Tuesday, 1 May 2012

One of the first mentions of a Fitzhenry in North America?

The book "Maine Wills 1640-1760" by William Sargent was published in 1887 under the auspices of the Maine Historical Society. The aim of the book was to document all the wills of the old County of York (Maine and Massachusetts) in whichever archive or record office they resided.
This book recently been imaged and indexed on the Geneanet.org website, and contains a very early reference to a Fitz-Henry in North America.

Arundel August ye 28 1724.
The Deposition of William Huges & Ruth Huges of full
age Saith that they heard lames Fite Henry Say that he
Desired to make a wife of lennet McCulland and Some few
Days before he was killed by the Indians and he told us that
if he Should be taken away Suddenly it was his will and
that he gave unto his Girl lennet McCulland all the Estate
he had and that the above sd lames Fite Henry was at the
Same time in his Majesties Service and that this Deposition
was Comitted to writing within Six Days after it was known
he was Killed by the Indians.

William Huges W his mark

Sworn to 3 Nov. 1724, by William Huges, also 28 Jan. 1724-5, by Ruth Huges. Allowed
in Court and probated 28 Jan. 1724-5
According to the preface, the wills were copied "verbatim, literatim and punctuatim" so any variations from the King's English have been preserved in the writing! Huges was probably Hughes, and Iennet was Jennet, a common woman's name at the time. 
The capital I was interchangeable for both I and J, and hence Iames Fite Henry is James Fite (or Fitz) Henry.
James Fitz-Henry was a soldier serving in the army of King George 1, the first Hanover King of Britain and its colonies. I know nothing more about James.
The County of York embraced the whole Province of Maine until 1760, when it was divided into separate counties. The chief executive of the province exercised all the powers of a supreme probate court in England. Arundel is still in York County, Maine and a history of the town written in 1886 can be found here
William Huges uses a W for his mark rather than the more common X.

Notice the years when the will was sworn and probated. This was during the period when the Julian calendar year started on the 1st January, but the British Civil and Legal year started on March 25th. Dates in this range showed both the "old style" and "new style" year dates (here 1724-5). This is often seen in old parish registers. 

In 1752, the New Year was standardised as January 1st with the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar throughout the whole of the British Empire (including North America). The one remaining exception is the British Tax year which continued to start on April 5th (which was the new Gregorian equivalent of the old Julian March 25th) until 1800 when it changed to April 6th. 

Will reference Probate Office, 3, 163.
Page 290, Maine wills : 1640-1760
Author : Sargent, William M. pub. Portland Maine, 1887

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