My analysis of Ancestry DNA matches by town in England (see my Ancestry DNA Section) indicated that at the town/ village level, when adjusted for population, the towns of Lyme Regis in Dorset, Uplyme, Bidford, Brixham, Newton Abbott and Barnstaple in Devon had the highest density of non name specific DNA matches in England. Lyme Regis, Dorset and Uplyme (only 2 km away but in Devon) were the home of a Newel family that I had researched in the past.
The publication The History and Antiquities of the Borough of Lyme Regis and Charmouth by George Roberts published in 1834 provides the following summary of the Newell family in Lyme Regis:
This family attracted my attention since:
- they were noted mariners with connections to the Channel Islands,
- they had connections to Bristol (see my research on John Newall),
- they had connections to Massachusetts
- there are connections between several individuals from Lyme Regis and the early settlement of Virginia.
Edward I granted Lyme (original name of Lyme Regis) a charter in 1284, making the community a free borough with a merchant guild. At that time it was engaged in trade with France, and by 1311 it had become an important English port. At that time Lyme’s trade with France (especially Morlaix on the coast of Brittany), Flanders and other coastal towns was in the ascendancy; the expression “wool out, wine in” , perfectly describing its daily function (see: Lyme Regis Museum).
Lyme Regis played a key role in the Civil War and by the end of 1643, most of the south-west of England was under Royalist control; only Plymouth, Poole and Lyme Regis held out against them. Prince Maurice laid siege to Lyme Regis between 20 April and 16 June 1644. After the Siege, the Earl of Warwick sent a letter to Parliament, detailing the hardships endured by the town during the siege, and requesting “some speedy course will be taken for their relief”. (Source: Wiki). One of the Forts that defended Lyme Regis during the Siege was referenced as “Newall’s, Newel’s or Newhill’s Fort” in the 1910 publication The Great Civil War in Dorset, 1642-1660.
The same publication notes that a Captain (of Foot) William Newall received a pension in 1648 for service during the Siege.
Lyme Regis enjoyed a long period as an important port, trading with France, Africa and the Americas and although small by today’s standards, was at one time estimated to be larger than Liverpool. However, that changed in the mid 17th century as relations with France deteriorated and by 1700 trade had all but ceased. Ships were being built larger, making the harbor unsuitable to any other than smugglers and fishermen. The harbor and port activities went into decline as the ships went elsewhere to unload their cargo (source: Elizabeth Johnson, 2006)
One other important connection is that Lyme Regis was the home of Admiral Sir George Somers (1554–1610) who was an Admiral of the Virginia Company. In 1609, Somers was appointed as Admiral of the Virginia Company’s Third Supply relief fleet, organized to provide relief to the Jamestown colony settled in North America two years before. On 2 June 1609, he set sail from Plymouth on the Sea Venture, the flagship of the seven-ship fleet, destined for Jamestown, Virginia. The fleet carried a total of five-to-six hundred colonists bound for Jamestown. Somers ship was wrecked in Bermuda and his company remained in Bermuda for 10 months before continuing on to Virginia with the surviving 142 castaways. Somers returned to Bermuda in the Patience to collect more food, but he became ill on the journey and died in Bermuda on 9 November 1610 (Wiki) . Sir John Harvey, a later Governor of Virginia in the 1630s, was also a native of Lyme Regis. During this period (1630s) a number of Newells and Knowles were transported to Virginia:
Surname, First Name, Date, Sponsor, Location in VA.
Newell Daniel 1654 Thomas Binns Surry
Newell John 1637 Capt Francis Turner Charles River
Newell Peter 1653 Capt William Whittington Northampton
Newell William 1654 Thomas Fowke Westmoreland
Newill Richard 1651 Richard Bayly ???
Nevil Richard 1650 Anthony Ellvot ???
Knowells Henry 1648 John Seward Isle of Wright
Knowles Ann 1656 Walter Broodhurst ???
Knowles Michael 1642 Lt Francis Mason ???
Knowles Peter ??? Thomas Binns Surry
Knowles Robert 1655 William Steevens Northampton
Knowles Sands 1652 Capt Augustine Warner ???
Knowles Thomas 1656 Vincent Stanford ???
Knowles William 1645 Bartholomew Hoskins ???
Noles Elizabeth 1655 Symon Symons Charles City
The John Newell transported to Charles River in 1637 may be the Jonathan Newell a prominent cloth merchant residing in York and James City counties, Virginia as early as 1661. Jonathan died in 1679 and his widow, Elizabeth, was his administratrix. Jonathan and Elizabeth did not have children so his brother David Newell was his heir: In the west end William Sherwood had all the land between James River, Back River, Pitch and Tar Swamp and Kings mill’s Creek , amounting to about 378 acres secured from time to time as follows : 120 acres lying north and east of New Towne , purchased in 1677 from David Newell , brother and heir of Jonathan Newell who got it from John Knowles (Source THE CRADLE OF THE REPUBLIC). In the late 1680s a Mr Newell, possible relative, was part owner and supplied the rigging for a ship built in Virginia.
There were no Newell DNA matches for the region around Lyme Regis but my research had indicated that this family may have started to move to other areas in the 17th century (possibly as a result of the decline discussed above). All the Newells did not leave Lyme Regis during this period but by the 1700s many members of the family were living in the neighboring towns of Uplyme (in Devon) and Charmouth. In The History of Lyme-Regis by George Roberts published in 1823 the author states that the Newell name was “extinct” [in terms of Lyme Regis by 1823]. If the family left the area then I would not expect to get post 1800 Newell DNA matches.
As part of my research on the Newell / Newall family of Lyme Regis I prepared an Ancestry family tree for Andrew Newell / Newall (c 1593 – 1663). This tree traces Andrew from his roots in Lyme Regis to his marriage to Mary Pitt, from Bristol, to the birth of their children in Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts (Charlestown is immediately north of Boston and was annexed to Boston in 1873). Charlestown is at the center of the Newell/ Newhall matches for Massachusetts.
The earliest Newell /Newall in this tree is Alice who left a Will dated 1593:
Will Alice Newall; 4 Nov. 1593, proved 20 Dec, 1593 ; to be buried in the church of Uplyme, Co. Devon; to the “poore” of Lyme Regis ….son Joseph, daughter Winefred, the child now in my wombe, sons William, John and Nicholas.
I have tentatively identified Alice as the great grandmother of Andrew Newell of Charlestown and her son William (referenced in her Will) as Andrew’s grandfather. This William, a merchant, wrote the following Will in 1610 before departing on a long voyage [Note Uplyme in Devon is just 2 km NW of Lyme Regis]:
I have tentatively identified this William’s son John (see Will above) as the father of Andrew.
One of Andrew Newell’s great grandchildren (see tree), Captain Andrew Newell, may be key to understanding some DNA connections to Nantucket and Nova Scotia. Captain Andrew Newell was born in Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts in 1702 and in married Eunice Coffin at Nantucket in 1726. Andrew. At least two of their children were born in Nantucket but eventually they relocated to Sherborne (west of Boston).
Capt George Newell (1791–1872), a grandson of Andrew of Sherborn, moved to Framingham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. I have no Newell, Newall or Newhall matches with direct matches to Sherborne or Farmington; however, Sherborn (a small town) has a very high ratio of matches to population and Farmington had many matches with Newells , Newhalls and Ewells from Massachusetts in their trees.
Andrew’s wife, Eunice, was the daughter of Joseph Coffin from Nantucket and Bethiah Renuff (I get matches to Renouf of Channel Islands) . Coffin is an ancient English family which originated in Devonshire. The Coffins have held a number of manors, the most notable of which is Portledge in Devon, England, which they held for over nine centuries. The progenitor of the American Coffins was Tristram Coffin, a Royalist, who came to Massachusetts from Devonshire in 1642. He was the original proprietor of Nantucket. The American branch is one of the Boston Brahmin, a group of elite families based in and around Boston. Many American Coffins are or were Quakers (source: Wiki). I have 30 distant DNA matches for Coffin and Nantucket, including one that has Eunice daughter of Joseph (her spouse not identified). See also the earlier reference to Wm. Coffin linked to Cornelius Noel of Virginia.