Anthony's Ancestry

Over the years many fanciful versions of Anthony Colby's ancestry have been told. An eminent genealogist (and descendant) researched the truth and the result was published.

Extract from The American Genealogist

Whole number 202 Vol. 51, No 2

April 1975

Anthony Colby’s Purported Ancestry

By Glade Ian Nelson

James W. Colby’s frequently unreliable ‘Colby family History’, published in 1895, is the basis for the statement that Anthony Colby of Massachusetts Bay Colony was the son of Thomas Colby, Esquire, by his second wife Beatrice Felton of Beccles, Co. Suffolk, England. Since the printing of that volume, this relationship has been repeated in many other publications with elaboration’s upon the various royal personages which fill the ancestral pedigrees of the Colby and Felton families. Most recently it has appeared in Michel L. Call, ‘Royal Ancestors of some L.D.S. Families’ (Salt Lake City: 1972), and in Count d’Angerville, ‘Living Descendants of Blood Royal’, vol. 4.

While the first book is so error-filled as to make it completely untrustworthy to any serious student of royal genealogies, the second does contain some lineage’s of merit. To the discredit of both authors they fail their readers by not giving documentary source material or references for data contained in their books. It should not be too surprising, therefore, that the claim of the Massachusetts immigrant, Anthony Colby, as the son of Thomas and Beatrice (Felton) Colby is without substantiation and most likely completely fallacious.

Certain lineage societies have rather blindly accepted this lineage in the past and, I presume, continue to do so. (See Langston and Buck, ‘Pedigrees of Some of the Emperor Charlemagne’s Descendants’, Vol. ii (1974), p. 96--Ed.). Therefore, in order to correct this purported parentage and to warn those who might be tempted to accept the questionable lineage, the following information is presented.

Anthony Colby came to New England with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 for in that year he was of Boston and recorded as a church member. He was of Cambridge as early as 1632 when he owned land and buildings there, and was still there when, on 14 May 1634, he took the oath of "freeman" before the General Court in Boston. About 1637 he moved to the settlement at Ipswich, but soon thereafter moved on to Salisbury, then called Colchester, where he received land in the first division of 1639. Additional grants of land were given to him by the town of Salisbury in 1640 and 1643. Anthony Colby was one of the original settlers of the "newtown", now called Amesbury, where he was made a commomer on 19 March 1654, receiving a grant of land there in that same year as well as grants in subsequent years.(1) He died intestate, 11 Feb. 1660/1, in Salisbury, Mass., and the inventory was taken on 9 March 1660/1, (2) with the division made 9 April 1661.(3) Although as early as 1939, information concerning the identity of Anthony Colby’s wife was printed by Donald Lines Jacobus, (4) many errors have since been printed concerning her. Mr. Jacobus clearly pointed out that Anthony Colby married after coming to New England, probably between 1630 and 1632, the widow Susannah Waterman of Boston, Mass. She married, thirdly, about 1663-4, William Whitridge, a carpenter from Gloucester who died 5 Dec. 1668, leaving her a widow for the third time. Susannah died 8 July 1689 in Salisbury, Mass. Various accounts state her maiden name to have been Haddon and make her either a sister or daughter of William Sargent, and still others ascribe her to her the name Nutting. None of these claims, however, is substantiated by documented evidence, leaving her maiden name unknown.(5) Anthony and Susannah Colby had the following children:(6) i. John, bapt. 8 Sept.1633, Boston, Mass., d 11 Feb 1673/4; m. Salisbury, 14 Jan 1655/6, Frances Hoyt. ii. Sarah, b. 6 March 1634/5, Cambridge, Mass.; m. 6 March 1653/4, Orlando Bagley. iii. Child, b. ca.1637, prob. Ipswich, Mass.; may have d. y. (Savage states there were four children older than Isaac. which is the basis for the inclusion of this unnamed child). iv. Samuel, b. ca. 1638, Ipswich, d. 1716; m. Elizabeth Sargent. v. Isaac, b. 6 July 1640, Salisbury, d. by 1691; m. Martha Parratt. vi. Rebecca, b. 11 March 1643, Salisbury, d. by 1673; m. Haverhill, Mass., 9 Sept 1661, John Williams. vii. Mary, b. 19 Sept 1647, Salisbury; m. Amesbury, 25 Sept. 1668, William Sargent. viii. Thomas, b. 8 March 1650/1, Salisbury; estate inventory taken 31 March 1691; m. 16 Sept 1674, Hannah Rowell.

Examination of English Colby records sheds light on the problem at hand. The 1612 Visitation of Suffolk contains the family of Thomas and Beatrice (Felton) Colby as "Thomas, son and heir; Charles, second son, obit; John, obit; Anthony; Edmond, obit; Philip; Francis; Huntington; Beatrice, mar to Edmond Thurston of Colchester; Mary, mar. to John Copuldyke of Kirby in suff.; Penelope, mar. to Sir Walter Aston in Chesh.; Katherin, unm." (7)

Thus it can be seen that there was a son Anthony belonging to this family. However, justification for rejecting him as the immigrant Anthony is substantial, as will be further explained. Thomas Colby of Beccles, Co. Suffolk, England, wrote his will 8 June 1588 and it was proved that same year at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. (8) In this will Thomas referred to "Beatrice my well beloved wife" to whom he gave all his manors for life as well as other items. He then bequeathed to his "son Thomas from and after the decease of my wife all my manors. . ." Provision was made that should the son Thomas die without legal heirs, the lands were to be entailed to his other living sons, Anthony, Edmond, Philip, Francis and Huntington, in that order. Concerning these last five sons mention is made of a distribution of an annual rent in the sum of 9 pounds and 6 shillings to each of the sons from a farm in Brundish, co. Suffolk, that "eache and every of them shall begin to receyve their saide annuitic or portion at twentie years of age untill whiche time I will and devise that my executors shall putt the saide money during their minorities or manage to the only profit and bringing upp of my said sonnes in vertu good education and bearinge. . ." Thomas also mentioned "my thre (sic) daughters and the child whiche my wife is at the making. . . at their age of twentie yeares or at their severall dayes of marriage. . ." Thomas made his son Thomas and his brother-in-law Anthony Felton executors of his will, with his brother Francis Colby as supervisor. The children of Thomas and Beatrice (with approximate birth years based on the best documentation available) were: (9) i. Thomas, b. ca. 1566; m. Brundish, 1599, Amy Brampton; lived in Brundish where six of their children were baptized, with two additional children mentioned in the 1612 visitation of Suffolk. ii. Charles, 2nd son, b. ca. 1568; appears only in the 1612 Suffolk Visitation as already deceased; not mentioned in father’s will in 1588 nor in that of Uncle Francis in 1599. iii. Beatrice, b. ca. 1570; under 20 years of age in 1588 when her father’s will was made; m. Edmond Thurston of Colchester; her unnamed children are referred to in her brother Philip’s will in 1643. iv. John, 3rd son, b. ca. 1572; mentioned only as deceased in the 1612 Visitation; not mentioned in the wills of his father (1588 or Uncle Francis (1599). v. Anthony, 4th son, b. ca. 1574; erroneously claimed as the New England immigrant. vi. Mary, b. ca. 1576, m. 1598 in Beccles, John Copuldyke of Kirby, Suffolk. vii. Edmond, 5th son, b. ca. 1578; mentioned in will of his father (1588) and in his Uncle’s (1599), but listed in the 1612 Visitation of Suffolk as already deceased. viii. Philip, 6th son, b. ca. 1580; m. 1609 in Beccles, Lady Dorothy (Bacon) Gawdy, daughter of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Knt. and widow of Sir Bassingbourn Gawdy, Bart. She d. 1621 at age 47. Philip’s will in 1643 mentioned only one daughter. This will, referred to later on, contains additional valuable information concerning his brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces. ix. Penelope. b. ca. 1582, m. Sir Walter Aston; mentioned in brother Philip’s will as "my loveing sister ye Lady Aston." x. Francis, 7th son, b. ca. 1584; m. 1610 in Beccles, Margaret Sampson, daughter and coheir of George Sampson of Sampson’s Hall, Kersey, Suffolk; gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Prince Henry. Francis and Margaret had one son Hertford aged 1 in the 1612 Visitation. xi. Huntington, 8th son, b. ca. 1586; knighted 28 Nov. 1616. xii. Katherine, b. shortly after her father’s will (1588) in which he refers to "the child whiche my wife is at the making." Unmarried when the 1612 Visitation was recorded. The Anthony Colby living in Beccles, England, son of Thomas and Beatrice (Felton) Colby, as has been pointed out, was under 20 years of age in 1588 when his father made his will. His eldest brother Thomas was the only one of the family not designated as under age. Consequently Thomas’s birth year cannot be placed later than 1568 and was probably just one or two years before that date. The Visitation of Suffolk taken in 1561 (10) indicated the father as then married to Ursella, Lady Brend, his first wife. Therefore, Thomas’s second marriage, to Beatrice Felton, occurred subsequent to 1561. The 1612 Visitation of Suffolk lists the children of Thomas and Beatrice, listing Anthony as the fourth of their eight sons along with four daughters. Other listings of the brothers follow the same basic position of Anthony as fourth son. Given this information, and knowing all of Thomas and Beatrice’s children were born between 1561 and 1588, their son Anthony’s birth year can be approximated as 1574. Certainly a few years variance is possible, one way or the other, but reason dictates it cannot be placed earlier than 1570 nor later than 1579. If this was the Anthony Colby who came to New England in 1630, he would then have been at least 50 years of age! That by itself would not be too astounding, but his next feat, marriage to a young, recent widow who had the attractive attribute of owning property and not under the necessity of making an undesirable marriage arrangement, certainly would have been. (11) Next, this Anthony would have sired at least eight children, the last arriving when he was at least 70 years of age. For this to be the case, the wife Susannah would have had to be at least twenty years his junior. While not biologically impossible, these accomplishments are not very probable. Their improbability is further accentuated by a knowledge of what the immigrant Anthony did after coming to New England.

In the old Norfolk County, Mass., records, (12) can be found an agreement made 4 Nov. 1658 between Willi: Osgood, Phillip Challis, William Barnes, Anthony Colby and Sam’ll Worcester, copartners, present possessors of a saw mill situated in Salisbury. David W. Hoyt in his work, ‘Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury,’ (13) presents information concerning each of these men. According to Hoyt’s records, William Osgood was born about 1609 and hence would have been about 49 years of age in 1658. Philip Challis, according to his own deposition, was born in 1617, and therefore 41 years of age in 1658. William Barnes would have been born between 1605 and 1615, as his children are recorded as born from about 1640 to 1653; his age then in 1658 would have been between 43 and 53, say 48 as a compromise. Samuel Worcester was first married in 1659 when he was about thirty, placing his birth about 1629. Compare these ages of 49, 41, 48 and 29, with the 78 years of the son of Thomas and Beatrice (Felton) Colby. The wording of the sawmill agreement is such as to make it seem that all were able-bodied men who would be personally laboring at the mill. For a man of 78 this would have been difficult, even if in excellent health. Association of a elderly man with men of middle years might be reasonable if he had superior financial capacity, but this does not seem to have been present to the advantage of Anthony Colby. The total value of his estate when appraised just three years later was only li 359, of which li 185 was in real estate and the remainder in various sundry personal goods. (14) of interest also is the fact that the inventory contained several items belonging to the saw mill and its activities. The logical conclusion that must be reached is that the Anthony Colby associated with the saw mill in 1658 was not in his late seventies, and therefore could not have been the son of Thomas and Beatrice (Felton) Colby of Beccles, England. The most enlightening information concerning this comes from the will of his brother Philip. (15) This will, made and proved in 1643, mentions, among others, two of his sisters, two of his brothers and seven nephews and nieces, including: Item I doe give into my brother Mr. Anthony Colby in present moneys xx li and doe give & confirm unto him his anuity or porsion being ffive pounds by ye yeare during the terme of his naturall life, payable at hollowmas and candlemas. Item I doe give unto his sonne Thomas Colby three score pounds to be payd unto him within one yeare next after my decease. This document is important because (1 it mentions Philip’s brother Anthony with no hint whatever that he was not residing in England, thirteen years after the American Anthony had arrived in New England, and (2 it shows that Anthony had a son Thomas in 1643 also presumably living in England. It would have been very unusual for Philip not to make provision for sending Anthony’s "ffive pounds by ye yeare during the term of his natural life" twice yearly, if this money was to have been transported to the New World! Failure to make such a provision is further indication that two Anthonys are involved. The second item quoted shows that Anthony had a son Thomas in 1643 who was to receive a substantial legacy within one year after his uncle Philip’s death. An examination of the American Anthony’s family, as presented earlier, indicates that his son Thomas was not born until 1650, with only sons John, Samuel and Isaac in 1643! Furthermore, none of the American Colbys would have been anywhere near their majority when the will was written. Had Philip’s nephew Thomas then been a minor, provision would certainly have been made for supervision of his legacy monies until a specified age was attained. In fact, this is exactly what Philip did with two of his three grandchildren with legacies to become due and payable when the grandchildren reached the ages of 16 and 14, respectively. The logical conclusion to be reached, again, is that Philip’s brother Anthony was not the same person as the Amesbury Anthony. While use of the given name Anthony in the Beccles Colby family does provide a valuable clue as to the immigrant’s possible ancestry, the Beccles branch of the Colby family had no monopoly of this Christian name. Edward Colbye, Gentleman, Of Banham, co. Norfolk, wrote his will 31 March 1580, proved 17 May 1580, (16) in which he named, among others his wife Elizabeth, daughter Alice and sons Thomas, Francis, Anthony and Edward. The Banham parish registers contain the baptismal records of Edward (28 Jan 1560) and Thomas (14 Sept. 1561), (17) but not those of Alice, Francis and Anthony. There seems to have been a break in the Banham registers from about 1565 to about 1580, and their births probably occurred during this time. This Anthony could logically be estimated as born about 1568, making him even older than the Beccles Anthony. The Colby family of Banham, co. Norfolk, and that of Beccles, co. Suffolk, were branches of the same family, sharing common ancestry. It can be seen that the name Anthony was known in both branches at least one generation before the American Anthony came to New England. Furthermore, two other contemporary Anthony Colbys can be located in England. In 1622, Elizabeth Colby, singlewoman of Matshell (Mattinshall?) , co. Norfolk, made a nuncupative will in which she left the majority of her goods to "Anthoney Collby my brother Also his wife"(18) but as Thomas and Beatrice did not have a daughter Elizabeth, this must be another Anthony, especially in light of the significant distance. The parish registers of St. Nicholas, Ipswich, Suffolk, (19) contain the baptismal record on 29 April 1597 of Richard, son of Anthony Colby. The burials of this church show in 1604 - 29 Aug. John Colby } Richard Colby } fratres Ralph Davy 31 Aug Anthony Colby pater


 The only similarity between the immigrant and the son of Thomas and Beatrice was the given name. However, other Anthony’s located in England, without any additional documentation, have just as valid a claim to be the New England immigrant. Further research into source material in Suffolk and Norfolk may reveal the parentage of the immigrant to New England who now has a large posterity in America, including the author of this article. Nevertheless, until documentation is forthcoming, the parentage of Anthony Colby of Amesbury must be regarded as unknown, and the previously accepted connection with the son of Thomas and Beatrice (Felton) Colby must be discarded.


(1) Mary Lovering Holman, Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John

Sargent Pillsbury (Concord, N.H., 1938), pp. 137 f.; David W.

Hoyt, Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Mass. (Providence, R.I., 1897), 1:103 f.

(2) Norfolk County Quarterly Court files 1:33.

(3) Ibid. p. 24

(4) Donald Lines Jacobus, The Waterman Family (New Haven 1939), 1:8.

(5) Holman, op. Cit.; Belle Preston, Bassett-Preston Ancestors (New Haven

1930), pp. 66 f.

(6) Holman, op. Cit. Hoyt, op. Cit.

(7) Walter C. Metcalfe, ed., Visitations of Suffolk (Exeter 1882), p. 127.

(8) Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Wills 1588 9 Leicester.

(9) Metcalfe, op. Cit., pp.17 f., 127; Brundish Parish Registers; Prerogative

Court of Canterbury: Wills 1588 9 Leicester (will of Thomas Colby), 1599 94

Kidd (will of Francis Colby); Episcopal Consistory Court of Norwich, Wills

1642, f. 77 (will of Philip Colby; Boyd’s Marriage Index: Suffolk, vols. 1, 4,

7; Visitations of Norfolk in the year 1563 (Norwich 1878-1895), 1:97, 2:493 f.

(10) Metcalfe, op. Cit.

(11) Jacobus, op. Cit.

(12) Essex Institute Hist. Coll. 60 (1924) pp. 149 f: (13) Hoyt, op. Cit.

(14) Probate Records of Essex County, Mass. (1916), 1, 1635-1664, pp. 407-410.

(15) Episcopal Consistory Court of Norwich, Wills 1642, f. 77.

(16) Ibid. 1580.

(17) Banham Parish Registers.

(18) Archdeaconry of Norfolk, Wills, 1622, f. 53.

(19) St. Nicholas, Ipswich, Parish Registers.