Corrections to John Fisher2 and John Fisher3 in Anna Wharton Smith’s Genealogy of the Fisher family – Part One

According to my research, John Fisher2, son of John Fisher1 and his wife Margaret who emigrated from Lancashire, England to Pennsylvania then Sussex county, Delaware toward the end of the seventeenth century with their young children, is my husband’s seventh great-granduncle.  Anna Wharton Smith’s Genealogy of the Fisher Family, published Philadelphia 1896, more than two hundred years after the Fisher’s family arrival in Delaware, requires critical evaluation because she relied on the fallibility of human memory of “some of the oldest family members” to verify the identity of antecedents spanning several generations. [1]  There has been no analysis of Smith’s genealogy.  This paper, presented in several parts, remedies this oversight by examining extant records of the Court of Sussex county, Delaware to prove the identity of John Fisher2 and his descendants, generation three.

Smith admits to inaccuracies in the descendants of John Fisher2 of Sussex county, Delaware. [2]  At page 20:

“Owing to there being a succession of John Fishers, there has been some confusion in the various accounts received. After consulting with some of the oldest representatives of this branch of the family now living, the records of John Fisher 2d and John Fisher 3d as here given are believed to be as nearly correct as it is possible to make them.” 

A footnote at the bottom of page 35 conveys Smith’s uncertainty in presenting John Fisher3’s descendants: “In spite of evident inaccuracy, it has been thought better to print these dates as received.”  Despite this qualification the profusion of Fisher genealogies floating around on the internet have accepted Smith’s genealogy at face value. 

Fortunately, “the Sussex court functioned in a positive way to organise society by confirming title to land and granting land”.[3]  Elizabeth Shown Mills advocates, examining extant records and extracting as much identifying information about an individual, distinctions between men of the same name can be made. [4]  In addition, extant records provide an insight into family dynamics and kinship connections in early colonial society. [5] 

Amendments to Smith’s lineage for John Fisher2 and his descendants is presented generation by generation, two and three and four, and then person by person, except the daughters of Hannah Fisher and Enoch Cummings.  While the correctness of generation four and five has not been thoroughly investigated preliminary notes provide a pathway for future research.  Deletions are shown by overstrikes and insertions with //.  Evidence supporting those amendments follow. 

Limitations of research:  access to physical repositories; availability of digitised images.

Amendments to page 20 Genealogy of the Fisher Family: (Generation 2)

3. John Fisher2 (John1), b. in England; m. Elizabeth Light.

Occupation: Planter

Plantation: Mayden Head Thickett 420a. (or Maidenhead Thicket) purchased 25 November 1701, from Thomas Hall.  Divided 1729 among his heirs.

Early land deeds of Sussex county identify two John Fishers, planter and mariner; an arbitration agreement settling a dispute between mariner John Fisher and Nehemiah Field and Field’s deed of sale to John Fisher, mariner, for a town lott.  Are they the same?  This research concentrates on John Fisher, planter.

Children:

15. John Fisher3, m. 1st, Catherine ; 2d, Grace Lloyd Elizabeth Light.

16. James Fisher. Settled west of Harrisburg ; cannot be traced.

17. William Fisher. Settled west of Harrisburg ; cannot be traced.

18. Ann Hannah Fisher, m. Enoch Cummings.

//   Thomas Fisher.

John Fisher2 died intestate before July 1729.  Elizabeth the wife of John2 is deceased before her husband as there is no mention of laying off the widow’s dower in the minutes of the Orphans’ Court.  Heirs: John, William, James, Thomas and Hannah.  

James and Thomas, over the age of fourteen years, choose their brother John3 as their guardian while fourteen year old William is indentured to Enoch Cummings until he turns twenty-one years of age.  Family dynamics between Enoch Cummings and John Fisher3 are evident in the Orphans Court minutes.  Cummings, seems keen to initiate the division of John Fisher2’s assets among his heirs.  At Cummings’ request, the Court issues a citation against his brother-in-law John Fisher3 to appear and explain the reason for delaying division of his father’s estate.  John3 successfully argues for more time to track down a will. [6] 

The subdivision of Maidenhead Thicket between Hannah, James and William is clearly delineated on the subdivision draught. The location of Thomas and John3’s dividends is less clear.  There are two marshes within the vicinity of Maidenhead Thicket the Court allots to John3, one in partnership with Abraham Potter1 and his widow Jane, the other with Joseph Russell.  Land platting may resolve this problem.

Identifying the wives of John Fisher 2 and John Fisher 3

John Fisher2 married Elizabeth (unknown).  Two indentures for the transfer of land from John Fisher2 and his wife Elizabeth confirm this relationship.  Elizabeth relinquishes her dower rights in 75 acres of land sold to Gideon Harrison in February 1722 and in May of that year, John Fisher2 and his wife Elizabeth gift land to their lawfully begotten daughter Hannah and her husband Enoch Cummings. [7]

John Fisher3 married Elizabeth Light.  This relationship is confirmed by an Indenture dated 10 December 1745:

“William Light [whose father, recited elsewhere in the deed is referred to as John] is since deceased intestate and left issue John Light his son and two daughters to wit. Lucilla now the wife of Benedictus Townsend and Elizabeth now the wife of John Fisher AND whereas the last mentioned John Light the younger being – deceased intestate and has left issue Mary Light and Betty Light parties to these presents”. [8]

Elizabeth Light signs by her x mark, presumably relinquishing her dower rights, in deed of sale 4 February 1734 when Enoch Cummings and Hannah his wife, John3 and James Fisher convey land in Sussex county to yeoman, Edward Lay. [9]  In 1765, with her husband John Fisher3, the couple transfer Elizabeth’s interest in 300 acres, originally owned by William Light, to Elizabeth’s nieces Betty Light wife of Thomas Newcombe and Mary Light the Younger.  Elizabeth died after this date and before her husband, because there is no mention of dower rights in the last will and testament of John Fisher3 made January 1770.

Amendments pages 35 and 36 of Genealogy of the Fisher Family: (Generation 3)

15. John Fisher3 (John 2, John1) married Elizabeth Light:

m. 1st Catherine who d. Mar. 8, 1744; m. 2d Grace Lloyd

John Fisher was a merchant in Philadelphia and died at his residence in Shippen Street before the Revolution.

Children of first marriage:

37. John Fisher, b. Feb. 21, 1730; was a merchant in Jamaica; left a son and a daughter.

(no evidence)

38. George Fisher, b. Feb. 10, 1732; d. Feb. 21, 1777; m. Hannah Chamberlin

39. Catherine Fisher, b. Feb. —, 1735

Children of second marriage:

40. Jabez Maud Fisher, b. Mar. 1, 1733 ; d. Feb. 21, 1786 ;

// m. 1st Deborah Eldridge daughter of Joseph and Mary Rowland

m. 2d Elizabeth Purnell widow of Anthony Wright.

41. William Fisher, d. s. p. (no evidence)

42. Sarah Fisher, d.s.p. ;

m. 1st Ralph Brock

// m. 2d Isaac Wiltbank (Wiltbanck, Wheelbank)

43. James Fisher m. Alice Manlove

44. Elizabeth Fisher m. Peter Fretwell Wright

45. Hannah Fisher // m. William Darby

46. Thomas Fisher // m. Alice Henderson

Neither 37. John Fisher or 41. William Fisher nor their issue are mentioned in the will of John Fisher3 made January 1770.  Heirs: sons Thomas, James and Jabez Fisher; daughters Sarah Wiltbank wife of Isaac, Elizabeth Wright wife of Peter and Hannah Fisher; grandsons Joshua and Thomas (sons of Jabez); granddaughter Tabitha Brock. [10] 

A John Fisher Junr witnesses John Fisher3’s purchase of Little Field from Edward and Fenwick Fisher, 6 May 1755,[11] however, this John Junr may descend from the Adam or Henry Fisher families.  Sarah Truitt, widow of John Fisher Junr and wife of Riley, of Worcester county, Maryland appear before the Orphans’ Court 1761-1765 to present administration accounts of John Fisher Junr’s estate and have Truitt appointed guardian to Elizabeth, Sarah and John Fisher, minors under the age of fourteen years. [12]

It is argued that George Fisher, the founder of Middletown, is not John Fisher3’s son.  At page 29 of the Chronicles of Middletown, published 1906, an annotated deed shows on 27 March 1759, John and Grace Fisher transfer, to their son George, the title to Middletown.  Furthermore, in the same publication, page 28, it appears, George Fisher’s ancestors have been cherry-picked from Smith’s Genealogy of the Fisher family: “His son John (avus) married 1st Elizabeth Light, and 2nd, Grace Lloyd. Had three children, John, William and George; his son John became a merchant in Jamaica, and had a son and daughter. William died without issue.”

When the timeline of George Fisher’s parents, John and Grace, is compared to the timeline of John Fisher3 and Elizabeth Light’s transactions in the court records of Sussex county, it is improbable then, that John Fisher3, planter/yeoman of Sussex county is the father of George Fisher and husband of Grace, unless he operated two separate households in two different counties.

The timeline for John Fisher3 of Sussex county also works against the notion he was married to Grace Lloyd.  Indeed, a Grace Lloyd features prominently in Quaker records.  In writing about the agency of Quaker women during the early settlement of Pennsylvania, Naomi Pullin portrays Grace Lloyd as a prominent female elder in the Quaker community and the wife of Pennsylvanian politician David Lloyd.  Grace served as a Clerk for Chester Women’s Meeting between October 1732 and 1744 and also transcribed the proceedings of Philadelphia Women’s Yearly Meetings between 1729-1744.[13]  In 1752, Grace Lloyd is a witness to the marriage of Mary Cummings (daughter of Enoch and Hannah Fisher) and Thomas Pedrick at Chester MM. [14]

By examining extant records of the court of Sussex county, the identification and distinction between men and indeed, women of the same name within the different branches of the same family is possible.  Of the numerous land records in which John Fisher2 and his son John3 of Broadkill Hundred appear, they are described as planter or yeoman.  And while both their wives shared the same christian name, Elizabeth Light’s pedigree is recorded in two land deeds.

© This paper is a work in progress and forms part of a series of papers evaluating the accuracy of Smith’s genealogy against extant records in addition to identifying kinship relationships among the early families of Sussex county.  This research should not be accepted as conclusive, there may be mistakes in the transcription of records or my hypothesis may prove to be false.  This paper provides an original contribution to the history of the Fisher family.  If you wish to include any of the material contained in, or derived from this paper, place quotation marks around the extracted portion and credit it as follows: Citation:  Sarah Baird, “Corrections to John Fisher2 and John Fisher3 in Anna Wharton Smith’s Genealogy of the Fisher family – Part One”, March 2021”.


[1] Calculated on a new generation every twenty-five years.

[2] Anna Wharton Smith, Genealogy of the Fisher family, 1682 to 1896, (Philadelphia, 1896), 20. She relies on the memory of “some of the oldest family members”.

[3] Alfred L. Brophy, “”For the Preservation of the King’s Peace and Justice”: Community and English Law in Sussex County, Pennsylvania, 1682-1696”, The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), 181.

[4] Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Unravelling Balls of Yarn: Lessons in the Use of a Skeptical Eye (As Taught by William Bartholomew Ball and William F. Ball, Esq.),” Genealogical Journal 19 (1991): 1- 21 : https://www.historicpathways.com/

[5] The Deed records of Sussex County, Delaware, 1693-1886; general index, 1682-1949? as well as The Orphans’ Court dockets and minute dockets, 1728-1802 are available online at familysearch.org.  Unfortunately, the records are not indexed and the user must browse through each image to locate a specific record.  Pages are missing and many images are degraded.  In addition, the handwriting script in these records can be difficult to decipher however, by the 1770’s, apart from some instances of backhand writing, the script is neater and easier to read.  Petitions to the Orphans’ Court cite first and second marriages and heirs of the deceased.  Details of guardianships, apprenticeship indentures and the solvency of an estate are recorded.  Occasionally, a draught (plan) showing the division of land between the deceased’s heirs is included.

[6] Sussex County, Delaware, Orphans’ Court dockets and minute dockets, 1728-1802 FHL Film # 007652960.

[7] Sussex County, Delaware, Deeds Book F6: page 49: Sussex County, Delaware, Deeds Book F6: page 8 FHL Film # 007834356.

[8] Sussex County, Delaware, Deeds Book H No 8: page 99 FHL Film # 007834356.

[9] Sussex County, Delaware, Deeds, book F6-GN7, 1721-1733: page ?, FHL Film # 007834356.

[10] Sussex County, Delaware, Wills Book B No 2: page 379-381 FHL Film # 007652947.

[11] Sussex County, Delaware, Deeds, book H8-I9, 1742-1763: page ?, FHL Film # 007834357.

[12] Sussex County, Delaware, Orphans’ Court dockets and minute dockets, 1728-1802 FHL Film # 007652960.

[13] Naomi Pullin, Female Friends and the Making of Transatlantic Quakerism, 1650–1750, (Cambridge University Press, 2018), 132-133.

[14] Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Certificates of Marriage Record; Collection: Quaker Meeting Records; Call Number: RG2/Ph/C433 3.3 U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 imaged at Ancestry.com.

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