Origins of Nathaniel Bacon of Middletown

Nathaniel Bacon of Middletown (NB of M) died in 27 Jan 1705 (1706 in modern era), at the age of 76, according to contemporary records. That suggests his birth was between 28 Jan 1628 and 26 Jan 1629. It is widely said that he was already known in the Connecticut colony by the time of the founding of Middletown CT (1650), although I don't know the source of this claim. Throughout his life NB of M was acknowledged as a beneficiary, possible relative and even nephew of another early settler, Andrew Bacon of Hartford CT (?1596-1664). Andrew did not leave known children, but A lot of people descend from Nathaniel (perhaps most Bacons in early CT), and a myriad of possible parents have been proposed for him.

It has been coherently argued that NB of M was a grandson or at least close relative of Thomas Bacon, Gent of Bramford, who died in 1610 (outline of descent, although includes erroneous reference to Stretton Parish; see explanation below). The evidence to link Thomas Bacon who died in 1610 to NB of M is tenuous, though, and in the case of the last link, some of the supporting assertions can be easily disputed. I did confirm via Parish records that Thomas Bacon of Bramford had a pack of sons documented in contemporary Parish records and listed in his will (I think), including one named Andrew, which is a relatively uncommon name in this era, and another called Nathaniel. I have spent a lot of time chasing records of men called Nathaniel Bacon to see if one begat a Nathaniel Bacon that might be NB of M, but not with convincing results.

Lots of records about a man who is probably Nathaniel Bacon the Recorder of Ipswich

NB-1 may have married Susan Partridge at Ipswich St. Lawrence church in early 1627 (modern era); NB-1 and a wife called Susanna had a pack of children baptised in Little Wenham (Suffolk) church from 1629 until 1651, including a Nathaniel on 22 Jan 1635 (baptised Feb 1635). All this is documented in contemporary parish registers. This Nathaniel would seem too young to be our NB of M, who was a New England settler by 1650, town constable and married in 1651 (in theory only 16yo, and why would NB-1 and wife have shipped their son off at so young an age if they were otherwise successfully raising a family?). Could this Nathaniel Senior be the Recorder of Ipswich? NB the R of I is down as residing in Ipswich from 1642-1650, but could his family mostly have remained out in the country during this time?

NB-2 buries his wife Elizabeth and baptises his baby son Nathaniel both on 26 September 1626 in Washbrooke, Suffolk. Even after consulting Boyd's marriage index for the period and scouring local parish registers I cannot find a marriage record for any Nathaniel Bacon to anybody named Elizabeth in the period 1610-1626. Could this Nathaniel be the Recorder of Ipswich, who we know had a first wife named Elizabeth? However, I'm convinced that parish records are very incomplete in this era, for a large number of reasons. There is a possibly relevant parish record of a Nathaniel Bacon wedding a Mary Alefounder in nearby Belstead (suburb of Ipswich) in 1630. Alefounders are a much mentioned name in other speculations of the origins of NB of M, too. The NB born 1626 seems a bit early to be the man cited as 76 years old on his death bed in 1705, though note that NB of M called one of his children Mary (but none called Elizabeth, eldest daughter=Hannah, most of his children from his first marriage had family names common in the family of Thomas Bacon of Bramford).

I wonder if NB-1 and NB-2 were the same man, which makes sense if both were The Recorder of Ipswich, that NB1/2/the R of Ipswich and his second wife baptised their children all in the same church even if not living nearby, and that the surname of Susanna was incorrectly recorded elsewhere. It's a lot of IFs... Perhaps the second son called Nathaniel was because the first one had died. None of which is compelling evidence that any of these people are closely related to NB of M.

Missing data are the scourge of Family History research

I can barely find any records for NBs getting married in 1600-1650, which is very worrisome and I can think of three-four marriages that should be in the records and seem to be completely absent:

NB who married Elizabeth ? at unknown date, only to bury her in Washbrooke in 1626.

Nathaniel Bacon who lived in East Bergholt with his wife Susannah, maiden name = Goodwin (mentioned in John Goodwin's 1638 will, text can be found online). I wonder if the Goodwin/East Bergholt leads would be promising to pursue in terms of finding our NB of M.

NB the Recorder of Ipswich who married twice in the period 1610-1630, first to Elizabeth Maidstone and secondly to Susanna Alefounder (nee Holloway). The general consensus is that that second marriage took place after 1621. These marriages are described in documents of 1654 (published in 1884) so should be correct info, but are not in Boyd's marriage index at all. I wonder if the 1626 burial of Elizabeth is the wife of the Recorder of Ipswich, and the 1626/7 marriage of Susan Partridge in Ipswich St. Lawrence (important town church) could actually be to NB the R of I... but if so, why recorded as Partridge? Why does everyone think NB the R of I's second wife was a Holloway/Alefounder?

There is a Nathaniel Bacon Esq. of Friston (Suffolk, fairly north of Ipswich, and second cousin to the Recorder of Ipswich, too) who married Anne Le Gross in the early 1600s; no apparent record of this marriage, either.

I have heard that the early Puritans sometimes kept their own marriage registers; moreover, perhaps because they saw no reason for separation of state and church, I read that they often married by magistrate rather than by Church of England vicars (whom they didn't respect as religious authorities, anyway; hence, no entry in local parish records). Plus, it's obvious that only important people had their key events recorded in the parish records in the early 17th century, not for agricultural labourers or other people who didn't need to worry about protecting inheritance rights. What especially struck me is that the parish entries for each year are very short, rarely more than a dozen items per year, which suggest most births/marriages and deaths of this era simply went unrecorded.

The vast majority of early American colonists came with their families and from relatively wealthy backgrounds. Only a small number were indentured servants or ship crew who decided to stay behind after making the Atlantic crossing, and therefore from the very poor masses. Early colonists had enough money to pay own passage for the Atlantic crossing and some means to sustain themselves once they arrived. Land wasn't just handed out to people on arrival, the Puritans very much wanted only a certain sort of person who brought some of their own means. So assuming that NB of M was one of those whose baptism would have been noted in the Parish records is reasonable, but it's not a definite.

Was Nathaniel Bacon of Middletown a Witch-hunt victim?

Two researchers, a South African descendant of the allied Markham family (Ken Markham) and Malcolm Gaskill (a current Professor of History at the University of East Anglia, Norwich) concluded that Nathaniel Bacon of Middletown was the son of (?NB-2) Nathaniel and Mary Bacon (?step-mother) of Chattisham Suffolk. Nathaniel and Mary were persecuted for witchcraft by Matthew Hopkins in a very famous, unusually large and well-documented 1640s witchhunt in East Anglia; Mary was executed by hanging on 27 Aug 1645 (Nathaniel Snr.'s fate is unknown). I am still chasing the evidence for the suggested link between the witch-hunt Bacons and NB of M. From the historical documents we do know for sure that several prominent members of the Bacon clan were involved in overseeing the witchcraft trials, including Nathaniel Bacon the Recorder of Ipswich and Francis Bacon (his half brother), of Dunwich (known as the Shrubland Hall Bacon family). The Shrubland Bacons had been prominent patrons of Matthew Hopkin's father James, who was Cambridge educated and a vicar at Great Wenham, Suffolk from 1612. Nathaniel Bacon the Recorder of Ipswich (1593-1660), was a grand-son of Nicholas the Seal Bearer, and has been described as an "extreme" Puritan, the father of Nathaniel Bacon the Rebel of Virginia (?born 1626; see The House of Commons 1660-1690 by Henning) and was one of three executors of James Hopkin's will. So it would have been difficult to oppose Matthew Hopkin's anti-witch crusade. Still, it seems possible that some family influence may have been brought to bear to procure mercy (avoid a death sentence) for Nat Bacon Snr. of Chattisham, if he was indeed their kinsman.

I can provide more specific records of what the parish registers, archived at Suffolk Records Office, say in respect of these people's lives.

False Leads:
NB of M is often confused with another Nathaniel Bacon who settled in Barnstable MA in about 1640 and had origins in Stretton England -- but that's not our ancestor; NB of Barnstable is a complete different person from NB of Middletown. OUR Nathaniel and his uncle Andrew probably came from near Suffolk, England.

Unlikely that NB of M's origins go thru Nathaniel Bacon of Stiffykey, Norfolk 1547-1622, one of the sons of Sir Nicholas the Seal Bearer. Too bad, though, would be fun if my Bacon family origins were so close by!

Nathaniel Bacon "the Painter" is yet another Suffolk County man who crops up in early 1600s records, particularly his marriage in 1614 to a Cornwallis widow; he had children but no sons by his same name.

Other contemporary Bacon records in the local Suffolk Parish registers, 1600-1650. In case these are of interest to other researchers, please contact the Ipswich SRO for original images/more details.


It's quiet in here...Add your comment