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Michael Upchurch, our first American Upchurch
Posted by: KEVIN BURTON (ID *****9609) Date: December 26, 2006 at 12:39:47
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There are some misconceptions regarding our first American Upchurch, Michael, that have been and still are believed to be fact. I recently used my copies of the Upchurch Bulletin (UB) to address these misconceptions. Prior to posting this article here I sent it to the UB's editor, Robert Phillip Upchurch, for him to edit. Phil made some changes, added to it, and gave his blessing, so please read it and comment if you desire.

For those who do not know Phil, he has been publishing the Upchurch Bulletin since 1980 and is considered by many as being the "guru" of Upchurch family history.

The article:

For many years, and even up to the present, many in the Upchurch Family thought that Michael, our first Upchurch ancestor to immigrate to America, arrived in Virginia in 1649 from the small village of Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, England. This belief was based on two letters from Michael which were published in the 1972 book Upchurch Family by Belle Lewter West. The two letters were found in a collection called the Ferrar Papers which are housed at Magdalene College in Cambridge, England. In 1991 Professor David R. Ransome, while studying the Ferrar Papers, discovered a total of four letters from Michael.

Ransome’s translation and interpretation of these four letters was published in the Upchurch Bulletin in 1994. With this report from Ransome and commentary from the editor of the Upchurch Bulletin, Prof. Robert Phillip Upchurch, we now have a new and clearer view of where Michael came from, when he arrived and how life was for him and other colonists of the time.

In the first letter from Michael to John Ferrar of Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, England, Michael’s parent’s names were not mentioned, but Ferrar did write an endorsement to go with the letter that states “his father Richard Upchurch at Brienton by Old Weston in Huntingtonshire.” From this letter and other records from the 1600’s that Ransome has thoroughly studied, both he and Upchurch have made the logical assumption that Michael and his parents were actually residents of Brington in Huntingdonshire, a mere 5 miles from Little Gidding, prior to Michael’s emigration to America about 1638. Ransome also warns us that Ferrar may have been wrong about the name of Michael’s father. Richard may have actually been William. In later reports from Ransome published in the Upchurch Bulletin it would appear that he is leaning more towards Richard being Michael’s father. Furthermore, Ransome’s research has uncovered more than one possible Richard, and he reluctantly states “that there is at present no way of deciding definitively the question of Richard Upchurch’s ancestry.” Ransome goes on to say that two of the choices are from the Godmanchester Upchurches or from the Great Gransden Upchurches, although he may have come from another group of Upchurches yet to be found.

Sadly, what this means is that the family tree appearing in Belle West’s book dating back to about 1450 and showing six generations of ancestors prior to Michael, is most likely not correct as proven by Ransome’s extensive research on the Upchurch family’s behalf. It is hoped that sometime in the future the final piece of the puzzle of our English ancestry will turn up.

Another common misconception is that our American Upchurch ancestors trace their heritage back to the town of Upchurch in England. This town is just west of Sittingbourne in Kent. Proof is yet to be found that a person with the last name Upchurch ever lived in this town.

Yet another misconception comes from one of the letters Michael Upchurch wrote back to England in the 1650’s in which he reveals that he had married Frances, but her maiden name is not given. Unfortunately, American researchers in the 1950-1970 era concluded she was Frances Delke. More recent input from competent historians of the Delke family provides strong evidence that there was no female Delke available to have married Michael Upchurch in the 1635-1655 era.


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