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Hathway or Hathaway?

In my ancestor's biographies I spell their names the way they did wherever possible. Some were illiterate, shown by signing with a mark. Many in the 17th and 18th centuries were semi-literate - they signed their names but probably didn't have frequent reasons to write and not enough education to spell everything correctly. When it comes to surnames, some were committed to a certain spelling. Some spelled their name or names inconsistently, probably because they signed infrequently and it wasn't important to them to be consistent. I also compare signatures of other members of their family. In some cases there was a prevailing spelling of the time. For instance, the prevailing spelling of the family we now call "Hathaway" was "Hathway." Others spelling this name used "Hathwey," "Hatheway" and less commonly "Hadawy" and "Hathaway." "Hathaway" became the standard spelling in the later 18th century, and I think using it is anachronistic for earlier generations. Even if it was phonetic and the signers were semi-literate, I defer to "Hathway" because it was the most common spelling in the 17th and early 18th centuries in New England.

     There is only one reference to Nicholas in New England records. On "the 24th" day of the "12th Moneth, February" 1639, Nicholas Hathway was recorded on a list of men who were given land in Mount Wollaston based on a covenant.1 Mount Wollaston was also known as Braintree, and when the town was incorporated later that year (1640), it officially became Braintree. The year given here is in the Old Style (Julian calendar), which was favored in England and the British colonies at the time. The Julian year ended on 23 March rather than December 31 (as on the Gregorian calendar, officially adopted in 1752). March was called the first month rather than January. Giving a date that qualifies February as the twelfth month leaves no doubt that this is an Old Style date, which converts to 1640 on the current (Gregorian) calendar. By repetition from a source I haven't identified, nearly all references to Nicholas in print and online say he immigrated in 1638, lived in Boston and/or Dorchester, then went either directly to Taunton or to Braintree in 1639. Apparently someone was confused by the fact that the above land grant list was made in Boston, probably because Braintree hadn't been incorporated yet. I don't know why 1638 became the fixed or circa date for his immigration, nor is there any obvious reason for Dorchester to have ever been mentioned in connection with Nicholas. I do understand why almost everyone says he was in Braintree in 1639. The difference in calenders, although a major factor in dating events, isn't a well-known fact. The hathway Family Association compounds the error when, at its website, it says "there is proof that he arrived in New England between 24 February 1638-1639," which has also been repeated at personal genealogy sites. At this time, and more commonly later in the 17th century, a dual year was sometimes used to clarify this calendar overlap. If the clerk, or whoever wrote the land grant list, had done so, it would have been "24 February 1639/40."
     The original bounds of Braintree, incorporated in May of 1640, included what are now the towns of Quincy, Braintree and Randolph. Nicholas was granted sixteen acres, four acres each for the number in his household, and an additional twenty acres. The agreement was to pay three shillings per acre to the town. Some on the list, including Nicholas, were of "Monaticott" (Monatiquot), which was within the bounds of what is now the Town of Braintree.
     In Pattee's history of Braintree and Quincy, he points out these land grants were given to a very large number of men, many of whom didn't settle in Braintree.2 Nicholas still owned the land on 14 July 1642, when "Hattaway's" land was an abutting property in a deed description.3
     On a Taunton list supposedly dating to 1643 of men age 16-60 who were subject to military duty, Nicholas doesn't appear.4 Nothing else is known about him, including when or where he was born, his parents, the name of his wife, any activity in Taunton or when he died. This could partly be explained if he died between 1640 and 1643. We can only assume from process of elimination that it was Nicholas who had the original right John Hathway could claim in Taunton in 1675 that was father's. Nicholas isn't named, but many have said Nicholas was a founder of Taunton based on this. It's likely, but not a given.
     The Joseph hathway who supposedly became a freeman in Taunton in 1657 and thought to be a son of Nicholas is very likely fictitious. I've seen no record specifically of Taunton freemen in 1657 or any reference to a Joseph hathway in this generation. There's a list of admitted freemen made by the Plymouth Colony court at its June 1657 session (no towns given) that has no Hathways (variously spelled) on it.5 The origin of this claim is in James Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of New England.6 This early work was impressive in scope, but not without errors. No one else since has claimed to have seen Joseph in a primary record.
     There's also a claim that Jacob was another son of Nicholas. This is based on the proprietors records for Narragansett Township No. 4 in Hampshire County, Massachusetts involving land given to veterans of King Philip's War?.7 Jacob hathway of Taunton's heirs are on the list. I find nothing further about Jacob or his heirs other than this one reference, which I think was a mistake. Abraham hathway of Dighton, a son of John Hathway, is also on the list and he's on a payroll for having served.8 None of the other Taunton claimants or those named as having the original right Even if a Jacob Hathway or hathway did serve and he was a son of Nicholas, he would have been in his 40s (assuming Nicholas died in the early 1640s). That's very unlikely for a private. If he was an officer, he would surely be in records as such, and if he did have heirs, he would probably have had them by 1675, making it even more unlikely he would go off to war. Abraham was born about 1652. His male appear in Hampshire County records. It's possible Jacob's heirs were all female and also appear in records, but without knowing their first names, there's not other evidence to help trace them. Since Abraham's father John was the only child of record of Nicholas, Jacob would more reasonably be another of John's children, but his sons were all given real estate?
     The four people in Nicholas's household in Mount Woollaston were probably Nicholas, his wife, John and another child, maybe a daughter who disappears from lack of records. If it was Jacob "of Taunton," whatever heirs he had can't be traced. Although the early town records for Taunton burned in 1838, there are still land, probate and court records. A daughter(s) would be harder to track without the town's death or marriage records.

child of Nicholas Hathway:

John, b. abt. 1629

1. "Boston Town Records, 1640" in Second Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston (Boston:1881), 50.
2. William S. Pattee, A History of Old Braintree and Quincy, etc. (Quincy, MA:1878), 29.
3. Suffolk Deeds, vol. 1 (Boston: 1880), not paginated, original folio 28, mss date "14, 5, 1642."
4. Francis Baylies, An Historical Memoir of the Colony of New Plymouth (Boston: 1830), 267.
5. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England hereafter (RCNP), Court Orders, vol. 3 (Boston:1855), 117.
6. James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, vol. 2 (Boston: 1860), 376.
7. images of a mss copy of this book are a database online,, p. 3; see also an abridged version in George Madison Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip's War (Boston: 1896), 427-8.
8. New England Historic Genealogical Register, vol. 40 (Boston: 1886), 396; ibid, vol. 37 (Boston: 1883), 66.

all text and photographs © 1998-2023 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted

Elizabeth?, bap. 25 November 1621, Kingscote, bur. 17 June 1634?, St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, Surrey
Deborah?, bap,. 29 February 1623, St. Saviour, Southwark (father brewer), bur. 10 August 1624, St. Olave
Samuel?, bap. 4 February 1624/25, St. Olave, Southwark (father shipwright), bur. 1 September 1625?, St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, Surrey
Thomas?, bap. 7 January 1626/27, St. Olave (father brewer)
Abigail?, bur. 17 July 1635, St. Mary Magdalen (a child)
daughter, stillborn, bur. 4 March 1649, St. Olave, dau of Nicholas Ellen, bur. 7 May 1649, St. Olave, dau of Nicholas Thomas?, bap. 23 February 1652, Southwark
Ellen, bur. August 1656, St. Olave, dau of Nicholas John hathway, bur. 30 July 1630, St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, consumption
Sarah, bur. 16 July 1625, same Thaddeus, bur. 24 December 1630, same, pensioner Thomas, son of Abraham, bur. July 1642, St. Olave Abraham, bur. 19 April 1649, same