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vital records sources

The internet has been good and bad for genealogy. Good and bad sources have become available and anyone can be a family historian. Most who use the bad sources don't know they're doing it and their casual interest does't make them question anything. This article is for those who want to dig deeper than the cut-and-paste approach to genealogy.
     Simon Hoyt has many descendants and therefore many people interested in his background. Where Simon came from, who he married and records of his children's baptisms is a bit of a free for all on the many genealogical websites, personal and public, that include him. One of the reasons for this article is to review why this has happened. Then I've tried to put evidence of his life in some context. The facts aren't new, but I thought they needed some clarification.
     In general, the source used for this family's history has been David W. Hoyt's A Genealogical History of the Hoyt, Haight, and Hight Families.1 Nothing had been found about the Hoyt's English origins when he published his book in 1871. In 1903, research said to have been done by J. Cornelius Haight was published in The Journal of the Reverend Silas Constant.2 This opened up a can of worms. Many publications since then have used the research, which shows a Simon Hoyt with a birth date and parents in Dorchester and a marriage and children born and dying in "Upway," Dorsetshire. Among the children were John, Walter and Nicholas, the names of Simon's sons in New England. Seems obvious that Haight found the New England Hoyts. To further support this, Simon's wife, Deborah Stowers, who is given a birth and baptism date in Dorchester and a father, appears to have had a brother Nicholas who settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts, as Simon did. Another Upwey family, the Spragues, were also in Charlestown in its earliest years.
     The problem with this particular Hoyt family is that Haight's research can't be corroborated. Parish records for Upwey before the 1660s, according to historian Robin Bush, haven't existed since at least 1831.3 He doesn't specify his sources, but it seems unlikely that both the church registers and the bishop's transcripts would have disappeared. It isn't known when Haight got is information. He was born in 1835 and doesn't appear in ship's passenger lists coming into New York City to show a trip to England. The Hoyt Family Association's publication "Hoyt's Issue" suggests the parish register references were made up. The Sprague family has Upwey parish register "births" cited for them. The earliest mention I've found is in 1897, which only has the dates, but that they were in Upwey is inferred.3a These births in Upwey are used often on the internet. Are all those early parish record reference faked? Impossible to say. Some are careless errors: some give Edward Sprague's death date in 1614 that is actually when his estate went to probate. It's also a given that baptism and burial dates are quickly and erroneously converted to birth and death dates since the advent of casual online genealogy - early English parish records don't have births and deaths, only baptisms and burials (and marriages, the banns or intentions for which are also routinely turned into marriage dates). But older published genealogies are also guilty of this. Simon's "birth" date in Dorchester could then be construed as a baptism, but Deborah is given a birth (in Dorchester) and baptism date (in Upwey). For the reason mentioned earlier, the full dates for births and a few deaths given by Roebling, supposedly extracted by Haight at Upwey would be baptisms and burials, if they happened at all. It's interesting to find that parish records for that period in the neighboring village of Broadwey also don't exist in any form. E. G. Sprague says that the "Upway town records have been destroyed by fire since his [Edward's] time,"4 but this doesn't explain why there aren't bishop's transcripts, which were done yearly, and the same situation in Broadwey. Both churches were established by the the time these supposed parish register entries occurred. On a side note, Weymouth, Upwey and Broadwey are on the river Wey. "Upway" and "Broadway" seem to have come into more common usage through a kind of passive ignorance.
     There is a cynical interpretation of the Haight information. Simon's children are limited to sons thought to have come to New England (including Thomas, but the idea that Thomas Hyatt of Stamford was Simon's son is no longer given credit), and two daughters named for supposed close relatives (common but certainly not the norm) who died young and can't be traced. Birth and death dates rather than baptisms and burials in a parish that apparently didn't have records to search when Haight supposedly searched them. A baptism in Dorchester, where I find no parish records available for the 1590s. No record of a Walter Stowers in Dorset or a baptism for Nicholas Stowers. Did Haight choose the name Stowers to reflect the association with Nicholas Stowers in New England? Was "Walter" chosen because of Simon's son Walter? Did Haight choose Upwey because the Spragues were known to have lived there? Faked genealogies were certainly published in the late 1800s by professional genealogists, in books that appeared to carry authority, so it wouldn't have been unique. There are too many complexities here to find a smoking gun, but the situation does beg for some devil's advocacy.
     While decades passed with people assuming the Upwey Hoyts immigrated to New England, Robin Bush found records in West Hatch, Somersetshire, for the family of another Simon Hoyt. His wife was likely Jane Stoodley, married in Marshwood parish about 10 miles away. Walter and Nicholas are among Simon's children baptized in West Hatch. John was baptized in Broadwinsor, a neighbor parish of Marshwood. The only child for whom a birth year can be compared with documents in New England is Walter. He was "about 78" when he wrote his will in February 1696 and was "about 65" when he testified as a witness to a will on 7 November 1684.5 In the first instance, if he was born not long before the baptism in West Hatch, he was 77 and would turn 78 later in the year. In the second instance, if he was born between and 7 and 29 November 1618, he was 65. This makes it much more likely he was the son of Simon of West Hatch, despite the compelling aspects of the family of Simon of Upwey. John, baptized in Broadwinsor in 1628, is a more likely candidate than the one baptized in Upwey in 1614 based on his life circumstances in New England.
     Regarding a man named Micheal Hoyt (variously spelled), Bush cites a Manor Court record6 dated 18 July 1599 that concerns his occupation of rented land, apparently in West Hatch, with his children Richard, Simon, Anne, Thomasine (Thamazine, etc.) and Elizabeth. This document refers to "the customary rent and services and works of scouring and ditching the lords' rivers" connected with their tenancy. This apparently is the earliest such record, leading Bush to think this was when the family arrived in West Hatch. Michael later occupied other properties. He also served town offices much the same as those in New England. He was a juryman and often foreman of the homage jury in the Hallimote Court (a kind of manor court) between 1606 and 16207. Homage juries were composed of tenants who reported to the courts on misdemeanors and deaths among the tenants. Hallimote Court records say he was a reeve (keeper of animals on behalf of the town) in 1612/13.8 In 1613 he had five stray sheep in his custody. He was elected a tythingman (tax collector) at West Hatch in 1614,9 but he was still a reeve, given that in the same year he was holding a horse that was to be given to the lords as fee for someone's tenancy.10
     Simon "made default of the suit of court" in 1616,11 161812 and twice in 1620.13 Michael said that in 1617 he surrendered his 1599 rental lands to the use of Simon.14 Michael and Simon were on the homage jury in 1619.15 Simon acknowledged to his fellow jurymen and the court that he cut down 6 oak trees on his land and sold them outside the manor, which was against custom. On his father's pledge Simon paid a 20 shilling fine at the next meeting of the court. Simon was a juryman again in 1620.16
     Quoting Bush from the same source as the last, "A view was taken between the land of Alexander Hearne called Barleidge and the land of Simon Hoyte called 'Long Medow.' It was found that the boundary was 'an old ditch.' Simon Hoyte was ordered to make a sufficient fence between his meadow called 'Long Medow' and the land of Walter Curry before 28 Oct. on pain of 5 s."
     Michael's wife at the time of his death was probably Agnes, but without more specific records it can't be said if she was the mother of any of his children. The West Hatch Manor Court refers to her as a widow who was holding a tenement of the same description as Michael's and that she was to pay a fee to the lords in 1628 with Richard Hoyt (name of the oldest son of Michael) as one of her pledges.17 Bush suggests that Michael's son John was born to a second wife about 1608. A Hundred Court record18 of 1620 says that the court ordered Richard Hoyt to bring his brother John to be sworn to the assize. Bush says that this was usually done when a boy reached the age of 12, but how diligent was this in practice? Was John born shortly after Michael's 1599 record of tenancy (in which John doesn't appear)? Michael's daughter Thomasine (variously spelled) was baptized in 1581/82. She had at least one older sibling (Anne is listed before her in court records. I am assuming that lists of children are by age as they are in many probate records). If Anne was the first born, say in 1580, and John was the last in say 1600, that would span the average 20 year period of a married woman's fertility. Perhaps Richard was ordered to bring John to court because he had not previously. However John would have been 20 and Richard probably would not have been involved. If John's was a late and last birth of Michael's wife he could have still been a minor in 1620 if he was born say 1603 or 4. In any case no marriage records have been found for Michael and his wife is not named in the one baptism record. It is notable that daughters named Agnes were born to Simon and Richard Hoyt in West Hatch.
     Bush further cites account rolls for West Hatch that mention Simon Hoyt's payments to the manor for new grants of tenements through 1631, and by 1632/33 his name was crossed out and replaced by another. He acquired two tenements in 1627/28, not long before Simon the immigrant most likely left England. If the latter is the same as West Hatch Simon he would have signed away the properties when he was in either Charlestown or Dorchester, Massachusetts. He had become a freeman in 1631, so he may have felt sufficiently established in the Massachusetts Colony to undo his real estate ties in England. Bush notes that the above court entries are all under the subheading of the manor tything of West Hatch. This makes a fairly certain connecton between the Simons - the son of Michael of West Hatch, the father of Walter and Nicholas of West Hatch and the immigrant to Massachusetts Bay.
     The name Michael is found among the children named in the will of Thomas Hoyt of Seavington St. Mary, Somersetshire (1576) and his wife Isabel (1587). That town is about 9 miles from West Hatch and about 2 1/2 miles from South Petherton, where Michael's daughter was baptized. Thomas' will mentions several of his grandchildren, but none by Michael. Isabel's will does mention that Michael had children. This accords with the idea that Michael's oldest daughter (and first child?) may have been Anne, born say 1580. There is no further evidence cited to make a strong connection between Thomas of Seavington St. Mary and Michael of South Petherton/West Hatch, but it's plausible. There were Hoyts in this region for many generations, but there isn't enough evidence to make a credible and reliable genealogical connection among them to form a lineage back from Thomas. Other Hoyt websites have added previous generations without acknowledging this.
     As for Simon's marriage to Jane Stoodley, it can only be supposed she was connected with the West Hatch family. The mother isn't mentioned in the baptism records for West Hatch and Broadwinsor, but Simon Hoyt is a very uncommon name, so it isn't a stretch to say she was. There was a Jane Stoodley baptized in Broadwinsor, daughter of John, who was likely Mrs. Hoyt. Marshwood records reveal that there were Stoodley (variously spelled) baptisms in the early 17th century, indicating that Jane's family probably was established in the area when she was married. A John Stoodley was among the free tenants of Marshwood manor in 1626-41 and Walter "Stoodleigh" was a member of the homage jury for Whitchurch Hundred in 1626.19 Beaminster Hundred (including Marshwood) was adjacent to Whitchurch Hundred (including Broadwinsor).

In New England

      Simon Hoyt appears on a list, with Nicholas Stowers and the Sprague family, of those who were the first to live in Charlestown in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.20 The date given for the list, which appears in the town records, is 1628, but scholars are confident that the document was made somewhat later, maybe Summer/Fall 1629. The so-called Higginson Fleet of ships that sailed in the Spring and Summer of 1629 carried some if not most of the people named on that list. A statement has been proliferated that the Hoyts came over on the ship Abigail in 1628. There is no extant list of passengers on that trip of Abigail nor any other evidence to specifically place the Hoyts on it.
     "Simon Hoytt" is on a list of "Names of such as tooke the Oath of Freemen" of the colony, dated 18 May 1631.21 The earliest freeman lists don't specify place of residence. On 3 April 1633 Dorchester town records state that a double-rail fence with mortices in the posts was ordered to be put up by the cow-owners of the town, 20 feet of length per cow. Simon's fencing was to be 40 feet.22 On 8 October of the same year he was appointed a fenceviewer for the "east field."23 On 6 January of the following year he was included in a division of "marsh and swamp."24 He was elected a fenceviewer for the "north field" on 24 May 1634.25 On 2 June he was in another division of marsh and swamp, a parcel of about 8 acres on the north side of the "neck." On 10 February 1634/35 he was ordered to keep one bull with the heifers on the "neck of land," for which he was to be paid.26 This action surely was taken to make calves and that Simon was to oversee the process. The last mention of Simon as a Dorchester resident was on 17 February 16(34/?)35, when it was ordered that "the lott of medow that was Symon Hoytes next to boston side Joyning to John Witchfield shall be devided betwixt Mr. Rodger Williams and Gyles Gibbes."27
     Simon and his family moved to Scituate, Massachusetts, by the time he and his wife joined the church there on 17 April 1635.28 Given the last two references to Simon in the Dorchester town records, the move can be placed between 10 February (perhaps 17 February) and 17 April 1635. Rev. Lothrop of Scituate listed the house lots and their occupants from the time he arrived in September of 1634 to December? of 1636, the month being unclear.29 Simon had a house lot there between those dates. Dean's history of Scituate indicates that "Goodman Hoyt" was granted land in the "Greenfield" section of Scituate between April? and June? of 1635, although it is not clearly stated and there are no sources cited in this work.30 However, given all this evidence it is reasonable to say that the Hoyts moved to Scituate in late Winter of 1635 and had established themselves sufficiently enough to join the church and build or buy a house there within the next 4 months.
     The time of Simon's removal to Windsor, Connecticut, is not known, but speculated to have been between 1636 and 1639, when groups of settlers from Massachusetts Bay went there. He apparently does not appear in Scituate town and church records after 1635-1636. In 1677 Matthew Grant made a list of church records, apparently abstracted, that include the death of "Old Goode Hoyt" in 1644 and says there were 2 children born to Simon in Windsor.31 The latter wasn't a church record - the Hoyt's didn't join the Windsor church and their are no baptisms there for their children. This suggests that the Hoyts moved to Windsor with the 1639 party headed by Rev. Huit. He was surely there by 7 May 1640, when the Particular Court of Connecticut ordered that "Simon Hoyette and his ffamily are to be freed frō watch & ward untill there be further order taken by the courte."32 The reason for this may be found in where Simon was granted land in Windsor. He appears in an inventory of land ownership dated 28 February 1640/41.33 He had been granted "fourscore" acres of upland and meadow on the north side of the "rivulet," with 30 acres of the latter designated for his son Walter. A copy of this record describes the property as being on the side of the "rivulet" (Farmington River). Both are correct.



According to a reconstructed plan of Windsor home lots and roads in the 1640s and 50s, Peirson Lane and Kennedy Road were part of that early plan. (see note #)

This area became known as Hoyt's Meadow and was enough distant from the main settlement known as the Palisado to excuse Simon and Walter from guard duty. "Old Goode Hoyt" is on a list of deaths in 1644, A record of January 1659/60 says he had a "long seat" in the Windsor church, for which he paid 6 shillings.34 He had died in Stamford, Connecticut, by this time. The record refers to pews associated with homesteads and their original owners, although the latter are not named, and Simon was likely among them.
     Simon supposedly sold his land in Windsor in 1646.35 He supposedly was granted a homestead of 2 1/2 acres bordering the common in Fairfield, Connecticut, and 5 acres there at "Sascoe Neck" called "Hoit's Island." That would probably have been a high section of salt marsh along the Pine Creek flood plain just west of the center of the village. It appears this land is listed in an inventory for the town of Fairfield dated 6 March 16(48/49?), but I've not been able to find specifics about it.36 (for references to Simon's holdings in Fairfield see Elizabeth Hubbell Schenck, History of Fairfield, Fairfield County, Connecticut, vol. 1 (New York:1889), 45, 64, 375, 419.
This puts his move from Windsor about 1646-1648. As a resident of Stamford, he bought the Fairfield homestead of John Green on 4 March 1650/51, but seems to have sold that soon after. A reconstruction map of early lots in Fairfield puts Simon's homestead grant on what is now Rt. 1 (Post Road) just west of Old Post Road. Sasco Neck is in the southwestern corner of the town, starting, roughly, just southwest of that spot. John Green's lot in 1651 is about where the Fairfield Public Library is at the corner of Post and Old Post Roads.



(Elizabeth Hubbell Schenck, History of Fairfield, Fairfield County, Connecticut, vol. 1 (New York:1889), 65)

Simon's death is recorded in the Stamford town records as having occurred on the 1st day of the 7th month 1657, translating to 1 September 1657.37 An inventory of his estate was taken on 9 October 1657. This Fairfield Co. probate item is given here as it was transcribed for David Hoyt's book. It is described as being in among the town records, worn and partially torn.

[O]cto 9: 57 An Inventory of ye Estate of Simon Hoyte taken by ff[illegible] Rich Law Entry 24: 3 mo 1659

Impmus 8 Cowes 15-
It
[Item] 2 oxen 15-
It 4:2: years 10-
It 1:3:yearold com tine 03-
It 1 yearl-g 01-
It one Horse 10-0
It one mare & Colt 20-0
It one yearl-g colt with time 12- O - 0
It p Land 30-0-0
It one Homelote & a mill 30- 0 - 0
It in puter 01-
It in brass, 1: pan 1 : pot, 1 : mortter, 2 : cittills 02-
It in Iron, 1: pot, 2 lesser pots 03
It more Iron, axes, howes Chaines 05
It armes, 1 gun, 3 swords 2: barrells 02-08
It in woollen Cloathes 05-06
It one hat & lether Jacket 00-07
It one paire sheets & 43 yards new cloth 07-09
It too Chests, 2 wheeles 01-02
It in Coops ware 01-03
It in Turners ware 00-03
It three Earthen pots 00-
It one sadle & roapes & tow comes 01-
It in beding 06-
It
[sivory?] &c marking Iron 00-
It one colter & old Iron 00-
It in Indian Corn, 10: bushells 01-
It 25 bushells wheat 05-
It 80: ib: of tobaca 01-
It cart & plow & wheeles 02-
It two yoaks 00-
It in Debts, Due 05-
It in Hey six load 05-
It in pease 40 bushells 07-
It 14 swine 20-
It 2 hides 00-

[total] 233-

It in Debts ow-g 01
It oweing 25 bushells wheat 05-
It owing 00-


     Several receipts are said to have been in Simon's probate file for the distribution of his estate.38 They refer to Joshua Hoyt receiving portions from his brothers Moses (2 April 1666), Samuel (April 1665) and Benjamin. Samuel Finch, on behalf of his wife, received their portion in April 1665 and Samuel Firman gave his portion to his mother-in-law on 25 March 1662. Other receipts are probably missing, but the signature of "Joen" Hoyt can be found as witness to Moses' signature. The John Hoyt who witnessed Moses' signature could have been Simon's son or grandson. Other records in Stamford need to be researched.
     It is clear that Simon's children were by two wives. There is no primary evidence found identifying the family name of his second wife Susannah. There is a record made by Rev. John Lothrop of Scituate apparently in 1637 that lists the houses by heads of household of that town since his arrival in 1634. There is an entry for "The Smiths. Goodman Haits brother." No other entry is prefaced by "the," such as "the Hoyts." All the households except 3, including "The Smiths," are numbered, which may indicate those three were not land owners. Without more evidence, it can only be said that she may have been named Smith. Susannah and her heirs (among whom are not the English-born children of Simon) are named in an agreement regarding the distribution of her estate. At the time of her death she was Susannah Bates, probably the wife of Robert Bates of Stamford. Her heirs were her children Moses, Joshua, Samuel and Benjamin Hoyt, and the husbands of her daughters Mary, Sarah and Miriam (namely Thomas Lyon, Samuel Finch and Samuel "ffirman").39 The inventory was presented at court on 24 May 1659.

child of Simon? perhaps out of wedlock:40

Christopher, bur. 22 August 1618

Baptisms for children of Simon in West Hatch and Broadwinsor:

i. Walter bap. 29 November 1618
ii. Nicholas bap. 7 May 1620
iii. Alexander bap. 28 December 1623
iv. Agnes, bap. 18 October 1626
v. John bap. 25 December 1628 (Broadwinsor)

children of Simon and Susannah:

v. Mary, b. ca. 1630, m. Thomas Lyon
vi. Moses, b. ca. 1632 (Dorchester?), m. Elizabeth
vii. Joshua, b. ca. 1635 (Scituate?), Mary Bell (if she was the Mary Hoyt listed in father Francis Bell's will)
viii. Sarah, b. ca. 1637, (Scituate?), m. Samuel Finch
ix. Miriam, b. ca. 1639 (Scituate?), m. Samuel Firman (perhaps Forman) 25 March 1662, Fairfield, CT (unconfirmed, not in town records)
x. Samuel, b. ca. 1642, (Windsor?), m. 1. Hannah Holly, 16 November 167-, Stamford, CT, town record, 2. Rebecca
xi. Benjamin, b. 2 February 1644/1645, Windsor (Windsor land records, not seen by author), m. Hannah Weed, 5 January 1670(/71), Stamford, CT, town record





vital records sources:

1. David W. Hoyt, A Genealogical History of the Hoyt, Haight, and Hight Families, (Boston,1871).
2. Emily Warren Roebling, The Journal of the Reverend Silas Constant (Philadelphia:1903), 417-418.
3. reported in the Spring 1995 and Spring 1996 issues of Hoyts' Issue. I contacted two people, one on the county and one on the local level, to try to find someone who has specific knowledge of the Upwey parish records. There was no productive response.
3a. Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Dutchess and Putnam, New York (Chicago:1897), 369.
4. E. G. Sprague, The Ralph Sprague Genealogy (Montpelier, VT:1913), 23.
5. The 1689 document is a deposition as witness to the will of his brother John.
6. North Curry Hundred, Hallimote and Manor Court Tolls of the Dean and Chapter of Wells Cathedral, DD/CC 131924/6, translated from Latin.
7. Hallimote and Manor Courts, DD/CC131907/14.
8. Hallimote Court, DD/CC 131925/8.
9. Hundred Court, DD/CC 131925/4.
10. Hallimote Court,ibid.
11. Hundred Court, 131925/6.
12. Manor Court, 131925/5.
13. Hundred Court, 131910a/9; with his father, in Hallimote Court, same source.
14. Hallimote Court, DD/CC 131925/5.
15. Manor Court, DD/CC 131925/2.
16. Hallimote Court, 131910a/5.
17. Ibid, 131907/2.
18. Ibid, 131910a/9.
19. Somerset & Dorset Notes & Queries, 10:242-4.
20. discussed in Richard Frothingham, Jr., The History of Charlestown, Massachusetts (1845); Richard Soule, Memorial of the Sprague Family (Boston:1847).
21. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, ed., Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, etc., vol. 1 (Boston, 1853), 366.
22. Fourth Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston 1880; Dorchester Town Records; second edition 1883 (Boston, 1883), 2.
23. Ibid, 3.
24. Ibid, 5.
25. Ibid, 6.
26. Ibid, 10.
27. Ibid, 11.
28. Samuel Dean, History of Scituate, Massachusetts, from its First Settlement to 1831 (Boston, 1831).
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid.
31. Henry R. Stiles, A History of Ancient Windsor, reprint (Somersworth, NH: 1976) (hereafter HAW), 849, 853. Map is inserted between 122-123.
32. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, vol. 12 (Hartford:1928), "Records of the Particular Court of Connecticut 1639-1663," 11.
33. The Great Migration Begins project cites Windsor land records 1:88.
34. HAW, 150.
35. HAW, 159,167-8. This is an abstract of the original record, which has not been seen.
36. Donald Lines Jacobus, comp. & ed., History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield, vol. 1, part 3 (New Haven:1930) 293. Original records not seen.
37. Fairfield town records in The American Genealogist," 10:116.
38.The American Genealogist, 11:34.
39. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 10:42; The American Genealogist, 11:34. 40. E. B. Huntington, History of Stamford 1641-1868, etc. (Stamford:1868), 34.
41. "supposed son of Simon Hoyte," West Hatch parish records. Walter clearly was Simon and Jane's first child after their marriage about a year earlier.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted