Friday, May 27, 2011

Early Colonial Pitkin Family & Their Orgin in Berkhampsted, Herfordshire, England

First of all it appears the Pitkin family can lay some claim to Royal lineage.  This was ascertained from a book titled Americans of Royal Descent, by Charles Henry Browning, University of Virginia Archives.  The royal lineage comes through Lady Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland who was christened in 1379.  This answers the most pressing question, why my Dad, Edward Carl Henderson, was so insistent on the name Joan for my sister Joan.

Lady Joan Beaufort's, was married the first time at age twelve. WHAT?!  Her cousin was Richard II of England, half brother Henry IV of England and she was grandmother of Edward IV of England and Richard III of England.  Both the Pitkin and Woodbridge families can trace lineage back to her.  Mary Woodbridge married Governor Pitkin, our ancestor was a brother of Governor Pitkin so we are not blood relatives of Mary.  For all you enthusiast of the most recent royal wedding, Kate Middleton also traces her royal lineage to Lady Joan of Beaufort.  So let's move forward a couple of centuries.

The story of William Pitkin begins in Berkhampsted, Herfordshire, England.  William was born about 1582 and was married to Jane White.  He worked primarily as a chief Burgess and Bailiff and was very active in civic and church duties.  This denotes a level of educations as he would not be able to perform these duties without the ability to read and write.  There are many records indicating he held various jobs in both civic and church duties for the majority of his life.  He was well respected, educated and a substantial land owner.  He is referred to as gentleman which would indicate he enjoyed a level of comfort.   

He had a son William Pitkin,  and he was married to Elizabeth (whose last name is unclear)  in 1635.  Prior to his marriage to Elizabeth he attended Pembroke College where he graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in February 7, 1628/29.
I contacted the archivist at Pembroke College and Oxford to see if they had him registered as a student during this time frame.   Their answers are as stated:  

Pitkin, William, son of William, of Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, plebeian.  Matriculated from Broadgates Hall [later known as Pembroke College] on 6 February 1628/9,  aged 20.  BA next day, MA 17 October 1631.

There is a slight discrepancy here with the date of birth which you give but otherwise it would appear to be your William Pitkin.  In the entry, 'plebeian' denotes a status applied to Pitkin.  As part of their matriculation procedure, all new undergraduates were required to state their father's social rank. This information dictated the fees the students were obliged to pay to the University.  Pitkin has registered as a son of a plebeian which meant that his fees were towards the lower end of the scale.
(This doesn't seem consistent with how his father is describe in other documents).

As regards Pitkin's date of matriculation (6 Feb 1628/9) this means that in the original register, the year is given as 1628 but this is 1629 by modern reckoning; until 1752, in England, the number of the year changed on 25 March not 1 January so, for example, the day after 24 March 1628 was 25 March 1629. The entry in the printed Register is given as 1628/9 to reflect both the dating in the original source and how we interpret that date now.  It is unusual for a student at this time to have matriculated on one day, and graduated BA on the following day. I have checked the original registers of degree conferrals here in the Archives to see if any reason is given for this, but I have not been able to find anything.

The colleges in Oxford maintain their own archives and it is possible that Pembroke College may hold additional information on William Pitkin.  If you haven't already done so, you might contact Pembroke directly to see what they hold. The Archivist there is Amanda Ingram who can be contacted at  .

Yours sincerely

Alice Millea
Assistant Keeper of the Archives (Mon-Fri, mornings only)

Amanda Ingram, the archivist for Pembroke College state they didn't have records from this date but she would rely on Oxfords records.

William received a MA from Oxford on October 17, 1631.  He became the headmaster of the Berkhamsted Grammar School and in 1635 he married Elizabeth.  They had three children, William, Roger and Martha before Elizabeth died in 1641.  William, the headmaster, took a journey to London with his brother George in the summer of 1643 where he died July 24, 1643. His brother George died in September of 1643.  It is presumed they died of the same disease, likely the plague.

This left his three children, Roger, William and Martha.  Just in case you are wondering, in forthcoming generations the name William would be used over 50 times most frequently without a middle name and George over 35 times.  These three children's grandfather would provide for them in his Will which is likely how William and Martha could fund their trip to America, Roger stayed behind in England.  It is noted that Martha arrived in America after her brother William, and had the funds upon arrival to return to England which indicates she had means.

William Pitkin, lawyer, was born near Berkhampsted, Herfordshire, England, in 1635;  He received an excellent English education, studied law, and settled in Hartford about 1659, where he taught, bought a tract of land on the east side of Connecticut river, and engaged largely in planting. He and Hannah Goodwin (Hannah was the daughter of Oziah Goodwin, progenitor of the Goodwin family of Connecticut, who had come to this country with Dr. Thomas Hooker.)  William and Hannah were married in 1661. He and Hannah had seven children:  Roger, William, Hannah, John, Nathaniel, Elizabeth and Oziah. On 9 October, 1662, he was admitted a freeman, and in that year was also made prosecutor for the colony.  He became attorney for the colony by appointment of the King in 1664, was deputy in 1675 and treasurer in 1676-'7, and in 1676 he went with Major John Talcott to negotiate peace with the Narragansett and other Indian tribes.
From 1665 until 1690, with the exception of a brief period, he was a member of the general court, and occasionally served as commissioner from this colony to the United Colonies. In 1690 he was elected a member of the colonial council and he held that office until his death. In 1690,  he was appointed with Samuel Chester and Captain William Whiting to be a commissioner to run the division-line between Connecticut and the Massachusetts colonies, and in that year he was sent by the colony to Governor Benjamin Fletcher, of New York, to negotiate terms respecting the militia until Governor Winthrop's return from England.  He laid out with John Crow the first Main and other streets of Hartford on the east side of the river. He owned a fulling-mill near Burnside, which was burned in 1690, and the locality became known as Pitkin's falls. Many of his descendants held important places in the civil, political, and military affairs of the colony.  

William passed away on 16 December, 1694 in East Hartford, Connecticut, Hannah would live another 30 years and passed away on 12 February, 1724. 

William's sister Martha Pitkin had followed her brother to American in 1661.  She was described as educated, very attractive and immediately had many suitors.  She married Simon Wolcott on 17 of October 1661.  The Wolcott's were a prominent family of considerable wealth and prestige.  Martha and Simon had nine children.  She was mother to Gov. Roger Wolcott, grandmother of Oliver Wolcott and great-grandmother of the second Oliver Wolcott and Gov. Roger Griswold.  Gov. Ellsworth was a lineal descendant and her great-grand daughter married Gov. Matthew Griswold.

William and Hannah's son William was born in 1664 in Hartford, Connecticut.  He married Elizabeth Stanley in 1686 and they had ten children, seven lived to adulthood including; Elizabeth, Martha, William, Joseph, Thomas, Sarah, John and Jerusha.  William IV, was a jurist and was a member of the committee of war that was appointed with plenary power to send troops into Massachusetts and the frontier towns of Connecticut, and that ordered, on 1 January 1704, 400 men to be in readiness for any sudden occurrence. He studied law with his father, and was judge of the county and probate courts and of the court of assistants from 1702 till 1711 when the superior court was established in place of the court of assistants, and of which he was chief justice in 1713. This office was held by four successive generations of William Pitkins.

He was said to have been apt in repartee as well as argument. In 1697 he was elected one of the council of the colony, serving until his death. He was one of the commissioners to receive the Earl of Bellomont on his arrival in New York, was a commissioner of war in 1706-'7, one of a committee to prepare the manuscript laws of the colony in 1709, and again to revise the said laws. In 1718 he was appointed one of a committee of three to build the first state-house in Hartford, and one of a committee to prepare a map of the course of the Connecticut river from the "mouth of it to the north bounds of the colony, to be inserted in the plan of the colony now ordered to be drawn." In 1706 he built two fulling-mills at Pitkin's falls, in connection with which he conducted a large business in clothing" and woollens, which was continued by his sons.  William died 5 April 1723 and Elizabeth would live another 28 years and died on 12 February 1751.

Their son Thomas was born 18 June 1700 and would be know in later years as Captain Thomas Pitkin.  His first wife was Rebecca Welles born 3 October 1704.  She died 17 February 1725 at age 21. Thomas and Rebecca had one son, Thomas Pitkin born in 1724. Captain Thomas Pitkin would later marry Rebecca's sister Martha Welles.  

Thomas Pitkin, Jr., married Martha White 25 of July 1744.  They had a son named Paul Pitkin who was born 17 October 1759.  Paul Pitkin married Abigail Lathrop in October of 1784.  They had ten children, the youngest being Paul White Pitkin born 17 of May1801.  Paul White Pitkin was profiled in the previous post.

Sources:        Those mention in text
                     Pitkin Family of America, Genealogy of the Descendants of William Piktin, by A.P. Pitkin, Hartford,
                     Conn. 1887
                     Connecticut State Archives, Connecticut State Library
                     Colonial Families

Up next:        A shorter synopsis of the last colonial Governor of Connecticut and his connection to Benjamin          
                    Franklin  (Captain Thomas Pitkin's brother). 


  1. SO interesting! I am so grateful to you for doing this! Thank you! Rob has ancestors, the Marvins, who played a role in founding Hartford. Wonder if they were friends?!? xxoo

  2. Hey! This is super interesting! My name's Melinda Pitkin and I'm curious to see if our family could possibly be related to the Pitkins' in this history. (:

    1. Haha! Melinda, interesting that I should find you here, almost a year later. I'm researching our family history for an essay in one of my classes. And yes, we're related to these Pitkins. Look in Dad's red book. I think William Pitkin is one of the first names. :)

    2. Fancy meeting you two here. ;) I love learning about our family history.

  3. Hi iam a pitkin family here in California iam Brad pitkin i heard most all pitkins are related i thank it would be cool to talk to more family