||William French Jr. migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640). (See The Great Migration (Series 2), by R. C. Anderson, vol. 2, p. 588)|
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William French was born in 1605 or early 1606 and baptized on 06 April 1606, Halstead, Essexshire . This would have made him 30 years old when embarked on the ship Defence in 1635 (and that is exactly the age that is recorded on the passenger list). His age was inflated about 3 years over his actual age when he made his will much later in life. His mother (first wife of William French Sr.) is unknown, but is sometimes said to be Elizabeth. Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20090105130532/http://webpages.charter.net/mroman/french.htm
(from French Page ) William French was married in England where four of his children were born. He emigrated to America in the summer of 1635 in the ship Defence. Mr. Shepard, in his autobiography, says he set out for New England with a group "in the year 1634, about the beginning of winter" and embarked at Harwich. They were driven back by stress of weather and the voyage was abandoned. However, they embarked again on August 10, 1635 "and so the Lord after many sad storms and wearisome days and many longings to see the shore, brought us to the sight of it upon Oct. 2, 1635". They landed at Boston on the third. Two days later the congregation moved to Cambridge where they found many empty homes and people willing to sell because of the exodus of Reverend Hooker's flock to Hartford. The Cutter family may also have been among this group especially based on their stories of a difficult voyage. William first settled in Cambridge, where he resided on the westerly side of Dunster Street about midway between Harvard Square and Mt. Auburn Street, which estate he bought in 1639 and sold to William Barrett June 10, 1656.
William French was one of the original proprietors of Billerica and was granted lot 24 of 150 acres in the Shawshine grant in 1652. He was referred to as Liet. William French. The Shawshine Plantation later became the town of Billerica, the name change coming by order of the court on May 23, 1655. He settled there early and was a captain in the militia. He became a deacon in 1659 and was also a commissioner to establish country rates. In 1660 he was elected a Selectman, a seat which he held for nine years. In 1661 he was one of a committee to examine children and servants in reading, religion, and catechism. William French was the first Deputy (i.e. representative) of Billerica to the General Court.
William died in Billerica on Nov. 20, 1681 in his 78th year. His death record lists him as Lieutenant. His will was dated June 5, 1679 at which time he called himself "aged abt. seaventy & six years". William had already provided for his children prior to the time of writing his will. However he did make bequests to his grand children. These bequests were: "to the eldest son of John French to Wm the son of Jacob French to Elizabeth ye Daughter Richard Ellis to Jonathan ye Son of Jonathan Hides, to ye Eldest Daughter of Jonathan Peake, to Marah ye Daughter of Jno Brackett, which are all my grand children". His wife and son Jacob were made executors. The will was witnessed by Samuel Whiting, Jr. and Jonathan Danforth, Sr.. "Inventory of the Estate of Lt. Wm French of Billerica who deced. 20 November 1681 being in his 78 year of his age" was taken by Jonathan Danforth Senior and Patrick Hill and amounted to 231.12.10. Division of the estate was made to the widow and to daughters Mary French (now Sharp), Sarah French, and Hannah French.
William had a brother John in Cambridge who was buried Feb. 16, 1645-6. John's wife Joanna was buried Jan. 20, 1645-6. They had children born from about 1635 through 1643. John was also a tailor. William French of Billerica administered upon the estate and sold the homestead to Robert Browne in 1657. Richard French of Cambridge was probably also a brother to William. His wife was Martha, and they had a son Samuel, born July 13, 1653. He bought land on Jan. 26, 1651-2 and sold it Oct. 8, 1654, after which time there is no further record of him.
Francis French is *not* William's son, though he is often attributed to him, but is his youngest brother, a half brother by William's step-mother, Elizabeth Symmes. She died birthing Francis, and William helped raise him as there were nearly 20 years that separated them. 
Children (by Elizabeth Unknown):
Mary's children by John Stearns:
“French, Capt. William, 1604-1681, Cambridge and Billerica, Mass. Lieut., 1647. A. & H. A. Co., 1638. Junior Sergt., 1643. First Sergt., 1646. Ens., 1650. Representative, 1660-’63. Capt. Of Art. Co., 1681."
In 1639, member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts
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