Tag Archives: Wales

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!

James Morgan – First of Jesse Morgan’s Line

James Morgan (Sr.) 1607-1685

I’ve spent a lot of time on the story of Jesse Morgan.  My 2nd great-grandfather wins the prize for the most fascinating ancestor in our line–or at least the most fascinating direct ancestor whose story came down to us by word of mouth, documented by letters in his own hand and by many other sources.

The American Morgan story, however, did not start with Jesse. In fact, it started with HIS 3x great grandfather, James Morgan (Sr.). James and his two younger brothers were the first of a Morgan clan that eventually spread out across the new land after they first arrived in Boston in 1636. That is just 15 years after William Bassett, the Pilgrim who is the direct ancestor of Mary Bassett Morgan, married to Jesse Morgan. An Early American power couple, genealogically speaking.

SOURCE of JAMES MORGAN’S EARLY STORY

The story starts in Wales where James was born probably in 1607, probably in the town of Llandaff in the county of Glamorgan. Notice that Llandaff lies just northwest of Cardiff, the capitol of Wales.

Wales - James Morgan's homeland

Map of Glamorgan County, Wales, showing Cardiff with Llandaff to the NW.

Glamorgan County lies on the far south of Wales along the Bristol Channel. Wales attaches to the west side of England.

Wales coast

Bristol Channel, along the Glamorgan Wales coast

Much of the information that I have about the early life of James –his exact birth date and place, the name of his father, etc.–needs further proof.  The 1869 book, James Morgan and His Descendants, honestly states when the author cannot prove a fact. He does not back up his stories with concrete proofs, although he seems to at least try to sort proven from unproven.

Therefore, I also will proceed with caution, attempting to warn you when proof is elusive.

For instance, although according to the book a family legend leans toward the name William for James’ father, without a birth certificate or baptism record, I cannot be sure.  It is true that there are many Morgans in that region of Wales. And my Morgan family has common names–William, John, James, Joseph. Find A Grave for England and Ireland shows a William Morgan dying in Bristol in 1649, and his age range is correct for a father of James. Plus James and his brothers sailed out of Bristol.

On the other hand, Find a Grave does not have a gravestone or death record for evidence, and Bristol could very well be the most convenient port for someone sailing out of Wales as well as southern England.

WHY LEAVE BRITAIN?

Whether the family moved to Bristol or stayed in Wales, the religious and political events brewing in England in the 1630s would have a great effect on their lives. Welsh people along the border with England joined the reform religions. The Scots beat the English King Charles in the first Civil War, a struggle over religion, in 1639. In Bristol, the Royalists stormed the port in 1642–just six years after the Morgan brothers departed. In another few years, the King would be deposed and executed.

Surely the Morgans were at least fleeing war, if not joining sympathetic Puritans streaming into North America. The younger son, John, reportedly was a minister and even Boston, according to the family history, was too wild for him.  He moved on to Virginia to practice his strict religion.

Miles became an instant leader, as he joined a group founding Springfield Massachusetts. At the age of 20, he finagled his way into the division of property which was supposed to go only to men over 21.

JAMES MORGAN IN NEW ENGLAND

So, wherever he came from and whoever his father was, we do have a record that shows James and his two brothers, Miles and John sailed from Bristol to Boston in March and April of 1636. His age is confirmed in later statements he makes in those wonderfully voluminous records kept by the New England towns. (Thank you, all you Puritan beaureaucrats!)

Are we related to J. P. Morgan?  In response to a request, I checked it out. Nope. Unfortunately, the millionaire Morgan descended from James’ brother Miles.  James family, however, claims the honor of a Presidential wife–Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes descended directly from James Morgan.

Once James arrives in America, the record becomes much clearer. By 1640, he shows up in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he marries Margery Hill. In 1643, the town grants him the rights of a freeman (full citizen.) The couple settled in Roxbury and had a daughter and four sons (the last one dying within his first year) before they moved on to Connecticut.

Boston and Roxbury

Boston area colonial map. Roxbury (south) and Cambridge (west). Note that the bay has not been filled in and Boston City is an island.

I am amused–or bemused–by the fact that my grandson, visiting in Boston, met and married a young woman from Roxbury more than 360 years after James married Margery in Roxbury.

JAMES AND MARGERY MORGAN’S FAMILY

Hannah Morgan (Royce) 1642-1706

Hannah married Nehimiah Royce in 1660 in Groton CT and when she died, they had been living in Wallingford CT. Other than birth and marriage record, I know nothing else at present time about Hannah.

Captain James Morgan (Jr.) 1643-1711

James, like his father, was both a leader in the church and in the town. He served as a Deacon in the Groton church and also as Chief Magistrate and one of the first Town Selectmen.  He was moderator of every town meeting until he died and then his two sons took over the job. James had three boys and three girls. He inherited his father’s farm. James served as the Capt. of the “train band”, local militia in Groton in 1692 and Commander of the Dragoon Force of New London County in 1693/4. Keep in mind the military service of James Jr. and his brother John took place under the British, an irony since their father presumably left Wales/England because of enimity with the British.

Captain John Morgan 1645-1712

John, my direct ancestor (6 x great grandfather) married a second time after his first wife died. He had seven children with his first wife and eight with his second.  The second of his children in the first family is my 5 x great grandfather, Samuel Morgan.  John Morgan moved from Groton to Preston Connecticut where he also took community leadership roles as Indian Commissioner and Deputy to the General Court. He had served in that office from New London in 1690 and then from Preston in 1693.

Lt. Joseph Morgan 1646-1704

Joseph and his wife and family lived in Preston, which split off from Norton Connecticut.  He had one son and nine daughters.  The one son was a colorful preacher–popular in the pulpit, but getting kicked out of a couple of churches with accusations of practicing astrology, encouraging dancing and other nefarious activities.

Two other children of James Sr.died in infancy.

PEQUOT/GROTON CONNECTICUT

In 1650, James moved his family to the new settlement of Pequot in Connecticut, later known as New London. Reading the story in the book, James Morgan and His Descendants, reminds me what a godforsaken wilderness this was that these optimistic souls were seeking to turn into farms and towns. There he built a log cabin “on a path to New Street.”

The land was rocky and the Indians had not been gone long. Later in 1650, the “James Morgan” book relates from a contemporary record, “James Morgan hath given him about 6 acres of upland where the wigwams were, in the path that goes from his house towards Culvers, among the rocky hills.”

In 1656, he moved across the river to the area that was subsequently named Groton. Apparently the land there is more amenable to farming, and he thrived. There he rose to prominence in the community, being appointed First Deputy (from Groton) to the General Court at Hartford, and being reappointed nine times. He took leadership roles in the church as well.

In another geographical coincidence, my oldest son trained in the U. S. Navy submarine service in Groton in the 1980s. He only missed his 8x great-grandfather by 330 years.

In 1668 the tax records show James as third wealthiest land holder in the town, with a worth of £250.

James died in Groton in 1685, leaving his home farm to his son James. The property continued to pass on from James to James to James for six generations, and when the family history was written in 1846, the property still belonged to a member of the Morgan clan. And many of the Morgans stayed put in Groton for a very long time.  My 3x grandfather, Jesse Morgan Sr. was born there.

James Morgan (Sr.) and his wife Margery are buried in Avery-Morgan Burial Ground in Groton Connecticut. (The Hale Headstone Inscriptions mentioned below places them in a Hartford Cemetery, but the Avery-Morgan is much more likely.) This memorial plaque honors James Morgan at the Avery-Morgan Burial Ground.

James Morgan memorial

James Morgan Memorial at the Avery-Morgan Burial Grounds, Groton CT.

(The two families are related through the marriage of James’ grandson William to Margaret Avery, daughter of James Avery)

The plaque says,

Erected to the memory of the founders of the first Avery and the first Morgan families in America whose graves are near this site.

[on the left hand side]

Capt. James Avery

1620-1700

His wife, Joanna Greenslade

[and on the right hand side]

James Morgan

1607-1685

His wife, Margery Hill

Two pioneer families joined. Just as when Mary Bassett, whose 5 x great grandfather William Bassett was the first of the Bassetts who arrived in America married Jesse Morgan, whose 3 x great grandfather, James Morgan was the first of his clan.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriet (Hattie) Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jesse Morgan, who is the son of
  • Jesse Morgan (Sr), who is the son of
  • Timothy Morgan, who is the son of
  • Samuel Morgan, who is the son of
  • John Morgan, who is the son of
  • James Morgan (Sr.), first settler in America.

Notes on Research

James Morgan and His Descendants, Nathaniel H. Morgan,1869, from North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000, Ancestry.com

Connecticut Census, 1668, New London, New London County, James Morgan, resident, part of  Connecticut, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890, Ancestry.com

Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650-1934, Ancestry.com, James Morgan

Connecticut, Hale Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices, James Morgan,1629-1934, Ancestry.com

Massachusetts Applications of Freemen, 1630-91, James Morgan, Ancestry.com

Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, Roxbury, 1630-1867, James Morgaine and Margery Hill, Ancestry.com

U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s, Place: Massachusetts; Year: 1636; Page Number: 49, James Morgan 1636, Ancestry.com

U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1700s-Current, James Morgan

Welsh Skillet Cakes: A Tribute to Welsh Ancestors

This simple recipe for a traditional Welsh food, Welsh Skillet Cakes produces a nice little breakfast cake, or a snack for tea time.  One site describes them as half way between biscuit and pancake. It is also closely related to the scone.

Welsh Skillet Cakes

Welsh Cakes with Irish Butter–a special treat.

I used the recipe from the Wales. com website for the Welsh skillet cakes that I made, and that is the recipe that I am going to give you.

This recipe calls for measuring by weight, so if you don’t have a scale, you may want to take a look at this Americanized recipe for Welsh skillet cakeswhich I have not tried. I compared the two, and besides the fact that the All Recipes recipe makes about 4 times the quantity, it leaves out the little bit of spice in the Welsh recipe I used.  It uses more baking powder and more shortening. (I’m sure you could go with all butter instead of half lard, although the lard undoubtedly contributes a flakiness.)

As I point out in the notes, I did not use any milk at all, so I would suggest Judging by the feel of the dough, rather than just automatically adding milk in a specific amount.

Although the recipe I used did not suggest resting the dough in the refrigerator before rolling, that probably would make the Welsh skillet cakes easier to handle, so next time I will take the extra time to to that.

Breakfast or tea time–eaten cold, or warm from the stove, or rewarmed in the toaster–these easy-to-make treats will become a regular in our house. A tip of the hat to my Welsh ancestors in aprons as I make this traditional Welsh food.

Welsh Cakes

Serves 4-5
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Breakfast, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot
Region European
Website Wales.com
Welsh cakes are a cross between a biscuit and a pancake. Similar to a scone, they are baked on a griddle or iron skillet and delicious for breakfast or for afternoon tea.

Ingredients

  • 8oz white flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 3oz white sugar
  • 2oz currants (See note about alternates)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice (Use pumpkin pie spice mix, or combine cinnamon, cloves,nutmeg to taste)
  • 1 egg
  • pinch salt
  • milk to blend (if needed)

Directions

1. Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
2. Cut butter in small bits and rub into flour with fingers until there are no large clumps.
3. With spoon, stir in sugar, fruit, beaten egg to form a dough. Add 1/2 tsp milk at a time if needed. Dough should be thick and not very moist. DO NOT OVERMIX.
4. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4" thick. Cut with biscuit cutter or glass into 2 1/2- or 3-inch rounds.
5. Cook on lightly greased griddle or iron skillet until golden color turning as necessary. Use low heat so they will cook all the way through without too much browning on outside.
6. Cool and sprinkle with coarse white sugar or with a cinammon sugar mix. Serve with butter.
7. These can be served hot or cold. To reheat, simply pop into toaster on low setting. They also freeze well.

Note

Welsh Cakes are quite adaptable. Although the traditional way of making them is with currants, I used dried cranberries. The Wales.com website suggests "as an alternative you can use mixed dried fruit or tropical fruit. Some grated lemon or orange rind is also good. An unusual but delicious addition is 1 teaspoon of lavender flowers with some citrus zest. Add a little orange juice, zest and icing sugar to some soft butter to serve with the Welsh cakes."

I served the Welsh cakes for breakfast, but if you were going to serve them for tea, you could certainly use any of the heavenly clotted creams or curds that you can buy or make.

I indulged by buying Irish butter to spread on my Welsh cakes.