Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Line 2 William Pontus, the man who missed the Mayflower

William Pontus was born 1586 in England
Married Wybra Hanson born 1590, died 22 December 1690, probably in Plymouth, MA
Died 09 February 1652/53 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Children: by his first wife of William and Wybra Hanson:
1.      Mary Pontus married James Glass
2.      Hannah Pontus married John Churchill

William and Wybra missed out being among the passengers of the first Atlantic voyage of the Mayflower. But they were steady and true “saints” and indeed pilgrims of a later voyage.

There are some historians who say William was born in Dover, England but that may be a misreading of his and Wybra Hanson’s marriage record which records him a “living in the Marendorp near Douveren”. It is most certain that William was an Englishman who came over from England with the Separatists, not on the Mayflower but on a later ship.

William Pontus and the “saints” who sailed on the Mayflower were Separatists, a sect of Christians who wanted to “separate” themselves from the Church of England which they felt was too close to the Roman Catholic Church and not pure enough in its practice to be the “true” faith. They were a stricter sect of the Puritan or Calvinist movement. That seems almost impossible in Twenty-first Century terms, but the Separatists believed in separating themselves from all non-Christians who didn’t share a Calvinistic worldview. They wanted to keep their faith pure. Separatists believed that the church was governed by God and God alone and that neither man nor state should control it. In their hearts, they felt the Church of England was beyond reform. They followed that Calvinist line of election to sainthood. They “separated” themselves from others for fear of being contaminated by their beliefs and behavior. In Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, he continued the usage of “saints” for the Separatists and “strangers” for those who were either “godless” or worshiped in a (what they consider) ungodly way. Having been persecuted by the English, a group of separatists migrated to Holland where they found freedom to worship without persecution but also a secular lifestyle that was attractive to their children, pulling the younger generation from the church. The “saints” in Holland thought they found the answer to their dilemma by forming a colony in the New World where they could be safe from the corruption of the outside world. This was not to be so, as the Mayflower carried “strangers” as well as “saints” and a younger generation who fell away from their parent’s influence despite leaving heathen Holland. The separatists did not achieve their goal but they did form a basics on which the First Amendment of the American Constitution would be built.

William and Wybra were betrothed 13 November 1610, in front of witnesses that included William Brewster who was among the Mayflower’s first group of passengers to Plymouth. From the Dutch records we call find that he was a “Fustian-worker” and “too poor to be taxed.” While later generations took pride in being descendant from Mayflower passengers, many have sneered at these labor class people who populated early Plymouth. But there was a dignity and elegance in their hard working, simple lives that produced men and women of stamina and great courage and determination. While not an original Mayflower passenger, William Pontus was a man cut from the same cloth. He was poor but he was a man of faith and courage, living and worshiping with the Separatists in Leiden.

In 1622 William Pontus was named with his wife and daughter, Mary, assumed to be the Mary who married James Glass. “Pontus, William” with wife Wybra and daughter May were named in the List of Separatists who stayed in Leyden in 1622. However by 1633, William and his family were in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was named in the 1633 Plymouth freemen list, pointing to his coming to America on one of the last two ships carrying English Separatists from Leiden, Holland in 1629 and 1630. However he was missing from the 1633 and 1634 tax lists as well as the list in 1643, suggesting that his wealth did not improve in the colonies. He is missing from the list of men able to bear arms in 1643, as well, suggesting that he was either elderly or unhealthy. If the former, then we can guess that he was born before 1685. He did however, in 1637 request "6 acres of land to be laid to his house as near as conveniently may be" and in 1638 "two acres of upland to his half acre of meadow in the woods beyond his house about Agawam Path"

William had enough wealth to leave an estate and write a will. He died 9 February 1652 in Plymouth. His will was dated 9 Sept 1650 (signed by his mark) in Plymouth. He left his house to his “eldest daughter Mary”. His younger daughter, Hannah is also named in the will. James Glass (who married Mary) was named executor. James Glass, unfortunately, died not five months after his father-in-law. The will was witnessed by Joshua Pratt, James Hurst, and John Donham and proved 5 March 1652/3. In a memorandum, John Dunham testified that William Pontus had given John Churchill and Hannah, his wife (daughter of William Pontus) “one half of the medow at the watering place” in Plymouth. Mary Glass, widow gave her consent.

The daughters of William and Wybra Pontus both married, Mary to the James Glass who was named as his father-in-law’s executor and Hannah to John Churchill. James Glass came to the colony of Massachusetts as his uncle, Henry Cogan’s servant. He was able to buy his way out of his indentured position and married Miss Mary Pontus by whom he had four daughters. James drowned 03 September 1652, not seven months after his father-in-law. Mary married secondly Philip Delano and had at least three more children, including Samuel Delano who married Elizabeth Standish, a daughter of Alexander Standish and Sarah  Alden, and granddaughter of Miles and Barbara Standish and John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, Mayflower passengers. Mary Pontus Glass Delano died 03 February 1689/90. James and Mary Glass’ daughter Hannah Glass born 24 December 1651 married Isaac Billington, the grandson of John and Eleanor Billington. The Saints and the Strangers were now family and separate no more.

My PONTUS line

William Pontus m. Wybra Hensen
Mary Pontus m. James Glass
Hannah Glass m. Issac Billington
Lydia Billington m. John Washburn
Ichobod Washburn m. Bethiah  Phillips
Bethiah Washburn m. Daniel Braman

1. [WTD] Genealogical Register of Plymouth Families by William T. Davis, Boston 1899
2. [AEW] New England History and Genealogical Register, April 1851, "Abstracts of  the Earliest Wills." April 1851, page 259.
3. [NBS] Records of Plymouth Colony: Births, Marriages, Deaths, Burials and other Records, 1633-1689 Edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, 1857
4. [MF5G] "Mayflower Families Through Five Generations" Vol 5, Pub. by General Society of Mayflower Descendants
5. [GMB] "The Great Migration Begins; Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633" Vol I,  by Robert Charles Anderson, page 609
6. [LSSL] Internet "Mayflower" List of the Separatists who decided to stay in Leyden
7. [PCHP] "Plymouth Colony: Its History and People 1620-1691" part Three "Biographical Skeches"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pilgrim (actually Stranger) Father

 Line 1
John Billington
Pilgrim (actually Stranger) Father

John Billington, born about 1580 possibly in Spaulding, Lincolnshire, England
Married Ellen or Eleanor (maiden name unknown, possibly Langland) possibly in London, England
Died 1 September 1630, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Children: 1. John Billington
      2. Francis Billington m Christian  Penn of England

Now, John Billington and his wayward family may be a rather odd place to start a family history of faith. John, at least according to William Bradford (who seems to be a fair judge of others), was not exactly a God fearing man. Bradford, in a letter he wrote to Robert Cushman on June 9, 1625, states “Billington still rails against you, and threatens to arrest you, I know not wherefore; he is a knave, and so will live and die.” Bradford was certainly correct about the way John would die. In his memoirs of the founding and first thirty years Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford wrote “Anno Dom: 1630, This year John Bilington the elder (one that came over with the first) was arained, and both by grand & petie jurie found guilty of willfull murder, by plaine & notorious evidence. And for the same accordingly executed… They used all due means about his triall, and tooke the advise of Mr. Windthrop and other the ablest gentle-men in the Bay of the Massachusetts, that were then new-ly come over, who concurred with them that he ought to dye, and the land purged from blood …” However, Thomas Morton, who was no friend of Bradford, in his satirical work The New English Canaan (1637) wrote of Billington “that [he] was choaked at Plimmouth after hee had played the unhappy Markes man when hee was purfued by a carelesse fellow that was new come into the Land … Hee was beloved of many.”

John Billington, for all intent and purpose, was not a “saint”. However, I feel that he had to had faith, hope or just plain determination to do what he did. Crossing a great, unknown ocean in late Fall when the weather was turning stormy, to an unknown land, lacking the common comforts of England, takes a large measure of bravery. He had to have had the “faith” that he wasn’t taking himself and his family to their doom. Even if he was running from creditors and bad debt, fleeing to a “new world”, the unknowns must have been wildly on his mind. Mrs. Eleanor Billington must have had her own sense of bravery and determination to drag two wild boys along for the three-month trip into the wilderness.

I included the Billingtons in my list of the “faithful” not so much for their sake as for the fact that they were on the Mayflower and were the first successful and continuous English Americans on the Eastern seaboard of what would become the United States of America. Their venture was one of not only faith, but of shear bravery. William Bradford wrote in his Of Plymouth Plantation “What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: "Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity,” The “saints” among the Mayflower came to build a safe place to worship God as they felt He should be worshiped and to keep their children from straying. They had fled to Holland where they found freedom to worship in the way they felt God should be worshipped but their children were beginning to fall away and become part of the secular life-style. Also, the political atmosphere was suggesting that Catholic Spain would soon have control over their adopted homeland and then there would be no freedom to worship God, as they felt fit. The Billingtons and the other “strangers” were there not to create a safe place to worship, but for escape from creditors, jail or just plain adventure and the hope of a better life.

Having read William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, I cannot but marvel at the fortitude not only of the saints had but the stranger’s as well. The Billington family may have been a thorn in Bradford’s side, they were also helped Plymouth become a successful colony.

I’m not trying to make John Billington into a saint. He wasn’t one. There is much speculation that he left England because he was headed toward debtor’s prison. Fear is a good motivator but I still feel that there was some bravery involved in his choice to go to the New World. He seemed to be a man of quick temper but also a man of much energy, hopefully not just in a negative way. His boys certainly were BOYS. Even his wife  Eleanor (also called Ellen or Helen) sat in the stocks for slandering John Doane.  Bradford wrote about December 1620 adding that on the fifth “we, through God’s mercy, escaped a great danger by the foolishness of a boy, one of…Billington’s sons, who, in his father’s absence, had got gunpowder and had shot off a piece or two, and made squibs; but there being a fowling piece charged in his father’s cabin, shot her off in the cabin; there being a little barrel of powder half full, scattered in and about the cabin, the fire being within four foot of the bed between the decks, and many flints and iron things about the cabin, and many people about the fire, and yet, by God’s mercy, no harm done.” My son loves this story. I am grateful that it ended happily with no injuries or death, or my son and myself might never have been born. Bradford doesn’t say which of the Billington boys was the instigator of this prank. However, both boys had their adventures. Francis apparently was a tree climber for Bradford reports that while swinging from the top of a tree Francis discovered a “great sea” which in reality was more of a large pond and now known as Billington Sea. The boys also found “seven or eight Indian houses, but not lately inhabited. When they saw the houses, they were in some fear; for they were but two persons and one piece.” [Bradford] Bradford goes on to tell about young John Billington getting lost in the woods the summer following the landing of the Mayflower. “John Billington lost himself in the woods and wandered up and down some five days, living on berries and what he could find. At length he light on an Indian plantation twenty miles south of this place, called Manoment; they conveyed him further off, to Nauset among those people that had before set upon the English when they were coasting whilst the ship lay at the Cape … But the Governor caused him to be inquired for among the Indians and at length Massasoit sent word where he was, and the Governor set a shallop for him and had him delivered.” Young John disappears from the Plymouth records and Bradford’s memoirs after this report. In the 1627 Division of Cattle, only (11) John Billington Senor, (12) Hellen Billington and (13) ffrancis Billington are mentioned. The elder Billington is called “Senor” in this report and later in 1630 at his death, so it makes one pondered about the fate of the younger John. Another Billington, years ago, told me that there was a “family story” that Young John decided he liked living with the Indians and left the plantation for the forest. It’s a story but for the adventuresome boy and a father still being called “Senor”, it could very well have some truth to it.

As for the “Senor” John, there seems to be no end to his disruptive personality. Early Colonial historian Thomas Prince [born 1687, died 1758] wrote that “the first offence since our arrival is of John Billington who came on board at London, and is this month [March 1621] convented before the whole company for his contempt of the captain’s lawful command with opprobrious speeches, for which he is adjudged to have his neck and heels tied together; but upon humbling himself and craving pardon, and it being the first offence, he is forgiven.” Despite, his rebellion, John did sign the Mayflower  Compact. One would think he’d have been last on the list but somehow he managed to be somewhat in the middle of the list at number 26 of 41 signers.

But where trouble wondered, John Billington was not far behind. In 1624 he was part of a conspiracy lead by the Reverend John Lyford and John Oldham. Rev. John Lyford seemed a rather odd chose to lead the separatist (the pilgrims) as he leaned more toward the theology of the Church of England and seemed to be a trouble maker in his own right. Lyford sent letters back to England in an attempt to alienate the colony’s supporters from the colonist. William Bradford was able to make copies of the letters and confronted Lyford and Oldham before the entire colony. Lyford told Bradford that he was only repeating what John Billington and others had said. John only admitted to having attended Lyford’s meetings. Bradford only names Billington in his report of this occasion. One gets the feeling though, that while others were involved with Billington, Bradford probably was saying “If there is trouble, there is John Billington.”

John Billington died by hanging in 1630 for the murder of John Newcomen over a “hunting dispute.” For this, John Billington, the old troublemaker met his maker at the end of a rope and hopefully found his peace with God. Maybe not, but maybe so.

It might be prudent to add here, that Francis Billington, son of John, married a woman named “Christian.” This more then likely indicated that Christian had believing parents, so even if the Billingtons were “pagans”, at least they had the blessing of Christian influences. The Billingtons continued to cause dishevel in Plymouth for a few more generations. Fortunately for me, Isaac Billington, John Sr.’s grandson, married Hannah Glass, daughter of James Glass and his wife Mary Pontus who was born in England but raised in Holland among the Separatists, some of the saints who came to Plymouth with the Billingtons and the other “strangers” on the Mayflower. Hopefully, Mary and her saintly upbringing brought some calmness to the wildness of the Billingtons.

My Billington line:

John Billington m Ellen, Helen or Eleanor ?
Francis Billington m. Christian Penn
Issac Billington m. Hannah Glass
Lydia Billington m. John Washburn
Ichobod Washburn m. Bethiah  Phillips
Bethiah Washburn m. Daniel Braman
Daniel Braman m. Silence Clapp
Jesse Anson Braman m. Abiatha Felt
Anson Amos Braman m. Mary Marshall
Martha Ann “Matty” Braman m. James Harvey Chubb
Otis T. Chubb m. Caroline Bell Maltby
Ida May Chubb m. Joseph Mendoza

1. Mayflower Families Through Five Generations Vol. 5, Pub. by General Society of Mayflower Descendants
2.  Genealogy Summary on John Billington / Internet
3.  "The Great Migration Begins; Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633" Vol. I,  by Robert Charles Anderson pgs 173-4
4.  Internet John Billington Family billington family.htm "Mayflower Families"
5.   The Division of Cattle, 1627; Internet Mayflower Site
6.    "Pilgrim Hall Museum" "John, Ellen & John (2) Billington in 17th Century Records, http//
7.         Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford

Friday, January 14, 2011

Faith of my Fathers and Mothers

Well, I'm back again. Ready to begin this story. History is a domino fall of events. My brother was at the shopping center in Tucson, Arizona this passed weekend where six people died and a dozen more were gravely wounded. Mere minutes if not seconds saved his life. The decision to not stand in line to meet the congresswoman, certainly did. Even our family stories often turn on fateful decisions. In American history, they often stand on decisions of determined faith. With that I will begin my ramblings through my family's faith stories.

Faith of my fathers and mothers.
A genealogical look at my godly (and sometimes godless) ancestors.

An evangelist’s son recently wrote a book about his parents and this childhood – of being raised in a Christian household. I haven’t read the book and don’t remember the evangelist’s name but just reading a review got me to thinking about the faith of my father and mother and grandparents and all the greats before them. I come from a long line of faithful Christian as well as some non-believers or variations thereof. I am also an amateur genealogist and have considered writing my family history down for years. However, after 25 or more years of research, I have several volumes of paperwork and it would take me another 25 or more years just to get it written into book form. I have done a photo album of my Mendoza line and a small report on my Buor and Conrad line as well as a rough sketch of my son’s Lazzaro grandfather’s line. So instead of starting with another “line” I decided to start with a common attribute – faith – to write my family’s story.

To be continued....

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Long Line of Family

I finally broke down and am beginning a BLOG! I've been working on my family's faith stories -- and I mean going back to well the Mayflower and maybe a little before by the time I finish.

I have been doing genealogy for about 25 years, have tons of records, stories and pedigree charts. I've gotten my line back to Alfred the Great! Oh, yeah. Found a couple of lines that go back to Edward II of England and beyond to old Al. I figured it was time to share a little of my research. I have been writing up some of this research in book form, but have decided that this was a cheaper way to share it with the world. I hope to get the research into book form but a blog is a great way to share this without having to pay for a lot of printing few people would buy. So I'll leave the hard-copy for those special few who are either closely related or have been a big help in my research.

I am dedicating this blog to all my ancestors, especially the ones who left clear and numerous paper paths to their stories.

Since this blog is being started on Jan 7, 2010 and that is also the day that musician Phil Kennemore of Y&T and an friend from childhood died, I would like to also begin with a simple tribute to his memory.  I haven't seen Phil in years and don't know a lot about the music he played, but I am not at all surprised that he dedicated his life to music and made a mark on the music world. May God have mercy on your soul, Phil. "Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"