Conflicts/Challenges to the identity of James Browne's first wife (currently Judith Cutting/Cutting-52)

+2 votes

James Browne (1604-1676) was twice married. His second wife was Sarah Cutting (Cutting-51) whose identity is reasonably established on WikiTree. It is the identity of his first wife that is in question--specifically, was she the sister of his second wife? 

As far as I have been able to learn, this is not a case where Capt. John Cutting, Sarah's father, had an unaccounted for daughter, "Judith" who might have married James Brown(e), but the reverse. In other words, the identity of James Browne's second wife is known, from which springs a notion that she was somehow related to the first wife. 

James Browne's first wife appears in the records with the given name "Judith" or "Elizabeth" and was the mother of several children. The claim of a sibling relationship between the two wives was advanced/published by Thomas Bellows Wyman in _The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown_ 1:271 (1879). Wyman listed two children, Judith and Sarah, saying, "Daus. Of John [Cutting] of Newbury; m. successively, James Brown." Wyman's comments can be read in full here: 

(1) In his treatment of the Cutting family, Walter Goodwin Davis challenged Wyman's finding. Davis expressed doubt that "any seventeenth century magistrate would have married a man to his deceased wife's sister," mentioning the 1720s case involving Thomas Harris and Sarah Duley. 

As well, Davis points to the will of the father, Capt. John Cutting (1659). The will mentions John's daughters "Mary the wife of Nicholas Noyes," and "Sara Browne of Charlestown, the wife of James Browne." There is no mention of any other daughter, deceased daughter, nor children that would be attributed to such a daughter. As Davis expresses, the void is pronounced in terms of Cutting's final disposition clause. Should his granddaughter, Mary (Cutting) Moody, die without heirs, Cutting wished her legacy, "be divided between his daughters Mary Noyes and Sarah Browne and their issue ..." As I read Davis' point, Cutting would have effectively "cut off" [Davis' term] the children of any such daughter Judith (but not those half-siblings born to the purported sister, Sarah). 

Davis' comments can be read in context here: 

John Cutting's will can be read in full here: 

(2) As part of the Great Migration study project, Robert Charles Anderson's profiling of the husband, James Brown, also did not find the first wife to have been Judith Cutting. [_Great Migration Begins …_, 1:252] Anderson calls the first wife "Judith/Elizabeth ____." Citing "EPR 3:110," Anderson describes an entry in the inventory of James Browne for funds held and "due for legacies for four children which Mr. John Cutting gave to his grandchildren & was James Browne's." As Anderson has reconciled the births of Browne's children, none of the "four children" recognized as grandchildren/heirs of John Cutting could have been born to Browne's first wife.     

This entry in James Browne's probate record (p. 108-110) about legacies provided by Cutting can be reviewed in context here: 

Note: I'm not wondering how to handle this in a personal file, this inquiry has to do with how WikiTree-ers would like to see it handled. Thank you in advance.

WikiTree profile: James Browne
in Genealogy Help by GeneJ X G2G6 Mach 5 (51.6k points)
edited by GeneJ X

2 Answers

+2 votes
Best answer

thanks for this excellent analysis.  Between your own analysis and the conclusion reached by Anderson, it looks like we go with Judith/Elizabeth Unknown as his first wife and detach her from the Cutting parents of her successor. The PGM project follows Anderson except where he has subsequently been disproven or expanded upon.  And we follow wikitree policy to use Unknown as a maiden name and link to disputed parents in the narrative.

I encourage you to summarize your findings in a == Disputed Origins == section at the top of the profile and link to this more detailed discussion for details.

Excellent work, Gene.

Jillaine, co-lead, Puritan Great Migration Project
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (775k points)
selected by GeneJ X

Done, see "Judith (Unknown) Browne, aka Cutting (unlikely)," especially introductory comments including link to profile of John Cutting and this G2G post. 

Thank you, Jillaine. 


+2 votes

Being married to Cutting sisters I've also questioned. Older times the Pope/church had to give permission to marry a relation of any degree.

There is a similar case of John Parmele supposedly married secondly his step daughter Hannah Plaine.  If that one is true I don't see that a man couldn't marry sisters.

Just because there were no children by Judith they could have still been married.

My great grandmother was married and widowed within 3 months. And an 18th century cousin was also married and widowed within a year..

I would like to see the Charlestown church register, apparently that's been lost possibly after 1879 when the "Charlestown Genealogies and Estates" book was published. The idea came from somewhere.


Hi anonymous,

James Browne is known to have had a wife, Judith. Children were reported born to that marriage, including first son, "John," who survived. In his will, John Cutting did not refer to and made no provision for Judith's son John Brown.

You wrote, "would like to see the Charlestown church register, apparently that's been lost possibly after 1879..."

Maybe you can add to my understanding about the Charlestown church records. I have been under the impression these survive. Anderson cited them as ChChR." He wrote, the "church book was recopied in 1660." Although that process may have corrupted some of the materials, tit happened more than two hundred years before Wyman wrote his _Charlestown Genealogies and Estates_. (See Robert Charles Anderson's introduction and key to titles for "The Great Migration Begins ...," p. xxxiv.

See also the FamilySearch Wiki page, "Charlestown, Massachusetts," for entry about "Churches."  First item is for "First Church." comment is, "records good." There follows a notice of different forms the records take and where each may be accessed. 



Related questions

+4 votes
1 answer
+4 votes
2 answers
255 views asked Jul 2, 2014 in Genealogy Help by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (330k points)
+3 votes
0 answers
60 views asked Oct 27, 2018 in Genealogy Help by Anonymous Hankins G2G5 (5.1k points)
+2 votes
2 answers
+5 votes
0 answers
106 views asked Nov 28, 2017 in Genealogy Help by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
+4 votes
0 answers
181 views asked Apr 6, 2013 in Genealogy Help by anonymous
0 votes
0 answers
+2 votes
2 answers
66 views asked Mar 3, 2020 in Genealogy Help by T B G2G2 (2.9k points)
+5 votes
7 answers
+4 votes
1 answer

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright