The Richmond Family


John Schuerman



I turn from my usual focus on the medieval ancestors of Peter Worden I to a family that the Wordens of America married into in the 1700s, the Richmonds.  Peter Worden IV (d. 1745, Westerly, Rhode Island, Peter III, Samuel, Peter II, Peter I) married Rebekah Richmond on May 26, 1720 (Vital Records of Rhode Island 1636-1850, James N. Arnold, Vol 5, Washington Co. 1874, p. 54).  Rebekah's parents were John Richmond and Elizabeth Irish.  There has been some doubt in some quarters regarding this parentage but that doubt seems cleared up by the fact that John Richmond's will dated February 24, 1739-40, proved July 28, 1740 mentions his daughter, Rebecca Worden. 


Rebecca was the great-granddaughter of John Richmond of Taunton, Massachusetts, the evident gateway ancestor (d. 1664).  The descent is given in Joshua Bailey Richmond's Richmond Family 1594-1896 and Pre-American Ancestors 1040-1594 (1897, Family History Library film 1018890, Item 6).  John Richmond, Rebecca's father, was the son of Captain Edward Richmond (d. November 1696 in Little Compton, R.I.) and Abigail Davis and Edward was the son of John Richmond of Taunton.


An ancestry for John of Taunton is given in Joshua Bailey Richmond's book, and until recently I had accepted that ancestry.  However, I have recently encountered sources that indicate to me that John's ancestry is in considerable confusion.  The first is the website and the second is an article by Joshua Richmond's nephew, Henry I. Richmond,  "The Richmond Ancestry," which discusses the difficulties of identifying John of Taunton's origins in England in (Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, v. 21, 1928, pp. 17-32).  Henry Richmond was the compiler of Richmond Family Records. 


It is not clear when John of Taunton first came to New England.  He was one of the purchasers of Taunton in 1638 (Samuel Hopkins Emery, History of Taunton, 1893).  A John Richmond appears in the Saco (now Maine) court record from February 1936/37 to June 1637 and this John is usually assumed to be the John of Taunton, but I see no evidence that they were the same man.  He was for a time in Newport, Rhode Island, before returning to Taunton.  John is said to have traveled back and forth several times to England, engaged in trade.  There is a John Richmond of Amesbury who sailed to Virginia under bondage in 1658 and this person is also identified with John of Taunton, which seems to me to be a stretch.


Unfortunately, John left no evidence as to where he came from in England.  Most writers on this family assumed he came from Wiltshire and the early belief was that he was from Ashton-Keynes (Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of New England).  Others believe he came from Amesbury (e.g., Benjamin Franklin Wilbour, Little Compton Families, 1967).  The problem is that there were a lot of John Richmonds in Wiltshire at the time.  Joshua Bailey Richmond thought he came from Ashton-Keynes and identified him with a John Richmond who fought on Cromwell's side in the English civil war.  This requires that John of Taunton have returned to England to fight in the war.  There is a story about John and his brother Henry who was a soldier for the royalists who were on opposite sides of the line before a battle in 1643.  Learning of his brother's presence on the other side, Henry snuck over the line to see John, finding his tent.  In the dim light of the evening, John did not recognize him and shot him dead. 


In his article, Henry Richmond discusses several possibilities for where John Richmond of Taunton came from.  Though he does not come down with certainty, he believes the most likely possibility is that he came from Amesbury and was from a branch of the Richmond family originating in Brinkworth, Wiltshire.  Unfortunately, the argument depends on the occurrence of the name "Sylvester" in both the English and American families.  Sylvester may have been a relatively uncommon name, but it seems to me that this is a shaky argument.  In the end, Henry Richmond confesses that he has not completely solved the problem.


There is even more question about the ancestry of the Richmonds in England as given by Joshua Bailey Richmond.  He traces them back to the time of the Conquest (1066).  The early ancestry here appears to depend heavily on two sources.  The first is Francis Thackeray's work on the Thackeray ancestry which I have been unable to locate (Francis Thackeray was the uncle of William Makepeace Thackeray, the renowned English author).  The second is the History of Yorkshire: Wapentake of Gilling West (1879) by Marshal General Henry de Strabolgie Neville Plantagenet-Harrison which is quite unreliable.  This author's name is a rather flamboyant elaboration of his birth name, Plantagenet Harrison.  A biographical notice of him may be found in Modern English Biography (Frederic Boase, ed., 1892-1921, reprinted 2000).  Harrison claimed a seemingly improbable military career in several countries after which he was banned from the British Museum library for claiming to be the Duke of Lancaster, went bankrupt and was jailed, then worked for the Public Records Office.  There are a number of notices of him in Notes and Queries (Oxford).  A typical such entry is found in the issue for March 15, 1930, p. 193: "General Plantagenet-Harrison . . . was a pedigree forger of the worst and most unscrupulous type."  Wapentake of Gilling West was intended as the first of a multi-volume history of Yorkshire, no other volumes were published although there are 30 volumes of notes for them in the library of The National Archives in Kew, southwest of London.


Accounts of the Richmonds in Wiltshire usually go through William de Richmond, who married about 1440 Alice Webb.  Alice was the daughter and heiress of Thomas Webb of Draycott, Wiltshire.  Since his wife had more land than he did, William assumed the name Webb.  His son William was known as William de Richmond alias Webb.  After that generation, the family appears to have reverted to the last name of Richmond. 


So I believe that at the moment we cannot be sure of the ancestry of John Richmond of Taunton.


A further note on the Talbots.  In the February 2008 issue of WP I wrote an article "The Talbot Ancestors of Peter Worden."  The article was largely based on J. Gardiner Bartlett's The English Ancestry of Peter Talbot of Dorchester, Mass. (1917) although I also consulted other published sources.  I have since been studying the Talbots more closely and have concluded that the early part of the descent of the Talbots of Bashall that I presented is likely wrong.  The material from Robert Talbot, born about 1205 appears to be generally sound, but I cannot be certain that Robert was the son of Robert Talbot of the family of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire and that he was descended from early Talbots of England and Normandy as I described.  This descent is based on writings of 17th Century antiquaries (William Dugdale, Christopher Towneley, and Roger Dodsworth).  My examination of original sources (or at least transcriptions of original sources) indicates that the conclusions of these writers do not hold up.  It is, however, relatively certain that Peter Worden descended from the Talbots of Bashall.  My research on the Talbots continues and I will keep WP readers informed.