Finding Something to Love part 2

Something About Mary

colonial america color print

In the Elmer-Elmore group we have worked quite a bit on Edward. Most of the work has been trying to prove or disprove a family connection to Bishop John Aylmer through one of his sons (commonly listed in many genealogies) or to the Elmer family of London that Charles Banks put forward in his book planters of the commonwealth.

The struggle is that no one really knows much about Edward’s past. All the documentation available is in the new world where he owns land, is married and has all his children.

Recently, one of the group members suggested that we spend a little time on Edward’s wife Mary. We list her as Mary Unknown since we can find no evidence of Edward’s marriage records and her maiden name does not appear in the records we do have.

Since Edward’s children begin to show up around 1646, 10 years after landing in the colonies, we suspect his wife is hidden among the families here in the new world. One of likely many Marys in Puritan New England.

In my previous postings, I’ve talked a little bit about the remoteness of Ed for me. I struggle to find the common ground with him and I wrestle with the appropriateness of my research and taking some ownership of him. I don’t have the same reverence for the puritans that I see coming from others and I find it hard to relate.

Mary though is a puzzle. With her, I can get into data and facts mode. Our DNA can not help us here. Mary is way too far in the past for autosomal DNA and her mitochondrial DNA (only passed through successive generations of daughters) has yet to be researched.  On top of that, women are generally poorly documented and Mary seems to be no exception.

The question for me became, what can I learn about the families surrounding Edward? What families are more likely to contain our Mary?

Newtowne/Cambridge Massachusetts

newtowne mass bay

Not knowing necessarily when Edward was married, I started in Cambridge Massachusetts, where he first settled. He’d have been in his 20’s. I’ve read that unattached young men were assigned to another family in Puritan towns, so I thought I may not see any record of Edward there, but I was wrong.

I’m going to jump forward a little bit here though to show a map of colonial Hartford Connecticut with Edward Elmer’s home plot on it.

edward Elmer and john talcott

You can see Edward there near “centinel” hill. Next to John Talcott. Because of the uniformity of this image, I had assumed that all things were pretty much equal among the colonists, but comparing the Newtowne/Cambridge Massachusetts records to each other it was easy to see they were not.

division of pales in cambridge

First off, several men were Esquires and one is listed as Mister. They have a lot of “rods” defining their “pales” of land. I paid particular attention to John Talcott. 36 rods to Edward’s 2. Further in to the records of Newtowne/Cambridge on page 13 there is another interesting disparity between Ed Elmer and John Talcott.

John (top left) is assigned five and a half acres of land and Ed is assinged half an acre.

I’ve got some nice land records to see which families were active. It’s possible Mary is under one of those heads of household, but I started to become increasingly sidetracked by Ed’s “regularness” when it came to landholding. Clearly, he’s no John Talcott…or John Haynes Esquire.

A sentence for the history of Hartford Connecticut talks about Edward’s holdings in Cambridge:

Richard Webb, Richard Goodman and Edward Elmer had recorded no houses. They are added  upon evidence derived from the Hartford records. 

It makes it sound like Edward had been assigned land, but had no house of his own in Cambridge. Is it possible that he really was living with another family at the time, but had the means to procure a small amount property?

Hartford Connecticut

colonial hartford map 2

Hartford is the estimated place of Edward’s marriage to Mary. It seems most likely that she would be attached to a family here. Again, I wanted to find Edward’s peers to see who a likely match would be and again, I was struck by the disparity of land holdings.

Here is an excerpt from the history of Hartford. The numbers are acres of land:

John Haynes, Esq., 160; George Wyllys, Esq., 150;
Mr. Edward Hopkins, 120; Mr. Mathew Allyn, 110; Mr.
Thomas Welles, 100; Mr. John Webster, 96; Mr. William
Whiting, 96; John Talcott, 90; Andrew Warner, 84; Mr.
Thomas Hooker, 80; William Pantry, 80; William West-
wood, 80; James Olmsted, 70; Thomas Hosmer, 60; Na-
thaniel Ward, 60; William Wadsworth, 52; John \Miite,
50; John Steele, 48; Thomas Scott, 42; Mr. William
Goodwin, 42; Thomas Stanley, 42; Mr. Samuel Stone, 40;
Stephen Hart, 40; William Spencer, 40; John Moody, 40;
William Lewis, 38; William Ruscoe, 32; Timothy Stanley,
32; Jonathan Ince, 30; Richard Webb, 30; William An-

drews, 30; Samuel Wakeman, 30; Jeremy Adams, 30;
Richard Lyman, 30; William Butler, 28; Thomas Lord,
28; Mathew Marvin, 28; Gregory Wolterton, 28; Andrew
Bacon, 28; Richard Goodman, 26; Nathaniel Richards,
26; John Pratt, 26; Thomas Birch wood, 26; George Steele,
26; John Barnard, 24; James Ensign, 24; John Hopkins,
24; Stephen Post, 24; Edward Stebbins, 24; George
Grave, 24; John Clarke, 22; William Gibbons, 20; John
Crow, 20; Thomas Judd, 20; William Hills, 20; George
Stocking, 20; Joseph Mygatt, 20; Nathaniel Ely, 18;
Richard Lord, 18; William Hyde, 18; William Kelsey,
16; John Arnold, 16; William Blumfield, 16; Richard
Butler, 16; Arthur Smith, 14; Robert Day, 14; John
Maynard, 14; Seth Grant, 14; William Hayden, 14;
Thomas Spencer, 14; Thomas Stanton, 14; John Baysey,
14; John Wilcox, 13; John Marsh, 12; William Parker,
12; Nicholas Clarke, 12; Thomas Bull, 12; John Higginson,
12; William Holton, 12; Edward Elmer, 12; Francis
Andrews, 12; Richard Church, 12; James Cole, 10; Zachary
Field, 10; John Skinner, 10; Joseph Easton, 10; Thomas
Hale, 10; Richard Olmsted, 10; Samuel Hale, 8; Richard
Risley, 8; Thomas Olcott, 8; Robert Bartlett, 8; Thomas
Selden, 6; Thomas Root, 6; William Pratt, 6. — Total, 95.

John Talcott, 90 acres. Edward Elmer, 12 acres. Again at the top of the list are Esquires. It seems obvious that the bold new world still has social and financial tiers held over from England.

I’m familiar with the class system in the U.S. My family has had its ups and downs over the past few generations and most recently clawed it’s way back into the middle class. Class often determines who is eligible for marriage. What class system did Ed live under?

The Class of 1636

I found an interesting reference online:

First, the Esquires and Mrs listed at the top. These fall into the class of gentlemen:

It was said that “gentlemen are made good cheap in England;” anyone with a master’s degree from one of the two universities (Oxford and Cambridge) counted as a gentlemen, as did any member of a profession (physician, lawyer). The means of gentlemen varied enormously, from small farmers to extremely wealthy landowners. Gentlemen held political power locally as Justices of the Peace and nationally as Members of Parliament. Gentry made up approximately 2% of the English population in 1600, but owned 50% of land (the nobility owned about 15%; church & crown owned most of the remainder).

The richest merchants were very wealthy, for example, aldermen of London were richer than almost all landed gentlemen.

Our group’s previous searches of records from Oxford an Cambridge had shown that our Edward Elmer was not among the Aylmers who graduated there and went on to be Bishops and Apothecaries ..etc. We’ve also been able to say based on a newer index of records, that Edward Elmer was not the Fishmonger with rents in London in Saint Mary Le Bow:…_Pending_DNA

Edward had no Esquire on his name. He was not a part of the “Gentry” or a wealthy merchant, and neither was his neighbor John Talcott.

Edward and John both had some means to make it to the new world and purchase land. So we move down to the next class of “other commoners”.

Yeomen were prosperous farmers, (i.e. with incomes in excess of £40 per annum in 1600).
Below yeomen were husbandmen, (earning about £15 pounds per annum in 1600).
A Labourer lacked enough land to maintain himself and his family, (though he often had a cottage and garden, and grazing rights for cattle on the local common), and consequently had to work for wages.
The going rate for day labor in 1600 was roughly 1s per day when work was available, but agricultural work was seasonal, and many labourers would only have been able to find work for six months in the year.
With an annual income of about £9 pounds, labourers barely earned enough to get by.

It seems most likely that John Talcott falls into the class of Yeomen. He may not have the same education or standing as the Gentry, but he’s from a good family and has more resources than others. He seems like a prosperous farmer.

To me that leaves Ed at “husbandman” or somewhere between husbandman and labourer. He has less resources than John Talcott, but enough resources not to be at the very bottom rung on the landholding ladder. He had no house in cambridge, but he seems to pick up a slightly better chunk of Hartford than others of his ilk. Husband in this context means house holder.

old new england published in the times union

This contradicts to some extent the idea of Ed as the son of and Archdeacon and the grandson of a Bishop. For one, he’s not an Anglican like the Bishops were, he’s a Puritan and a non-conformist. Second, he’s not among the alumni of Oxford and Cambridge like other Aylmers. Third, he doesn’t seem to be a large landowner like the Aylmers in Hertfordshire, Ulting and Suffolk. Finally he doesn’t have the resources or standing in the community in the colonies that you’d expect for someone with such a high rank in England. He seems to have the resources and standing of a small yet prosperous farmer.

Edward’s past is unknown, but this is not true for everyone in Hartford. John Talcott is traced back to a prosperous family in Braintree. It’s possible his inherited station and land holdings afforded him quite a bit more documentation than Edward had. It also seems that John held positions of public prominence early in New Towne and Hartford which would befit his higher social standing.

The Edward Elmer I’m seeing in these records is not preordained for success. He’s not without means, but he’s definitely still under the thumb of a class system. The playing field is not level. He’s a small fish in a small pond surrounded by bigger more important fish in the new world.

In my previous postings, I talked about not being able to relate to Ed, but it turns out, I cannot relate to John Talcott. Puritans were not all cut from the same cloth. Edward Elmer, “fair to middlin” regular guy trying to improve his lot in life, has become someone I can relate to.

Perhaps his family had recently clawed its way into the small farmer class. Maybe the move to the new world and Hartford meant opportunity beyond what he could have in England.

It seems then like we could weed out the Esquires and Mr. families from the possible marriage pool for Edward. I suspect marrying down would not be allowed for a prominent Mary. We could lessen the scope of our search by looking at “husbandman” level families.


From the History of Hartford, Edward Elmer is mentioned as an example of what had become the norm for an English farmer and improved land.

In 1655, the Elmer lot, having passed to Colonel
John Allyn, was still bounded west by the hill.

When John Allyn, in 1655, bought Edward Elmer’s home-
lot, it was particularly described as having “outhoufes,
barn, yards, orchards & gardens therein.” Orchards and
gardens are frequently added in later records. They be-
came adjuncts of most homes.

It seems that the Allyns were already wealthy landowners with Matthew as a Mr. My guess is that John is Matthew’s son.

I’m not sure what took place between this sale and Edward’s move to the area of Podunk (South Windsor). I believe somewhere in there Edward sells 12 or 15 acres of land when he leaves for Windsor, although I don’t have a record handy to back that up.

After reading some of the history of Windsor,  what I’m seeing in the move to Windsor is Ed making a high risk/high reward decision. He is allotted 550 acres of land in Podunk. Amazingly larger than previous listings I’ve seen. It’s three miles of land across the river.

There is the risk. These families are across the river from Hartford and I think other families in Windsor. It’s hostile territory for several reasons. There is some amount of isolation. I get the feeling that this is Edward’s play into the big time. He’s decided to go for broke. This is where the Elmer family will size up to their Gentleman and Yeoman neighbors and become a source of pride for later successful generations of Elmers and Elmores. By taking this risk, Edward, the man who doesn’t have a past,  can ensure the future for his family. It will cost him his life.

And there, really having been completely derailed from finding Edward’s wife by examining his community, I finally see a man who didn’t have it all handed to him. His gains were hard won. He struggled. He had to play the long game to make a better life. His time ran out.

I can identify with that.

I wonder, in those last years, on his land, did he finally feel that he was living in his place? Did he feel connected to it? Did he leave his soul there in Podunk or is it wandering in some unknown location in England?






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