There is conflicting evidence regarding the parents of John Gifford who married Comfort Hart. John Gifford died in Little Compton, Rhode Island on 18 Dec 1802 “in his 95th year.” One line claims Christopher Gifford and Deborah Perry as his parents; the other, Jeremiah Gifford and Mary Wright. We find support for the parentage of Christopher and Deborah in the following sources:

  1. Little Compton Families by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour, Vol 1, pp 277-8
  2. Gifford family genealogies – such as Guiteras and Gifford
  3. and perhaps most significantly in James Arnold’s Vital Records of Rhode Island, Vol 4, part VI, p 116.

The claim for Jeremiah Gifford and Mary Wright can be found in a substantive work “William Gifford of Sandwich, Mass (d 1687) by Almon E Daniels and Maclean McLean published over several years in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register – volumes 128-138. Jeremiah (#25) is found at NEHGR 129:234-237 and John (#58) at NEHGR 131:52-54. As we evaluate the claim of Jeremiah and Mary as parents of this John, we find other vital records in the adjacent town of Westport, Massachusetts:

  1. “John, s Jeremiah and Mary, 7 th 3 mo, 1708 CR” p 49 Westport Births 
  2. “John, s Jeremiah and Mary, 18 th 12th month, 1802 in 95th y(ear) CR” p 274 Westport Deaths
  3. Further support of this relationship can be found through the Mayflower connection of Mary Wright’s father, Adam Wright.  See Francis Cooke of the Mayflower, the First Five Generations, by Wood, Ralph V, Jr., Picton Press, 1996, pp 483-4.

Francis Cooke of the Mayflower and several other sources include a summary of John Gifford’s will, written in 1788 and proved in 1803.  It mentions grandson, Jonathan, son of Ephriam.   We can confirm that we are looking at the same John Gifford by noting that Little Compton Families, which identifies John Gifford’s parents as Christopher and Deborah, cites the same will.

Discussion

Both the Little Compton Families and the compiled Gifford family genealogy are derivative sources.  The same cam be said of the Arnold’s Vital Records of Rhode Island citation.  On September 9, 2013 I visited the Town Clerk’s office in Little Compton, Rhode Island and reviewed the available records.  The record cited by Arnold is found in a compilation of family records transcribed by Otis Gifford in 1842, 40 years after the death of John Gifford.  The records are grouped by family, in this case Christopher Gifford. The text in Arnold follows exactly the record in the Town Clerk’s office.  I did not find any original source records.

Given that all of the sources found for the claim for Christopher and Deborah are derivative sources, and that the church record from the Friends Monthly Meeting in Westport is the most authoritative source, supported also by NEHGR and Mayflower Families, it is my conclusion that the parents of John Gifford were Jeremiah Gifford and Mary Wright.

Why would we find records of the Gifford’s in Westport, Massachusetts When they lived in Little Compton, Rhode Island? When we visited the Little Compton Historical Society in September 2013, the director told us that many of Gifford families lived in the vicinity of Adamsville in the very northwest portion of Little Compton, adjacent to Westport.  In the early 1800’s Quaker families living in this area found it easier to travel to the Meeting in Westport than to travel to the meeting house in Little Compton.  (see map of area)

Footnotes:

  1. Little Compton Families, Wilbour, Benjamin Franklin, Vol 1, pp 277-8, http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=49227 – accessed 5/17/2015
  2. Guiteras, Wardwell and Allied Families <ahref=”http: search.ancestryheritagequest.com=”” search=”” db.aspx?dbid=”18599″”>http://search.ancestryheritagequest.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=18599 accessed 5/17/2015
  3. Arnold, James, Vital Records of Rhode Island, Vol 4, Part VI, p. 116; http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=15395 accessed 5/17/2015
  4. New England Historical and Genealogical Register”, Vol. 131, pp 52-54; http://www.americanancestors.org/databases/new-england-historical-and-genealogical-register/image/?pageName=52&volumeId=11692 accessed 6/16/2015
  5. Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 (Online Database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2010). Volume: Westport, V 1, page 49 Westport Births http://www.americanancestors.org/databases/massachusetts-vital-records-to-1850/image/?pageName=49&volumeId=7829 accessed 6/15/2015
  6. Ibid, p 274