The Timberscombe Theory

Charles Edward Banks in his Topographical Dictionary of 2885 English Emigrants to New England 1620-1650. Philadelphia 1937, p. 145 states Josiah Ellsworth immigrated to Windsor from the English parish of “Timberscomb”. Banks references his own manuscript notes as the source of this information.


On investigation of pages 81-2 of Banks’ manuscript (Item #44) the following individual, names written in script, were found in “Tymberscombe”: Anthony Eelsworthie, Peter Eelsworthie, and an entry which appears to say Joan Eelwsorthie. The reference for this information in the Lay Subsidies 1620-1628 (172/374 - 3 Charles I of the Carhampton Hundred, pages 68-84) is listed, and should be reviewed to evaluate this source. Josiah was not born however until 1629, after this lay subsidy. Ellsworths have been documented in Timberscombe, which is a step in the right direction, but why did Banks think, of all the potential Elsworths, that Josiah was associated with these, especially when there is a mismatch in the date?


My own review of the Lay Subsidy manuscript record (#2228728) 179/172/374, 3 Car 1 revealed three individuals in Tymberscombe  in 1628 as noted by Banks: Anthony Elsworthie, Peter Elsworthie, and Johane Elsworthie, but with slightly different spelling. I am not sure what to make of the script, in Latin, immediately following the names, or in the adjacent columns. See below:



Anthony Elsworthie, Peter Elsworthie, and Johane Elsworthie show up again in Lay Subsidy manuscript record (#2228728) 179/172/377 in Tymberscombe in 1628. I am not sure what to make of the script, in Latin, immediately following the names, or in the adjacent columns. See below:



Anthony Elsworthie, Peter Elsworthie, and Johane Elsworthy show up again in Lay Subsidy manuscript record (#2228729) 179/172/397 in the free manor section of Carhampton, 16 Car 1 during 1640. This is still a bit soon, most likely, to find Josia, as he would only have been about eleven years of age. Once again I am not sure what to make of the script, in Latin, immediately following the names, in the adjacent columns, or in this case in the heading above Peter and Anthony. See below:



An incomplete transcription and index of the Somerset Subsidies (#2228728), which appears to have been used in the preparation of Dwelley’s National Records Vol. 2 Directory of Somerset, also details the presence of a William Elsworthy and John Elsworthy in Withycombe in April 1674, and a Thomas Elsworthy in Exton on 1 May 1674. The index for the manuscript also lists a John, Robert, Thomas, William, Jenkins, and Dorothy Elsworthy/Elworthy on pages not included in the volume as microfilmed. Presumably the published volume would have the additional information referenced. Exton and Withycombe were not checked by myself for any Elsworthie/Elsworths in the previously mentioned subisidies.


So what do all these subsidies and the work of CE Banks result in? There were Elsworthie’s in Tymberscombe around the appropriate time frame for Josia. There is also a Johane present, which could correspond to the mythical John Elsworth as Josia’s father, or the Joan referenced earlier by Banks. While Johane could be John, in this case it most likely means Joan, as the scribes in images 1 and 3 note multiple “Johns” with the correct spelling John, not Johane. This is all circumstantial evidence however. There is nothing linking Josia to these Elsworthies or to Timberscombe in this primary source material.


Donna Holt Siemiatkoski in The Ancestors and Descendants of Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth and His Wife Abigail Wolcott and the Story of Elmwood, Their Homestead. Gateway Press, Baltimore 1992. pp. 3-7 gives a good summary and overview of the Josiah problem. Her research revealed the Ellsworth/Elsworth/Elworthy family lived in Somerset area since at least the twelfth century. She references work by Sir H. C. Maxwell Lytem, who reportedly documented court records of the Ellsworths in the Minehead area. Around 1640 The Ellsworth family came into possession of Bickham manor. No record of Josiah was found by Siemiatkoski tying him to these Ellsworths.


Siemiatkoski makes a good case for the West Country, such as Timberscombe, being the source of family origination. In a direct frontal assault on the Three Brothers Theory, she states few people were leaving England around 1646-54 for religious reasons, as the Puritans were in power under Cromwell. Her analysis of Josiah’s early land transactions indicates they were all with West Countrymen. Based on the nature of these transactions, she felt it likely that Josiah may have come from a landed family, may have had good social standing, and/or may have had family or business relationships with the Warwick Patent group. The research mentioned by the Sir H. C. Maxwell Lyte may be worth reviewing. Locating and contacting descendents or relative of Siemiatkoski, who died in 2001, would be helpful in learning if she located any new information regarding the Ellsworth line since submitting her manuscript for publication.


Siemiatkoski also cites a speech given by a John S. Ellsworth Jr. in 1964 discussing the origins of Josiah. A copy of the speech in its entirety is located at the Windsor Historical Society. John also comes down decidedly in favor of the Timberscombe theory, and makes several interesting claims supporting his position.


John S. Ellsworth Jr. details his trip to, and research, in Elsworth, Cambridgeshire, England and his lack of success in locating the family line. Ellsworths were reportedly found there, but disappeared three centuries too early for Josiah. He then mentions a “small book about some of the western towns of Somerset – Minehead, Luccombe, Cutcombe, Watchet and Timbersombe [where he] found the almost parenthetical mention that ‘in 1646. younger son of Ellsworth had sailed for foreign parts.’” He does not list the author or name of the book, but if true, this would be another source supporting Hinman’s own 1646 Ellsworth allegation. Locating this “book on the western towns of Somerset” would be helpful in confirming this account. He also reports generation after generation of Ellsworths were found in the area. John Ellsworth also alleges Richard Ellsworth of Timberscombe, who founded the Ellsworth school in 1714, was the great nephew of Josiah. Research into this line may be helpful in locating the missing link. John Ellsworth also observes the people who came from England to Dorchester, and from there to Windsor, were from the West Country - Dorset, Somerset, and Devon. He believed it likely a boy of seventeen (using the 1646 date) coming to America would seek out a community and people whose roots were interwoven with his own.


John S. Ellsworth Jr. apparently lived at Old Quarry, Guilford, CT 06437, as detailed at the end of the speech. This address is crossed out, and a Thomas Ellsworth of Simsbury, Connecticut, 06070 has been written in by hand, taking John’s place. Presumably this was updated contact information of a relation to John who, though living in November 1984, is now undoubtedly deceased (In a letter to Bishop Bickersteth regarding the Ellsworth School in Timberscombe dated 2 November 1984, also on file at the located at the Windsor Historical Society, John Ellsworth references his eldest daughter who was a tenured professor at Stanford University). Locating this John S. Ellsworth Jr., or his descendents (Thomas (?), or the Stanford professor), may lead to identification of this mystery book, or further information unearthed by Mr. Ellsworth. On the back of the speech is found the following stamp, L. Ellsworth Stoughton, 54 Scantic Rd., Conn. RTE 191. East Windsor, CT 06088. This L. Ellsworth Stoughton may also have further information on this line, if he / she or an appropriate descendent may be located.


Please contact me if you have any questions regarding this research, or if you have additional information which would be helpful breaking through my brick wall.