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Descendants of John May

Generation One

320. John1 May;180 married Unknown Unknown;180 born circa 1590 at Mayfield?, Sussex?, Eng;180 died 28 Apr 1670 at Roxbury, MA.180

He " JOHN MAY was born in England, probably in Mayfield, Sussex County, about 1590. He was master of "The James" which sailed between London and New England as early as 1635. He settled in Roxbury about 1640 and became a member of John Eliot's church. He was made freeman June 2, 1641. The death of his first wife is recorded by the apostle Eliot on the Church records of Roxbury: "June 18, 1651. This day died Sister Mayes, a very gracious and savory Christian."

He died Apl. 28, 1670, leaving his second wife Sarah and the two sons who came with him from England. His will dated Sabbath morning four days before his death mentions his house and several pieces of land, and also his carpenter's tools.


John b. 1628 or 1631, d. Sept. 11, 1671, m. Sarah Brewer.

Samuel d. July 17, 1677, m. Abigail Stansfall. "180 He "INTRODUCTORY.

FROM JOHN MAY, who came to America in 1640, with his wife and two sons, John and Samuel, and settled in Roxbury, Mass., have descended the greater part of those who have borne or who bear the name of May, in New England, and of those who have thence carried it to new homes in all parts of the country. Concerning these first-comers we know little of a positive character, beyond what the Roxbury town and church records furnish. A book printed in London in 1694, and entitled "Worthies of England in Church and State," assigns a "Portuguese origin" to the Mays of Sussex, England, and says "they were sheriffs" there; and a long-current tradition, for which, however, we can find no certain basis, places the home in England of our first immigrant family at MAYFIELD, a town in the county of Sussex, some forty miles south of London.(*) (*) Savage, Genealog. Dict. A brief account of this place as it appears to modern eyes, and so far as it possesses a family interest, follows this introductory chapter. In this connection the interesting fact may be mentioned that the wife of William Bradford, afterwards governor of the Plymouth Colony for thirty years, who accompanied him in "The Mayflower" from England, was DOROTHY MAY, and tradition connects her also with the county of Sussex. She did not live to reach Plymouth.(+)

(+) See Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrims, 162, 485. Her only son, John Bradford,

became a resident of Duxbury. In records at Leyden, Holland, is the following: "15, Nov.

1613, William Bretfoort, fustian-worker, young man [i.e., before unmarried] from Oosterfeldt

in England, affianced to Dorothea May from Witzbuts in England. The banns were again

published 23, Nov. and 30, Nov., but the marriage took place elsewhere." At Amsterdam

is found the following record: "9, Dec. 1613, William Bradford from Ostervelde, fustianworker,

23 years of age, living at Leyden, where he is betrothed, married to Dorothea May,

aged 16 years, from Witzbuts." To this is appended their signatures, Dorothy spelling her

name Dority. Witzbuts is the Dutch corruption probably of Wisbeach, Cambridgeshire, or

possibly of Wisborough, Sussex; Oosterfeldt and Ostervelde stand for Austerfield, Yorkshire,

Eng. See also N. E. Hist. and Gen. Register, January, 1861, p. 30. In lists kept at the Admiralty Office in London we have mention of two voyages, between 1635 and 1640, made by a vessel named "the James, Mr. John May, Master," from the port of London to New England. In the year last named we find John May, with wife and two young sons, settling in Roxbury, in that part of the town now and for a long time known as Jamaica Plain. From that time onward the name appears in connection with town and church affairs, "written Mayes and Mays in the early records of town and church, but Maies in Colony records."(*) (*) Savage, Genealog. Dict.

The motives which determined John May to come to America, though nowhere to our knowledge recorded, are sufficiently probable. The troubled state of the country at home, doubtless, had much to do with it; but the desire for a larger degree of personal independence and religious liberty, much more, as may fairly be inferred from what is authentically recorded of him here.

In 1641 we have record of his membership in the church of which JOHN ELIOT, "the apostle," was pastor. Also, in the same year, we have record of his becoming a FREEMAN of the Colony, -- that is, entitled to vote and eligible to office, -- in itself an honorable distinction. In subsequent years we find records of the marriages of his two sons already named, John and Samuel, and of the births and baptisms of their children; and, in 1670, of his will made on the 24th April, four days before he died, when "being sick, yet of a perfect understanding," he called in his neighbors William Park and Edward Morris, to make known to them his wishes, and how he would "dispose of the little estate that God was pleased to trust him with."

The little that we thus know of our first American ancestor is yet enough to give us a somewhat well-defined idea of the man, as he discharged the duties of citizen and church-member, tilled his land with the help of his sons, and with some skill in the builder's art (as we infer from the special mention of carpenter's tools in his will) built for himself and his neighbors the few and plain buildings which sheltered themselves and their cattle. His "understanding" is clear and "perfect" at the age of eighty; he recognizes his little property as something intrusted to him by a more absolute owner; and he disposes of it with reason and justice. The wife who came from England with him had died in 1651, as Eliot records with a high tribute to her character, and he had married again.

We therefore think that we may fairly claim, from the recorded facts, that a full sympathy with the impulse which brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth, and which brought successive companies of Puritans to this western world, moved him also. We think, too, that there will be few, if any, of her descendants who will not prize as of peculiar value that quaint character of our first American ancestress, inscribed on the Roxbury church records by the hand of the apostolic Eliot(+) himself, -- "This day died sister Mayes, a

(+) John Eliot, often called "the Apostle to the Indians," born in England in 1603, was

minister of the church in Roxbury from 1632 until his death in 1690. His labors for Christianizing

the Indians, of whom there were about twenty tribes within the limits of the

English plantations, are historical. His translation of the entire Bible into the Indian language

was a work of vast labor; and the honor is claimed for him of having been the first

Protestant minister to preach the gospel to the North-American savages.

very gracious and savoury Christian," -- referring, we suppose, to the injunction of Paul to the Colossian Christians, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt."

The present book is a record of the descendants of this pair, as complete as we are able to make it. But we cannot dismiss it from our hands without first acknowledging our large indebtedness to two laborers who preceded us in these researches.

Years ago, before the editors of this volume were born, before such inquiries had become common, and before facilities for pursuing them existed, a kinsman, whose name is honored and whose memory is precious with many yet living, entered the field, explored one section of it thoroughly, and left the results in manuscripts carefully prepared by his own hand. This was the late Col. JOSEPH MAY of Boston (1760-1841), whose record will be found on p. 12. With much labor he gathered from town records and from the records of churches, of probate offices, and of registries of deeds, as also from oral tradition and from gravestones, the data which make the basis of our later work. The form of tables adopted in this volume we derive from him. The other laborer in this field to whom we refer is Prof. EDWARD TUCKERMAN of Amherst College, whose mother was a daughter of Col. John May of Boston (1748-1812). More than thirty years ago, Mr. Tuckerman became interested in inquiries similar to those which Col. Joseph May had before pursued, taking up other lines of descent from the first immigrant, and following them to new homes in Pomfret, Woodstock, and Wethersfield, Conn. His painstaking labors have lightened ours, supplying a considerable amount of material, and indicating directions wherein we might find and have found much more. We have had the use of his manuscript collections, and have had reason to be glad that so much pioneer-work had been well done to our hands.


[This paper was written in the winter of 1875-6 by Rev. Joseph May, now of Philadelphia, who had then lately visited the place. It was then supposed that there was sufficient authority for the statement that Mayfield was the native place of our first American ancestor. Later inquiry has however shown that we cannot affirm this positively. But the tradition, probable enough in itself, is sufficient to warrant a feeling of interest in it; and accordingly, while disclaiming any confident opinion on this question, we feel justified in inserting the paper, confident that a brief account of the interesting locality will be acceptable to the readers of this volume.]

NO descendant of JOHN1 could visit without delight the region where our ancestor was born. It is in the north-eastern portion of rich, historic Sussex, and Mayfield village is one of the prettiest to be seen in England. Like most of those in Sussex, it crowns a hill, high and large, which descends rather abruptly into deep valleys on the easterly side, sloping gradually on the west. It consists of little more than one street, nearly half a mile long, and which is only a part of the king's highway, running directly over the crest. In the middle of the village the houses are mostly small, of wood, and built closely together. But here and there is a more pretentious residence of stone, or of timber filled in with stucco, and very picturesque. Above the whole rise the pretty tower of the ancient church, and the modern tower of a Romish convent, built on the site and embracing the remains of the old Palace. In site and distribution Mayfield is not a little like Leicester in Massachusetts, the home of Samuel May7; and seen from a point a mile to the eastward it is all very delightful to look upon, -- as from the village the prospect in all directions is most fine. Rich farms occupy the region round about; their quaint hop-chimneys rising in the fields, and numerous windmills working their arms on every ridge. Glimpses of Rotherfield, another fountain of the May stream, and of other villages, are to be had. Population of Mayfield, 2,370.

Access to the village from London is by railway from Charing Cross, a lovely ride of two hours and a half, to Ticehurst Road station, where one may find a fly at the little inn, and will then have a six-mile drive, so pleasant he may well wish it longer.

The historic interest of Mayfield centres in the Old Palace, familiarly called "Mayfield Place," now, as has been said, restored, and, after some centuries, devoted again to the service of the Roman Church. Originally, however, it was not the property of the Church, but was the private property of the Archbishops of Canterbury. St. Dunstan, one of these, is said to have first built here an archi-episcopal palace; but no portion of the existing structure is older than the fourteenth century. Archbishop Islip erected that portion of the present building now known as the Grand Hall, which dates from the middle of that century. It is seventy feet long, by thirty-nine broad, and fifty high, and is accounted one of the finest in England. At its upper end was a daOEs; and there still remains a niche, formed of roses carved in stone, which indicates the position of the archi-episcopal chair. This beautiful room is now used as a chapel, for which it is indeed well adapted.

Here was long the favorite residence of the archbishops, several of whom ended their days in the Palace. Councils were held here in 1332 and 1362. Cranmer surrendered the manor and mansion, with the park formerly attached to it, to Henry VIII., who, in 1545, granted the estate to Sir Henry North. He soon parted with it to Sir John Gresham, and he to his brother Sir Thomas Gresham, the favorite agent of the Crown in the reigns of Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, and the builder of the Royal Exchange, London. It passed next to Sir Henry Nevill, who sold it -- here the history becomes interesting to our family -- for the sum of oe6,387, to Sir Thomas May, previously of Burwash, father of Thomas May,(*) the poet, and the historian of

(*) THOMAS MAY, son of Sir Thomas M., of Mayfield, Sussex, was born there, 1595;

was educated at Sidney Coll., Cambridge, and afterward admitted member of Gray's Inn,

London. But "literature had more charms for him than law," and he attained eminence by

his poems in both English and Latin, and by several dramas, &c. Dr. Johnson calls him

"the best Latin poet of England." On account of straitened circumstances, he sold Mayfield

Place, and, says Lord Clarendon, "brought down his mind to his fortune by a great

modesty and humility in his nature, which was not affected." He had much favor at the

court of Charles I., who called him "his poet." When the Civil War broke out, he took

the side of the Parliament. For this he was bitterly denounced by the royalists. Parliament

made him its secretary and historian. In 1647 he published his "History of the

Parliament of England which began Nov. 3, 1640;" and subsequently a "Breviary" (an

abstract of it) and "Continuation." His enemies, even Lord Clarendon, disparaged this

history; but Lord Chatham says it is "a much honester and more instructive book of the

same period of history than Lord Clarendon's;" and D'Israeli ("Quarrels of Authors")

strongly asserts the value of May's work. He died suddenly, 1650. He received "a splendid

public funeral, with a marble monument in Westminster Abbey; but after the return of

Charles II., it was destroyed, and his body dug up" and buried elsewhere. "His enemies gave him

honorable company in this sacrilege, -- that of Admiral Blake, of John Pym, of

two of Oliver Cromwell's family, and others." The foregoing is derived mainly from

Campbell's Specimens of the British Poets; Horsfield's Hist., Antiq., and Topog. of the

County of Sussex; and Neal's Hist. of the Puritans. For a more particular account, see

Allibone's Dict. of Literature and Authors.

the Long Parliament. Sir Thomas lived here but a short time, and in 1619 it was sold to the family of Baker, in whose possession it remained until a recent period, when it passed into the connected family of the Rev. Mr. Kirby, the present Vicar of Mayfield. The final sale was to the Duchess of Leeds, an American lady, who converted it into a convent, as has been already mentioned.

Next to the Palace the most interesting object in Mayfield is the ancient church. It occupies the site of the still older wooden structure built by St. Dunstan, and destroyed by fire, with most of the village, in 1389.

The present church, dedicated to St. Dunstan, is of good size, and in a fair state of preservation. It is plain, with nave, aisles, and choir, but without transepts. The churchyard is very populous, as might be expected; but a thorough search discovered no tombstone to any May, either there or within the church.

The present writer, in company with his cousin, John J. May of Boston, visited Mayfield in the autumn of 1874. Repairing at once to the "Star" Inn, we lunched, and then went over to the vicarage, where the parish registers were kindly submitted to our inspection. Beginning with a date anterior to A.D. 1600, we examined them down to 1660, with minute care, to discover entries relating to our name. Of such we found about a dozen; of little distinct value, perhaps, but sufficient to show a somewhat numerous family scattered through several villages, Mayfield, Rotherfield (three miles west), Burwash (seven miles east), Wadhurst (about ten miles north-east), and the town of Lewes. The oldest entry noted was "Jan. 11, 1601, Buried, Barbara, wife of Mr. May." The next is "1601, Baptized, George May, son of Richard." In 1604, "Jan. 23, Baptized, William May, son of Richard." After this are 1604, "Jan. 5th, Mtris [Mistress?] Judith, dau. of Sir Thomas May, Knight;" and "July 19, Martha, dau. of Sir Thomas May, Knight." The following is perhaps the most interesting for our present purpose: "1606, Decr--Jhon May, the son of Mr. Richard May, was baptyzed the same 14th day of Dece'ber, and was born the eighth."(*) Next comes "1607, August, Thomas May, the son of John May of Rotherfield, was baptyzed the 30th of this August." In 1608 a daughter, Mistress Ann, was born to Sir Thomas May, "baptyzed," and in February, 1609, buried. In 1616, "July 24, Sir Thomas May, Knight," was buried. In 1636, "July 1, buryed, John Maye."

(*) John May, the emigrant to America, was born 1590, according to our record.--EDS.

On the day following that of our visit at Mayfield, we drove to Burwash. It is situated, like Mayfield, on a large hill, but can never have been so pretty or interesting a place. Here we found in the parish register, "John May & Mary Gutsoll, married at Burwash, Jan. 30, 1603." This was, however, the only May item discovered, except "1597, July 3d, baptized, Edward, son of Mr. Thomas May."

An interesting question which we hoped to solve, we were obliged to leave unsettled; that is, the origin of the name Mayfield. Its form in monkish Latin was very pretty,--Magavelda. It is sometimes written Maighfield in the old documents. Whether it has any connection with our patronymic cannot perhaps be now ascertained, although this remains not improbable.

Sources of information relating to Mayfield are "History of Sussex," in two large quarto volumes; "Sussex Arch'ological Collections," many octavo volumes; and especially "On Mayfield in Sussex," by Edward Roberts, F.S.A.; Berry's "Sussex Genealogies," p. 36.

Dr. James Rundlet May of Portsmouth, N.H., writes that Castle Hadlow, Kent, belonged to Richard May about 1725, and quotes from the Supplement to Burke's "Landed Gentry," that "the old May mansion in Kent is one of finest estates in England, with abundance of rich land."

I. JOHN MAY(*) (Immigrant Ancestor),

b. in England 1590. 1670, April 28.

Wife, name not known 1651, June 18.

Sarah (???), 2d wife 1670, May 4.

Two sons came with him, viz.:--

II. John,2 b. in England 1631. 1671, Sept. 11.

III. Samuel,2 b. in England 1677, July 17.

(*) The first John May, according to tradition from Mayfield, County of Sussex, England,

was master of a vessel named "The James," which, as early as 1635, sailed between the

port of London and New England. He finally settled in Roxbury (that part of it afterwards

called Jamaica Plain), about A.D. 1640. He was a member of the church (Eliot's)

in Roxbury, and became a freeman in 1641. The death of his first wife is mentioned

by the apostle Eliot under date June 18, 1651, where it is said, "Sister Mayes died a

very gracious and savory Christian." In his will, dated Sabbath morning, April 24,

1670, and still extant in Suffolk Registry of Probate, John May mentions his wife, -- the

second one, -- but not by name; and his sons John and Samuel. He speaks of his house

and lands, of which his widow is to have the use during the time of her natural life; of

a "lot of land" owned by him, "on the east side of Stony River, near the house of John

Weld;" and of "the rest of his lands and meadows," without, however, describing them by

their boundaries or in any other way. He refers also to his carpenter's tools. The will is

a nuncupative, or declaratory one, and was made four days before his death, he being then

very sick. Consult Farmer's Gen. Register, Ellis's Hist. of Roxbury, Hotten's Original

Lists, &c., Savage's Hist. and Gen. Dict., also his Gleanings, Records of Roxbury, &c."223

Children of John1 May and Unknown Unknown were:

Generation Two

321. John2 May (John1);61 born 1631 at Eng;61 married Sarah Brewer, daughter of Daniel Brewer and Joanna Unknown, 19 Nov 1656 at Roxbury, MA;61 died 11 Sep 1671 at Roxbury, MA.61

He "JOHN MAY, son of John May, was born in England about 1631 or perhaps 1628. He came to Roxbury with his father in 1640 and was made freeman in 1660. He married Nov. 19, 1656, Sarah, dau. of Daniel and Joanna Brewer, and died Sept. 11, 1671, having been blind for some months. He was a large land owner and his will mentions carpenter's tools.


Mary b. Nov. 7, 1657, m. J. Ruggles.

Sarah b. Sept. 8, 1659, d. Dec. 20, 1712, m. Samuel Williams.

Eliazar b. Feby. 12, 1662, died after a few days.

John b. May 19, 1663, d. Feby 24, 1730, m. Prudence Bridge.

Mehitabel b. May 6, 1665.

Naomi b. May 20, 1667.

Elisha b. Mar. 20, 1668-9.

Ephraim b. Dec. 23, 1670. "180 He "II. John May2(*) 1631. 1671, Sept. 11.

Sarah (Brewer) Bruce.(+)

m. 1656, Nov. 19. Their children were:--

IV. Mary3m. J. Ruggles, Rox'y, 1676, 1657, Nov. 7.

V. Sarah3 m. Samuel Williams?? 1659, Sept. 8. 1712, Dec. 20.

Eleazar3 lived only a few days 1662, Feb. 12. 1662.

VI. John3 m. Prudence Bridge 1663, May 19. 1730, Feb. 24.

VII. Mehetabel3 1665, May 6.

VIII. Naomi3 1667, May 20.

IX. Elisha3 m. (???) (???) 1668/9, Mar. 20.

X. Ephraim3 m. (???) (???) 1670, Dec. 23.

VI. John May3 º 1663, May 19. 1730, Feb. 24.

Prudence Bridge 1664, Jan. 11. 1723, Sept. 26.

m. 1684, June 2. Their children were:--

XI. John4 m. Elizabeth Child 1686, Nov. 23.

XII. Samuel4** 1689, Jan. 8.

XIII. Prudence4 1690, Dec. 29. died young.

A XIV. Ebenezer4 m. Abigail Gore 1692, Oct. 19. 1752, May 2.

(*) John May,2 born, according to other authority, in 1628, was admitted freeman 1660.

Some months before he died he was blind. His will and an inventory of his property in

Suffolk Registry of Probate. He occupied, apparently, the same land that his father did,

though probably he had added to it considerably. He had land at NORAYS and

WOLOMONOPOG, a saltmarsh at GRAVEL POINT, "other land bought of ROBERT

WILLIAMS, and woodland bought of Goodman Howe." Like his father, he mentions in his will

carpenter's tools.

(+) Sarah (Brewer) Bruce, daughter of Daniel and Joanna Brewer. The name of her

former husband has not been ascertained.

?? Sarah3 m. Samuel Williams, 1679; or, according to Savage, 1680. Their grandson

Samuel m. K 2 Abigail May5 (HOMESTEAD BRANCH, p. 8). See History of the Williams

Family, p. 33.

Elisha3 and Ephraim3 lived in Roxbury until about 1695, when they removed to

Rehoboth. See BRISTOL COUNTY BRANCH, p. 120.

º John,8 selectman, and deacon in the Roxbury church. His gravestone still standing in

old burying-ground. At time his will was made, two or three of his sons had evidently

sought homes elsewhere, as most of the real estate is given to Ebenezer4 and Eleazar,4 who

are made executors. Much of the estate at Jamaica Plain is still identifiable; on east and

west sides of the Dedham road; on Stony River; near Sawmill Brook; saltmarsh at

Gravelly Point, &c. He gives to Nehemiah4 a "lot of land lying in that part of Woodstock

commonly called 'Oldtown Half, lying near Black ponds;'" Woodstock then supposed to

be in Massachusetts.

Prudence Bridge, daughter of John and Prudence (Robinson) Bridge of Roxbury.

** Samuel,4 living when his father's will was made, 1729, Nov. 1.

XV. Prudence4 1694, Nov. 29. 1729.

XVI. Hezekiah4 r. to Wethersfield, Ct. 1696, Dec. 14. 1783, Sept. 5.

XVII. Sarah4(*) 1698, Oct. 29.

XVIII. Nehemiah4 r. to Woodstock, Ct. 1701, June 28.

XIX. Mehetabel4(*) 1703, Feb. 27.

B XX. Eleazer4 r. to Pomfret, Ct 1705, July 9. 1783, Feb. 19.

C XXI. Benjamin4 lived in Roxbury 1708, March 1. 1774, Dec. 8."223

Children of John2 May and Sarah Brewer were:

Generation Three

322. Sarah3 May (John2, John1);141 born 8 Sep 1659;141 married Samuel Williams, son of Samuel Williams and Theoda Parke, 24 Feb 1679/80;141,140 died 20 Dec 1712 at age 53.141

Children of Sarah3 May and Samuel Williams were:

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