The First Generations

Although earlier records of Parmelees have been found on the Continent who may very well be our ancestors, their relationships with our proven family have not been established with certainty. With my finds in Lewes and the records I've collected over the years about our Colonial ancestors, I've concluded that these three generations of our family are the last in England and the first in America.

Our name can only be found in two areas of England during this era: south of London in Lewes, and up north, near the border with Scotland, in Middleton-in-Teesdale. The northern family's given, or first names don't fit in with the Connecticut family's, but those in the south, found in Lewes parish records, do. Parmelee records that survive at All Saints, right, run from 1572 to 1620 and those at St. Michael from 1628 to 1638 (with one in 1610). No Parmelee records can be found in Lewes after November, 1638, shortly before John Sr. left for New England and helped found Guilford, Conn.

I'm fairly certain the vast majority of North American Parmelees of various spellings can call Lewes their ancestral home, while the smaller Parmley family that first settled in Pennsylvania and then moved to the Midwest and Salt Lake City, are tied to Middleton-in-Teesdale. The two families may be linked in England but as of yet, I don't know how.  

I. John of Lewes ? -1583

Probably born before 1554. His burial was recorded May 1, 1583, at All Saints, Lewes, Sussex [now East Sussex]. He was married Jan. 11, 1572, at All Saints to Alice RUSSELL. I have found no record of her death nor a second marriage.

Their children, recorded at All Saints:

  i. Margaret * - baptized Oct. 27, 1573.
  ii. Catherine - baptized Jan. 30, 1578/79; buried April 3, 1579.
+ iii. John - baptized Aug. 30, 1584. To Connecticut.
    * This entry is atop a torn page in Volume I of the All Saints parish register. The digitalized microfilmed copy of it reads "Margare ... ye daughter of ... baptize ... xxvijth of October 157(2). Pam e l e." ... Mrs. Richard V. Shanklin Jr. of Panama City, Fla., after returning home from England in 1976, wrote the late Parmelee historian Dorothy Smallwood of Washington, D.C., to share her findings. Shanklin's letter lists the Parmelee records she found at All Saints and St. Michael, including a baptism for Margaret, daughter of John, on Oct. 27, 1573. While this year is one off from the copy I've located (all entries around it are 1572), most of Shanklin's data corresponds with what I've found in microfilmed records. Perhaps she viewed the actual parish register with the page intact in 1976 before it was microfilmed in 1984?

II. John Sr.
1584 -1659

Baptized Aug. 30, 1584, at All Saints. It looks as if his widowed mother waited several months to do the christening. His will, dated Nov. 8, 1659, was filed at New Haven, Conn., with an inventory dated Jan. 2, 1659/60, and valued at £78, 13s. Records show he had at least five wives and 13 children, only three of whom are known to have survived to adulthood.

John's signature, right, appears on a counterpart deed of covenant
[ref SAS/RF/13/1] dated Jan. 2, 1608, and held in Lewes at the East Sussex Record Office known as "The Keep." John, identified in it as a bricklayer, agreed to lease a property on the King's Highway from Thomas and Constance Trayton. Sussex Archaeological Society deeds identify this property today as one occupied by Trinity House on School Hill Street, running east of High Street beyond the War Memorial.

Reproduced with the permission of East Sussex Record Office, copyright reserved

The Trayton family was in possession of the property from the mid 15th century through 1770. The building stands on the site of the Church of the Holy Trinity and long has housed the offices of attorneys, proctors, notaries and solicitors, as it did when I visited in 1997.

On Feb. 15, 1616, John, again identified as a bricklayer, witnessed the sureties of marriage of one of his first wife's brothers, husbandryman Thomas Howell of Kingston Near Lewes, to maiden Judith Garrett, of the same, according to records of the Archdeaconry of Lewes.

Shortly after it opened, John's family moved to St. Michael, right, built by merchant and Puritan sympathizer John Stansfield. But John soon ran into trouble with church authorities.

In the 1630s, restoration of the "sacrament of the altar," which meant moving communion tables back to their pre-Reformation locations, had become a flash point within the Church of England. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, arrived at Lewes' St. Thomas-in-the-Cliffe in 1634 and decreed that, among other things, its table be place in a north-south position at the upper end of the chancel and "rayled in with a decent Rayle to keep off dogs and to free it from other pollutions." Other churchwardens throughout Lewes were expected to follow suit. Two years later, those of St. Michael still had not.

When the Archdeaconry Court of Lewes convened at St. Michael on July 19, 1637, diocesan chancellor William Nevill was horrified to see that the table remained in its east-west position and personally moved it north-south. A week later, someone who surely thought the table's altar-wise positioning looked popish moved it back.

On Aug. 1, parish clerk Abel Bodle was summoned to the judge's office of the court and asked: "By whom or by whose appointment the communion Table was removed and altered since the last Court day, it being then set by Doctor Nevill North and South, and now standing East and West."

Bodle replied that "on Satterday the xxvjth [26th] of July last past, about seven of the clock at night, John Parmely, one of the church wardens of the sayd parrishe came to him and demanded the key of the Church Dore, which he thereupon delivered unto him. And he [John] went forthwith from him with the sayd key unto the church, And did charge this respondent [Bodle] that when he came the next morning into the church whatsoever he saw there, hee should not meddle to alter anything in the church.

"And afterwards the same evening the sayd Parmely sent the key unto this respondent [Bodle] by his apprentice, whose name hee knoweth not, And hee [Bodle] sayth further, That the next morning being Sonday, when he came into the church aforesaid, he found and sawe the communion Table, which Doctor Neville had the last Court day viz. the xixth [19th] of July, with his own hands placed in the east end of the chancel north and south, removed and set from the wall East and West as now it standeth."

The parish was ordered to pay 7 shillings for John's absolution, and it appears not everyone had supported his strike against popery. The following year, after he had ceased to be a churchwarden, John and wife Joane were accused of "living in incontinency before their marriage," a serious offense among Puritans. The only evidence offered was the birth of daughter Rachael, baptized Nov. 5, 1638, "within one or two and thirty weeks next after their [April 3, 1638] marriage" about one month premature. The charge was apparently rejected. But John decided he'd had enough of England.

With daughters Hannah, 7, and Mary, 5, most likely in tow, John, who would have been about 55, boarded the St. John, which set sail out of London on May 20, 1639, under Capt. Richard Russell and arrived at New Haven between July 10 and 15. Whether wife Joane made the voyage remains a mystery. I have yet to find a burial for her in England nor a mention of her in Connecticut.

John was among the signers of Guilford's Plantation Covenant, dated June 1, 1639, while the St. John and an unnamed second ship were at sea. Most of the signers were from counties Kent and Surrey, members of the flock of the Rev. Henry Whitfield of St. Margaret's in Ockley Parish, Surrey. With Whitfield the party's spiritual leader, they founded Guilford, just east of New Haven, that fall.. John's original 2½-acre home lot was north of the Village Green, just east of the 1st Congregational Church, left. Like many of the town's settlers, he became a planter.

John was one of many who testified about a shoemaker's shoddy workmanship at a 1647 New Haven hearing. He was voted a freeman at Guilford on May 22, 1649. He returned to New Haven, where he was married for the final time in 1653 and was admitted as a freeman there or Aug. 8, 1659. He died three or four months later.

John was married first May 15, 1608, at All Saints to Anne HOWELL. She was baptized April 28, 1585, at Kingston-near-Lewes, the daughter of John and Joane (Geere) Howell of Rottingdean and Wivelsfield, Sussex [now East Sussex]; her burial was recorded Feb. 3, 1629, at St. Wulfran in Ovingdean, Sussex [now East Sussex], about eight miles south and west of Lewes.

From the bishop's transcripts of St. Wulfran parish records (Old Style):

The third of February 1629, Annie Parmely the
wife of John Parmely of the p
[ar]ish of St. Mychells
in Lewes was buried

Their children, recorded at All Saints:

  i. John - buried Dec. 16, 1609.
  ii. Elizabeth - baptized Dec. 3, 1610 -- and Dec. 2, 1610 at St. Michael, Lewes; buried at All Saints on Feb. 16, 1612/13.
+ iii. John - baptized Sept. 6, 1612.
  iv. George - baptized Dec. 11, 1614; buried April 14, 1615.
  v. Anne - baptized March 17, 1615/16; probably died young.
  vi. Mary - baptized June 5, 1620; probably died young.
  vii. Johan / Joane - buried at St. Michael on July 30, 1628.

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John was married second April 29, 1630, at St. Michael to Hannah WILBUR. She was buried Feb. 20, 1634/35, at St. Michael.

Their children:

  viii. Hannah - baptized May 20, 1632, at St. Michael, living as late as 1693, married Sept. 30, 1651, at New Haven to John JOHNSON (1613-1681), son of Robert and Adeline Johnson. They had nine children.
  ix. Mary - probably born about 1634 in England, died March 16, 1667, in Connecticut, married Sept. 16, 1660, at Guilford to Dennis CRAMPTON (1630-1689/90). They had three children.

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John was married third to Elizabeth HOLTER on June 1, 1635, at St. Michael. She was baptized March 25, 1610/11, the daughter of John Holter, at St. Thomas-à-Becket, Cliffe in Lewes, and buried Sept. 1, 1637 at St. Michael.

Their children, recorded at St. Michael:

  x. Elizabeth - baptized Feb. 7, 1635/36 **; may have been buried Sept. 5, 1637, but probably
April 13, 1638
  xi. John - baptized Aug. 30, 1637; buried Dec. 12, 1637.
  xii. Martha - baptized Aug. 30, 1637 **; possibly buried Sept. 5, 1637.
** Elizabeth's burial is recorded twice, in 1637 as "the daughter of John," and in 1638 as "the daughter of John and Elizabeth"; I think the first entry may be for Martha; John would have been married to his next wife, Joane, when young Elizabeth died, hence the later burial entry for her reads "daughter of John and Elizabeth."

I'm wondering if this 11th child, John, was named for his half-brother John who left two years earlier for America. One fellow genealogist says it was not that rare for a man to have more than one son with the same name -- virtually always when he had multiple wives -- and named "the younger" and "the elder."

- - - - -

John was married fourth to Joane COBDEN, on April 3, 1638, at St. Michael. I have found no mention of her in Connecticut; she probably died in England.

Their child, recorded at St. Michael:

  xiii. Rachael - baptized Nov. 5, 1638, buried Nov. 10, 1638.

Rachael's burial is the last Parmelee entry found in Lewes. John's ship set sail from London on May 20, 1639.

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John's fifth wife was Elizabeth (----) BRADLEY, widow of Daniel Bradley, whom he married Nov. 8, 1653, at New Haven. She died in January 1683 at New Haven. (Her maiden name may have been SHEAFFE but this has not been proven.) On Jan. 20, 1661, New Haven Colony appointed a committee to seat people in the Meeting House; "Sister Parmely" shares the "little short seat" next to the wall with "Sister Allen." [Mrs. John Allen was Ellen, Elizabeth's daughter with Daniel Bradley.] Elizabeth's third husband was widower John EVARTS, whom she married May 27, 1663, at Guilford; he died May 10, 1669, making her a widow a third time.

III. John Jr.

Baptized Sept. 6, 1612, at All Saints, Lewes. His will, dated Dec. 20, 1684, was inventoried Feb. 8, 1687/88, in Guilford in the amount of £259, 4s. He had 10 children and at least 74 grandchildren.

"Jo. Palmerley" is listed as a 20-year-old passenger on the Elizabeth and Anne, the first member of the family to immigrate to America, arriving four years before his father. Master Roger Coop/Cowper/Cooper was at the helm when it was cleared to leave the Port of London on April 13, 1635 -- the Winthrop Society says it left in mid-May -- and arrived at the Charlestown section of Boston late that spring or early summer. No other family members are listed on that roster.

He was one of the original settlers of Guilford, his first home lot being a 1½-acre parcel on the east side of Crooked Lane, the fourth lot north of Buck Lane. He took the oath of freeman in Guilford on Feb. 14, 1649/50, a little less than a year after his father did. He became the drummer of Guilford's train band, the colony's chief defense unit, and served as sexton for many years, "warning" settlers to meetings and church services by beating his drum. Guilford town records show that he was a husbandman: At a court session held Nov. 8, 1648, Thomas Jones sued Richard Bristow, the Goodwife Bushnell and John for damages done to his corn by their hogs, "but no distinct proofe being made of ye pticular trespasses or of the inst value of the damages, the Court could not proceed to issue the case."

And he reported to train band practice while intoxicated:

At a Court held here Jan 1st [1656/57]

John Parmelin the younger (being called to answer about a comon ffame or report of his inordinate drinking upon a Traineing Day of late apeareing in his gesture on [the] 1st Answered That he did acknowledge that he ffell downe at the stile [steps that allow people but not animals to climb over a fence or wall] at bro [Thomas] Cookes doore & hit his drumme agst the pales there; also That he did wade through ye water agst Mr. Kitchells Lott, & the he againe went fro the way so ye pales agst Hen[ry]: Goldams Lott & then hit his drum agst ye Pales And ffurther he doth Confesse that he had drunk too much strong drink that day Considering that he was empty & had eaten little & so acknwledgeth yt he did evill & was not so watchfull over himselfe nor so carefull to avoid giveing offence as he should, for wch he was sorry:

Hee being asked why he so went fro' the plaine beaten way when he mr. brother Bartlett to crosse over to the Pales: Hee answered that he had reasons to himselfe wch he would not declare:

Thomas Betts & his wife being called to testify wt they knew in this Case, did declare that comeing from Brother Cookes that Traineing Day in the evening they did see John Parmelin a little distance from' the Ordinary[?] doore fall downe & knocked his drum agst the Pales, where upo' the said Thomas Betts did speake to him & tell him that he feared he had drunk a Cupp too much, but hee denyed it, wch occasioned them to observe more of his gestures & caryages & wn the said Betts & his wife came to the water besides Mr. Kitchells Lott, where they lay some Batts [lids or covers] upo' wch they & others used to cover over the water & being both [run] over they stood still to tye a Bagg wch the said Thomas caryed wth Apples, & then came the said John Parmelin after them, who wn he came at ye water & endravured to come over the Batts his feet slipped beside, & then he waded through the water & so passed on before them, But they coming after him overtooke him about Henry Goldams Lott where they saw him turne out of the way to goe by the side of the Pales & there againe knockt or inmbled his drum agst the Pales as he went whereupo' they meeting wthe bro: Bartlet, brother Betts said to him, doe you not see bro: Parmelin, I doubt he hath drunke a Cupp too much, who answered that he feared so also;

Brother Bartlet testifyed that it was true that he did so meet & observe Brother Parmelin there to turne out of the way & inmbled his drum as he went by the Pales & did so expresse his feares as brother Betts hath testifyed.

The Court Considering wt the said John Parmelin had confessed together wth the said Testimonyes & some other Circumstances about the matter, did ind[ul]ge the said Parmelin to be disabled in his understanding by drinking & therefore sentenced that he should pay ye ffine, according to ye Order in that Case p'vided.

William Leete

-- Guilford Town Records, Vol. A, pp. 155-156

John was married first to Rebecca ---, probably in England. She was born --- and died Sept. 24 or 29, 1651, at Guilford. (It has not been proven that her maiden name was EATON.)

Their child, born at Guilford:

  i. Nathaniel - born in 1645, died about February 1675/76, married Sarah FRENCH on Oct. 24, 1668. To Killingworth. He served as the town drummer and died in King Philip's War. He had three children.

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John was married second to Anna (---) PLAINE/PLAIN, the widow of William Plaine/Plain, in Guilford in 1651.

William, another signer of the Plantation Covenant, appears on the very first page of Guilford's town records, Aug. 14, 1645, as the witness to a deal over a load of hay between the Rev. Whitfield and Goodman Crittenden, and was given the OK to "carry out ye works of ye dammer" Sept. 4, 1645, as the town built a mill. Months after being appointed the village chimney inspector and sweep on Jan. 8, 1645/46, William found himself in serious trouble:

Mr. [Thelonius] Eaton, the governor of New Haven, wrote to the governor of the Bay to desire the advice of the magistrates and elders in a special case which was this: one [William] Plaine of Gilford being discovered to have used some unclean practices, upon examination and testimony it as found that, being a married man, he had committed sodomy with 2 persons in England, and that he had corrupted a great part of the youth of Guilford by masturbation, which he had committed, and provoked others to the like above 100 times. And to some who questioned the lawfulness of such a filthy practice he did insinute seeds of atheism, questioning whether there were a God, etc. The magistrates and elders (so many as were at hand) did all agree that he ought to die, and gave divers[e] reasons from the word of God, and indeed it was horrendum facinus [a horrible crime] (and he a monster in human shape), exceeding all human rules and examples that ever had been heard of, and it tended to the frstrating of the ordinanace of marriage and the hindering the generation of mankind.

-- June 4, 1646 entry of Massachusetts Bay Colony Gov. John Winthrop's journal

William was executed in the summer of 1646 in New Haven.

His 2-acre home lot south of the Village Green and a parcel of marshland in the great plain became John Jr.'s when he married William's widow, according to this April 13, 1668, entry, left, in Vol. 1, p. 41 of Guilford's terrier books. The 4½-acre property was bounded by on the north and west by John Hoadley's, on the east by John Fowler's, and on the south by William Leete's.

Anna was buried March 30, 1658, at Guilford. John and Anna had no children.

John Parmelee married the Widow
Plaine and so those two parsels of land
as they are here teriord became his
posession and so this is his terier of lands
This was entred this 13 of April 1668

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John was married third to Hannah about 1659. Hannah died Jan. 8, 1687/88, in Guilford.

John, "with the consent of his wife Hannah," traded Guilford properties with John Goodrich in a deed found in Guilford Land Records, Vol. B, p. 212, and dated Feb. 1, 1681[/82]. They relinquished a 4-acre parcel of upland and meadow "in the great plaine by Mr. Andrew Leete's marsh and by Richard Brissol's [Bristow's] marsh by the way that goeth to Mr. John Leete's poynt of Rocks."

On Jan. 26, 1684[/85], John -- again "with the consent of Hannah his wife" -- agreed to sell Richard Huball, formerly of Guilford and now of Fairfield, a parcel "of upland and marsh lying and being in the great plaine in Guilford" containing 2¼ acres, more or less. John and Hannah signed with their marks, right. The agreement, in Guilford Land Records, Vol. B, p. 231, and signed with their marks, gives the boundaries as "the highway on the east, running back to the marsh lands of John Bishop on the west. bounded by the lands of John Fowler on the north, and by the lands of George Bartlett on the south."

The clauses "with the consent of his wife Hannah" and "with the consent of Hannah his wife" would indicate John was transferring the title of land that Hannah likely obtained by inheritance. Because these parcels would have been considered part of her dower and returned to her if John had died, she had to consent to the sales. Married women in colonial America were not allowed to transfer property on their own, but once a widow, they could transfer title under their own signature.

Just who did Hannah inherit these properties from? The Widow Plaine's parcels were in Guilford's great plain. We're these two women related?

John and Hannah's children, all born at Guilford, were:

  ii. John - born Nov. 25, 1659, died March 21, 1725, at Guilford, married Mary MASON on June 27, 1681, at Guilford. His tombstone can be seen at Guilford's Alderbrook Cemetery. He had seven children.
  iii. Joshua - born about 1661, died in June 13, 1729, in Guilford, married Alse/Alice EDWARDS about July 10, 1690, at Guilford; and widow Hannah DeWOLF Stone in 1716, at East Guilford [now Madison]. He had 13 children.
  iv. Caleb - born about 1663, died about 1741*, married Abigail JOHNSON on April 11, 1690, at Guilford; Abigail HILL on April 23, 1693, at Guilford; and Mary DURHAM on Jan. 11, 1737/38. To Branford. He had seven children.
  v. Isaac - born Nov. 21, 1665, died Jan. 13, 1748/49, at Guilford, married Elizabeth HYLAND/HIGHLAND on Dec. 30, 1689, at Guilford. Their home, the Hyland House, still stands east of the Village Green. He had nine children.
  vi. Hannah - born Nov. 5, 1667, died ---- , married Tahan HILL in November 1688; and Thomas MERRILL on May 25, 1693, at Saybrook. To Saybrook. She had six children.
  vii. Stephen - born Dec. 6, 1669, died April 4, 1736, at Newtown, married Elizabeth BALDWIN on June 20, 1693, at Guilford. To Newtown where he was the town drummer. He had 11 children.
  viii. Job - born July 31, 1673, died March 6, 1765, at Guilford, married Betty EDWARDS on March 11, 1699, at Guilford. He had seven children.
  ix. Priscilla - born May 8, 1678, died Dec. 10, 1692, at Guilford.
  x. Joel - born about 1679/80, died July 20, 1748, at Durham, married Abigail ANDREWS on June 30, 1706, at Durham. To Durham. His tombstone was found at Durham's Old Cemetery near the top of the hill. He had 11 children.
* Many old genealogies state that Caleb died in 1714, but I believe that these last two digits have been transposed, for he can be found buying and selling land with Caleb Jr. from 1724 to 1740. Also, Mary DURHAM is often listed as Caleb Jr.'s third wife but Caleb Jr.'s estate papers refer to Jemima as his widow, and Jemima's tombstone at Branford calls her the "relict of Caleb."

John Jr.'s 10 children make up the major branches of the largest North American Parmelee family.

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Updated March 29, 2021