Ancestry of John Bigelow 1617-1703 from a historical perspective
Immigrant ancestor of nearly all persons in North America bearing the surname Bigelow in any of its several variants (Biglo, Biggaloush, Bagley, etc.) Well known citizen immigrant of Watertown, Massachusetts. (1)
H.G. Somerby, the genealogist, felt that John Biglo came from Wrentham, Suffolk, England, and was the son of Randall and Jane Beageley(sic), who had their youngest son, John, baptized February 16, 1617. (1)
Also from probate records of Wrentham, Somerby quotes the will of Francis Baguley, Blacksmith of Wrentham, who in a will dated October 20, 1656, granted money to his “brother John Baguley, now living in New England, if he comes for it within two years”. In addition, the rector of Wrentham parish in 1617 was Rev. John Phillips, who later emigrated to Dedham, Mass. During his years in Dedham, Phillips stated that the blacksmith John Biglo (sic) of Watertown, Mass. was the same infant whom he had baptized in 1617 as the son of Randall Beageley (sic), and that he (Phillips) had “known John Biglo from earliest youth upward”.
Further, in a civil case in Watertown during his lifetime, John Biglo took the witness stand and identified himself as “John Biglo, formerly of Wrentham, England.” From these facts are identified the parentage and identity of John Biglo and through parish and probate records can trace 3 generations of his ancestry in England. (1)
He seems to have arrived in Watertown, MA in about 1632. He came with an older relative, Elizabeth Bigelow. John would have been about 16 years of age. He was most certainly part of the Winthrop Fleet, a group of Puritan Congregationalists who left England during the English Civil War and the rule of Charles I. At that time, the Puritans had a general feeling of hopelessness about their prospects in England, and many of their ancestors had been Protestant nobility who had been both attainted and disenfranchised from their lands over the previous centuries in both the struggles of the Wars of the Roses and the many other conflicts leading up to the English Civil War. Charles 1, before his eventual beheading, desperately sought to hang on to his power, which was opposed by the Puritans and Parliament. Resisting them, he sought to restore the power of the Catholic church, and a monarchy of “divine right.” Disease had also taken a terrible toll on the populace, the plague having visited England many times since the 14th century. It is with background we can understand why the sons and daughters of noble families fled England for an unknown world. One such group is the Winthrop Fleet.
John’s parents were already both dead by 1626, having died within a week of each other which would account why John and Elizabeth were not accompanied by their parents. The Winthrop Fleet passengers came in many ships, and numbered about 700 people, whose leader, John Winthrop required colonists, many of them wealthy, to be able to pay their own passage, which was expensive at the time, and have a useful trade to contribute to the new colony, unlike other “Planter” families in other colonies. Obviously, John was not without means, nor trade, even as a 16 years old, since he was accepted as a colonist. He seems to fit the exact profile of the type of Puritan John Winthrop was recruiting. Some Winthrop passengers were wealthy enough to bring servants, as in the case of future Gov. Winthrop and others. The Puritan families knew each other, and were not random strangers thrown together for a sea voyage. John Winthrop did extremely careful planning for his colony. From a theological perspective, only other Puritans of similar beliefs and station would have been welcome in the colony. A partially reconstructed passenger list of the Winthrop Fleet includes the names of John’s future wife and inlaws, Margaret and John Warren, and their children including Mary ( his future wife). (3)
Many of these people, including both John Bigelow and John Warren, previously lived in Lancashire, especially Chesire, and their families were descendants of nobility and landed gentry, and married several times over the centuries. Other families who emigrated, and were related through marriage in England, especially in the Chesire area, were the Woodbury, Massie/Massey, Cotton, Devereaux, Dudley, French, Frost, Graves, Legh(Legge), Skelton, and Stearns. Chesire, Lancashire is considered the birthplace of the of the English Civil War.This would explain why they emigrated, first to Wrentham, and then to New England. Things must have been quite bad for them in Chesire. Society was undergoing a complete revolution, and they were in the middle of it.
All of this gives us good insight into who the Puritans of the Winthrop Fleet really were, and why they were so determined to found a community where they could worship in peace. I would also venture that John Warren probably had a close existing relationship with the orphaned young John Bigelow, all originating in Chesire, and whose families would have known each other for many generations. Certainly, their rectors, as keepers of the family genealogies, knew who they were.
1.) John Biglo, Immigrant Ancestor. The Bigelow Society.
2.) Winthrop Fleet
3.) Winthrop Society, Passengers Lists. http://www.winthropsociety.com/settlers/wy-data.htm