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Cissell Resources

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1658
Location: St. Mary's County, Marylandmap
Surnames/tags: cecil cissell
Profile manager: George Kelts private message [send private message]
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Purpose and scope

This page is created as a place to discuss the sources used for researching John Cissell (c. 1634-1698). Some resources that may be useful for researching other colonial-era Maryland settlers, especially Catholics, and their descendants are also included.

The name Cissell is found spelled many ways in early records, especially Cecil, but also Caecell, Cecill, Cissel, Cissle, Cissill, Siscell, Sisel, and Sissel. Colonial Maryland was settled by both Catholics and Protestants bearing the name. Some researchers, including Jourdan, have adopted the practice of using Cissell for the early Catholics and Cecil for the early Protestants, and we follow that practice here. Over time, many descendants of the Cissell line changed their name spelling to "Cecil," which appears to be more common today.

It also seems useful to include a little information about other early colonial Cecil and Cissell family lines, and fortunately that work has already been done by David C. Cissell.

Early colonial Cecil and Cissell families

According to David C. Cissell (The Pedigree of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, pages 2-3):

"...a number of Cecil's (or Cissell's) first came to the American colonies...in the 1600s. From all those who came, three major family branches have survived. The oldest of these families began in what is now St. Mary's County, Maryland, in 1658; members of this line were Catholics, and generally used the "Cissell" spelling. Records for the second family began a few years later in Prince George's County, Maryland; members of this line were Protestants and spelled their name "Cecil". The third surviving family began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania following William Penn; they were most likely initially Quakers and also used the "Cecil" spelling for their surnames.
"The originator of the St. Mary's County branch was a farmer, John Cecill who arrived there in 1658 and died in 1698; he was born ca. 1638. The Prince George's County branch began with William Cecil born ca. 1666 and died 1749. The originator of the Pennsylvania family was William Cecil (Cesill) a carpenter from Longcomb, Oxfordshire and who was one of the original land purchasers from William Penn. He died ca. 1685."

In September 2020 correspondence, David C. Cissell sent me this update: The William Cecil who was an original purchaser of land from William Penn most likely did not come to America. Apparently a descendant of his owned the land by the early 1800s. Research is ongoing. - Kelts-7 18:11, 23 April 2021 (UTC)

John Cissell

John Cissell c. 1634-1698 appears to be the first Catholic Cissell immigrant to Maryland, where he arrived in 1658. He was English, but his parents have not been identified. Over the generations, as spelling became more standardized, the surnames of some of John's descendants evolved into Cecil, and today those descendants with the surname Cecil appear to be more common than those with the surname Cissell.

Although Maryland was founded as a religiously tolerant colony, it came under Puritan control from 1650 to 1658. Religious freedom was restored in 1658, but in 1689 Maryland again banned Catholicism, and it was not until after the Revolutionary War that Catholics could worship freely. Thus many of our Cissell ancestors lived with religious persecution.


Sources used on the profile of John Cissell (Cissell-14)

Historians and authors

  • Cissell, David C., Administrator, Cecil-Cissell DNA Project (at FamilyTreeDNA) and author of The Cissells of Yakima and Ponoka, A Family History, Washington, 2014, and The Pedigree of William Cecil, Lord Burghley: From Documents to Genetic Genealogy, 2020. (Where quoted above, this is done with permission of the author.)
  • Donnelly, Mary Louise. Colonial Settlers, St. Clement's Bay 1734-1780, St. Mary's County, Maryland, 1996 (out of print as of November 2020). Donnelly (1926-2008) was a member of the Sisters of Charity in Xavier, Kansas, later working as Director of Religious Education at St. John's Catholic Church in Ennis, Texas. Late in life she wrote books on family genealogy. See her Find A Grave memorial for obituary.
  • Jourdan, Elise Greenup. Early Families of Southern Maryland , Vol. 1, Revised, Family Line Publications, Westminster, MD, 1993. Jourdan (1926-2017) wrote ten volumes on the early families of Southern Maryland. Based on my use of Vol. 1 for Cissell research, it appears to be generally correct and sources are cited, but also contains significant errors, many of which appear to have been introduced during typesetting; see Notes below. (Kelts-7 17:19, 19 December 2019 (UTC)) Jourdan also wrote "Greenup, Witten, Cecil" and several books on Prince George's County, Maryland. Her on-line obituary at Legacy.com does not even mention historical research, which may have been a retirement hobby.
  • Newman, Harry Wright. The Harry Wright Newman Collection, Learning Resource Center, Southern Maryland Room of the Charles Co. Community College, LaPlata, MD 20646. Newman (1894-1983) was an author, genealogist, and historian. His interesting obituary appeared in the Baltimore Sun 23 April 1983 and is reproduced at http://www.collinsfactor.com/turpin/newman.htm. See below for discussion of his paper "John Cecil of Maryland and Mary His Wife."
  • Skordas, Gust, and others. The early settlers of Maryland; an index to names of immigrants compiled from records of land patents, 1633-1680, in the Hall of Records, Annapolis, Maryland. Edited with an introd. by Gust Skordas and a foreword by Morris L. Radoff. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968.


  • Kentucky Ancestors Genealogical Quarterly magazine may be useful for researching the Cissell descendants who went to Kentucky; issues from 1965 to 2013 are on-line and can be downloaded for free.


  • Ancestry.com, including Maryland Wills and Probate Records
  • Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia's Northern Neck Counties, maintained by Mike Marshall. This website is a compilation of research done by others, set up in a family tree format. The home page lists, among others, Jourdan, Newman, Reno, Carr, Peden, Skordas, and several periodicals as sources; individual profiles generally do not include sources.
  • FamilySearch.org, including Maryland Register of Wills Records


  • Salisbury Family Genealogy, Karen Salisbury. Was once on Rootsweb but couldn't be accessed at 16 December 2019; its profile of John Cissell appears on geni.com as of 19 December 2019. It repeats common errors such as assigning the middle name of "Baptist" to our John and also appears to include much of the information that appeared in an earlier version of WikiTree's Cissell-14 profile.
  • The Cecil Family of Maryland; a genealogy and history of some descendants of William Cecil, ca. 1665-1749, with some allied Ball families. Walter V. Ball, Chevy Chase, Md., 1963. Ball was one source of speculation about the Calvert connection.

Other sources cited

  • Chell, Erv. Apparently a Cecil (not Cissell) researcher, cited to refute attachment of John Cissell as a son to Thomas Cecil.
  • Tobler, Paul. Research cited on profile; credentials unknown.

Other useful sources

Historians and authors

  • Carr, Dr. Lois Green. Carr (1922-2015) was a widely respected Maryland historian. A long obituary (IN MEMORIAM LOIS GREEN CARR (1922-2015), John McCusker, Perspectives on History, Dec. 1, 2015) describes her accomplishments, including serving as the historian of Historic St. Mary's City for 45 years. Carr prepared a set of index cards listing the legal events recorded for the settlers of St. Mary's county now available on the Maryland State Archives website at https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/speccol/html/carr.html
  • Mahurin, Madonna Hudson. Cecil Family in early Adams Co. Illinois. Prepared for Great River Genealogical Society in Quincy, Adams Co., IL., Hanson, Kentucky, 2007. Mahurin has traced several generations of descendants of Wilford Cecil, a Maryland-born second great grandson of the immigrant John Cissell.
  • O'Rourke, Timothy J. Catholic Families of Southern Maryland, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 1985 (originally published as Colonial Source Records: Southern Maryland Catholic Families, Clearfield Company Inc., 1981); now an on-line Ancestry source. O'Rourke (1947-1994) wrote or co-wrote several books in the late 1970s and early 1980s including compilations of colonial Maryland Catholic records and two books about Perry County, Missouri (where some of the Maryland Catholics later settled). His obituary appeared in the Parsons [Kansas] Sun, 31 May 1994, and can be accessed through newspapers.com.
  • Peden, Henry C., Jr. Marylanders to Kentucky 1775-1825, Heritage Books, Maryland, copyright 1991 and More Marylanders to Kentucky 1778-1828, Heritage Books, Maryland, copyright 1997. After the Revolution, significant numbers of Marylanders moved to Kentucky, including those who joined the 1785 Maryland League of Catholic Families. Peden's two books are alphabetical listing of those migrants. According to Heritagebooks.com, Peden, born in 1946, "is a Vietnam veteran, retired administrator with the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and former research director with Family Line Publications. He is an award-winning author who has written over 170 books and is recognized in the mid-Atlantic region for his genealogical expertise..."
  • Reno, Linda (1946-2018). A retired federal employee, Reno was a lifetime member of the St. Mary's County Genealogy Society and St. Mary's County Historical Society. She compiled a large data base of St. Mary's County families. One on-line obituary is here. Reno's analysis of the descendants of Charles Payne, made in a 2008 Rootsweb post, has been posted to WikiTree and is invaluable in analyzing early Cissell-Payne marriages.


WikiTree resources

Notes on the sources

Jourdan: As mentioned above, Jourdan's "Early Families of Southern Maryland, Vol. 1" contains significant errors, possibly introduced during typesetting. See https://www.wikitree.com/photo.php/0/0a/Cissell_Resources.pdf.

Newman: Harry Wright Newman's paper "John Cecil of Maryland and Mary His Wife" was written in 1978. Much new information about John Cissell has been discovered and/or understood since then, and we now know that some of what Newman said is not accurate. He does, usefully, debunk the Calvert connection, but among other assertions that could use clarification, or are simply wrong, are:

• He refers to John Cissell as "John Cecil," although that spelling is not found in the records.
• He states that John was "apparently of some stature in Britain," although we know nothing of John's time there; not a single record has been found.
• Although he says "the Widow Cecil was young and fruitful at the death of her husband in 1698," that is questionable. She already had five adult sons that we know of, which suggests she had borne the first at least 25 years earlier, most likely even earlier than that.
• He suggests that Mary next married a Mr. Dant, but that has since been disproven. (See discussion on the John Cissell profile.)
• In a minor error, he refers to "Popular Neck," which was actually called "Poplar Neck."

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