Category Archives: family

James Morgan and A Case of the Maybes

James Morgan (Sr.) 1607 (maybe) to 1685

Once James Morgan became established in New London County, Connecticut, records abound that trace his activities and his family. However, before his arrival all is murky.

Note: This is one of my rare “process” posts in which I focus on how I get the information in order to tell the stories. If that bores you to tears–just skip this post and go straight to the next one (when it appears) that will tell the story that is based on strong assumptions and concrete records. But for now, I’m sharing the down and dirty struggle with elusive fact.

I have relied heavily on the secondary source, A History of James Morgan of New London Connecticut and his Descendants by Nathaniel H. Morgan, first published in 1869. As I have discussed before, these genealogies of a family were extremely popular toward the end of the 19th century. Nathaniel Morgan actually was at the beginning of the trend and was a much more careful historian than were many of those who collected family information.

For instance, he explains in detail how he has pursued some information that previously had been assumed correct and proven it incorrect. He labels family stories and legends as “traditional” knowledge, separating them from those items recorded contemporaneously in the Puritan communities of New London County. And yet…lacking primary sources, I may tend to believe most of what he says, but never treat that information as proven.

Maybe #1: Where and When James Morgan Was Born

Map from Victorian Times of area James Morgan came from (Maybe). Glamorgan County showing Llandaff just NW of Cardiff. Wiki Commons.

Nathaniel Morgan says that our James Morgan was probably born in Llandaff, Glamorgan County in Wales. That town, also Landough, and county lie in the far south of Wales next to Cardiff. However, Find a Grave.com says he was born in Denbighshire which lies in the far northwest of Wales. I don’t know the source of the Find a Grave assertion. I prefer to trust the instinct of Nathaniel since Find a Grave also lists unproven relationships to mother and father.

According to a biography in Wikitree which tends to the cautious, preferring to cite primary sources, we have James’ word for his age. In 1657, James Morgan signed a statement* saying he was “about 50 years old.” As far as I can see that is the only solid piece of primary evidence for his age. *The statement was related to his being chosen to serve in the General Court.

Maybe #2: Who Were James Morgan’s Parents?

Some sources list William Morgan and Elizabeth Morgan. Others have a different maiden name for Elizabeth but those who believe she is from another Morgan line have an elaborate explanation. William and Elizabeth were very common names in Wales, as was the surname of Morgan, which makes tracking by baptism and wedding records difficult indeed.

A man named Appleton Morgan self-published a book called A History of the Family Morgan From the Year 1089 to Present Times in 1902. His book seems to pick and choose from the work of the aforementioned Nathaniel Morgan. A History of… relies to some extent on the author’s own family legends. After tracing the Morgan family back to the 16th century, Appleton gets to William and then James.

Author Appleton Morgan lists William Morgan Of Llanvabon, (same county of Glamorgan that is generally claimed) born in 1591 as James Morgan’s father. Appleton does not name a mother at all. In his version of events, this William had seven sons, none of them Miles, although Nathaniel and most other accounts of our Morgan line list James, John and Miles as the three brothers who sailed together to the new world. The significance of this is that Miles is a more unusual name, and so it is easier to assign to him the mother, Elizabeth Morgan Morgan.

Seeking Truth in Family Legend

Nathaniel Morgan tells us that while there is no concrete proof, tradition says that James’ father was William. In support of the father being William Morgan and the place Llandaff/Landough, Nathaniel tells us that a later William, son of John, son of the original William told a story that his father, John (b. 1693) had a very little old book in which was written the name of “William Morgan of Llandaff” and dated before 1600. That John said that William was the father of James, Sr.

A family heirloom also figures into the story, as there existed a pair of gold sleeve buttons (of ancient make) with WM stamped on them. They were said to belong to William Morgan of Llandaff and they came into the possession of Nathaniel, the author, from his father, who was another William. Unfortunately someone stole those sleeve buttons.

Maybe #3: The Connection to J. P. Morgan

Nathaniel’s book, and most other sources list three brothers who came to America together, James Morgan, the oldest and two younger brothers John and Miles. The traditional stories have John disliking the Puritans of New England because he was a believer in the Church of England. So he went to Virginia, where the dominant church was Episcopal–or Church of England. There the trail becomes cold–perhaps because of his common name.

The tradition has Miles leaving the Massachusetts Bay for Roxbury and then when he was not yet 21, joining the founders of Springfield Massachusetts. Miles was an ancestor of the financier, Junius Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan. Miles seemed to be the most adventurous of the three and his life in New England has been well documented.

Nathaniel’s book on James and family includes an appendix devoted to Miles. That manuscript is called A History of the Family of Miles Morgan by Titus Morgan (1809). If you are curious, it starts on page 220 of the History of James Morgan, linked above.

James also went first to Roxbury and then moved to New London Connecticut. His life as a founder and leading citizen of a New England town is also well documented.

However, Appleton Morgan’s book throws doubt on whether Miles indeed belonged to the same family as James and John. Appleton has Miles leaving England in January 1636 and the two brothers James and John leaving in the summer of that year. He gives a different family line for Miles. Appleton casts enough doubt that the folks at Wikitree reserve judgement about whether the three are in the same family. They also don’t adopt Appleton’s extensive number of children, since no proof exists for them as far as I can see.

Conclusions

I should note that there is no question that there were generations of very interesting, rich and powerful Morgans in Wales, specifically in Glamorgan (territory of Morgan) County. The Morgan family has been well researched in all its branches and intertwining of branches in those ancient days in Wales.

I would love to be able to wallow in the exciting story of Welsh princes fighting Normans and the numerous castles and riches. The problem is that we don’t know for sure which group of Morgans our James descended from. That leads eager “famous ancestor” hunters to jump to conclusions that may not be justified. I’m resisting.

The birth year seems to be correct based on James Morgan’s own words. Family traditions recorded by Nathaniel persuade me that the place of origin was Llandaff. The same story verifies the father’s name was William.

I tend to believe the preponderance of commentary that there were three brothers who sailed together. The basic proof for their arrival on the ship Mary comes from a book , Immigrant Ancestors: A List of 2,500 Immigrants to American Before 1750, edited by Frederick Adams Virkus.The Genealogical Publishing Company printed the text in 1986. Some repositories allow searches on line, but the text is not available on line. I will feel more comfortable when I see the book in person. (A search reveals a James Morgan on many pages and several where a Miles Morgan is mentioned.)

Why do I believe they were brothers? Partly because the age of the three is right for three brothers. All three sailed from Bristol in England, where James and John’s family supposedly lived for a few years. Even more important, consider the fact that both James and Miles are documented in Roxbury before going on to found new communities. And, hey, it has nothing to do with the fact that if they are brothers, I am distantly related to J. P. Morgan!

Captain John Morgan The First and The Missing Will

Captain John Morgan (1645-1712)

John being such a popular name, it comes as no surprise that there are several generations of John Morgans in my family tree. Sometimes you can distinguish one generation from the next by using titles. But not in this case. Captain John Morgan, my 6th great-grandfather, had a son who had a son–all called John, and all achieving the rank of Captain in the Connecticut Militia. (Despite a bit of a kerfluffle surrounding the third John, which I wrote about here.)

Besides all the Johns, there were several James Morgans, also, and besides passing their names on from generation to generation –James, son of James, son of James, son of James, etc.–it seemed that every James had a son named John and every John had a son named James.

Now that I have that whining out of my system, I will explain the “Captain” part of the name. Titles were held in high esteem in the early Puritan communities. If a man held an elected office, that title would stay attached to his name forever. Captain, the highest rank elected in the militia, therefore became the most common title, sort of like Colonel in the old South.

John’s Young Life

John Morgan was born on March 30, 1645 in Roxbury Massachusetts. His father Captain James Morgan, had arrived in North America from Wales in 1636. John’s mother Margery Hill came from Essex in England, and married James in 1640. John was born third, after a sister who died as an infant and the eldest son James, Jr. After James was born, he saw two of his three younger siblings die in infancy.

When he was five years old, John’s family moved to New London Connecticut. Settlers named the area on the Northern edge of the Long Island Sound “Pequot,” for the predominant native tribe in the area. The town’s name became Groton, and John spent the rest of his years in Groton, Connecticut.

First Marriage and Children

At the age of twenty, Captain John Morgan married Rachel Dymond, a native of Connecticut. (Some records list her maiden name as Deming, and I have not seen an original record, so am not sure which is correct, but the majority seem to be Dymond.)

Fourteen months after the wedding, their first son, another John Morgan, was born, and Rachel gave birth to six more children:

John and Rachel were fortunate in that all of their children lived to adulthood. However, the offspring outlived their mother. Rachel died in August,1689, leaving six children between 9 and 22 years old still living at home. The first four children married quite late for that period–29, 39, 29, and 30.

2nd Marriage and More Children

That made for quite a houseful of people! Particularly since Captain John Morgan quickly took another wife and had more children. He married the widow Elizabeth Jones Williams very soon after Rachel died, because their first child, who died in infancy, was born in 1690. Since Elizabeth is not in my direct line, I will not write about her separately, but would like to mention here that she was the daughter of the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. Her grandfather had been the Governor of Connecticut.

In 1692, the family moved to Preston, Connecticut. The town of Preston, like Groton, lies in New London County, but is north of Preston and inland.

With his wife Elizabeth, Captain John had seven more children after the death of infant Elizabeth.

  • 1690: Elizabeth (Died in infancy)
  • 1693: William (Died at 36 years old) (Named for his grandfather William Jones).
  • 1697: Rachel (I find it interesting that ancestors in this period frequently named a child in the second marriage for the spouse from the first marriage.)
  • 1697: Rachel’s twin, Andrea.
  • 1699: Margery (Named for her paternal grandmother)
  • 1700/1701: Joseph
  • 1703: Theophilus (Named for his maternal grandfather Theophilus Eaton, former Governor)
  • 1705: Mary

Captain John Morgan’s Life

Besides rising through the ranks of the Militia, he held important offices in his communities. He followed in his father’s footsteps and those of his brother James in both the military service and civic service. He was an Indian Commissioner and Advisor. He also was chosen as a deputy to the General Court from New London in 1690 and from Preston in 1693 and 1694.

Being an Indian commissioner must have been very serious business. In 1637, a vicious battle had virtually destroyed the Pequot people, and for the first time the English settlers felt safe in New London. Serious settlement began in the 1650s, so John’s family were among the first settlers in New London County when they arrived in 1650. The English turned from fighting to trading with the Pequots and purchasing land from them, working as later settlers in the Western United States would do to “civilize” the “savages.”

What the Records Show (Or Don’t)

My biggest frustration in researching these Morgans is that I have not found clues as to their livelihood. I have to assume that most were farmers. In John Morgan’s case, he moved away from the Bay of Groton, but stayed along the river. This could have to do with sea trade, but also could be because of fertile land in a river valley. Unfortunately, his will does not give me any clues.

I have only second-hand information from the book called History of James Morgan of New London, Connecticut and his Descendants. That book relates part of the will, written on 23 August 1711. Probate date 12 February, 1712, so although I do not have proof of a death date, he had to have died between those two dates.

It took some time for a new community to set up their government. After all, they had land to clear, houses to build, and Indians to fight or try to pacify. So although the Puritans kept excellent records in their established villages, the best we have to go on with these earliest settlers often is an index of old records that have never been photographed or digitized, or references to old records that no longer exist.

Captain John Morgan’s Will

In John Morgan’s will, according to the book, he mentions his wife Elizabeth and 12 of his 13 children, so we also know that Elizabeth died AFTER 23 August 1711. However, secondary records seem to all list her death date as 23 August, 1711, instead of AFT. 23 August, 1711 as they should. And as for John’s date of demise, we only know that it happened some time between the date he wrote his will and the probate date. That will is one of those missing pieces that I long to get my hands on.

A curiosity of the will, mentioned in the History of James Morgan, lies in the omission of his son Joseph. Joseph brought some genealogical fame to the family by marrying the daughter of William Brewster, Deacon of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. However, the author of the “History” includes this maddening teaser:

The record shows that the probate of this will was appealed from, and in the litigation that followed, this Joseph is mentioned as one of the parties. I had a reference to the case and intended to examine it, but lost or mislaid the reference.

Nathaniel H. Morgan, author of The History of James Morgan (etc.)

Gee, thanks a lot Nathaniel!

Next time we will talk about John’s father James, my 7th great-grandfather, thought of as the founder of this branch of the Morgans of America.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie (Kaser) Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jesse Morgan, who is the son of
  • Jesse Morgan, who is the son of
  • Timothy Morgan, who is the son of
  • Samuel Morgan, who is the son of
  • Capt John Morgan (1st).

Crooked Election or Puritan Paranoia?

A History of the Descendents of James Morgan of Groton, Connecticut includes an interesting story about John Morgan (1700) and his appointment  to Ensign.
(pages 38 and 39) His father, John Morgan ( 1667) joined a Puritan committee objecting to the appointment of his son.

Men in the militia company chose officers by election.  In October 1736, the N. East Company of Groton chose John as Ensign and Thomas Munford as Captain and William Williams as Lieutenant. The latter two were higher offices than Ensign.

Painting by Henry Mosier, Pilgrim’s Grace, 1897


The Complaint

The objections, by a committee of eight, including John’s father Capt. John listed “1st the two chief officers are young men of the Church of England, 2nd illegal votes were cast, 3rd the young men of the company were deluded with liquor. 4th Many dissatisfied will enlist in the troop. 5th the society is in difficulty on account of the church of England and they are about to settle a minister.”

Two things seem clear to me. John Morgan, appointed Ensign, was NOT a member of the Church of England. And while the committee worried about propriety, the main concern of the involved maintaining the control of their local Puritan church above all else.

The book goes on to explain how “settle a minister” has anything to do with the appointment of officers in a militia. The complex tale started when their former Puritan minister decided to join the “church of England” (the Episcopal church), and therefore was tossed out of the local Puritan church and community.  The replacement minister preached for five years and then he, too, decided to join the Episcopal church. For two years the community had no minister at all.  The community was about to install a new Puritan minister, but were still fearful that Episcopalians lurking in their midst might join with the military to execute a kind of coup overthrowing the status quo Puritan rule.

Conclusion

The General Court debated for several days and heard several witnesses before declining to accept the complaint, and confirming the appointments of the three young men.  The new minister proved satisfactory, and everybody lived happily, puritanically ever after.

One can only wonder about the conversations that must have taken place in the many Morgan households about this event!

Young John Morgan, proceeded to advance through the ranks of the militia, just as his father and grandfather had done. On 26 Sept 1738 his company made him a Lieutenant, and on 27 of September in 1844, the same company, now known as the 4th Company of Groton, named him Captain.

This Capt. John Morgan (1700) was my 1st cousin 6 times removed. His father Capt. John (1667) my 6th great uncle was the brother of my 5th great grandfather Samuel Morgan.

Next: Another Capt. John Morgan

A slight pause here, while I gather my strength from wading through all the John Morgans and the James Morgans to get to my 6th Great grand-father, Capt. John Morgan (1645)