‘Christopher Christophers in the library’

Jeff Record’s recent post on his relative Evan Evans reminded me of similarly named persons in colonial Connecticut aptly named Christopher Christophers. While I am not related to these individuals, the fact that these men shared my first name twice is surely a reason I was interested in them. For seventeenth-century New England, Christopher was a rare first name, as it tended to be a name amongst Catholics, with Pilgrims and Puritans rarely using it at the time. Within my own direct ancestry for sixteen generations, I have only found three ancestors named Christopher – two being Germans in eighteenth-century Virginia (Christopher Blankenbecker and Christopher Shake) – and one in colonial New England – Christopher Peake (ca. 1612-1666) of Roxbury, Massachusetts.

I came across Christopher Christophers when researching a multi-ancestor book that I wrote about in my first post on this blog seven years ago. A treatment of his family is in John R. Totten’s work, Christophers Genealogy: Jeffrey and Christopher Christophers of New London. I saw the book was cited in volume 24 of Mayflower Families Through Five Generations (the first person of this name married a granddaughter of Mayflower passengers William and Mary Brewster; more on that later), and was surprised to not find it our library catalog. I had used a copy at the Connecticut State Library and a digitized version is available here on familysearch.org.

The reason the book is not on our shelves is because it was reprinted from successive issues of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record from April 1919 to July 1921.[1] Several “serial genealogies” published in journals were subsequently bound as a book, but our library deaccessioned these years back as they were available in the journals themselves. The serial article covers descendants of Christopher Christophers (ca. 1631-1687) and his reputed brother Jeffrey Christophers for six adult generations, so for Christopher’s descendants who are all also Brewster descendants, the article goes three more generations than what is covered in part two of volume twenty-four of Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, and the article covers numerous people alive at the time of its last publication in 1921, although the recent Mayflower publications correct some items from the 1919-21 publication.

The life of Christopher Christophers, a mariner, is an interesting one. He was born probably in Churston Ferrers, Devonshire, about 1631, where he married his first wife Mary Berry in 1654, and by whom he had three children baptized there between 1657 and 1662. The family of five were in New London, Connecticut by 1665 when he started a business partnership purchasing warehouses and wharfage with Charles Hill, later his brother-in-law. Christophers also was New London’s deputy to the General Assembly of Connecticut at Hartford from 11 October 1683 to 8 October 1685.[2]

By late 1667, his personal life starts getting complicated. While his first wife is still living, Christopher Christophers begins an extramarital relationship with the widow Elizabeth (Brewster) Bradley, by whom he has a son John on 3 September 1668 and another child between 16 September 1673 and 2 June 1674, who died young. As a result of this, Christopher and Elizabeth are brought in to court, as shown in the following court abstract from 1673 (among others):

Mary (Berry) Christophers died at New London 13 July 1676, and Christopher Christophers and Elizabeth (Brewster) Bradley were married within the year by 5 June 1677, and under Connecticut law, the “subsequent marriage of [John’s] parents, acknowledged his paternity and legitimized his status as their child.”

The two surviving children of Christopher Christophers and his first wife (Mary and Richard) both were married to children of their stepmother Elizabeth, and Richard married secondly Elizabeth’s niece, so all of Christopher’s grandchildren and later descendants are also Mayflower descendants of William and Mary Brewster. Richard’s son Hon. Christopher Christophers (1683-1729), whose portrait appears at the beginning of the post, had an extensive civil career as a member of the Governor’s Council, Naval Officer of the Port of New London, deputy to the General Assembly to represent New London, and Judge of Probate for the District of New London. The chart below outlines how all of the first Christopher’s later descendants are Brewster descendants, as well as the continuation of this fun double name![3]

Notes

[1] John R. Totten, “Christophers Family,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 50 [1919]: 110-27, 211-27, 318-34, 51 [1920]: 8-24, 148-61, 206-21, 329-44, 52 [1921]: 55-70, 175-90, 231-51. The portrait of Hon. Capt. Christopher Christophers appears in volume 51 between pages 18 and 19 and that of his wife Sarah (Prout) Christophers between pages 19 and 20. As of 1919, the portraits were in the possession of the Latimer family of Brooklyn, New York, descendants of Christopher and Sarah through their daughter Sarah (Christophers) Latimer (also the ancestor behind my previous post).

[2] Barbara Lambert Merrick and Scott Andrew Bartley, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations … Volume Twenty-Four The Descendants of Elder William Brewster, 131-36.

[3] Although Christopher1 Christophers has thousands of living descendants today, the last known male descendant in the sixth generation bearing the surname Christophers was John6 Christophers (Peter5, John4, Christopher3, Richard2, Christopher1), who died unmarried at Montgomery, Alabama in 1821, aged 33.

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

12 thoughts on “‘Christopher Christophers in the library’

  1. Double names AND and Mayflower descendants? (And all of this inclusive of a guy named “Jeffrey”) I think the deck is stacked! Great post Chris – and great fun too!

      1. Also, while I mention in note 3 about the surname in Christopher’s descendants, “daughtering out,” this is also the case for Jeffrey Christophers, whose only Jeffrey had no known children. The Totten article linked above also states “that they [Jeffrey and Christopher] were brothers is conclusively established by documents on record in New London, wherein this relationship is specifically expressed.”

  2. Wow! Elizabeth Brewster is my 9th great-grandaunt, I have to add this info to our tree. Very cool!

  3. Hello Chris,

    Thank you for another interesting article. The phrase “born probably in Churston Ferrers, Devonshire” caught my eye, since I have an ancestor, Richard Dart(e), who was “probably” born in Churston Ferrers at around the same time and also came to New London around the same time.

    Richard Darte bought land in New London on 12 Sep 1664 and the town records say he appeared there in 1662.

    Referring to Frances M. Caulkins’ History of New London, Connecticut, Thaddeus Lincoln Bolton writes (in the Genealogy of the Dart Family in America) “According to the town records quoted by Miss Calkins in her History of New London, Richard Dart with a number of companions appeared in New London in 1662. After remaining there for some time he with his companions were ordered by vote of the town council either to become citizens or to make their departure. Richard chose to become a citizen.”

    Many Dart researchers have identified Richard with the one baptized in Churston Ferrers in 1634, but I have never heard where they got that information, besides the fact that it fits with the name and approximate age. Since Christopher Christophers apparently came to New London in the year after Richard Dart bought his house, I am wondering whether they were part of a group from Churston Ferrers in New London at that time.

    Could I ask what documentation you have found of the tie with Churston Ferrers in the case of Christophers? Is there any reference to his origin in the records in Connecticut, or is it, like the birth of Richard Dart, simply a case of the right name appearing at the right time?

    Thanks for any information,

    Sarah Dart

    1. Hi Sarah – Thanks for your comment. See note two, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations … Volume 24, Part 1, William Brewster-Generations 1 – 4, 2014, which has the most up to date information regarding Christopher’s origin in Churston Ferrers.

      1. Thanks, Chris. I guess I’ll have to wait until I get back to the U.S. to look that up. WorldCat tells me the closest copy is 372 miles away in Madrid! I see that Torrey’s mentions Churston Ferrers for Christopher Christophers, so he must have got it from somewhere. Looks like I need to spend some pleasant days in the NEHGS library tracking this down to see if Richard Dart’s origin gets a mention anywhere.

        Sarah

        1. Sarah, the article by Totten that I link above – https://www.americanancestors.org/databases/new-york-genealogical-and-biographical-record/image?volumeId=13762&pageName=110&rId=245116745 – has some information on the origin in Churston Ferrers. The origin is primarily as the marriage of Christopher and Mary and the baptisms of their children match the family in New London.

          A few more things to point out. In Volume 63 (1932): 51 of The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, a short article by the late Charles Edward Banks indicates that Jeffrey and Christopher’s parents were likely Geoffrey and Mary (Willmead) Christophers of Devon. Also a transcript of Churston Ferrers parish registers from 1590 to 1653 was published as well in the Record, 63 (1932): 259-268, 351-358; 64 (1933): 46-53, 298-304, 396-403; 65 (1934): 82-87, 182-187, which includes the Richard Darte of 1634, son of “Richard of Phillip his wife.”

          Looking up the New London town council records could be worthwhile if it identifies Richard Dart’s other “companions.”

          Also Elizabbeth (Brewster) (Bradley) Christophers’s brother Benjamin Brewster married in 1659 (recorded in Norwich, CT), the widow Ann (Addis) Dart, widow of William Dart. William and Ann married at Boston in 1653 and had a son William Dart at Boston in 1654/5 (no further record on him). Ambrose Dart may have died in Norwich, CT. I did not see Ambrose Dart in the Churston Ferrers records.

  4. Thanks, Chris, that’s very helpful! I, too, would love to find out who the “companions” were. Long ago I went to Churston Ferrers and also to the Devon Record Office in Exeter and found many Dart records that I tried to organize into family groups. (It is the only place in the world where I have found pages and pages of Darts in the phone book!)

    There is a reference to the will of a Richard Dart in 1648, but only the index entry survives, since most of the old wills were destroyed in a bombing raid in Exeter in 1942. I wondered if this could be the New London Richard’s father or grandfather— but no luck finding out.

    There is also a Richard Dart, mariner, who was executor to the will of one of his sailing companions, William Menchim, on the Ship Amity in 1652. They made a reciprocal will where each of them would inherit if the other died. Lots of interesting food for thought!

    Sarah

  5. Great story! I have them both in my program as 9th great-grandparents. Will be fun researching this one. I do wonder if she was the only one punished. So often (then… and through the ages) the woman was considered worst of the sinners.

  6. Hi Chris – The Christophers surname came up recently in researching my Dad’s ancestry connected to the surnames Robbins, Huntley, and Manwaring all of whom lived in New London, CT. Very interesting article, thanks for shedding new light. Mike

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