The Fancher Family Origins

                                                        Family Researchers

Many people have collected information about their Fancher families over the years and have treasured their genealogies, but four individuals stand out as the earliest family researchers. Sixty to one hundred and thirty years ago, these people collected, preserved, and shared the information they had gathered on the family. All four of these researchers descended from John1 Fancher of Stamford, Connecticut and Pound Ridge, New York.

Judge Enoch Lewis Fancher

Enoch Lewis Fancher (1817-1900) was the son of Samuel Newman Fancher and grandson of Abraham Fancher and the great, great grandson of John Fancher, the settler at Stamford, Connecticut. He was the earliest biographer of the Fancher family and was collecting his information prior to 1866. He prepared an “imperfect sketch of the Fancher genealogy,” but it was destroyed when his law office burned in 1866.  It appears that after the fire, he did not pursue the family history any further. He served at one time as judge on a county court and was referred to as Judge Fancher.

None of his pre-1866 correspondence has survived as none has appeared in any collection or library. He probably did most of his collecting by talking with older members of his family.   

Judge Fancher’s grandfather Abraham Fancher (1754-1838) would have known John Fancher (ca 1710-1779) the settler at Stamford, Connecticut and Pound Ridge, New York.  

With his 1897 letter to his niece (Attachment D), Judge Fancher sent her a family chart. He also writes “I heard when a boy – I think from my father” that the Fancher family came from the Hague or France after the Huguenot troubles and two brothers crossed the Atlantic and started on their life’s work somewhere on Long Island. He also goes on to state he has no verification of this information and had not found the Fancher name anywhere on Long Island. He did not mention Lloyds Neck (or alternately Lloyd’s Cove) Long Island, a location that appears in some later John1 Fancher family traditions that also contain some elements of Judge Fancher’s original recollection. From this letter it would appear that in 1897Judge Fancher was the first to present this particular family tradition.

This reference to Long Island seems to have been overlooked by subsequent researchers and none of the serious researchers visited Long Island or researched records of that area in depth. Judge Fancher probably did not know about the Fancy Family of Brookhaven because the Brookhaven records were not published until 1882, many years after his 1866 office fire. One hundred and thirty years ago the resources available to Judge Fancher would have been limited, in comparison to what they are today.

Because he was closer in generation to John1 Fancher, Judge Fancher perhaps was in the best position of all Fancher researchers to have gleaned some factual information about the origin and initial settlement of the first Fanchers in the Colonies. 

Winifred S. Potter

Mr. Winifred S. Potter, Columbus, Ohio made a determined search by mail from about 1900 to 1905. He conducted a widespread collection effort until about 1905 when he was elected Mayor of Columbus. He was never able to devote much time to his hobby again. He spoke at some Fancher reunions after 1905 but most of his collection efforts practically ended.

Mr. Potter lived for several more years but never became immersed again in his genealogy hobby.  Nearly all of his effort was by mail.  His collection shows no visits to courthouses, libraries, and archives, and he relied on information sent to him by others. He was very energetic in contacting people and following up.  His Fancher collection is included in the William Hoyt Fancher Collection at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Potter has preserved very valuable family information because his was the earliest collection to have survived. 

As to the origin of the Fanchers in America, Mr. Potter repeated Judge Fancher’s information that they were French Huguenot, adding that they landed at Lloyds Neck, Long Island. From there they went to Stamford, Connecticut.


Mr. Potter was aware of John1 Fancher and Hannah1 (Fancher) Garnsey of Stamford, and other later branches which he thought must have some how descended from John1, the Settler. Both he and James Clark distributed this information to many people. 

James R. Clark

Mr. James R. Clark of Maunie, Illinois was an early Fancher genealogist from around 1900 to his death in the late 1920’s.  Also, he worked on other lines of his family. He diligently pursued the family for years, but toward the end of his life, his correspondence was mostly replies to questions he received. Most of his collection was by mail. He did write some officials in towns, counties and libraries asking for Fancher data. He did visit some libraries and societies. However, most of his work was by mail and what others passed on to him. 

Mr. Clark’s collection has not survived, but many (maybe 100+) of his letters have. He was a prolific letter writer and many were multi page, some up to 10 pages. He sprinkled his letters with many subjects from news of the day to politics. He corresponded extensively with W. S. Potter. 

Mr. Clark prepared a manuscript including information about branches of his family. It was 655 pages, of which 195 pages were Fancher data. This manuscript was never published because of the cost.  It was passed to his grandson Rolland Clark. The origin of the Fancher family in America by Clark was the same as W. S. Potter’s. That is, they were French Huguenot from France, landed at Lloyds Neck Long Island and went to Stamford, Connecticut. Mr. Clark was not aware of any early Fanchers other than John1 Fancher and Hannah1 (Fancher) Garnsey of Stamford, CT. It is very likely that he received this information from W. S. Potter. Both were espousing this same family origin. 

William Hoyt Fancher 

William Hoyt Fancher (WHF), born 18 October 1886; died unmarried in Danbury 11 March 1943.  He was educated in the public schools of Danbury and because of a asthmatic condition, from which he was long a sufferer, he was sent to California in his youth and attended the University of California, in which latter institution he acquired some knowledge of civil engineering. He assisted in laying out a development near Los Angeles. He had a natural bent for tools, and things mechanical, and subsequently turned to railroading and worked as a locomotive fireman on the Santa Fe Railroad.  Returning east about the time of his mother’s death in 1897 he worked for the Connecticut Highway Department, out of the New Milford office.  His father was somewhat interested in the Fancher family genealogy, and the son took the work up in earnest about 1925, when W. S. Potter of Columbus, Ohio, who had previously worked on a genealogy of the family, died.  He carried on the task most assiduously throughout the remainder of his too short life and when he died it was found that he had left a bequest to the New England Historic Genealogical Society to provide for completion and publication of a Fancher Genealogy. Mr. Fancher had joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers when in California and remained a member in good standing until his death. He has also in California become a 32nd degree mason and was a member of the Shriners. (This from his book, The Fancher Family, The Cabinet Press, 1947.)

W.H. Fancher became active in genealogy about 1925 and was able to obtain Potter’s records that included the letters written to him by many early family members. It included enough letters from James Clark to ascertain Clark’s knowledge about the family. 

In addition to John1 Fancher and Hannah1 (Fancher) Garnsey of Stamford who had been found earlier by Judge Fancher, W. S. Potter, James Clark, and others, William Hoyt Fancher discovered Richard1 Fancher of Stamford, Connecticut and Morris County, New Jersey; David1 Fancher of Stratford, Connecticut; Catherine1 (Fancher) Elwell of Branford, Connecticut; and William1 Fancher of Branford, Connecticut. He was never aware of another contemporary of these six, Joseph Fancher of Cape May County, New Jersey.

William Hoyt Fancher had some research done for him in England and France, but did not find any documented connection. Mr. Raymond Weeks of Manakintown, Virginia appears to have been the primary advisor to William Hoyt Fancher on French matters. His correspondence is numerous and contains many references to French people and records.


In addition to corresponding extensively with many, many people, he visited many courthouses, town halls, libraries, archives, etc.  He paid to have research done in distant places.  He would make extended trips, visiting the places with records and talking to Fancher family members. On one such trip to Alabama and Mississippi, he was on the road for six weeks staying in various homes and interviewing family members.

William Hoyt Fancher explained to people that he had been fortunate to make some small profitable investments when he was young. He was able to use these resources to pursue his interests without having to worry about the costs associated with them. It enabled him to leave a bequest in his Will to have his book compiled from his records and published after his death. 

Mr. Fancher owned and operated a typewriter sales and repair shop in Danbury, Connecticut. He became interested in “spiritualism,” corresponded with others interested, went to s´┐Żances, and weekend retreats.  

In the (undated) Foreword to his book, written before his death, he addresses part of the John1 Fancher family tradition: “Positive Huguenot ancestry is always hard to establish. Few came direct from France to the new world; most of the refugees went either to England or Holland and after a sojourn of a few years reached these shores… We feel that letters from the Protestant Society of France indicate early French ancestry. Fancher is anglicized of Faucher, an earlier spelling being Fauchier and, about 1200, the spelling was Falchier.”

From the book about his ancestor (Page 7), “John1 Fancher, was one of the first settlers of Poundridge, N. Y., about the year 1730, in that part of the town known later as Stamford, Conn.* John Fancher is believed to have been of Huguenot descent. He may have been the Jean Faucher, baptized 26 June 1707 in Monmouth St. church, parish of Stepney, son of David (cordonnier) and Marthe (Desfontaines) Faucher, as shown in The Huguenot Society of London records, vol. 16, page 283.”

At that time, William Hoyt Fancher, taking his clue from earlier researchers, believed the Fanchers were of French descent and theorized that John Fancher may have been the Jean Faucher baptized in London in 1707. There is no evidence that William Hoyt Fancher ever investigated a surname origin besides Faucher, or a nationality besides French.

(*Authors note: John1 Fancher first appears in 1734/5 in Stamford, CT, he removed to Pound Ridge, Westchester Co., New York 1757/58, sixteen or more years after the settlement of Pound Ridge had already been established. No part of Pound Ridge was later “known as Stamford, Conn.”, it was a part of the original Stamford land area that later became Pound Ridge, New York.)


Judge Fancher lost his written “imperfect family genealogy” to fire in 1866 and left only one letter to a niece in 1900 (Attachment D). As a boy he thought he remembered hearing that the Fanchers came from the Hague or France after the Huguenot troubles, and recounted this to his niece approximately 65 to 70 years later, when he was 80 years old. (The family of Eunice Bouton, John1 Fancher’s wife, has a tradition of French Huguenot ancestry.) He stated two brothers came to America and began their life’s work somewhere on Long Island. He further stated he never found the name on Long Island.

After Potter became interested in politics, he was less involved with genealogy, but Clark continued into the middle 1920’s. Both were espousing that the Fanchers came from France and landed at Lloyds Neck, Long Island, then came to Stamford, Connecticut.

W. H. Fancher became interested and began his genealogical hobby.  He gathered up Potter’s records and began with the same beliefs relayed by Potter and Clark, as conveyed by Judge Fancher’s childhood memory. That is, he believed the Fanchers were French Huguenot, landed at Lloyds Neck, and went to Stamford. He eventually added that John1 Fancher may have been the Jean Faucher baptized in the Threadneedle Church of London. In his September 7, 1936 letter to Col. John B. Richards (Attachment G) Mr. Fancher notes that one feature of John1 Fancher’s records which might be of interest is the spelling of his surname in the church records of his children’s’ baptisms where it is spelled “Fanshaw”. Perhaps because Mr. Fancher began with the French Huguenot tradition from Judge Fancher, his papers


and research indicate that, besides France, there was little or no research conducted in England, or in other parts of Europe.

W.H. Fancher did look at published Brookhaven records on at least two occasions and found Katteren (Katherine) Fancy’s Will. William Fancy’s Will was not published in that book which was not indexed.  For whatever reason, he did not pursue the Fancy Family, or locate the Fanshaw spellings that appear for this family. Mr. Fancher wrote the forward to his work sometime before his death, the rest of his book was put together from his notes by a compiler after his death.

Others came along after the early 1900 researchers and they, too, carried on the assumptions about landing at Lloyds Neck and going to Stamford. Apparently none conducted a prolonged search on Long Island.

Lloyd’s Neck was originally called Horse Neck. It is a peninsula that lies between Oyster Bay and Huntington Bay in the Long Island Sound, in the town of Huntington on Long Island. Huntington is actually more than a town, today it is a section of Suffolk County that includes both towns and hamlets: Huntington, Northport, East Northport, Greenlawn, Centerport, Cold Spring Harbor, Dix Hills, Lloyds Neck, Asharoken, Eatons Neck, Fort Salonga, and Commack.

On August 1, 1688 William Fancy/Fanshaw, Jr. witnessed a deed for Richard Smith to Jonathan Luce (see Attachment A) in Huntington. William, Jr. may have lived in this area for the period of time following his 1684 financial difficulties.

The authors did not set out to investigate the validity of any particular family tradition, but chose to let the evidence speak for itself. We were focused on examining the original documents in Stamford, Connecticut for clues when the predominance of the “Fanshaw” spelling emerged in the original town and church records for both John1 and our ancestor Richard1 Fancher. In the course of our research, we also discovered that several of the published indexes, transcriptions, and compilations of records do not accurately record the surname spelling found in the original documents. William Hoyt Fancher gathered information from some of these same publications and they may have given him a false impression regarding the actual Colonial spellings. (The records for David1 Fancher of Stratford Connecticut, for example, recorded his surname as Fanshaw, Fancy and Fansher.) Following the Fanshaw clues from the Stamford documents, we discovered a reference to Fanshaw on Long Island, which is what led us to the investigation of William Fancy/Fanshaw in Brookhaven.


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