The American Genealogist, Volume CXLVI, pgs. 28-34

THE WIDOW FRANCES (ALBRIGHT) WELLS, WIFE OF THOMAS COLEMAN OF WETHERSFIELD AND HADLEY

Douglas Richardson

In 1952, Donald Lines Jacobus and W. Herbert Wood published an article entitled, "Widow Frances Wells and Hugh Wells of Wethersfield, Connecticut" (The American Genealogist, 28[1952]:227-35). Their main purpose was to prove that Widow Frances Wells (later wife of Thomas Coleman of Wethersfield and Hadley) was not the mother of Hugh Wells of Wethersfield, as often claimed (see, for example, the Register, 44[1890]:208). Frances was, rather, the mother of only three Wells children: Mary (wife of Jonathan Gilbert of Hartford), Thomas (of Wethersfield and Hadley), and John (of Stratford, Connecticut and Hatfield, Masschusetts). These three children were all named in Frances Coleman's will, proved 26 March 1678, along with her daughter Deborah Coleman.

Jacobus and Wood provided an excellent clue to the English origin of the Wells family. They cited a clause in the will of Frances's second husband, Thomas Coleman, dated 29 September 1674, by which he gave "to my son in law [i.e. stepson] Thomas Wells ... all my part of that which is in England due to me for ye Rent of ye House at Evesham & two his son John Wells now dwelling with me 10 Provided that both these last are given with this Proviso that all writeings Respecting ye house in England & any exchange for it here be quietely delivered in & all Pleas Concerning those matters to cease according to ye last agremt. novem: 2d 1670."

From this clause in his will, some genealogists, such as Sylvester Judd, in his History of Hadley (1905; reprint ed., Somersworth, N.H., 1976) have assumed that Coleman himself was from Evesham, co. Worcester. Jacobus and Wood concurred, suggesting that since Coleman left his interest in the house in England to his stepson, the property may have actually belonged to his wife Frances or even to her former Wells husband.

This writer, aware of the Evesham clue, noted in an index of Worcestershire probates an entry for the will of one Thomas Welles, weaver, of Evesham, probated in 1637 (Edward Alexander Fry, ed., Calendar of Wills and Administrations in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Worcester, 1660-1642 [London, British Record Society, 1910], 164). Upon learning that the original will had been filmed and was available from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the microfilm was ordered and it was quickly discovered that although Frances was not mentioned by name, this was indeed the will of her first husband.

In his will, dated 9 February 1637, Thomas Welles referred to his wife, but not by name, and to his three minor children, Thomas, Mary and John. To his eldest son, Thomas, he bequeathed his house, "after the death of his mother." This confirmed Jacobus's suspicion that the house mentioned in the will of Thomas Coleman had been the rightful property of Frances and her son in the first place.

The will (Consistory Court of Worcester, 1637, No. 145, on FHL Microfilm 98,054) is abstracted as follows:

In the name of god amen be it knowe to all men that I Thomas Welles of Evesham weaver doe make my last will and testament the ninth day of feberrary 1637 the maner and forme as foloweth
first I beequeth my soule unto the hands of my lord and saviour Jesus Christ whoo hath Redemed it next I bequeth my body to the earth and all my worldly goods In maner and forme following
first I forgive my father the 5 pownd which he oweth to me and I give to my father 6 pownd more to be paid in three yere by equell somes fourty shillings a yeare but if he dy the mony that is unpaid to remain to the Exseckiter.
Next I give to my eldest son Thomas 20 pownd to be paid at the age of 21 yeares and my house after the death of his mother Item I give to my daughter Mary 30 pownd likwise to my son John 30 more but if my wife be with child and it live then it is my will that 10 pownd a pece shall be taken from John and Mary and given to it and it is my will that my son John shall be paid at the age of 21 yeare and my daughter Mary at hur day of mariage or at the age of 21 yeares: but if they prove stouborne and dissobedent then it shall be left to the will of thir mother and the overseers when they shall have it: and futher it is my will that if my son Thomas dy without a aire then it is my will that it shall come to my son John and if John dy without a aire then to com to the other son if it be a son or elce to remaine to the Daughter if ther
are two or elce to remaine to my daughter Mary.
Item I give to my man Charles Whitell a shipe & hoge worth eight shillings or two hachibs which he nowe doth work with upon his good behaviour to his dame.
Item I give to my godsons Joseph Blissord and John Welles 2 shillings a pece.
Item I give to John Pathit 2 shillings. Item I give to Ann Albright and Jone the daughters of John Allbright 2 shillings a peece.
Item I give to John Allbright and Catherin the sonne and daughter of Richard Allbright 2 shillings a peece.
Item I give to John Loe and Sara Loe the son and daughter of Griffen Loe 2 shillings apeece.
Item I give to Sara Ordway 2 shillings.
Item I give to my brother John Allbright my cloake.
Item I give to my brother Richard Allbright my best coate.
Item I give to the pore 5 shillings to be geven to whome my wif and Edward Ordway and William Lampit think good and I make my wife my whole exseckiter and my brother John Albright and my brother Richard Albright ovorseres.
The will, not signed, was witnessed by Thomas Handy (mark TH), William Lampit, and Edward Ordway.
Further reseach indicated that Frances was the sister of the two Albright brothers mentioned in Thomas Welles's will. Finally, a more substantial clue to the English home of her second husband, Thomas Coleman, long unrecognized because of an error in transcription, was noted in Aspinwall's Notarial Records (A Volume Relating to the Early History of Boston containing the Aspinwall Notarial Records from 1644-1651 [Boston, 1903], 30). On 3 October 1646, Thomas Coleman gave a power of attorney:
... unto Captain Robert Harding of Boston "to aske &c all writeinges touching his house in Esstum [sic; surely Evesham] in the County of Worcester wch are in the hands of John Albright or any other, & to said house do lett or sell & make seale & Deliver deeds or writeings of the same, & to receive the rent for the time past due; also to receive the Remainder of a Legacie in the hands of John Norton of Cotherstock Esqr granted by the will of John Coleman of Cotherstock.
Cotherstock is probably Cotterstock in Northamptonshire. Unfortunately, efforts to locate the will of John Coleman of Cotterstock have been unsuccessful. The Civil War was at its height in 1646, and it is likely that this will was among the records lost at that time. Unfortunately, the surname Coleman is a common one in that part of England.
It is now possible to document for the first time in print the English origin of this New England Wells family, and to trace its ancestry in the maternal Albright line.

THE ALBRIGHT FAMILY OF GLOUCESTER, WARWICK, AND WORCESTER

1. RICHARD A. ALBRIGHT, born say 1565, is the earliest provable ancestor of this family. The surname Albright is extremely rare in this area of England. Richard Albright is doubtless descended from the Albright family seated in the parishes of Mickleton and Ebrington, Gloucestershire. These adjacent parishes lie three to six miles south of Welford-on-Avon, Gloucestershire, where Richard Albright himself first appears.

Little is actually known of his life. He married about 1592 to a woman whose name has not been learned. Following their marriage, Richard and his wife lived in the parishes on Welford-on- Avon, Gloucestershire, and Alcester, Warwickshire, where their children were recorded. He died intestate and was buried 22 January 1613/4 in Alcester. His wife was buried there 24 January 1626/7.

References to the parish registers are from FHL microfilm (Welford-on-Avon, 1,067,558; Alcester, 557,289).
Children; surname Albright:

i. ELIZABETH, bp. at Welford-on-Avon 5 Jan. 1592/3; buried at Alcester 10 July 1615 (PRs).

ii. JOHN, bp. at Welford-on-Avon 3 April 1595 (PRs); buried at Clifford Chambers, Gloucestershire, 6 Sept. 1669 (PRs, FHL reel 557,269). He was named overseer in the 1637 will of his brother-in-law Thomas Wells of Evesham, abstracted above, and executor in the 1638 will of his brother, Richard Albright of Alderminster, Worcestershire, abracted below. He m. JOAN _____, who was buried at Clifford Chambers, Gloucestershire, 17 April 1649 (ibid.).

Children; bp. Clifford Chambers (ibid.); both mentioned in the wills of their uncles in 1637 and 1638, surname Albright: 1. Anne, bp. in 1623 or 1624 (PRs illegible); mentioned in the wills of her uncles in 1637 and 1638. 2. Joan, bp. 30 Sept. 1627; m. at Clifford Chambers 26 June 1648 Samuel Philipes (PRs).

2. iii. RICHARD, bp. at Welford-on-Avon 6 Nov. 1597; m. ANNE KILBY.

3. iv. FRANCES1, b. say 1600, bp. not found; m. (1) ca. 1625 THOMAS WELLS/WELLES; (2) presumably by 6 March 1638 (date of her brother Richard's inventory) THOMAS COLEMAN, with whom she came to New England. See below.

v. ANNA, bp. at Alcester 25 Sept. 1603; buried there as Agnes, daughter of Richard Albright, 7 Feb. 1603/4.

vi. ALICE, bp. at Alcester 2 March 1606/7; m. at Clifford Chambers, Gloucestershire, 2 Oct. 1632 GRIFFIN LOWE (PRs). He was a witness to the will of her brother Richard in 1638, and was owed 16 from the estate, as noted below.

Children, first two named in the will of Thomas Wells; all mentioned (but not named) in wills of their uncles in 1637 and 1638; surname Lowe: 1. John. 2. Sarah. 3. child. 4. child.

vii. ANNE, bp. at Alcester 27 Dec. 1612; living, apparently unmarried 6 March 1638 when her brother's inventory was taken. This included a debt to her of 10.10, perhaps an inheritance he was holding for her until her marriage.

2. RICHARD ALBRIGHT (RichardA) was baptized at Welford-on-Avon 6 November 1597 and died at Alderminster, Worcestershire, before 6 March 1638 when inventory of his estate was taken. He married, probably ca. 1630, ANNE KILBY, sister of Robert Kilby of Tredington, Gloucestershire. In 1637 he was named one of the overseers of the will of his brother-in-law Thomas Wells of Evesham.

Richard Albright of Alderminster was "sicke and weake in body," when he made his undated will (Consistory Court of Worcester, 1638: No. 9, on FHL microfilm 98,055). After the usual religious preamble, and a request to be buried in the churchyard of Alderminster, he appointed his brother John Albright sole executor, and provided as follows:
...to Anne my beloved wife the 20 which is due unto her about two yeares hence by the will of her ffather, to be paid by her Brother Robert Kilby of Tredington, and in the meane time, till that money be due unto her, shee hsall have my Rent due for my Land at Langly for two yeares as also two load of Loppe here, not impairing the Trees, & I give her One Cow, the best shee can chuse, and one land of corne, the next of the west side the Bush in the furlong next the house, wch shee shall have to Sow yearly for herselfe: and I give her my pigge in the yard and the keeping of one yearly, as also the two Hogs wch be in ye roofe, and I allow her part in the farme meddow (between the pathway the Home and so up to Stower) to winter her Cow, & if that Hay will not serve, the Executor shall find her Straw or Hay to winter her, I do also give & bequeath unto her all my household stuffe, except a mault mill & a chest to put corne in, which I give to my sonne John, and I give her twelve strike of wheat which is already in the House, and I appoint her the little chamber and the study for herselfe, & at convenient times the use of any of the other roomes or Chymnyes and I give unto her that whitt meat shee hath, and the Benefit of the House & [Corne?] & Hay for to keepe or winter her cow shee shall have as long as our leases endure, keeping her selfe widdow, otherwise shee shall only have her household stuffe and her Cow, her 20 which her Brother is to pay, or any other Goods shee gaineth in the meane time/ Item I give to John my eldest Sonne my Land att Langly when he comes to 21 yeares of Age; but after two yeares and a halfe my will is that it come to the Executor to be Employed for the Good of my Children: and if my sonne John live not to Enjoy it, I give it to my sonne Samuell & if he dye without child I give it to my daughter Katharine or her heires. Item I give to my Daughter Katharine the Sume of 20 to be paid at 16 yeares of Age. Item I give to my sonne Samuell the summe of 20 to be paid at 21 yeares of Age; and if the executor shall rayse any Goods or monyes out of my stock or rents ... it should be Equally divided amongst my children & if one of them dye the money which is their due shall go to the other two, or if two, then to the Third: but in case my children prove stubborne and disobedient I leave it to the discretion of my Executor and overseers to dispose of their meanes for their Good. Item I appoint yearly to my wife for the keeping of my childred 40s a peice, till the youngest come to the yeares of Age (if shee will keepe them at that rate) but if the 40s yearly a peice be more than the Executor can well com[a---] out of their meanes to pay for their keeping, but rather to let it goe out of ye quick stock, giving a just account to the Overseers, and at the 7 yeares End, if the Executor or Overseers do mislike my wives breeding of them, they shall have the power to take them from her & have the same meanes to maintain them as their mother was to have, & when shee pleases to leave them, shee shall. Item I give to my Brother Kilbyes Children which are three 2s 6d a peice to be paid within one moneth after my decease. Item I give to my Brother Griffin Lows Children which are ffoure, 2s 6d a peice to be paid as aforesaid. Item I give to my Brother John Albrights Children which are two, 2s 6d a peice to be paid as afore said. Item I desire the Curate of Whitchurch to preach my funerall sermon for which I give and appoint him 20s. And I request Mr. Thomas Warmstrey parson of Whitchurch and my Brother Robert Kilby of Tredington to be overseers of this my last will and testament. Signed: Richard [R - his mark] Albright.

The will, witnessed by William Cooper, Griffin Lowe and John Collins, was proved at Alcester 8 March 1638, and the executor, John Albright, exhibited an inventory dated 6 March 1638, taken by Thomas Smith, John Collins, and John Ryland. The estate was valued at 144 18s 6d, excluding real estate. Debts totalling 62 9s 6d were owed to: ladie Oakers at All Saints, Griffen Lowe, Thomas Robins, his sister Ann Albright, William Groves, Edward Kilbee, Roger Chamberline, and Thomas Coalman's children. Debts to estate were owed by Thomas Earle, Henrie Morrell, John Albright, Robert Kilbee, Thomas Bottom, Charles Whittle, and Henry Tombes.

Children; surname Albright:

i. JOHN, eldest son, baptism not found; mentioned 1638 in his father's will.

ii. KATHERINE, bp. at Alderminster 15 July 1632; probably the Katerin Albright who m. there 9 Oct. 1662 WILLIAM [?BARBERS] (PRs, FHL 555,358).

iii. SAMUEL, youngest son, bp. at Alderminster 25 May 1637 (ibid.); mentioned in the 1638 will of his father.

3. FRANCES1 ALBRIGHT (Richard A.) was born say 1600, probably at Welford-on-Avon, Gloucestershire, or Alcester, Warwickshire, and she died probably at Hadley, Massachusetts, shortly before 26 March 1678 when her undated will was proved (for a full abstract, see TAG, 28:228-29).

She married, first, say 1625, THOMAS WELLS/WELLES, who was born say 1595, and died in 1637, leaving a will dated 9 February 1637, proved that same year, which is quoted at length above. His father, whose name has not been learned, was still living in 1637, when Thomas made his will, forgiving him a 5 debt and bequeathing to him an additional 6. The will also mentions a godson John Wells, who was probably his nephew. Because the name Wells is commonplace in English records, it has proved impossible to trace this family further with any degree of confidence.

To date, neither the marriage of Thomas and Frances Wells nor the baptisms of their three known children have been located. At the time of their marriage, they lived probably somewhere in the general vicinity of Alcester, Warwickshire, where Frances's widowed mother was living. Sometime before 1637, they moved to Evesham, in Worcestershire, where Thomas was a weaver.

Following Thomas's death, his widow, Frances, married, second THOMAS COLEMAN, a widower with four children. The marriage took place before 6 March 1638, when it was noted in the inventory of Frances's brother Richard Albright that his estate owed the sum of 3 10s "to Thomas Coalemans Children." The children in question were doubtless Coleman's Wells stepchildren.

In 1639 the Coleman family immigrated to New England, settling first in Wethersfield, Connecticut from which Thomas Coleman served as a representative to the General Court in 1652 and 1656. In 1660, they removed to Hadley, Massachusetts, where they were among the first settlers. Thomas became a freeman there in 1661. He was buried there 1 October 1674, leaving a will dated 20 September 1674.

Children of Thomas and Frances (Albright) Wells; surname Wells:

i. MARY, b. ca. 1626 in England; d. at Hartford, Conn., 3 July 1700, aged 74 (gs); m. ca. 1650, as his second wife, JONATHAN GILBERT, son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Bennett) Gilbert, bp. at Yardley, Worcestershire, 8 June 1617 (Yardley PRs, on FHL Microfilm 1,520,013), d. at Hartford 19 Dec. 1682, aged 64 (gs). He was Marshall of the Colony of Connecticut for many years. Eight children. Jonathan and Mary were the grandparents of Jonathan Belcher, Governor of Massachusetts and later of New Hampshire, and ancestors of Noah Webster, noted American author and lexicographer. (See Homer W. Brainard, Harold S. Gilbert, and Clarence A. Torrey, The Gilbert Family [New Haven, 1953], 25-49.)

ii. THOMAS, eldest son, b. say 1629; d. at Hadley, Mass., between 30 Sept. and 14 Dec. 1676; m. at Wethersfield, Conn., in May 1651, MARY BEARDSLEY, daughter of William and Mary (_____) Beardsley, b. in England ca. 1631, d. at Hatfield, Mass., 20 Sept. 1691. Fourteen children. She m. (2) 25 June 1678 Samuel Belding of Hatfield. (See TAG, 28:229-230).

iii. JOHN, youngest son, b. say 1635; d. at Hatfield, Mass., 18 Oct. 1692; m. ca. 1658 SARAH CURTIS, daughter of Capt. William Curtis, b. at Stratford, Conn., 10 Oct. 1642, d. at Hatfield, Mass., ca. 1743; nine children (TAG, 28:229-230).

Child of Thomas and Frances (Albright)(Wells) Coleman; surname Coleman:

iv. DEBORAH, b. say 1640; m. DANIEL GUNN of Milford, Conn., bp. Sept. 1645, d. ca. 1690, son of Jasper and Mary or Christian (_____) Gunn; no issue (TAG, 28:228-229, 234-235; Donald Lines Jacobus, An American Family: Botsford-Marble Ancestral Lines [New Haven, 1933], 43).