Probably born in England (although some sources say Wales). Arrived in Massachusetts in 1634 and
Probably born in England. Arrived in Massachusetts in 1634.
Relatively little is known about the early Lewis line of my family in America. Researchers believe that it begins with Edmund Lewis (Lewes) born about 1601, and his wife Mary [surname unknown], born about 1602, most likely in England. A good source of information for this line is a book by George Harlan Lewis, Edmund Lewis of Lynn, Massachusetts and Some of his Descendants (Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1908). There is also a more recent book by Michael A. Lewis, Descendants of Edmond Lewes of Lynn, Massachusetts (Santa Cruz, California: Arana Gulch Press, 2011), which does a very good job of explaining what is known and what is still obscure regarding this ancestor. [This work is protected by copyright. The file link is password-protected due to copyright issues. At the author’s request, the following link will take you directly to the author’s shop at lulu.com where the book may be downloaded for free as an eBook (PDF) or purchased as a bound volume at cost, as of the date of this writing.]
The parentage, ancestry, birthplace, wife’s maiden name and early life of Edmund Lewis are obscured by incomplete records and published speculation by genealogists and historians. Some sources indicate origins for Edmund Lewis in Wales, where Lewis is a common surname. Some sources even include fanciful Welsh genealogies extending back hundreds of years. However, no evidence has been found to support these theories. After extensive research on the family’s origins in England and Wales, George Harlan Lewis states categorically:
“There is no authoritative connection of any of the Lewis immigrants to New England, during the 17th century, with any Welsh or English family.”
George Harlan Lewis in 1908 stated that Edmund was from Lynn Regis (King’s Lynn) England, but at the time of his publication he hadn’t located the family within the church registers.
Michael Lewis in 2011 states that a Survey of Llystalybont of 1653 proves that the Edmund Lewis of Llystalybont, Glamorgan, Wales was alive and still living in Llystalybont on 8 May 1637, three years after Edmond Lewes had sailed from Ipswich, Suffolk, England to Watertown, Massachusetts. If this is true, he is not the same man as our immigrant ancestor.
Michael A. Lewis provides a very good summary of what has been published, and of what is actually known. Edward Simmons Lewis claimed that Edmund Lewis came to Massachusetts Bay Colony from Wales, citing contemporary documents and histories of Lynn, Massachusetts, for example:
“William Lewis of Roxbury, brother to Edmund Lewis of Lynn, was descended from a very respectable family in Wales. His descendants enjoy great satisfaction in being able to trace their descent from a very high antiquity. – Annals of Lynn”, and
“Edmund Lewis of Lynn was brother to William Lewis of Roxbury, who descended from a Welsh family with a pedigree running back centuries.’ History of Lynn, by Alonzo Lewis and James Newhall (second edition)”
Edward Simmons Lewis also claimed that Edmund Lewis, the immigrant ancestor of our line, was born in Llystalybont, Glamorgan, Wales, in 1601, son of George Lewis and Catherine Matthew. These statements undoubtedly reflect family traditions of Edmund Lewis’ origins. However, no source cites any documentation of Edmund Lewis’ proposed Welsh background. On the contrary, the circumstances suggest that Edmund Lewis and family were most likely followers of Rev. Samuel Ward and heeded his call to form a nonconformist colony in the New World.
While it may be true that Lewis is a common name in Wales, research in English parish records and other sources also reveals an astonishing presence of Lewis families in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire from the 15th to the 17th Centuries. The entire eastern half of England seems to have been populated by Lewises early on, from the town of Lewes, Sussex in the south to Yorksire in the North. Among these Lewis families are many Edmond/Edmunds, Thomases, Johns, Marys, Elizabeths, Ann/Hannahs and other given names that run strong in our line. It seems for this reason just as likely that Edmund came from this part of England as from Wales.
An early record that could be associated with our Edmund Lewis occurs in the will, dated 1625, of a Richard Lewes, merchant of Ipswich, that names Edmond Lewes as Richard’s son, indicating he was apprenticed to Luke Fisher as ropemaker in Ipswich. This would make him 24 or 25 years old at the time, not an unlikely age for a young man to be completing his apprenticeship in 17th Century England.
Later, it is noted in the parish records of St. Mary-le-Tower Church in Ipswich, Suffolk, England: John Lewes sunne to Edmond Lewes was baptized July 18, 1630. This date is consistent with John Lewis’ age of 3 in the passenger records of the Elizabeth in 1634.
Finally, The Freemen of the Borough of Ipswich 1320-1996 lists: Edmond Lewes 1632 Ipswich. This suggests that an Edmond Lewis lived in Ipswich at least four years and perhaps as much as 9 years before departing for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634. The question then is: Was Edmund Lewis, who boarded the Elizabeth in 1634 to travel to Massachusetts Bay Colony, with his wife, Mary, and two sons, from Llys Talybont, Glamorgan, Wales, or was he from the area around Ipswich, Suffolk or indeed from some other place?
So far, no definite answer to this question has found in the existing records, only clues. Contemporary records suggest that most of those who intended to sail for New England were supposed to be debtors or persons disaffected with the established church. The phrase persons disaffected with the established church refers to nonconformists, that is, those who rejected the practices of the established Church of England. There was among this company a “Mr. Ward”, who is undoubtedly Rev. Samuel Ward, who was the minister at St. Mary-le-Tower Church in Ipswich, Suffolk from 1603-35. He was suspended in 1635 for preaching non-conformism and for encouraging emigration to North America. It may not be unreasonable to speculate that John Lewes sonne of Edmond Lewes who was christened in St. Mary-le-Tower in 1630, probably by Samuel Ward, was the boy who accompanied his father to New England in 1634.
The following facts are known:
- Edmund Lewis was born about 1601, possibly in Suffolk County near Ipswich, England. He died in 1650/1 at Lynn, Massachusetts.
- Edmund married Mary about 1630 in England, judging from the date of birth of his eldest. Mary was born in about 1602, and she probably came from the same area as Edmund. She died on 7 July 1658 at Lynn.
- Edmund Lewis (age 33) and his wife Mary (age 32) embarked for the Massachusetts Bay Colony from Ipswich, England aboard the Elizabeth on 30 Apr 1634, bringing with them their children John Lewis (age 3) and Thomas Lewis (age 9 months). It is not impossible that Edmund Lewis was Welsh, a theory supported by family tradition but not solid documentation. However, with the timing of 1634 in the middle of the “Great Migration” to America, it is more likely that Edmund was involved in the Dissenter or Puritan movement and came to America in company of fellow members of that movement. Most of the passengers on the Elizabeth were known to be from small villages in the vicinity of Ipswich, England.
Once in New England, the family settled at Watertown, Massachusetts, and Edmund Lewis shared in the first great division of lands. His homestead was on what is now the east side of Lexington Street. He owned land in “Rockmeddow” (meadow land), Plowland, Plaine, Remote Meadows and a hundred acres of upland. He was first granted land 25 July 1636, with several more later, over 158 acres in all. His name appears on both the first and second “Inventory of Grants and Possessions” (Watertown Records, Vol. 1). Edmund was admitted a freeman on 24 May 1636 and elected Selectman in 1638. He also served on various town committees.
After a few years (perhaps 1639-1643), Edmund Lewis and his family removed to Lynn, Massachusetts and settled in the eastern part of the town of Lynn on what is now Lewis Street. His will was dated 13 Jan 1650/1 and proved 25 Feb 1650/1. The will mentions sons John and Thomas and five youngest children. The inventory of his estate was valued at £122.7.6.
The children of Edmund Lewis and Mary are listed as follows (the first two probably born in England, the next three at Watertown and the others at Lynn):
- John, probably born in July 1630 in Ipswich, Suffolk, England and baptized on 18 July 1630 in St. Mary-le-Tower Church, Ipswich. He died in 1710 at Lynn. On 17 May 1659 at Lynn, he married (1st) Hanna Marshall ( -1699), daughter of Capt. Thomas Marshall. On 2 Sep 1699 he married (2nd) Elizabeth Walker, daughter of Capt. Richard Walker and Jane Talmage, and on 10 Feb 1706/07 he married (3rd) Sarah Merriam (1665-1740), daughter of William Merriam and Elizabeth Breed. John had several children with Hanna and later a son by Sarah.
- Thomas Lewis, see below.
- James, born in 1635/36.
- Nathaniel, born in 1639 and died on 13 Oct 1683 at Swansea, Massachusetts. He married Mary [surname unknown].
- Child [name unknown], born and died in 1643 (four weeks old).
- Mary, born 1644.
- Joseph, born 1645 and died before 24 Jun 1675 at Swansea (at most 30 years old). On 13 Jun at Swansea he married Mary Jones, daughter of Robert Jones and Anne Bibble.
- Benjamin?, born 1646 and died in 1700 at Stratford, Connecticut. In 1671 at Stratford he married Hannah Curtis (1654-1728), daughter of John Curtis and Elizabeth [surname unknown]. [Note: Since this was written, it has been brought to my attention by Michael Lewis (whose work is cited above) that he has access to DNA evidence which strongly suggests that Benjamin Lewis of Stratford, Connecticut is not a son of Edmund. This evidence was obtained by comparing DNA of Michael (an 11th generation lineal descendant of Edmund, with a known lineal descendant of Benjamin. However, this does not preclude the possibility of a common ancestor, which would make Edmund‘s children and Benjamin some sort of nth cousins x times removed. Michael is in the process of completing an updated volume on this family, and I will be updating this site with his findings when they become available.]
Thomas Lewis, son of Edmund Lewis and Mary, was born in England probably in Jul 1633. He was only nine months old when he left England, and he must have arrived with his parents in Massachusetts before his first birthday. Thomas died on 26 Apr 1709 at Bristol, Rhode Island. On 11 Nov 1659 at Lynn, Massachusetts, Thomas married Hanna Baker, daughter of Edward Baker and Joan [surname unknown]. Hanna Baker was born about 1639 at Lynn and died in Jan 1717 at Bristol, Rhode Island.
In 1661 or 62, Thomas moved from Lynn to Northampton, Massachusetts, where he had a home lot of four acres, which he sold to Matthew Clesson in 1667. He was chosen to assist in building a mill in 1666. He later removed from there to Swansea, where, at a town meeting held 1 Dec 1669:
Thomas Lewis was admitted inhabitant and member of this township, and to have a twelve acre lot where any two of the Com’te for admission of inhabitants shall approve of his settlement.
At a town meeting held 9 Feb 1670, it was ordered that all lots and divisions of land thereafter be granted according to the three-fold rank, by the selectmen. First rank: three acres; Second rank: two acres and Third rank: one acre. Thomas Lewis was in the second rank. He was elected a selectman on 21 May 1672.
Thomas is mentioned at Bristol, Rhode Island as early as 1681, and he was taxed at Mendon, Massachusetts in 1691, 1692 and 1693. He was elected a selectman on 1 May 1693, for the year, but declined to serve. The following is taken from the Annals of Mendon, p. 129, where it is used as a model for the peaceful settlement of a land dispute:
Know all men bv these Presents that I Thomas Lewis of Bristol, Doe Constitute and Appoint my well beloved Capt. Josiah Chapin of Mendon, In my Roome and Stead for to Joyne with sergent Abraham Staples of Mendon aforesaid to Devid A percell of medow that belonged to John Parris’s Lot in Mendon, Now Eaqually belonging to me the said Lewis and ye Above sd Staples, and doe by these presents bind myself my heyers, Executors, administrators and Assigns, to stand to their Agreement about ye devision of sd medow, and after the decision is made to cause the same to be recorded, as Witness my hand this 9 th of January, 1695-6. Thomas Lewis [Seal].
In 1696, he was called of Mendon, with wife Hannah. In 1692, Thomas Lewis of Bristol, Rhode Island sold land to Capt. John Andrews. He also sold land there in 1701. In the Book of Possessions of Swansea his lands are recorded on page 9, and in the various proceedings of the town his name appears in regard to lands. On 23 Dec 1704, Thomas, with his wife Hannah, executed a deed of gift for good will and affection, of the north part of my dwelling house in Bristol to his daughter, Hepzebah Lewis.
The will of Thomas Lewis of Bristol is recorded in Bristol County Probate Records, Vol. 2, p . 257. In this document, he mentions his aged and beloved wife… Hannah Lewis, his daughter Hepzebath, and other Sons or Daughters (not named). The will was proved 6 Jul 1709.
On 22 Apr 1710, the widow Hannah Lewis sold one half of the two acre lot of land where ye dwelling house now stands being the eastern most half of those two acre lot with ye barn and house thereon bounded East on High St, South on Queen St. West by land of said Thomas Lewis, being the other half, and northerly by land of Nath’l Byfield.
The children of Thomas Lewis and Hanna Baker are listed as follows: (1) Edward, born 28 May 1660 at Lynn and died 5 Jul 1662 at Northampton, Massachusetts (two years old); (2) Hannah, born in 1662. On 22 Jan 1683 she married George Morey; (3) Mary, born in 1663 and died on 26 March 1666 (two or three years old); (4) Esther, born in 1665 at Northampton and died on 11 Apr 1743 at Bristol, Rhode Island. On 7 Jan 1683/84 she married Jeremiah Finney (1662-1748); (5) Thomas, born 28 Sep 1666 at Northampton and died 11 Jan 1666/7 at Northampton (three months old); (6) Thomas Lewis, see below; (7) Elizabeth, born 7 Dec 1669 at Swansea; (8) (daughter) Persithe, born 15 Jun 1671 at Swansea; (9) Samuel, born 23 April 1673 at Swansea. As a young man he migrated from Massachusetts to New Jersey, and he died at Mendham, New Jersey in Dec 1738. On 29 Sep 1698 at Woodbridge, New Jersey he married Susannah Jones, daughter of Edward Jones and Joanna [surname unknown]; (10) (daughter) Hepsebah, born 15 Nov 1674 at Swansea and died 11 Nov 1753 at Bristol. On 25 Dec 1706 at Bristol, she married James Thurber ( -1747); (11) Joseph, born 13 May 1677 at Swansea and died 27 May 1742 at Haddam, Connecticut. About 1702 at Haddam he married Elizabeth Birge, daughter of John Birge and Sarah [surname unknown] and (12) Deborah, born 19 Mar 1678/9 at Swansea.
Thomas Lewis (Jr.), son of Thomas Lewis and Hannah Baker, was born 29 Apr 1668 at Lynn, Massachusetts and died Oct 1717 at Swansea, Massachusetts. On 10 Apr 1689 he married Elizabeth Brooks, daughter of Timothy Brooks and Mary Russell. Elizabeth was born about 1668 at Billerica, Massachusetts and died before 29 Nov 1731 at Swansea.
Thomas Lewis (Jr.) bought land of the Trustees of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in the northeastern corner of Swansea on 5 Sep 1715. He also bought land of Zachariah Eddy, of Peletiah Mason and Thomas Brooks. He bought a farm in Rehoboth from Ephraim Pearce on 5 July 1717; 20 acres in Metapoiset from Thomas Bowen on 28 Mar 1718 and 27 acres in Rehoboth from John Martin on 21 Oct 1718. In the colonial records, he is called a weaver.
The will of Thomas Lewis (Jr.) was dated 12 Aug 1717 and probated 4 Nov 1717. In the will he mentions his lands in Swansea and Rehoboth, his wife Elizabeth, sons James, Timothy and Samuel and daughters Mary (minor), Deborah, Tabitha and Lydia. The inventory of his property showed a value of £1,604.19.0 (a rather large estate for the time).
The will of Elizabeth Brooks (Elizabeth Lewis, lately wife of Thomas Lewis of Swansea) was dated 8 Nov 1731. In the will, she mentions her daughter Mary, Mary’s husband Isaac Carter and her granddaughters Elizabeth and Sarah Carter. She also mentions her daughter Deborah, wife of Samuel Eddy; her daughter Abigail; her daughter Experience Lewis [Mason] and her two sons Nathan and Benjamin Mason; her daughter Tabitha Martin, wife of Daniel Martin; granddaughters Hannah and Lydia Martin; daughter Lydia and sons Samuel, Timothy and James Lewis, who were appointed executors on 29 Nov 1731.
In summary, the children of Thomas Lewis (Jr.) and Elizabeth are listed as follows (all born at Swansea, except for Abigail, born at Bristol, Rhode Island): (1) Nathaniel (1690), Abigail (1691), Mary (1694), James (1695), Timothy (1698-about 1754), Deborah (1700), Samuel (1702-about 1763), Experience Lewis (1704-1733), Tabitha (1706).
Experience Lewis, daughter of Thomas Lewis (Jr.) and Elizabeth Brooks, was born 27 Apr 1704. On 26 Jan 1723 at Swansea, she married Samuel Mason. He was born 24 Feb 1700 at Swansea, the son of Isaac Mason and Hannah Myles. Experience was appointed executor of the estate of Samuel Mason on 25 Oct 1731. On 28 Mar 1734 she married (2nd) Ebenezer Martin.
The lineage of Experience Lewis and Samuel Mason is continued under the heading of Sampson Mason (1625-1676).
 According to family tradition, some sources report that her surname is “Carey”, but proof is lacking.
 Lewis, p.1.
 Edward Simmons Lewis, “The Lewis Family of Wales and America”. The Journal of American History, Volume XXII, Third Quarter, Number 3, 1926.
 Samuel Ward (1577–1640) was an English Puritan minister of Ipswich. In 1603, he was elected by the corporation of Ipswich to the office of town preacher, and he occupied the pulpit of St. Mary-le-Tower Church with little intermission, for about thirty years.
 There are other instances in English baptismal records of a John, son of Edmund Lewis, so this is not conclusive, as the names were not uncommon.
 St. Mary-le-Tower Parish Records, Ipswich, Suffolk, England.
 M. McCurrach, Freemen of the Borough of Ipswich 1320-1996
 The date of death for Edmund Lewis is assumed from the date of the proving of his will, November 1650, and the inventory of his estate, February, 1650/1. There is no known record of his death.
 Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Mass., 1860.
 H.M. State Paper Office/Public Records Office, 10 Apr 1634.
 Bristol County Deeds, Vol. 4, p. 319.
 Bristol County Deeds, Vol. 6, p. 174.
 “Samuel Lewis was 23 years old when his parents returned to the coast in Bristol, R.I. There were mariners among the Lewises and Samuel may have worked on the coastwise boats from that area to N.Y. City during the next few years. At this time there was extensive migration from the Massachusetts region southward into Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. Susannah was apparently born in New Jersey. Her paternal grandfather, Jeffery Jones, was prominent in Elizabeth, N.J., and described as ‘a progenitor of several Woodbridge families.’ Jeffery Jones was a freeman in 1644″. (Potter, Ralph Kimball. Early Lewises of Northern New Jersey (Lakewood, New Jersey, 1972) p 26.
 Bristol County Deeds, Vol. 9, p. 478.
 Pelatiah Mason (1669-1763), my paternal 8th g-grandfather, is discussed under the heading of Sampson Mason (1625-1676).
 Thomas Bowen is the husband of Pelatiah Mason’s sister, Thankful.