John Wadham of Wethersfield.
The Wadham Genealogy portrays the immigrant John Wadham as being from Somerset County, England, where existed a family well connected to Earls and Kings that produced Sir John Wadham, Justice of the Kings Court, who enmassed a considerable fortune enabling his grandson Sir Nicholas Wadham to endow Wadham College, Oxford University in 1609, but who produced no male heirs. So where did "our" John come from, and who were his forebearers? It appears Harriet WW Stevens researched her family extensively in North America, and though she did not footnote her volume with sources, we have been able to document each event studied with primary sources. Naturally it would have been easier if she had stated her sources, but genealogists have learned much since 1900.
In an attempt to establish John's age and to find clues to his port of departure or family, we embarked on a systematic review of all documents naming him. We found ourselves in a real morass, as explained by "The Great Migration Newsletter" which focuses on early emigration and includes a discussion of the history of Wethersfield, CT. In his article, Robert Anderson explains the lack of information and resources stating that: "The disappearance of church records for both Watertown and Wethersfield until nearly 1700 makes the interpretation of these early years especially difficult. And so it is! Yet we are making progress.
The New England Historic and Genealogical Register shows the first vital record of the name Wadham with the birth of John (jr.) in Wethersfield on 8 July 1655. Since there appeared to be no earlier record, this date was used by Savage to show his arrival. Land records of Wethersfield contained photocopies of the actual pages of volume 1. The records were hand written, poor, and faded. But, the index was clear and readable. It showed references to Wadham on pp 6, 25, 28, 40, and 136. We obtained copies of the pages, enlarged to assist in deciphering the information. Because p6 probably represented the earliest reference, and believing that the index could be used as proof that John was there on any date deciphered from the document. An almost impossible mess slowly revealed that in a land transaction between John Sadler of Wethersfield, and Matthew Gibbons of Hartford, Sadler states that the land in question was bought by his father from "John Wadams of Wethersfield" on the (thirteenth) day of March 1642.
The document in question is dated 6 July 1643. From this we can conclude without question that John was there prior to March 1642 since he undoubtedly owned the land for a time prior to that date. The History of Ancient Wethersfield shows Wadham on a list of "additional settlers from places other than Watertown; some directly from England; most of them came between 1636 and 1640, none later than 1645." The note goes on to compare the list with one of Judge Adams in his Memorial History of Hartford County. Additionally on p 40 Wadham is listed forth with twenty three men who were granted land by the church. We have found the reference to that transaction on p25 of the Land Records but no document relating to the grant by the church because as Robert Anderson states the church records prior to 1700 were lost. The implication seems to be that John came to Wethersfield early on (i.e. 1640-1642), bought land, perhaps clearing it, and leaving the colony. He subsequently married a French speaking woman, Susannah, and returned to Wethersfield showing in the records in the middle 1650's when his sons were born. The grant distribution from the church appeared to be dated 1660, in response to the births of sons Noah, who died in infancy, and John (jr)in 1655, indicating his permanency in the colony. He died 19 Dec 1676 in Wethersfield. Our real issue is: from where did John exit England?
After collecting and extensive file of Wadham records from Public Record Offices, Church, Wills, and marriage records, we narrowed our research to Plymouth, Devon, because there appears to be a number of the same or similarly spelled Wadham individuals residing there from the late 1580's to well into the 1600's. There also appear to be a number of the same surname in Poole, England but they were seamen. They were primarily ship captains, rather than owners. The references regarding John in Wethersfield, in Plymouth, and in subsequent generations show no evidence of a tie to the sea. George Wadham, who sold Catherstone Manor on the Dorset coast a mile inland from Charmouth, about 1587, and apparently moved to Saltash, Cornwall, across the river from Plymouth, Devon. His wife Dorothy's [Hitchens] family was seated in the Saltash area for several generations. When Dorothy succeeded her husband in 1626 it appears all of her sons except Hitchings were deceased, thus she declared her youngest her heir. A monument at St Stephens's, Saltash, identifies the Hitchens (Hechins) lineage including George Wadham. It appears George was knighted for providing a fire ship for the crown during a war with France in early 1600's. Other ship names mentioned are "Rayne Deare," "Jonas," and "Roebuck." Some of these ships are owned by a John, son of George. Who left issue Nicholas.
Records of St Andrew's Parish, Plymouth contain an extensive list of Wadham entries dating back to about 1585, coincidently about the time the sale of Catherstone transpired. A Nicholas is prominent in the listings. But thus far we know little of him. There is another family "Woddom" noted at St. Andrew's which we have found descends from a family in Kent. They were prominent in Plymouth with a John as a Mayor and MP. His son John was born in 1613, but left a will in the mid century, eliminating him as our immigrant.
-- Charles H. Wadhams