FRENCH, Thomas Sr. - I8598

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Thomas FRENCH, Sr.

This name is of French origin. Tradition says that three brothers called French were armorers in the train of William the Conqueror. "The surname FRENCH is one of the oldest and most honorable in England. It is derived from the personal name Fran(o)is in England, Franc in France, and Frank in Germany, and has been used as a surname in England since 1100. It was anglicized to Frensh, Frensche, Freneshe, etc., as early as 1300. Various branches of English families of French bear coats-of-arms, and a book has been published on the English families in various countries, and the armorials they bear."[1].

French Coat of Arms

A coat-of-arms in the possession of descendants of John French, second son of our immigrant, confirms a Scotch descent of the family.[2].

Thomas French Sr. sketch

I. Thomas FRENCH, it is believed, came from the north countries of Scotland, residing for a while in County Suffolk, England, where on 5 September 1608, in Assington, he married Susanna RIDDLESDALE and took up farming. "Assington, County Suffolk, is a parish in the hundred of Babergh, in the arch deaconry of Sudbury, and diocese of Norwich. The church is dedicated to Saint Edmund, and there are records of baptisms, burials, and marriages fairly complete from 1598 to 1683."[3] There are county records which show that a French family had been early established in the Babergh Hundred, as far back as 1274. Whether our immigrant was of that stock is still a matter for conjecture.

About 1630, some, if not all, of the children of this couple (married in 1608 in Assington) came to America - in the Lion with John Winthrop Jr., it is believed. They remained a while in Boston, and then settled at Ipswhich, Massachusetts, wither they were followed shortly by the parents. On the records of the First Church of Boston, the name of Thomas French is found appearing between the name of John Withrop and that of his wife, Martha. This name, it is believed, was that of the son, as also was that of the Thomas French who was received as freeman there 6 Nov. 1632. On the First Church records it is shown that a daughter Mary was born to Thomas French in 1632, but died soon. This undoubtedly is the child of the younger man.

Thomas French, Sr., was dismissed to the church in Ipswich 27 Jan. 1639, "wither he had gone in 1634," says one historian.[4]. He died there before 5 Nov. 1639, when "the administrators of the goods of Thomas French, deceased, commit them to his wife, and the land which he left is to be disposed for sale or otherwise, by the advice of the Magistrates of Ipswich, for the maintenance of his wife, and education of his children who are not yet able to provide for themselves nor were disposed of in their Father's life."[5] This record indicates that some of his children had already been provided for.

Thomas French

II. Thomas FRENCH, born in England, came with his family to New England in 1631, marrying probably about that time. According to one authority, his wife appears to have been Mary, the daughter of William Scudamore, of Herfordshire, whose pedigree found in the Visitation of Gloucester, shows a daughter Mary, wife of French, of Boston in New England. The will of William Scudamore, son of the above-mentioned William, dated in London, proved in 1636, makes a bequest of five pounds each "to all the now children of Mary French, his sister," though no mention is made of New England.(IBID.)

Thomas French took the oath of freeman at Boston, where he was a member of the church. Later he settled in Ipswich, recorded there in 1638 as "Junior," his father still living. In 1647 he deeds land simply as "I, Thomas French, tailor."[6] He was a member of the Artillery Company in 1638; was sergeant of militia in 1664, in which year he also received a share in Plum Island. On later town and probate records he is recorded as Ensign.[7] His house was on Bridge Street, between Robert Muzzey and Thomas Scott, his lot covering the site of what was later the pumping station, and the land adjacent. It was inherited by his son, Thomas, the constable.[8] He died 8 Aug. 1680, his will, dated 3 Aug. 1680, being probated on the 25th of that month. His estate was inventoried at 217 pounds. He left real estate to sons Thomas and Samuel, naming also "Mary, my beloved wife," sons John and Ephraim, and daughter Mary Smith.

To his son John he left "one cow which is to make up the sull summ of 30 pounds which I formerly promised his for his Portion." He provides that his son Thomas is to "give full and free libertie to Mary my wife his mother ... and that after her decease my son Thomas shall deliver to my three children, John, Samuel, and Mary, three of the biggest pewter dishes which shall be left and remain, that is to say, to each of them one." He also left a cow to his daughter Mary Smith, and ordered that the balance of Ephraim's part be paid in money, which fits in with the conclusion that John and Mary lived near by, and Ephraim much farther away.[9] His widow, Mary French, died 8 May 1681, at Ipswich.

The CHILDREN of Thomas French Jr.

  1. Sarah (probable), in 1656 Sergeant French charged Hackaliah Bridges with being the prospective father of a child by Sarah French, but Bridges was discharged. If Sarah was a daughter of Thomas (and there is no other person to whom she could belong as Thomas' brothers were either married to late or their children are known during the years when she would have to have been born), she died before 1680 when he made his will. She married Thomas Holbrooke about 1690 in Weymouth, Norfolk, Massachusetts.
  2. Mary baptized 23 Sept. 1632, in Boston and died young.
  3. Mary, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 22 March 1634, was married about 1656 to Robert SMITH, third great-grandfather to the prophet Joseph Smith.
  4. Thomas aged 22 in 1658, born about 1636; married Mary Adams, daughter of William Adams of Ipswich, Feb. 29 1659/60, served under Major Appleton in the winter campaign against the Narragansetts in 1675-6; in 1687 was constable of Ipswich, he took an active part in the rebellion against the tax policy of Gov. Andros under the leadership of Appleton and Rev. John Wise; he was arrested Sept. 15 1687, arraigned on Sept. 21 and sentenced to pay a fine of 15 pounds, to give a bond of 400 pounds for good behavior and to be ineligible to hold office.
  5. John born about 1637, married Pheobe Keyes, daughter of Robert and Sarah Keyes, about 1660. John was a tailor by trade, moved from Ipswich to Topsfield about the year 1664. Some ten years later he built the house which forms the nucleus of the French-Andrews house, so called, still standing near the Newburyport turnpike in Topsfield. He was admitted a commoner of Topsfield in 1675/6 and took the oath of allegiance and fidelity in 1678. Phebe French committed suicide by drowning in May 1701, and in that year John French deeded his home to his son John in return for the usual consideration of care in his old age. He died about the year 1708.
  6. Samuel, born about 1639, convicted of fornication with Lydia Brown, Feb. 22 1666, his father and brother Thomas going on his bond. He died in Ipswich in 1688. Married Elizabeth Kemp presumably in Massachusetts.
  7. Ephraim, born about 1643, deposed that he was fifteen years old in 1658[10]; admitted an inhabitant of Enfield, Connecticutt, in 1687, but in 1690 there is an entry in the town book that his grant is to be forfeited "if he come not"; he came, and in 1699 his nephew Richard French of Topsfield was induced to follow him, and in return for companionship and labor, became his uncle's heir. He died Sept. 1716. Married Hannah about 1672 in Enfield, Hartford, Connecticut.

For continuation of this family line click here to follow the SMITH biographical sketch.

  SOURCE:  The Ancestry & Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale by Audentia Smith Anderson (1926)


  1. (New England Genealogies, Cutter, 2:641)
  2. (Ancestral Records and Portraits, Colonial Dames of America 2:494)
  3. (Boston Transcript, 20 Feb. 1924; Boston Transcript, 18 Feb. 1924)
  4. (Genealogical Dictionary of New England by Savage, 2:207-8)
  5. (New England Historical and Genealogical Register 47: 362.)
  6. (Ipswich Town Records for 1638 and 1647.)
  7. (Topsfield Historical Society Collections 13:153.)
  8. (Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 321.)
  9. (Essex Probate Docket 10:191; Probate Records of Essex County, Mass., 3:380.)
  10. (Essex County, Mass. Records and Files II:139)