Sorting Out Two Cousins Named William for the Whipple Database

Sorting Out Two Cousins Named William

for the Whipple Database

Weldon Whipple, Webmaster, Whipple Website
11 Nov 2002


Identifying the parents of Captain John Whipple's two grandson's named William is a task that has challenged genealogists for well over 100 years. Thanks to the research of numerous genealogists (two of whom, Joanne Lahr-Kreischer and Charles Whipple, have submitted pages to the Whipple Website), we are learning more about those two cousins with matching names.

This page attempts to state the reasoning for the information about the two Williams as they currently appear in the Whipple Database. (Click to display the pages for the William with 17 children and his cousin by the same name.)

Please feel free to question any of the information that appears in the Whipple Database! We welcome your input in correcting and completing the information in the Whipple Website.

Who were the parents of the William born 27 May 1685?

Page 255 of the Providence volume of James Arnold's Vital Record of Rhode Island, 1635-1850 (Providence: Narragansett Historical Pub. Co., 1891-) lists a William Whipple born to Daniel and Hannah Whipple on 27 May 1685.

When was the other William born?

Joanne Lahr-Kreischer gives a birth date for William Jr. (i.e. William, the son of William, who was the son of Captain John Whipple) of 27 May 1695 and cites two secondary sources:

  1. John Whipple Hill, Genealogical Notes of the Whipple-Hill Family (Albany: J. Munsell, 1897), p. 35.
  2. David Jillson, "Descendants of Captain John Whipple of Providence Rhode Island," New England Genealogical Register 32: 406.

Charles Whipple estimates William Jr.'s birth about 1691, based on a cemetery inscription that gives his death in 1776.

Problems with a 27 May 1695 birth date for William Jr.

  1. It is exactly 10 years (to the day) after the death date given by Arnold for William, the son of David. This suggests a typographical error by some typesetter, a misreading of Arnold or a possible error in the research notes of Jillson or some other researcher.
  2. Joanne states that Peter, the first child of William Jr., was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, on 25 May 1709. That would indicate that William Jr.'s oldest son, Peter, was conceived when his father was fifteen years and three months old. He would have married at age 15.
  3. Other sources indicate that Peter was not William's first child. (See Vital Records of Attleborough, Bristol Co., MA to the end of the year 1849: Attleborough Births [compact disc] (Wheat Ridge, Colo.: Search & ReSearch Pub. Corp., c1998), p. 285.) That source lists the birth of a son William on 23 Sep 1704, to William and Elizabeth (Wilmarth) Whipple. If his father had been born 27 May 1695, the child would have been conceived in about December 1703, when his father was 8 1/2 years of age.

If we add ten years to William's age, he (with his wife Elizabeth Wilmarth) could have more reasonably conceived a son at 18 1/2 years of age. Identifying the William who lived in Attleboro and married Elizabeth Wilmarth as the William listed by Arnold, born 27 May 1685, seems to make sense.

This suggests that the William who lived in Attleboro was the son of David, not William Jr.

The William with 17 children

Large families were common in the early eighteenth century. However, because of the high mortality rate, it was unusual to have seventeen living children. Henry E. Whipple writes that "he had the largest family of any of the Whipples on record." (See his A Brief Genealogy of the Whipple Families Who Settled in Rhode Island (Providence: A. C. Greene, 1873), 48.) Henry, like Joanne, concludes that the William with 17 children was the son of David.

What we know about the William who had 17 children

  • He married Elizabeth Sprague in about 1713. (Elizabeth, a Mayflower descendant, was born 26 May 1694.)
  • Their first child was born 28 Feb 1714/15.
  • He lived in Smithfield, R.I.
  • William and his family were active residents of Smithfield; records there refer to him as William Junior and mention some of the 17 children.

The occurrence of "Junior" in Smithfield records when referring to William--as well as mention of some of his 17 children by name--suggests that the William of Smithfield (who was the father of 17 children) was the son of William, the son of Captain John Whipple.

Looking Forward

If you have an alternate explanation of how the William who married Elizabeth Wilmarth in Attleboro could have been someone other than the son of David, (the son of Captain John), please send your sources and explanation to the Webmaster.

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