Surname Saturday: Birdsey/Birdseye

Okay, it's another Saturday, so it's another surname.  Today we'll look at one that connects at my 8th-great grandmother, Joanna Birdseye.  Being so many generations ago, and judging by past Surname Saturday posts, you might be able to guess what region this surname connection starts in and where it goes after that, and you'd probably be right.  So let's look at it.

Joanna Birdseye (sometimes spelled Johanna) was born on 18 November 1642 in Stratford, Connecticut Colony.  At 22, she married Timothy Wilcoxen (b. circa 1635 or 1637 in Stratford) on 8 December 1664 in Stratford.  Together they had seven daughters, the details of which I will save for the Wilcoxen/Wilcoxson post at a later date (although one of the daughters, Phebe Wilcoxson, connects in the Beach surname post of a few weeks ago).  Joanna died on 7 October 1713, and Timothy died a few months later on 13 January 1713/4.

Joanna was the daughter of John Birdseye (sometimes spelled Birdsey) and Philipa Smith.  John was born in 1616 in Reading, Berkshire, England, while Philipa was born in 1622.  What I've seen for Philipa so far says that she was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut Colony, but since Wethersfield wasn't established until 1634, I find this claim doubtful.  It seems more likely that Philipa was also born in England, but I don't have any pointers as to where yet.  There is a village in Essex, England, called Wethersfield, however.  I don't have a history of the village, but The Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 17 (1909) mentions events in Wethersfield, Essex in the late 1500s, so it is possible that the Smiths could have migrated from one Wethersfield to another in the late 1630s.  John and Philipa were married circa 1637 or in 1640 in Wethersfield, Connecticut.  It seems apparent that the Birdseye family had moved to Stratford by 1640, as the two children that I know of, Joanna (above) and John Jr. (M; b. 28 March 1641; m. circa 1670 Phebe Wilcoxen; d. 9 Jan 1697), were both born in Stratford.  Another resource that I've found says that the family moved from Wethersfield to Milford, where John and Philipa were one of the founding families, then to Stratford in 1649.  The plaque shown here (photo by Nareen Lake) is mounted on the Memorial Bridge over the Wepawaug River in Milford.  There is one legend that mentions John was seen kissing Philipa in Milford on a Sunday in 1649.  When Milford officials sentenced John on Monday to be lashed for this public display of affection, John escaped and fled, swimming across the river to Stratford; the legend continues to note that Philipa swam across on Tuesday to join him and the family settled in Stratford where local laws regarding familial affection were less restrictive.  Clearly, this migration needs more research and verification.  John became a freeman in 1668 in Stratford.  Philipa died in 1687 in Stratford, and John followed her on 4 April 1690.  I've seen it mentioned that John had also married Alice Tomlinson in 1688, but haven't found much about her yet beyond that she was the widow of Henry Tomlinson.

John's parents are where the line ends so far in my research.  I've seen some records that note his father was William Birdseye, while others list his father as John Birdseye.  While the resources all agree that the younger John's father was born in 1583 in Reading, England, and died in 1649, the death locations are slightly different.  The records that say John's father was William Birdseye say that William died in Stratford, Connecticut, while the records that say John's father was John Birdseye say that the elder John died in Glastonbury, Connecticut.  Records that list William as the father note that William's wife and John's mother was born in 1587 in Reading, England, and that they were married circa 1616, but they don't give a name for her.  Further, at least one record naming John's father as John notes that the elder John married a woman named Alice.  Since Stratford and Glastonbury, Connecticut, are about 55 miles apart, I suspect that this William and elder John are actually two different people.  Perhaps they were brothers?

The next steps for research in this line will be to learn more about the Connecticut Colony as well as Reading, England.  I'll also see what I can find for the younger John Birdseye (1616-1690) in Colonial records.  Maybe I'll finally be able to nail down John's parentage and work back a little farther in England.  There is also an unconfirmed connection in Philipa Smith's ancestry to William Cecil, the first Baron Burghley, who was instrumental in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, but that's a story for a different day.

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