Hart family tragedy…

If the Shepard line of descent from William Shepard is true, then that means that my mother’s side of the family has two HART lines. [I could insert a Vulcan joke here, but I’ll refrain.]

The first is Edmund Hart, father of Experience who married our Shepard immigrant William, (and then divorced his sorry butt for desertion). The second HART line is on the Shaw side of the family through Deacon Stephen Hart of Farmington, Connecticut (crazy Esther Newell strikes again). As far as I have been able to discern, the two lines are not related.

According to the Genealogical History of Deacon Stephen Hart and his descendants…, by Alfred Andrews, Deacon Hart was born in Braintree, England about 1605 and arrived in Massachusetts Bay by 1632. We know next to nothing about the mother of his children, not even her name.

We actually descend from this line three times through the second generation of Harts:
1. Sarah who married Timothy/Thomas Porter
2. John who married Sarah Hawthorne
3. Thomas who married Ruth Howkins

John was the eldest son of the Deacon and his unknown wife. He married Sarah Hawthorne and they resided in Farmington, Connecticut until the family moved to Tunxis, where they were one of the first settlers there.

New England homestead on fire.

It was here that tragedy struck the John Hart family in 1666. Although the story has two versions.

According to the Genealogical History book mentioned above:
…his house, which was located near the center of the village, was fired in the night by Indians, and he and all his family, with the exception of his eldest son, John [about 11 at the time], who was that night at Nod, or Worthington, since called Avon, looking after the stock on a farm they owned there, perished in the flames.

Apparently, in the same fire, the town records were also destroyed. The story continued to say that the General Court tried to find the perpetrators of the crime among the Tunxis tribe but had no luck.

According to the online version of the same book with addendum, a researcher by the name of David Mauro published in the July/August 1997 issue of Hart Historical Notes an article showing that there were no Indians involved. A quote from the story from Dr. C. Pickford of the Connecticut Historical Society states:

“The 19th century accounts of Farmington contain a lot of fiction. Without any corroborating evidence to support Andrews’ story, I had to conclude that is was without substance.”

Andrews being the author of the original Hart book mentioned above.

There was further mention that a Rev.Samuel Danforth a pastor of the first church in Roxbury kept a diary where an entry appears on February 11, 1666:

“Tidings came to us from Connecticut how on ye 15th of 10M66 Sergeant Hart, ye son of Deacon Hart and his wife, and six children were all burned in their house at Farmington, no man knowing how the fire was kindled, neither did any of the neighbors see ye fire till it was past remedy. The church there had kept a fast at this man’s house two days before. One of his sons being at a farm, escaped the burning.”

It is by the will of the fates’ that Stephen’s grandson John was the only family member to survive this horrible incident. I can only imagine how devastating it would have been for him to lose his whole family, and at so young an age.


Genealogical history of Deacon Stephen Hart and his descendants, 1632. 1875 : with an introduction of miscellaneous Harts and their progenitors, as far as known; to which is added a list of all the clergy of the name found, all the physicians, all the lawyers, the authors, and soldiers, by Andrews, Alfred, 1797-1876Hart, Austin1875 [archive.org]

Addendum version online:

Just another Smith…

Stratford_upon_Avon_church_SWAbout a month ago I received my American Ancestors magazine in the mail and last weekend I decided to finally get it off my reading pile. The magazine is part of my membership in the NEHGS (New England Historical and Genealogical Society), along  with The Register. It is very rare that any surnames of interest to my particular research ever pop up in these publications. So imagine my surprise when I am reading along in the ‘Genetics and Genealogy’ section, when the combined surname and location they are writing about starts bells dinging in my brain. I pulled out my trusty iPad, loaded my ‘Reunion’ app, and searched away. Sure enough there they were, exactly as I thought.

Once again Esther Newell brings some cool factoids to the Shaw line.

As I have mentioned before to my reader, we have at least four ancestral Smith lines in my family, (maybe even five, I keep losing count). The particular Smith line I was reading about in this article was in regards to the Smiths of Hartford and Farmington, in Hartford County, Connecticut.

Esther Newell’s mother was Abigail Smith. Abigail’s parents were John Smith and Abigail Wadsworth, and it appears that this John Smith was the great grandson of the Quaker emigrants Christopher Smith and Agnes Gibes who had emigrated and settled in Rhode Island.

In my own research on this particular line I could only find as far back as William Smith b.1617 who married Elizabeth Stanley[?] in 1644 in Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut. This new information gave me another generation and place of origin, proven by DNA and church records. Hence the title of the article I had been reading ‘Genetics and Genealogy.’

Of course none of that is the really cool part. It appears that these Smiths came from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. If the place seems familiar, how about this – Shakespeare anyone? In fact, Christopher and Agnes were married on the 1st of May, 1616, in the same church that William Shakespeare had been buried about a week prior.

Warwickshire, Stratford upon Avon, Trinity Church
Church in background where the Christopher and Agnes were married.

So what was this article about? The focus of the article I was reading was connecting two Smith families, the Hartford Smiths of Connecticut and the Providence, Rhode Island Smiths. Were they related? And if so, how? There is a SmithConnections Northeastern DNA Project found at FamilyTreeDNA that is trying to sort out the many different Smith lines that show up in New England. Christopher’s line is labeled NE18 in this database, and it appears that 23 different participants match his yDNA. The descendants of the Hartford Smiths match each other, and Christopher’s yDNA, so Christopher must be of some kinship to the Hartford matches. It was assumed he was a cousin.

This is where documentation comes to save the day. One of the authors of the article had learned of the marriage record of Christopher and Agnes found in The Registers of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the County of Warwick Marriages, 1558-1812, and it was online. They proceeded to check on the baptisms and burials in the book and found two of the known children of Christopher and Agnes, so no surprise there. But then was shocked to find all the Hartford Smith names listed in the book too, as children of Christopher and Agnes.

Their eldest child, William Smith, bap. 1627 in Stratford-upon-Avon, is our line of descent from Christopher and Agnes. (William’s sister Mary married a Partridge, and his sister Susanna married a Wilkinson, both surnames that are also in our tree.) So the mystery of the connection of the two families was solved.

Apparently, the most curious question about the family, that hasn’t been answered to anyones satisfaction, is why were Christopher and his wife Quakers, and none of their children had any such affiliation. Well, that and the fact that the two generations appeared to have separated, with no documented connections appearing in the records in America. Maybe their religious differences split them up.

I guess there will be more to read about this family in a future publication. I look forward with great anticipation to reading it.

Genetics and Genealogy: William Shakespeare and the Christopher Smith Family, by Kathleen Cooper Smith and Christopher Child; American Ancestors, volume 17, no. 1, page 50-53.