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According to his will, written in New England in 1675 before a sea voyage, Jeffrey lived in Abbottsbury, Dorsetshire. This leaves little doubt that he was the "Jeffery Thistle," son of Richard, baptized in Abbotsbury on 10 May 1621. His father was likely that Richard who married Mary Motyer on 17 January 1612/13 in the same town. There is a record for Richard Thistle, son of Hugh, baptized there on 23 March 1584. No other Richard in Abbotsbury of this generation is in the baptism records and he had a brother Jeffrey, making it very likely he was the father of Jeffrey in New England. Hugh married Elizabeth Trevett on 13 July 1583 in Abbotsbury, and there ends any reasonable speculation about the Thistle lineage. He is supposed to have been the son of Thomas, but the church records don't go back far enough for Hugh's baptism. Although it's been stated elsewhere, no credible evidence was found for this article to think the family connects to anyone named "Tisdale." Jeffrey was certainly married to Mary Feaver on 16 November 1642 in Abbotsbury. The only couple with those names in that town at the time, "Geoffry, Jeffry or Geofery" "Thystle" and Mary, no last name given, had sons, presumably twins, baptized there named Richard and Roger. Richard's baptism is within about a year of when Richard of Beverly was born. Daughter "Jone" is also in the baptism records and is mentioned in his will. She was very likely the Joan Thistle who married in Beverly in 1679.(1)

Jeffrey's will(2):

In the name of God Amen. The last will & testament of Jeffery Thissell of Abbotsbury in the County of Dorset in old England but at present in New England being in perfect health & memory but being bound for sea, not knowing how God may deal by him & take him out of this world & having an estate have given & disposed as followeth

Imprimis I bequeath my soul to God that gave it & my body to the earth to be buried in good Christian like manner

2dly I make Richard Reith & Matthew Clark both of Marblehead New England to be my sole executors to see those things truly & rightly performed as shall be specified & mentioned

3dly I give unto my eldest son Richard Thissell twenty shillings silver, which John Darlin of Salem is indebted to mee & one halfe barrel of oyl of George Tuck & ten shillings in old England money, which I have in one of the executor's hand, Richard Reith, as also all my fishing craft that is in my chest at Clem English house in Salem

Fourthly I give unto my daughter Jone Thissell in Abbetsbury in the County of Dorsett England a bond that is in the hands of John Hedgecock in Abbetsbury of 30 lb principal with the use of it for five year at this date, as alsoe I give unto her all that is due unto me from Mr. Henry Feavour as alsoe all my whole propriety that I have in England either in goods or any other thing whatever. Fifthly I give to my grandchild Jeffrey my son Richard's son twentie pound New England money silver that lieth in Richard Reith's hands, as also I give to him all that is coming to me of the voyage along with John Darlin of Salem, which Ezekiel Waters hath the doing of, as alsoe I give to my said grandchild Jeffrey all my whole venture that I now carry with me this voyage as alsoe what wages may be due to mee as alsoe fifteen acres of land that lieth at Bass river more or less. Sixthly I give unto my son Richard's daughter Mary ten pounds in silver of New England money which lieth in the hands of Richard Reith.

I also give unto my grandchild Jeffrey my chest & bed that is at Clem English in Salem.

I doe further order what is coming from the voyage of Ezekiel Watters shall be paid to Richard Thissell towards the land for the use of the boy, this is to be paid at the proving of the will & that it may be put into my Executor's hands & that the twentie pounds & the ten pounds that I give unto the children shall be kept in the Executor's hands till they come to age & if either of the children dieth, to goe to that as remains alive & land & all to goe from generation to generation.

Lastly I give unto Richard Reith and Matthew Clark my executors twentie shillings apiece that is in hand and twentie shillings a piece more out of the voyage now in hand which I goe. In witness hereunto I have sett my hand and seale this 29th of October in the year of our Lord 1675.

The marke Jeffrey (mark) Thissell

Signed, sealed in the presence of
Samuel Morgan
Edward Humphrey

When the will was brought to probate "Samuel Morgaine & Edward Humphrey gave in oath in the Court at Salem that the within written was signed & declared to be the last will & testament of the said Thistle & there is none later made that they know of 27.4.76"

Jeffrey's estate inventory:

An Inventory of the whole estate of Jeffrey Thissell deceased as it was prised by men whose names are written

Item For the land in the bounds of Beverly 30 00 0
For money left in Richard Rieth's hand 30 00 0
More, for wages, which is in the hands of Richard Reith, money 7 17 0
For money in Ezekiel Waters hands 9 2 0
For money in Henery Hayman's hand 3L 0s 6d in old England money & six shillings in New England 3 6 6
More for cloase [clothes] Chest & a sea bedd 3 13 6

L83 19 0

Samuel Morgan Edw Humphrey As for the land above sd & the Cloase Chest & bed was prised by us at money silver of New England & it is to be understood that all ye rest is silver The debts of Jeffrey Thissell as doth appear at present is in silver 17L 10s Richard Reith & Matthew Clark executors gave oath to the truth of the above Inventory & that as far as they know & what shall come to their knowledge afterward to ad to it 27.4.76

Attests Hilliard Veren

June 27 1676

Witnessed by me Robert White aged 29 years, that this said Jeffrey Thissell being abord the [ship] Waymouth Merchant sayling from Saltitudes being bound for New England wass taken sick by the way & I Robert White doth hereby witness & testify that this sayd Jeffrey Thissell being in his death bed called for this sayd Henry Heman
[an 1860 abstract calls him "Herman," original document not found], being the last words that ever he spake consarning this matter & desired Henry Heman with me Robert White being a witness to go to his Chaste & to take out 3L & 6d pence in lawfull money of England & 6s shillings in New England money. This said Henry Heman went to his chest & took this money & when he had told it before this sayd Jeffrey Thissell & mee Robert White he desired him to carry it home & too give it to his dafter with which being his last will & testament I Robert White doth testify that he gave to his dafter.

Witness, Robert White

Sworn in Court this 19.5 mo 1676

Attests Hilliard Veren

     These legal documents shed a lot of light on Jeffrey's life. He appears to have lived with Clement English in Salem when he was in New England, at least in the Fall of 1675. His clothes chest and "sea bed" he presumably took with him when shipping out, but plausibly used wherever he was boarding. His son Richard deposed in a case involving the clothes chest of Richard Ober, and the lack of it preventing him from honoring an agreement to join the crew of a ship. Ezekiel Waters was English's brother-in-law. Robert White and Henry Heman haven't been identified, but were likely based in or near Weymouth, England. The ship Weymouth Merchant of Weymouth is mentioned once in Massachusetts Bay Colony records. The governor of the colony signed a "bill of health" for the ship before it left (probably Boston), dated 21 September 1674(3). William "Prybs" (also not identified) was master, with a crew of 12 sailing to "Leghorn" (Livorno, Italy). The crew is unknown, but it gives an idea as to the extent of voyages undertaken by the ship. "Saltitudes," also translated as "Sal Tortudas" (depending on the source) is surely a corruption of "Salt Tortugas." This was one of many descriptive references to Isla la Tortuga off the coast of Venezuela, a popular place for raking and collecting salt. It was then used for curing cod until it reached port.

By the late 1670s, 100 English ships and 440 New England boats fished annually in Atlantic waters, each required thousands of pounds of salt to cure their catch." "In the 1670s, New Englanders revived raking at Salt Tortuga, which produced the sort of fine-grain salt that was best for the dry-cod fishery. When William Dampier visited Tortuga in 1679, he found the crews of twenty American vessels raking there from April to August, when salt crystallized."(4)

There is no doubt that "Weymouth Merchant" was, at least in part, in the service of catching cod. It was a huge business that connected the "West Country" of England, including Weymouth, and the primary fishing ports in New England, including, in particular, Marblehead.
     Richard Reith lived in Marblehead, where Jeffrey and his son Richard lived in the late 1660s. Both appear among Marblehead men who signed a petition against imposts dating from about late 1668.(5) Obviously Jeffrey's base while in New England was in this part of Essex County.
     With his son Richard, Jeffrey bought about 30 acres of land at Plumb Cove, Beverly, in 1674 for 50 lbs.(6) This was the land within the "bounds of Beverly" mentioned in his will and inventory, described as 15 acres and worth 30 lbs, which shows his right in the land was about half. He left his portion to his grandson Jeffrey, which then reverted to his granddaughter Mary when Jeffrey died. Jeffrey and Mary were his only grandchildren born when he was alive. Sidney Perley, in his work Beverly in 1700 fn (Essex Institute Historical Collections, p. 103) was confused when he said the land was bought by Jeffrey alone at an unknown date and that Richard Thistle inherited it from his son Jeffrey when he died.
     Daughter Joan was obviously living in Abbotsbury when her father wrote his will. Her mother was buried there on 13 December 1670. Where Jeffrey and his family lived in Abbotsbury isn't apparent. Joan was probably only about 14 when her mother died, so she must have been taken in by someone given that Jeffrey spent long periods at sea. She would have received her inheritance when she was about 20. With that money, she may have then had the means to sail to New England, where she likely lived with her brother Richard in Beverly. Given the unusual name, she was surely the "Jone Thistle" who married William Hathan/Hathen in Beverly in 1679.(6) Siblings Roger and Mary don't appear in any parish records after their baptisms and likely died young, as did their first sister Mary.

children of Jeffrey Thistle and Mary Feaver:

1. Richard, bap. 10 May 1643, Abbotsbury
2. Roger, bap. 10 May 1643, Abbotsbury, no further record 3. Mary, bap. 12 November 1648, Abbotsbury, no further record, presumably died before sister Mary was born
4. Mary, bap. 3 November 1650, Abbotsbury, no further record
5. Joan, bap. 3 February 1655/56, Abbotsbury, likely the Joan Thistle who m. William Hathen/Hathan (written as "Hathorn"), both of Beverly, at Beverly, 19 May 1679

vital records sources: Jeffrey's baptism and marriage records were taken from images of the parish records of Abbotsbury at Also the records referred to of his parents and children. The baptisms of Mary (#4) and "Jone" have been transcribed incorrectly (their names) at and

1. Vital Records of Beverly, Massachusetts, to the year 1849 (Topsfield:1909), 2:301. Also Early Records of the Town of Beverly," etc. (Boston:1907), 1:60.
2. Essex County Probate Records, 301 (Old Series):38-9, will and inventory. Original papers, including Robert White's deposition, are in Essex County Quarterly Court Files, 25:67-9 and Salem Quarterly Records, 5:98. The original wording of White's testimony is available in an internet database, but backtracking to find the source didn't reveal where I found it. The papers at the courthouse haven't been checked.
3. Suffolk Deeds (Boston:1894), 7:343
4. Michael J. Jarvis, In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783, 189-90.
5. "New England Historical and Genealogical Register," 9:82.
6. Essex County Deeds, 4:81.

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