|Hart Research Outline on Obadiah Seeley|
Summary of Results
Family History Library databases, Family Search® Ancestral File and IGI.
Findings and Analysis
Suggestions for Additional or Future Research
Other Research Notes and Observations
Table of Attachments
A. Pages from the churchwardens accounts, St. Stephen Coleman Church, London, 1628/29 and 1629/30 (2 sheets in plastic envelop).
B. Compilation, “A Doubtful Angell: Examining Attempts to Identify Mary ____, Wife of (1) John Miller and (2) Obadiah Seeley (7 sheets).
REPORT NUMBER SGS-4
A DOUBTFUL ANGELL:
As requested by the Seeley Genealogical Society, the writer has been studying the early records, and making further efforts to resolve the identity of Obadiah Seeley, who died in Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut on 25 August 1657. The identity of his wife Mary, whom he married at Stamford sometime after the death of her first husband John Miller in 1642, is felt to be a potentially important source of information on Obadiah himself. Unfortunately for their descendants, Mary’s identity has turned out to be just as elusive as Obadiah’s. Several theories of her origin have been advanced over recent decades, some of which have reached a general level of acceptance, and are often repeated in the secondary sources. This present article reports on an examination of the background of these theories, an attempt to follow the threads of their development, and a critical examination of the facts upon which they are based, wherever that could be determined.
Starting with the present time, there now seems to be general acceptance that Mary (____) (Miller) Seeley was born Mary Angel or Angell.1 To a slightly lesser level of acceptance, there is also much written today that calls her the daughter of James Angell and Ann or Anna Elliott, and gives her date of birth as approximately 1623, probably in England. These facts are all given in the Seeley Genealogical Society’s own publication as recently as 1997,2 and in numerous entries in the Family Search Collection of the Family History Library, and in the IGI.
Search For Source(s) of SGS Information
I began my investigation with the compilers of the SGS volume, who informed me that their source of these specific facts had been one of their own members, whom I will call researcher “A,” as part of an undated computer printout document entitled, “Descendants of William Seely.” Researcher A had identified as his sources, two other researchers, B and C, and a relatively recent book that includes genealogies of Stamford families.3
The compilers of the Seeley Descendants also provided me with the additional information that the 1977 version of the same publication had also given the name of Mary Angell, but without naming her parents. They also noted that a 1993 submission by researcher D had given the same information, but that two previous (undated) family group sheets for other members, researchers E and F, had not identified Mary’s maiden name.
Researchers B and C were both known to the writer, and I contacted them for additional information. Researcher B provided a reference to a “chart” compiled by researcher G, that called Obadiah’s wife “Mary Husted Miller, sister of Robert Husted and widow of John Miller.” This chart had been published by the Orange County (NY) Genealogical Society in 1977.4
Researcher C gave two sources: first, a family group sheet (H) in the archives of the Family History Library, that cited in turn the “Seeley – Vail Ancestry, page 42.” I located a copy of this latter book, and discovered that neither Mary’s maiden surname nor her parents’ names were given therein.5 The second source given by researcher C was a family group sheet (I) compiled by researcher J, who had gotten the information from researcher K. Since I knew researcher J personally, I contacted him and asked for his assistance in obtaining information from his cousin, researcher K, which he readily did for me. He also send me a printout from his own database which called Mary “perhaps Mary Angell, sister in law of Robert Husted, the father of Angell Husted of Greenwich, Connecticut.” He gave as his source for this information, another undocumented compilation of Stamford area families.6
Researcher J eventually received a reply from researcher K, with the information that her source had been a family page on the Internet, and gave the identification of the web site, compiled by researcher L. When I found the web site, I discovered that the information was in fact contained there, so I wrote to the compiler and asked if they would mind sharing the source of the Angell information. This was done readily, and I found that their source had been, of all things, the 1997 book of Seeley Descendants, mentioned at the very beginning of this sequence!
And so, in this process of directly contacting each researcher in turn, it was found that the inquiry had come full-circle, and wound up back at the place of beginning. I must say that all of the researchers were extremely cooperative, and ready to share their source information with me. But in the entire process, not one single primary source was cited, or one single salient fact presented that would lead to the identity of a person called Mary Angell – let along one that would give her parents’ names as well.
Family Search Results
The Family Search capability of the Family History Library was then used to find entries for the marriage of Obadiah Seeley, hoping to find additional clues. Unfortunately, these results were even more disappointing. About 15 researchers (so far) have submitted data for marriages of Obadiah Seeley to Mary Angell or Mary Miller. The content of some of these submissions is so obviously defective that it is unlikely that any meaningful information can be obtained from this method.7 One example of the data in these entries is as follows (transcribed exactly from a pedigree chart printout from Family Search® Ancestral File):
“Mary ANGELL, b. 1623, Stamford, Fairfield, New, Yrok, d. aft. 7 1666 Nov . . CT, m. 1644/1645 Stamford, Westchester, New, York Obadiah SEELEY, b. 5 Jun 1614 Stamford, Fairfield, Connecticut, d. 25 Aug 1657 Stamford Fairfield, New, York , [parents names given as] James ANGELL, b. < 1597, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, m. 1621 Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, Anna ELECT, b. <1601, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island.”8
To repeat, the entire text of the above entry (including spelling) has been transcribed exactly. Stamford is seen to float between Fairfield County New York, Fairfield County Connecticut, and Westchester County New York. Persons are being born and married in Rhode Island before any white settlers were there at all, and Obadiah Seeley’s birth in Stamford would have been almost a generation prior to the English settlement of that place! Even the potential maiden name of Anna Elliott has been changed to Anna Elect!
Similarly, the IGI entries are not useful in this case. The place of marriage of Obadiah Seeley and Mary Angell is given variously in the IGI as England; “Middlesex, of London, England;” Stamford, Westchester, New York; and New York City and County, as well as in Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut which we know to be the actual case.
Anatomy of a Speculation
Why did all this speculation happen, and where did it all begin? The earliest mention that I can find in any source for the maiden name of Obadiah Seeley’s wife is in a query to the Boston Transcript’s genealogical column of 6 January 1926, in which E.H.J.C. asked for information on John Miller of Wethersfield and Stamford who married “Mary Angell(?)”9 On 1 March 1935, the same column published a query by A.M.W.I. that asked “Has anything been learned to prove or disprove the theory that he [John Miller of Stamford and Wethersfield] was a brother of Elizabeth (Miller) Husted, who came with her husband, Robert Husted to Massachusetts in 1635....etc.” The query goes on to ask, “Has anyone ever found proof of his wife’s name? Some of his descendants believe that he married a Mary Angell in Wethersfield in 1638.”10
These queries give us a feel for the relationship that was being proposed at the time by some researchers, but we may never know where the speculations actually started. It appears that the presence of John Miller in Wethersfield and Stamford with Robert Husted, whose wife was supposed to have been named Miller, gave rise to a speculation that the two men were related by marriage. Elizabeth Miller, supposed wife of Robert Husted was felt to be the child of Laurence Miller and Joan Smith, daughter of Angell Smith. This gave the researchers an explanation for the name of Husted’s first child (Angell Husted). It now seems that this assumption regarding the name Angell was somehow distorted so that it became the maiden name of John Miller’s wife – probably by a simple confused exchange of the relationships implied by the term brothers in law as applied to John Miller and Robert Husted.
A similar discussion took place slightly later in another newspaper column, carried in the Hartford Times in (at least) 1941 and 1943, primarily concerning the Husted side of the question.11
Fortunately for the cause of truth, George E. McCracken, F.A.S.G. wrote a brief article for The American Genealogist in 1956, in which he called the identity of Elizabeth (____) Husted into question, and concluded that she was not named Miller after all.12
The Husted family has recently been explained in detail in an extended article for The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record.”13 In that article, Gordon L. Remington, F.U.G.A. came to the same conclusion as McCracken, but for slightly different and more compelling reasons. Since his focus was on the Husteds, he did not attempt to discover an alternative identity for Husted’s (second) wife, and Elizabeth (____) Husted is simply an unknown quantity at the present time
Since it was apparently the names themselves (Miller and Angell) that led to this speculation about brother in law relationships in Stamford, and since the recent research has shown that the speculations about those names were incorrect, it follows that the relationship between Robert Husted and John Miller is also unfounded. Since there is no longer any reason to call Robert Husted and John Miller brothers in law, it seems to me that now there is no longer any reason for speculating anything about the name of Angell in connection with Miller’s wife (or therefore, Seeley’s wife, as well.)
Parents’ Names for Mary Angell
The provision of names for the parents of Mary Angell is a relatively recent development. The earliest dated mention I have been able to find is the Seeley Descendants book itself, for which the introduction was written in April, 1997. Clearly, the information from researcher A had been received prior to that time, but was unfortunately not dated. I had felt that the process of retracing the sources as outlined above would lead to a particular introduction of these names, but that turned out not to be the case.
In 1992, Dean Crawford Smith and Melinde Lutz Sanborn published an outstanding multi-family genealogy, which included detailed notice of many Angell families in England. They identified a Mary Angell, daughter of James Angell and Anna Elliott, baptized at All Hallows, Bread Street, London, England on 26 March 1626.14 This source also placed the family in two other parishes in London in the 1630’s, namely Enfield St. Andrew (1635-1638) and St. Stephen Coleman Street (briefly, in 1631). The connection with St. Stephen Coleman Street alerted the writer to the possibility that this Mary Angell might be part of a family that could have been associated with Robert Seeley during his own time at St. Stephen Coleman Street, and could therefore, ultimately, provide a substantial clue to Obadiah Seeley’s origin. If this Mary Angell was in fact the wife of (1) John Miller and (2) Obadiah Seeley, several unsolved problems would have fallen into place.
St. Stephen Coleman Street
It is well known to Seeley family researchers that Captain Robert Seeley was a parishioner at St. Stephen Coleman Street Church from late in 1626 until 1630, when he joined the Winthrop migration to the Massachusetts Bay.15 I have studied the churchwardens accounts of the Church on microfilm16 to see if there are any Angell families there in the Parish at the same time, that could have formed an association with Robert Seeley, and therefore been candidates for some kind of a connection with Obadiah (a long shot, at best!) There is no Angell family at all in the Parish during the time Robert Seeley is listed (1626/27 through 1629/30). One William Angell does appear in 1630/31 and thereafter. From the recent Angell Ancestry, this William Angell appears to be the one baptized at Peakirk on 7 September 1595, who married Elizabeth Holland and had two children baptized at St. Stephen Coleman Street in 1632 and 1633. This William Angell was a first cousin of James Angell who married Ann Elliott and had a child baptized at St. Stephen Coleman Street in 1631 (although James Angell’s family did not settle there in the Coleman Street parish long enough to appear on the churchwardens accounts.)17 Even though this circumstantial evidence is tantalizingly close, there is no significant overlap in time with the Seeley residence at Coleman Street, and no other reason is seen at this time for a definite connection. Without more compelling evidence, these Angell proximities must be considered as only coincidence.
Other Angell Considerations
I then studied the will of James Angell given in the Angell Ancestry, and tried to make things fit. He did not mention any of his children by name. He was buried on 6 April 1638, when Mary would have been only 12 years old (and 3 years after John Miller’s first child was probably born, say 1635). There was no mention of any connection with New England. I discussed the family with one of the authors, and she told me that her own research led her to believe it was extremely unlikely that any members of this family ever came to America.
But I was also tempted by another related statement in secondary materials. The Slason Family Genealogy, written in 1946, proposed without definite proof that the mother of George Slason, another early settler of Stamford, was one Anne Angell, who was married at St. Saviours Church in Southwark, Surrey, England on 13 May 1610 to Richard Slason.18 No birth record for George Slason was found, and the identity was clearly described as circumstantial. But it was a fact that George Slason (and John Holly) appraised the inventories of both John Miller and Obadiah Seeley in Stamford in 1665/66! Was it therefore possible that George Slason’s mother was indeed named Anne Angell, and that she was somehow related to our Mary Angell, of a later generation?19
Because of these possibilities, I hesitated to dismiss any of these claims that appeared in the recent secondary sources, not knowing if one or more of the researchers had finally found “the answer,” and been able to successfully document the identity of Mary Angell, at last.
But my own attempts to retrace these claims has not led me to a single useful primary source. Even if the identity of George Slason’s mother turned out to be correct, there would be no reason to identify Mary ____, wife of John Miller and Obadiah Seeley as an Angell, any more than to identify her as a Slason. Remington has effectively broken the cycle of Husted “connections.” To disprove the Mary Angell theory, one must find that it was based on error (which I have not been able to do), or fraudulent (for which there seems to be no motive), or on the other hand to prove Mary’s identity to be something else, and by some other more conclusive means. None of these alternative solutions have yet been available. I must therefore conclude this report with the following summary statement, describing the status of the situation as I believe it exists today:
REPORT NUMBER SGS-4A