2945. Bliss

Outline

  1. Richard Bliss (b. ca. 1465) m. ____; Daventry, Northants, Eng.
  2. Richard Bliss (b. ca. 1500) m. ____; Daventry, Northants, Eng.
  3. William Bliss (ca. 1533–1574) m. (2) 1561 Elizabeth ____ (d. 1596); Daventry, Northants, Eng.
  4. John Bliss (1562–1617) m. (1) ____ (d. bef. 1616); Daventry, Preston Parva, Northants, Eng.
  5. Thomas Bliss (ca. 1588–1647) m. (1) 1614 Dorothy Wheatley (d. bef. 1645); Daventry, Northants, Eng.; Braintree, Rehoboth, Mass.
  6. Elizabeth Bliss (1615–1676) m. Ens. Thomas Willmarth (d. 1694); Braintree, Rehoboth, Mass.

Sources

The most reliable publications on this family have, unfortunately, tended to make debatable claims about the extent of its connection with other Bliss families in colonial New England. Further comment is needed, both to identify these publications and to assess the claims.

Related surnames

23. Willmarth

As noted below, no additional information about the Wheatley family is available at this time.

Comment: English Origins of the Bliss Immigrants to New England

The first attempt to establish English origins of the three immigrants of this surname to New England—Thomas of Rehoboth, Thomas of Hartford, Connecticut, and George of Newport, Rhode Island—was printed in 1881. John Homer Bliss drew on traditional material provided to him by Mrs. Mary E. (Bliss) West of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which placed the origin of all three immigrants in Devonshire. Within a generation, however, this was found to be incorrect. In 1911 Bliss had some substitute pages tipped into at least one printed copy of his text to show that George and Thomas of Hartford were the sons of John Bliss of Preston Parva, the testator of 1617. As to the placement of Thomas of Rehoboth, Bliss could only presume that he was closely related to the others.[1]

Because Bliss’s revision of his 1881 text originally circulated to only one library, it has not generally been recognized as a forerunner of Charles Arthur Hoppin, who did not acknowledge it.[2] In any case, Hoppin’s account of the ancestry of George and Thomas of Hartford did not impress contemporary and later generations of professional genealogists. George E. McCracken described Hoppin’s book, more than once, as follows:[3]

This is a most curious volume, and the late G. Andrews Moriarty explained it to me on one occasion as the result of the fact that Mr. Hoppin, a professional genealogist, was employed by a client[4] to discover the client’s ancestry but succeeded in discovering only Mr. Hoppin’s own Bliss ancestry,[5] causing him considerable difficulty in concealing what had happened.

In fact—consciously or not—Hoppin had followed the later Bliss in identifying Thomas of Hartford and George as sons of John of Preston Parva, citing John’s will.[6] Hoppin also located relevant material that Bliss had missed, including the parish registers of Holy Cross, Daventry. They revealed that one Thomas Bliss in that parish had a family of children that correlated well with the Massachusetts immigrant’s will, with sons named Nathaniel and Jonathan, and daughters Elizabeth and Mary, together with others who had died young or unrecorded.[7] Moriarty and McCracken therefore conceded the geographical placement of the Rehoboth immigrant in Daventry, but threw doubt upon Hoppin’s identification of the other immigrants.[8]

The placement of the Connecticut immigrant as the son of the testator of 1617 presented one other practical problem for Hoppin; no other father of Thomas in the right generation could be clearly identified from the Northamptonshire sources.[9] Hoppin sought to resolve the problem by placing Thomas of Rehoboth as a son of John’s brother William, who left no probate and very few parish register entries, but had lived continuously at Daventry. Hoppin was further encouraged by the finding that Thomas, like William and John’s father, and John himself, was a blacksmith by trade.[10]

Modern publications have since rendered John Homer Bliss’s revised reconstruction untenable, once and for all. In a 1976 article, Myrtle Stevens Hyde establishes that Thomas Bliss of Hartford originated in a completely different part of England and does not belong to the Daventry family at all.[11] Donald Lines Jacobus had previously analyzed the Bliss literature and concluded that Thomas of Rehoboth was more probably the son of the testator of 1617,[12] and Hyde’s research strengthens Jacobus’s assessment. In the most recent general compilation, Aaron Tyler Bliss reaches the same conclusion, although he does not acknowledge Jacobus and understates the significance of Hyde’s work.[13]

The outline above follows Jacobus in deriving the descent of the Massachusetts immigrant from the Northamptonshire Bliss family, but researchers may still profit from Hoppin’s transcripts from the original sources. Among the most recent compilers, Carl Boyer, 3rd, has made the fullest use of Hoppin’s material on the two earliest generations.[14] Hoppin claims that Dorothy Wheatley was the daughter of John Wheatley (fl. 1615–34), sometimes the master warden of the Company of Mercers, Woollen-drapers, Taylors, Innkeepers, and Fullers in Daventry, and bailiff of the borough in 1619, and Jacobus accepts this placement. Unfortunately, evidence for this identification beyond her surname is lacking.[15]

The nonexistence of evidence for the parentage of George beyond the will of John Bliss of Preston Parva also remains a matter of concern. Hoppin was the first to identify this George as the one who had married Ann Shaw on 30 May 1635 at Holy Cross, Daventry.[16] There are records of another George Bliss in Daventry who had a wife named Agnes and daughters named Mary, Jude, and Jane, among whom only the last survived; Hoppin identified the father as a blacksmith of Daventry who died testate in 1637 and, more debatably, as a first cousin of Thomas the immigrant.[17] Unfortunately, the registers of Holy Cross have recently been misread, without the context of the 1637 will, to suggest that the immigrant George was married first to Agnes and secondly to Ann Shaw. On this account George’s daughter Mary, instead of dying in infancy, was instead adopted into the family of Thomas Bliss of Rehoboth, and later married Nicholas Ide, upon which grounds Ide was recognized as a son-in-law in Thomas’s will.[18] Hoppin’s documentation for this Mary Bliss clearly rules out that reconstruction, however, and the conventional interpretation of the use of that term by Thomas for Ide—that in old age Thomas and Ide’s mother, both widowed, had married one another—sufficiently explains the facts.[19]

Footnotes

1 John Homer Bliss, comp., Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America, from about the Year 1550 to 1880 (Boston: Printed by the author, 1881), 27-8 (original), 27-8 (substitutes, dated 1 Jan. 1909), and author’s covering note to Librarian, Boston, Mass., Public Library, dated Plainfield, Conn., 7 Feb. 1911, online <https://archive.org/details/genealogyofbliss00blis>, digitized from the holdings of the Boston Public Library.

2 Charles Arthur Hoppin, The Bliss Book: A Romantic History of the Bliss Family from the Time of Its Beginning, in England, to Its Advent into America, and Illustrating the Conditions of Life of the English Ancestors of Many Others of the Founders of New England (Hartford, Conn.: Privately printed, 1913), 6.

3 Editor’s note, in Myrtle Stevens Hyde, Thomas and Margaret Hulins Bliss of Hartford, Connecticut, American Genealogist 52 (1976): 193-7, at 193. Similar commentary appears in George E. McCracken, Comments on the New Bliss Genealogy, American Genealogist 59 (1983): 25-7, at 25-6.

4 Frederick Spencer Bliss, of Hartford, Conn., a descendant of Thomas of Hartford, whose encouragement is acknowledged in Hoppin’s preface (Hoppin, Bliss Book, 6, 176).

5 Hoppin, Bliss Book, 180.

6 Hoppin, Bliss Book, 145-6, 149-50.

7 Hoppin, Bliss Book, 156-7, 177-9.

8 Milton Rubincam was less generous; he questioned the Hoppin-derived English origin of all three immigrants in his review of Aaron Tyler Bliss’s book, to be discussed shortly: National Genealogical Society Quarterly 71 (1983): 221-2.

9 Donald Lines Jacobus and Edgar Francis Waterman, Hale, House and Related Families Mainly of the Connecticut River Valley (Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society, 1952), 476-7, cites other authorities who had recognized this difficulty, but this publication focuses on the Connecticut immigrant. A follow-up treatment of the Massachusetts immigrant flatly states that Hoppin had selected John’s son for identification with Thomas Bliss . . . of Hartford, and then, for no apparent reason, asserted that Thomas of Rehoboth was son of John’s brother William, although no marriage, children or probate had been discovered for William (Donald Lines Jacobus, ed., The Ancestry of Lorenzo Ackley & His Wife Emma Arabella Bosworth [Woodstock, Vt.: N. Grier Parke II, 1960], 118). Ignorance that this placement of the Connecticut immigrant had been proposed prior to Hoppin’s publication may have contributed to the general puzzlement.

10 Hoppin, Bliss Book, 155.

11 Hyde, Thomas and Margaret Hulins Bliss.

12 Jacobus, Ackley–Bosworth Ancestry, 118, 119 n. a; Jacobus and Waterman, Hale, House and Related Families, 476-7, 480 n. c.

13 Aaron Tyler Bliss, comp., Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America, 3 vols. (Midland, Mich., 1982), 1:20 and nn. 1-2. The arrangement of families in the main part of the book, which intersperses the descendants of the immigrants, is one of the chief points of negative comment in its published reviews (among them, the ones noticed above in notes 3 and 8).

14 Carl Boyer, 3rd, comp., Ancestral Lines: 206 Families in England, Wales, the Netherlands, Germany, New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, 3rd ed. (Santa Clarita, Calif., 1998), 91-4; Hoppin, Bliss Book, 105-29.

15 Hoppin, Bliss Book, 156-9; Jacobus, Ackley–Bosworth Ancestry, 118.

16 Hoppin, Bliss Book, 149.

17 Hoppin, Bliss Book, 137-9. Hoppin missed the baptism of Jude, which was finally noticed by Dorothy C. Knoff and Gerald E. Knoff, Thirty-one English Immigrants Who Came to New England by 1662 (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1989), 138. Hoppin did find Jude’s burial, and included it in Bliss Book, 155, but was unable to identify her based on that record. The writers suggest different burial entries for Agnes from the registers of Holy Cross, neither of which names Agnes as a wife or daughter. Knoff and Knoff (p. 138) show 15 July 1630, five years before the marriage of Ann Shaw; Hoppin (p. 139) gives 7 Jan. 1636[/7], more than a year after; and neither book recognizes the other’s finding.

18 Knoff and Knoff, Thirty-one English Immigrants, 137-9.

19 Jacobus, Ackley–Bosworth Ancestry, 118; A. T. Bliss, Genealogy of the Bliss Family, 1:36.

Created 10 June 2003; last updated 22 June 2014.
Austin W. Spencer | email: spencer@rootedancestry.com