun, her importunities completed. He sold the principal part of his farm to Lady Moody, and returned to England with his wife on the 26th October .”
At the time of his departure for England, it seems at least some of John Humphrey’s children remained in Massachusetts in the care of others. Besides Anne, Dorcas, Sarah and possibly John, previously mentioned, there were the following baptized at Salem: Theophilus (having his name from his uncle, the 4th Earl of Lincoln), 1637; Thomas, 1638; Joseph, 1640 and Lydia, 25 1641. Savage adds mysteriously: “Perhaps he had another daughter who lost her reason… Perhaps, sooner or later, all but the one married [Anne] went to England; at least the father never came again.” According to Lewis “they were much censured for leaving their children, but their intention of visiting the Bahamas, and the approaching inclemency of the season, rendered it imprudent to take them, and they undoubtedly intended to return, or send for them.
In any case, it is likely that Anne (who would have been about 16 years old at the time of her father’s departure) did not return to England with her father or at a later date.
Not much is known of John Humphrey’s life after his return to England, as there is no further mention of him in connection with public affairs. The letters and other personal documents that survive reveal a man burdened with anxiety for his family and encumbered with debts. Various sources suggest that he died in England in either 1651 or 1661. There was a letter written by Roger Williams in 1651 or early 1652 to my honourd kind friend Mr. John Wintrop at his house at Pequt in New England, in which he states Our old friend Col. Humphries is gone, & lately allso Col. Cooke; yet blessed be God we lieue, & through the jawes of death are landed safe, & behould the wonders, the Magnalia and Miranda Dei in England. I have seiit a large narration, both concerning Old England affaires & New, to Prouidence. I hope & desire you may see it (probably the death of “Col.” John Humphrey was mentioned in this document). However, John’s son, Joseph, was not appointed administrator of his estate in New England until 25 Jun 1661.
Regarding Anne, daughter of John Humphrey, Lewis states that “she married William Palmer of Ardfinan, Ireland, and afterward, the Rev. John Miles, of Swanzcy” and that he had in his possession a deed signed by her, and sealed with the arms of the house of Lincoln (due to her connection to her step-mother, her father’s third wife, Lady Susan Clinton, otherwise Fiennes). The date of her second marriage to John Myles is not known, but presumably it was after 1662 when John Myles emigrated from Wales to Massachusetts and before about 1668, based on the birth date of their daughter Hannah Myles (1669).
The lineage of Anne Humphrey and John Myles is continued under the heading of John Myles (1621-1683).
 Samuel Purchas gives an extended account of the incorporation of the East India Company in his Purchas his Pilgrimage: or Relations of the world and the religions observed in all ages and places discovered, from the creation unto this present, in which this document is cited. Samuel Purchas (1575?-1626), was an English cleric who published several volumes of reports by travelers to foreign countries. In 1614 he published Purchas his Pilgrimage (intended as an overview of the diversity of God’s creation from an Anglican world view), where in abbreviated form he recounts travel stories he would later publish in full. In 1625 he published Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes, a massive four-volume collection of travel stories that can be seen as a continuation of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations and was partly based on manuscripts left by Hakluyt, who had died in 1616. John Adams’ copy of Purchas his Pilgrimage is in the John Adams Library at the Boston Public Library.
 Frederick Humphreys, p. 65-66.
 Alexander Young. Chronicles of the First Planters of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, from 1623-1636 (Boston, Massachusetts: C. C. Little and J. Brown, 1846) p. 23-24.
 White himself never sailed to America. About 1623 he interested himself in sending out a colony of Dorset men to settle in Massachusetts, allowing nonconformists to enjoy liberty of conscience. The attempt by the Dorchester Company to plant a colony at Cape Ann with Thomas Gardner as Overseer, at what would become Gloucester, Massachusetts, did not prove at first successful; in the previous decade, only about 500 English colonists had established a foothold, and this Company was wound up by 1625. White then recruited emigrants from the western counties of Dorset, Somerset and Devon, who set sail a few years later as a better-supported expedition and organized church aboard the Mary & John. White made many trips to London from Dorchester, working to obtain a patent in 1628 for lands between the parallel lines three miles south of the Charles River to three miles north of the Merrimack River. He obtained the sponsorship of London merchants for a new colony in the New World. Concerned about conflicting claims to land given to several companies active in the north-east of the New World, the New England Company sought and was granted a Royal Charter on 4 Mar 1629, becoming the Massachusetts Bay Company. White was a member of the company, and on 30 Nov he was nominated one of the committee to value the joint stock. John Endicott was sent out as governor. Francis Higginson and Samuel Skelton were chosen and approved by White as ministers and sailed for the Dorchester colony on 4 May 1629 in the George Bonaventura. The charter enabled John Winthrop to hire a fleet of what would eventually comprise eleven ships, later called the Winthrop Fleet, to bring a new wave of emigrants across the Atlantic. John Winthrop sailed in the Arbella, White holding a service on board before she sailed. The Mary & John was the first, carrying 140 people recruited by White.
 Dorchester, which may be considered the cradle of the Massachusetts Colony, is a borough town in Dorsetshire, on the southern bank of the river Frome, 120 miles from London.
 Thomas Hutchinson. The History of Massachusetts, From the First Settlement Thereof in 1628 until the year 1750 (Boston, Massachusetts: Thomas & Andrews, 1795), vol I, p. 16. Throughout the ensuing discussion, I quote freely from Hutchinson’s narrative. Young himself quotes freely from various sources, including The Planters’ Plea of the Rev. John White of Dorchester, Dorset, published in 1630.
 Sir Richard Saltonstall (1586-1661) was the second husband of his mother-in-law, Elizabeth West (1573-1683). The first husband of Elizabeth West (1573-1683) was Herbert Pelham (1546-1620), and John Humphrey married their daughter, Elizabeth Pelham (1604-1628). Elizabeth Pelham is my10th g-grandmother and probably John’s second wife.
 Another named patentee was a man by the name of Thomas Goff. He was an owner of the Mayflower of 1620 and one of the “Merchant-Adventurers” who financed the Pilgrims’ enterprise in the New World. Thomas is thought to have later perished at sea on his own voyage to America in the late 1620s. It is possible that Philip Goff (1627-1674), my maternal 9th g-grandfather who arrived in Connecticut by 1648, is the son of Thomas, but this has not been proved.
 John Higginson’s daughter, Ann, was arrested for witchcraft at Salem on 6 Jun 1692 but not convicted.
 It seems very probable that this supposition is correct, when we consider John Humphrey’s acquaintance with Rev. White, his deep interest in the work and the fact that in former times the letter “I” was employed for “J”.
 Lady Moody’s activities in New England and New York are discussed under the heading of our maternal 9th g-grandfather, William Thorne (1617-1657).
 Alonzo Lewis (“The Lynn Bard”). The History of Lynn, including Nahant (Boston, Massachusetts: Samuel N. Dickinson, 1844) p. 116.
 James Savage. Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, showing three generations of those who came before May 1692 on the basis of Farmer’s Register (published with two supplements in 4 volumes, 1860-1862).
 Roger Williams (1603-1683) is my 10th g-grandfather, discussed under his own heading.
 Roger Williams was at that time in England, having sailed from Boston in November 1651. He returned early in the summer of 1654.