The forged ancestry of Richard Bowen

+39 votes

The profile of Richard Bowen-480 of Weymouth and Rehoboth currently shows an impressive Royal Ancestry.  It is entirely incorrect and is the result of a forged pedigree.  The details of the forgery, and corrections to many other details were published in The American Genealogist in 2001.

I am posting this here with the hope that a Bowen researcher will make the necessary corrections.  I will get the article to anyone willing to undertake the project.  He needs to be:

1. Disconnected from his incorrect (forged) parents.

2.  Fix the details of his birth.

3.  Correction of his wives.

4.  Rewrite of the biography to match modern research.

The American Genealogist vol. 76 (October 2001):263-278. The Ancestry, Wives and Children of Richard Bowen of Weymouth and Rehoboth, Massachusetts, by Richard LeBaron Bowen Jr.

WikiTree profile: Richard Bowen
in Genealogy Help by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (224k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Not sure what your intended meaning is, Lloyd.

I'll clarify mine. Since at least the late 1800s, people have believed Richard Bowen originated in Wales and was part of the Baptist community there. The linked chapter discusses the evidence for not-Wales and not-Baptist.
The editors of Richard's profile on WikiTree have already done an excellent job of writing a profile that is consistent with the Saxbe book(which was mentioned) and the American Ancestors article, also already mentioned. I deleted a duplicate footnote to Richard's Will that was floating and had an expired web link. More detail about Richard's Civic activities in Rehoboth Could be added from the book, but apart from that everything looks very good.
I stumbled across this while researching Richard.  If this has been mentioned somewhere before, I apologize.

This guy is the grandson of Richard LeBaron Bowen and he is doing a DNA study on descendants of Richard to try to unlock answers to his origin.  So far, he has found a possible DNA link to Wales through a connection to someone in family called Lewis that is documented to having come from Wales.  Clinical read, but there is interesting info in there.
Here is another interesting read.  I apologize if this has been posted here before somewhere.

He makes a circumstantial case for Welsh origins through his daughter Alice and through Rev. John Myles.

Very interesting, but mostly circumstantial. Plus these papers ignore the inconvenient facts that Samuel Newman was Richard Bowen's Puritan leader at Weymouth and Rehoboth and that Richard Did not follow Myles to Swansea. I see nothing in the historical records to connect Richard Bowen to Rev Myles. When Obadiah followed Myles to Swansea he was his own man, and the later record would indicate he may have been going for religious freedom and was not a very devout Baptist at any time.
One "connection" between Myles and Richard Bowen presented by others is that Richard was from the Kittlehill Farm on the Gower Peninsula.  This association is not documented and can be seen as just hearsay.  However, Kittlehill is just a stone's throw from Courthouse Farm and the town of Ilston.  Myles's Baptist Church, that he vacated when moving to New England, was located near Ilston.  This is well documented.  The question then becomes are there other connections between Myles and the Rehoboth group that would bring him to Rehoboth?  Or did he come to Rehoboth due to his familiarity with the Bowen family from Ilston?  Assuming our Richard was from that Bowen lineage, of course.

A piece of data that would support this connection will be to test the Y chromosomal DNA of Bowen men from Wales and especially the Gower peninsula.  That is Bowen men that claim ancestry from the Gower peninsula Bowen's of the 1400-1900s.   The Y chromosome of the Richard Bowen lineage in the US is well documented to be Y Haplogroup G2a and positive for SNPs: CTS4803+, Z6150+, Z30771+ F3484+ Y36533+ S2827+.  The Lewis lineage mentioned above is also a closely related Y Haplogroup G2a that is positive for SNPs: CTS4803+, Z6150+, Z30771+ F3484+ Y36533+ FT360979+.  The difference in the Y DNA between these two lineages suggests they shared a common ancestor  approximately 650-700 years ago.  

Just to stir the pot a little, the following is from p.51 and p.52 from the book entitled Memorial of the Bowen Family by E.C. Bowen, M.D. published in 1884.  

Llewellyn ap Owen married, A.D. 1369, Nest, daughter of Howell Fychan, Esq., probably a descendant in direct line of Ednyfed Fychan, ancestor of Owen Tewdwr, grandfather of King Henry VII. Llewellyn ap Owen had by his wife Nest—besides Rhys, ancestor of the Owens extinct, and Evan, ancestor of the Bowens of Pentre Evan, Llwyngwair, Trephloyne, etc., and other children —Philip of Panteg, who had a son Howell, and he a son Lewis (who took the surname Lewis). He (Lewis) married Gwenllian, daughter of Sir Thomas Philips of Picton Castle, knight (fifteenth century), who became founder of the great family of Picton Castle by his marriage with Jane, daughter of Sir Thomas Donne, son of Owen Donne (see Lewis Glyn Cothi's '' Works," p. 30). Of this family was Sir William Lewis (knight), mayor of Bristol, and many other families in Wales. Gen. Lewis, who married a sister of Gen. George Washington, and served under Iiim during the war of the Revolution, is supposed to have descended from this family of Lewises. Many descendants of this honorable family still reside in Virginia and other Southern States.

This implies that a Bowen lineage and a Lewis lineage shared a common ancestor, Llewellyn ap Owen, that was born approximately ~1344.   2020-1344 = 676 years ago.

Awfully close to the 650-700 YBP calculated by the Y chromosome data.

Some of what EC Bowen said about Richard Bowen d. 1675 has been questioned and deemed to have been somewhat fabricated.  But, this remark he makes about Llewellyn ap Owen can probably be substantiated with a little effort.
I have been looking through my mother's research on her Bowen Lineage.  Her GGF, William Ezra Bowen (Bowen-6753) who's 5th GGF was Richard lived in Philadelphia.  In 1831 he was hired to run, as a partner, a Dry Goods firm associated with a firm in Philadelphia.  While there his wife died and he married Elizabeth Kirtley in Wales.  Some of his children stayed in Wales with other distant family members, although it is unclear who they all were without more research.  Fast Forward to the 1960s.  My mother still corresponded with a cousin in Wales.  He sent her a copy of a handed down Bowen family tree.  It is said to have predated William Ezra's temporary relocation to Manchester.  Interestingly, it is the linage that EC Bowen published.  I have reason to believe that there is more of a connection and it was definitely not forged by EC Bowen.

Also interesting that William and his second wife were married in Pembrookshire and are recorded in "Pembrookshire Marriages and Banns Images".  (Sources are included in William's biography.
Thanks Bob, very interesting.
Bob and Nathan, have you read Saxbe's research discussed and linked to above? Please be sure to do so. Bob, you may want to reach out to Saxbe and share what you have with him. I'll need to re-read his work to refresh myself with the details but I believe he questions/examines Richard Bowen's Wales origins.

EDITED: actually, it's the 2001 and 2010 TAG articles that should be read.
Jillaine,. I've read all including Saxbe's research.  If my mom had kept better records and notes, I would have information worthy of being discussed with Saxbe.  Unfortunately when the family tree was received from the distance cousin who was a used car salesman in Wales, I was a pre-teen.  I remember the basic content of the letter but after my mom passed, my dad didn't keep that type of correspondence even though he was our family geanologist.  I have lots of content from him on my paternal line but he let my mom work on her family and she wasn't as ambitious or thorough.  I do have a handwritten Bowen lineage, but not the letter that was sent with it.  I hope that it turns up buried somewhere, but it's doubtful that it will surface.  Thanks!

2 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer

Notes to work from:

Richard LeBaron Bowen Jr., "The Ancestry, Wives and Children of Richard Bowen of Weymouth and Rehoboth, Massachusetts," in The American Genealogist, vol. 76 (October 2001):263-278. 

In summary, tears down a number of fabrications published by E.C. Bowen in 1884; refutes other claims published over the decades.

  • First appearance in New England: Weymouth between Oct 1642 and May 1644.
  • One of 18 original proprietors who settled Rehoboth in 1643.
  • Buried Rehoboth 4 Feb 1674/5; wife buried 1675
  • Inventory of Richard's estate in 1675 refers to a "Great Bible" (prob source of a 1776 record; see below)
  • Fraudulent origins:
    • Claims that Richard, son of James  Bowen of Llwyngwair [Pembrokeshire] was a) married to Anne, b) had children, c) was the emigrant to New England. While James Bowen did have a son Richard, the child was identified as "mort." – deceased / died young.
    • The "Ann" as his wife is a complete fabrication.
    • That before emigration this family settled at Kittle hill, Glamorgan Co., Wales (far to the east of Pembrokeshire) before going to America in 1640.
    • That Richard had an oldest son George, left in Wales (Kittle Hill), BUT while there was such a George Bowen, sheriff in 1650 in Kittle Hill, he was son of  a John Bowen.
    • That Griffith Bowen emigrant to Boston then Roxbury was a nephew of Richard who married first Mary Rifel. He wasn't a nephew and he was only married to Margaret, daughter of Henry Fleming. See: Herman Nickerson Jr, "Griffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen," in NGSQ 67(1979):163-66.
  • Clues to origins:
    • R's son Obadiah's will makes ref. to 4 pewter plates he was given at his baptism (which would have taken place about 1628 based on his age at death); this would have happened in Wales. This evidence of wealth supported by the valuation of Richard's estate, which was in the upper quarter of estates from that period.
    • Obadiah may not have been baptized under the name "Bowen." Could have been under "ap Owen".
    • Also, "Obadiah" (Alice and Ruth) were rare names; a search of wills from 1620 to 1652 found not one Obadiah.
  • Bowen Coat of Arms Claims
    • Tombstone of a 6th generation descendant Jabez Bowen includes a "so-called Court House Bowen" coat of arms and claims that Richard Bowen emigrated from Glamorganshire in South Wales.
    • 1884 fraudulent genealogy claims that Griffith Bowen had a coat of arms a pierced stag, "as those of Richard." The arms shown in the 1884 chart of James Bowen are the well-known Glamorganshire Court House Bowen arms—standing stag with an arrow in its back. (This is the coat of arms placed on the gravestone of Jabez Bowen.) However, arms of James Bowen of Llwynghwair were a rampant lion. Further, the arms of Griffith Bowen are a stag couchant with an olive branch in its mouth (no arrow).
    • An 1897 genealogy claimed that "the Bowen arms, a stag trippant with an arrow stuck in his back, were cut into" the tombstone of Richard Bowen of Rehoboth. And this was the proof that Richard was of the ancient family of Bowens of Glamorganshire, also shared by he Bowens of Llwyngweir, Pembrokeshire. The tomb with the engraving was not Richard's but Jabez's. No gravestone exists for Richard.
  • Richard Bowen's second wife
    • First wife [and mother of all ch.] probably died after they arrived in the colonies; he did not remarry until 1648.
    • Elizabeth, wife of George Marsh who died 2 July 1647 married Richard BOWEN at Weymouth in November 1648, NOT Richard Brown.
  • Obadiah2 Bowen
    • The claimed specific death date of 1 September 1627 possibly est. from age of 82 at 10 Sep 1710 death. Richard's children's birth dates not recorded.
    • No evidence that Obadiah was born in Swansea, Wales, and that Swansea, Mass., was named by him for his place of birth. The Mass. town was named for the Rev. John Myles, founder of the Baptist church in Swansea, Mass., after his dwelling place/parish in Wales.
    • Baptist minister/historian Isaac Backus published a claim that Obadiah Bowen came over from England with John Myles, founder of a Baptist church in Wales in 1649. But Obadiah came to NE with his father in 1640 at age 12. The only one to accompany John Myles was Nicholas Tanner, and probably much closer to 1666.
  • Robert Wheaton, wife of Alice Bowen (dau of Richard), has been continuously given a Welsh ancestry, prob starting with 1851 obit published in NEHGR. Savage followed this and claimed Robert was first in Rehoboth in 1643, but he was actually in Salem records as early as 1636/7. There is an inaccurate account of him in an 1887 genealogy about the Converse family by William G. Hill, then repeated in later published genealogies, claiming Robert was from Swansea. But we already know that the Swansea connection is related to Myles, who came over thirty years after Wheaton.
    • Rehoboh VR: Ephraim Wheaton born 20 Oct 1659. Therefore, he was not a 4-year-old immigrant.
    • A 31 Aug 1775 record in Providence RI: "Genealogy from Robert Wheaton the first of the Name of Wheaton that came over from England to Salem in New England AD 1636 about 30 years of age and there married Elce Bowen daughter of Richard Bowen from thence Removed to Rehoboth AD 1645 and there lived and Died AD 1696 about 90 years of Age. Their Offspring Joseph, Samuel and Jeremiah Born at Salem [not recorded anywhere]; Obadiah, John, Bethiah, Hannah, Mary, Ephraim & Benjamin born at Rehoboth [all listed in the Rehoboth vital records]." This last probably came from a family bible or bibles.  "While not necessarily authoritative (since it was written one hundred and foty years after the fact), this record shows that the family then [1776] believed that Robert1 Wheaton came from England to Salem in 1636."
    • The calculated births of Robert's and Alice's children suggest a marriage year of 1640, the year she arrived in New England. This suggests that Richard may have spent a few years in Salem area before removing to Weymouth. Further suggests that Robert Wheaton and Alice Bowen stayed in Salem for about 5 years. Robert Whateon first appears in Rehoboth records in 1645 when granted a lot.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (779k points)
selected by Stu Ward


  • Richard Bowen's Children – the only accurate representation in the 1884 fraudulent genealogy by EC Bowen. Richard's will, probated 4 June 1675, lists these children; the TAG article based on birth dates of spouses, estimates the following order:
    • Alice Wheaton [married about 1640, suggesting a 1620 birth]
    • William; [b abt 1622] died unm and bur 10 Mar 1686/7.
    • Sarah Fuller [ b abt 1624; m abt 1643 Robert Fuller, no date; no dates of childrens' births; Robt Fuller moved from Salem to Rehoboth by Jan 1644/5; their children are probably the four who married in Rehoboth:]
      • Jonathan m 1664 [b 1644/5]
      • Samuel m 1673 [b abt 1646/7]
      • John m 1673 [b abt 1648]
      • Elizabeth m 1672 [b abt 1652]
    • Ruth Kenericke m 1647 [therefore b abt 1626]
    • Obadiah [known to be about 1628]
    • Richard [b abt 1631; m Esther Sutton 4 Mar 1656; therefore prob born c 1631]
    • [Thomas, deceased before father's will written; b abt 1634; first child born Aug 1660, therefore m abt 1659; therefore born about 1634]
  • The proposed list of children and their birth dates suggests that he married about 1619, probably age 25, therefore born about 1594—a decade later than estimates based on EC Bowen's 1884 account.

Bottom line:

Richard Bown was born—possibly in Glamorganshire, Wales—about 1594, parents not known. He m1 abt 1619 ________, mother of his children; he m2 at Weymouth November 1648, Elizabeth _______, widow of George Marsh of Hingham. She was buried in Rehoboth in 1675. Richard emigrated to America about 1640, settling initially in Salem, before moving to Weymouth then Rehoboth by 1643.

I greatly appreciate your work on my ancestor Richard Bowen. It does concern me that you described those working on wiki tree as amateurs. I have observed the numerous errors on ancestry census transcriptions which were transcribed by amateurs.  Such transcriptions are a disservice to all. I find too many errors on numerous trees posted. Under Robert Wheaton, it is stated that the Swansea connection is related to Myles. I have read about Myles and it is my belief that Swansea was named by Rev. Newton. There is an article written about the confusion of the naming of  Swansea. While E. C. Bowen's work has errors, I do not necessarily believe he was aware that the information was incorrect. (He is not in my line.) I can't imagine anyone willing including incorrect information unless they were being paid for the work. I buy any family history connected to any of my ancestors. I have yet to find one without an error. Due to many interviews and DNA, I am positive concerning some events which occurred as early as the 1880s for which there is no record. I applaud Saxbe for printing corrections in each new publications. I have two corrections that I need to send him. Levi Bowen did not marry Phoebe Boney (she is my ancestor but not on the Bowen line) and Aaron Bowen was not likely a son of Clifton, Sr. as he was called cousin by one of Clifton's known sons. I certainly may make a mistake but it will not be fabrication or fraud. Thanks for listening.
Helen, my use of the term amateur was meant as a distinction from professionally trained and often paid genealogists.  It was not meant to be derogatory.

And nowhere do I intend to convey that all people who make mistakes are frauds or fabricators.  

There may be some disagreement among the experts (i.e., Jacobus, Anderson, etc.) and others about the extent to which EC Bowen knew he was fabricating (and therefore acting fraudulently). But clearly some did/do feel that he was intentionally doing so.

I will add this comment on what Jillaine has written,

Based on Richard's children's names, especially I am led to believe that he and his wife were probably puritans in Wales.  Most of the records are from the Church of England.  Therefore there is less of a chance of a marriage record for Richard and his first wife.  Unless the bible I have seen mentioned a few times ever surfaces there may be no record that will ever be transcribed for it or their children's  birth / baptismal record as it was before the rebellion in 1642.

As for Robert Wheaton's appearance in Rehoboth, although he isn't mentioned as one of the original "plantors", he does have a lot on the Ring of Green with the first set of lots that were drawn in 1643/4.

This is the way my family tree looks:

9th G Grandfather - Richard Bowen (Bowen-480)

8th G Grandfather - Obadiah Bowen (Bowen-749)

7th G Grandfather - Samuel Bowen (Bowen - 751)

6th G Grandfather - John Bowen (Bowen - 4166)

5th G Grandfather - Joseph Bowen (Bowen - 6668)

4th G Grandfather - Joseph Bowen (Bowen - 6004)

3rd G Grandmother - Phebe Ayars Davis Bowen (Bowen - 6003)

2nd G Grandmother - Mary Bowen Davis Ayars (Bowen - 40370)

1st G Grandmother - Alma Amelia Larson Ayars (Ayars - 470)

My Grandmother -    Mrytle Mae Larson Trogstad ( Larson - 3405)

My Father - Marvin Edward Trogstad (Trogstad - 1)

I do have an interest in this issue and am greatly concerned about the tag line 'fraud' applied to the file of Richard Bowen, it t'would imply my family is frauds and I have an issue with my family already being beheaded, and gutted.

I agree that it should be placed on E.C. Bowen, but with the consideration, the man might have been using the information he had and that was in the 1930's.

If you, like me, start with something and realize that it isn't placed correctly and move it to another spot to find affirmation then realize something else needs to be moved back and there is affirming information or as it is suggested when a profile comes up when creating a profile, please select that. We are all working towards the greater good of understanding who is who in the United States, America, The British Colonies, the 'old country', and abroad.
E.C. Bowen is issued from who?

I have fixed the category on Richard Bowen's profile. It was inaccurately using the high-level "Frauds and Fabrications" category. It now has the E.C. Bowen Fraud category on it.

I have also created a freespace page for this fabricated genealogy:

This thread is about the genealogy of Richard Bowen, not the genealogy of E.C. Bowen (who was author of the fabricated genealogy).

EDIT: E.C. Bowen does not have a profile on either WikiTree or WeRelate, but I did find this WorldConnect profile of him:
UPDATE: Saxbe's 2010 TAG article found the mention of "Ann" as Richard's first wife that predates the 1886 fraudulent genealogy by several decades, however, he's still skeptical since the given name Ann does not appear in the first few generations which would have been expected.
+16 votes
I added Category: Frauds and Fabrications to his profile.  It probably would be good to create a new subcategory "Richard Bowen Fraud" which briefly outlines the fraud and references the TAG article, and then the Category: Richard Bowen Fraud should go on EVERY profile affected by it as an alert that some information about that person may be fraudulent until it has been confirmed by other sources.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (362k points)
We've typically named the Fraud categories for the perpetrator of the fraud. In this case, that appears to be E.C. Bowen, not Richard Bowen.

We've called them "Fraud" because the perpetrator appeared to be in the business of peddling fraudulent genealogies. I'm not sure that word is accurate when the perpetrator was an amateur whose fabrications enriched only their own family's vanity.  I don't know if that characterization applies to E.C. Bowen, but it looks like it might. I recently started digging into another mess of early New England fabrications ("The Beckwiths", by Paul Beckwith) whose perpetrator focused on only his own family -- and whose fabrications may have resulted more from inexperience and ineptitude than any deliberate intent to deceive. I'm thinking that the categories for these fabrications should have names like "E. C. Bowen Fabrications" and "Paul Beckwith Fabrications."

If you read the full TAG article, it's pretty damning regarding E.C. Bowen. The man should have known better. I'd say it falls under the fraud category.
I would have no problem with "Category: E. C. Bowen Fabrication"  I think for genealogy, the key thing is that bad things happened with the data, not whether someone made money at it.  It would be interesting to have a conversation on the topic, "which is worse, greed for family recognition or greed for money", but we don't need to have that conversation to create a category that highlights the misuse of data!

Thaks in large part to this sidebar discussion of the categories, I did some additional research on Paul Edmond Beckwith and created Category: Paul Edmond Beckwith Fabrications. I kept the title at "fabrications" largely because of the judgment of the researcher who ripped some of his work apart, but gave him the benefit of the doubt, saying:

"The Beckwith book stands as a sad commentary on the uses to which the fascinating science of genealogy may be put. The printed genealogies are so often the work of enthusiastic members of a family, with little genealogical experience, and too often prone to accept an English ancestry on meagre and doubtful evidence -- or sometimes no evidence at all."

The legal definition of "fraud" includes a requirement that some material benefit results from the falsification of the documents in question.

      This might have happened in this case, but the proof might be hard to come by.  "Bogus" might be the better word.  More than a few genealogists have no shame when it comes to their own backgrounds and the beliefs of generations yet to be born.

The TAG article cited elsewhere puts it this way:

"In 1884, E[lisha] C[handler] Bowen wrote a fraudulent account of the Welsh origin of the immigrant Richard Bowen. The short text was based mainly on the attached pedigree entitled "Pedigrees of Richard and Griffith Bowen Carefully collated from Lewis Dwn [Dwnn], Golden Grove and Dale Castle Mss Confirmed by Nicholas' Annals of Wales.'  A signature at the bottom left has 'B.I. Bowen facit.' The chart indeed contains on the left side an accurate copy of the twelve-generation lineage of James Bowen of Llwyngwair, Pembrokeshire, taken by Lewis Dwnn in 1591 and published by Nicholas.[9] The chart lists James's [sic] ten sons (of seventeen children) given by Dwnn, including Richard 'mort' as the eighth son-- the 'mort' undoubtedly meaning he died young. Nevertheless, at the bottom of the chart, B. I. Bowen added the following:"

What follows is a chart indicating Richard "mort" Bowen m. Ann, and had the known children of Richard Bowen of Rehoboth... The article goes on:

"This is a pure fabrication, making an arbitrary Ann the wife of the non-surviving Richard who is made the emigrant, probably the invention of B.I. Bowen, maker of the chart, to serve E.C. Bowen's needs. This presumably is the source of the name Ann as the Welsh wife of Richard1 Bowen and has no validity. Ann does not appear in E.C. Bowen's text accompanying the chart; the only mention of her is in the chart."

"E.C. Bowen was a physician, a graduate of the Albany Medical College, and a member of various medical associations. He certainly knew that mort signified dead. However, he explains this away by saying that Dwnn 'after Richard's name ... uses a term (an equivalent), which, being translated into English, signifies that Richard, son of James Bowen of Llwyngwair, 'chose the hunter's armor, and left the country with it.'[10] The 'hunter's armor' is a reference to the Court House Bowen arms of a stag with an arrow in it. This is a rather ingenious and subtle invention. A dictionary definition of mort, besides dead, is 'the note sounded on a horn at the death of a deer, chiefly to 'blow a mort.' '[11]"

E.C. Bowen went on to add a further fabrication, attaching Griffith Bowen of Boston to this same chart. But that's another g2g topic...

Is this chart accessible for viewing? With that many children, is it possible there was a Richard that died early and another born named again Richard. Happens a lot.

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