My Beardsley Ancestors, the Lost Village of Beard’s Wood, My Family Connection to P.T. Barnum and General Tom Thumb. 52 Ancestors, Week 20: Bearded.

This week’s writing prompt is the word bearded. Although, my great-great grandfather John Davis Kennedy had a pretty cool looking beard in the photo of him in his US Civil War Union uniform, there is not much else to write about it, he died a decade later in a mining accident and no other photos exist of him, nor are there any stories passed down about him and his beard, or any other ancestors with beard stories, or ones that were barbers. So, I will stay with original idea that came to mind, to write about my direct ancestors with the surname Beardsley.

The surname Beardsley is an English surname. It comes from the words beard and wood. The placename is believed to derive from the Olde English pre 7th Century byname Beard, from the vocabulary word for a beard, with leah meaning wood, glade, or clearing, hence it was a place named Beard’s Wood. The surname Beard by itself was a nickname for a bearded man. Beard’s Wood was a locational name for a now lost place, believed to have been situated in Nottinghamshire or nearby Leicestershire where the name is most prevalent. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared since the 12th Century, due to such natural causes as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, and to the widespread practice of enforced “clearing” and enclosure of rural lands for sheep pastures from the 15th Century onwards. (1 & 2)

Some with the surname Beardsley do have a kinship to the surname Bardsley, which is a parish between Ashton and Oldham, near Manchester. This is not the case with my ancestors. And actually, almost all of the American Beardsley families, that came to this country in colonial times, are from the areas of Nottinghamshire and nearby Leicestershire.

My immigrant Beardsley ancestor was William Beardsley. He was born in about 1605 based upon his age being listed as 30 years on the manifest of immigrant ship Planter upon which he arrived in Boston in 1635.

St. Mary’s Church, Ilkieston, Derbyshire. Artwork by
Muirhead Evans (1849–1907) (attributed to).
Erewash Borough Council

He was of a Beardsley family from the areas of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. His wife was Mary Harvie. She was baptized on 26 January 1631/32 as Maria Harvie (Latin spelling of Mary) at Saint Mary’s Church in Ilkieston, Derbyshire, England. She was the daughter of Richard Harvie. Various later records show her surname spelling as Mary Harvie or Harvey.

William Beardsley and Mary Harvie married at the same church, Saint Mary’s on 26 January 1631. The baptism of their third child, a son, John, took place there on 2 November 1633.

The distance between Ilkieston and Nottinghamshire is 24 miles (38.6 km), and it is 20.3 miles (32.7 km) between Ilkieston and Leicestershire.

A bit about Ilkieston. It is a town in the Borough of Erewash, Derbyshire, England, on the River Erewash. The town is close to both Derby and Nottingham and is near the border with Nottinghamshire. The eastern boundary of Ilkeston is only two miles from Nottingham’s western edge and is now part of the Nottingham Urban Area. (3)

St. Mary’s is a parish church in the Church of England. It was built in the 14th century (although the church was founded in 1150), it is known as the “Mollis Chapel” because of a stained-glass window which shows the rising sun above the cross. (4)

In 1635, William Beardsley and his family were identified as “of Leicestershire bound for Concord” on the manifest of the ship Planter, bound for Boston from London. Nicholas [Nico] Trerice was the shipmaster. The Planter departed London on about 10 April 1635 and arrived at Boston on Sunday, 7 June 1635. The Beardsley family brought certificates (references) from the Minister of St. Albons [St. Albans] in Hertfordshire.

The Planter ship’s manifest includes the following: Wm. Beadsley, mason, age 30; Marie Beadsley, age 26; Marie Beadslie, age 4; and John Beadslie, age 6 mo. (5) We learn from the ship’s manifest that William’s occupation was that of a mason.

Upon arriving in Boston, the Beardsley family first settled at Concord, Massachusetts where William was admitted to the church as “Wil(iam) Beadseley” a “freeman ” on 7 December 1636. Concord was located about 20 miles northwest of Boston. It was the first inland settlement by the Massachusetts Bay Colony immigrants in New England. Concord was establish in 1635.

The Beardsley family and several others on the ship Planter were followers of the Rev. Adam Blakeman, a Church of England clergyman, who arrived at Boston in 1638. In the History of Stratford, Connecticut, 1639-1939: Stratford Tercentenary Commission, 1939 by William Howard Wilcoxson, the author writes:

“that, finding no land to their liking in Massachusetts, the Blakeman company trekked to Wethersfield, where again they discovered all the best land was already occupied. By August 1639 they were living on land claimed by Connecticut on the banks of the Pequonnock River, possibly as squatters. The Connecticut General Court dispatched the governor to confer with the planters at Pequannock, to give them the oath of fidelity. The English settlers appear to have seized Indian land from the Pequonnock Indians without warfare [but] there are no records of the Blakeman company’s receiving deeds from the Pequonnocks. The Pequonnocks were apparently allowed to remain on portions of their ancestral lands. And when the Pequonnocks demanded belated payments in the 1650’s, the Stratforders paid them—not to ease their consciences but simply to keep the peace. The Indians might be seen by the English as heathen nuisances, but they were still children of God, and they were neighbors.”

Led by Rev. Blakeman, the Beardsley family and 16 other families were the first Europeans to arrive there in 1639. The place was called Cupheag by the native Pequonnock people. The settlers arrived by boat at a spot called Mac’s Harbor. The area was called Pequonnocke Plantation by the General Court on 10 October 1639, then named Cupheag in June of 1640. In April 1643, it became known as Stratford. (6)

William Beardsley died between 28 September 1660, the date of his will, and the will probate date of 6 June 1661. No exact date of death has been found.

In 1939, on the 300th anniversary of the settlement of Stratford, the descendants of William and Mary Beardsley placed a bronze plaque at this Union Cemetery in Stratford. It reads as follows:

“To honor the memory of William and Mary Beardsley and the other first settlers of Stratford who landed near this spot in 1639.
Erected by the Beardsley Family Association 1939″

It is pictured above.

There is a large stone cenotaph monument with the names of William, Mary and several other Beardsley descendants at Union Cemetery. William and Mary Beardsley are not interred there. The Union cemetery was established after his death, in 1678.

My line continues with their daughter Mary Beardsley who married first to Thomas Wells (my ancestor). She married 2nd to widower Deacon Samuel Belding, Sr. (who also just happens to also be my ancestor with his first wife Mary (maiden name unknown) who was killed by Native Americans). I am also a descendant of Deacon Samuel Belding, Sr’s 3rd wife Mary Meekins (with her husband John Allis).

My line down from William Beardsley:

  1. William Beardsley and Mary Harvey (daughter of Richard Harvie/Harvey).
  2. Mary Beardsley and Thomas Wells (son of Thomas Wells and Frances Albright).
  3. Mary Wells and Stephen Belding (son of Deacon Samuel Belding, Sr. and Mary (killed by Indians) maiden name unknown).
  4. Elizabeth Belding and Richard Scott (son of William Scott and Hannah Allis).
  5. Mary Scott and Elisha Root (son of John Root and Mary Leonard).
  6. Lusannah “Lucy” Root and Sampson French (son of Samson French, Sr. and Mary Clement).
  7. Submit “Mitty” French and Phineas Merchant (son of Ezra Merchant, Jr. and Catherine Northrup).
  8. Cordelia Merchant and Lewis F. Cole (son of Nathaniel Cole, Jr. and Laura A. Fuller).
  9. Loren Richard Cole and Nancy M. Losure (daughter of 1st cousins Joseph Losure and Sarah Lozier).
  10. Joseph Edward Cole and Anna Cora Prindle (daughter of Daniel Prindle and Sarah Jane “Jennie” Doman). – My great-grandparents.
PT Barnum and General Tom Thumb.

Famous kin descended from William Beardsley and Mary Harvey:

  1. Jeremiah Day – 9th President of Yale University.
  2. P.T. Barnum – Co-Founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus.
  3. W. K. Kellogg – Founder of the Kellogg Company.
  4. Frank Kellogg – 45th U.S. Secretary of State Nobel Peace Prize Winner.
  5. General Tom Thumb – Dwarf Circus Performer.
  6. Emily Dickinson – American Poet.
  7. Howard Hawks – Movie Director.
  8. Zoe Kazan – TV, Movie and Stage Actress.
  9. Howard Dean – 79th Governor of Vermont.
  10. Phil Knight – Co-Founder, Nike Inc.
  11. Janis Joplin – Singer and Songwriter.
  12. Anna Gunn – TV and Movie Actress.
  13. Edward Norton – Movie Actor.
  14. Amy Adams – Movie Actress.
  15. Treat Williams – TV & Movie Actor.

I share additional ancestors with most of the people in the list above. Some even share the same next 3-4 generations down with me. I find it interesting that PT Barnum and General Tom Thumb were both descendants of William Beardsley and Mary Harvey, something I doubt they ever knew in their lifetimes. They were fourth cousins, one time removed.


  1. Beardsley/Beardslee . . . everyone gets the drumstick here. FamilyTreeDNA groups. Last name: Bearsley.
  2. Surname Beardsley. The Internet Surname Database.
  3. Ilkeston.
  4. St Mary’s Church, Ilkeston.
  5. The original lists of persons of quality; emigrants; religious exiles; political rebels; serving men sold for a term of years; apprentices; children stolen; maidens pressed; and others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700; with their ages and the names of the ships in which they embarked by John Camden Hotten, ed., 1874. p. 50.
  6. Our History Stratford Connecticut by Barbara M. Sirois. 1988.

Additional source:

  1. William Beardsley – FAG (

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

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If you use any information from my blog posts as a reference or source, please give credit and provide a link back to my work that you are referencing. Unless otherwise noted, my work is © Anna A. Kasper 2011-2023. All rights reserved. Thank you.

About Anna Kasper, ACDP

I am an avid Genealogist. I am currently a student at Phillips Theological Seminary (one of the few Catholics!). I am an ACDP - Associate of the Congregation of Divine Providence (Sisters of Divine Providence of Texas). If you are unfamiliar with what a Religious Associate (also called an Affiliate, Consociate, Oblate, Companion) is exactly, visit my about me page for more information. In community college, I majored in American Sign Language/Deaf Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies when at university.
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2 Responses to My Beardsley Ancestors, the Lost Village of Beard’s Wood, My Family Connection to P.T. Barnum and General Tom Thumb. 52 Ancestors, Week 20: Bearded.

  1. Sheryl McGettigan says:

    Anna, we might be connected. I am also descended from Emily Dickenson and I have Kellog descendants. Thank you for the very interesting story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chiara says:

    Oh this is fabulous. I have Beardsley’s in my family also. I descend from William and Mary through one of their sons.

    Liked by 1 person

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