Seeley Family Society | 27 April 2006
I have now evaluated all of the materials sent to me by the Seeley Family Society and make the following observations and recommendations for further research.
The following facts have been established regarding the ancestral Obadiah Seeley of Stamford, Connecticut:
- Obadiah Seeley was in Stamford, Conn. during the 1640s. I was not able to determine his earliest documented presence from the items sent.
- Obadiah married Mary, widow of John Miller of Stamford, in or after 1642.
- He died in Stamford in 1657
- His estate inventory was said to have included a large number of carpentry tools.
The following facts are known regarding an Obadiah Seeley found in British records:
- Obadiah, son of William Seeley, draper, was baptized at St. Martin, Birmingham, Warwickshire, on 5 June 1614. Other children of William were baptized as late as 1636.
- Searches for the will of William Seeley in the Consistory Court of Lichfield and the Prerogative Court of Canterbury post-1636 were unsuccessful.
- In 1627/8, Obadiah was apprenticed to Nehemiah Wallington for nine years to learn the turner’s trade. Wallington was a Puritan living in London.
- Obadiah Seeley is mentioned in Wallington’s journals as late as 1637.
- Obadiah had a sister Sarah, who was baptized in a parish near Birmingham. This sister married Obadiah Bruen in Birmingham on 7 March 1633 and immigrated to New England. They settled first in Gloucester, Mass., then New London, Conn, and finally Newark, New Jersey.
- No record of Obadiah Seeley was found in the records of Turner’s Company Guild after 1637 in a search through 1647.
- No will was found for Obadiah Seeley in any of the London courts
- Paul S. Seaver, author of Wallington’s World, states that “all of Wallington’s apprentices shared his religious position in one way or another as far as I can tell.”
- Seaver states that Wallington’s closest friend emigrated to New England, but I was not able to determine the name of this friend.
There are some good reasons to suspect that these two Obadiah Seeleys are identical. If they are not identical they had a lot in common. The following six criteria should be considered:
- Name: identical and uncommon.
- Age: Exact age of the Stamford Obadiah is unknown, but he was of age to marry in the 1640s. His English counterpart was baptized in 1614, making him about 26 years old in 1640.
- Occupation: Not an exact match, but both worked with wood. Obadiah Seeley of Birmingham was a turner. Hence, he turned wood on a lathe to produce shaped pieces, probably for furniture. It has been suggested that Obadiah Seeley of Stamford was probably a carpenter given the large number of carpentry tools listed in his inventory.
- Religious proclivity: Like most New England towns, Stamford was a haven for Puritans. Obadiah Seeley of Birmingham was apprenticed to a Puritan, Nehemiah Wallington, who, according to his biographer, Paul S. Seaver, always enlisted apprentices of like persuasion.
- Family and Associates: Obadiah Seeley of Birmingham had a sister Sarah who came to New England. Families often moved in groups. Wallington had a good friend who also came to New England. Hence, Obadiah Seeley of Birmingham and London was exposed to Puritanism and to New England immigration through his own family and his master.
- Chronology: Obadiah Seeley of Birmingham and London disappears from the Turner Company records prior to the appearance of Obadiah Seeley in Stamford records.
Although the evidence appears considerable, more is always better. There are two basic strategies available for solving this type of problem. The first strategy is to find direct evidence linking the Obadiah Seeley of Birmingham with Obadiah Seeley of Stamford—the so-called “smoking gun.” The second strategy is to build a circumstantial case that leaves the identification inescapable.
In this strategy, one must find documents that reach directly across the ocean, i.e. a British document that refers directly to Obadiah Seeley in New England. The most likely document for this strategy would be the will of Obadiah’s father or some other relative that refers to Obadiah as being in New England. Considerable effort was already made in this regard. We might, however, consider the following searches:
Expand the search for William Seeley’s will to surrounding jurisdictions in Staffordshire, Worcestershire, and beyond. It is very difficult to estimate the time involved, but let’s say four hours.
Reexamine the Consistory Court of Lichfield wills using the manuscript index. The published index used by previous researchers is known to have omissions. 30 minutes.
Search Chancery Court records indexes. If Obadiah’s family was landed, they may have had inheritance disputes that were resolved in the Chancery Court. If such a dispute was adjudicated after Obadiah Seeley settled in New England, there would likely be depositions from him entered into the court record stating the fact that he lived “over-the- seas” or “in New England.” The Chancery records are poorly indexed, but some indexes are available online and some in the Bernau Collection on microfilm at the Family History Library. Time for this search is 30 minutes.
A fairly substantial circumstantial case already exists. As stated above, Obadiah Seeley of Birmingham has much in common with Obadiah Seeley of Stamford. However, any document which draws an even closer parallel between the two Obadiah Seeleys in the six criteria laid out above is a welcome discovery. There are a variety of records in England and New England that might be used to learn more about Obadiah. These searches might include:
- Search Warwickshire Quarter Sessions Court records. One hour.
- Contact the Staffordshire Record Office to see if any of the diocesan court records exist for the Lichfield Diocese. Lichfield is in Stafford but includes parts of Warwickshire, including Birmingham. 30 minutes.
- Check the New Haven Colony records. During the time that Obadiah Seeley lived in New England, Stamford was part of the New Haven Colony, which did not merge with Connecticut until after Obadiah’s death. 30 minutes.
- As Kay Allen suggested, search forward in the London Turner’s Company records, 1648–1670, to see whether Obadiah was still connected to the company. 30 minutes.
- Make sure that emigration sources have been covered. 15 minutes.
- Search for any connection between Obadiah Seeley and his sister, Sarah Bruen, in New England records. Three hours.
- Search for connections between Obadiah Seeley and other associates of Nehemiah Wallington in New England sources. Say three hours.
A Final Suggestion
It was mentioned in some of the materials sent to me that Jerry Anderson of Boston has worked on the English origins of the Seeley family extensively, and he is convinced that the immigrant Obadiah Seeley is the son of William of Birmingham. I have known Jerry Anderson for many years, and I can tell you that his research in among the finest in the field. I telephoned Jerry recently and discussed the Seeley ancestry with him. He assured me that he has all the evidence necessary to prove the identification of Obadiah Seeley and that evidence goes beyond what I have seen in the materials sent to me by the SGS. Jerry also stated that he has traced the parents of Obadiah Seeley — both the father and mother — for several generations. When I asked him what he intended to do with this information, Jerry stated that he intended to publish an article in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register before the end of the year. It was Jerry Anderson’s suggestion that the Seeley Family Society wait for the article to appear in print and then decide whether the evidence is adequate. I think that is a reasonable suggestion.
Clifford L. Stott, AG, CG, FASG