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New Research on Captain John Luther/Luter

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NOTE: Please review new research into the origins and life of this John Luater/Luther by Larry Luther.

CAPT.) JOHN LUTER JR. (aka LUTHER), AND FAMILY

(April 12, 2020)
(compiled and written by Larry Calvin Luther, Vancouver BC, Canada; lcl@shaw.ca)
(The following is new research about the origins of Captain John Luther (Luther-114), 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.)

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.

Bridport is a town of about 13,000 residents, about 2.5 kilometers from the English Channel, near Dorchester, and the port of Weymouth. It is an ancient town, having been recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 with 120 houses, and in 1253 it was made a royal borough by King Henry III. It has a long and prominent tradition of rope making. In 1211 King John ordered Bridport to produce cables and ropes for his army and navy, and this activity continued until the time of John Luter Jr. Its oldest existing building, the chantry, dates back to at least the 13th century. St. Mary’s Church is a Gothic style Church of England structure whose oldest portions were constructed in the 13th, 14th & 15th centuries.

The baptism of John Luter Jr. was recorded in the Bridport, Dorset, England Parish Register 1600 – 1630 (the “Bridport Register”), part of the Church of England Parish Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538 -1812. The Bridport Register consists of an Original Register (the ”OR”) and the later transcribed register (the ”SR), based on the Original Register, explained in more detail in the Explanatory Notes at the end of this discourse.

The baptism of John Luter Jr. is shown in both the Original Register on page 114 and the Summary Register on page 7. In the Original Register, the writer interprets the September 1602 entry to read as follows: “John ye (or the) son of John Luter was baptized ye (or the) 24th daie”. In the Summary Register, the baptism appears on page 7 under “Anno Domini 1602 Baptismes” as follows: “John s. of John Luter”.

John Luter Jr’s exact date of birth is unknown, because there were no birth records for that period. But he was likely born in Bridport in 1602.

In the Original Register and Summary Register, John Luter Jr’s father is described as John Luter. He is in some Bridport records and documents described as John Luther the elder. The writer has found no records in the Bridport Parish Register of other John Luters apparently in the same generation as John Luter Sr. Nor have I found records of an earlier son of John Luter Sr., so John Luter Jr seems to have been his eldest child. In that era, it was very common for the first son to bear his father’s name.

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.

John Luter Jr.’s Brothers and Sisters

John Luter Jr. appears to be the first child born of John Luter Sr.

After that birth and prior to the marriage of John Luter Jr., there were the following baptisms in Bridport naming as the father John Luter:

(1) Edmond Luter was baptized in March or April 18, 1605/06 (OR, p. 126, SR, p. 115). The exact date is unknown because the page headings go from February to May, with no stipulation of the months for entries between. He was stated to be son of John Luter the elder in a April 1, 1614 lease (the “1614 Lease”) from the Borough of Bridport arranged by his father John Sr., for the lives of Edmond & his sisters Amy and Emmott, under which John Luter the elder paid the prepaid lease payment.
(2) Johan Luther - This baptism record is uncertain. A daughter Johan of John Luter Sr. may have been baptized in 1604 (OR, p. 127, SR, p. 15). The Original Record is very unclear, but has been interpreted by the transcribers of the Summary Record, which contains the following notation: “John the daughter of --- was baptised the 16th day (This John is I suppose for Johan – the writing is very bad”. If she existed, Johan Luter likely died as prior to 1615, because John Sr. had another daughter named Johanna in that year. The Johane who was stated to be the daughter of John Luter the elder under the 1629 Lease arranged by her father for the benefit of her and other family members, was likely the later Johane, shown below.
(3) Andrewe Luter was baptised December 19, 1607 (OR, p. 142, SR p. 22).
(4) Emmett Luter was baptized April 25, 1609 (OR, p. 147, SR, p. 25). She was stated to be the daughter of John Luter the elder (spelled “Emmot”) in the 1614 Lease from the Borough of Bridport, arranged by her father.
(5) Anne Luter was baptized Aug. 15,1612 (OR, p. 163,SR, p. 30). She was probably known as Amy, the person named as the daughter of John the elder and a life tenant under the 1614 Lease arranged by her father. She was married in Bridport to Christopher Loveridge in 1632.
(6) Johan Luter, named after her mother, was baptized October 1, 1615 (according to SR) or Oct. 1 1617. (according to OR, p. 173). She was named as Johane the daughter of John Luter the elder under a 1629 Lease (the “1629 Lease”) of premises on South Street, Bridport from the Borough of Bridport to John Luter Sr., arranged by her father for the benefit of her, her sister Susanna and her niece Johane, the daughter of John Luter Jr. of the same name.
(7) Susana Luter was baptized in April 1619 (OR, p. 187 (day of April illegible) & SR, p. 37 (day unnamed)). Her father’s last name seems to be shown as Luther on the OR. But she (spelled “Susanna”) was clearly identified as a daughter of John Luter the elder as an occupant under the 1629 Lease arranged by her father for the benefit of her and other family members.

I conclude that the foregoing are all children of John Luter Sr., all baptized at least six years before the marriage of John Luter Jr.

After the marriage of John Luter Jr., there were the following baptisms in Bridport showing as father John Luter:

(1) Joan Luter was baptized in Bridport Jan. 17,1626/27 (OR, p. 217, TR, p. 44). Joan is an anglicized or short form version of Johan, John Luter Jr’s mother’s name. It was often customary to name the first born daughter after the father’s mother. John Jr. is clearly described as the father of Johane Luter, in the 1629 Lease. This daughter may have died in Bridport on March 1 1645 (OR p. 374).
(2) John Luter was baptized in Bridport on September 6, 1629 (OR, p. 226, TR p.47). This was likely John Luter Jr.’s first son. It was often customary to name a first son after his father. Since John Luter Sr. already had a son John, it would be unlikely he would name another son John, although this did happen rarely. In 1671, the Bridport Register shows the baptism of Elizebeth Luther (named after his mother?), the daughter of John Luther.
(3) Susana Luter was baptized in Bridport October 16, 1632 (OR, p. 235, TR, p. 51). This baptism on page 235 of the Original Register is in the October section of 1632 and reads as follows: “Susana the daughter of John Luter Junr. was baptized the sixtnth day”. It was also noted on page 51 of the Summary Register as follows: “Susana d. John Luter Junr”.
(4) Edward Luter was baptized August 4, 1635 (OR, p. 243, TR, p.54). Edward Luter married Anne Coulls in Bridport on July 22, 1663 (p. 397, OR). Elizabeth, daughter of Edward, died Oct. 21, 1671 in Bridport. Son Samuell was christened August 29, 1672. Edward is thought to be the son of John Jr. because he was born when John Jr. was 33, before he moved to New England. Also, at the time of Edward’s birth, John the elder was probably about 60-70 years old, likely too old (but not impossible) to be his father. If Edward was John Jr.’s son, he must have been left in Bridport when John Luter moved to New England. Edward likely died in Bridport and was buried on January 13, 1673 (OR, p. 428).
(5) Samuel Luter was baptized on October 8, 1637 in Bridport, Dorset, England (p. 254, OR & p. 56,TR, described as Samuell). He must have accompanied his parents Capt. John and Elizabeth to New England as a baby. At eight years of age he travelled by boat with his father to Delaware Bay fur trading when Captain John was killed by Indians in 1645. He married Mary Abel on December 20, 1716 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts and died in Swansea Mass. on December 20 1716. Further details of Samuel are shown below.

At the date of the baptism, John Luter Jr. would have been about 35 years old and married for 12 years. The age of John Sr. is more uncertain (see later comments), but his could have been between 51 and 65 years of age. Based on their respective ages, it is much more likely that John Luter Jr. would have been the father of Samuell Luter.

I located another entry for a Bridport baptism of a Samuell, the son of John with the last name uncertain (which I originally thought might be Luther) on July 2, 1634, in the Original Register, page 241. I have since reviewed this and concluded it is the son of John Locke, as indicated in the Ancestry & Family Search Indexes and the Summary Registry, at p. 53.

The Luther Family Association of America has never been able to identify with certainty the date or place of birth of Samuel Luther. The 1971 edition of their Luther History book shows his birthdate as “MA 1636” (at page 38). This book, at page 71, has the following commentary:

“Samuel Luther (#2), the elder son of Capt. John, was born according to an invariable tradition at Yocumtown (Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island, Vol 1 (sic), p. 1001). No locality of this designation is known in Colonial history. The settlements were so few in 1636 and so well marked that this designation might be regarded as fictitious. However, one correspondent claims to have found evidence that this was an early Indian name for Taunton.”

Having examined the source publication cited, published in 1908, the birth year cited stated therein (actually in Volume II) is 1638, not 1636, as indicated by the LFA History Book. In New England Families - Genealogical and Memorial, published 1915, Vol 2, p. 630 Samuel is also said to have been born in Yocumtown, about 1636-1637. None of the three above publications could assign an exact date to Samuel’s birth. As a result, one can only conclude that they are estimating his year of birth. Neither of the last two publications describes Samuel’s place of birth as an ”invariable tradition”.

The best evidence in Massachusetts of Samuel’s birthdate is his grave stone in Kickemuitt Cemetery, which contains the following inscription: “HERE LYETH Ye BODY OF ELDER SAMUELL LUTHER, AGED ABOUT 80 YEARS, & DIED DECEMBER Ye 20th 1716.” As with the publications, the gravestone wording indicates that the exact birth date of Samuel was unknown.

As to Samuel’s supposed place of birth, the writer has not been able to find any evidence of a place called Yocumtown in Massachusetts or England. There is a Yocumtown Pennsylvania, but it was settled around 1732 by Quakers. This supposed place of birth of Samuell is not very credible, to say the least.

As a result of the foregoing, the writer concludes that Samuel Luter’s documented baptism date of October 8, 1637 in Bridport, Dorset, is consistent with the dates estimated in the three US publications examined above. And the place of Samuel’s birth was apparently unknown to early historians and genealogists.

(6) Hezekiah Luter was probably born in Taunton or Boston, Massachusetts in 1639 or 40, according to the Luther Family Association History Book, although they note that there is no official or documentary record of same. His grave stone in Kickemuitt Cemetery, contains the following inscription: “Here Lyeth the Body of Hezekiah Luther died July 28 1723 in Ye 86th Year of his Age”. Since no exact date is given in any of the above sources, we must conclude that his exact date of birth was unknown. Since Hezekiah’s baptism is not recorded in Bridport, it seems logical that he would have been born in Massachusetts about 1639 or 1640.

He married: (a) first, Elizabeth possibly Butterworth Nov. 11 1661 or January 30, 1662/63 by Capt. Clapp and (b) second, Sarah Butterworth in 1668, who was born in 1641 and died Aug. 22/25, 1722, also according to the Luther Family Association, although there is no official record of same.

Of the children born in Bridport after John Jr’s marriage in 1625, there can be little doubt that Susanne (whose baptism named her father as John Jr.), Johane (who was identified as John Jr’s daughter in the 1629 Lease) and Samuel (who is well documented to be the son of John Jr.) were all children of John Jr. Only John and Edward could be possibly sons of John Sr. But the unlikelihood of John Sr. naming a second son John when John Jr. was still alive and the late dates of the baptisms of these children (more than 30 years after John Sr’s marriage), strongly indicates that these two were sons of John Jr. Also, there is a seven year gap between the baptism dates of the children Susana in 1619 and Joan in 1626, which would further suggest that the children after the time gap were those of John Jr. The names of the mothers of children were not shown on parish records, which would have conclusively answered this question.

There are no records of baptisms of further children of a John Luter or Luther in Bridport until 1670, after both John Luter Jr. and Sr. were dead.

John Luter Jr.’s Parents

The available records and documents indicate that John Luter Sr. and his wife Johan lived in Bridport from 1602 until her death in 1645 and his death in 1658. He is described as a Husbandman in the 1614 Lease, which generally means a small farmer.

I have found in the Bridport Original Register (at p. 16) a record of the marriage of John Luter Sr. and Johan Northover on April 19, 1602, six months or so before the birth of John Jr. There is a Summary Register record of same as well (at p. 9).

There is a death shown of Joane Luter on March 1 1645/46 in the Original Register at p. 374. This might record the death of one of the daughter Joan/Johan of John Luther Jr. or John Luther Sr., unmarried. But more likely it records the death of John Sr’s wife, her name Joane being a variant of Johan, who would have been older and more likely to have died then. If Johan/Joane was between 17 and 27 years of age when Capt. John was baptized, she would have been between 60 and 70 years of age when she died.

John Luter Sr’s burial is recorded on page 497 of the Original Register as follows: “October 1658 John Lutter the Elder was buried the fourth day”. The use of the term ”the Elder” seems to indicate that this is not John Luter Jr. or his son John Luter born in 1629. If he was between 18 and 28 years of age when Capt. John was baptized in 1602, John Sr. would have been between 61 and 71 when he died. The misspelling of last names in parish registers of the time was common. There was no record of another person “John Lutter or Luter the Elder” in Bridport at the time.

I have not found any verified birth records for John Luter Sr or his wife. There are a few earlier English records of births of John Lut(h)ers in other parts of England, but not in Dorset.

The Bridport Leases

In August of 2019, at the Dorset Records Office in Dorchester, the writer examined two original ancient parchment leases entered into by John Luther Sr. & family as tenant from the Borough of Bridport as landlord, the 1614 Lease (Dorset Records Office document no. DC/BTB/S100) and the 1629 Lease (Dorset Records Office document no. DC/BTB/S138). It was amazing to me that they had survived almost 400 years, and are in such good condition for their age. These documents were made of old animal skin parchment folded many times. As I unfolded them, I was concerned that they would crack, but they did not; they were surprisingly firm and durable. The writing was often difficult for me to read, faded early modern English with unfamiliar letters, terms and spellings and indeed sometimes illegible. I took photos of the documents and the Centre made photos for me as well. When I returned to Vancouver, I transcribed both leases as best as I could, so as to understand their details.

1614 Lease The 1614 Lease arranged by John Luter Sr., was dated April 1, 1614, “the ffirst daye of Aprill the years of the raigne of our Sovereigne Lord James”. The bottom of the lease was not visible, containing the last line and signatures of the parties. The rent consisted of a prepayment of eight pounds, paid by John Sr. and annual rent of four shillings, payable quarterly on the religious feast days of “The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, St. Michael the archangell, the Birth of Our Lord God and the Annunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary”.

The demised premises consisted of a burgage (narrow town property) with a tofte (small farm) or garden on the east side of South Street, in the document file description said to be “No. 30, near the south end of street”. The properties along South Street were all narrow frontage and very deep; this was typical in towns throughout England, but particularly appropriate on South Street in Bridport. This was because many of the owners were rope makers, who needed a long distance on their properties to string long ropes for sailing vessels. The exact location of the premises is uncertain from the lease, as apparently legal descriptions or street addresses did not exist. It is only described as between the land of John Downe on the south side and the land of Peter Hoskyns on the north side.

John Sr. put the lease in the names of first his son Edmond (10 years old) for his life, after his death to his daughter Amy (2 years old) for her life, and after her death to her sister Emmott (5 years old) for her life. Life leases were commonly put in the names of young children to extend the term for the benefit of the family, although it was the parents who actually fulfilled the obligations and derived the benefits of the lease, during their lifetimes. The Lease came into effect after the end of the occupancy of one Richard Tucker, the current occupant of the premises. The lease was made “with the consent of all the Burgesses of the said Towne”.

At this time, Cap. John Luther Jr. would have been twelve years old. Why was he not mentioned in the lease? The writer thinks it is because young John was already at sea, having started his career as a seaman apprentice, and was unlikely to become a farmer, like his father. Whereas his younger 10 year old brother Edmond was probably beginning to work with his father, learning to be a farmer. He was the prime or first tenant under the lease, and identified as such on the outside of the lease document.

1629 Lease

Fifteen years later, under the 1629 Lease (made January 14, 1629 under the Julian calendar or January 14, 1630 under the Gregorian calendar), John Luter Sr. arranged a lease from the Borough of Bridport of another burgage, toft and garden. These premises were stated to be already in the occupation of John Sr. and immediately south of other land of John Luter Sr. (which may have been the land the subject of the 1614 Lease, if so also near the south end of South Street). This lease he entered into for the joint benefit of his daughters Johane (about 12 years old) & Susanna (10 years old) and his granddaughter Johane (3 years old), the daughter of John Jr. This lease provided for prepaid rent of ten pounds, which John Sr. paid and annual rent of five shillings, paid quarterly on the foregoing religious feast days. It was for a term of 99 years from the feast day of St. John the Baptist in 1635. The document is signed by John Sr. at the bottom margin, using his mark, in lieu of a signature.

At the time of this lease, Capt. John Jr. was about 27 years old, had been married for four years, with two children, Johane & John (only 3 months old). By then, he had been at sea for around 15 years, probably away from his family for months at a time. The fact that John Jr’s young daughter was named as a tenant likely indicates that John Sr. felt an obligation to his son to provide for his eldest child, who had not been named under the 1614 Lease. It also might indicate that Johane’s grandfather had an especially affectionate or relationship with her.

The fact that John Sr. and his family held two leases from the Borough of Bridport meant that he had some financial resources. The eight and ten pound rent prepayments under the 1614 Lease and the 1629 Lease are equivalent to about $2,526 and $2,789 USD in today’s currency. But he was apparently not a man of significant means, judging from the modest amount of rates he paid to the local church, one shilling in 1642 & 1643. On June 20, 1626 he paid a fine of 10 shillings to the Borough of Bridport as a fine for his unnamed son (presumably one of Captain John (then married), Edmond or Andrewe) being accused of responsibility for a base (bastard) child of Mr. Maneford's daughter.

The holders of leases of burgages, such as John Sr., were called burgesses, who were entitled to vote for the local member of Parliament. Burgesses were freemen of a borough or town: those who were prominent or entitled to practice a trade within the town and to participate in electing, in the case of Bridport, its Capital Burgesses (common council), two Bailiffs (the head administrators) and two Cofferors (probably Treasurers). Often the holders of burgages were entitled to specific pews in the local church, as an appurtenance to their land. The 1614 & 1629 Leases mention that same were approved by all the Bridport Burgesses.

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.

John Luthers or Luters in Canford Magna, Corfe Castle, Dorset or Elsewhere in England

It has been suggested in the past by Luther Family Association founding genealogists that Captain John Luther may have come from Great Canford/Canford Magna, Dorset. But there was admittedly no compelling evidence for this conjecture. As has been noted by them, the available parish records for Canford Magna begin in 1656, after Captain John Luter/Luther’s death in New England.

The writer has found a record in the Dorset Parish Register of a John Luther in Canford Magna who married a Sarah Luther in 1668 and later baptisms there of John Luther (likely his son) in 1673 and in 1695, perhaps his grandson.

I also found records of a John Luther who married in nearby Corfe Castle in 1734. These people all lived after the time of Captain John Luther. No earlier records have been found by the writer in Dorset County, identifying another John Luter or John Luther in the time frame of the life of Captain John Luter/Luther.

Canford Magna is about 50 miles from Bridport, and a little further inland than Bridport. Corfe Castle is about 39 miles from Bridport. Because of proximity, it is possible that the Luters in Bridport were related to the later Luthers in Canford Magna and Corfe Castle. The main reasons for the idea that Captain John Luther might be from Canford Magna seem to be: (1) the letter of John Luthear (as he signs the letter) or John Lothear (as he states his name in the text of the letter) of February 11, 1726, (2) the presence of later John Luthers in that area; and (3) the location of Canford Magna in Dorset, relatively close to the sea.

I was able to find no people in Canford Magna or Dorset who spelt their last name “Luthear” or “Lothear”, as he apparently did. Perhaps this fact should not be considered to be overly material, given the spelling variations and errors of that era. But it is a little strange that the spelling would not have shown up somewhere in Dorset. We must also take with a grain of salt a letter from someone claiming an inheritance, almost 100 years after the time of Captain John. It certainly cannot be taken as a fact that this assertion was bona fide.

Other English John Luthers of the era? No other John Luther or Luter in Dorset has been found in the early 1600s who married a woman named Elizabeth and only one other one in England which could be at the right time. I did find other John Luthers in England of the time in other counties, but I have been able to eliminate most of them as potentially being Captain John Luther.

An Ancestry.com search reveals a John Luther, son of John Luther, who was baptized at All Hallows, Barking by the Tower City of London on March 24, 1600 (Church of England Parish Registers, 1538-1812. London England: London Metropolitan Archives). This is about the right time of baptism to be Captain John, although he is not from Dorset and spells his name differently than the widow Luter in Massachusetts. There is also a record of burial on July 18, 1681 of Sarah Luther, daughter of John Luther and Elizabeth Luther in the “England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991” Family Search data. This could be the man baptized in 1600 with a wife Elizabeth. Although there is much uncertainty here, we do have the right names matched up as husband and wife, at a time which could coincide with that of Captain John and his wife. But if the daughter died in London, perhaps the parents also had continued to live there. We also have an Elizabeth Luter buried in London on September 2 1688 (“England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991 database, Family Search). If this is the foregoing wife of John Luther, it means she likely did not leave London and is not the Elizabeth who went to Massachusetts with Captain John. However, London was a large city in the 1600s with a population of about from 200,000 at the beginning of the century and 600,000 at the end. So trying to make connections between these various London register entries is very speculative, a different situation than looking at entries in a small town.

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.

'Their Children

Given their ages, it is logical for the couple to have had children in Bridport. They would 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.

As I learned more about the era, it became clear to me that this was not such an unusual situation. John Luter was a husbandman, a small farmer; he and his wife Johanne were a working class family, not of the nobility. Working class children worked in their homes and were commonly bound out as servants and apprentices (including as sea men) at a very early age (by our standards), eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve years of age. In fact, my great great grand father Harvey Thomas Luther was bound out as a farm servant in Dundas County, Ontario, in 1844 at seven or eight years of age, two hundred years later.

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. We do not know that John and Elizabeth's intention was to permanently leave the remaining two children (Edward and Susana) with his parents in Bridport. We do know that John's father and mother lived in Bridport and wold likely have been available to care for these children, either temporarily or permanently. They may have intended to call for them, when they were established. But they apparently never did. Perhaps this was because of the dangerous environment in New England (certainly the case, including the threats of Indians raids on communities) and/or an unstable family life, as evidenced by the various places they lived within a short period. In 1645, when Captain John died, Susana was 13 years old and Edward was nine. By then, both of them could have easily left their grandparents or be working with them. Perhaps the children were otherwise settled in Bridport and did not want to leave their family there and friends and come to Massachusetts.

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.

Also, we must consider that Capt. John was to be a seaman in America, who would have been at sea for months at a time. This would be a much different situation than if he were a land lubber, such as a farmer or merchant, at home with his family every night. In New England, his wife would not have him there to protect and help her care for the family. She would be on her own in an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous environment to protect and look after a brood of children, which would have been a considerable burden on her. This would be much more onerous than having the support of their parents in Bridport. Having one young child, Samuel, to look after (who was to be followed by Hezekiah, born in Massachusetts) was a much more feasible thing for her.

Leaving some of the children in England actually could be considered a sensible and loving thing to do in these circumstances.

Considering all the foregoing, I do not find the fact that all their children did not end up in New England to be a good reason for saying that this couple were not Capt. John and Elizabeth Luter/Luther.

Also, from the Bridport parish records, we know that Samuel Luter was the last child of John Luter born in Bridport, in 1637. There are no entries in Bridport for further children or any record of the death of this John or Elizabeth in Bridport. John Luter and his wife seemingly were no longer in Bridport. This is very supportive of the fact that they did move from Bridport, likely to Massachusetts.

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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I wonder if you have had any luck finding DNA similarities in descendants from the Bridport Luter family in England (if any are to be found) and descendants from Captain John in North America?
posted by Sheila Bishop
Thank you for this incredible research and very interesting description of all the records you found. This was an amazing read, and very convincing.
posted by Sheila Bishop