Stevens Ancestor Themes

There are certain themes that both the Stevens and McKay families share after their immigration to America. (Their common history in Europe is shown here). A detailed history of the earliest immigration and settlement in the New World can be found here.

Military: As early immigrants encroached on Native lands, they formed militias for defense (and offense). Most early ancestors were members of local militias. Later many of these New England forces fought in what were called the French and Indian Wars. As the calls for independence from Britain grew stronger, many citizen militia groups became the nucleus of the Continental Army. Later ancestors served in the War of 1812, the Civil War and 20th century wars. For a history of the early American wars go here.

Religion: Many of the earliest settlers, especially in New England up to 1640, came for religious freedom. Religion continued to be a recurring theme both in immigration and also in internal migration from the East to the West.

Economic Opportunity: Those who were less driven by religious reasons for migration were often drawn by the desire to make a better life for themselves and their children. There are many stories of ancestors staking out new lives for themselves in the New World. Some of the occupations that early American ancestors had can be found here.

Politics: It the broadest sense, politics is "the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power." Using this definition, our ancestors who rebelled against the religious restrictions of 17th century Britain were political actors. Many of them and their descendants became involved with the shaping of the settlements that they founded.

Witches: The wave of witch hysteria that swept parts of New England in the early colonial period also drew in ancestors in our family. There was a surprising number of our ancestors who became part of that unfortunate chapter of American history.

Slavery: Even though there are few Southerners in the family tree there were still slave owners in our history

Occupations: Interesting and archaic occupations of our ancestors

McKay/Stevens Shared History

A note on Patronymics

Key to Stevens lines: S Stevens SL Lehman P Petersen PR Roberts


Colonial Militia

In the early colonial days, many ancestors were in the local militias organized to protect the colonies from hostile natives. Samuel Keep [PR] served in the Massachusetts colonial militia with the rank of Ensign. Eleazer Lawrence, Sr. [PR] was a major in the colonial Massachusetts militia. Nathaniel Rust [PR] was a quartermaster in the Massachusetts Colony Expedition to Canada (New France) which ended with the Battle of Quebec in 1690.

Indian Wars

Samuel Scripture [PR] served in Captain Joseph Syll's Company in King Phillips war.

George Colton [PR] was Quartermaster in the Hampshire Regiment, commanded by Major John Pynchon, and served in King Philip's War (see Appendix). His son, Capt. Thomas Colton [PR] fought in the Indian Wars and “is said to have been much feared by the Indians, both for his daring in attack, and from his apparent invulnerability and supernatural protection from their best-laid plans for his death or capture.”

Patrick Hart [SL] emigrated from Limerick, Ireland in the late 1700s. His son, Andrew, later claimed that Patrick had been a soldier under General St. Clair at the time of his memorable defeat, near the head-waters of the Wabash, in 1791, the largest victory ever won by American Indians. Patrick must have had a bit of the luck of the Irish. Of the 1,000 officers and men that St. Clair led into battle, only 24 escaped unharmed.

Revolutionary War

Joseph Thom [S] immigrated from Ireland in 1773 and four years later was at the Revolutionary War Battle of Brandywine, fought Sep 11, 1777, in Pennsylvania. The battle, which was a decisive victory for the British, left Philadelphia, the revolutionary capital, undefended. The British captured the city on Sep 26th, beginning an occupation that would last until June, 1778. Thom later served as a private in Captain White's company of the Fifth Battalion of the Pennsylvania Militia in the year 1782.

John Keep [PR], grandson of Samuel Keep, entered service as a private under Capt. Coffin, and under General Montgomery. engaged in the siege of Fort St. Jean. in the British province of Quebec. The siege lasted from September 17 to November 3, 1775.

Reuben Daniels [PR] served in Captain Pettibone's company in the battle of White Plains on October 28, 1776. Lieut. Robert McGee, Sr. [S] was wounded by the British at Millstone, New Jersey, on January 20, 1777. Robert’s father Patrick served as well.

Jonathan Norton [PR] fought as a first lieutenant in Captain Jacob Cook's company 15th or 17th London company First Berkshire Regiment. Also, he was reported commissioned May 6, 1776 lieutenant of the same company under Colonel John Ashley at the battle of Saratoga in 1777, also lieutenant in Captain Samuel Warner's company of Colonel John Brown's regiment in 1780.

Samuel Craig Sr. [S], who fought with George Washington in the Revolutionary War and was killed by Indians on the Pennsylvania frontier.

Other Revolutionary War veterans were Amos Robinson [PR], who was a private, and Adam Simonton [S] who served under General Rutherford in the Cherokee Expedition in North Carolina in 1776.

Civil War and beyond

John Wesley Francis

Ninety years later, during the Civil War, John Wesley Francis [PR] was an officer in the Ohio 14th Battery and was wounded at the battle of Shiloh in SW Tennessee April 6-8, 1862. Francis M Stevens [SS] was a Civil War private who served Indiana Enlisted B Co. 6th Infantry Reg. Mustered out at Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 2, 1861.

My uncle Allen Petersen [PP] served in the Navy toward the end of WWII. From Okinawa, he sailed to Hiroshima a few days after the atomic explosion. In a letter he wrote home to my grandparents, he said, “…from the top of the hospital, I counted only 15 scattered buildings that had withstood the blast.”

During World War II, my father Robert Stevens was a captain in the US Army in World War II and served in the Pacific. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his non-combat support of the invasion of Luzon in the Philippines.

Story -- Bob's Return from Japan A Stevens image
Robert Stevens

It's late October 1945. The war in the Pacific is over and my father is finally headed home. On October 26 Bob boarded an LST for the first leg of his trip from the Philippines to Japan. His first letter on November 2 mostly describes how seasick he has been for the whole trip. An LST according to my father "has a flat bottom and consequently hits every wave." Of the meals on board, he said he "didn't miss many nor did I keep many."

By November 4 he is in Nagoya Japan and is very impressed with how modern the downtown area is but observes much destruction in the outlying sections of the city. He is very impressed with the local people he meets. "Amazing people, these Japanese."

Troop ship General Haan

He is caught up in Army bureaucracy about how many points he has to have to be at the top of the priority list to return to the US. Ironically it's his job to see that the officers with more points than him get shipped home. He did get 24 letters from my mom when he got to Japan so that picked up his spirits. After being in the tropics for so long, he has a tough time adjusting to the cold temperatures in Nagoya: "I freeze constantly."

In an odd note, when he turned in his army equipment like his rifle, mosquito net, etc., they issued him a Japanese sword as a souvenir.

He spends his last week in Japan at a depot with 15,000 other soldiers waiting to head home. Finally on November 26 he boards the troopship General Haan on his way to Seattle, Camp Atterbury in Indiana, then home.


Role of Religion

Religion was a large factor in the lives of many early colonists. Catholics, Methodists, Separatists of all stripes, including Pilgrims, Congregationalists from Ireland, Anabaptists from Switzerland, Sabbatarians , Quakers, Moravians, Antinomians, French Huguenots, Ashkenazi Jews from Germany, Scottish Presbyterians , are all represented in the family tree, and religious freedom was the reason that many ancestors came to America in the first place.


The Puritans have an enduring reputation as moral and upright people; in many respects their reputation is well deserved. Obedience was central to their religion: children were to obey their parents, wives their husbands, and citizens the laws of their government. Yet Puritans were human, no less susceptible to temptation and error than their modern counterparts. Thomas Miller [SS] incurred the wrath of the church for his actions. Thomas and Isabel Miller moved to Middleton, Massachusetts, from Rowley, about 1652. On May 6, 1666, the couple's maid, Sarah Nettleton, gave birth to a son. The father was Thomas Miller. Thomas was about 56 years old; Sarah was 22. Within a few days of the birth, Thomas's wife Isabel died. Thomas rapidly married Sarah, but did not escape a brief imprisonment for his adultery. All things considered, the couple was fortunate to avoid the standard civil penalty of the day, which included the whipping of both or being "burnt on the Forehead with the letter A." For his sin, the church adjudged him guilty and ordered him ex-communicated, which order was publicly read, October 6, 1667. "Afterward prayer was made that God would ratify the sentence & let loose Satan on Him." Finally, in 1674, the convicted adulterer made his only trip back to Massachusetts to express his repentance, and was received back into church membership. Thomas and Sarah Miller had eight children together, the last born after Thomas's death in 1680, when he was over 70 years old.

There are many examples of Puritan strictness, particularly on moral issues. On September 1, 1640, Thomas Pinson [PR] and his wife Joan were convicted of "incontinency before marriage”: he, to be whipped, and she, to sit in the stocks. In a little under six months from their marriage, Joan had given birth to their first son, and someone apparently did the math.

A document from the residents of Roxbury, censuring Harvard College, bears John Polley's [SS] name and mark dated March 5, 1672. The document objects that the students: "are brought up in such pride as dosth no wayes become such as are brought up for the holy service of the lord, either in the Magistracy, or ministery especially, and in particular in their long haire, which last first took head, and broke out at the Colledg so far as we understand and remember." College students’ pride and their wearing their hair long was seen as an "evyl to be removed."


Not surprisingly, given the examples above, many found the Puritan theocracy oppressive. Some reacted to the Puritan dominance by moving to unsettled lands. They formed the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Rev. Thomas Hooker (a McKay ancestor) is considered the “Father of Connecticut” since he led many followers, including James Olmstead [PR], in 1636 to the Connecticut River country. Among that group was John Webster [PR] who would become governor of Connecticut. A further schism among the Hartford members took place when Rev. Samuel Stone (brother of Sarah Stone [PR] wanted to liberalize the baptism ritual. When some in the congregation, including John Webster and Thomas Graves [PR], disagreed, they moved to Hadley, MA to start a new church.

Quaker Star symbol

Quakers particularly suffered under the Puritan rule. Early Quakers were not well appreciated in Virginia. Virginia was the first permanent English colony in the New World and the Church of England was the official church of the colony. It was supported from the public treasury. Naturally, any attempt to bring about a "new religion", with strange beliefs such as healings, revelations from God and no ministers was considered heresy. American Quakers also adopted the star symbol in 1917.

Many ancestors became Quakers in England while others converted in the colonies. Nicholas Waddelowe [SS] settled on the Virginia Eastern Shore. James Durden [SS] and his wife, Rebeckah Woolchurch, were Maryland Quakers.

New World Quakers paid a price for going against the established church. Zaccheus Gould [PR] was fined and whipped for "entertaining Quakers," his nephew Daniel having converted to that religion.

Elizabeth (Carrier) Hooten, wife of Oliver Hooten [SS] was an early follower of Quaker founder George Fox and was greatly persecuted for her beliefs. Her story is told in detail here.


A surprisingly large number of our ancestors were caught up in the witch trial hysteria in late 17th century Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Knapp

Well before the witch trials in Salem and Hartford, in 1671 in Groton, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Knapp, a 16 year-old at the time, was "possessed by the Devil" on and off for a period of three months. Her story is told in detail here.

Sarah Good

Sarah Pool Good, daughter of John Solart, was hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692. She never confessed and “showed no remorse” at her execution. She is said to have declared at the scaffolding, "You are a liar. I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink."

Sarah Averill

So was Sarah Averill, wife of John Wildes, hanged, also in Salem in 1692. Sarah (Averill) Wildes was wrongly convicted of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials and was executed by hanging. She maintained her innocence throughout the process, and was later exonerated. Her husband's first wife was a member of the Gould family, cousins of the Putnam family, the primary accusers, and court records document the family feuds which led to her persecution.

Sarah had a reputation as a nonconformist in Puritan Massachusetts, with prior offences which may have made her an easy target for accusations of witchcraft. She was considered glamorous and forward as a young woman. She was sentenced to be whipped for fornication with Thomas Wordell in November 1649, and later, in May of 1663, charged with wearing a silk scarf.

Because she married John so soon after his first wife's death (about 7 months later), John's former in-laws held something of a grudge against her. Over the years a number of other instances of friction between Sarah and Gould amily occurred On 21 April 1692, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin ordered Sarah, along with others to be arrested on "high suspicion" of witchcraft.

Her examination took place the following day. Sarah Bibber is specifically named in the court records as having had a fit, claiming to see Sarah's specter "upon the beam", and the other accusers followed suit. Sarah stated her innocence, going as far as to say she had never even seen the accusers before. During her own examination, Deliverance Hobbs claimed that Sarah's apparition, along with that of Mercy Lewis, had previously "tore [her] almost to peices [sic]" as she lay in her bed. She continued that Sarah recruited her to attend a black mass, and offered to cease tormenting her and reward her with clothing in return for her signing of the devil's book.

Sarah Wildes was condemned by the Court of Essex County for practicing witchcraft. She was executed on July 19, 1692 by hanging at Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts, along with Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Sarah Good, and Rebecca Nurse.


Mary (Reeve) Webster, daughter in law of Governor John Webster, the so-called “witch of Hadley” was tried as a witch in 1683 and acquitted. But her neighbors were not satisfied and “dragged her out of the house, they hung her up until she was near dead, let her down, rolled her sometime in the snow, and at last buried her in it, and there left her; but it happened that she survived.” Why were the citizens of Hadley so sure Mary Webster was a witch? In the 17th century the concept of a "natural" death from disease was unthought-of. If someone died from unexplainable causes, the culprit must be the Devil.

In 1692, John Perkins’ daughter Mary Perkins Bradbury was placed on trial for witchcraft in Salisbury, Massachusetts. She was convicted of witchcraft on September 9, 1692 and sentenced to be executed. Her husband and friends broke her out of the Ipswich jail, and she fled to Amesbury, where she died two years later.

There was another family connection to a witch trial. Katherine Harrison worked as a servant to distant relative Captain John Cullick of Hartford. One of her strongest accusers was Michael Griswold whom Katherine called a “liar” and his wife whom she called a “savage whore.” On October 12, 1669, she was brought before a jury and found guilty of witchcraft. Despite the guilty finding, the court was hesitant to have her executed. In the end, Katherine was released with the understanding that she leave Wethersfield for her own safety. To appease the townspeople, her property was seized by her neighbors. In the end, all that Katherine was probably guilty of was being an outspoken non-conformist.

Edward Griswold served on a jury in Hartford in 1650 that returned a verdict of guilty against John Carrington and his wife for witchcraft, and in 1662 he was on a jury that found Rebecca and Nathaniel Greensmith guilty of the same offense.


New World, New Opportunity


Shaping the New World


Occupations of early colonial ancestors

Most of the early colonists were farmers, and many were servants, but many others had specialized skills and trades.

Chimney viewer: an officer of the town appointed to inspect chimneys to insure that owners obeyed the law regarding regular cleaning thereof; e.g., Thomas Spencer [MM]

Cordwainer: maker of shoes, e.g., Robert Royce [PR]

Currier: a craftsman who treated animal skins with oil or grease, e.g., Augustine McKay [MM]

Fellmonger: leather seller; e.g., Robert Hicks [MM & PR]

Fence Viewer: a town or city official who administers fence laws by inspecting new fence and settling disputes arising from trespass by livestock that have escaped enclosure, e.g., John Francis [PR]

Malster: produces malt from barley which is used in the production of beer, e.g., Henry Howard [PR]

Mercer: Cloth merchant, e.g., Joseph Weld [SS]

Ordinary Keeper: innkeeper; e.g., Joseph Hawley [MD]

Privateer: a private person authorized by a government to attack foreign vessels during wartime, e.g., John Hawkins [SS]

Surveyor: one who determined the boundaries, area, or elevations of land; e.g., Thomas Howlett [FB]

Tucker: a step in woolen cloth manufacturing which involves the cleansing of wool cloth to get rid of the natural sheep oils, dirt, and other impurities, and then milling the wool to thicken it or fulling it, which matts the wool fibers together to give it strength; e.g., Thomas Wolcott [PR]

Victualler: a person providing or selling food or other provisions, or a person who is licensed to sell alcoholic liquor, e.g., Thomas Skinner [MD].

McKay/Stevens Shared History



Until about 1850 to 1870 most ordinary people in Denmark used patronymics instead of surnames. Patronymics are constructed from the Christian name of a person’s father, followed by “sen” (= son) or “datter” (= daughter). So, for example, Jens Nielsen’s daughter Maren’s full name would be “Maren Jensdatter”, and his son Søren would be “Søren Jensen”.

Patronymics were legally abolished in 1826 since authorities wanted people to use family surnames instead. Nonetheless, it took several decades before patronymics stopped being used.

Anna's grandfather Lorenz Christiansen, born in 1769, used the patronymic of his father, Christian Lorenzen. But Anna's father Hans Christiansen, born in 1816, used the Christiansen surname.

European Jewish

In Napoleonic France of 1804 to 1814, Napoleon decreed that all Jews would have to conform to social codes, including using family names, not patronymics, meaning Jews would not use names derived from their fathers. On July 20, 1808 Mathias Lazare officially changed his name to Mathias Lazar Dalmbert. Where that name came from seems to be lost. One possibility is that he chose the name of a famous French mathematician who died in 1783 named Jean le Rond d'Alembert.

Relations with Native Americans

Samuel Foote's daughter Elizabeth and three of her children were killed by Indians in 1696 in Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Zoeth Howland was killed by Indians, January 21, 1676 (during the King Phillip's War), at Pocaset (modern Tiverton, R.I.) while on his way to a Quaker meeting on Aquidneck Island.


Before the northern states abolished slavery, it was not uncommon. Slave holding was found even among Quakers. 70% of the leaders of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting owned slaves in the period from 1681 to 1705; however, from 1688 some Quakers began to speak out against slavery. By 1756 only 10% of leaders of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting owned slaves.

That puts the Darlington family in the minority. Elizabeth Darlington was given a slave named Patience by her brother Abraham at the time of her wedding in 1750 "to have the said negro a servant during the full term of the natural life of the aforesaid Elizabeth, and no longer; and at the death of the said Elizabeth the said negro Girl is to return unto the said Abraham Darlington or his Heirs..."

Migration General

Often families practiced “serial migration.” One nuclear family would come in one wave of emigrants, and then write back home and the next group of their brother’s children would come on over, etc. The relatives already here would assist the newcomers to get settled.

McKay/Stevens Shared History

The Regicides

Following the trial of Charles I of England in January 1649, 59 judges signed his death warrant. They became known as the “Regicides” and were the subject of punishment following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 with the coronation of Charles II. Two of these, Edward Whalley [Char’s 9X great uncle] and William Goffe [Jim's 11X great uncle], escaped to America in 1661. As soon as Rev. Davenport heard of their arrival, he invited them to New Haven. They stayed with him for eight weeks, then were moved from place to place throughout the colony, from one safe house to another, while royal agents sought them in vain.

Furthermore, another ancestor, Richard Sperry [9 x great grandfather], hid them in a cave near his property and provided them with supplies during the summer of 1661. Whalley and Goffe went to Milford where they stayed two years and afterward went to Hadley, Massachusetts. The home of Samuel Smith in Hadley was said to have served as a hiding place for the regicides Whalley and Goffe, for a part of the time they were in Hadley. English authorities never apprehended them.

There is another distant family connection to the regicides. Sarah Leonard's father, John, had also been killed by Indians in 1676. His wife, Sarah Heald, remarried Benjamin Parsons in 1677 and after his death married Peter Tilton. Peter Tilton rendered aid to Walley and Goffe. He and Parson Russell sheltered these "regicides" secretly for a period of from fourteen to sixteen years and it is supposed that General Goffe died at the house of Peter Tilton in Hadley and was buried by him.

Sir John Lisle was an English lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1640 and 1659. He supported the Parliamentarian cause in the English Civil War and was one of the Regicides of King Charles I of England. He was assassinated by an agent of the crown while in exile in Switzerland. His family connection is that his daughter is often shown as the wife of John Hoar [PR]. But new research shows that it was actually John's sister-in-law who was John Lisle's daughter.

The Phantom Ship

A surprising number of ancestors died in one ship disaster. In the early 1640s, seeing their estates shrinking fast in the New World, the merchants of New Haven Colony formed a last-ditch partnership to build and stock a trading ship that could bypass the large ports (and of course, fees) of Massachusetts Bay, and trade directly with England. The ship called The Fellowship was poorly built, but in January 1646, it set out from New Haven with George Lamberton [FF] as the master, loaded with wheat, beaver pelts, hides, and other goods valued at £5,000, which would be worth perhaps US$645,000 today. Because this was the coldest decade of the Little Ice Age, the ship’s master had to break through three miles of harbor ice to get out to Long Island Sound. The ship disappeared forever.

Many of our ancestors were involved. John Wakemen [MD] was involved in the construction. Along with George Lamberton and Mary (Hopkins) Goodyear [MD & PR] were lost on this ship.

The story goes that in June of the next year, the residents of New Haven saw what many claimed to be a vision of the ship returning to port. Distant relative Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called The Phantom Ship that included the lines:

When, steadily steering landward,

A ship was seen below,

And they knew it was Lamberton, Master,

Who sailed so long ago.

And the people who saw this marvel

Each said unto his friend,

That this was the mould of their vessel,

And thus her tragic end.