Butterfield Family Connection with England


By Glynn Burrows, Norfolk Tours UK

Glynn Burrows, historian and owner of Norfolk Tours in England, discusses the historic family connection that John Butterfield, founder of the The Butterfield Overland Mail Company, had with England, on Big Blend Radio.

John Warren Butterfield founded the Butterfield Overland Express and from 1858 to 1861, operated a stage route running from St. Louis to San Francisco, establishing an important connection between the new state of California and the government and economy of the contiguous eastern states. The Butterfield Overland Mail Trail Route is currently being considered as a possible National Historic Trail.

John Butterfield was a descendant of Benjamin Butterfield. I was very interested when I heard about the Butterfield family’s connection with England and started to look into their origins.

The one fact that we have to work from, is that Benjamin Butterfield died on the second of March 1688 and although, it says on most sites, that he was aged 87/8, it doesn’t say that anywhere on the burial register. What it does say, is that he was buried on “March 2 ‘87/8” and the reason it says that, is because, up to 1752, the year began on Lady Day (March 25th), but, as many people were using the first of January as the date for the new year, dates between 1st January and 24th March were written “2nd March 1687/8” meaning 1687 in the old calendar, but 1688 in the new. No mention of his age at all.

Looking at various sources on the worldwide web, it proves one thing: Don’t believe everything you read on the worldwide web.

Some websites have Benjamin as the son of Thomas and Hazel, some have Thomas and Isobel, (both women nee Murgatroyd). Most sites say that he was baptised in Halifax but no baptism for a Benjamin Butterfield has ever been found in Halifax, Ovenden, Northowram, Southowram or Warley. Several wills from the area have also been examined, with no Benjamin mentioned in any of them.

The problem we have today, is that many people just copy what they read on one site and post it without checking. It has become accepted, as fact, that Benjamin Butterfield came from Halifax, yet I haven’t seen any supporting evidence of that. All I have seen are references to other family histories, none of which quote sources, other than other family histories.

Some sites tell us that he married Ann Junden on 3rd June 1629 and others that they married 26th October 1632 in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, but no marriage of that couple is in the register there for either date.

The children I have seen mentioned are; Mary 1632-1666, Benjamin 1636-1663, Jonathan 1638-1673, Nathaniel 1643-1719, Samuel 1647-1714 and Joseph 1649-1720. Some sites say that some of the children were born in England but other sites say they were all born in America. As Benjamin was in Charlestown in 1638, it appears, that the children Mary, Benjamin and Jonathan could have been born in England but no record of their baptisms have been located by me yet.

So, where do we go from here? How do we find out the truth? Can we find out the truth?

As with any type of investigation, we have to go from the known facts and, all we have to go on, is the death of Benjamin and his will. We know he died and he was buried in March 1687/8. His will was made in 1677 and, in it, he mentions his sons: Nathaniel, Samuel and Joseph. He also mentions his grandchildren: Jonathan and Mary, the children of his deceased son Jonathan. The will also mentions Deborah, the wife of his son Nathaniel.

Another fact we have, is that Benjamin’s son Jonathan was married in 1667 and died in 1673. Looking at averages, if he was 25 when he married, he would have been born around 1642 and, if his father was thirty when he was born, Benjamin was born around 1612. (As these are estimates, these dates are approximate.)

When Benjamin settled in America, he was one of the founders of Chelmsford (also the name of a town in Essex) and there was a farm there called Billerica (there is a town in Essex called Billericay). Nearby, there is an East Haddam (in Essex, there is a Little Hadham, a Great Hadham and a Much Hadham). This suggests to me, that Benjamin came from Essex and not Yorkshire, but a lot more research, on both sides of the Atlantic is required. Has any of the Butterfield family in the US had their DNA tested? Have any Butterfields in Essex had their’s done?

The one thing that this little journey into the history of the Butterfield family has reminded me to not take everything on the WWW as totally accurate without checking further to verify it.

Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England. For help or advice about tracing your family history, or if you are thinking about taking a vacation to England visit www.Norfolk-Tours.co.uk





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