Search billions of records on


 Brownells Arrive In America


Thomas and Anne Brownell were the first members of the Brownell family to emigrate to America. Most Brownells in the United States and Canada are descended from them. They arrived in New England in 1638, on board the ship Whale. According to the ship's passenger list, they had lived in the London parish of St. Mary Cole before making the journey to America.[1]

Thomas and Anne are assumed to be the Thomas Brownell and Anne Bourne who were married in the Church of St. Benet's, Paul's Wharf, on 20 March 1637/1638.[2]

Thomas is also tentatively identified as the Thomas Brownell baptized at St. Mary's Church in Rawmarsh, Yorkshire, England, on 5 June 1608.[3] He is also assumed to be the son of Robert and Mary (Wilson) Brownell. He had an older brother, George, baptized at St. Mary's on 23 March 1606.[4] and a younger sister, Anne, baptized on 28 July 1611.[5]

Anne has been tentatively identified as the daughter of Richard and Judith (Cowper) Bourne, born in London and baptized at St. Michael Cornhill on 15 February 1606.[6]

Both Thomas and his brother, George, apparently left Yorkshire at some point and went to London, where they probably worked as drapers (dealers in cloth or clothing and dry goods) for their uncle, Thomas Wilson. Known as Thomas Wilson The Elder, he was the brother of Mary (Wilson) Brownell and was a prosperous cloth worker or fabric merchant in London. He also owned a very large estate called Ryecroft, near Rawmarsh where both he and Mary Wilson were born.[7]

Thomas and Anne Brownell settled first in Mt. Wollaston (later known as Braintree) Massachusetts, where Thomas was a "planter" or farmer. The first record of him there is in the notebook or legal memoranda of Thomas Lechford. He sold "a house, a garden and six acres of arable land in Braintree" to Deodatus Curtis.[8] The deed is undated, but occurs between entries of 26 May and 11 June 1640.

The only other record of Thomas Brownell in Braintree is in the Notarial Record of William Aspinwall on 22 February 1646. The record states that "I Thomas Brownell do acknowledge myselfe indebted to Robert Kearne in the just summe of 1 pound 12 shillings and 4 pence which I promise to pay to the said Robert or his assigns in his now dwelling house in Boston at or before 1 July (?)."[9]

This second record could imply that the Brownells lived in Braintree until 1646. It is more likely, however, that this was an old debt and that the Brownells left Braintree in 1640 when the house and land were sold.

Mary, the eldest of Thomas and Anne Brownell's nine children, was probably born during the time they lived in Braintree. Her date of birth is given as April 1639. There is, however, no record of this birth as the recording of births in Braintree did not begin until 1643 and were very sketchy for the early years, few births being actually recorded. Coincidentally, the first birth recorded in Braintree was that of Solomon Curtis, the son of Deodatus Curtis and his wife Rebecca, in 1643.[10] If the Brownells lived in Braintree until 1646, two additional children would have been born there­Sarah ca. 1641 and Martha 1 May 1643. Neither birth is recorded there or elsewhere.

[1] Charles E. Banks, Topographical Dictionary of 2885 English Emigrants to New England, 1620-1650, [Baltimore, 1981] p.109.

[2] The Registers of St. Benet's and St. Peter's, Paul's Wharf, on microfilm at the London Guildhall Library.

[3] Transcript of Parish Registers, St. Mary's Rawmarsh Parish Church, South Yorkshire. Vol. !, Baptism 1558 - 1637, On deposit at Sheffield City Libraries. Transcribed by Wath & Mexborough Archives, 1987, p.53. Hereafter Rawmarsh Register, Vol. 1.

[4] Ibid., p.51.

[5] Ibid. p. 57.

[6] Carl Boyer, Ancestral Lines, Third Edition, Santa Clarita, California, 1998, pp. 178-179.

[7] Rawmarsh Register, Vol. 1, pp. 15 and 31.

[8] Note-Book Kept By Thomas Lechford, Esq., Cambridge, MA: John Wilson and Son, University Press, 1885, pp. 252-253.

[9] William Aspinwall's Notarial Record, cited in the Boston Evening Transcript, 28 October 1935, Comment on Note 2783.

[10] Records of the Town of Braintree, MA, 1640 to 1793, ed. by Samuel A. Bates, 1886, p. 628.

back to top /

Back to Features Index

Copyright 1999 Bill Brownell