A Genealogy of the Barnum, Barnam and Barnham Family

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A Family Tree of the BARNUM/BARNHAM Family Worldwide


Notes for Thomas BARNUM

Over the years many sources (including earlier versions of this genealogy) have suggested that Thomas was a son of Sir Francis Barnham (1576-1646). However, no source citation can be found to support that suggestion, which originally appeared in The Barnum Family, 1517-1904. It is also stated in The Barnum Family (without documentation) that Thomas Barnam [sic] was the 15th child of Sir Francis Barnham and his wife Lady Elizabeth Lennard (or Leonard), Baroness Dacre.

In an attempt to discover whether Thomas was actually a son of Sir Francis, a detailed study was commissioned in March of 2014 and performed by genealogists on the staff of the College of Arms in London, England. That research states that the connection between Thomas and Sir Francis is contrary to the known facts. Thomas Barnam/Barnum certainly might have descended from a line of the Barnham family but Sir Francis almost certainly was not his father. Hundreds of family trees posted to the internet show the incorrect information!

The final report of the research performed at the College of Arms, authored by Christopher Vane, M.A., Portcullis Pursuivant, states the following:

1. There were Visitations of Kent in 1619 and 1668: College of Arms – C16 and D18. Obviously, someone born in 1625 would not appear in the Visitation of 1619. Nonetheless it is useful to see what is said about the Barnham Family in that visitation: College of Arms – C16/139. Sir Francis Barnham is shown married to Elizabeth, daughter of Sampson Lennard. They are listed as having seven sons and four daughters at that time. The eldest son is there stated to be 15 years old. The sons are named as Dacre, Robert, Edward, Francis, William, Dudley and Martin, in that order.

2. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) Sir Francis Barnham and his wife were married in January 1599.

3. There are two separate entries for the Barnham family in the Visitation of Kent of 1668: College of Arms D18/153b and 178 . The first entry relates to Francis Barnham, who is shown as the 4th son of Sir Francis Barnham in the Visitation of Kent of 1619, his marriage and his children: there is nothing said about any of his siblings. The second entry relates to Robert Barnham, 2nd son of Sir Francis Barnham, his marriage and his children: once again there is nothing said about his siblings. Although visitation pedigrees are (at least normally) accurate as to what is stated in them, they are not necessarily comprehensive and it is dangerous to draw inferences from what is absent from such a pedigree.

4. Robert Barnham, 2nd son of Sir Francis Barnham, was created a baronet. The College of Arms has a series of manuscript volumes of the pedigrees of baronets entitled Le Neve’s Baronets. In that work Sir Robert Barnham is shown as having one brother living and that brother is not named Thomas: College of Arms – Le Neve’s Baronets 3/132.

5. John Philipot (1588-1645), Somerset Herald, had a particular interest in Kent and actually conducted the Visitation of Kent in 1619. Among various 17th century manuscript volumes relating to Kent and families from Kent are several written by him: College of Arms – Philipot 23, 24, 25 and 26-28. Only one of those volumes refers to the Barnham family. That is at Philipot 23/185, but it does not throw any light on the parentage of Thomas Barnam/Barnum. Another 17th-Century volume of pedigrees for families from Kent: College of Arms – Kent also contains nothing on the Barnham family.

6. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that Sir Francis Barnham was admitted a member of the Virginia Company in 1612. That work also says: “He was succeeded by his son Robert (later first baronet), the eldest surviving son of a family of fifteen children of whom five died young”. In The House of Commons 1604-1629, vol. III, it is stated that Sir Francis Barnham had nine sons and five daughters (14 children) and mentions that at this death he made generous financial provision for his five younger sons.

7. Sir Francis Barnham’s will of 4th April 1642 is available online and reproduced in this entry. In it he refers by name to five sons, Robert, the eldest, and four younger sons, Francis, William, Dudley and John. That would seem to indicate that he was survived by five sons. It would thus appear that Sir Francis Barnham had at least one son, John, who was born after the Visitation of Kent of 1619 and that if there were others they apparently did not survive him.

8. A printed book found in the College of Arms library and entitled First Puritan Settlers of Connecticut, ed. Hinman and published in 1853, states that Thomas Barnum purchased land at Norwalk in 1662 and that his eldest son was born in 1663. It is also stated there that in early records his name was usually spelled Barnam.

9. A search of the Hollingbourne Parish Registers online does not reveal any baptism for a Thomas Barnham/Barnam/Barnum in or near 1625.

The evidence set out above does not establish conclusively either that Thomas Barnum was a son of Sir Francis Barnham or that he was not. Therefore, we must consider whether, in the light of that evidence, it is likely that he was son of Sir Francis. That connection appears most unlikely. Although spelling had not at that time become standardized, all the evidence found spells Sir Francis’ surname and that of his family as Barnham and that of Thomas as Barnam or Barnum.

The suggestion that Thomas Barnam/Barnum was baptized at Hollingbourne in 1625 is not supported by the available documentation. The dates taken from The First Puritan Settlers of Connecticut suggest that Thomas Barnum was probably born after 1630. Sir Francis Barnham’s wife died in 1631. There is no mention of a son named Thomas in Sir Francis’ will of 1642. If Thomas Barnum were to have been born in 1625 he would have been only 17 at the time of that will and almost certainly still living with his parents.

The Barnum Family, 1517-1904 states that Thomas left England in 1640 (when he would have been 15 if born in 1625) to come to the American Colonies, where he first settled in what is now Bethel, Fairfield County, Connecticut. Tradition suggests, somewhat differently, that Thomas Barnum first came to New York and afterwards to Norwalk. Whatever may have been Thomas' connection to the English line of Barnham, he is the immigrant ancestor of the Barnum family and the progenitor of all Barnum lines of descent so far documented in the Americas.

NOTE: Postings are occasionally seen suggesting that Thomas Barnum was an English earl, or that he was married to Mary Feaks/Feake or to Phoebe Park. None of those statements is supported by valid, verifiable source data and they conflict with the weight of documentary evidence developed during more than three centuries of research into the genealogy of Thomas and his family.

A Thomas Barneham is named in the will of William Feake, dated 7 May 1595, as the husband of William's daughter Mary Feake, born about 1565. This was obviously not Thomas Barnum (1625-1695) the immigrant ancestor.

Hannah Hurd is sometimes shown as the first wife of Thomas but the use of that surname is not supported by reliable documentation and it has generally been discounted. The surname Hurd sometimes cited for Hannah is likely due to a confusion with the married surname of his second wife. Although a person named Hannah Hurd did exist, she was born in Boston and was married to John Cowell and having children by him during the time that Thomas Barnum's children were born to Hannah Unknown.

Most sources agree that Thomas married (1st) a wife whose given name was Hannah, but whose surname is not known, having with her all the ten children who appear in his will. In both its 1904 and the 1907 editions The Barnum Family suggests that there were "other children who died in infancy". Although the statement is possible, no documentary evidence has been found to support it.

Thomas married (2nd) Sarah (Thompson) Hurd, after 1688. At the time of her marriage to Thomas she was the widow of John Hurd, Sr., of Stratford, who died in 1681.

Thomas purchased land in Fairfield, Connecticut on 28 Feb 1673, and received a grant of land in Norwalk five years later. The grant reads: "Granted by the plantation unto Thos: Barnam a certaine swampe lyinge neere the west side of Stonie brooke and not far of Soabatucke hill, the sayed swampe containinge five acres more or lesse and lyeth bounded of west north and south with the common land. Aprill the 30th, 1678." That same year, he sold his land in Fairfield to Alexander Bryan and removed to Norwalk. Hall's History of Norwalk says: "Thomas Barnam, of Fairfield, had a grant before 1663." The same history gives the assessment of his estate in lands in that town in 1671 and 1687 as 40 pounds. (40 pounds in 1687 is the equivalent of about $9,580 in 2010 dollars). There is also a mention of Thomas in a Fairfield book of records as follows: "28 Feb. 1673 Thomas Barnam has by purchase of John Crump one parcel of land at Maximus, being in quantity by estimation three quarters of an acre more or less." The next record is in Norwalk, dated 30 Apr 1678, and another at the same time says that the plantation granted to Thomas Barnam was "three acres lying by the land said Thomas purchased of John Rayment."

At a town meeting in Norwalk, 8 Nov 1681, he was appointed to "oversee and keep good Decorum amongst the youth in times of exercise on the Sabbath and other Publique meetings; and the town doe impower him if he see any disorderly, for the keep of a small stick to correct such with; onely he is desired to doe it with clemency; and if any are incoridgable in such disorder, he is to present them either to their parents or masters; and if they doe not reclaime them, then to present such to authority." Cutter, in Connecticut Families, notes that Thomas Barnam was one of the first eight settlers of the town of Danbury, Connecticut, in 1684. The History of Stratford and The History of Connecticut make the same statement. The others are listed as: Thomas Taylor, Francis Bushnell, John Hoyt, James Benedict, Samuel Benedict, James Beebe and Judah Gregory. Those eight individuals purchased from the local Indians a large tract of land which now includes the towns of Danbury, Bethel, New Fairfield, Redding, Ridgefield, and a portion of Derby, and established there the settlement of Danbury. Thomas located his homestead in a portion of the new settlement which in 1855 became a part of the town of Bethel, and is known today as the Old Homestead at Grassy Plain. The town patent bears the date May 20, 1702.

He was charged by his fellow settlers with the formulation of the articles of agreement establishing the form of civil government which they were to have in their new town. From that, and other references found in contemporary records of the locality, it appears that Thomas Barnham/Barnam/Barnum was a man of more than ordinary intelligence among the immigrants of his time, and was very active in both church and town affairs.

Thomas died on 26 Dec 1695, aged about 70 years. His estate, which amounted to 330 pounds, 4 shillings, 4 pence, was divided among "five sons and five daughters, the eldest son to have a double portion." (The value of the estate would be equal to about $57,900 in 2010). His widow Sarah returned to Stratfield, in Stratford, and died there in Jun 1718, aged 76 years.
The will of Thomas Barnum reads as follows:
"To the Honorable Cort of Probate to be holden att Fairfield. Thes maye signifie unto yore honnours that we whose names are under written, namely James Beebe and Josiah Starr beeing appoynted by the Honble County Cort held at ffairefeld March ye 10 - 1695/6 to mack at distribushon of the estete of Thomas Barnam Decesed: Wee according to the best of our skills and judgment did in ye said month of March on the afforesaid 1695/6 mack ye following distrebushion of the said estete:
"To ye eldest son Thomas Barnam hee offering to tack ye with a single sheere and at halfe provided hee might have his choyce of from perticulers which accordingly we set out to him thirty pounds vallue of ye homsted and twenty one pounds vallue of ye moveables which in all made 51-0-0.
"To ye second son ffrances barnam by name Wee set out the rest of the homested being vallued at 65 pounds and a comondall of land purchesed for him by his father before his deth vallued at ffive pounds: and 7-11-6 of ye moveables hee giveing [illegible] to paye to his younger sisterswhen ye come of ye age of twentyone or at maridg what hee had received more then his proportion which proportion was 34 pounds ye whole that hee receved was 99-11-1.
"To ye third son Richard barnam by name we set out a [illegible]-lot of upland vallued at five pounds A second divition of meadow vallued att seven pounds and moveables to the vallue of 22 pounds so that hee had in all to the vallue of 34-0-0.
To ye fifth [should be fourth] son Ebenezer barnam by name we set forth it Mill Lot so called vallued at 4 pounds a third divition of meddows vallued at five pounds a little loot vallued at tow pounds the one half of ye land at Shellter Rock vallued at nine pounds the Townehill Lot vallued at six pounds; The halfe of the Cotfeld [illegible] vallued at five pounds ye six acre divition of land three pounds 10 shillings- so that the whole of what hee receved was 34-10-0
"Too John barnam the ffifth son wee set out the firt division of meddow vallued at three pounds 10 shillings ye forth divition of meddow vallued at 3 pounds 10 shillings ye swamp lot vallued att five pounds: then one half of ye land at Shellter rock valld at nine pounds the land on Shellter rock hill valld at six pounds the halfe of the Cotfeeld valld att 5 pounds ye half of the baran plain lot and the half of the six acre divition vallued at three pounds and ten shillings-so that the whole of what hee received was 34-10-0.
"To Sarah picket the wife of Thomas picket the eldest daughter wee set out In moveables of many particulers in all to the vallue of 34-0-0.
"To ye second daughter Esther Abbit the wife of John Abbit we set forth in moveables in many particulers and many due ye estete in all to the vallue of 34-0-0.
To ye third daughter Hannah barnam wee set out moveables in many particulers and depts due to the estete in all to the vallue of 34-0-0.
"To ye forth daughter Wee set out Ruth barnam by name-in moveables in many particulers and depts due to the estete in all to the value of 34-0-0.
"To ye fifth daughter Abigall barnam by name wee set out in movabels and depts due to ye estete in all to the value of 34-0-0.
//Signed// James beebe Joseph starr Distributers
"Know all men by these presents that I Sarah Barnum of Stratford in the county of fairfield and Coloney of Connecticut have received of the heirs of my late husband Thomas Barnum of Danbury deceased in full of all accounts due to me by virute of a contract made between my husband Barnum and my self before marriage therefore I doe soe order remit release acquit exonerate & discharge the administrators Heirs and assignes of the above sd Thomas Barnum deceased from all further demands whatsoever upon [illegible] of any money due to me my Heirs of assigns by virtue of any contract before mentioned in witness wherof I have herewith set my hand in Stratford this fifteenth day of March Anno Domini 1702 (date difficult to read) Witnesses Ambros Tompson senior and John Tompson her mark Sarah Barnam."
Probate: 1696 #359 FHL Film #1018731.

Excerpted from Jacobus, Donald L. History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield. Fairfield, Conn: E.D. Burr Chapter, D.A.R, 1930. Print: Barnum, Thomas. He settled in Fairfield, and before 1768 sold his land there to Alexander Bryan; rem. to Norwalk, and was a founder of Danbury. Est. of Thomas, Sr., of Danbury, who d. 26 Dec. 1695. Inv. 3 Jan. 1695/6, signed by Sarah Barnum. Son Thomas to administer with Thomas Pickett of Danbury. Five sons and five daus. The widow had a prenuptial agreement. Married (2) Sarah (Thompson), widow of John Hurd, Sr. She returned to Stratford and d. there 24 Jan. 1717/18. Children [by first wife], four recorded at Norwalk: +Thomas, b. 9 July 1663. (?) Sarah, m. (1) Thomas Pickett; m. (2) Samuel Hayes. +Richard. +Francis. John, b. 24 Feb. 1677 [1677/8]. Hannah, b. 4 Oct. 1680. Ebenezer, b. 29 May 1682. Three other daus.

A Research Guide to the Genealogy of the Barnum/Barnam/Barnham Family Worldwide

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