Rhode Island Roots

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Rhode Island Kenyons

Many Kenyons in North America have used Howard N. Kenyon's book "American Kenyons".

In the following article, Richard Kenyon gives a few pointers on the subject.


The Kenyon English Roots: What Do We Really Know for Sure?

Most, if not all, of us who trace our Kenyon ancestry back to John or James Kenyon in colonial Rhode Island have believed that John and James were born to James Kenyon and Ester Smith in the vicinity of Oldham in the outskirts of Manchester, England. This is stated as fact by Howard N. Kenyon in his American Kenyons. Perhaps this has never been questioned in any printed account, (although some have questioned the apparent marriage of Anna/Hannah Mumford to John Kenyon in England).

A record of the marriage of James Kenyon and Ester Smith is quoted on pp. 35-6 of American Kenyons. Baptismal records for "Oldham Parish Church" are quoted on p. 37, op. cit., for John and James, son of a James Kenion of Glodwick, followed by the baptism of Mary, daughter of a James Kenion (in this case the domicile is not specified). The mother's name is not given, as was customary for such records. No other information is known to exist that would help in proving the assumed connections between these people: no will, no land records nothing.

The Mormons have a special British Isles I.G.I., separate from the one for the US and Canada. I collected together all the Kenyon entries (including variant spellings) dated before the year 1700 found on the Mormon CD's (Compact Disks). These entries record baptisms and marriages (but no deaths).

The pre-1700 entries are the pertinent ones for the Rhode Island Kenyons (since John and James are first noticed in the 1687 RI tax records).

The total number of pre-1700 British Isles IGI entries for Kenyons is astounding: something over 1500 entries! A few interesting observations can be made from an analysis of the data. It seems most entries give localities in Lancashire, clustered around Manchester (Oldham is just 7 miles away). However, there are Kenyon entries for other areas as well. These include Liverpool (also in Lancashire), but other "counties" as well, such as Cheshire, Yorkshire, and Lincoln, plus a few around London.

This IGI data was copied from the Mormon CDs to floppy disks which were then used then to build a database using the Microsoft Access software. This facilitated the analysis. One 4-page report summarizes the data by county and "place", showing the total number of IGI entries for each "place" and the earliest and latest of these (pre-1700) entries. A second report of 26 pages lists every item, also arranged by county and "place". (A couple early-1700 entries were accidentally included and a couple pre-1700 entries were accidentally omitted perhaps a half dozen in each). Many duplicates will be noticed, some entries being the Latin equivalents of the anglicized names.

It was much more difficult for Howard N. Kenyon to obtain such data in the 1920's and 30's. As he reports in his book, he hired the clerk at the Oldham Parish Church to search the old, original records. It is unknown by me what led him to Oldham. After the Oldham records were searched, he paid to have the registers some nearby parishes searched too. He lists them on pp. 41-2 of his book.

The basic question is: what evidence is there about the ancestry of the two earliest known Rhode Island Kenyons, John and James? We don't even know when or how they got to Rhode Island. Apparently there is no evidence that conclusively proves their ancestry. What lead Howard N. Kenyon and earlier writers to the conclusions that they stated? Did they just take it as fact, based upon blind belief, (as I did previously)? Some earlier accounts gave the father of John and James as John (not James), or claimed a connection to Roger Kenyon and the Kenyon's of Peel Hall (a couple miles south of Manchester).

I wonder why HNK used an "I" to identify who he believed to be the father of John and James who he gave IDs of "1" and "2", respectively. This is an inconsistency in his system. It is my hunch that he was in doubt about the English connections and had not allowed for including the English parents when he started his ID system. I also assume he arrived at his conclusions about the English parents simply by "a process of exhaustion" and running out time to meet the printer's schedule.

Unless I see something more concrete, I will have to conclude that the stated parents of John and James were purely a guess, based upon coincidences found among insufficient data! Looking at just the IGI data, there are dozens or even hundreds of potential English connections! What evidence is there even that John and James were brothers?

This may all sound like heresy, but I think it's important to realize how much we have taken on faith. It is only natural to want to extend our families back as early as possible, but it must not be done without some good evidence. I hope that with today's extensive genealogical resources it will be possible to clear up some of the mysteries of our English origins. (Or can we even be certain of that the ancestors of John and James were born in England)?

I raise these questions, hoping that there are answers. I hate uncertainty! Any comments, and particularly any new information, would be welcomed.

On a related matter, the British Isles IGI was also searched for Mumfords. There has been some controversy concerning the Anna Mumford, said to be the wife of the original John Kenyon of Rhode Island because Mumford genealogies do not mention her. Among the Mumford data were the christenings of two Hannah Mumfords:

Hannah Mumford, chr. 7 Feb 1668, St. Mary, Whitechapel, Stepney, London
Father: Thomas Mumford, Mother: Susanah.

Hannah Mumford, chr. Jan 1693, St. Andrews, Holborn, London
Father: Thomas Mumford, Mother: Alice.

Whether this information has any relevance to Kenyon genealogy is unknown at this time.

See "Stephen Mumford" and "The Seventh Day Baptists"

(The IGI data for the British Isles was the original set on CDs, issued about 1991 and still current in Oct. 1993).

The proper answer to the question "What do we really know for sure (about the Rhode Island Kenyon's supposed English roots)?", must be (unfortunately) a resounding: "Absolutely nothing !".

Note from Rod Clayburn

The Oldham Registers 1558-1661 were published privately by G Shaw (Ed) in 1889, did the local researcher just go through this publication and select the Kenyon entries or look at the original Parish Records which are still held by the church?

The IGI information was probably taken from the above publication.


Do you have Rhode Island Roots?

See Clark T. Kenyon's website of

"Rhode Island Kenyons "


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