The Ancestry of Hattie E. J. Bruce - the French Family


WILLIAM FRENCH [#150], b. abt. 1603, d. Billerica, MA 20 Nov 1681, m(1) Elizabeth ____, d. Billerica, MA 31 Mar 1668, m(2) 6 May 1669 MARY (LATHROP) Stearns (dau. of Thomas Lathrop and Sarah Learned), b. Barnstable, MA 4 Oct 1640, d. after 1735. She had m(1) Barnstable? Dec 1656 John Stearns, d. 5 Mar 1668-9. She m(3) Isaac Mixer.

William French was married in England where four of his children were born. He emigrated to America in the summer of 1635 in the ship Defence.[1] Mr. Shepard in his autobiography says he set out for New England with a group "in the year 1634, about the beginning of winter" and embarked at Harwich. They were driven back by stress of weather and the voyage was abandoned. However they embarked again on August 10, 1635 "and so the Lord after many sad storms and wearisome days and many longings to see the shore, brought us to the sight of it upon Oct. 2, 1635". They landed at Boston on the third. Two days later the congregation moved to Cambridge where they found many empty homes and people willing to sell because of the exodus of Reverend Hooker's flock to Hartford.[5/3435] The Cutter family may also have been among this group especially based on their stories of a difficult voyage. William first settled in Cambridge, where he resided on the westerly side of Dunster Street about midway between Harvard Square and Mt. Auburn Street, which estate he bought in 1639 and sold to William Barrett June 10, 1656.[5/551]

William French was one of the original proprietors of Billerica and was granted lot 24 of 150 acres in the Shawshine grant in 1652. He was referred to as Lieft. William ffrench.[5/58] The Shawshine Plantation later became the town of Billerica, the name change coming by order of the court on May 23, 1655.[5/62] He settled there early and was a captain in the militia.[1] He became a deacon in 1659 and was also a commissioner to establish country rates. In 1660 he was elected a Selectman, a seat which he held for nine years. In 1661 he was one of a committee to examine children and servants in reading, religion, and catechism. William French was the first Deputy (i.e. representative) of Billerica to the General Court.[1]

William died in Billerica on Nov. 20, 1681 in his 78th year. His death record lists him as Lieutenant.[3] His will was dated June 5, 1679 at which time he called himself "aged abt. seaventy & six years". William had already provided for his children prior to the time of writing his will. However he did make bequests to his grand children. These bequests were: "to the eldest son of John ffrench to Wm the son of Jacob ffrench to Elizabeth ye Daughter Richard Ellis to Jonathan ye Son of Jonathan Hides, to ye Eldest Daughter of Jonathan Peake, to Marah ye Daughter of Jno Brackett, which are all my grand children". His wife and son Jacob were made executors. The will was witnessed by Samuel Whiting, Jr. and Jonathan Danforth, Sr..[4/5:276] "Inventory of the Estate of Lt. Wm ffrench of Billerica who deced. 20 November 1681 being in his 78 year of his age" was taken by Jonathan Danforth Senior and Patrick Hill and amounted to 231.12.10.[4/5:278] Division of the estate was made to the widow and to daughters Mary French (now Sharp), Sarah French, and Hannah French.[4/16:413]

William was perhaps from Bures Saint Mary in England which straddles the River Stour and lies partly in Suffolk and partly in Essex. A Jacob French married there in 1579 and three children were born shortly thereafter: William, bap. July 25, 1580; Jacob, bap. Aug. 12, 1582; and Thomas, bap. Oct. 11, 1584. The first two children were most likely children of Jacob, but their parents names were not given in the baptism record. The third child, Thomas, was recorded as the son of Jacob. The William born in 1580 could possibly be the father of William the ancestor and/or could be the William French who had children baptised at Twinstead, Essex about three miles from Bures St. Mary, the first of whom was Thomas, baptised Nov. 10, 1606. The other was Jacob baptised Jan. 17, 1607-8.[5] Notice the name of Jacob through the generations, including the immigrant's.

Some sources give William's father as Thomas French of Halstead, Essex, England. He married a Wood and is reported to have had William, born March 15, 1602-3; Frances, bap. June 29, 1606; and Jerrymya, bap. Nov. 21, 1607[6]. Other sources give William's father as Thomas also but give a much larger set of Thomas' children. However these claims would seem to be incorrect. Thomas was buried in Halstead Nov. 20, 1613, and his will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Jan. 27, 1613-4. He left 400 pounds each to his sons John, Edward, William, Robert, and Francis. His son William, who was baptised at Halstead March 15, 1603 was of St. Dunstans in the west of London when he made his will May 14, 1621. In it are mentioned his brothers and sisters John, Edward, Robert, Francis, Ann, Elianor, Elizabeth, Margaret, Jemima, and Dorothy French. He also mentioned the 400 pounds given him by his father. This will was proved in the Commissary Court of London Nov. 27, 1637 making it impossible that this William was the William French of Billerica, MA. There was, however, another family of French in Halstead to which belonged a William, born in 1606. There is very little information in the church registers regarding this family however[2].

William had a brother John in Cambridge who was buried Feb. 16, 1645-6. John's wife Joanna was buried Jan. 20, 1645-6. They had children born from about 1635 through 1643. John was also a tailor. William French of Billerica administered upon the estate and sold the homestead to Robert Browne in 1657.[5/551] Richard French of Cambridge was probably also a brother to William. His wife was Martha, and they had a son Samuel, born July 13, 1653. He bought land on Jan. 26, 1651-2 and sold it Oct. 8, 1654, after which time there is no further record of him.[5/5512]

REF: [1] New England Historic Genealogical Register, 1890 (pg.367)
     [2] New England Historic Genealogical Register, 1911 (pgs.285-286)
     [3] Billerica, MA Vital Records
     [4] Middlesex County Probate (First Series Docket 8528)
     [5] The History of Cambridge - Lucius R. Paige, 1877
     [6] Genealogy of the Billerica, Massachusetts French Family
         from 1599-1914 - H. Martin Kellogg, 1884

Children (by Elizabeth):

1. Francis, b. abt. 1624, d. Derby, CT 14 Feb 1681 (or 1690-1),
   m. Milford, CT 10 Apr 1661 Lydia Bonnell, d. 1 Apr 1708
2. Elizabeth, b. abt. 1629, m. Dedham, MA 19 Sep 1650 Richard
   Ellis, d. Dedham 21 Oct 1694
3. Mary, b. abt. 1633, d. Cambridge 27 May 1672, m. Jonathan
   Hyde, b. abt. 1626, d. Newton, MA 5 Oct 1711
   Chil.: 1) Elizabeth, b. 4 Sep 1659, d. Cambridge
   26 Jun 1699, m. 1685 Isaac Williams
4. John, b. abt. 1635, d. Oct 1712, m(1) 21 Jun 1659 Abigail
   Coggan, d. 5 Apr 1662, m(2) 3 Jul 1663 Hannah Burrage, d.
   7 Jul 1667, m(3) 14 Jan 1667-8 Mary Rogers, d. 16 Jun 1677,
   m(4) 16 Jan 1677-8 Mary (Littlefield) Kittresge, d. 1719
5. Sarah, b. Cambridge, MA 1638, d. 1694, m. Roxbury, MA 15 Aug
   1660 Jonathan Peake (son Jonathan Peake and Dorcas French),
   b. 17 Dec 1637, d. Roxbury 2 Jun 1700
   Chil.: 1) Jonathan, b. Roxbury 10 Oct 1663, d. Woodstock,
   CT 20 Sep 1744, m. 1687 Hannah Leavens
6. Jacob, b. Cambridge 16 Jan 163940, d. 20 May 1713, m(1)
   20 Sep 1665 Mary Champney (dau Richard Champney), d. 1 Apr
   1681, m(2) 30 Jul 1685 Mary Convers, d. 18 Jun 1686, m(3)
   Mary ____, d. 9 Jun 1709, m(4) Ruth ____, d. 6 Nov 1730
   Chil.: 1) Jacob, b. 20 Feb 1667, d. 1700; 2) William,
   b. Billerica 18 Jul 1669, d. 30 Sep 1723, m. 22 May 1695 Sarah
   Danforth (dau. Jonathan Danforth and Elizabeth Powter), b. Billerica
   23 Dec 1676, d. 15 Oct 1751; 3) Mary, b. 6 Oct.
   1669, d. 12 Nov. 1669; 4) John, b. 6 Oct. 1670,
   d. 3 Dec. 1670; 5) Joseph, b. 5 May 1673, d. 25
   Sep 1676; 6) Jabez, b. and d. 16 Sep 1674; 7) Mary,
   b. 5 Mar 1676, m. Jonathan Baldwin; 8) Hannah, b.
   and d. 23 Oct. 1677; 9) Elizabeth, b. 8 Jun 1679,
   m. William Manning; 10) Sarah, b. 7 Mar 1681, m.
   Thomas Baldwin; 11) Abigail, b. 20 Apr 1686, d.
   29 Mar 1687
7. Hannah, b. Cambridge 12 Apr 1641, d. 20 Jun 1642
8. Hannah, b. Cambridge 16 Feb 1644, m. Billerica, MA 6 Sep
   1661 John Brackett
9. Samuel, b. Cambridge 3 Dec 1645, d. 15 Jul 1646
10. Samuel, b. abt. 1648, d. Dunstable, MA 4 Nov 1727, m. Cambridge
   24 Dec 1682 Sarah Cummings (dau John Cummings and Sarah Howlett),
   b. Dunstable 28 Jan 1661
   Chil.: 1) Alice, b. Dunstable 20 Nov 1699, m. Nathaniel

Children (by Mary):

11. Mary, b. Billerica, MA April 3, 1670, m. ____ Sharp
12. Sarah, b. Billerica Oct. 29, 1671, m. May 6, 1691 Joseph Crosby
13. Abigail, b. Billerica April 14, 1673, d. April 13, 1674
14. Hannah, b. Billerica, MA Jan. 25, 1676, d. Jan. 2,
   1766, m. Sept. 5, 1693 John Child, b. Watertown, MA April
   25, 1669, d. Waltham, MA before 1748

Mary's children by John Stearns:

1. Isaac Stearns, b. April 17, 1658, d. Oct. 9, 1659
2. Samuel Stearns, b. Sept. 3, 1659, d. 1735
3. Isaac Stearns, b. Dec. 23, 1661, d. 1739, m. Mary Merriam,
   b. June 4, 1664
4. Nathaniel Stearns, b. Nov. 30, 1663
5. Thomas Stearns, b. Dec. 6, 1665, d. Feb. 9, 1696, m. June 20,
   1688 Rebecca Chamberlain, b. Feb. 25, 1662

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