The Wings of a dilemma

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe Wing family of Cape Cod has had a great amount of genealogical information published about it over the years. Beginning with Rev. Conway P. Wing’s A Historical and Genealogical Register of John Wing, of Sandwich, Mass. And his Descendants, 1632-1888, the list includes Mary Elizabeth Sinnott’s Annals of the Sinnott, Rogers, Coffin, Corlies, Reeves, Bodine and Allied Families, published in 1905, in which Wing is one of the allied families; The Owl, a serial publication of the Wing Family Association from 1901 to the present, and most recently Raymond T. Wing’s 2006 version, Wing Genealogy, Volume 1, The Reverend John Wing of Banbury, Oxfordshire, England and his wife Deborah Bachiler, Their Ancestry and Descendants through Five Generations.

Yet, in my opinion, there is still no satisfactory account of the first generations of the Wings in print. I recently discovered this while preparing the Early New England Families Study Project sketch on Daniel2 Wing. As I read all of the various published accounts on the family, I ran into many areas of discrepancy and/or muddled or misinterpreted records, particularly about when the Wings came to New England. Knowing that many earnest Wing researchers have been working on the family for so long, I wondered why the results have not been better.

I came up with the theory of twin dilemmas:

1) If it is already in print, why spend more time researching? and

2) If there is a really large amount in print, it must be everything there is.

From the beginning, accounts of the Wing family have contained a lot of information corrected and re-corrected in successive accounts, but it has been done in a way that has usually added to the confusion. The Owl, the availability of which is extremely limited (issues published after 1920 are not online), has been codified as the absolute authority on the Wing family to the extent that the 2006 edition of the Wing genealogy cites almost exclusively from the periodical rather than original records, with no new exploration of sources or critical analysis.[1] In effect, it seems as though new research on the Wing family ceased nearly a century ago.

If we don’t continue to constantly explore and analyze the work of our predecessors, especially as more new resources become available, then the family story becomes stagnant. There is so much yet to be learned and discussed about the early Wing generations.

Now, before all of you Wing descendants pounce on me for picking on the Wings, let me assure everyone that this is just one example of many families who suffer from the “already in print” dilemma.


[1] See David L. Greene’s review of this work in The American Genealogist 81 [2006]: 158.

Alicia Crane Williams

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.View all posts by Alicia Crane Williams