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Whipples in Massachusetts in the 1630s

A Brief Synopsis of Research into the Identities of the Whipple Families Who Settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s and Reasons for Immigrating


Three Whipple families are thought to have emigrated from Essex County England in the 1630s, including a teenage boy named John who settled in Dorchester in 1632, later of Rhode Island. A second group to arrive was the middle age brothers, Matthew and John, who settled in Ipswich with their respective families, In 1638. This treatise attempts to show the results of more recent 21st century research as to their respective identities and possible reasons for leaving England.

The Teenager John Whipple

Who was the teenager John Whipple? It is yet indeterminate as to his birth family or date of birth. Nineteenth century family genealogists propounded more than one hypothetical candidate. Howbeit, in each case, specious proofs, or no evidence at all, was forthcoming. The somewhat less than informative particulars shown on John Whipple's tombstone in Providence, Rhode Island, indicate that he was born sometime around the year 1617. The below is an abstract of an email sent to the Whipple webmaster in February, 2022.

"It had been known that a John Whaple, of Essex County, England, was baptized in December of 1618. His candidacy was the only viable possibility brought forth by the efforts of several professional genealogist, and genealogical firms, during the last 30 years of the 20th century and two decades of the 21st. The first tangential mention of him was made by the late Honorable Blaine Whipple._1_ Ensuing research by genealogical firms in the early 1990s revealed that, indisputably, the 1618 baptismal date of John Whaple correlated analogously with the supposed birthdate of Captain John Whipple. Being that there was absolutely no other remotely agreed upon converse rejoinders, or additional determinations exhibited, then or by earlier researchers, he became the prime candidate during the ensuing two decades. This became the default position on this issue when dealing with the confusion inveterately generated by the noise of ubiquitous secondary sources.
"In 2006, an article by Dr. William Fiske caught the interest of the Whipple website. Among other disclosures, he argued that there could have been a genetic relationship between Captain John and the Whipple brother's families through a Robert Whaple_2_ . Concomitantly, an extensive analysis of existing research by Dr. Al Church of all available published data convinced the Website that it seriously consider the likelihood that John Whaple could be identified as the emigrant Captain John Whipple—even though it was cognizant of a rumor concerning the existence of supposed information that could show otherwise.
"In response, an ensuing attempt, by the most respected genealogical firm in England, was initiated to follow up on later research to identify any further inimical data relative to the Whipple and Whaple Families. The resultant report, which negated the assumed Whipple/Whaple connection, received in January, 2022, may be viewed on this web site. So concluded another chapter in the multi-decade search for the ancestors and identity of Captain John Whipple—the chapter on John Whaple."

Notwithstanding that John Whipple was but a youthful teenage resident, or visitor, to Bocking, in 1632, he would have been appreciably disconcerted about King Charles' incessant dictates that mandated exclusive worship in the Church of England. Many non-conformists were incarcerated, mutilated, or murdered for not doing so. Puritanism was well established by this time and its followers were enraged. In southeast England alone several hundred determined to leave England in the early 1630s.

It is argued below that John was evidently a convert to the teachings of the Reverend Hooker. Hooker was known as an outstanding speaker and a leader of universal Christian suffrage principles. For several years, he ministered in southeast England, encouraging his followers (particularly the youth) to move to America. He himself left for Massachusetts in 1635, immediately becoming disenthralled with the religious situation he encountered. Hooker disagreed that only those who had been approved as church members could be freemen. This disagreement on limitations to suffrage put him at odds with colony leadership. Thereupon, he led a group of a few hundred followers who, in 1636, founded the settlement of Hartford, Connecticut._3_

It is apparent that John was most likely a member of this group. It is well known that his record of membership in the Dorchester church has never been found, leading that church to insist that, "Records are not likely to be located in Dorchester or Hartford."_4_ This is clearly evidentiary proof that he faithfully followed Hooker on to Connecticut as well, the documentation of such being mislaid. However, he had at least three years remaining on his indentureship to Israel Stoughton. Being required by law, he consequently returned to Dorchester after an indeterminate period of time, being there by 1638, when he was married to Sarah.

Who was this mysterious wife of John Whipple with the unknown maiden name? A recent study of this 300-year old conundrum, initiated by the author, established that, "I agree with your conclusions that the Sarah's are hopelessly mixed-up. The primary sources are just not there." A second Rhode Island genealogist averred that "… The authority on pre-1640 families is Robert Charles Anderson. … You mentioned Thayer, Darling, and Hutchinson, these are common names in Rhode Island. I suspect if Anderson gave any weight to those names, he would have included them in his sketches, but he didn't. … This is a classic hard problem in genealogy. If it is ever solved, it would merit an article in the New England Historical Genealogical Register."_5_

The compendium of opinion of contemporary professional genealogists on this fervid matrimonial issue, as well as on the indeterminate background of her husband, is such that will likely perpetually remain lost within the timeless vicissitudes of the eons. However, could he have been at least tangentially related by adoption, or like as in the case of the John Whaple incident, to the family line of the Whipple brothers? Further research is warranted.

The Whipple Brothers

The Whipple brothers were the sons of the well-established Matthew Senior and his wife Joan. This couple had lived on Bradford Street in Bocking since at least the year 1593. Theirs was an extended family of six daughters and two sons. Fiske in his 2006 review identified William's parents as Thomas and Margaret Whipple of Braintree/Booking. He further evinced Thomas Junior's father to have been Thomas Whipple of Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, England. Nothing else is known of their ancestral linage._6_

Most laity is of the opinion that all emigrants, like John, left the old world strictly because of religious heterodoxy. This may have been one of the factors that compelled the Whipple brothers to emigrate, but it arguably was not the primary reason. Of the 20,000 leaving for New England between 1630 and 1645, many went to better themselves economically. The Whipple brothers very likely were among this group. Several financial recessions in the first third of the 1600s slowly but inexorably diminished the family's woolen enterprises. The brothers were probably among Essex clothiers to petition parliament because London merchants were not buying enough of their product.

"The cries for food by many thousands of the poor, who depend on this trade, do continually press us, not without threats, and some beginnings of mutinies, so that, if some speedy relief does not intervene, we can expect no less than poverty and starvation with the loss of our livelihoods."_7_
It is shown that the family had not been all that prosperous to begin with as recently revealed by an analysis of Matthew Whipple Senior's 1616 Last will and Testament by Debrett Ancestry Research genealogists:
"Although Matthew's will was proved in the Prerogative Court, the testator was of moderate prosperity: he owned his house in Bradford Street and his plate included a few silver spoons to be distributed amongst children. He did not mention any workshops, livestock, or instruments of trade. … Unlike some wealthier clothiers of the time, he had not acquired any land other than what surrounded his own house. His furniture was simple (joined stools rather than chairs) and he had no books or jewelry. There were no bequests to servants. … Finally, we noted that the will has a conventional religious preamble but shows no particularly Puritan fervour, nor any of the keen interest in education that some Puritan wills of the period show."_8_

As an accessory cause, as witnessed through mortality records, the Elder John's two sons and two daughters, as well as Matthew Junior's first two sons had died in infancy. This was normative for that time. Clearly, one-fourth of all children died at birth or during infancy, with forty percent dying before reaching adulthood. The average life span of an Essex resident was only 39 years in the early 1600s. One thing was certain: life could be uncertain, brutal and short. Clearly, unlike the unmarried teenager John Whipple's predilection toward religious heterodoxy, as dutiful parents concerned with their respective family's physical health and economic security, the Whipple brothers were just as forcibly compelled, and as fervent, to leave England for the new world and its opportunities for a better life.

Note: This treatise is based on research evidence published subsequent to the release of my 2007 book: A History of Captain John and Sarah Whipple of Dorchester, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island 1617-1685: A multigenerational Study of the First Whipple Family in America. As readily verified by its Frequently Asked Questions section on the Whipple Website, 21st century research has appreciably clarified and added to knowledge of Whipple families since 2007.

Charles M. Whipple, Ph.D., Ed.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Philosophy
University of Central Oklahoma

References to External Sources

  1. Blaine Whipple, History and Genealogy of "Elder" John Whipple of Ipswich, Massachusetts: His English Ancestors and American Descendants, (Victoria, B.C.: Trafford, 2004), p. 14.
  2. William Wyman Fiske, "The Whipple Family of Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire: Proposed Ancestral Origin of Matthew Whipple of Bocking, Essex, and a Whipple Ancestral Line for Arthur Gary of Roxbury, Massachusetts," The Genealogist, vol. 20, no. 2 (Fall 2006), pp. 191-217.
  3. Timothy L. Jacobs, Reverend Thomas Hooker, Hartford Founder (Hartford, Connecticut: Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford, Connecticut, 2008), and several general books about Reverend Hooker.
  4. Records of the First Church at Dorchester in New England, 1636-1734 (Boston: George H. Ellis, 1891) IV.
  5. Correspondence from Diane Boumenot,
  6. Ibid., Fiske.
  7. Ibid., Blaine Whipple, p. 20.
  8. Correspondence with Weldon Whipple, February 2022.