Death at sea. It sure makes for a compelling family origin story.
And the story of the ill-fated voyage of the Matthew Banes family from Lancashire, England to Pennsylvania in 1687 is true one that has been published in annals of history.
Matthew Banes, his wife Margaret and two of their four children, Thomas and Timothy, died en route to William Penn’s Quaker colony when disease broke out aboard their ship. Two children – a son, William, and a daughter, Eleanor – were the sole survivors and later taken in by families from the close-knit Quaker community in colonial Pennsylvania.
Somehow this tragic event has become part of the family lore of another Banes: Deborah Baynes, wife of Thomas Ashton of Makefield, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Fact becomes fable
Countless researchers believe Deborah to be the daughter of Matthew Banes (Banes has been spelled a variety of ways – Baines, Bains, Baynes, Bayns, Beans, Beanes) and wife, Margaret Hatton, Quakers from Goosnargh in Lancashire, England.
And they did indeed have a daughter named Deborah, born 1 March 1683.
But a baptismal record alone is not evidence enough to prove that their daughter is the same Deborah Baynes who came to Bucks County, Pennsylvania and married Thomas Ashton.
Something’s not right here
One fact that always gave me pause when examining this family’s history is that Deborah Banes, daughter of Matthew and Margaret, apparently did not sail with the rest of the family in 1687.
Why was that?
Did she travel to Pennsylvania separately from her immediate family (as many researchers believe she did)? Was she perhaps omitted in the records of the time? Or did she die in infancy in Lancashire?
More importantly, why have so many genealogists continued to populate family trees with an unsubstantiated relationship?
It is an incredible stretch of the imagination to think that a couple would leave their youngest child behind while they journeyed to a new land. Immigrant families, of course, did sometimes separate when crossing the ocean, but I’ve never seen record of a toddler traveling without at least one of the parents (usually Mom).
Who was Deborah?
Figuring out the truth about Deborah (Baynes) Ashton was met with many of the same challenges that come with researching female ancestors who lived during the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly in early colonial America.
What is known about her life is as follows:
She was born circa 1675 in England and came to Pennsylvania sometime before she married Thomas on 31 July 1701 at the Falls Monthly Meeting. The couple had two daughters, Mary, born 31 March 1702 and Ann, born 26 October 1703.
Some researchers believe they also had a son, Isaac (see note below). However, unlike his siblings, Isaac’s birth was not recorded in the Falls MM registers.
Neither was Deborah’s early death, which happened circa 1705. Thomas Ashton remarried in 1710 and had at least eight more children with his second wife, Hannah Hough (or nine, if Isaac was born to Hannah instead of Deborah).
The proof is out there
The omission of Deborah from the emigration story had me convinced that her parents were not Matthew and Margaret (Hatton) Banes.
And I was able to find some interesting clues to her true origins in both the records of Middletown Monthly Meeting and in the will of a certain Gabriel Baynes.
The Meeting minutes show not only Deborah’s place of origin, but also when she arrived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and the family members with whom she made the journey:
Middletown MM – 5th day, 1st mo, 1698 – Certificate for Gabriell Baynes and Anne Baynes his mother and sister Deborah Baynes from Monthly Meeting at Settle in Yorkshire, England.
But the real proof that it is this Deborah who is – without any shred of doubt – the same woman who married Thomas Ashton, can be found in the 1727 will of Gabriel Baynes.
In his will, Gabriel Baynes names as his cousins Thomas and Deborah (Baynes) Ashton’s daughters, Ann (Ashton) Hillbourne and Mary (Ashton) Lee. In the legal terminology of the colonial era, “cousin” often referred to nieces and nephews.
Gabriel Baynes’ will is a such a critical piece of evidence that I cannot believe no one has ever cited it before. And there are even more clues contained within, as Baynes also named two other siblings, Thomas Baynes and Agnes (Baynes) Wood:
GABRIEL BAINS of Falls Township, County of Bucks, Province of Pennsylvania, Yeoman.
To be buried in graveyard at plantation of neighbor Thos. Watson. £1 to said Thos. Watson, toward repairing fence around said graveyard.
Residue of personal estate equally divided between well beloved wife Ellin Bains and Son Bryan Bains. Son to have Plantation at 21, or marriage, whichever comes first.
If son dies without issue, estate divided into equal thirds (after wife’s decease) to Brother Thomas Bains, Sister Agnes Wood, and Cousin Ann Hilburn and Cousin Mary Lee’s 2 children, John and Deborah Lee.
Wife, Mark Watson, and Robert Sotcher, executors.
Wit: Nehemiah Blackshaw, John Sotcher, Jos. Kirkbride, Junr.
Written 19th day, 9th month, 1727. Proved February 12, 1727.
- (Note: Isaac Ashton (presumed son of Deborah Baynes) is not named as an heir of Gabriel Baynes.)
And so with just two records a family fable is rendered fiction, not fact. Deborah (Baynes) Ashton clearly came to Pennsylvania from the Settle MM in Yorkshire, a decade after the fateful sea voyage that took the lives of Matthew Banes, his wife and two children. She came with a mother named Anne – who was still very much alive in 1698 – together with her brother, Gabriel.
Indirect proof of parentage
But further research was definitely needed to determine more of Deborah’s true origin story.
I began to look more closely at Deborah and Gabriel’s brother, Thomas, who also came to Pennsylvania.
Deborah and Gabriel’s brother, Thomas, happens to be the same Thomas Baynes, son of Bryan of Wennington, who married Jennet Ward on 20 May 1694 at Settle MM. Gabriel, Deborah and Agnes’ names are all found on the certificate as witnesses. (and Gabriel Baynes had a son named Bryan, apparently named for his paternal grandfather)
The certificate of removal for Thomas Baynes and his wife, dated 4 November 1696, gives further evidence that he was from Wennington, Lancashire “yet belonging to the Monthly Meeting of Settle”.
Wennington is a village in Lancashire near the Yorkshire border. It lies within the Melling St. Wilfrid parish (which is a different place than Melling near Liverpool).
The parish register for Melling St. Wilfrid, contains the baptism entries for Gabriell, Thomas, Agnes Baynes and another sibling, James, plus the burial entries for James and an older sister, Tamar – all children of Bryan and Ann Baynes.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a loss of records between 1671 and 1675. This may explain why I have been unable to any record of Deborah’s birth.
But for absolute certain her parents’ names were Bryan and Ann Baynes from Wennington, Lancashire. No myth there.
3. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, Ancestry.com (Online: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM, Minutes, Marriages, Cert. of Removal, Condemnations, Births and Burials, 1682-1807, p. 6]
4. “Gabriel Bains’ Will”, digital image, FamilySearch (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc. 2018), [Original source: Bucks County (Pennsylvania), Register of Wills, “Wills 1713-1759, Vol. 1”, pp. 114-116]
5. “Wills: Abstracts: Book 2 : Bucks Co, PA 1739-1759”, USGenWeb Project (Online: usgenweb.org, 1996-2016)
6. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, Ancestry.com (Online: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Minutes, 1664-1807, p. 118]
7. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, Ancestry.com (Online: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Marriages, 1700-1779, p. 41]
8. “England & Wales, Quaker Birth, Marriage, and Death Registers, 1578-1837”, digital image, Ancestry.com (Online: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013), [Original source: Yorkshire, Piece 1116: Monthly Meeting of Settle (1652-1775), p. 155]
9. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, Ancestry.com (Online: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Minutes, 1664-1807, p. 154-155]
10. UK Genealogy Archives, [Original source: Briefly, Henry, transcriber, “The Registers of the Parish Church of Melling”, (Wigan:Strowger and Son at the Clarence Press, 1911), pp. 19, 21, 23, 26, 98, 118]