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First Name:

Last Name:

William Nelson[1]

Male 1615 - 1679  (64 years)

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  • Name William Nelson  [2
    Born 21 Jun 1615  Barton Up, Humber, Lancashire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender Male 
    Immigrated Bef 1633  America Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 15 Dec 1679  Plymouth, MA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I4363  Main
    Last Modified 30 Sep 2009 

    Family Martha Ford, "first white girl born in Plymouth",   b. Abt 1619, Plymouth, MA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Dec 1683, Plymouth, MA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 64 years) 
    Married 29 Oct 1640  Plymouth, MA Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    +1. William Nelson,   b. 1645, Plymouth, MA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 22 Mar 1718, Middleboro, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 73 years)
    Last Modified 30 Sep 2009 
    Family ID F1744  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsImmigrated - Bef 1633 - America Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 29 Oct 1640 - Plymouth, MA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 15 Dec 1679 - Plymouth, MA Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Notes 
    • From "The Nelsons of Lakeville, MA"

      Born apparently in England early in the 17th century, William Nelson emigrated to Plymouth, but the date of his arrival and the ship on which he arrived has never been definitely established. What is fact is that he arrived in New England some time prior to 1633 as an unmarried young man unaccompanied by any relatives and no clue as to his English forebears or home or his exact date or boat of arrival have been proven.

      The first provable data as to William Nelson's being in Plymouth is found in the Plymouth Records in an entry on page 62. This entry is under the date of a meeting held February 1633 and reads "Thirty acres of land is graunted unto William Nelson lying on the North side of Jonses River Meddow on both sides of the brooke that goes from Mr. Joseph Bradfords; so as it be not prejudiciall to the naighbours".

      The next provable record is in Plymouth Records Vol. 1.

      "The last day of March 1637 William Nelson is hyred to keep the cowes this year at the same wages he had the last year which is 50 bushels of Indian corne and is to keep them until the middle of November next."

      History tells us that in the early days, the only cows in the Plymouth Colony were those brought by the Pilgrims in the ships in which they came. Being limited in number, cows were made common property, which practice prevailed until the number had increased sufficiently to permit distribution for individual ownership. These "common property" cows being of real value as a necessity of life had to be regularly accounted for through a "Keeper". This was obviously a position of importance and trust. William Nelson apparently had proven himself worthy and to be trusted when appointed "Keeper of the Cows."
      William Nelson was made a "Townsman" in Plymouth in 1640.

      This appears to have been his next step forward in the Colony, for records are found in Plymouth, Middleborough and other towns of men being accepted as "Townsman"--the wording usually being: "The Towne being met together at the house of _______ do joyntly agree by their vote to accept ______ as a townsman and have the privileges of same". Being accepted as "Townsman" should not be confused with being admitted as a "Freeman" because the former appears to be limited to "residennce as an inhabitant."

      Not all persons were admitted as even a townsman, because other entries appear under the heading of: "Townsman/men denied" with the entry reading "at a town meeting held this day ____ was denied by the proprietors and inhabitants of our Towne any residence within our Towne as an inhabitant amongst us and he have been warned out several times as the law directs."

      Being a "Townsman" bore a stamp of good standing, but not the privelege of voting in Town meetings reserved to "Freemen."

      The next entry found is of William Nelson acquiring moreland. In the Records of the Colony of New Plymouth Court orders, Vol. 1, 1633 - 1640 at a Court of Assistant held August 1, 1640, there is the following record:

      "Wiltm Nelson is graunted six acrees of Upland; lying against John Cook's land in the newfield on the north side of Fresh Lake Brooke." This grant seems to be the beginning of the Nelson farm, as shown on the map of Plymouth 1701.

      This year, 1640, also marked the event of his marriage on 29 October to Martha Ford, the first white girl born in Plymouth. Martha was the daughter of widow Martha Ford who is listed as a passenger on the Fortune of London (55 tons), Thomas Barton, Master; out of London early July 1621, arriving Plymouth November 11, with "35 persons who remaine and live in ye plantation." She is listed Ford, Mrs. Martha--probably of London-- "delivered of a sonne the first night she landed, and both are doing very well--widow of leather dresser of Southwark, who evidently died at sea". Three children are then listed, William, Martha and John with the latter's life span given as 1621 - 1693.

      There is a conflict as to the date of Martha's birth but the weight of evidence indicates it was Martha and not John who was born just after the Widow Ford landed.

      The latter was married again in 1623 to Peter Brown. It is reported there were several children, but their identity presents a problem as some were her children by her first marriage, some by her second and others by Peter Brown's second marriage, but the data as to her having by her first marriage a daughter, Martha, who was married to William Nelson seems established beyond doubt.

  • Sources 
    1. [SAuth] John Spencer Howell, Jr., John Spencer Howell, Jr., (

    2. [S996] Frank Ripley, Frank Ripley,

    3. [S996] Frank Ripley, Frank Ripley,