Vol. 7, No. 3 - FORGE:The Bigelow Society quarterly - July 1978 Page 45

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Flagg Ancestry

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Why, in a quarterly dedicated to Bigelow genealogy, should there appear an article about the Flagg ancestry? Two reasons: because three children of Thomas Flegg the immigrant married offspring of John Biglo (so that over half of all Bigelow descendants have Flagg ancestry), and because the two popular Flegg/Flagg genealogies have apparently erred in stating the parentage of Thomas Flegg of Watertown, Massachusetts.

Reader June Braman of Corvallis, Oregon, whose ancestry is through Sarah Bigelow (Asa 4 , John 3 , Joshua 2 , John 1 ), last summer attended a week-long seminar in genealogy, sponsored by New England -Historical and Genealogical Society. She had the use of their excellent library, and while researching, used the copy-machine to send us a forty-page extract from Genealogical Notes on the Founding of New England, by Ernest Flagg, 1926. These pages (pp. 401-440) thoroughly disprove the statement of the Flagg genealogies that Thomas Flegg was baptised in Whinbergh, Norfolk in 1615, son of Bartholomew and Alicia Flegg.

Concerning Bartholomew Flegg, the author states: "He was born about 1585 and resided in Whinbergh until 1619 when he moved to the adjoining parish of Shipdham...and continued there ten years until his death; and was buried there 7 March 1628/9. He left no will nor was there any administration of his estate." Therefore there is no list of heirs. He had five children baptised in Shipdham after 1619. Since Whinbergh parish registers prior to 1703 are lost, we have no way of knowing if there were any children, specifically Thomas Flegg, born there prior to 1619. Ernest Flagg continues: "For half a century it has been claimed in America that the emigrant Thomas Flegg was baptised _ Whinbergh or Shipdham in 1615." No such record exists.

The author does find proof that a Thomas Flegg was baptised in Hardingham, Norfolk, on 6 May 1621, and proceeds in the next few pages to establish that this child is the man who came to New England. He establishes the lineage for several generations.

Thomas Flegg (baptised 1621) was the youngest of the four sons of Allen and Nazareth - (Devoroys) Flegg. He was seven years old at his father's death and came under the control of his oldest brother Henry, with whom m he probably lived during the next few years.

Here Ernest Flagg digresses to give us this historical background " In 1633 William Laud became archbishop of Canterbury.. and started to enforce conformity upon the Puritans... Matthew Wren became bishop of Norfolk in 1635, and his active persecutions of the Puritans caused a large migration of them to New England during the next two years. At the same time there was great economic and industrial depression in England and...young men joined this migration, not on account of religious motives, but with the object of bettering their material condition.

"In this category belonged Thomas Flegg, who lived in New England fifty years before... he became a member of the Puritan church in 1690. Among the emigrants to New England in 1637 were 25 families...whose records have been preserved, because the law required that lists be made of all persons leaving England."

Though many of the lists are lost, the Public Records Office in London has a list of 115 Norfolk residents licensed to pass to new England in April 1637 on either the ship John and Dorothy or the Rose. The family of Richard Carver of Scratby is named, and included three servants, one being "Thomas Flege age 21 years".

If Thomas were baptised in 1621, how could he be "21 years" in 1637? Flagg continues "It was customary for young unmarried men to engage themselves for two or three years as an employee of an older planter who would pay their passage to the New World...Thomas Flegg's age was probably deliberately over-stated to make him appear to be of legal age." In this way he would avoid detention, for the law was quite strict about minors trying to leave the country. "If Thomas Flegg were a large and mature-appearing youth of 16, he could have made a bluff as being of age." Ernest Flagg states that while Carver came from a parish five miles from Flegg's home parish, there is no other Thomas Flegg of the area who could have been the emigrant. Carver died in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1640, and the following year Thomas Flegg, having served out his term of indebtedness begins to appear on Watertown records. He did so until his death in 1698.

"The main evidence for claiming that Thomas Flegg baptised at Hardingham, Norfolk, England 6 May 1621 is identical with Thomas Flegg the emigrant in 16 7 from Yarmouth to New England, is in the names given to his children. His oldest child Gershom, born 1641, bore a name given by several New Englanders to a first son born after arrival, the word meaning 'exile'. The second child, John, born 1643, was named for Thomas' grandfather, John Flegg of Shigdham. The third child Bartholomew, born 1645, was named for Thomas' brother Bartholomew (born 1619), and who is the only Flegg named Bartholomew found anywhere in Norfolk from 1400 to 1650, except the cousin Bartholomew" to whom later genealogists erroneously assign Thomas as a child. Flagg continues, "The fourth child, Thomas, born 1646, was of course named for the emigrant himself. It is possible there was an unrecorded child born in 1648; it has been claimed in the Flagg/Flegg genealogy that a William Flegg was born in this interval and was killed by Indians in an attack on Lancaster in 1675, but it was Bartholomew Flegg (born 1645) who met this fate. The fifth child, Michael, born 1653, was obviously named for another of Thomas' brothers, Michael (born 1615) of Reymerston. The sixth child, Eleazer, born 1653, had a Bible name then in vogue in New England. The seventh child, Elizabeth, born 1655 , was doubtless named for Thomas' grandmother, Elizabeth, second wife of John Flegg. The eighth child, Mary, born 1658, was of course named for her mother. The ninth child, Rebecca, born 1660, may have been named for Thomas' older cousin Rebecca, daughter of John Flegg of Whinbergh, the only woman of that name found in this family. The tenth child, Benjamin, born 1662, bore a name commonly given by Puritans to what they expected was a youngest son. But in this case there was miscalculation, as an eleventh child, Allen born 1665, was named for Thomas' father Allen Flegg.

"This extraordinary combination of names whereby Thomas Flegg of Watertown named his children for himself, his wife his father, two of three brothers, his only paternal uncle, his two paternal grandparents, and a cousin, cannot be coincidence...and together with eliminating any other Flegg, seems to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the emigrant Thomas Flegg was the same"Thomas, son of Allen 16 (John 15, Richard 14, John 13, James 12, William 11, John 10, John 9, William 8, Phlip 7, Phlip 6, Philip 5, Sir John 4, Sir John 3, Henry 2, Alger 1 ) and Nazareth (Devoroys) Flegg. Ernest Flagg cautiously adds that beyond Thomas' grandfather, he has certain doubts as to the linage but the entire Forty pages make fascinating reading.

One more proof remains : Thomas Flegg, like all colonists between the ages of 16 and 60, had to take part in military training. On 5 April 1681 he petitioned to be relieved of training, and from paying the annual 5 shilling fine for those unable to train. The implication is that in 1681 he was 60 years of age, i.e., born 1621, not in 1615, and thus eligible to be relieved on account of age.

Other records of interest concerning Thomas Flegg are that he owned a homestall of six acres, and a lot of twenty acres. He served as selectman eight times between 1671 and 1685, and as late as 10 July 1693, was chosen to serve on the grand jury. In 1659 he lost an eye by a gunshot accident. He made his will in 1697. From the third volume of published Watertown records, this last cntry: "Thomas Flege an old man diceaced feb:6: 1697:8." Indeed he was an old man, a good seventy-six years old at the time of his death.

His widow Mary made her will on 30 December 1702, which was attested 21 April 1703, and inventory for distribution taken 25 May 1703. Her husband having previously bequeathed most of his property to their sons, Mary divided her movables and remaining property "equally among my daughter Mary Biglo, my daughter Elizabeth Biglo, and my daughter Rebecca Gook...the executor to have 3L 12s of my sonn Benjamin Flegg which is remaining to be paid me by my husband's will.' The executor was Samuel Biglo, the witnesses were Nathaniel Wilder, Ephraim Wilder, and John Warren. This brings to mind the questions was Mary the wife of Thomas Flegg a Wilder daughter?

After the deaths of Thomas and Mary, the family surname soon changed to the spelling Flagg, and is so used by all descendants in America today.

Children of Thomas and Mary (maiden name unknown) Flagg, all born in

Watertown, were :

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born 16 April 1641; died Watertown 6 July 1690; married 1668 Hannah Leppingwell.



born 14 June 1643; died Watertown 6 Feb 1696/7; married 1670 Mary Gale. 3 children.



born 23 Feb 1644/5, died before 1697, as not named in his father's will; the article above states he was killed by Indians in 1675.



born 28 Apr 1646; died in Natertown 1719, married 18 Feb 1667/8 Rebecca Dix. 5 children.



born 23 Mar 1650/1; died Watertown. 16 Oct 1711; married (1) 3 June 1674 Mary Bigelow, who died 3 Sept 1704; and (2) 27 Dec 1704 Mary (Lawrence) Earle. 3 children by first marriage.



born 14 May 1653; died Concord, Mass. May 1722; married 10 Oct 1676 Deborah (Wright) Barnes. 3 children.



born 2 liar 1655; died Watertown 9 Aug 1729; married 20 Oct 1676 Joshua Bigelow. 12 children



born 14 Jan 1657/8; died 7 Sept 1720, the death recorded in both Watertown and Waltham; married 3 June 1674 Samuel Bigelow. 10 children.



born 5 Sept 166O; died Cambridge Mass. 20 June 1721; married 19 Nov 1679 Stephen Cook.



born 25 June 1662, died Worcester, Mass. 3 May 1741; married about 1689 Experience Child. 9 children.



born 16 May 1665; died Watertown Oct 1711; married 12 Mar 1684/5 Sarah Ball. 9 children.

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Sources: Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of New England; Banks, Persons of Quality, Hotten, List of Emigrants; Bond, History of Watertown; Watertown records, and the article named in this feature.

Thanks especially to June Braman of Corvallis, Oregon, for this important addition to Bigelow ancestry.

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