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Elizabeth, wife of Capt. John Luther, PGM Immigrant

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1645 [unknown]
Location: Plymouth Colony, New Englandmap
Surnames/tags: Luther PGM
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Original "NEHGR" style profile of Elizabeth Unknown-481820, wife of John Luther-114. They might have originated in Bridport, Dorset, England, research is still being done. Her name and spousal status as widow of Captain Luther is proven by her plea to the court in 1645 for his back wages as she was a widow with young children.

This free space was created to hold the original profile as written by Larry Luther as her wikitree profile is reformatted into a more usable version for hyperlinks, profile comparison, quick access to sources etc. following the edit & style guidelines of the Puritan Great Migration project.


(compiled and written by Larry Calvin Luther, Vancouver BC, Canada; lcl@shaw.ca June 6, 2020)

(The following is based on extensive research by the writer, including online research at Ancestry.com & Familysearch.org., on site and on line research at the Dorset Records Office, Dorchester, Dorset, England, the National Archives of Britain, Kew, Richmond, England, the British Library, London England, the Massachusetts State Archives & numerous other sources and on site research in Bridport and elsewhere in Dorset, England, Massachusetts & Rhode Island. Further details are contained in the profile for Capt. John Luther.)

Baptism of John Luter Jr. John Luter Jr. was baptized in Bridport, Dorset, England on September 24, 1602, the son of John Luter Sr. As outlined below, there is strong evidence that this is the man known by The Luther Family Association as Captain John Luther, the founder of our Luther family line in North America.

Marriage of John Luter Jr. The Bridport Register also reveals a marriage of John Luter and Elizabeth/Elyzabeth Addams on January 9 1625/26. It is recorded on page 273 of the Original Register under the section for January 1625, as follows: “ John Luter and Elizabeth Addams were married the ninth or nynth (?) day”. To the writer’s eye the word “ninth” is difficult to make out, and Ancestry.com has two typewritten extracts for this marriage, one saying the ninth, the other the tenth. There is also doubt about the spelling of the wife’s first name; is it “Elizabeth”, “Elyzabeth” or “Elyzebeth”? Ancestry.com spells it differently in the two typewritten extracts. The marriage is also recorded on page 62 of the Summary Register under the heading “1625”, following the heading “1624 Marriages” above it on the same page as: “John Luter Elyzabeth Addams”. The typewritten extract of this record at Ancestry.com also describes the wife’s first name as “Elyzabeth”. The exact spelling of Elizabeth’s first name is not critical to my analysis, since misspellings and multiple ways of spelling names was common in public records of the day. For the reasons described later, the writer believes this to be the marriage of the couple that Luther Family Association members have known as Captain John Luther and his wife Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Addams The Original Register of Baptisms for Abbotsbury, Dorset, England shows the baptism of Elizabeth Addams on September 30, 1603. It is contained under the heading “Anno Dni (short for Domini) 1603” on page 35 (of 245) and reads as follows: “September 30 Elizabeth the Daughter of Henry Addams was baptized”. The spelling of Elizabeth’s name is very clearly “Elizabeth” on the Original Register. Abbotsbury is an ancient town not far from Bridport, 9.5 miles south east, also very near the English channel coast. Other Abbotsbury Parish Records show that Henry Addams was married to wife Margery Rose on September 16, 1597 and apparently had four children there between 1598 and 1603. A Henry Addams was married on September 16, 1597 and buried on November 1, 1606, both in Abbotsbury, likely Elizabeth’s father.

The Surname Luter vs. Luther We know that the modern name “Luther” had several variants and origins many years ago. The English records of this era, more than 400 years ago, show the name Luther, Luter, Lutter, Lowther etc. Names were sometimes misspelled or spelt more than one way on the same page of documents and records, due to the illiteracy of the times. In all the sources that the writer has previously read about Captain John Luter/Luther, his last name was spelt Luther. Certainly his sons appear to have used the name Luther, as far as we know. And perhaps he himself used the name Luther. But I was not aware of any official documents identifying his or his wife’s name or under his or her signature or authorization showing their lawful last name. That is until the writer recently looked at a copy of the Petition dated May 22, 1646 to the General Court of Massachusetts of Captain John’s widow for compensation arising from her husband’s death in Delaware Bay. This is contained in the Massachusetts Archives records of the General Court of Massachusetts (Volume No. 0303 Page 022; Series 2043). And to my surprise, the widow’s name in the Petition appears in both places it is mentioned as follows: “Elizabeth Luter”. It is highly likely in this legal proceeding that the correct name of Widow Luter would have been used, even if she and her husband had been customarily using the name Luther. In my view, this is significant evidence to establish that her husband was John Luter Jr. mentioned above. Analysis and Conclusion The writer is of the view that Captain John Luther who settled in Massachusetts in the late 1630s is very likely the above noted John Luter Jr., born in Bridport Dorset in 1602. He was of the right age and time frame and from the right place to be that man. Bridport is in Dorset, in the general vicinity of where the Luther Family Association founders expected him to have been born and raised. The town had its own port in the era of John Luter Jr. It was also very close to the Port of Weymouth, from which emigrants left for the New World in the 1630s. It was a town where mariners are known to have originated, close to the sea, where one would expect a seaman such as Captain John Luter/Luther to have been raised. There are many records of residents of Bridport having relocated to Massachusetts in the 1630s & 40s, as part of the Great Migration. Several Bridport residents who went to New England were sea captains or involved in maritime enterprises in New England. In Capt. John’s era, boys were very young when they first started as seamen, anywhere from 10 to 16 years, something difficult to imagine today. Capt. John would have apprenticed with an experienced seaman, usually a master or first mate, and would have immediately gone to work as an unpaid worker for up to nine years. He would eventually be entitled to pay, but the work was very hard, dangerous and involved time away from family for months. Captain John probably arrived in Massachusetts to settle there in 1638, at which time he was 36 years old, a seaman with over twenty four years’ experience. He had ample experience as a seaman by that time, having worked his way up the ranks to be capable of being the Master or Captain of a ship. This is consistent with his being appointed captain of the vessel for the Delaware Bay expedition some six years later. There are no records at this time of seamen on vessels other than some Masters, so we have no records of Capt. John’s voyages. He has been documented as one of the first purchasers of land in Taunton, Mass. in 1638 or 1639. His land purchases in Taunton and Gloucester, Mass. are consistent with a more mature man trying to put down roots for his family, rather than someone much younger. He married his wife Elizabeth Addams in Bridport in 1625. Since there are no other John Luter/Luther marriages I have found in Dorset at that time, let alone any with a wife Elizabeth, it is reasonable to conclude that this Elizabeth Luter was the wife of our Captain John Luther. Given their ages, it is logical for the couple to have had children in Bridport. They would have to have left Bridport after the baptism of their son Samuell, likely in 1638. However, leaving their other children in Bridport raises a question mark. Why would they not have taken them all to New England? It is possible that some of their children had died at a young age, although there is no record of this. If they left Bridport in 1638, daughter Joan would have been 12 years old, son John 9, daughter Susana 6 and son Edward 4 years old. The first two children could well have been apprenticed to and living with other families as servants, farm workers or the like. That would have left the two youngest children other than Samuel, Edward and Susanna, in Bridport, likely living with their grandparents. Joan might even have worked for her grandfather, having been named as an occupant in the 1629 Lease. And indeed there are Dorset parish records showing that Edward married (OR, p. 397), had children (including a daughter Elizebeth) and died in Bridport in 1672 (OR, p. 428) and that Susanna Luter also died in Bridport in 1666. It is also conceivable that they felt that given the uncertainties of the New World, it would be better to leave the children with family in Bridport, perhaps calling for them when they were settled and established in America. Captain Luther, as a seaman, would be aware of the dangers of the transatlantic voyage and would have heard of the considerable dangers and challenges of life in New England. He may well have been there himself, as a seaman on earlier voyages. His wife also might have had views about taking all of their children into that uncertain and dangerous environment. And as it turned out, life was not a bowl of cherries for the Luters in the New World. They lived in different places for short periods of time. And indeed, after Captain John’s untimely death, Elizabeth was described as “a poor distressed widow” in her petition for compensation in relation to his death. Bridport had a vibrant Puritan community, and there was some conflict with the traditional Church of England adherents in the town. A libel court case of Miller vs. Maries, 1613-1614 involved prominent members of the town on both sides of this litigation. Bridport is a short distance from Dorchester, Dorset, closer than Canford Magna. So, as indicated by the founding Luther Family Association genealogists, it is altogether possible that Captain John was inspired by the Puritan Reverend John White of that city to immigrate to the New World. White encouraged and organized the 1630 voyage of the vessel Mary and John to Massachusetts on which at least fourteen of the passengers were from Bridport. One of those passengers was Henry Way, a Puritan maritime businessman, another was John Gallop, who became a prominent Master in Massachusetts. There has been no one identified from Canford Magna on the Mary and John. We do not know whether Capt. John’s primary motivation to move to Massachusetts was religious zeal, adventure or the hope of economic opportunity. After having conducted extensive research, John Luter Jr. of Bridport is the only person having the name John Luter or Luther that I have found in Dorset, who fits the right time frame for Captain John Luther. And I have identified no other John Luter with a wife Elizabeth and a son Samuel anywhere in England at the correct time. Based on the foregoing, I think there are compelling facts and circumstances to indicate that it was John Luter Jr. and his wife Elizabeth from Bridport, Dorset who emigrated to New England, with their very young son Samuell in 1638, with their other children remaining in Bridport.

Explanatory Notes The original Dorset Parish Registers are at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester, Dorset, England. In the case of the Bridport, Dorset Register records between 1600 and 1638, there are two versions of same: (1) Those in the original Bridport Register (the “OR”), likely prepared shortly after or close in time to the events recorded, which generally set out specific dates for each baptism/christening, marriage and burial. These are often very difficult to locate, read and decipher, because of faded ink, deteriorated paper and difficult to understand characters and spellings; and (2) A later hand written summary version of the Original Register (the “SR”), which is much clearer, easier to read and is written in more modern English, but generally does not include specific dates, only the year of each entry. Both versions are contained within the online version of the Bridport Register, the SR (covering years 1600-1630) being first in pages 2 to 102, the OR following it (covering years 1600 to 1638 and carrying on beyond that to 1812) is in pages 121 to 1315. The registers can be searched on line through Ancestry.com and Family Search. Typewritten extracts from the registers are available on line describing individual baptisms, marriages and burials. The Ancestry.com extracts sometimes also contain copies/images of the original registers. Typewritten extracts and limited images of the original registers are also available to the public through Family Search, where sometimes only Morman Church members can view original images on line or they can be seen at Morman Church genealogical research centers by other members of the public. There are also some entries in the Original Register which are not in the Summary Register or do not come up at all in an on line search. Searches of the same thing At Ancestry.com and Family Search can sometimes yield different results. Many entries in the Original Register are very difficult to read or understand. The writer has used some rudimentary study of paleography to interpret the early modern English in the OR, but claims no expertise in this field. The Julian calendar, under which each new year began March 25, was used in England until September 2, 1752. It was thereafter replaced by the Gregorian calendar, under which each new year began January 1. Because the day after September 2, 1752 under the Julian calendar was September 14, 1752 under the Gregorian calendar, there were eleven lost days, which was the subject of protests at the time in England. For dates from January 1 to March 24 prior to 1753 in English parish records and documents, the year shown in the original Julian calendar records will be one year earlier than under our current Gregorian calendar. In that case, dates in this article are shown as per the following example: 1726/27.


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