I was talking with my mother on the phone the other night. She mentioned that her Grandpa always used to claim that our family, the Seymour family, is “royalty.” I get the feeling that many thought this was crazy… or perhaps they believed him, but how do you prove it? And who cares if we’re decedents of a crazy, inbred (albeit wealthy and questionably influential) family anyway?
Out of curiosity, a few years ago I was looking for a link between our “known” Seymour line and the ducal Seymour family (the family of Jane Seymour – Henry VIII’s third wife) on Ancestry. I was not aware of the rabbit hole I was getting myself into. Entire books have been written specifically on this topic, papers have been written and defended. Many in our extended family (here in the States, since the 1800’s) have cared enough about this to do extensive research. Trips have been made to the UK multiple times, searching for answers. Some attempts to link the families have been dishonest, or at least severely misinformed. This led to some family drama that is well-documented.
So, we have dishonesty, misinformation, and family drama within the more recent Seymour line on our side of the Atlantic; and the well-known back-stabbing, massive cover-ups, and frankly, beheadings, in 16th century England within the ducal Seymour line. This causes complications in linking the families, to say the least.
To help you understand this story, I’m starting with our absolutely known (for sure) ancestors within the US / New England.
The New England Seymour Family:
Richard Seymour (1604-1655)
It is quite easy to follow the Seymour name back through the years. Within the US and New England, if you go back as far as you can, simply following the Seymour name back through US Census Data, within a few minutes you land at Richard Seymour, “The Colonist” (as he is often referred to within family histories). Richard Seymour was the first documented Seymour to land on this side of the Atlantic. He arrived in perhaps 1638-9 (although there is no record of him in England after 1636). His name is spelled “Richard Seymour” on the Founders Monument in Hartford, Connecticut (image below); however, his name is often written “Richard Seamer” within town documents. Other spellings have been found of Seymour as well. There’s the “old timey” spelling: St. Maur, and other more recent variations such as Seemaur, Semore, Seamore, Seemore, etc. (Sometimes, you just have to use your imagination.) It appears, when reading town documents, that the spelling fully landed on “Seymour” by most, if not all, decedents within a generation or two after landing in New England.
According to “The English Home and Ancestry of Richard Seamer…” (1917, George D. Seymour, p. 7), Richard Seymour was baptized Jan. 27, 1604/5 at Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, England. The line, which I thought was unusual (Roman numerals?.. and I know xxvij isn’t “right,” but that’s what it says) from the Parish Registers of Sawbridgeworth, co. Herts reads:
“1604 Richard Seamer ye sonne of Robert Seymer was baptised ye xxvijth day of January”
Sawbridgeworth is a town and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England, close to the boarder with Essex. It’s about 25 miles northeast of London. Current parish population of Sawbridgeworth is about 8500. According to George Seymour (the author above), the local pronunciation of the name is “Sapsearth.”
Richard was the son of Elizabeth Waller (1578-1630) and Robert Seymour (1573-1637), and it was here in Sawbridgeworth that he married Mercy Ruscoe (1610-1664), daughter of Roger & Sarah Ruscoe of Sawbridgeworth, on April 18, 1631. Richard and Mercy had 6 children.
- Thomas: baptized at Sawbridgeworth, co. Herts, Eng July 15, 1632; died at Norwalk, CT October 1712
- Mary: baptized at Sawbridgeworth, co. Herts, Eng January 9, 1634/5; buried there April 3, 1635
- Mercy: baptized at Sawbridgeworth, co. Herts, Eng July 8, 1636;
- John: born probably in New England about 1639; died at Hartford, CT 1713
- Zechariah: born at Hartford, CT 1642; died at Wethersfield, CT 1702
- Capt. Richard, of Farmington, CT: born at Hartford CT 1645, died in 1710.
So, why did Richard leave England? In her paper titled “Richard Seymor, Hartford, 1640: A Paper Read Before the Connecticut Chapter Daughters of Founders of Patriots of America…,” (1903) Mrs. Maria Seymour Watson Pinney assumes Richard left England due to “the laws of entitlement giving to the eldest son from generation to generation the estates.” She goes on to assume Richard “had too much spirit to remain a dependent upon that elder and more fortunate relative.” Although this is possible, nowhere in her paper does she mention Richard had any older siblings and nowhere in my research have I found him to have had any older siblings. So, we look back to good ol’ George (whose research seems to be the most reliable). In his book, George Seymour believes the move from England was more politically/religiously motivated. He states that “it was probable that the emigration of Richard Seamer to New England was due to the influence of Rev. Thomas Hooker.” I will write more on Hooker later, but for now I will say he was an amazing public speaker and had very progressive views for his time, specifically around the ideas of religious tolerance and the right to vote. It was in this vision that Hartford, Conn. was founded by Hooker and his followers (known as “Mr. Hooker’s Company”) in 1636.
Although Richard Seymour is listed on the Founder’s monument in Hartford, he was not one of the original proprietors. He arrived in 1639 (a couple years late) and met up with many old acquaintances, including the family of William Ruscoe, his wife’s uncle and one of “Mr. Hooker’s Company.”
Over half the immigrants who settled in Hartford were from Essex, England (about 15 miles from Richard’s old home). Richard Seymour first shows up in Hartford within the land inventory of February 1639/40. He was listed among the “Inhabitance who were granted lotts to have only at the townes courtesie with liberty to fetch woode and keep swine or coues on the common.” Richard’s lot was No. 36 (near the Cow Pasture) as can be seen on this map of 1640 Hartford (also shown here). In 1647 Richard was chosen as the town’s chimney viewer (his duties being more of a building inspector or fire chief according to G. Seymour).
Since Richard received land by the “courtesy of the town,” it can be assumed they at least liked him enough to keep him around. However, the original proprietors had the right to secure land for their sons. This opportunity was not available to Richard and his family.
This is probably why Richard left Hartford. Richard Seamer and John Ruscoe (his wife’s cousin, William’s son) were among the 14 original planters of Norwalk, CT. In 1650, they signed an agreement with Roger Ludlow. The below images are taken from “The Ancient Historical Records of Norwalk, Conn…“ compiled in 1847 by Edwin Hall. The first is the “Indian Deed to Roger Ludlow.” (Included as I thought it was interesting and gives context.) The second and third images show the “Agreement of Mr. Ludow With the Planters of Norwalk.”
Richard and John settled at Norwalk, their homesteads facing each other on opposite sides of the same street. Richard’s lot was “Bounded east by the The Common, west by Town’s Highway, north by Town’s Highway, south by Richard Webb’s home-lot.” In searching the town records, I also found that in 1655 Richard Seymour was chosen one of the selectmen of Norwalk, but as you’ll see he died shortly after. On a side note, these town records are actually a great read. I really recommend looking through them (link in caption below). They discuss “taking care of and looking after Indians,” how they got nails for (I assume building) the meeting house, “felling timber” and whose wood is whose, and they made it lawful to kill swine in the planting field. Apparently, they also had a problem with wolves and paid people who killed them. Attendance at town meetings must have also been a problem as they had to officially make it a mandatory thing (or you’d be fined). Later records taken during the revolutionary war are also quite interesting.
Richard’s oldest son, Thomas Seymour (1632-1712, also our direct-line ancestor), is listed as a founder of Norwalk, Connecticut (see the monument below). He would have been about 18-19 years old at the time. Thomas later married the daughter of another founder of Norwalk, Matthew Marvin. Her name was Hannah Marvin. Thomas and Hannah had 9 children, our direct-line ancestor being Captain Matthew Seymour… More on Thomas and Matthew later.
Most believe Richard died between July 29, 1655 (date of will) and Oct. 10, 1655 (date of inventory) at Norwalk, Conn. (Note: this conflicts with the death date given in “Families of Early Hartford” which was Nov. 1655.)
In is will, Richard states “I doe will and bequeath unto my loving wife, Mercy Seamor, my whole estate, viz. House and lands, cattle and movables, except… my eldest sonn Thomas should have two steers… and my best cartt.. to receive soen after my decease.” He talks a few times about his “loving wife Mercy” and how it’s his will that “shee possess and enjoy” the rest of his estate. They must have had a good relationship.
After Richard’s death, Mercy did remarry. She married John Steele on Nov 25, 1655 at the age of 45.
Richard’s will…. Taken from “A History of the Seymour Family…” (1939, George Dudley Seymour, p. 26-27)