Capt. Thomas Cromwell, Privateer

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Capt. Thomas Cromwell, Privateer

Birthplace: London, Middlesex, England
Death: after March 09, 1649
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Colonial America
Immediate Family:

Husband of Ann Joyliffe
Father of Elizabeth Vicers

Managed by: Jukka Salakari
Last Updated:

About Capt. Thomas Cromwell, Privateer

From page 2 of Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Volume 1 By American Antiquarian Society

Mr. Hale asked if there was any evidence that any buccaneer ever lived in "comfort and credit" in Boston, in Kidd's time. Fifty years before, Thomas Cromwell established himself for a few weeks in Boston after bringing in three Spanish prizes. But he took these under a regular commission from Warwick. There is a full account of the man in Winthrop and Bradford. He gave the Governor a sedan, "which was a very fair one, worth not less than fifty pounds," sent by the viceroy of Mexico to his sister. But, oddly enough, Winthrop is explicit in saying that Cromwell, while he might have had the best in Boston, did live in a mean thatched-roofed cabin for the short time he was here. And this was probably before Kidd was born, certainly he never saw Thomas Cromwell, who died in 1649.'

1 Bv a fall from his horse.

disputed ancestry

parents unknown.

  • Not a known child of Sir Henry Williams, alias Cromwell, MP & Joan Cromwell
  • no known relationship to John Cranwell, of Boston
  • "Cromwell was reportedly born in London, England. in 1617 Winthrop states that he was ripped out of his mothers belly, and never sucked, nor saw father nor mother, nor they him He first came to colonial America as a seaman while still in his teens. He participated in at least one voyage to the West Indies in the 1630s


From Family Profile: Captain Thomas Cromwell, Seventeenth-Century Pirate by Thomas E. Jones Published Date: December 1985. link

Circumstantial evidence suggests that he was married to Anne _ by 1639 or 1640.

Cromwells will was short and probably hastily prepared after his injury He left five pounds to his daughter, ten pounds to Goodwife Sherman five pounds to Goodwife Spaule six bells to the Town of Boston, and the remainder of his estate to his wife, Anne

Although there is no solid evidence of Anne's parentage, Cromwells will raises the possibility that she was the Anne listed as daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Sherman and sister of Alice Sherman who married Thomas Spaule.

The Cromwells had only one child,

  • Elizabeth, conjectured to have been born around 1640 She first married Richard Price on 18 August 1659.
    • They had Thomas b. 22 July 1660, Joyliffe b. 2 March 1662, Elizabeth b. 10 February 1664, and Richard b. 26 March 1667. The older Richard died in 1674. The older Elizabeth (i.e., Cromwell daughter) married her second husband, Isaac Vicers, between the period of 1674 and early 1680.
      • Elizabeth Price (i.e., Cromwell's granddaughter) married James Townsend of Boston.
      • Rebecca Vicers who married Captain Samuel Binney of Hull on 11 Nov. 1701.



Still seeking parentage for Captain Thomas Cromwell, who died in Massachusetts, 1649. He was married to Anne (1554-1664), with daughter Elizabeth Cromwell (b. 1578) who married Richard Price (b. 1575).

The birth date that is often suggested for Thomas (the 1550s) is not credible. He died in 1649 after returning from a three year privateering adventure. He fell from his horse, impaling himself upon his rapier hilt. I doubt that he was in his eighties at the time. This calls into question the birthdates for his wife and daughter. Does anyone have documentation on these?

The New England Historical and Genealogical Register Vol 3 (1849) p. 268 includes Thomas's will which reads as follows:

Thomas Cromwell 3(9) 1649

"I Thomas Cromwell of Boston doe by these p'sents make my last will and Testament. Deere wife Anne sole executrix. To dau. Elizabeth Cromwell fyve pounds sterling at marriage, or at one & twenty. To wife all the remainder of my estate, excepting the ship Anne. To pay to goodwife sherman ten ounds sterling, & to goodife Spaule five pound sterl. I give my six bells being in the Custody of Henry Walton unto the towne of Boston, This 29th of august, 1649.

Thomas Cromwell & a seale

Sealed signed & DD in p'nce of John Clark Henry Walton

Deposed that this was the will 26 (8) 1649.

Descriptive information regarding Thomas Cromwell can be found in "the Journal of John Winthrop 1630-1649" and in "Bradford's History of Plimoth Plantation."

Both Winthrop and Bradford recount that Capt. Thomas was a privateer, with a commission from the Earl of Warwick, under the command of Captain Thomas Jackson. He "worked" in the West Indies taking Spanish ships, and made his money there. Both accounts give details of the occasion in which he accidentally killed one of his own men in a fight. He was tried in a Council of War and was acquitted.

Seems like there should be a paper trail, both for the murder charges, and for his sale of one of his captured Spanish ships, which the Earl of Warwick protested, apparently considering it to be his own property.

The Earl of Warwick was a good friend of Oliver Cromwell. This lends some circumstantial evidence to the idea that our Thomas was some kind of relative. Perhaps there are records on the English side regarding the commission?

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Capt. Thomas Cromwell, Privateer's Timeline

London, Middlesex, England
March 9, 1649
Age 32
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Colonial America