Brookes Family Genealogy
All truly English surnames were invented in about 1340-1360. Until then, people usually went with one name (John, Mary, etc.), which they were baptized with. But then the British Crown decided to raise revenue by means of a Poll Taxthat is, a flat-rate tax upon every adult male. To distinguish between men of the same baptismal name in the same community, additional descriptions had to be conjured. Normally, readily understood adjectives were applied, using the subject's job, looks, place of birth, or whatever differentiated them from the other men of the same name (John Longfellow, John Miller, John Whitehall, etc.). The name "Brookes" or "Brooks" is an English topographic surname for someone who lived by a brook or stream, from the Old English term broc.
But there is no reason to suppose that two men of the same name, but from different places, were relatedif there were two men named Brooke, maybe they were just two guys living near a brook, and not relatives. (However, the different surnames of Elder and Younger, in the same village, implied a kinship of father and son.)
Our direct lineage to this family can probably be traced to a man named RICHARD BROOKES, born about 1590 in England. Richard is said to have married a woman named "Ann." (Here's a possibility: In Worcestershire County, England, Richard Brookes & ANN HINDE registered to marry on the 18th of August in 1622.)
Information on how Richard came to America is scarce. But there was a Richard Brookes who was a passenger aboard the English ship "Susan & Ellen," arriving at Plymouth Plantation on April 13, 1635. The ship carried "rebels," meaning that Richard was a Puritanan English Reformer of the seventeenth century, frustrated by the slow progress of the Reformation in the Anglican Church. English Puritans were known at first for their extremely critical attitude regarding the religious compromises made during the reign of Elizabeth I. Many of them were graduates of Cambridge University, and they became Anglican priests to make changes in their local churches. They encouraged direct personal religious experience, sincere moral conduct, and simple worship services. Puritans disapproved of holidays like Christmas and Easter on the grounds that these holidays were invented by man and not prescribed by the Bible, and as such could not be Holy. It should be noted that the observation of Christmas in those times was not the same as today, and often featured excesses including gluttony, drunkenness, home invasions, aggressive begging (with an express or implied threat of harm), rioting, and immoral behavior. (Hey, that DOES sound a lot like our family Christmas holidays!) But the Puritans were not liked: Facing jail or worse in England, Richard and the other Puritans sailed to the American Colonies in order to live and worship as they pleased.
Plymouth Colony, America's first permanent Puritan settlement, was established by English Separatist Puritans (Pilgrims) in December of 1620. After a period in Holland, they set sail from Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620, aboard the Mayflower, its 102 passengers spending 65 days at sea. The Mayflower dropped anchor near present-day Provincetown on November 21, 1620, and 41 male passengers signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement to enact "just and equal laws for the general good of the colony." The Pilgrims finally landed at the site of present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, on December 26, 1620. (By legend, the Pilgrims stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock; but none of their records mention this landmark.) They began erecting buildings and rough shelters for the winter, but harsh climate and illness took their toll. By the end of winter half the colonists had died.
The colonists encountered an Indian named Samoset, who surprised them by speaking English, learned from traders on the coast of Maine. Samoset introduced the colonists to Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag Indians, who signed a peace treaty with the Pilgrims. Squanto, another English-speaking Indian, acted as guide and interpreter, and with his help the colonists learned to plant corn, catch fish, and gather fruit. The Pilgrims invited the Indians to celebrate their first harvest in 1621, an event now celebrated as Thanksgiving Day.
But after Massasoit's death, the Wampanoag joined a tribal coalition to eliminate English settlers. In the ensuing King Philip's War the Wampanoag were nearly exterminated. The colony gradually grew in size, and the original settlement known as the Plymouth Plantation expanded as settlers built houses in the area. As the years passed still more settlers came to Plymouth until in 1630 the population was around 300.
Plymouth did not, however, have the essentials for growth that other colonies would have. Its farm land was not good and the colony was poorly located for the fur trade and fishing. It remained small, and was soon overshadowed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which it had inspired. Plymouth Colony retained its independence for over 70 years, and by 1691 its population exceeded 7,000. It was integrated with the Massachusetts Bay Company's much larger colony to establish the royal colony of Massachusetts now the state of the same name.
and his family arrived in Massachusetts in the 1630's, but they may not have come
together. Their sons were in their twenties at the time of the migration. WILLIAM
BROOKS, son of Richard and Anne, was born @ 1610 in England. One story has him
arriving in the American Colonies aboard the English ship "Matthew,"
at the Plymouth Plantation on May 21, 1635. Another has him arriving on the "Speedwell"
in Virginia during 1635, and not appearing in the Masachusetts Bay Colony until
1653. Still another version is in a report from June, 1635: "Gilbert Brooke,
age 14, servant to William Vassall from Stepney, Middlesex, London, sailed to
New England in the ship Blessing, John Leicester, Master. They arrived in Boston
in August 1635 and he was going to Marshfield. Travelling with him was William
Brooks, age 20." This William was a proprietor at Salem, Mass., in 1639.
Mary had just been given 12 lashes, naked, in the public square for having an illegitimate child with her brother-in-law, Samuel Wright Jr., who had married her sister the year beforethen on top of that, Mary paid a fine to redeem another twelve lashes that she was sentenced to get for 'Comitting wickedness with Joseph Bonde."
A marriage between a Puritan like William and a Scarlet Letter candidate like Mary would seem doomed from the start, but in fact, it was a long, prosperous union. William and Mary settled in Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts. According to Springfield Town Records, on February 8, 1654 "thease parsells of meddow comonly called by the name of Wattchuett was granted these inhabitants as ffollowethe vid - ... will Brooks 4 acres."
REFERENCES TO WILLIAM BROOKS FROM SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS TOWN RECORDS:
January 14, 1669 Meeting of Selectmen - "Theres grannted to Wm Brookes forty acres of land on ye Westrly side & Northrly end of the land wch Thomas Copley hath Sold to Joseph Parsons of North Hampton, at the foote of ye higher falls in ye Great River : Convenient high wayes to be reserved."
20, 1667 Meeting of the Proprietors - "And there being at present Sixteene
proprietors tis aggreed that for this yeere William Brookes (and others) shall
take care of the water fence to see it a sufficient fence, well done at both ends
to secure the feild."
large family (see below) and credit account with the store of John Pynchon, who
basically ran Springfield, made it tough for William to get ahead. It was easy
to be put "on account" at the store if you had plenty of fertile land
as collateral, but sooner or later Pynchon would call in all of the debts, which
usually meant signing over your land. And on December 30, 1675, William was forced
to sex four parcells of land (amounting to 78 acres), in exchange for 60 pounds
of credit (when the accounts were balanced Pynchon owed Brooks eight pounds, which
William needed in order to buy more supplies from Pynchon.
This Mary was a lot less controversial than her mother. She was never whipped naked in the public square, as far as we know, and she stuck to one husband. But she still had plenty to deal with on the frontier. Colonial America was based on a hierarchical society in which, by custom and law, women were subordinate to men. Women were not expected to run businesses or to follow professions. They could not vote or hold public office or sit on a jury. They were, for the most part, denied education beyond the skills they would need in their own households. Married women could not own property in their own names; even their earnings were automatically deemed the property of their husbands.
On the 30th of December, 1697, Mary married a man named BARRETT STEELE, born in 1676, also in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. Barrett died on the fourth of December in 1713, in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. (He's buried at Westfield, Hampden, Massachusetts.) She died the same year, about the time she gave birth to her last child.
Their children are:
But the Brooks saga does not end there. JOHN STEELE was born on the 9th of March, 1707, in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. He married ABIGAIL BROOKS on the 7th of March, 1727, in Springfield, Hampden, MA. Nobody knows if she was a relation of her new mother-in-law, Mary Brooks, but they are from the same village (Abigail was born on the third of December, 1706, in Springfield). Abigail died on the 12th of August, 1774, in Springfield, as well. John didn't follow her for another 20 years, finally passing away on the 21st of February, 1793, in Longmeadow, Hampden, Massachusetts. He died at the home of Ezra Stebbins. But in their time, John and Abigail had a LOT of kids:
GENEALOGYRICHARD BROOKES (b. 1590) married ANN (HINDE?) and begat...
WILLIAM BROOKS (b. @ 1610) married MARY BURT (1632 - 1689) and begat...
MARY BROOKS(1677 - 1713, who married BARRETT STEELE (1675 - 1713) and begat...
JOHN STEELE (1707- 1793), who married ABIGAIL BROOKS (d. 1774) and begat...
RHODA STEELE (b. 1735), who married ROBERT SANDERSON (b. 13 Jul 1734) and begat...
ELNATHAN SANDERSON (1776 - 1854) married BETSY WALTERS and begat...
DAVID SANDERSON (1804 - 1884) who married POLLY BRIGGS (1811 - 1867) and begat...
MELISSA SANDERSON (1839 - 1921) who married LABAN HAUSE (1831 - 1906) and begat...
The First Century of the Historyof Springfield, the Official Records from 1636
Calendar of Wills Proved and of Administrations Granted in the Commissary Court of the Peculiar and Exempt Jurisdiction of Groby, 1580-1800.
Index to Wills and Eldministrations Proved and Granted in The Elrchdeaconry Court of Leicester 1660-1750