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The Smith family

of Stratford-on-Avon

and later Wethersfield Conn.

Strange as it may seem, the Jones family is actually descended from an English family of mercers (merchants of silks and fine cloth) named Smith. The line goes from the Smiths to the Adams to the Raplees and then to the Joneses.

As shown below, they not only came from Stratford- on-Avon, William Smith's signature appears on the Royal charter which founded Stratford-on-Avon.

William's son John Smith, married Alice Walker, sister of Henry Walker, Shakespeares friend. Shakespeare was godfather to Henry Walker's son William. (see below)

The English Ancestry of Richard Smith of Wethersfield, Conn.
By Roderick Bissel Jones

Article from "The New England Historic Genealogical Register, April 1974, pp. 136-139

Jacobus in The American Genealogist (hereinafter TAG) 25:126-139 had an article on Richard Smith who was in Withersfield, Conn., by 1669 and died there about 1670 aged about 80. It gives many of his decedents but nothing on his ancestry. The facts given herein tend to show that he was the grandson of Alderman William Smith of Stratford on Avon, co. Warwick, England, and his wife, sister of the Bishop of Winchester.

Master William Smith, the mercer, was called alderman, an office next below Bailiff (Mayor) and members of the Corporation in the royal charter given to Stratford on Avon in 1553. The references now hold that he was the William Smith that in 1553 was the Bridge Warden, maintaining the bridge over the Avon, and was that William Smith who in 1542 was made by Thomas Atwood a trustee of Atwoods house in "Corn Street" along with Master Richard Quiney, son of Adrian who died in 1534, and Master Thomas Whately.

The alderman must not be confused with William Smith, the haberdasher, who lived "in" Henley street, also named in the charter as corporation member, but who was not an alderman and not called "Master." The haberdasher died in 1600. There is no known blood or other relationship between the two William Smiths or their families. The family of the alderman appears to have been in Stratford for a least a generation before the family of the haberdasher. However inasmuch as both families had many Williams, many mercers and aldermen and gentlemen, one cannot escape the feeling that both, perhaps a generation before had a common origin.

In 1552 Sir Richard Catesby, Master William Smith, and two other freeholders were fined four pence each for not attending the local court.

The minute book of the Stratford corporation shows the signature of William Smith, the alderman, written 27 Sept, 1564. As early as 1548 the Alderman owned and lived in "The New House", High Street. There it still stands, numbered 34.

He was a widower with a daughter when he married, as his second wife, Mistress Alice Savage, widow of Richard Savage of Evesham, co Worcester, who died in 1551, and mother of two daughters. She was the daughter of Master Thomas Watson and his wife Agnes Weeks of Bengeworth. Co. Worchester, a few miles west of Stratford, and sister of John Watson, later Bishop of Winchester, and grand-daughter of John Watson and his wife Agnes Young. For these armigerouss Watsons see the Visitations of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.

The Alderman owned seven houses and much other property. His daughter by his first wife married, probably by 1568, and esquire Richard Palmer. Between May and October 1577, the alderman moved to Worchester, leaving his son John, the ironmonger, in The New House. His will was dated 6 December 1578; in 1579 he was buried in Worchester cathedral. His widow's will of 28 April was proved 28 May 1585. (See Water's Gleanings).

Master William Smith employed a tutor to his children, John Bretchgirdle, sometimes written Brace girdle, who in his 1565 will bequeathed books "to William, eldest of Master William Smith." and ti "his brothers Richard, Robert, Thomas and John" (later the ironmonger) who was to have his Latin Sallust.

Child of William Smith, Alderman, and his first wife:

  1. A daughter; mar. Richard Palmer, Esq. Of Compton, an overseer of his father-in-law's will of 1578.

Children of William Smith and Alice (Watson) (Savage) Smith.

  1. William, "the elder" and eldest son, b. ca. 1553 and so named in the wills of his mother and his uncle, the Bishop.
  2. Richard, graduated by Christ Church, Oxford in 1570; Vicar of Warcombe, Isle of Wight. He had a son William. (See Compton Reade's Smith Family, 1902, Bristol, for descendants of William.}
  3. Robert, bur. 11 July 1579, Stratford. Probably ill at the date of his father's will in which he is not named.
  4. 2. v. John, the ironmonger, b. ca 1557.
  5. vi Thomas, Bapt. 11 Nov. 1563; father of a Richard Bapt. 1583/4.
  6. vii William, "the younger" called a student in Winchester College in the 1583 will of his uncle, the Bishop of Winchester.
  7. viii A daughter, referred to in the Bretchgirdle will.
  8. ix A daughter, posthumous, b. ca, 6 April 1579.

References for the above are found in the following works by Edgar I. Fripp, Life Trustee of Shakespeares Birthplace: Shakespeares Stratford, 1928, 85pp., Oxford University Press; Shakespeare's Studies, 1930, 176 pp. (Ibid); Shakespeare, Man and Artist, 1938, 938 pp. (Ibid); and in the Parish Registry of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford.

2. John Smith, the ironmonger, born ca. 1557 in Stratford, co. Warwick. Chamberlain, then Alderman (1600), and Bailiff by 1605 of Stratford on Avon, he lived after his father had moved away, in The New House, High Street, which his father had owned and lived in.

He married 16, January 1591, Alice Walker, bur. 20 April 1633, sister of Henry Walker, Shakespeares friend, mercer of Stratford, church-warden, three times mayor and finally "gentleman", and perhaps granddaughter of Henry Walker of Snitterfield, co. Warwick, whose 1558 will was witnessed by Shakespeare's grandfather, Richard Shakespeare. Shakespeare was godfather to Henry Walker's son William.

John's will of 1612, cited in Waters's Gleanings, directed that he be buried in the parish church next to his son Henry. He was buried 27 Dec. 1612.

Children of John and Alice (Walker) Smith, all named in his will:

  1. Henry, bapt. 1593; bur. By 1612 in Holy Trinity, Stratford.
  2. Thomas, bapt. In October 1594; "my eldest son" in the will.
  3. 3. Richard, bapt. 16 Nov. 1595.
  4. Alice, bapt. In May 1597.
  5. William, bapt. In September 1598.
  6. John, bapt. 1599/1600.
  7. Margaret, bapt. in January 1601/02
  8. Robert, bapt. in August 1604
  9. Eliner.

3. Richard Smith was in Wethersfield, Conn., in 1669. Winthrop saw him there and entered in his Journal that Smith was "come 80 years". Eighty is such a round number that Smith must have been somewhere in his seventies. The Richard Smith baptized 16 Nov. 1595 would have entered his seventy-fifth year in November 1669. There was a contemporary Richard Smith, baptized 9 Nov. 1593 in Stratford, son of Francis Smith of another family, probably the Richard buried 4 Nov., 1614, as he is not mentioned in the 1623 will of Francis nor the 1633 will of Alice, widow of Francis. (See Walter's Gleanings).

It is here suggested that Richard Smith of Wethersfield was one of the twenty men that George Wyllys, esq., lord of the manor of Fenny Compton, 13 miles east of Stratford, sent ahead to set up his seat in Hartford, Conn. (He himself came in 1636) Both of Wyllys' wives were born in Stratford, the last one, who came with him from Hartford, having been born a Smith. He must have known well the men of little Stratford and their abilities. Reasons were given in 46 TAG, 136-7 for believing that a daughter of Richard Smith of Wethersfield married a half nephew of Governor Wyllys, Richard Harris of Hartford.

All of the eight children of John Smith, the ironmonger, were in their teens or younger when he died. In his will was "Thomas, my eldest son", who received his dwelling house. The younger Richard, born in 1595, was to get only a piece of land, "which I BOUGHT OF Cousin William Smith, son of my brother Richard Smith." Henry Walker, mercer, overseer of the will of Richard's father, may have taken Richard into his home and shop and taught him the arts of a mercer as Richard is called "mercer" some seven or eight years later in the parish register at the baptism of his son "Richard, son of Richard Smith, mercer, --1621".

Jacobus listed the approximate date of birth of the children of Richard Smith of Wethersfield. The baptisms in Stratford of the children of Richard, beginning with Richard baptized in 1621 above, agree with Jocobus to the limits of tolerance allowed by Jocobus "about".

In the 1660's in Wethersfield the wife of Richard Smith was Rebecca (probably Bushwell or Boswell). Note that Winthrop wrote that Samuel Buswell of Salisbury, Mass. Was kin to Rebecca Smith of Hockanum, Conn. This was the above Rebecca. Richard and Rebecca named a son "Samuel" as did their son Richard and Joseph.

Children of Richard Smith of Stratford-on-Avon, co. Warwick, England and Wethersfield, Conn.:

  • A daughter b. say 1619; mar. Richard Harris of Hartford who d. There in 1666.
  • Richard "born about 1617" (Jacobus) The parish register of the Church of The Holy Trinity, Stratford-on-Avon, records the baptism in 1621 of "Richard, son of Richard Smith the mercer". Richard Smith, weaver, bought land in Pequot (New London), Weaver", was admitted an inhabitant of Wethersfield where his father had been living for years. A man born into a family of mercers, having to do with all aspects of silks and other fine fabrics, might well limit the scope of his calling to weaving in the New England wilderness.
  • Samuel, bapt. in Stratford, son of Richard (Parish Register). Nothing further is known of him.
  • Susannah, born ca. 1624 (Jacobus).
  • Mary, b. ca 1624
  • Joseph, bapt. in Stratford in April 1627 "son of Richard Smith, mercer;" bur. 30 May, 1630. (Parish Register)
  • Benjamin, bapt. in Nov. 1629 "son of Richard Smith" (Parish Registry); Richard Smith of Wethersfield named a son "Benjamin".
  • Joseph , born in say 1629" (Jacobus) Joseph "son of Richard Smith, mercer" was bapt. June 1632 in Stratford-on-Avon . (Parish Register) James Boswell (Buzzell) willed land to his "cousins" Richard and Joseph Smith.
  • July 2004