A way-back royal ancestry for John Jenney of Plymouth Colony?

+7 votes

As medieval wikitreers probably know, there are VERY few seventeenth-century immigrants to Plymouth Colony who have proven royal lineages.  Could John Jenney be one such "gateway ancestor"?

First of all is the question of John Jenney's parents.  Matthew Hovius's  "Norwich Revisited: The Origin of John Jenney, Plymouth Colonist," in The Genealogist, vol. 22, no. 1 (Spring 2008) develops what I consider to be convincing circumstantial evidence that John Jenney was the son of Christopher and Avis (Homberstone) Jenney. Some time back I added Christopher and Avis as John Jenney's "uncertain" parents, because this was brand new (to me, anyway), and not clear without careful study, and other people might object.  So -- does anyone object to upgrading John Jenney's parentage from "uncertain" to "confident"?

If not, then there seems to be a clear path from John Jenney back to the Boys (Boyce) family, and back along the Boys ancestry to a sister of Miles Stapleton, who appears in Douglas Richardson's Royal Ancestry with a maternal lineage going back to King Henry I of France, who lived 1000 years ago.  Perhaps others could look that over with a critical eye; am I missing potential problems here?

In addition, John Jenney has a possible lineage going back to two Magna Carta barons, but there is a weak link with Margaret Braose(?) here: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Braose-72

Beyond that, there is a lot of "chaff" and poorly-documented early profiles among the ancestors of John Jenney, including a couple alleged lines going back to King Henry I of ENGLAND, but those don't seem to show up in Douglas Richardson's books, so some judicious pruning would seem to be in order.  Perhaps there are some medieval-minded descendants of John Jenney out there who would like to help improve the profiles on the various lines of his ancestry.  I've adopted a lot of orphaned profiles and added some records here and there, but there is a LOT of work to be done, especially including checking alleged birth and death years -- it seems that a lot of those dates are guesses that don't work very well.

WikiTree profile: John Jenney
in Genealogy Help by J S G2G6 Mach 9 (95.2k points)
retagged by J S
I match her "Braose". I am limited to what i can edit right now.  My internet is so spotty. And I have tons of profiles that need updated. Down to cell phone internet. Evidently I match Jenney also.
And my tree says I am also related to almost all the Magna Carta Barons.

3 Answers

+5 votes
I didn't know if everyone was aware of the Jenney Museum

by Anonymous Snyder G2G6 Mach 2 (23.9k points)
+10 votes
It seems to me John that the whole thing rests on the identification of the immigrant (as is usually the case) being a posthumous child of Christopher Jenny.  I do not have the whole article readily available, but the argument sounds pretty circumstantial.  I'm having some trouble deciding how strong the evidence is based on what is on the profile.  Are you able to share more of the article or do you have a copy you can email?

And what is the evidence that Christopher Jenny is a son of John Jenny?

Doug Richardson has been pretty active on SGM, perhaps after we get all the facts straight we can ask him directly if he has any reason to doubt this line.
by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (216k points)
Joe, in this case John the immigrant would be the post-humous son of a man (Christopher Jenney of Dunwich) who thought his wife might be pregnant as he made his will and died.  And then the ocean ate their village, including the church and the parish records.  I'm afraid I don't have a copy of the article; I read it at the Seattle Public Library.  As I recall, the identification of Christopher Jenney as son of John wasn't controversial, but of course others will want to see the evidence for that particular link.
Curiosity ? SGM

SGM = soc.genealogy.medieval newsgroup

Many high level genealogists post there.  The 20 year archives are an amazing resource, and it is the goto place to get help with medieval/royal ancestry problems.

SGM. Very cool and interesting. Thank you.
+2 votes

I'm going try and get the discussion back on G2G.  It has been mixed on the SGM thread, John Jenny's profile and here.

Currently, John Jenny's parents have been disconnected as unproven and with some potential problems with the identification.  John has suggested that we have been too hasty in disconnecting them.  So the question is whether or not the evidence is good enough to reattach them.



by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (216k points)

Nathan Murphy on SGM wrote:

"> Actually, Hovious himself provides an explanation, for whatever it's worth. 

> On pp. 11-12 he states: "The 1581 assessment of arms and list of able-bodied men is not definitive as a tool for determining the possible birth date of John of Lakenham, because it merges three lists having uncertain dates, and it is not clear which date pertains to John."  In his footnote to this he writes: "Extreme caution must be used in drawing any inferences about dates from undated and disorganized papers among these records, for their arrangement is arbitrary and dates ascribed to them later are, in at least some cases, provably wrong.  In Case 13a/3, a 1577 list of able-bodied men in Lakenham, including no one named Jenney, is microfilmed adjacent to a 1599 subsidy on which John appears.  Worse still is the undated muster list found in Case 13a/4, p. 145, on which John Jenney is listed with 1 calyver. 
>  Someone, perhaps during microfilming, has penciled in the date "1580" at the top.  But John's companions on this list include Roger Godsalve, gent.... [who] was aged 'twenty years four weeks and four days' when his father died on 12 Aug. 1588.  In that case he would not have appeared on a list actually taken in 1580.  In any event Roger Godsalve never appears in any subsidies or other records from Lakenham before 1591, which is probably closer to the actual date of this list." 

Here is how the chronology works out if the dating of the 1581 muster is incorrect and John Jenney was 21 or over when he 'first' appears on a 1588 subsidy and arms assessment: 

He would have been born by 1567, if not earlier. If he married the first time in 1614, as the Dutch record states, he would have been at least 47 years old at first marriage. He was still accepting apprentices in Plymouth in 1633/4 for terms of eight years. If the origin is correct, that apprenticeship term was set to expire when the master was 74 or more years old. 

Nathan "

John, don't you think this is an extremely improbable time line?  Presuming a first marriage at age 47, and accepting apprentices at age 68 is extremely unlikely without real evidence.

To me, this is good enough to call the line disproved, or at least unproven and highly unlikely.

The system actually allowed me to add back the parents (I'm one of the profile managers), so I did, because they were removed too hastily.  If there is a consensus to remove the "questionable" parents, I will go along with it.  

Accepting apprentices was sometimes a form of charity for orphans.  Where his "apprentices" orphans?  That would change the nature of the analysis.

Furthermore, how certain is it to presume that John Jenney was over 21 when assessed in 1588?  Could a 17-year-old have been taxed and included on a muster list?  I suppose that's the essential question.  How about a 17-year-old from a "gentle" family whose mother moved to London with his elder half-brother and signed over her property to him?  How much "wiggle room" did the authorities have with an upstanding young man from a good family, full of promise for the future?

Regarding John Jenney's age at first marriage, if he was indeed born around 1570 then we're looking at mid-40s at first marriage, which isn't unheard of for a younger son (an orphan at that, whose father's estate was burdened by debt) with few prospects, who couldn't find a likely wife from his own social class.  And then he eventually married in a foreign country, after struggling to establish himself all over again.  His life story appears to be out of the ordinary, especially with the emigration to Holland.   I don't think that, in this particular situation, there is any reason to apply a "cookie cutter" rule that a man generally married by age 30.
In any case, it seems fairly certain that John Jenney is descended from Sir Edmund Jenney and Katherine Boys, so keeping this lineage attached facilitates and encourages further work researching the earlier ancestry and improving the earlier profiles.
No, it is not certain.  There is no direct evidence of it all.  In fact, it remains highly unlikely.

The evidence is entirely circumstantial and ultimately the only connection between the Plymouth Colony emigrant and John Jenny of Lakenham is the fact that he named a parcel of land he received Lakenham.  This is suggestive of his origins, but certainly doesn't prove that he is any particular man from Lakenham or from any particular family in Lakenham.

Matthew Hovius says that when Christopher Jenny died in 1570 he left a will written such that if he had a child he would receive an inheritance, and so opening the possibility that he could have had a posthumous son.  However, many wills were written this way just to cover all the possibilities.  All it really proves is that Christopher Jenny had no children when he wrote his will.  The will did not say that his wife was currently with child did it? (as might be expected if she was actually pregnant when he was writing the will)  We have no evidence at all that Christopher had a son named John, we don't even know that he left any children at all.  We also have no direct evidence that his wife Avis Jenny left any children.

Next we have multiple records of John Jenny of Lakenham dated between 1581 and 1591.  All these records, indicate an adult male who was of age and not someone who was under age 21.  The 1588 taxation of land would indicate he was of age 21 or more.  That fact that he was a miller and not someone's apprentice would indicate that he was of age.  That that he was in the assessment of those able to bear arms and that he personally owned a bill, a helmet and a musket (expensive and unusual) all indicate someone older than a teenager.  Finally, he certainly would not be made a constable of Lakenham at age 19.  These records all indicate a man who was born by 1567 and probably substantially earlier (1555 to 1567).

The next problem I have is with the Leiden records.  He is apparently called a brewer's apprentice in his marriage licence in 1614 - no chance this is someone born in 1571.  Apprentices were not 43 year old men who already had worked for decades in another trade (miller).  The marriage itself is a major chronological problem.  You are arguing for a first marriage at age 43, and him having children born at the age of 56.  Again, this is a possibility with a likelihood approaching zero.

Finally, there is the issue of him accepting apprentices in 1633/4 with terms set to expire when he was age 72?  You have argued that perhaps they were orphans and this was a form of charity? - no chance.

So, we have no direct evidence that Christopher Jenny had a son John or any children at all, we have no direct evidence that Avis Jenney had a son John or any children at all. We have a long series of records and dates which are not consistent with the Plymouth Colony immigrant.

Too many bits of evidence just don't add up to accept the circumstantial argument put forward by Hovius.

This line is broken as disproved.
Joe, the tone of your post above is unhelpful.  I have ready rebuttals for every one of your points, which I will share as time permits.  (I'm going to be traveling this weekend, so internet access will be spotty.)  I would like to share a civil discussion, and perhaps you should encourage me to answer your objections instead of proclaiming a summary dismissal.

Before discussing the question of John Jenney's parentage, I'm going to address the question of his origin in the Lakenham neighborhood of Norwich.  If we don't get beyond that hurdle, then further discussion would seem to be pointless.

Joe Cochoit wrote, "The evidence is entirely circumstantial and ultimately the only connection between the Plymouth Colony emigrant and John Jenny of Lakenham is the fact that he named a parcel of land he received Lakenham.  This is suggestive of his origins, but certainly doesn't prove that he is any particular man from Lakenham or from any particular family in Lakenham."

My reply:

1. The statement that "the evidence is entirely circumstantial" doesn't vitiate the evidence.  For example, here's an article from the New York Law Journal: Circumstantial Evidence: An Important Source of Proof.

2.  The claim that "the only connection between the Plymouth Colony emigrant and John Jenny of Lakenham is the fact that he named a parcel of land he received Lakenham" disregards two important pieces of evidence.  First of all, Lakenham is a neighborhood in the city of Norwich, and the marriage record (from Leiden, Holland) of John Jenney, the immigrant to Plymouth Colony, stated that he was from Norwich.  Perhaps Joe can acknowledge that important piece of primary source documentation.

3.  John Jenney of Lakenham, a parish in Norwich was a miller.  John Jenney, immigrant to Plymouth from Norwich who named a parcel of land Lakenham, was also a miller.  Furthermore, John Jenney the miller is the only known Jenney to have ever lived in Lakenham.  (Joe Cochoit ignores this point.)

4.  This conflation of Jenney and Lakenham, and miller was accepted by professional genealogist Matthew Hovious to be prima facie evidence that John Jenney of Lakenham and John Jenney the Plymouth immigrant were one and the same person, although Hovious did imagine the possibility that they were father and son.

5.  Matthew Hovious's case for the Lakenham origin of John Jenney the Plymouth immigrant impressed the editors of The Genealogist, "one of the most prestigious journals in the field of genealogy" sufficiently that they published Hovious's article.

6.  If Joe Cochoit or anybody else cares to join me in accepting the Lakenham origin of John Jenney to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then I will, as time permits, continue with my assessment of Hovious's proposed parentage for John Jenney.

John, I have no problem with circumstantial evidence, and I believe it can be used to prove a descent.  Contrary to what you say, I accepted that the immigrant John Jenny was originally from Norwich and likely from the area of Lakenham.

However, you need to address the fact that there are serious chronological and factual problems which make it very unlikely the John Jenny the immigrant could be the son of Christopher and Avis Jenny.

1.  The 1588 taxation records suggest that John Jenny the miller found in Lakenham was an adult with his profession - he would not be the teenage son of Christopher and Avis Jenny.

2.  The fact that he was in the assessment of those able to bear arms and that he personally owned a bill, a helmet and a musket (expensive and unusual) all indicate someone much older than a teenager - he would not be the teenage son of Christopher and Avis Jenny.

3.  The fact that he was a constable of Lakenham in September 1589/90 essentially rules out the possibility that John Jenny miller of Lakenham was a son of Christopher and Avis Jenny.

4.  His marriage in 1614 and him having children until 1627, strongly argue against him being a posthumous child of Christopher and Avis Jenny born in 1571.  You would assign dates to such a person being born between 1585 and 1595.  He is essentially off by an entire generation and is more likely to be the son of John Jenny the miller than actually being John Jenny the miller.

5.  The fact that he was accepting apprentices with 8 year terms in 1632/3 strongly argues against him being born in 1571; again, you expect him to be a much younger man.

6.  Miller was apparently not the primary trade of John Jenny the immigrant.  He was called a brewer in his marriage license, and he was called a brewer much later by Edward Winslow.  The fact that he setup a mill much later after immigrating does not tell me that he should be equated with John Jenny the miller of Lakenham.  Here’s a better guess – he could have been a son of John Jenny the miller so he knew something of the craft; he was apprenticed as a brewer which was his profession in Leiden and in Plymouth Colony.  When the need of a mill in Plymouth colony arose, he helped set one up.

Look, I completely accept the circumstantial evidence you have presented.  But when faced with contrary facts which make the identification extremely unlikely to even impossible, it is time to break the line and move on.

Joe, I don't see anything "impossible" in identifying John Jenney of Lakenham with John Jenney of Plymouth, although the conjectural scenario, if true, is certainly unusual.  In answer to your points:

1.  Not necessarily.  My supposition is that John Jenney was being treated as an adult, because (1) he was an orphan from a gentle family who was almost of age; (2) treating him as an adult was a lot easier than going through the motions of assigning him a guardian; and (3) he had family and/or friends of family (Homberston, Gonsalves) who were looking after him and informally sponsoring him.   Furthermore, "miller" in this case has to mean that he was an employee of somebody else, because he never appears in tax records as owner of enough property to be a mill.  

2.  The weapons and helmet on the militia record could have been borrowed from whoever was acting as his patron.  I don't think the record indicates that he was necessarily the "owner" of the equipment, just that he showed up with it.

3.  Hovious indicates that Jenney appears to have filled in as a substitute constable for somebody who didn't fulfill his whole term.  In this case, he would have been 19 years old, and if there was already an informal community decision to treat him like an adult, then this further step doesn't seem like that big a deal.

4.  In Lakenham, Jenney was identified as a miller but once again it doesn't appear (from tax records) that he was the owner of the mill.  A man with such an economic situation would have great difficulty finding a wife from his family's social class, so he didn't get married.  The visitation pedigrees are littered with younger sons who "ob. s.p." -- so in this case it would seem an unexpected gift of fortune that he eventually married at all -- in a community of religious exiles in a foreign country, where the social status of his wife wasn't as important. 

5.  I don't see any problem with this.  John Jenney, over age 60 and in good health, accepts apprentices and much of the training and oversight is done by his son-in-law Thomas Pope, whose son Seth Pope and grandson John Pope (both my ancestors) also became millers.

6.  As a religious exile in Holland, John Jenney had to do whatever he could.  As a miller in England, presumably he had some experience with barrels, which meant that he was able to find work as a brewer's man in Holland, and learned a new trade.  Then in Plymouth he was able to do both.

All of this is of course conjectural, but we are brought back to the apparent fact that John Jenney of Lakenham seemed to end up with the property of Avis Jenney as she moved to London with her eldest son, presumably as he came of age.


On the other hand, Avis Jenney's husband Christopher Jenney had a first cousin, a lawyer also named Christopher Jenney, who was the executor of his will.  Perhaps Christopher Jenney had a youngest son Henry, who had to get married quickly and had a son John who ended up receiving Avis's property in Lakenham as part of the arrangements settling the estate of her debt-ridden husband.  But I have no reason to expect anybody to accept that as anything more than idle speculation.


You are glossing over serious chronological problems with this identification make it next to impossible that John Jenny was a son of Christopher Jenny.  You can't just make up highly unlikely scenarios to explain away the problems.

1.  Underage orphans were not treated as adults just to be nice.  Quite the opposite, they had no rights and their possessions were controlled by others until they turned 21.

2.  He could never have been made a constable at 19 years old, whether as a primary appointment or as a replacement.

3.  It was not normal to accept apprentices at an advanced age.

4.  There is no evidence that directly connects John Jenny to Christopher and Avis Jenny.

You are correct that these theories you put out are just idle speculation and not based on the facts.  This line needs to be broken.

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