Thomas Richards
of Hartford, Connecticut, d. ca. 1639.

The inventory of Thomas Richards of Hartford was valued at 38-030-00 [ECPR Hartford 1: 146, from Hartford Dist. Probate Records 2: 50; no date given]. The inventory of Widow Richards was taken 12 June 1671, with total value 24-08-00. On the next day, the estate of was distributed to John Richards, to Mary Peck of Milford, to Thomas Richards, and to Obadiah Richards [ECPR Hartford 1: 226-7, from Hartford Dist. Probate Records 3: 101]

Date of birth: Unknown.
Place of birth: England.

Date of death: bef. February 1639/40.
Place of death: Unknown (residing at Hartford, CT).
In February 1639/40, distribution of his estate was granted to the widow Richards, late wife of Thomas Richards, deceased. [Fam. Early Hartford 476, original source unclear] His children must have born into the late 1630's, so his date of death cannot be long before February 1639/40.

Father: Unknown.
Mother: Unknown.
The parish registers of Ribbesford, where Thomas Richards was married, have a number of Richards entries, but no baptism for a Thomas Richards at the appropriate period.

Spouse: m. Ribbesford, co. Worc., 19 January 1629[/30], Priscilla Wakeman, d. bef. 12 June 1671.
[Ribbesford PRT, 22]


John Richards, bp. Ribbesford, 13 March 1630[/1];
m. Lydia Stocking.
[bp.: "John the sonne of Thomas Richards and Priscilla" Ribbesford PRT, 97; mar.: Hist. Waterbury, CT, 176] His marriage is proven by the will of George Stocking of Hartford, dated 15 July 1673, which named his daughter Lydia Richards, wife of John Richards [ECPR Hartford 1: 241].

Mary Richards, bp. Ribbesford, 1 July 1632;
m. Joseph Peck of Milford, d. 26 February 1700/1.
[bp.: "Mary daughter of Thomas Richards and Priscilla" Ribbesford PRT, 99; death of Joseph: FANH 1409]

Thomas Richards, of Newark, NJ, d. NJ, 2 October 1706 20 April 1715;
m. Hannah _____, living 20 April 1715.
He has been identified with a Thomas Richards who lived in New Jersey. The will of Thomas Richards of Newark, Essex co., NJ, dated 2 October 1706, and proved 20 April 1715, mentioned his wife Hannah, his sister Rachell the widow of his brother Obadiah Richards, his cousin John Richards son of the above said Obadiah, his 2d cousin John Richards son of the above John and grandson of Obadiah, "his brother Thomas Richards who was borne in my house at Newark", his sister Mary daughter of John Richards, his cousin John Richards son of his brother John Richards, the last to have all real estate and be sole executor, with John Prudden and James Notman as supervisors [NJ Wills 2: 17, FHL film #522,714; Cal. NJ Wills, 1: 382, with an inaccurate abstract that makes Mary a daughter rather than granddaughter of Obadiah]. The names of the brothers of Thomas Richards of New Jersey, John and Obadiah, match this family well. The main obstacle to identifying Thomas of NJ as a son of Thomas of Hartford is that the widow of Obadiah Richards of Waterbury was named Hannah, not Rachel [see the pages of Obadiah and Hannah].

Obadiah Richards, d. bef. 24 November 1702;
Hannah (prob. Andrews), b. ca. 1647, bp. 16 May 1658.

Samuel Richards, of New Haven, d. 1662, unmd.
[Fam. Early Hartford, 476; the original source for this son is unclear]

The identification of Thomas Richards

The problem is to make sure that the Thomas Richards of the American records is being correctly identified in the English records. In England, the parish registers of Ribbesford in Worcestershire show the marriage on 19 January 1629/30 of Thomas Richards and Priscilla Wakeman, followed closely by the baptisms of two children named John and Mary, who can definitely be attached to this couple because the mother is also named in the baptisms [Ribbesford PRT, 23, 97, 99]. In the America records, we have the distribution of the estate of Widow Richards on 13 June 1671 to the heirs John Richards, Mary Peck, Thomas Richards, and Obadiah Richards. What proof is there that these records, separated by decades and an ocean, involve the same family? Unfortunately, the first name of Widow Richards is not supplied. While the names John and Mary match for the two eldest children, those are obviously pretty common names.

The record which helps to tie things together is an early will from New Haven, the will of Martha Davis. This will, dated 20 August 1662, mentions, among others, Martha's sister Priscilla Richards and her daughter Mary Richards, her sister Anna Nichols, and her "cousin" Thomas Richards ["Early Probate Records of New Haven" NEHGR 81 (1927): 123]. The word "cousin" was often used during this period to mean "nephew", and that meaning in this instance is made much more probable by the fact that we already know that a sister of the testator married a Richards. Martha Davis, Priscilla Richards, and Anna Nichols were all sisters, daughters of Francis Wakeman of Bewdley, co. Worcester [see the page of Francis Wakeman for details]. Although the residence of Priscilla Richards is not explicitly stated, her presence as a legatee in the will of Martha Davis strongly suggests that she was living in New England. With the geographical range narrowed, the fact that Priscilla Richards had children John and Mary and probably also Thomas makes her an excellent candidate to be the same person as Widow Richards. Although this evidence for the identification is not airtight, the case is a good one.

Reference abbreviations

Cal. NJ Wills = William Nelson, ed., Calendar of New Jersey Wills, Vol. 1, 1670-1730 (New Jersey Archives 23, Paterson, NJ, 1901).

ECPR Hartford = A Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records - Hartford District (3 vols., 1902-6).

Fam. Early Hartford = Lucius Barnes Barbour, Families of Early Hartford, Connecticut (Baltimore, 1977).

FANH = Donald Lines Jacobus, "Families of Ancient New Haven", New Haven Genealogical Magazine (TAG) 1-8 (1922-32). (paginated consecutively)

Hist. Waterbury, CT = Henry Bronson, History of Waterbury, Connecticut (Waterbury, 1858).

NEHGR = New England Historical and Genealogical Register.

Ribbesford PRT = Ribbesford, co. Worcester Parish Register Transcripts, FHL fiche #6,344,777 (baptisms), #6,085,626 (marriages and burials).

Compiled by Stewart Baldwin

First uploaded 14 August 2011.