Thursday, January 10, 2013

Comstock Breakthrough

When a family has been researched, several books written, etc. for many years - over a century in this case - it's so easy to assume that the records about the family have been located.  The Comstock family of my mother has a history of documentation - the majority of it quite good.  However, the origins of the family in England prior to their arrival in New England between 1636 and 1640 have been elusive.

There is a village of Culmstock, East Devon, in England.  As many of the English surnames are derivative from geographical locations, the Comstocks have often been assumed to have lived in this area.  And that's certainly a possibility; however, there are no actual records of this surname in this place at the time these Comstocks would have been born and then preparing to leave to cross the Atlantic.

Our immigrant was presumably William Comstock who was on a list of 108 settlers that arrived in Wethersfield, Connecticut between 1636 and 1640.  He was not one of the original ten men from Watertown, Massachusetts, who made what is believed to be this first settlement in Connecticut the year before.  Although books in print suggest William might have arrived earlier in Massachusetts Bay, I've not yet  discovered any recorded proof that he did.  Robert Charles Anderson and his very thoroughly researched Great Migrations publications has never found any mention of the surname Comstock prior to 1635.  William probably came with his wife, and as many as five children, although one of two of the younger ones could have been born in New England depending on the year of his arrival.

As discussed in other posts (labeled Comstock) William's wife was Elizabeth - said to have been age 55 in 1663, or born about 1608.  Her given name is also identified in a few other records.  Daniel, or Daniels, can be found in many databases on the Internet as her surname, but without any sort of proof. Examination of the voluminous manuscript of John A. Comstock who wrote The Comstock Family in America which is at NEHGS in Boston, revealed that this surname had been attached to Elizabeth in a very early lineage society application without any substantiation.  So in my mind, her surname has remained a definite question.

William Comstock, and some of his sons, have been given some speculative baptisms in England by a few researchers which are then copied and recopied by others.  A birth/baptism seen frequently on the Internet for William is 4 Jul 1595 in the above Culmstock village - my research has indicated this is in all probability not an actual existing record of either his birth or his baptism.

The most plausible record that I had not been able to confirm since I had no access to the actual digitized Parish records and no access to the book, is the following:  there is a Baptism at St. Martin in the Fields, London, for a William Comstock on this date, 4 Jul 1596, from one of the two volumes of Ancestry of Colonel John Harrington Stevens & Frances Helen Miller by Mary Lovering Holman, 1948.

I had found the above baptism indexed on  Yes, there is such a baptism recorded at St. Martin in the Fields, which is the church in Trafalgar Square, London.  The name is spelled William Coomstocke and no parents names are given - the date is most certainly 4 Jul 1596.  That other Comstocks were there is further proved by C. B. Comstock's findings for his books on the family - he had found these burials.
From his book,  Descendants of William Comstock of New London, Connecticut, published 1907:
The Harleian Society publications gives among the burials of the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London: 
"Mariana Combstocke, 30 Novr 1595. 
"Joannes Combstocke, 26 Aug. 1597. 
"Johannes Comstock, 1 Nov. 1603." 

Now, I must also state that the above book by Holman apparently stated that there was a burial at St. Martin for a William Comstock on 20 May 1598 - no age given, so it may or may not be the child born in 1595.  I note that this was not found in the Harleian Society records as found by C. B. Comstock and I did not find it on FamilySearch in their index of records of St. Martin.  But I found none of the above burials in the FamilySearch records, so perhaps they are not complete.  So, although I've recorded this baptism in my notes - I had never felt secure that this was indeed "my" William Comstock of New England.
Now, yesterday, I found the following four records.

The first, the marriage, is also from
Wm. Camstock married Eliz. Cock, 2 Sep 1623, High Wycombe, Buckingham, England
It can be found here:  "England, Marriages, 1538–1973 "

The three baptisms are digitized on  And, I have to admit it, I found them because of a "Shaking Leaf"!  So many of the Leaves are attached to the wrong record, that I almost didn't even look at the record, but it was a Parish record, in the database of "London, England, Baptisms, Marriages & Burials, 1538-1812" so I looked at it, then I proceeded to look much more closely.

At Hillingdon, Uxbridge, St Margaret, were three baptisms:

1624, 21 Jul     Indexed as "Damell", sonne to Willm Coomestone and Elizabeth his wife.
Note:  I read the child's name as Daniell with an undotted i and the surname looks more like Coomestonk

1626, 10 Sep    John, sonne to Willm Coomestocke and Elizabeth his wife

1629, 26 Apr    Samuell, sonne to Willm Coomestock and Elizabeth uxor
Note:  "uxor" is Latin for wife

So there you are!

We have a William Comstock who married an Elizabeth [certainly not Daniels but that was apparently always conjecture] and the baptisms of three children who are found in New England with William and Elizabeth.  John and Daniel are proved sons by record, Samuel previously proved only by circumstance and association.  There were likely two more children - a daughter Elizabeth and a son Christopher. Unfortunately there is a gap in the Baptisms at St. Margaret church - none are record from Mar 6th, 1632 until 13 Feb 1646 - the very time period when these two younger children were likely born.  There are no burials recorded until July 1641.  And there were no other Comstocks, or alternate spellings, in these records at St. Margaret that I could locate.

The marriage took place about 10 months before the birth of the first child.  High Wycombe in Buckingham where the couple married, is about 16 or 17 miles west of the village of Uxbridge where St. Margaret is located.  This church stands today.  Uxbridge in Hillingdon is part of the city of London.  The church of St. Martin In the Fields probably only about another 15 or 16 miles from Uxbridge.

The locations are reasonable.  The dates are very reasonable in light of what is known about the family in New England.  I have seen later dates for the birth of Daniel, but other records suggested to me he was definitely one of the oldest of the sons and certainly older than Samuel.  The names match - not in a single record, but in four records.

Further research can now proceed.  It would seem that perhaps we now have a surname for William's wife Elizabeth and proof that Samuel was indeed a son, and neighborhoods in England for the family. Possibly we have the baptism of William Comstock in London, as well.


1 comment:

  1. Wanted to put my own comment on this page. There are additional baptisms at Uxbridge St. Margarets. They were just recorded out of order. It always pays to keeping reading the next page, and the next, and the next. Please be sure to read both Blogs - this one and the next titled "Comstock Breakthrough - More Records".