The English in America

Last week, Lisa and I visited the Copps Hill Burying Ground near the Old North Church in Boston’s North End. I had walked by it a few times before but never gone in because it is sooo close to the end of the Freedom Trail, and our guests are usually ready for the long walk to be over. I had a tip (via the Internet) that some of my relatives are buried there, so we finally went in.

I will give you the full rundown of the cemetery itself soon, but you might be interested in my family’s particular connection to this country that was so new to many of the people buried in Copps Hill.

It starts with Richard Mather, the Puritan preacher of diminished means who came to Massachusetts Bay in 1635, fifteen years after the Mayflower arrived. The Puritans in America have their closest modern counterparts in the Ayatollahs of Iran, men who parlay religious authority into authoritarian political control. Richard’s son Increase Mather became one of the most influential men in New England. Increase’s son Cotton Mather carried on the family tradition, publishing prolifically on religious matters and is notoriously linked to the Salem witchcraft hysteria after giving expert testimony about how to identify “spectral evidence.” Increase is my tenth great-grand-uncle (once removed).

  1. John Mather of Lowton, Winwich Parish, Lancashire County, England
  2. Thomas Mather, Yeoman of Lowton
  3. Rev. Richard Mather (1596-1669) — He emigrated to Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1635
  4. Timothy Mather (1628-1684) — married Catherine Atherton. [1]
  5. Atherton Mather (1663-1734) — married Rebecca Stoughton. [2]
  6. William Mather (1698-1747)
  7. Timothy Mather (1722-1802)
  8. Timothy Mather (1757-1818) — married Hannah Church. [3]
  9. Timothy Mather (1785-1858) — married Harriet Adams. [4]
  10. John Adams Mather (1822-1875) — [5]
  11. James Sherman Mather (1852-1933) — married Emma Elizabeth Fanning. [6]
  12. Clarence Mather (1888-1975)
  13. Richard Mather (1915-1979?)
  14. Dennis Mather (1942- )
  15. Me (1974- )

[1] — Catherine Atherton was the daughter of Major General Humphry Atherton, who purchased land from the Narragansett Indians under false pretenses. The Major’s grandson Humphry Atherton, Jr., apparently owned some fellow human beings, as well. (According to the probate record, Atherton left “Cuffee, a Negro Man £300,” to his heirs.)

[2] — Rebecca Stoughton was the granddaughter of Hon. William Stoughton, the Lord High Witch-Presser in the Salem Witch Trials. There’s a Stoughton, Mass., too.

[3] — Hannah Church was the daughter of John Church and Jemima Montague of Hadley, Mass. So, it’s likely that I’m related to the family that gave Montague, Mass. its name.

[4] — Harriet Adams is a descendant of John Alden, a Mayflower passenger. Her parents came from Milton and Braintree, so it’s almost certain that I’m also related to two American presidents, though I’m still working on the link.

Update: If you go four generations up the family tree from President John Adams (or five from President John Quincey Adams) you will find Henry Adams and Edith Squire. Their seventh son, Joseph, begat the presidential family line. A descendant of Joseph’s younger brother, Henry, married into the Mather family in 1812. It’s a very distant link.

My link to the common ancestor…

  1. Henry Adams (1582/3 – 1646) m. Edith Squire (1587 – 1672/3)
  2. Edward Adams (1629 – 1716)
  3. John Adams (unknown)
  4. Edward Adams (1682/3 – 1743)
  5. John Adams, Dea. (1708/9 – 1790)
  6. Edward Adams (1738/39 – 1825) m. Dorothy Spear (1743/4 – 1802)
  7. Harriet Adams (1787 – 1828) m. Timothy Mather (1785 – 1858)

The presidents’ link to the common ancestor…

  1. Henry Adams (1582/3 – 1646) m. Edith Squire (1587 – 1672/3)
  2. Joseph Adams (1625/6 – 1694)
  3. Joseph Adams, Jr. (1654 – 1736/7)
  4. John Adams, Dea. (1690/1 – 1761)
  5. John Adams, President (1735 – 1826)
  6. John Q. Adams (1767 – 1848)

[5] — John Adams Mather was the guy who brought my family from New England to the Midwest. He first settled as a young man in western New York then moved his family to Wisconsin in 1857 and later to Minnesota.

[6] — Emma Fanning is a direct descendant of William Bradford, another Mayflower passenger and the second Colonial Governor of Massachusetts. I think we’re also related (indirectly) through her to the explorer Edmund Fanning.

(Click for larger image…)

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9 Responses to The English in America

  1. jenny says:


  2. dwfarineau says:

    hi there,

    I just came across this, doing some research with my son. I, too, am related to Nathaniel Wales. My mother is a Wales! My mom has all this info somewhere…i’ll try to put my hands on it!

  3. jenny says:

    I wasn’t able to locate any ancestors while I was in Massachusetts last year. I just found this almost a year later. I am still interested in finding Wales relatives.

  4. Gary Lee says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Looking at your family tree, I believe Clarence Mather and my grandfather, Perry Jay Mather were brothers. That is “so cool”.

    I would love to compare notes with you! Could you reply by email? Thanks!


  5. Evy Pettit says:

    I too, can trace my roots back to the Mather family. Atherton Mather had a son Increase and that’s where my family takes off. Interesting to find even more distant relatives!

  6. Helen G. Dominick says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I have a son Jeff (Dominick) and now live in MA (about 3 1/2 years now) I, too, am a direct descendent of Rev. Richard Mather who came here in 1635, he is my 8th great-grandfather. Your article is very interesting; would you be open to my getting information from you that I may have in the future. I have my direct descendency but not a lot of other information, i.e. wives names, children, etc. My grandmother (paternal) was the first female in my line of Mathers. I could tell you more, if you’re interested. I’m kinda all over the place with this right now.

    I have a daughter who is very interested in all her genealogy; she had her great-grandparent’s (paternal) names put on the Wall at Ellis Island, and my cousins had my grandparent’s names (maternal) put on also.

    It was fun reading your information. Sincerely, Helen

  7. Jeff … based on the website provided, i am also a distant descendant of family mather.
    some dates do not match up tho. richard [riCk] MaTher

  8. rik_m@comcast.NET says:

  9. Mark A. Mathison says:

    Hello distant cousin,

    I also descend from John Adams Mather, but through his son Frederick William. I grew up hearing stories that John Adams, the president were in my family tree, but I followed Harriot Adams Mather’s mother’s lines and worked backward through all the mothers and landed on the lap of John and Priscilla Alden, by their daughter Ruth. I have followed many of the Mather mothers and have found many interesting ancestors.

    It is interesting that of all of Richard’s sons and grandsons who became famous as preachers, the Mather line that has survived is through Timothy, the Farmer Mather.

    You can find several references to James Mather in “The History of Cottonwood and Watonwan Counties” and John Adams Mather in “The History of Rice County” both available online.

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