Robert Fletcher

Robert FLETCHER (1592 – 1677) was Alex’s 11th Great Grandfather, one of 4,096 in this generation of the Shaw line.

Robert Fletcher – Coat of Arms

Robert Fletcher was born in 1592 in Chelmsford, Essex, England. His parents may have been William FLETCHER and Ann FINNEY, but recent DNA puts this lineage in doubt and this Robert is probably not connected to the principal Fletcher family of Cockermouth  Hall.  (Actually, almost all linkages to gentry in my tree have turned out to be false.  The vast majority of early immigrants were what we would call now middle class.)   He married Sarah HARTWELL about 1612 in England. Robert died 3 Apr 1677 in Concord, Middlesex, Mass.

In 1655, Robert was one of the founders of Chelmsford, Middlesex, Mass, named for his hometown in England

Sarah Hartwell was born in 1593 in Chelmsford, Essex, England.   Sarah died 12 May 1677 in Concord, Middlesex, Mass.

Children of  Robert and Sarah:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Grissell FLETCHER c. 1618 Chelmsford, Essex, England. Thomas JEWELL I
1640 Braintree, Norfolk, Mass.
Humphrey Griggs
1 Nov 1655
Braintree, Norfolk, Mass
John Gurney
12 Nov 1661 Braintree, Norfolk, Mass.
9 Jul 1669 Chelmsford, Middlesex, Mass.
2. Luke Fletcher
1621 Chelmsford, Essex, England Betsy Shattuck
1645 England
21 May 1665
Concord,  Mass
3. William Fletcher 1 Sep 1622 Harewood, Yorkshire, England Lydia Bates
7 Oct 1645 Concord, Middlesex, Mass.
6 Nov 1677
Chelmsford, Middlesex, Mass
4. Samuel Fletcher 1632 in Concord, Middlesex, Mass Margaret Hailston
14 Oct 1659 Chelmsford, Middlesex, Mass
9 Dec 1697
Chelmsford, Middlesex, Mass
5. Francis Fletcher 10 MAY 1636
Concord, Middlesex Co, Mass
Elizabeth Wheeler
11 Oct 1656 Concord, Mass
14 Jun 1704
Concord, Mass

Robert Fletcher was born in 1591 in Chelmsford, England. He came from England at the age of 38, with his wife, Sarah Hartwell, and three sons, Luke, William, and Samuel, and a daughter Grissell.   According to The History of Hancock he settled in Concord in 1630. I have found no other data to document his presence in America at this early date and this date may simply be an oral tradition which was exagerated and later printed.

It was five years later, on Sep 2, 1635, that Concord was organized, the twentieth town incorporated in Massachusetts, and, according to The History of Hancock again, ‘his name appears in the earliest records of that town.  Whenever he arrived there, Robert Fletcher was, however, established well enough by 2 Nov 1637 to be chosen constable of Concord on that date. Robert and two of his sons and their families were among the first settlers of Chelmsford Massachusetts. He returned to Concord where he died April 3, 1677 at the age of 85. His will is dated February 2, 1672.

Chelmsford was founded in settlers from the adjacent communities of Woburn and Concord. An act of the Massachusetts General Court in the last week of May 1655 town incorporated Chelmsford, and it was named after Robert’s home town of Chelmsford, England. The nearby communities of Groton and Billerica were incorporated at the same time. Chelmsford originally contained the neighboring town of Westford, and parts of Carlisle, Tyngsborough, and a large part of Lowell (formerly known as East Chelmsford).

Fletcher family researchers, such as Edward Hatch Fletcher and Winifred Lovering Holman, have attempted to identify and document Robert Fletcher’s ancestors for more than 150 years. Unfortunately, their exhaustive examination of the available records failed to produce any evidence to support the various theories regarding the Fletcher patriarch’s lineage.  However, several published genealogies haveidentified Yorkshire, Shropshire, and Cumberland as possible locations for the birth of Robert Fletcher.

A letter alleged to have been written by Lydia Bates Fletcher from Concord in 1632 to her sister-in-law, Ruth Fletcher of Scrooby, England, has recently surfaced and appears to shed some light on the long-standing mystery. A transcription has been reproduced in two historical references. See Muirhead, J.F., AmericanShrines on English Soil, (1925); Bahin, Mrs. Louis Joseph, Collectionof Genealogy Records, National Society, Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America, (1985) p. 72.

The letter at issue, in addition to providing a remarkable narrative of the pleasures and hardships experienced by early settlers of the “New Land”, if genuine, establishes Lydia Bates as the wife of Robert Fletcher, not as the wife of his son William as previously asserted.  It also mentions a previously undocumented daughter named Johna who was born in 1631 and refers to Moses Fletcher of the Mayflower as “brother.” Finally, the letter identifies Ruth Fletcher of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England, as the sister of Robert, thus suggesting that Robert hailed from Scrooby as well.

Suggesting that the aforementioned letter is not genuine is the fact that the Concord Registers have William Fletcher and Lydia Bates marrying on September 7, 1645, and giving birth to a daughter, also named Lydia, on January 30, 1647. Conversely, the English separatists that originally colonized Plymouth and Concord lived in Nottinghamshire, England, until their resettlement to Leiden, the city from which they departed for the “New Land”, in 1608. This fact tends to support the proposition that the letter from Lydia Bates Fletcher is authentic. Accordingly, further research need be undertaken to determine whether the letter is fact or fiction.

History of the Town of Concord; Middlesex County,Massachusetts, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1832, (1835) p. 18. Shattuck, Lemuel,

“November 2, 1637, Robert Fletcher was chosen constable of Concord.”

“Robert Fletcher was here in 1635; d. April 3, 1677, a. 85.Children-1. Francis, m. Elizabeth Wheeler 1656, and had Samuel, Joseph, John, Elizabeth, Sarah, Hannah, and Benjamin, who lived in Concord. 2. Luke, d. 1665; 3. William, m. Lydia Bates 1645, removed to Chelmsford, 1656, d. Nov.6, 1677; 4. Samuel, removed to Chelmsford. The name is extinct in Concord, but descendants are found in the adjoining towns, in Worcester county, and in New Hamphire.” Id. p.370.

Fletcher, Edward H.,Fletcher Genealogy: An Account of the Descendants of Robert Fletcherof Concord, Mass., (1871) p. 2-3.

“ROBERT settled at Concord, Mass., in 1630; in which year seventeen ships arrived in Massachusetts Bay and at Plymouth. He had then threesons, Luke, William, and Samuel, and was himself thirty-eight years ofage. It was five years later that Concord was organized, the twentieth town incorporated within what are now the limits of Massachusetts, and his name appears in the earliest records of that town. In the court files of Middlesex County, his name frequently occurs as petitioner for bridges, as juryman, etc. He became a wealthy and influential man,and died at Concord, April 3, 1677, ae. 85.”

Bates, Theodore C., Bates and Fletcher Genealogical Register, (1892) p. 47.

“The first of that name known to have come to this country was Robert Fletcher, who was born in Oxford, England, in 1592, as shown by therecords of his death found in the Town Records of Concord, Mass. Hesettled in Concord, Mass., in 1630, being 38 years of age when he came to America. He brought with him his wife and two sons, named Luke and William, and a daughter named Carey, also a brother, William, who afterwards settled in Middletown, Conn.

Robert Fletcher was a wealthy and influential man. He died in Concord, Mass., April 3, 1677, aged 85 years. He had five children: Luke,William, Carey, Samuel and Francis.”

New England Historical Publishing Company,American Series of Popular Biographies, New Hampshire Edition, (1902)p. 395.

“The family name of Fletcher, or Fledger as it was originally spelled,has been long known in New England, as the first immigrant, Robert Fletcher, came over with Sir Richard Saltonsall and Governor Winthropin 1630. He emigrated from Yorkshire, England, bringing with him three sons, Luke, William, and Samuel, and settled in Concord, Mass., where he subsequently lived until his death on April 5, 1677, at the age of eighty-five years.”


1. Grissell FLETCHER (See Thomas JEWELL I‘s page)

2. Luke Fletcher

Luke’s wife Betsy Shattuck was born 30 Dec 1627 – Somersetshire, England

3. William Fletcher

William’s wife Lydia Bates (Fairbanks) was born 13 Jun 1622 in Boston, Lincolnshire, England. Her parents were Richard Fairbanks and Elizabeth Daulton. Lydia died 12 Oct 1704 in Chelmsford, Middlesex, Mass.

There is a document, originally reported by Wyman, oft-cited to show Grissell’s maiden name, “Motion to Court by William Fletcher of Chelmsford his sister Cary on her deathbed desired him & her husband to take care of her children. Willing to be engaged for the child Sherebiah Kibby.” A further discussion ensues to show that the name should be Gurny. Interestingly, one person reported to Mary Lovering Holman possession of a photograph of the original, and claims it actually says Burge (roughly the same shape as Cary?) It then turns out this document is missing from Middlesex Court Files.

This single document connects Grissell’s brother, William Fletcher, the children of her first husband Thomas Jewell, the child by her third husband Henry Kibby (misspelled in this document), a mention of her being a widow Gurney, and of her last husband John Burge.

“To the Selectmen of Mendon: Theas are to Informe you by us William ffletcher and John Burge, both of us of the towne of Chellmsford, apointed by the Corts order to be gardians to the child of the widdow Gurney that was and Last of all wife to the a bove said John Burge, she being of a sound understanding did will unto her son Joseph Juell all that A Commodation that was there at the Towne of Mendon, Laid and given unto her the said widdow Gurney, with all the apurtenances and priveledges In any wise apertaining or be longing there unto, upon this condition that the said Joseph Juell do pay to Nathaniel Juell and Mercy Juell fifteen pound and Sherrabya Reby tenn pounds. Our desire and request is unto the Select men of the said towne of Mendon that ye would Record the said a Commodation to Joseph Juell for his security.

Witness our hands Chelmsford this 5 of the 4 month 1675.

William ffletcher John Burge.”

“This is a true Coppy of the lettre sente from William ffletcher and John Burge to the Select men of Mendon and now Recorded by yr order 21, 4 month 1675”

4. Samuel Fletcher

Samuel’s wife Margaret Hailston was born 1632 in Chelmsford, Middlesex, Mass. Her parents were William Hailstone and [__?__]. Margaret died 9 Dec 1697 in Westford, Mass.

5. Francis Fletcher

Francis’ wife Elizabeth Wheeler was born 3 Jan 1636 in Chelmsford, Essex, England. Her parents were George Wheeler and Catherine Pin. Elizabeth died 14 Jun 1704


Fletcher Family History, the Descendants of Robert Fletcher ofConcord, Mass.Author: Edward H. Fletcher

Publication: Boston, MA: Rand, Avery, & Co., 1881; book online athttp://www.genealogylibrary.comPage: Page: 11

Concord, Massachusetts Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1635-1850Publication: undated; reproduced on CD by Search & ReSearch Publishing Corporation,Wheat Ridge, CO 1998

>History of the Town of Westford By Reverend Edwin Hodgman

This entry was posted in 13th Generation, Immigrant - England, Line - Shaw, Public Office and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Robert Fletcher

  1. Pingback: Thomas Jewell I | Miner Descent

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  3. Dane Hahn says:

    My Grandmother was Beatrice Fletcher, born about 1880 in Connecticut. 3 of her uncles were in the Civil war, and she always said she was a decendent of Moses Fletcher, probably via Robert Fletcher whose name she knew.

  4. Virginia Wilber says:


    My name is Virginia Wilber and I, too, am a descendant of Robert Fletcher. I’ve been doing a lot of research on my lineage – through Robert, Francis, Joseph, Samuel, Jonathan, Alpheus,
    N(ehemiah) Howard, Charles, William, Margaret, me.

    Although the family bible says Jonathan was a Captain in the Revolutionary War, we can find no proof. But do find proof for French and Indian War.

    But to the point of this comment. Our Robert Fletcher is not the Robert Fletcher descended from William Fletcher (and, therefore, from King Alfred – more the pity). This has been proven by DNA testing. Please refer to the site:

    There is an email address where the site administrator can be reached – and he responds to messages.

    Your site has been so well researched and is so informative that I am sure you only want accurate data on your site, please consider removing the link to William as Robert’s father. (A note to the reason of removal would be great as it might cause others to do the same.) I know that there are constant updates to genealogical sites as new information is found (especially with DNA testing) and it is easy to miss something.

    Thank you,

    • markeminer says:

      Hi Virginia,

      Thanks for the info, I have updated the page.

      I had no idea William Fletcher had royal ancestors. I never got to bask in the knowledge that my ancestors were masters of Cockermouth Hall, notable as the temporary residence of Mary, Queen of Scots, who, after the battle of Langside, fled here, first stopping overnight at Workington Hall. I never enjoyed the romance that Robert’s grandfather’s name was Lancelot Fletcher. (lol)

      Actually, almost all linkages to royalty in my tree have turned out to be false, but, for me, legendary stories are almost as much fun as true ones. (See, for example, The vast majority of early immigrants were what we would now call middle class – Puritan work ethic and all that.

      Thanks again, Mark

    • markeminer says:

      Hi Virginia,

      Could you provide more information on the known patrilineal line of descendents of William Fletcher? Whose contemporary DNA was used as a baseline? What is his line? (and what is it about it that makes it more certain than this one?)

      Many thanks from the group,

      • Virginia Wilber says:


        I’ve sent a request for clarification to Guy Fletcher – the webmaster for the above site. I’ll be out of town for awhile, but will be back in touch when get back.


      • Virginia Wilber says:

        This is the reply I received from Guy Fletcher who is administrator for the Fletcher of Cockermouth Hall, Cumberland, England web site.

        “Dear all,
        There are very many people tested for the DNA of descendants of Robert Fletcher of Concorde who all live in the USA, etc. The two principle people descended from Sir Henry Fletcher of Cockermouth who is also ancestor to the Robert Fletcher of Cumberland, are William Guy Fletcher (myself) and William LeRoy Fletcher of California. The test results proved that Robert Fletcher of Concorde is NOT the same person as Robert Fletcher of Cumberland.
        Sincerely, W. Guy Fletcher”

        I hope this reply satisfies the discussion.


  5. Can you tell me a bit more about how this DNA ancestry testing works? As I understand it, it shows trends in populations and when dealing with people who lived centuries ago it is not the same as doing a paternity test on two individuals. I have not delved into the DNA genealogy realm, but I do see a lot of posts from people who say “it has been proved” by DNA that so and so is or is not related to so and so and I wonder if the science is really that exact or whether it should be given with similar caveats as paper trails. For example, “the records suggest that so and so is likely the child of so and so” and recent DNA tests suggest that it is unlikely that….” I’m not casting doubt on anyone’s work, I am just trying to understand how the DNA genealogy works. I’ve read conflicting accounts in respectable publications as to its validity.

    • Virginia Wilber says:


      According to Wikipedia, there are three types of genealogical DNA tests, autosomal (atDNA), mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and Y-Chromosome (Y-DNA). Autosomal tests for all ancestry. Y-DNA tests a male along his direct paternal line. mtDNA tests a man or woman along their direct maternal line. It appears the tests to which you are referring are atDNA tests.

      If a male today (my male cousin, for example – since his line back to Robert Fletcher is entirely father to son) has a Y-DNA test and it matches the William Fletcher from England, then a relationship can be assumed/proven. However, if a match does not occur, then, in all probability, William Fletcher is not Robert Fletcher’s father.

      A very good description of the three different types of DNA testing can be found at


      • Wouldn’t they need a sample from the long gone William Fletcher? I just don’t quite get how it works yet.

      • Virginia Wilber says:

        No. They could use a sample from a KNOWN male descendant of William Fletcher. One who is in a direct father to son line.

        I’m giving you this information like I am an expert in the field – which I am not. But I have read a bit about it and attended a lecture on it by a genealogical DNA expert.

      • I have thought about trying one of the DNA genealogy kits.

        I think what they’re able to do, if they have a pool of enough people who have paper trails that lead them to the same individual or community, is to say people who are already known to descend from this family tend to have this marker that is not as frequently found in people who are not related to this family.

        You might be able to say, for example, that X% of people from the Joe Smith family of this area of Europe who were tested were shown to have a common allele at marker such and such.

        If you also have this allele and you have reason to believe you are related to the Joe Smith family then this is another hint that you are on the right track.

        So let’s say you wanted to know if Lucy Corona was really the illegitimate daughter of Edward I as is sometimes claimed by people who want to be related to kings.

        To go about testing this hypothesis, you would need a pool of samples (the larger the better) from a population that is clearly and unambiguously descended from King Edward I.
        Testing that group might reveal some alleles that tend to appear in Edward kin but were less likely to be found in non-Edward kin.

        Now if they could take the Edward pool and isolate it from a second tested population that was clearly and unambiguously descended from Lucy Corona, but not otherwise from Edward, they could see if the alleles that the modern group of Edward descendants tend to share that are shared or not shared by the Lucy descendents.

        Now Edward shared his DNA with his descendents and inherited his alleles from his ancestors. So he shared a large portion of his DNA with his siblings and cousins who also went off and had kids. There’s an article on Andrew Millard’s Genealogy that tries to estimate the number of ancestors a person born in England in 1947 would have going back to the time of Edward III. They came up with about 7938 allowing for some cousin marriages.

        The royal DNA, as it were, might easily show up in a modern person descended from Lucy even without any Royal dalliance between Edward and Lucy’s mom.

        Most people who are the rumored but not quite proven parents of people way back moved in the same circles– or they wouldn’t be potential parents. This means they probably came from communities with gene pools that weren’t so widely dispersed, lots of intermarrying families. That makes DNA mingling even more likely.

        The only way to disprove the thesis that Lucy Corona was Edward’s daughter would be if researchers could identify an allele that all people known to be descendents of Edward shared that no reported descendents of Lucy shared. Then you could say with fairly high probability that it was unlikely he was her father.

        I haven’t used a DNA genealogy kit. I assume when they show results they are worded in these ways with probabilities and explanations and so on.

      • Virginia Wilber says:

        I agree with what you said, but Y-DNA tests are different. The male descendant has to have a father to son relationship all the way back to the person to which you’re trying to establish a relationship – no females in the line. According to Wikipedia “… the Y chromosome passes down almost unchanged from father to son, i.e., the non-recombining and sex-determining regions of the Y chromosome do not change.” Therefore if the two men being tested for comparison do not have matching Y chromosomes, they are not related. And this was the case in the Robert Fletcher testing. A male descendant of the Robert Fletcher who landed in Massachusetts in 1630 did not match Y-chromosomes with a male descendant of the William Fletcher in England.

  6. It, of course, relies on their paper trail being accurate to determine that they are indeed the descendents of Robert and William.

    My questions are not really about these two individuals. I just like to understand how conclusions were drawn. I find a lot of people post statements in various genealogy forums as if two historic individuals themselves were given a paternity test and as if the results were that conclusive.

    Maybe because of the technical nature of DNA, people don’t want to go into it. But I find people often don’t explain the background of the conclusions they draw from DNA testing in the way one would usually explain the steps that led someone to make conclusions based on documents. I would find it helpful if they did so more often.

    If someone said “documentation has proved so and so is (or cannot be) the descendent of so and so” and didn’t explain what the documentation was you’d probably ask. When people say “DNA has proved” people tend not to ask.

    I am, of course, not in the DNA genealogy forums themselves because I have not subscribed to that (expensive for me) service. I give them the benefit of the doubt that more of the background information is shared in those places.

    If the conclusion is based on DNA from a wider sample then it is more persuasive than if it is based on, say, two men who are both fairly sure that they were careful in their documentation and that none of their ancestors had undocumented extra-marital affairs. The further back you go in time, the more places there are for errors to creep in.

    So if people were to say, for example, results from a pool of X people believed to be male descendents of A and X people believed to be male descendents of B found…. It would just help me to understand and know how much weight to give to the conclusions when compared with other sources. (For example some random Ancestry subscriber’s tree.)

    • markeminer says:

      Hi Laurel,

      To be even more precise on what DNA testing can do. two men (in this case two men named Fletcher) either share the same set of male ancestors or they do not. Don’t know who this other modern-day Fletcher man is. I think the same works on the female side with a different DNA test.,

      Rgds, Mark

      • I don’t fully understand your comment about who this other modern-day Fletcher man is.

        What I was saying is that two men living today can take DNA tests that might be able to say if they have shared male ancestors or not. What it doesn’t tell them, without additional context, is who those specific ancestors are.

        Lets say two men named Smith take a DNA test and they find they are not related to each other. One of the men believes he is the 19th great grandson of Joe Smith and the other is descended from someone named James Smith throuh another line. James Smith has been rumored to be the father of Joe Smith.

        The fact that the two men are unrelated to each other can mean one of two things. It could mean that Joe Smith and James Smith were not related to each other because their descendents are not related to each other. Or it could mean that John and James Smith are related but that one or both of the men who took the DNA test is not actually related to the ancestor he believes he is.

        Say Ian Smith, who took one of the DNA tests, has an unassailable set of records back to his 19th great grandfather, Joe Smith, but unbeknownst to anyone his 18th great grandmother had an affair.

        Ian Smith might not be related to Paul Smith, the descendent of James but it is not because James is not Joe’s father, it is because Ian is not Joe’s 19th greta grandson….

        So how big the sample size was and how well-documented the lineage was on which the initial identification of someone with a DNA pattern associated with a family is important to interpret results.

      • markeminer says:

        Agreed. I just haven’t seen the unassailable set of records of the other Fletcher.

  7. Kimberly Prell Clark says:

    One of the best ways to determine these lines are to actually go to the surname projects for any surname you are looking for in regard to the Y-DNA testing. This link takes you to the Fletcher DNA Project. There are over 20 descendants of Robert Fletcher of Concord, MA who have done Y-testing according to this project. If the descendants of William have tested in England, h/o Anne Finney then they would be able to determine whether or not Robert’s descendants match their DNA by looking at and comparing the chromosomes. The same goes for the men who are Robert’s descendants. FamilyTreeDNA is about the largest DNA database available to us to my knowledge. Hope this helps. I know that I have been able to hurdle two brick walls just doing an AT-DNA test, would that I were a man so I could do a why test for my maiden name. 😉

  8. Myreen M Nicholson says:

    I assume that this Fletcher is the one in the witnesses to the will of Thomas Ffoxe of Concord (b. 1618-), Mass. His father was named the same. I see that younger Ffoxe was born/christened on Silver Street in London. St. Olave is on Silver Street. Catecorner to St. Olave’s is the home and shop of the Mountjoys, makers of theatre headdresses. William Shakespeare was a lodger in their house.. Shakespeare also had connections to a Fletcher. I saw somewhere that the Fletchers and Ffoxes knew one another in London. I am posting this now rather than lose touch with this group. Let me know what you know. Foxe is my direct Great+ Grandfather. There are some very interesting things about him.–Myreen Moore Nicholson

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