William & Jonas Eaton of Reading, Massachusetts

While researching the ancestors of my 4th great-grandmother, Sophronia Burrill, I found an entry in the Boston Transcript's Genealogical Column, in the June 19, 1911 edition. It pertains to Sophronia's paternal grandmother, Mary Eaton's line. She was born in Killingly, Windham, Connecticut, on July 28, 1748. Mary's 3rd great-grandfather was Jonas Eaton. The lineage is as follows: Sophronia Burrill > Joshua Burrill > Mary (Eaton) Burrill > Joshua Eaton > Corp. Jonas Eaton > John Eaton > Jonas Eaton.


A source I had found previously claimed Jonas Eaton's father was William Eaton, which is why I was interested in this find, however, it caused me to question this claim, and rightly so.

According to this source, William Eaton was born at Staple in Kent County, England, about 1605, and married in 1629 to Martha Jenkins. They came to America, settling at Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1637 and in 1658 they moved to Reading (called Lynn Village until 1644), documented by "a sale from Richard Russell". William died on May 13, 1673, and Martha died Nov. 14, 1680.


William & Martha's children, according to this source, were:

  1. John Eaton (1635-1691), married Elizabeth Kendall, daughter of Thomas Kendall, in 1658.

  2. Daniel Eaton, born in 1638, married and may have had a daughter who married Ebenezer Bancroft.

  3. Martha Eaton, born 1630, married 1st to Thomas Brown of Cambridge, and 2nd to Francis Moore.

  4. Abigail Eaton, born in 1631, possibly.

  5. Mary Eaton, born in 1643, married Rev. Richard Dodge in 1668.

This raised an eyebrow because the source didn't list Jonas Eaton as one of their children. I had to backtrack to see what made me believe Jonas's father was William. It was the book "History, genealogical and biographical, of the Eaton families", by Nellie Zada Rice Molyneux, 1911, which had given William's genealogy on page 243 (Link) and Jonas was listed as his fourth child on page 244, as follows:

No further information about Jonas is offered in Molyneux's work. New England Marriages Prior to 1700, states the following on p. 241: "EATON, Jonas (1618-1673/4) & Grace ___, m/2 Henry SILSBEE 1680; b 1643(4?); Watertown/Reading"


At this point I realized if William was born about 1605 and Jonas was born in 1618, they were probably too close in age to be father and son.


Digging deeper I discovered several valuable clues on Ancestry.com, shared by Gina Mikel, to whom I am thankful for shedding some light on the story. According to her findings, Jonas was NOT a son of William but a brother. According to the New England Families Genealogical and Memorial: Third Series, Volume IV, p. 2095, Jonas's biography is as follows:

"(I) Jonas Eaton was son of Peter Eaton. He first settled with his brother in Watertown, and bought land there in 1643. He and his brother William were among the first settlers of Reading, Massachusetts. Jonas and his wife Grace were admitted to the church in Reading, September 29, 1648, or earlier, he was admitted a freeman in 1653, and was selectman of Reading for several years. His house and farm were on Cowdrey's Hill, in the northwest part of the town, now within the limits of Wakefield, where he died February 24, 1674. His widow married, November 18, 1680, Henry Silsbee, of Lynn. The will of Jonas Eaton was proved April 7, 1674; bequeathed to wife Grace; sons, John, James, Joshua, Jonathan, and daughter Mary. Children: Mary, born February 8, 1643-44, died 1731; John, mentioned below; Jonas, born and died September 24, 1648; Sarah, born 1650; Joseph, January 5, 1651; Joshua, December 4, 1653; Jonathan, December 6, 1655; David, September 22, 1657, died October 7, following."

Although Jonas was said to have been William's brother, a list published in the New England Historical & Genealogical Register, titled "Two Early Passenger Lists 1635-1637", lists Jonas Eaton as a servant of William Eaton. In 1637, Jonas would have been about 15 years old and William would have been between about 32 years old. Perhaps he made a deal with his brother, agreeing to bring him to America in exchange for work?


The list was made from the records of Sandwich, Kent, yearbooks C and D. The names were entered on 9 Jun 1637 but the sailing date and name of the ship are omitted from the record. Following are three pages from the Register: (William's group is #12)

N.E.H.G.R. Vol 75 p221-223

According to the NEHGR Vol 15, p. 29 the name of the ship was the "Hercules of Sandwich". A work containing the passenger list for the ship's earlier voyage of March 4, 1634, contains another part - a list of "persons who have taken passage from the town and port of Sandwich for the American Plantations since the last certificate of such passengers returned into the office of Dover Castle." It was dated June 9, 1637. The only Eaton group on the list is given as follows:

Tour Staple in Kent, England, here!

While DNA is said to have proven that William and Jonas were either brothers or cousins, I have yet to find evidence of Jonas's birth, proving who his father was. In my next post, I will share the few possible matches I found in U.K. records on Ancestry.com.


Find genealogy resources for Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, here.


Click here to learn more about this branch of my family.


#eaton #jonaseaton #willeaton #leonard #burrill

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