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In Quest of the New Jersey Family Freeman

For generations, the mysteries of the roots of the New Jersey Freeman family have eluded those of us who are searching. Aubrey Freeman of Oklahoma has spent many years at considerable expense in the quest, and has sent a copy of his works to me. He has compiled a family lineage based on the only records available in England for the period of time involved. The family tree was not assembled in a haphazard manner....children have been associated with fathers based on the Church of England parish records of Bensington, Oxfordshire, Eng. Mothers names did not appear in those records. Occasionally, spouses for the various individuals were also found in these church parish records.....but offer no assurances that the children christened to the various fathers were born to the respective wives which were found in the records. When children were found for fathers with the same given names, great care was taken to associate children with the appropriate father based on the ages of the fathers....i.e. a child born to a William would not be associated with a William who was in his sixties when there was a known William in his twenties. Locations for various individuals were also established through use of early Subsidy (Tax) Rolls, Poll Tax records between 1523-1640, Jury records, the Hearth tax rolls of 1662 and 1665 from the Oxford Record Soc., and land records of Benson, Oxon. (Bensington Oxford). Our first step must lie in the recognition...at least with a certain degree of confidence, that the original immigrant to America in 1682 was named John. Another extremely important link is the discovery of any record (marriage, birth, tax, passenger list...whatever) which would give our original immigrant family a link to a time and place in England before or immediately after their voyage to Philadelphia.

This pedigree is offered, not with the intention of presenting an infallible lineage...but with the hope that others might pick up the standard and help in proving, disproving, modifying or adding to the information contained herein. It is hoped that its presentation will be taken in the light of the stated intent upon which it has been offered and nothing more.

For background on Bensinsington Manor see appendix I

 

FIRST GENERATION

1. William Freeman was christened about 1496 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. William Freeman was listed on the Subsidy Roll of Bensington (AKA Benson) dated years 14 and 15 of the reign of Henry VIII (1523-1524) and on Lay Subsidy roll, Oxon no 161 and 206. William Freeman was listed as a day laborer for wages. Additionally, William was found in Subsidy Rolls dated years 28 and 31 of King Henry VIII (1536-1537 and 1540)

He was married to ________. William Freeman and ________ had the following children:

+2 i. John Freeman.

3 ii. Thomas Freeman was christened about 1524 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. Thomas was first found in the 1566 and 1567 subsidy tax rolls when he paid his taxes with lands.

SECOND GENERATION

2. John Freeman was christened in 1521 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. John's father was assumed to be a William Freeman, the earliest Freeman found. No Freeman surnames were found on the Poll Tax rolls in 1381 in Bensington or Warborough. John's marriage date was found in Oxford Co. records, but the name of his spouse was unreadable.

He was married to ________ on 6 Nov. 1545 in Adderdon, Oxford, England. The marriage record was found in the Oxford County records, but the name of his spouse was not readable. John Freeman and ________ had the following children:

4 i. William Freeman was christened about 1547 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. He died on 7 Jun. 1573. William's birth, death and burial records were found in the Parish records of the Church of England at Bensington, Ox., Eng.

5 ii. Robert Freeman was christened about 1549 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. He died on 11 Apr. 1573. William's birth, death and burial records were found in the Parish records of the Church of England at Bensington, Ox., Eng.

+6 iii. John Freeman.

THIRD GENERATION

6. John Freeman was christened about 1551 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. He died about Jan 1629 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. He was buried on 26 Jan 1629 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. John and Maud's marriage record was found in the Oxfordshire County records office. His death and burial dates were found in the Paris records of the Church of England, Bensington, Ox., Eng.

He was married to Maud Dancaster on 29 Jan 1574 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. John & Maud's marriage record was found in the Oxfordshire County records office. Maud Dancaster was born about 1555 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. John Freeman and Maud Dancaster had the following children:

7 i. John Freeman was christened on 16 Jan 1575 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

8 ii. William Freeman was christened on 25 Mar 1576 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

+9 iii. Thomas Freeman was christened on 7 May 1579 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

10 iv. Francis Freeman was christened on 27 Mar 1581 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. He died on 9 Nov. 1647 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

+11 v. Henry Freeman.

12 vi. Elizabeth Freeman was christened on 18 Feb. 1586 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. She died on 8 May 1598 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

13 vii. Robert Freeman was christened on 14 Jan 1588 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

14 viii. Christy Freeman was christened on 5 Sept. 1591 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

15 ix. Marrie (Mary) Freeman was christened on 27 Jun. 1594 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

16 x. Richard Freeman was christened on 29 Mar 1597 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

17 xi. Jean Freeman was christened on 5 Oct. 1600 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. He (or she) died on 16 Sept. 1601 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

FOURTH GENERATION

9. Thomas Freeman was christened on 7 May 1579 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. He was married on 1 Jan 1599 in Bensington, Oxford, Eng., to Frances Bennett, who was born about 1580 in Bensington, Oxford, Eng.. was a daughter of John Bennett who was found as a juryman in court records of Bensington Manor, and in earlier land and tax records. He was not in London, as stated in the book by Daniel Freeman Additionally, Thomas was listed as the son of John Freeman in the Benson Parish records. This would appear to be the same Thomas Freeman that is shown on page 8 of the book "Ancestors of Daniel Freeman" and who lived in Crowmarsh, Oxon...The book stated that there was a son named John, but no record of a son born to Thomas Freeman by the name of John was found in the records.

Thomas Freeman and Frances Bennett had the following children:

18 i. Bridget Freeman was born on 25 Mar 1603 in Benson, Oxford, Eng.

19 ii. William Freeman was christened on 31 Aug. 1605 in Benson Oxford, Eng.

20 iii. Henry Freeman was born on 14 Dec. 1606 in Benson Oxford, Eng.

21 iv. George Freeman was born on 24 Jun. 1610 in Benson Oxford, Eng.

22 v. James Freeman was born in Benson Oxford, Eng.

23 vi. Robert Freeman was born in Benson Oxford, Eng.

11. Henry Freeman was christened in 1583/84 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

He was married to ________ in 1608/9 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. This Henry, son of John and Maud, married in 1608/09, but the name of his spouse was never learned. The were parents of eight children; the youngest child, Henry, was the descendant line. Henry Freeman and ________ had the following children:

24 i. Jean Freeman was christened on 21 Mar 1610.

This childs chistening was found in the Parish records of Bensington, Ox., Eng but the records only listed the name of the father and did not show if the child was a male or a female.

25 ii. Francis Freeman was christened on 20 Jan 1611.

26 iii. John Freeman was christened on 23 Sept. 1612. Married 1633 in Bensington Oxford, Eng to Rachel Taylor

27 iv. Ann Freeman was christened on 21 Jul. 1614.

28 v. Mary Freeman was christened on 22 Sept. 1616. She was buried 1 Sep. 1618 in Benson Oxford, Eng.

29 vi. Thomas Freeman was christened on 30 Mar 1619.

30 vii. Griffin Freeman was christened on 23 Feb. 1621.

+31 viii. Henry Freeman.

FIFTH GENERATION

31. Henry Freeman was christened in 1623/24 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England.

He was married to ________  in 1644/45 in Bensington, Oxfordshire, England. Henry married 1644/1645 Bensington (Benson), Oxfordshire, Eng., but the name of his spouse was never learned. Henry Freeman and ________  had the following children:

+32 i. John Freeman. b: cir 1646 in Oxfordshire, England

 

Now, here is where we meet the "brick wall" of our New Jersey Freeman family lineage which will require further proofs and evidence to make the ultimate jump across the "pond". We have John Freeman about the "right" age to fit a possible, and probably the most accepted scenario created for the original immigrant of the New Jersey Freeman family. We find the father of this John named Henry, and the eldest son of the original immigrant was named Henry. Conclusive proof...hardly. But it may be the breakthrough that generations of New Jersey Freeman family descendants need to move this family to the roots of their family tree. Unfortunately, no record of a marriage or children for this John Freeman has yet been uncovered. Additionally, although several compiled genealogies of descendants of the New Jersey Freemans have the Father listed as "possibly John," we cannot even state that as a fact.

If this John is ultimately found to be the original immigrant, he was to die about 1682 in Philadelphia, PA. Freeman family tradition which has recorded in several genealogies of the descendants of this family are all in general agreement that the immigrant, in most cases believed to be John Freeman, came from England bringing his wife and children to America in 1682. On page 20 in the book "The Descendants of Andrew Ford of Weymouth, Massachusetts" (Part I, The First Six generations compiled by Elizabeth Cobb Stewart Capital City Press, Montpelier, Vermont, 1968) ..."that while landing his goods at Phila., he fell from a plank and was drowned between the ship and the shore leaving a family of young children in the wilderness." Earlier, on the same page, it states "that her Father fled from England when there was a universal dread of returning Popery and persecution three years before the death of Charles the second AD 1682 and two years before the accession of James the Second in 1684." From various records and family histories, it has been determined that Elizabeth's mother was Ann and that Elizabeth was the sister of Henry and Edward of Woodbridge, NJ. This family was left stranded in a strange place, thousands of miles from family and familiar surroundings without any money or means of survival. Ann and her family eventually made their way to Woodbridge New Jersey, and Ann was remarried to Francis Walker. It may have been that Ann was familiar with the Walker family prior to coming to America as there is a record found for a Francis Walker in the Hearth Tax rolls of Oxfordshire in the year 1665.

If we continue with this scenario, the immigrant, believed to be John would have been married to Ann ________  about 1668 probably in Oxfordshire, England. Ann ________  was born in 1651/52 in England. She died before Apr. 1720 in Woodbridge, Middlesex, NJ. Working back from facts that are known, Ann was probably only about 30 years old when she was tragically widowed and left with young children to care for. A record for the christening of an Ann Dickens, daughter of John Dickens on 23 January 1852 has been found in the parish records of Bensington, Oxfordshire, England, which may be this same Ann who married John Freeman, but further documentation has not been found to confirm or refute this as fact. Ann was remarried to Francis Walker and had five children during their marriage. The youngest child of this union, Martha, was twenty-seven years younger than Ann's first born, Henry. She most probably was no more than 16 years old when she married John Freeman. Patty Myers has spent years pouring over the works of several published genealogies as well as source documents in the compilation of her book, "Ancestors and Descendants of Lewis Ross Freeman with related families" (privately published and copyrighted in 1995 by Florence ("Patty") B. Myers, 15 Campden Circle, San Antonio, TX.) She presents evidence that the Ann who married Francis Walker was the mother of Henry, Edward and Elizabeth, specifically in the wording of a will and in a land transaction where Henry Freeman and children of Ann and Francis Walker were referred to as "Brother". Perhaps the term "Brother" was used in a different context than we are now familiar with. As has been found in other writings, it sometimes represented a relationship through the church, through a fraternal or a professional group or was sometime used to signify a deep, long lived friendship.

Recent correspondence with a descendant of this NJ Freeman family adds some new information that would appear to contradict some of the earlier findings. Apparently this Old New Jersey family had lived for generations in a home built in the early 1800's and passed down from father to son. The family is and was quite diligent in preserving their family history, and there are notes indicating Freeman Worth Gardner consulted their private collection as part of his research for his book on the Freeman family history. Much of the information follows the published pedigree that we all know. However, there were a few tidbits of information that perhaps deserve further examination.

1. Evidence that the immigrant who drowned was called John Freeman may be more compelling. In the records held by this family Henry's son, John was called John III. A case might logically be made that John (I) was Henry's father, and John (II) was Henry's brother and John III was his son.

2. There were 5 children born to John and Ann, namely Henry (b:1669), John (b: 1672), Edward (b: 1675), Samuel (b:1678) and Elizabeth (b: 1681). Seeing that only three children were known to have arrived in Philadelphia with the original immigrant family, it is probable that John and Samuel died sometime prior to the family leaving England.

3. Ann, the widow married a Campion, and not Francis Walker as is postulated. One of her sons by this marriage was named John Campion.

These new pieces of information certainly give us more to puzzle about..

As stated at the beginning, this family lineage is presented for the purpose of encouraging further exploration into the origins of the New Jersey Freeman family. It is intended for personal use only, and any information found herein which has been obtained from works protected by copyright it may not to be used in any way for profit without the written consent of the authors. I have attempted to credit the sources from which information has been derived, but may have unintentionally missed a source or two. For that, I do apologize. I do believe that this very well could be the skeleton of the Family Freeman of New Jersey, but there much work still lies ahead in adding the bone in sinew to this skeleton to form the body to which we can ascribe our ancestry. I believe that Aubrey Freeman, who has worked so hard for several decades in the quest of his heritage may ultimately be proven as the "one" who pointed us in the right direction.

I wish us all good luck in our quest to untangle the mysteries of our Freeman heritage. Perhaps the answer may never be found....but we, most likely will never cease in our search.

 

  

APPENDIX I

THE HISTORY OF BENSINGTON MANOR

The town of Bensington (Benson) is 2 miles northwest of the hamlet of Eweim. Here was an ancient British town, taken from the original inhabitants by Saxon Ceaulin in the year 572 AD. The West Saxons held the place for two centuries, and appear to have constructed a castle for its defenses, but it at length reduced by Offa, the powerful king of the Mercians, who defeated his rival sovereign in a very sanguinary contest.

In 996 AD, King Ethelred's grant comprised a tract of country included within the following boundaries: on the west, the Thame River was its' limit fro Littlestroke to the point where the river Thame flows into the Thames. The smaller stream formed the northwest limit as far as Newington, and included Brookhampton; from which place a line extended through Chalgrove to Brightwell-Baldwin and Britwell, across the Icknield Way and over the hill to Pishill and Bix, and while skirting Buckinghamshire , would end at Henley, which is part of Bensington Manor.

In the year 1066, William the Conqueror of Normandy invaded England with a large army and declared himself the King until 1087 when his son, Henry I became the King. The hamlet of Crowmarsh was given by William I to Battle Abby.

The Doomsday Book of England (1076) gives an account of the Manor. In the 7th year of his reign (1279), King Edward caused a survey of every hundred to be taken. The survey gives a list of all the tenants of every Manor with a description of the services by which they held their lands. They returned that Bensington Manor was the King's Demesne with the hamlets of Henley, Nettlebed, Huntercombe, Wyfaud, Crowmarsh, Wardburg, Silingford and Hupholecumb.

In the year 1381. the Poll Tax records at Benson did not list anyone with a surname of Freeman.

In the year 1660, Sir Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, held the Bensington Manor with all the appurtenances, and the advowson of the mother church of Bensington, together with the Chapels of Henley, Nettlebed and Wardburg which belonged to the Manor of Bensington.

References:

1. History of Bensington Manor, by Rev Morgan T. Pearman, M.A. 1898.

2. The Topography and Historical Descendants of Oxfordshire, by James N. Brewer.

3. Henley, Oxon History and Genealogy, 1588-1660 by John S. Burn.

4, Index to Marriages form Oxford County records.

5. Parish Register Printouts of Benson, Oxon, Church of England, listing marriages, christenings and burials.

6. Other sources