Research Report on Obadiah Seeley, 22 July 2006
By Clifford L. Stott, C.G., A.G. FASG
Retyped by James R. Seeley (foot notes are at the end of the report)
Research Objective: Help SGS identify the ancestors in England of Obadiah Seeley who died in Stamford, CT on 25 August 1657.
This report discusses the results of the research objectives described in my research outline dated 27 April 2006. The results were largely unproductive. No additional evidence of any real value was found, although I am still waiting for a response from the Staffordshire Record Office on one outstanding search. Each of the ten searches is discussed below in the order in which they appear in the 27 April research outline.
Search for the Will of William Seeley in Areas Surrounding Birmingham (England).
Previous research did not find the will of William Seeley of Birmingham in the published calendars of the Consistory Court of Lichfield or the Perogative Court of Canterbury. The search was now expanded to surrounding jurisdictions. Birmingham, which is in Warwickshire, lies only a few miles from Staffordshire and Worcestershire. Hence, a move by William Seeley of only a few miles could put him in a different probate jurisdiction. Moreover, there are many minor courts known as “Peculiars” within the three counties of Warwickshire, Staffordshire, and Worcestershire. During this research session, all the probate courts for the three-county area were examined for Seeley wills and administrations except for the Consistory Court of Hereford which embraces a small area of western Worcestershire a considerable distance from Birmingham. The will calendars and indexes were examined only for the period 1636 (when William was last known to be living in Birmingham) and 1670. Some of the peculiar courts do not have records prior to 1670 and were therefore not examined. The following records were searched:
Calendar of Wills and Administrations in the Peculiar Jurisdictions in the Diocese of Lichfield. This calendar embraces 23 peculiar courts, mostly in Staffordshire. No Seeley or variants were found.
Calendar of Wills in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Worcester, 1601-1652.
John Seely of Honnington, husbandman, will 1631.1
Calendar of Wills and Administrations in the Episcopal Consistory Court of Worcester, 1661-1699.
John Sealey of Bearley, will 10 Sept 1667.2
Index to Peculiar Court of Hartlebury (Worcs.)
No Seeley or variants found.
Index to Peculiar Court of Fladbury (Worcs.)
No Seeley or variants found.
Index to Peculiar Court of the Rector of Hanbury
No Seeley or variants found.
Wills and Administrations in the Court of Delegates, London
This is an appellate court for other jurisdictions. No Seeley or variants found.
Index of Cases in the Records of the Court of Arches, London
This is an appellate court for other jurisdictions. No Seeley or variants found.
Perogative Court of Canterbury.
Although this court was previously searched, the index has now been made available on line in an easy-to-use searchable format. The following PCC wills were noted:
William Selye or Seely, merchant of Clopton, Suffolk, 16 May 1655.
William Seely, gentleman of Rushmere, Suffolk, 27 June 1659.3
Manuscript Calendar of the Consistory Court of Lichfield
As mentioned in the Research Outline, the published index of the Consistory court of Lichfield is known to have errors and omissions. The manuscript calendar is considered superior. The following Seeley wills and administrations were noted in the manuscript calendar, 1636-1670.
Richard Seale of Newton Solney, administration, 17 Nov 1637 (#110).
Daniel Seeley of Walsall, administration, 18 Sept 1663.
Catherine Seale, Birmingham, will, 25 Apr 1665
John Seale of Morley, will, 22 Sept 1666.
John Seele, Horsley, will, 15 Oct 1667.4
It is unclear whether Seale is a variant of Seeley or Sealey. There appears to have been an independent Seal family in the area. Nevertheless, the will of Catherine Seale should probably be examined in the future.
Chancery Court Records
If William Seeley or his son Obadiah owned land, it is possible that they were involved in litigation that was settled in the Chancery Court. Available indexes to this court include nothing regarding Obadiah Seeley. There are several references to the more common name of William Seeley, but it is unclear from the index whether they relate to William of Birmingham or some other William. The following references were found:
William Seely (also Ceely), 1657, Bridges 4:70.
William Seely, 14 Chas. I [1638/9], Exchequer Depositions by Commission, Term Mich. No. 2, vol. 2, group 4, page 14.
William Seely Sr., of Rushmer, Suffolk, gentleman, 1651, aged 73, Chancery Depositions, Eliz. to Chas. I, Bdl. T10 Suit 11. [see PCC wills, cited above].
William Selly, 1644, Town Depositions, bundle no. 701. Initial letter of suit: H.
William Seeley, plaintiff v. George Tweeg, defendant, 1648, C 6/16/118.5
The fact that Obadiah Seeley is not mentioned in any of the indexed chancery suits makes it unlikely that any of the above documents would be useful in establishing the identity of the immigrant Obadiah Seeley, even if one of the suits did involve his father.
Warwickshire Quarter Sessions Records
These records are published and indexed in nine volumes. Each volume was examined. Only one Seeley was mentioned, Joseph Seeley of Coventry, Warwickshire, was a party to a lawsuit in 1664.6 There is no mention of William or Obadiah.
Lichfield Diocese Records
Birmingham lies in the Lichfield Diocese. Lichfield is in the adjacent county of Staffordshire. The Staffordshire Record Office has been contacted to see what Lichfield Diocesan records are available. They have yet to respond. [NOTE: On 23 August 2006, Mr. Stott reported via Email: “I have heard from the Staffordshire Record Office, but the types of diocesan records they held did not appear to be helpful to our study of the family.”]
New Haven Colony Records
Although New Haven and surrounding towns are now part of Connecticut, prior to 1662 they were a separate colony with records distinct from those of Connecticut. The records have been published in two large volumes. Obadiah was not found in either volume. Those who appeared in the indexes were Nathaniel, Lt. Robert, and “Sister” Seeley. Edward E. Atwater’s History of the Colony of New Haven was also searched for Obadiah Seeley, but the results were negative.
London Turner’ Company Records
In 1627/8, Obadiah Seeley, the son of William Seeley of Birmingham, was apprenticed to Nehemiah Wallington of London for the term of nine years to learn the turner’s trade. Prior searches in the Turners’ Company records through 1648 found no evidence that he was ever admitted to the London Turner’s Guild. The apprenticeship bindings of the company have been indexed on a subscription website, www.originsnetwork.com. However, they make no further mention of Obadiah Seeley after his own binding to Wallington. This is significant because it shows that no apprentices were ever bound to Obadiah at a later period. The company court records are not indexed and would take many hours to research. Also examined was A. C. Stanley-Stone’s The Worshipful Company of Turners of London, but nothing was found regarding Obadiah Seeley. It was noted that a John Wallington was frequently a company officer from 1604.
Most, if not all, of the surviving passenger lists for vessels embarking for colonial America that exist in the National Archives of Britain have been transcribed, indexed, and published. These are found in John Camden Hotten’s The Original Lists and Peter Wilson Coldham’s Complete Book of Emigrants. None of them mention Obadiah Seeley, although other Seeleys are mentioned.
Connections Between Obadiah Seeley and The Bruen Family
William Seeley of Birmingham had a daughter Sarah who married Obadiah Bruen in Birmingham in 1633. They later settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; and Newark, New Jersey. Their removal to Newark occurred after the death of Obadiah Seeley at Stamford in 1657. If it could be shown that Obadiah Seeley had connections to Obadiah Bruen and his wife Sarah (presumably Obadiah Seeley’s sister) in Gloucester or New London, it would greatly strengthen the circumstantial case for the identification of Obadiah Seeley as a son of William Seeley of Birmingham.
Several record groups were examined. Among them are the court records, land records, and the colony records of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Gloucester is in Essex County, Massachusetts. The deeds of Essex County were searched, but neither the Bruens nor the Seeleys are mentioned. The same is true for the Quarterly Court records of Essex County. It was hoped that the two families might have been parties in a law suit, but nothing was found. Many immigrants to the New World found they needed assistance in taking care of legal matters in England. The records of Boston attorney Thomas Lechford and Suffolk County Recorder William Aspinwall contain hundreds of such cases. It was hoped that Obadiah Seeley and his sister Sarah Bruen would be found together in such a legal proceeding, but again the search was negative. Nor is there any mention of Obadiah in the records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay.
Connecticut records were also searched. New London deed indexes contain numerous references to Obadiah Bruen.7 It was hoped that in one of these documents, Obadiah Seeley was a witness or was mentioned in some other capacity, such as one who owned adjacent property. However, a careful examination of these documents found no connections between the Bruen and Seeley families. Many of the deeds executed by the Bruens were dated after Seeley’s death. The records of the Connecticut Colony and Caulkins’ History of New London were also searched without finding any references to Obadiah Seeley.
New England Connections Between Obadiah Seeley and James Cole
Nehemiah Wallington’s friend James Cole settled in Hartford, Connecticut, about fifty miles from Obadiah Seeley’s home in Stamford. If Wallington’s apprentice was in fact the Obadiah Seeley who settled in Stamford, it is almost certain that Seeley and Cole knew each other in London through their mutual friend, Nehemiah Wallington. This section investigates the possibility that they also had some formal connections in New England. As with the Bruen research, it was hoped that these two immigrants might be found together in some record in this country. The published probate records of the early Connecticut Colony were searched to see if Cole and Seeley appeared together in any document. Perhaps Seeley or his children would be mentioned in Cole’s will. Many references to James Cole of Hartford were found, but none for Obadiah Seeley. Similarly, the deeds of Hartford contain numerous references to James Cole and his lands, but nothing for Obadiah Seeley is mentioned. Nor are the two families mentioned together in the Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut in 15 volumes.
Summary and Suggestions
In this report, ten strategies were pursued. However, none produced any useful results. Two additional strategies should be considered. First, Karl Weiler (SGS Assistant Genealogist) has recently brought to my attention that letters between Nehemiah Wallington and his friend James Cle of Hartford are preserved in the British Library in London. This could be a significant discovery because it is likely that Wallington, Cole, and Seeley knew one another in London. It seems probable that there would be some reference to Obadiah Seeley being in New England in one of these letters. That would be proof that Wallington’s apprentice was in fact the New England immigrant of the same name. It is my understanding that Karl is attempting to obtain copies of the letters at his own expense. [JRS NOTE: Karl Weiler reported that he received 41 documents from the British Library on 4 August, 2006. These were letters written from 1635 to 1650 from James Cole to and from Nehemiah Wallington. They are a most interesting read, but no where in them do they mention Obadiah Seeley.]
Secondly, I could continue to urge Jerry Anderson to produce his long-awaited article on the Seeley ancestry. I have known Jerry for many years. He is a brilliant researcher. He has assured me that he has more evidence than we have found. It is possible that he has already discovered the Wallington-Cole letters in the British Library. The editors of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register have no plans to publish Jerry’s article at present because he has yet to submit one. I am sure they would accept a completed article on the Seeley origins from Jerry Anderson
/s/ Clifford L. Stott
Clifford L. Stott, AG, CG, FASG
- Edward Alexander Fry, A Calendar of Wills and Administrations Preserved in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Worcester, 1601-1652 (London: British Record Society, 1910, 142. Reference document 2.
- Episcopal Consistory Court of (the Bishop of) Worcester, Calendar of Wills and Administrations, 1661-1699 (typescript, n.d.). Reference document 3.
- Prerogative Court of Canterbury, online index to Wills, “Documents Online,” . Reference document 6.
- Calendar of Wills and Administrations, Consistory Court of Lichfield (FHL film no. 095,281; 095,282). Reference document 1.
- Charles Bernau Index to Chancery Court Proceedings, class C11 (FHL film no. 636,277; 536,278); Reference document 4; Equity Pleadings database (C6), “Documents Online,” , Reference document 5.
- Warwick County Records, Quarter Sessions Order Books, 1625-1696, 9 vols. (Warwick: Sir Edgar Stephens, 1935-64), 4:302. Reference document 7.
- New London, Connecticut, index to deeds (FHL film no. 005,107; 005,108; 005,109). Reference document 8.
[JRS NOTES: The documents, numbered from 1 to 7 in the above “NOTES,” were attached to Mr. Stott’s report but were not included here. The complete report, including the 27 April 2006 Research Outline, will be filed at the Seelye Research Center in Abilene, KS. The report will also be placed on the SGS CDROM to accompany the excellent research on Obadiah Seeley in New England records that was done in the 1980s by Mr. Frederick C. Hart, Jr. CG.]