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John Benham Sr. (abt. 1600 - bef. 1662)

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John Benham Sr.
Born about in Englandmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married about [location unknown]
Husband of — married in Boston, MAmap
Descendants descendants
Died before in New Haven, New Haven Colony, New Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 14 Sep 2010
This page has been accessed 2,312 times.

Categories: Signers of the New Haven Fundamental Agreement | Dorchester, Massachusetts | New Haven, New Haven Colony | Puritan Great Migration.

The Puritan Great Migration.
John Benham Sr. migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640).
Join: Puritan Great Migration Project
Discuss: pgm

Note: John Benham-450 and Joan Darte-29 were attached here as parents. Also detached Anstice Rich, unproven wife. See profile of any of the three for an explanation.



Some alternate spellings: Binham, Bingham, Benham

Immigration & Birth

John Benham and a large group of men requested that the Massachusetts Bay Colony grant them freeman status on 19 Oct 1630.[1] Some, but not most, of the men in this group sailed on the Mary & John which arrived in New England on March 20, 1630. They were from the West Country of England and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts. There is ample evidence that John settled in Dorchester. There is no evidence he came from the west country or that he arrived on the Mary & John.[2] Banks' Topographical Dictionary states that John and his two sons came from the Town of Plymouth, England on the Mary & John. Banks cites as his reference the History of Jericho, Vermont p. 382.[3] Evaluating Banks' reference, the author of the section on the Benhams, Minnie (Benham) Walton, states that John and his two sons came from the Town of Plymouth, England on the Mary & John.[4] She provides no proof or source or evidence to back up this statement.

Given that no records have been found to point to John's origin or age, his birth has been estimated at 1605 by Anderson, based on the estimated births of his children.[2]


He married first by about 1630 judging from the estimated births of his two children. Neither his wife's surname or given name are in any New England records. "Sister Benham" appears in the 10 March 1646/7 seating of the New Haven meetinghouse, and "Goodwife Benham the elder" in the seating of 11 February 1655/6.[5][6] She died between 13 April 1660 and 20 July 1660.

Two letters from John Davenport, spiritual leader of New Haven Colony, to Governor John Winthrop, of Connecticut, place her death within these dates and give insight into some of the difficulties of early New England life: [7] [8]

April 13, 1660
"Honered Sir:
I received yours by Brother Benham, whom God preserved from being drowned in his journey homeward, the river by Mr. Yale's farm was swollen high, his wife was fearfull of riding through it God provided an help for her at the instant by a passenger who travelled from Windsor to Branford to Mr. Crane's whose daughter he had married. He helped sister Benham over a tree, but her husband adventuring to ride through a foot of his horse slipped, so he fell into the water, and his horse as he thinketh, fell upon him or struck him with his foot, for he had a blow to his head, but through the mercy of God, he is now well."

July 20, 1660
... Brother Benham indeed (whose good and sweet spirited wife the Lord hath taken from him since his return), and a young child of one of his sons is since dead in his house, where also one of his son's wife lieth very weak, went to Hartford, but gave no notice of it beforehand that I might prepare a letter for him.

John remarried shortly, as was the custom of the times. He married second in Boston 16 November 1660 "Margery Alcock widow."*[9] She presented the first inventory of John Benham on 7 January 1661/2 [NHTR 1:502], and in giving testimony about the third version of the inventory, she referred to "some of her friends in the Bay" and to "her daughter Mary."[10] She was widow of Thomas Alcock, and married in Charlestown as her third husband on 20 February 1666/7 Richard Pritchard[11][2]

Savage in his genealogical dictionary, has interpreted the letters from Davenport to mean that Margery died in 1660 and that the marriage date is wrong by a year.[12] Anderson has adopted a simple explanation, that it was John's first wife (or at least a wife before Margery) who died in 1660.[2]

Dorchester, Massachusetts

John took the freeman's oath in Massachusetts, 18 May 1631.[1] He received several grants of land in Dorchester: a 16 acre Great Lot, 16 January 1632/3;[13] jointly with John Grenway a 4 acre lot (two each), in the pine neck, which had formerly been granted to John Goite, 17 April 1635;[14] one acre of meadow, (as John Binham) February 1635/6;[15] two acres marsh at Ludlow's Neck, (as John Binham) 2 January 1637/8, [16] which John "Bingham" sold to John Pierce, 23 April 1638;[17] two lots, each of three acres, 2 goads and 10 rods on 18 March 1637/8;[18] and on 5 Feb 1638/9, William Sumner was to have four acres of upland "which was for so much Jo: Binham was to have to make up his great lot"[19]

New Haven Colony

The main body of settlers, led by Rev. John Davenport, left Massachusetts in the spring of 1638, by ship, to Quinnipiac (New Haven). For most male settlers the first mention of their name in the Colony records is their signature on the Fundamental Agreement of New Haven on 4 June 1639. John Benham's name is on this document. [20]. His name is also on the earliest list of freemen.[21] New Haven administered the Oath of Fidelity 1 July 1644. John must have been elsewhere at the time, he took the oath the next month on the 5th of August.[22]

The New Haven records inform us that John was a brickmaker. The town paid him, in 1651, 20 shillings for the time he spent, by their request, at the beginning of the plantation looking for clay to make bricks.[23] He had found a place that was within the bounds of Mr. Eaton's farm. When he tried to fence off the area, Gov. Eaton "lett him know itt would nott be convenient for him to have a farme within his farme, whereupon the said John Benham propounded to the Court where he shall make bricks, butt nothing was determined concerning."[24]

John and his wife, belonged to the First Church in New Haven.[25] He and his wife had assigned seats in the meetinghouse, his in the 7th row of the middle seats and Goodwife Benham in the 4th row of the cross seats.[26][27] His inventory contained two Bibles, which suggests that he knew how to read.[2]

John had several grants of land in New Haven before the 1640 (about) rates list: sixteen acres in the first division, twenty-four in the second, three acres and a fraction in the neck, and six acres of meadow. At this time there were five people living in his household, his estate was about £70, and he paid a rate of 12s. 4d.[28] His meadow land was in Mill Meadow and/or the island in the East River. [29] His house lot was in the lower center square on the map.[30] He gave his son Joseph the homelot he was first granted by the town on 5 Feb 1655/6.[31] He had another house which he gave 1/2 to his son John, the other half was in dispute during his final inventory.[32]

Most men in New Haven were found guilty of and fined for minor infractions. The male inhabitants were expected to attend training and to have the proper equipment. John was fined for a defective gun 4 Jan 1643;[33]; for a "foule locke" 7 Jul. 1646;[34] "for a defective gunn, he said he could not get it mended....he has two gunns in good order besides the defective one, soe it passed without a fine" on 7 Aug. 1652;[35] for being absent (He explained that he was there but had to go get oxen out of his corn on one day and had left a cart of hay in danger on the other), he was fined for one day at court 7 Nov 1648;[36] for he and his son missing from training 4 Nov 1651 (the son had a good excuse, and the fine was excused, John's excuse got 2/3 of the fine remitted.)[37] for absence of traying one day ("he said, he had a kill of Bricks to burne.....and if he had not begun it upon ye second day, he could not finish before ye Sabbath, upon which ground the Court passed it without a fine" court date 1 Feb 1652 [1652/3]; [38] On 28 July 1656 "John Benham, Senior, being lame in his arm and having lost one of his thumbs, was upon his desire freed from training" [39]

The town kept a watch, a duty in which that all able bodied men did their part. In 1647, John was fined for neglecting to warn David Atwater to watch. The records said it was 5 shillings, but he and witnesses said it was only half that 2 shillings 6d[40]

On one occasion, 3 Sep. 1650, several men and John "Benham, being warned to appeare at this Court, appeared not, wch the Court looked upon as a great neglect, if not contempt, and Ordered that they be warned to ye next Court, to show cause why they did not now appeare:"[41]

Because of the dangers to crops from farm animals it was essential that fences be kept repaired. John was fined, along with others for fence being down on 7 May 1650,[42] 3 Sept 1650[43], 3 Dec 1650 for not mending the places he was already warned to fix;[44]6 April 1652,[45]; 2 Aug. 1653 - "Thomas Nash complained of John Benham's fence....To secure Thomas Nash from damage, the court must cast a sharp fine upon him... Benham promised it should be speedily and sufficiently amended." [46]

Aug. 1, 1654 - "John Benham was complained of by the Townsmen, for bringing in an impertect note of his rates, last yeare, and this yeare, leaving out last yeare one mare, and this yeare one mare, and one horse of two yeare old."[47]

John served as fence viewer, chosen 10 March 1650.[48] and 10 Oct 1653.[49] These men were chosen for one year terms. He was also chosen as part of committee to find horses suitable for the towns use.[50] He was a packer of flesh for the town 19 May 1656 and took an oath to be honest etc.[51] 12 March 1654/5 John asked to retire from being the town drummer,[52] who especially was to beat the drum at the beginning of watch and accompany the men to and from watch. The pay was £7 per year. He had not been the drummer long, because until about March 1652/3 Nathaniel Kimberly had been the drummer.[53] On 28 January 1655/6 in a New Haven town meeting, it "was propounded that there might be a common viewer of fences and pounder for cattle, for the whole Town, and John Benham, Senior, was mentioned, who did not refuse it, but desired time to consider of it till another meeting" [54] John Benham Sr. was chosen town crier 20 February 1659/60.[55]

John Walker died in 1652, leaving two daughters, Mary about 12 and Hannah about 7.[56] John Benham and his son Joseph undertook to care for the cattle which John Walker had left for the benefit of his children. On 7 July 1657 John Benham requested of the court that he be relieved of this responsibility "for he is weak and lame and unable to provide for them"; the duty devolved upon Edward Watson, and by 6 April 1658 the Benhams had settled their accounts in this matter."[57][2]

On 3 May 1657, "The Marshall had order to speak wth John Benham; as from ye court, that a woman he brought into the Towne, from West Chester, (as it said, wife to one Knap in Vergenia) who hath given offenc here, that she be caried away by him againe, else he will be lyable to answer to what damage doth come thereby."[58]

June 10, 1658 - "Mr. Tuttle made complaint of unruly doggs, which hunt cattell in ye night, which was occasioned by biches going to ye dogg. John Benham's bich was nominated, and he warned to take care of her."[59]

Death and Probate

John Benham died in New Haven, Connecticut before 3 January 1661/2 (date of inventory).[2]

An inventory of the estate of John Benham was presented to New Haven court for the first time on 3 January 1661/2, but was deemed incomplete and "was returned to be perfected." It was missing half a house and home lot.[60]. 4 March 1661/2, the inventory was presented a second time, but this time a house and home lot which was sometime Richard Platts and now claimed by Joseph Benham, needed clarification. This was a different house and lot than the one given in 1655.[61] 1 April 1662 John's inventory was presented one more time. The matter of Joseph's house and lot was cleared up, his step-mother and step-sister both declaring that John had told them of this at the time. The half a house was not so easy. John gave half his house to his son John at the time of John Jr's marriage, and promised him the other half when he John Sr. died. John had also promised his wife a house and lot worth 20 pounds, which Joseph testified to having heard. John and John Jr. had started to negotiate the resale of the 1/2 house, but had postponed it until John Jr returned from Virginia. The court having looked at the inventory and the debts realized there would be nothing left for the widow. Thomas Munson and John Harriman were asked to meet with the creditors to see what portion they would abate for the comfort of the widow.[62] On 6 May 1662, a value of £89 03s 00d was given to the inventory. Munson and Harriman reported that the creditors would accept 15s to the pound or three quarters of their debts.[63] 5 Aug 1662, & 6 January 1662/3, John Benham Jr, having returned from Virginia, presented his claim to the house, homelot, 25 acres in the Harfordshire quarter, and 5 acres of meadow in the same quarter. Edward Preston, brother of his former wife, testified that John Sr. had told him he would give this to his son as part of the marriage offer. The court finally acknowledged his claim to the house.[64]


  1. JOHN, b. say 1631; m. (1) New Haven 8 February 1654[/5] "Widow Sarah Willson" [NHVR 1:3; SLR 12:242-43], and she d. New Haven 30 May 1667 [NHVR 1:25]; m. (2) New Haven 3 March 1668/9 Mercy Smith [NHVR 1:30].[2]
  2. JOSEPH, b. say 1633; m. Boston 15 January 1656/7 Winifred King [BVR 58].[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Shurtleff, Nathaniel (ed.) Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England Volume I 1628-1641. Boston: William White, 1853 request p. 80 (link at Archive); oath p. 366
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Source: #Anderson 156-160
  3. Banks, Charles Edward, 1854-1931. Topographical Dictionary of 2885 English Emigrants to New England, 1620-1650. Philadelphia, Pa: [The Bertram press], 1937.
  4. Hayden, Chauncey H. (ed.) et. al. The History of Jericho, Vermont. Burlington, Vt. : The Free Press Printing Co. 1916. p. 382 (link at archive)
  5. Source: #Dexter1 pp 273,
  6. Source: #Hoadley1 pp 304;
  7. Bacon, Leonard. Thirteen Historical Discourses, on the completion of two hundred years, from the beginning of the First Church in New Haven, with an appendix. New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1839. p. 382 & p. 383
  8. Source: #Anderson p. 158. He cites Davenport 155, 156 ie. Isabel MacBeath Calder, Letters of John Davenport, Puritan Divine (New Haven 1937), which is not available online.
  9. Boston Records. New England Historical & Genealogical Register 19:169
  10. Source: #Dexter1 p. 517]
  11. Joslyn, Roger D., 1948-. Vital Records of Charlestown, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1984. p. 24
  12. Savage, James. A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England Showing Three Generations of Those Who Came Before May, 1692. Vol. I-IV. Boston, MA, USA: 1860-1862.
  13. Source: #DTR p 1;
  14. Source: #DTR p.11;
  15. Source: #DTR p. 15;
  16. Source: #DTR p. 28;
  17. Source: #DTR p. 33;
  18. Source: #DTR p. 31;
  19. Source: #DTR p. 37.
  20. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 17
  21. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 9
  22. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 139
  23. Source: #Dexter1 p. 79
  24. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 167
  25. Dexter, Franklin Bowditch (compiler). Historical catalogue of the Members of the First Church of Christ in New Haven, Connecticut (Center church) A. D. 1639-1914. New Haven, 1914.
  26. Source: #Hoadley1: John p 302 10 Mar 1646; Sister p. 304;
  27. Source: #Dexter1 Feb 1655/6 p. 270.; Feb 1655/6 Goodwife, p. 273;
  28. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 91.
  29. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 50.
  30. See Map
  31. Source: #Dexter1: p. 267
  32. See discussion of his inventory.
  33. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 122
  34. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 261
  35. Source: #Dexter1 p. 137
  36. Source: #Hoadley1 p. 412
  37. Source: #Dexter1"p. 96
  38. Source: #Dexter1 p. 160
  39. Source: #Dexter1 p. 282.
  40. Source: #Hoadley1 p.364
  41. Source: #Dexter1 p. 45
  42. Source: #Dexter1 pp 26, 27
  43. Source: #Dexter1 p. 45
  44. Source: #Dexter1 p. 52
  45. Source: #Dexter1 p. 117
  46. Source: #Dexter1"p. 184
  47. Source: #Dexter1 p. 218
  48. Source: #Dexter1 p. 65
  49. Source: #Dexter1 p. 65
  50. Source: #Dexter1 p. 216
  51. Source: #Dexter1 p. 277
  52. Source: #Dexter1p. 234
  53. Source: #Dexter1 p. 175.
  54. Source: #Dexter1p. 266
  55. Source: #Dexter1p. 439
  56. Jacobus, Donald Lines (compiler). Families of Ancient New Haven, Vol I-VIII. and Index Vol IX New Haven: 1931. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1974, 1981, 1997. Originally published as New Haven Genealogical Magazine, Volumes I-VIII. Rome, NY and New Haven, CT 1922-1932. p. 1931
  57. Source: #Dexter1 pp 317, 319-22, 348].
  58. Source: #Dexter1p. 312
  59. Source: #Dexter1p. 358]
  60. Source: #Dexter1 :pp 502-03
  61. Source: #Dexter1 p. 514
  62. Source: #Dexter1 p. 517
  63. Source: #Dexter1 p. 520
  64. Source: #Dexter2: pp 2,3 p.23

See Also:

  • Atwater, Edward Elias, and Lucy M. Hewitt, and Bessie E. Beach. History of the Colony of New Haven to Its Absorption Into Connecticut. Meriden, Connecticut: 1902. p. 109, 125, 542, 545, 546, 551
  • Jacobus, Donald Lines (compiler). Families of Ancient New Haven, Vol I-VIII. and Index Vol IX New Haven: 1931. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1974, 1981, 1997. Originally published as New Haven Genealogical Magazine, Volumes I-VIII. Rome, NY and New Haven, CT 1922-1932. p. 186

See also sources Listed in Torrey's New England Marriages:

  • Hall-Baldwin 1; Sumner, Edith Blake Bartlett, Ancestors and Descendants of Amaziah Hall and Betsey Baldwin (Los Angeles: American Offset Printers, 1954) RE:Thomas Alcock. mentions John Benham Marriage to Margery
  • Greenleaf Anc. 118; Boardman, William F. J., The Ancestry of Jane Maria Greenleaf (Hartford: privately printed, 1906) RE:Thomas Alcock. mentions John Benham Marriage to Margery
  • Lane (,5) 21; Lane, Hiram W., Genealogical Notes of the Family of Daniel Lane 2d (Elkhorn, Wis.: Independent Press, 1899) RE:Thomas Alcock. mentions John Benham Marriage to Margery
  • Sv. 1:22, 165; "BENHAM, JOHN, Dorchester, prob. came in the Mary and John, 1630, freem. 18 May 1631, had req. that privilege 19 Oct. bef. by first w. had Joseph, and John; rem. 1640 to New Haven, and m. at Boston, as sec. w. 16 Nov. 1659, or, as the rec. says, 1660 (perhaps erron.), Margery, wid. of Thomas Alcock of Dedham, wh. d. in few weeks after reach. New Haven, and he d. 1661. JOHN, New Haven, s. prob. elder of the preced. b. perhaps in Eng,. as he was adm. to take the o. of fidel. 1654, m. 8 Mar. 1669, Mercy, d. of George Smith of the same, had John, perhaps, as both John, and John jr. were proprs. at New Haven 1685, yet the latter (unless s. of the sec. John by an earlier w.) may have been s. of his br. Joseph. His first w. was wid. Sarah Wilson, m. 8 Feb. 1655, wh. d. 30 May 1667, by wh. he had John, b. 4 Nov. 1655, d. in few days; Sarah, 15 Sept. foll.; Mary, 10 Apr. 1660; Hannah, 8 Jan. 1662; and John, again, 15 Sept. 1664. By sec. w. he had Joseph, 9 June 1670. JOSEPH, New Haven, prob. s. of the first John, sw. fidel. 1654, m. at Boston, 15 Jan. 1657, Winifred King, whose f. is not kn. was one of the first sett. at Wallingford 1670. He had Mary, b. 18 Sept. 1657; Joseph, 25 May 1659; Joanna, 25 July 1662; and five more, wh. d. young."
  • Beckwith Gen. 34; Beckwith, Paul Edmond, The Beckwiths (Albany: J. Munsell’s Sons, 1891) Not there – Benham does not occur in this book.
  • Reg. 81:122; "Abstracts of the Early Probate Records of New Haven, Book 1, Part I, 1647-1687." New England Historical and Genealogical Register. 81:126,127. 1927. [1] "Benham, John. Inventory taken 3d of 11th mo. 1662, by Thomas Munson and John Harriman, L80:18:00 "
  • Holman Ms: Benham 1; Any one of dozens of unpublished typescripts etc. not online
  • Tuttle 641; 673; Tuttle, George Frederick, The Descendants of William and Elizabeth Tuttle, Who Came from Old to New England in 1635, and Settled in New Haven in 1639, with Numerous Biographical Notes and Sketches . . . (Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle, 1883) Adds nothing. This text says probably came in the Mary & John

Ancestry Indexes replaced by better sources.

  • Title: Massachusetts Applications of Freemen, 1630-91 Author: Publication: The Generations Network, Inc. APID: 1,4296::0
  • Title: Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650-1934 Author: Publication: Operations, Inc. APID: 1,2557::0
  • Title: U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s Author: Publication: Operations, Inc APID: 1,7486::0
  • Title: Millennium File Author: Heritage Consulting Publication: Operations Inc APID: 1,7249::0
  • Title: U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 Author: Yates Publishing Publication: Operations Inc APID: 1,7836::0

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No known carriers of John's Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests.

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On 4 Jan 2018 at 23:15 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:

The following source seems to indicate that he is in Haplogroup R-MC21 (but based on just one descendant's test):

On 25 Oct 2016 at 12:27 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:

No objections from me. I will look forward to seeing what you can do with it.

On 25 Oct 2016 at 12:11 GMT Anne B wrote:

I think this profile could use some reworking to make it a more cohesive narrative. Objections?

On 8 Jul 2016 at 17:37 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:

I am going to add to the profile Notes the following extract from the 20 July 1660 letter from John Davenport to Governor Winthrop. Since a Benham grandson had also died, and a daughter-in-law was very ill, it could indicate that all three had contracted a contagious disease:

"Brother Benham indeed (whose good and sweet spirited wife the Lord hath taken from him since his return), and a young child of one of his sons is since dead in his house, where also one of his son's wife lieth very weak, went to Hartford, but gave no notice of it beforehand that I might prepare a letter for him."

On 8 Jul 2016 at 17:15 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:

John Benham's first wife was alive about 13 April 1660 when the couple were travelling from Hartford back to New Haven, when John was injured and nearly drowned (when his horse fell upon him). However, his wife was dead by 20 July 1660. These were the dates of two letters by John Davenport to Governor Winthrop in which Davenport related these and other details concerning the Benhams.

On 1 Feb 2015 at 23:45 GMT Anne B wrote:

I'm quite certain that if this John Benham died in New Haven in 1661, then he is Benham-24. But who this wife, and who are these parents. Source?

John is 19 degrees from Robin Helstrom, 20 degrees from Katy Jurado and 16 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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