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Research Notes




I.  The Ancestry of Mary Sylvester, wife of Richard Edgerton


The parentage of Mary Sylvester, wife of Richard Edgerton, has not been established.  It has been proposed that she may have been connected to the family of Giles and Mary (Arnold) Sylvester, two of whose sons, Nathaniel and Constant, were among the original purchasers of Shelter Island, New York.  Shelter Island lay off the northern coast of Long Island, just a short crossing to Saybrook, on the southern Connecticut coastline.  The Sylvesters were merchants, engaged in the sugar and lumbering industries, so it seems probable they did business with the English colonists in southern Connecticut.  Members of the family lived in Shelter Island, New York, London, England and Barbados, having arrived from Amsterdam, Holland, where Giles Sylvester Sr. died circa 1652.


Mr. Henry B. Hoff, F.A.S.G., in his excellent summary of this family (“The Sylvester Family of Shelter Island”,  The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 125:1, January 1994) lists only two daughters of Giles and Mary (Arnold) Sylvester:  Grace, who married Robert Kett, and Mary, who married Isaac Cartwright.  The latter daughter is referred to in other accounts of the families as “Mercy” (see Joanne McRee Sanders, Barbadoes Records: Wills and Administrations, 1979-81, 1:324, wherein an abstract of the will of Constant Sylvester, son of Giles and Mary, is given.)  Likewise, genealogical notes by Robert C. Edgerton of Naples, Florida, refer to daughters Mary and Mercy.  If Mary and Mercy were indeed distinct daughters (Mercy being the wife of Isaac Cartwright), the former’s absence in further documents relating to this family is conspicuous, and suggests that she had died young or been alienated from her family.  The wills of Giles Sylvester’s sons, Constant, Peter, Nathaniel and Giles, all written after the marriage of Richard Edgerton and Mary Sylvester, make no mention of a sister, Mary Edgerton, much less any familial relationship to Richard Edgerton.  On the contrary, it would appear that Giles’ younger daughter (whether “Mary” or “Mercy”) was married instead to Isaac Cartwright. 


Further investigation into a possible will for Giles Sylvester Sr. (presumably in Amsterdam) may shed some light on the number of his daughters and their names; however, since Giles died prior to the Edgerton/Sylvester marriage, the necessary evidence of any familial connection to Richard Edgerton of New England is not likely to be found.


The five sons of Giles and Mary (Arnold) Sylvester were born circa 1613 – 1632  (presumably in Amsterdam, Holland).  While Constant, Nathaniel and Peter each had a daughter named Mary, none were born early enough to be the wife of Richard Edgerton.  Whether Mary (Sylvester) Edgerton was otherwise related to this family remains to be discovered.  It is certainly not improbable that she was a cousin or other relation of the Shelter Island Sylvesters.  Current research into the family of Giles Sylvester Sr. has produced evidence of only one brother, Geoffrey (aka “Jeofrie”), who was mentioned in the will of Giles’ son Peter.  For a detailed account of the family of Giles and Mary (Arnold) Edgerton, please consult Mr. Henry B. Hoff’s article cited above.  See also, Jacob Edward Mallman, Historical Papers on Shelter Island and its Presbyterian Church, New York, 1899; and, Harry D. Sleight, Sleights of Sag Harbor, Sag Harbor, New York, 1929.


Our thanks are extended to Mr. Robert Wolfert, of Ronkonkoma, New York, for compiling and providing the research materials presented here regarding the Sylvesters of Shelter Island.  Mr. Wolfert, in cooperation with Mac Griswold, archivist for the Sylvester Manor, is currently examining possible avenues for future research into the ancestry of Mary Sylvester.


Mark E. Armstrong, November 15, 2001