Who were the parents of William Brewster's grandfather William Smythe?

+3 votes

It appears that William Brewster's maternal grandfather, William Smythe, has false parents with a bogus royal and Magna Carta ancestry.  William Smythe's wikitree page is here: http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Smythe-55

Does anybody know anything about William Smythe's ancestry?  I've seen reference to an article in  "The Mother of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower" by John G. Hunt, in NEHGR 124:2 (Oct 1970); but apparently that doesn't give any information about William Smythe's origin.  Is there any reason not to detach William Smythe's parents?

WikiTree profile: William Brewster
asked in Genealogy Help by J S G2G6 Mach 9 (92.6k points)

I have found an been able to read part of "The Mother of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower" by John G. Hunt, in NEHGR 124:2. it refers to wills about who signed and where items are going. with this and other docs, I have pretty solid believe that William Brewster's II (Mayflower) mother is Mary Smythe. (William Brewster's I first wive) and William Smythe is his grandfather. I am currently trying to find which one of William Smythe's 3 wives, gave birth to Mary.


William Smythe of Hatfield had two wives: 1) Catherine 2) Unknown. He didn't have a third wife that we have evidence of according to John G Hunt. Mary Smythe is the daughter of the unknown second wife. See TAG 41:1-5; NEHGR 124:251 and NEHGR 111:319-20 on American Ancestors. See the notes I posted below and I think the logic will all make sense.

5 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer
I just discovered that the Seattle Public Library has complete sets of NEHGR and Mayflower Quarterly, as well as Anderson's Great Migration series.  Onward and upward...

John G. Hunt, in "The Mother of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower" in NEHGR 124:250-54 (1970), gives the following quote in Note 2 on page 252: "Gt. Brit. Public Record Office, ref. C2 Eliz. B 31/1, an undated proceeding addressed to Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal (1558-1579): 'Bill of Complaint by William Bruester and Mary his wife, the late wife of John Symkinson late of Doncaster, Yorks.  The said John was seized of lands in Doncaster and in his lifetime did convey them to the said Mary then his wife for the term of her life and afterwards he died at Doncaster."

From this we see that Mary, wife of William Brewster (father of the Mayflower pilgrim) was the widow of John Symkinson.

Note 4 on the same page gives the "will of William Smythe, elder, of Stanforth in parish of Hatfield, dated 25 Jan. 1558/9 and proved 2 May 1560 (York P & E court, 16:46)" which mentions his four presumed daughters and their husbands; among them are "John Symkinson and Marie his wife."  William Smythe's son Cuthbert mentioned sisters Marie and Margaret in his 1551 will; Margaret, wife of Thomas Saile was one of the four presumed daughters listed in William Smythe's will.  

Hunt's analysis of these records leads him to the supposition that William Smythe had two wives.  Hunt gives no information about William Smythe's origin or parents.
answered by J S G2G6 Mach 9 (92.6k points)
selected by R B
That's the correct answer! The Seattle Public library rules :)
0 votes
Dunno about Brewster Senior's father-in-law, but his wife [[Smythe-14]] seems to be getting seriously confused with his daughter-in-law.  Maybe first we have to sort out who Mary Smythe was and who she wasn't.
answered by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (444k points)
edited by RJ Horace
0 votes
Is William Smythe only one person?  He seems to have too many wives, too many daughters and too many homes.

He's being claimed as the ancestor of Josiah Ellsworth of Connecticut, as well as Brewster.  Is this an actual theory that Ellsworth and Brewster were cousins, or just a bad merge?
answered by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (444k points)
That would appear to be a bad merge or an internet fantasy.  William Smythe's will lists Marie Symkinson (the later wife of William Brewster, Sr.), but doesn't mention any Ellsworth or Aylesworth, so WikiTree's current Smythe/Ellsworth connection seems to be a clear error.

Sir John Ellsworth's grandmother is supposed to be Cynthia Rawls.  Remarkable name for 1510, but it looks like there was a Cynthia Rawls born 1795 who married a William Smythe.

Could be other problems as well



Lucia's Bower features in an 18th-century novel
0 votes

Fyi, Anderson in Great Migration Begins:

  • names only his father William (without, surprisingly, a citation) and names no mother 
  • Names his wife as Mary with no surname (and discusses efforts leading up to 1995 to identify her)
  • warns to use with caution the works of John Hunt (who published various theories in the 1980s) some of which have been shown to be faulty. 

if Brewster was not a Mayflower passenger, and there had been no new, authoritative research published since 1995,  we would follow PGM policy and detach any mother from his profile (but link to theories from a Disputed Origins section) and would also rename his wife as Mary Unknown and discuss theories in a Disputed Spouse section. 

I do not know what the policy or practice is of the Mayflower Project. 

As I believe John has already mentioned, Anderson does not go back further on William Brewster's paternal line. 

answered by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (662k points)

I researched and wrote all the biographies for the England Ancestry of the Brewster and Mann families. I've read just about everything and transcribed some of the wills, etc. So I'm very familiar with this family.




I have not worked on the biographies for the Smythe branch of this family yet (which is currently a mess). I hope to at some point.

I have the latest 2014 edition of: 

Merrick, Barbara Lambert, and E. Virginia Hunt. William Brewster of the Mayflower: and his descendants for four generations. (Plymouth, MA: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2014), p 1-2, 2014. The GSMD "Silver Book" 

This book calls these two articles ***the current state of research on this topic:***


John G Hunt, "New Light on the Brewsters of Scrooby and New England" in The American Genealogist (Demorest, Habersham, Georgia, United States: D.L. Jacobus, 1965) Vol 41 p 1-5



John G Hunt "The Mother of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower" in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1970) Volume 124 p 250-254



I totally agree.


John G Hunt has made a career out of the Brewster family. He definitely had two articles of lower quality to which Anderson is referring. I’ve read both. They were not fully convincing but they were interesting and added some insight into the family but he tried to push a conclusion that wasn't going to stick. 


He also had a series of other articles that are considered top rung by the Mayflower Society and have not been superseded and these include the two articles above. They are both excellent in my opinion. Very solid research!

To answer John Schmeeckle’s question, the current consensus which is summed up in the articles above is that William Smythe’s parents are *unknown.* They are likely unknowable. We are working with probate records only and they just don’t go back that far. 


The wives shown currently for William Smythe of Hatfield on Wikitree are *nonsense.* He had a first wife named Catherine with whom he had Thomas, Jennet, Agnes and John Smythe of Hull. (John Smythe of Hull is an important character in Brewster history). William Smythe had a second unknown wife with whom he had Cuthbert, Mary, Margaret, Francis and Richard. 


Records don’t go back further than that and we will probably never know anything about the parents of William Smythe of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England. This is all we really have:


1)  His marriage to Catherine:

Orate pro animabus Willielmi Smith et Catherinae et Agnetis uxorum ejus.; Joseph Hunter’s South Yorkshire: The History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster (London, 1828-1831), vol. 1, p. 150,

2) His will 25 Jan 1558 Proved 2 May 1560; NEHGR 124:252; NEHGR 124:252

The father currently shown is a fantasy and should be disconnected.


Most importantly we have probate records by and regarding his son John Smith of Hull and the Symkinson and Mann families. We also have several key documents concerning the children of Prudence (Brewster) Peck's children and William Brewster supposed half-brother James Brewster vicar of Sutton cum Laude.

We have the will of Thomas Symkinson Alderman of Doncaster dated 29 Jan 1558 Doncaster, Yorkshire, England proved 2 May 1560 names John Simkinson and his two children Dorothy and Thomas Simkinson as well as Thomas Smythe, John Smythe of Hull, William Smythe and Alice widow of Chirstopher Mann among others.


The will of Maude's brother Christopher Mann dated 11 Oct 1558 in Doncaster, Yorkshire, England was witnessed by John Symkinson who was the first husband of Mary Smythe, the mother of Thomas Sinkinson of Hull by her first husband and the mother of William Brewster the Mayflower passenger by her second husband William Brewster of Scrooby.

These show that William Brewster married first Mary Smythe daughter William Smythe of Stainforth parish in Hatfield. She was sister of John Smythe of Hull and widow of John Simkinson of Doncaster.


The will of John Smythe of Hull dated 8 Aug 1592 in Hull, Yorkshire, England made it evident that Elder William Brewster and the younger Thomas Smythe of Hull were maternal half-brothers when he named "my nephews" William Brewster, John Smythe and Thomas Simkinson executors of his estate.


Then we have the Bill of Complaint by William Brewster and Mary his wife, the late wife of John Symkinson late of Doncaster, Yorks.  The said John was seized of lands in Doncaster and in his lifetime did convey them to the said Mary then his wife for the term of her life and afterwards he died at Doncaster.

+1 vote

Next question then, what about William Smythe's ex-father Richard S Smythe? Is there evidence for his parents?

Is there evidence for his existence?

Did he have a brother called Richard Eley, ancestor of Governor Ely of Connecticut?

And did Thomas Ely marry his mother's identical twin?

And what happened to Ely's other ancestors, the ones who go back to Theodoric the Hun?


answered by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (444k points)
edited by RJ Horace
Those are good questions, RJ.  We all know that there is a lot of pseudo-genealogical slop out there, and if someone saw fit to silently merge away William Smythe's imaginary father, I for one wouldn't object.  But there is another side that says if an imaginary person is "out there" on the internet, then their profile should be kept here and identified as such.

Regarding the Ely family, you're welcome to start a separate G2G thread.  But at the moment, they don't show a false Magna Carta lineage, so maybe somebody already did some cleanup over there.  By the way, Richard Ely was just a Deputy Governor.

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