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William Potter (bef. 1608 - 1662)

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William Potter
Born before in Lewes, Sussex, Englandmap
Brother of , and [half]
Husband of — married before [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died in New Haven, New Haven Colonymap
Profile last modified | Created 12 Sep 2010
This page has been accessed 3,864 times.

Categories: Signers of the New Haven Fundamental Agreement | New Haven, Connecticut | Puritan Great Migration.

The Puritan Great Migration.
William Potter migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640).
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William Potter

Two Different William Potters

Two William Potters (at least) were early immigrants and are often confounded.

Here profiled was baptized at Lewes on 28 August 1608, son of William Potter and Hannah Langford, immigrated aboard the Abigail (Savage incorrectly attributed this voyage to the other William Potter), removed to New Haven by 1641, married Frances Unknown, was executed on 6 June 1662 at New Haven.

The other William Potter was found in 1637 at Watertown. Sold his Watertown land in 1645 and removed to Stamford [SLR 1:66, GMN 1:8].[1] He may have married Dorothy, widow of John Brown/Browne and mother of daughters Hannah and Mary. Hannah may have been the Hannah Potter who married John Mead. That William Potter's will was dated 18 September 1684, and was probated on 9 March 1684/5 [Stamford Town Records, transcribed, 25, 128].[2] It mentioned the children of his son-in-law, John Mead (who married Hannah Potter).[2]

Origin Resolved

An article by Patricia Law Hatcher, published in 2004, identifies the parish records for the Potter and Beecher families at Lewes.[3] William was baptized on 28 August 1608 at St. Thomas as in the Cliffe, Lewes, Sussex, England, son of William Potter and possibly his 2nd wife, Ann/Hannah Langford.[3] William's father was buried at Lewes on 14 August 1619. William's mother married in January 1619/20, as her 2nd, and possibly as his 2nd, to John Beecher.[3]

This finally resolves the identity of the immigrant, Ann/Hannah (Langford) Potter Beecher of New Haven, Connecticut (who was sometimes assumed to have been two different women).

Note: This profile reported birth information: January 9, 1602 at Kingsbridge, Devon, England, without evidence or citation.


William, son of William, was baptized 28 Aug 1608 at St. Thomas-in-the-Cliffs, Lewes, Sussex, England.[4][3]


We have record of William Potter on the passenger list for the Abigail.[5] The ship left Plymouth, England destined for Boston in New England on June 4, 1635; among the passengers were William Potter age 27, wife Frances age 26 & 4 month old son Joseph Potter. His mother and brother, John, with his step-brother or half-brother, Isaac followed him to New England.

William settled briefly at Watertown and removed by 1639, with his brother John Potter, to New Haven Colony.[5] However, his church membership at New Haven is implied by 22 August 1641, when two of his children were baptized there.[6]

Marriage and Children

William married by 1635 to Frances Unknown.[6]

Children of William and Frances Potter:[6]

  1. Joseph Potter, b in England c. Feb,1635; m. Phebe Ives
  2. Mary Potter, b say 1637, bpt in New Haven, 22 Aug 1641; m abt 1657 Joseph Mansfield
  3. Sarah Potter, b say 1639, bpt in New Haven, 22 Aug 1641 (but not a twin); she m1 Lieut. Robert Foote of Branford; she m2 Aaron Blachley/Blakesley. Not named in her father's will but living 23 Aug 1706 when she obtained some piece of her father's estate.
  4. Hope Potter, bpt 3 Oct 1641; m 3 Feb 1663 Daniel Robinson; (removed to NJ[citation needed])
  5. Rebecca Potter, bpt 1643[/4?]; m 27 Nov 1667 Thomas Adams; (removed to Crosswicks, NJ[citation needed])
  6. Nathaniel Potter, bpt 12 Nov 1644; m 1 Apr 1675 Elizabeth Howes

Property and Positions

William Potter was an educated Puritan, a "planter" or farmer, and a land owner at New Haven. He was an active member of the church and well-respected among the other parishioners.[7]

Nothing is known about him between the time he sailed aboard the Abigail and 22 August 1641, when his two eldest daughters were baptized at the New Haven church.

He was a member of the New Haven militia but was fined on 6 September 1643 for coming late to training day. On 4 January 1643/4, William was one of the eleven men fined for defective guns, and on 7 October 1651, he was fined for neglecting training day, neglecting to show his arms, and neglecting to bring note of his estate for taxation purposes. On 3 August 1652, he was again fined for neglecting to show for training day.[6]

William held several parcels of land granted by the town, and he also purchased an additional 27 acres from Mr Evance on 5 October 1647. He purchased another 22 acres on 2 September 1651 from Mr. Robert Newman, including a house and a barn. At his death, William's estate was valued at £190 4s of which £90 was in real estate.[6]

Last Will & Testament

Written 19 May 1662. Inventoried 1 Aug 1662

  • my wife should have her living out of the farms until...
  • my son Nathanll comes of age of 21 years
  • my son Joseph
  • my daughter Hope
  • my daughter Rebeckah[5]

Anderson also reports that William Potter's will was dated 19 May 1662, inventoried on 1 August 1662, and proved on 3 March 1662/3.[6]

Death and Legacy

William Potter was executed by hanging on 6 June 1662 at New Haven, New Haven Colony (later became part of Connecticut) for the crime of bestiality.[6][8][9]

Cotton Mather wrote about the trial in his Ecclesiastical History of New-England ...[10] and also in Pillars of Salt...'[11]

Research Notes

This profile apparently was confounding two different William Potters. Part of the problem may be the use of the 1900 NEHGR article (which follows Savage). Roberts used this article in his Genealogies of Connecticut Families ...[12] Anderson cautions that Savage incorrectly assigned the Abigail voyage to the other William Potter and split this New Haven William Potter into two men.


  1. Anderson, Robert C., "John Brown" Featured name. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. (Online database accessed 9 May 2016:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010), Vol 1, Pages 255-57.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Remington, Gordon L., 1998 The English Origin of William 1 Mead of Stamford, Connecticut. The American Genealogist. New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors accessed 9 May 2016, Vol. 73 : Pages.1-9.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Hatcher, Patricia Law, 2004 English Origin of the Potter and Beecher Families of New Haven, Connecticut. The American Genealogist. New Haven, CT: D. L. Jacobus, 1937-. (Online database accessed 9 May 2016. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009 - .) Volume 79, Pages 28-32.
  4. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018, William Potter, ); citing St. Thomas-in-the-Cliffs, Lewes, Sussex, England, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,067,241.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Shepard, James, 1900 "The New Haven (Conn.) Potters, 1639." The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database accessed 10 May 2016:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2013.) Vol 54, Page 23.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Anderson, Robert Charles, "William Potter" Featured name. Great Migration 1634-1635. (Online database accessed 9 May 2016. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010.) Volume V, M-P, Pages 507-513.
  7. Roberts, Gary Boyd, Selected and Introduced by, Genealogies of Connecticut Families From The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. ([CD]Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983), vol 3, p 153. " ... New Haven ... 1639 ..."
  8. Charles J. Hoadley, ed., Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New Haven from May 1653 to the Union. Together with the New Haven Code of 1656, (Hartford: Case, Tiffany and Company, 1858), 180, 440-43
  9. See also John M. Murrin, "Things Fearful to Name: Bestiality in Colonial America," in Pennsylvania History, vol. 65, Special Supplemental Issue, 1998, pp 8-43; PDF available. (Accessed 23 Oct 2016
  10. Mather, Cotton. Magnalia Christi Americana (Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, at the Bible and three crowns in Cheapside, 1702) Vol. 2, Page 405 "June 6, 1662, at New-haven...(one Potter, by name, about sixty years of age,) executed for damnable bestialities"
  11. Cotton Mather, Pillars of Salt: An History of Some Criminals Executed in the Land... (Boston: B Green and J. Allen, 1699), reprinted in Daniel E. Williams, ed., Pillars of Salt: An Anthology of Early American Criminal Narratives, (Madison, Wis: Madison House, 1993), 65-93, at pp 67-69.
  12. Cook, Dale H., The Plymouth Colony Pages. revised Dec 19, 2015, accessed 9 May 2016, pdf Page 227.

See also:

  • Hoffman, Sara Robbins, William Potter. Robbins Family Society, 12 Jan 2011, accessed 9 May 2016.

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

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On 14 Apr 2018 at 00:22 GMT Anne B wrote:

Since you intend this to be the William Potter of New Haven I am changing death date, proposing merge, and disconnecting the disproven father John Potter. See the merge into profile for information.

On 9 Apr 2018 at 21:03 GMT Vic Watt wrote:

There is something wrong here. William Potter, bpt. 1608, is shown as the son of a William Potter, b. 1602. it appears that the birth of the son is correct, so the birth of the father must be incorrect. Mother's birth is shown in 1584.

On 23 Oct 2016 at 00:36 GMT Cynthia (Billups) B wrote:

Have made Potter-1209 into a rejected match.

William Potter-1209 was featured by Anderson in his Great Migration series. He immigrated to Watertown and removed to Stamford, Connecticut in 1645 (never lived at New Haven).

On 18 May 2016 at 18:04 GMT Cynthia (Billups) B wrote:

Rejected match: Potter137 and Potter-1209

Have set Potter-1209 as a rejected match. As the biography points out, there were two different William Potters, one in New Haven (this profile) and one in Stamford (the other William Potter).

On 19 May 2015 at 10:12 GMT Anne B wrote:

The William Potter who lived in New Haven died in 1662. The other one listed in GMB (see your bio- you have both) was not in New Haven.

William is 18 degrees from Robin Helstrom, 20 degrees from Katy Jurado and 17 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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