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Home: Surnames: Jenness Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: My Jenness Notes
Posted by: John L. Date: October 21, 2000 at 16:54:13
In Reply to: My Jenness Notes by Gerry Hammond of 331

I was pleased to see my ancestor's history on the Internet [source: your "My Jenness Notes" dated 08/09/2000] but disappointed to see it containing numerous factual mistakes. The Cutter book which you consulted had the facts nearly right: but in genealogy, unfortunately, being close isn't quite good enough. Mistakes don't correct themselves and even constant repetition doesn't convert them into historical fact. Repetition of errors actually makes it more difficult to access the truth from the growing amount of fiction.

I'll not belabor the point further. Your Jenness connection almost certainly makes us some kind of distant cousins and I'd welcome hearing from you again, showing where and how you connect with the family. In the meantime, perhaps you'd allow a few background comments on the family as well as corrections of the Cutter mistakes.

1. There's no proof that Francis Jenness's surname was ever Jennings - although it conceivably might have been. The earliest discovered documentation of Francis's name occurs on the embarkation list drawn up at Bristol, England, in some unknown person's handwriting, on the day he boarded ship for America. The surname was there written "Genings" [source: letter dated August 14, 1995 from the City Archivist, Bristol England]. The full text of the entry reads "Francis Genings bound to Richard Shipway for 3 years in New England the Usual conditions" [Ibid.]. The Jennings' surname was already well established in England in its modern spelling before the advent of the 17th Century [source: IGI records]. The Jenness surname, in contrast, was still evolving. It showed up in the 1500's and early 1600's in a variety of spellings but not yet in it's exact modern form [source: IGI listings, March 1992]. The Jenness and Jennings names are said to have had different origins; the likely explanation for their different evolution is that the Jennings' family of that time was, by and large, educated, affluent, property owning, with Court connections, whereas the Jennesses seem to have been unconnected, uneducated and probably poor. The pre-17th Century "Jenness" surname supposedly came into England with the Normans, probably as Gennes in the first instance, who were a family in the then Province of Anjou, France [source: Rev. James S. McGivern, S.J., Jesuit priest and genealogist, personal letter dated April 21, 1972]. Francis himself apparently couldn't write his own name [source: he signed his will with an "x"] and people who were writing it on early New Hampshire colonial documents were spelling it Jenness, Genis, Janis, Jennis, Jeniss, Jenniss, Jinnis, Jnnies, Jenins, Jnings, and Jennings [source: Sanborne & Sanborn: "Vital Records of Hampton, New Hampshire, p. 619].

2. The ship which brought Francis to America sailed from Bristol, England on August 10, 1662 [source: above cited letter from City Archivist, Bristol]. His place and date of arrival haven't been found, but under reasonably normal weather conditions the passage across the Atlantic in his time took no more than about two months. Therefore his arrival should be dated about 1662, not about 1665.

3. "He was born about 1634" is appropriate because his date of birth [unknown] was computed from a reference to his age at time of death, [i.e., in John Scribner Jenness's "Memorial of Hon. Richard Jenness p. 8]. However, there is no evidence to indicate that Hampton, England was his birthplace. It was commonplace for the founders of New England colonial communities to name them after their home town in England, but Francis wasn't one of the founders of Hampton NH. As an indentured servant he also wouldn't have had any say in the naming of any town. Furthermore, family members who have sought evidence of him or his [as yet unknown] parents in Hampton England have come away empty-handed.

4. After 1671 Francis lived in what is now known as Rye NH and he died there in 1716. The property lay in an expansion, or overflow area adjacent to, but beyond Hampton's town limits and probably didn't have a name in Francis's time. Francis's sons, joined by several neighbors, successfully petitioned to have their homestead area named the parish of Rye in 1726 [source: J.S. Jenness, op.cit., p. 10]. So many of Francis's descendants lived in Rye during the next 2-3 generations that it was sometimes known locally as Jennesstown.

5. Francis married Hannah Swaine on "ye 15; 12 mo. 1669', not in 1671 [source: Sanborne & Sanborn, op. cit., pp. 76, 557].

6. Francis and Hannah Swaine had seven children, not six. Their oldest son / first child was Thomas, born at Hampton on February 23, 1671, died by drowning at nearby Little Harbor on August 24, 1696 [source: Parsons: "History of Rye NH" p.381].

7. Hannah Swaine was the daughter of William Swaine (1619-1657) and Prudence Marston [daughter of Capt. William Marston (1592 -1671) and Sabrina Page], not of
William Swaine and Prudence Martin. [Source: Louise H. Tallman: "Rye Families" p. 1].

The references in your "Notes" to the Jenness homes in Pittsfield and Deerfield connect these localities to Capt. Richard Jenness, Francis's youngest son. Richard was the best educated of Francis's children and in adulthood became a lawyer, politician, close friend of New Hampshire's then colonial Governor, and an owner of substantial properties in various parts of New Hampshire. At his death, Capt. Richard was rich [!] and his bequests helped numerous sons and grandsons to become even richer. The Deerfield and Pittsfield estates were particularly well situated and fine and not at all representative of the holdings of the majority of Francis's descendants. Francis's sons Hezekiah and John each had large families and most of them remained in the Rye NH area. They weren't nearly as well to do as the "Richards". In fact, the first Jenness genealogical histories, written by Capt. Richard Jenness descendants John Scribner Jenness and Eloise Jenness Leonard failed to mention any of the many "Hezekiah" and "John" families. Some "Richard" descendants remain unaware of the existence of these " cousins" to this day, yet"Johns" are more numerous than "Richards" among the 1,000 or more Jennesses currently spread out through about forty-three of the U.S. States.


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